A baby impatient to meet the world, Mr Linh was born in the shade of a tea bush on a cool, misty November morning. He had a hard-working but idyllic childhood cutting grass for his grandfather's buffalo and working in the rice fields of Phu Tho Province. As Linh grew up, so did his curiosity for the world, bringing with it the ambition of becoming a tour guide. He dreamed of meeting people from all around the world and connecting them with the beautiful landscapes and cultures of his country. At the age of 19, he took his first footsteps in following his dreams, and he travelled to Hanoi to study tourism at university and learn English. As well as being a dedicated student, Linh worked hard to fund his studies, working in local restaurants and as a builder and welder, which gave him invaluable experience when it came to setting up his homestay.
During his time at university, Linh decided to get away from the hectic city and travelled to the sublime shores of Ba Be Lake where he was met by the vision of two spirits who would change his life. The first was the spirit of Ba Be Lake and Ba Be Park who captured his dreams, and the second, a beautiful Tay girl, the Green Fairy, who captured his heart. He first saw her on the calm lake waters in a dug-out canoe, her long dress almost kissing the water. He was captivated by her, and he could see her charm and beauty reflected all around in the stunning surroundings. He knew from that second that he would dedicate his life to this woman and build a home and future for them in Ba Be. Fuelled by love and passion for his new home and wife, Linh started planning his dream venture, requesting permission from the government to start a tourism business in Ba Be National Park. His aim was to begin a tourism organisation which not only shared the beauty of Ba Be with the rest of the world but also supported the local community.
Ba Be Lake, the heart of Ba Be National Park
Saddened by the overdevelopment and loss of culture seen in some of the most popular tourist areas, Linh vowed not to become part of this. With this is mind, and with the help from the local community, he began planning his homestay. He chose the perfect place, nestled peacefully between the mountains and lakeshore of Ba Be National Park, surrounded by the soft sounds of nature.
Linh understood the importance of building a homestay that was faithful to the traditions of his culture whilst also providing top quality for his customers, and after meticulous planning, he had the perfect design. The frame consisted of 36 columns and 72 beams, each made from a single tree, topped with a palm roof. The use of top quality natural materials results in a house which complements the beautiful natural surroundings. In the traditional style, the house is built on stilts, with the sleeping area upstairs and the dining area downstairs.
Typically, Tay houses have a large, communal sleeping area, however, Linh understood that this may not be to everyone's tastes. In the homestay, the sleeping areas have been separated to offer some privacy. All of the rooms have been designed with comfort and beauty in mind to reflect the gorgeous setting. Each room has a lovely comfortable bed, elegant bamboo furnishings, air conditioning and of course, a mosquito net to keep out any unwanted visitors!
Linh decorated the homestay in the traditional Tay style along with his favourite photographs and artwork which he curated to give people an insight into Vietnam's rich culture and history. As he put the finishing touches to the homestay, Linh felt pride in what he had accomplished but most of all, excitement for what was to come.
With his dream homestay complete, Linh now had to build his perfect team of local people to help him in building his business. The idea of family is extremely important to Linh, a concept which extended beyond blood ties to include all those who treated him as a brother, a son and a friend. This was, in part, because of his own experience; he had been lucky enough to experience the love of many mothers who had taken him in as a son and nurtured him. It was this that led him to the idea of creating a family team with his younger brother Nam, their father Loc and two local Tay people Trung and Vong.
Mr Loc giving an early driving lesson to guests
After a long career in the army, Loc decided to join his son with his business and help him manage the homestay, ensuring all of the guests get a true experience of Tay hospitality. They receive the support of two skilled and passionate local women, Trung and Vong, who look after all of the guests by making sure the homestay is kept in fantastic condition and preparing delicious feasts of local food.
This close-knit, family team are exactly what Linh had wanted for his homestay. He was happy knowing his guests would be welcomed into the family, and he loved knowing that by building his business, he was helping local people build a better future for themselves. To spread these benefits amongst the community, Linh uses all local produce in the restaurant and hires local guides and staff in the internationally licensed Ba Be Tourism Centre. The guides use their expert knowledge and love of Ba Be to arrange exciting kayaking and trekking trips within the park.
Mr Linh with Les Petits Voyageurs preparing their expedition to Lo Mo cave
Linh experienced great growth in his business but also a saddening loss in his personal life. This time of grief and transition led to him becoming even more determined to provide a better future and inspiration to his young son. Linh's ambitions grew once again, this time leading him back to Hanoi with his brother Nam. As a way of making Ba Be more accessible, Linh opened the Mr Linh's Adventures tourism office in the heart of the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Even Linh, who lived on ambition and adventure, couldn't imagine just how big his dreams would come to be.
Mr Linh's Homestay in Ba Be National Park
The business took off, with everyone believing in Linh's vision as much as he did, and he was soon offering tours to other parts of Vietnam, adding more destinations each year. Although his business was growing a great speed, Linh did not forget his ideals of showing people the authentic culture of Vietnam whilst giving them a unique and unforgettable trip. Now, just ten years from when he left Ba Be to study in Hanoi, Linh and his amazing team take people to the most remote areas, all across Vietnam. Year after year, as Linh's dreams grow, so does his business, with plenty more to come.