Art, lifestyle and a lot of heart. Photos by Julie Vola
Tet Lifestyle Collection (TLC) is an organisation which always wants to have a big heart, and an even bigger impact on the places where they do business.
Over a decade of success has been overseen by two passionate leaders. Artist Dinh Khac Tiep combines his creativity and fastidious attention to detail with host Pete Wilkes’ desire to bring quality food and beverages in a homely atmosphere.
After taking a four-year break from their old haunt, the team are back up in Sapa with a couple of exciting new projects joining their collection of boutique properties.
Maison de Tet Décor (156 Tu Hoa, Tay Ho) and its home-roasted coffees are well known in Hanoi. The décor is as recognisable as the smell of their freshly baked cakes and the appearance of that magnificent French villa. The concept for the interior was put together by Tiep, an artist who refuses to be rushed.
“The world is moving and changing so fast,” says Tiep. “But my art takes time. I’m so slow!”
Tiep’s ceramics are what originally attracted Pete into pursuing a partnership with him all those years ago, and the result is a property which smells like an artisan chef’s kitchen and is filled with hand-crafted decorations and furniture.
TLC have also been running what they call “nourishment days” for years. These monthly retreats allow people to escape Hanoi for a day of yoga, meditation, organic vegetarian food and other outdoor activities.
The location for these special days, TLC’s very own Fragrant Path (Dai Lai Lake, Soc Son), can also be used for company meetings, romantic nature breaks or group activity days.
Fragrant Path hosts TLC’s plantations, where organic produce for their restaurants is grown, alongside peach trees, green tea and tropical fruits. Visitors are even free to wander among the animals, to pick herbs and other fresh produce to cook themselves.
Visitors will recognise Tiep’s signature décor in every touch, from the coils of incense hanging inside the traditional Vietnamese house, to the hand-crafted furniture seen from the stone entrance path.
However, you need to head north to Sapa to discover the newest member of the TLC family, a stunning property which is half Swiss chalet and half tribal tallhouse.
“The more you move around Sapa, you realise everything’s built so close together,” says Pete. “Our main idea was to open up the original 19 bedrooms and create some really large dining spaces.”
Just five minutes’ walk from Sapa town square, Maison de Sapa (18 Duong Thac Bac, Sapa) is a distinctive restaurant and café, whose weekday menu boasts Japanese, Vietnamese and Western cuisine, making way for a buffet from Friday to Sunday.
“We want it to be a craft house, too,” Pete explains. “Furbrew are brewing their beer here, and we’ve got KOK Coffee coming up to roast coffee here, too.”
Furbrew will also be involved in the September Sapa beer festival, to coincide with the Sapa Marathon.
In addition to the signature décor and impressive menu, Maison de Sapa will include a boutique shop, beer garden and evening entertainment on an interior, elevated stage.
After summer, the five spacious en-suite guest rooms featuring rustic décor and modern comforts, will be ready to receive overnight visitors.
A 20-minute complimentary shuttle bus from Maison de Sapa down to Tavan village will take visitors to an upcoming addition to TLC.
The La Dao Spa Tavan, a luxurious new spa, which also doubles as a restaurant, café and drinking hall, will open in May.
With breathtaking panoramic views of terraced valley farms and mountains, the spa will offer visitors to Sapa the chance to enjoy activities which aren’t trekking related.
As with all of TLC’s properties, most of the jobs are given to local people, who receive training and the opportunity to join a company which looks after its own.