21 kilometres from Da Lat city, Cu Lan village is located amidst dense and beautiful pine trees. Only one step through the village’s gate, visitors face an open and green valley with idyllic bungalows nestled behind a curtain of purple flowers. There are also green lawns for campfires, gong performances and team building activities.
There is a gallery in the village, displaying artworks by many celebrated Vietnamese painters, including Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Nguyen Trung, Dang Xuan Hoa, Van Duong Thanh, and Le Thiet Cuong.
Safeguarding forests to heal the feeling of air hunger
Cu Lan village is a model of sustainable forest management and protection which has succeeded in promoting available environmental resources for tourism development while safeguarding forests in Lam Dong province.
Businessman Van Tuan Anh, who has invested in the village and built it into an attractive tourism site for both Vietnamese and foreign visitors, recalled that 20 years ago when he was operating in the real estate field in Ho Chi Minh City, he realised that it was easy to earn money but it couldn’t help him heal the feeling of air hunger, cramped and stuffy in a fast-paced city.
Tuan Anh then headed to the remote district of Lac Duong in Lam Dong province, where he caught the picturesque sight of villages hidden amidst the Dan Kia valley.
It took Tuan Anh years to buy abandoned rice fields of villagers who were living along Dan Kia valley and to establish the Cu Lan village ecotourism site. Local people are recruited to work at his GBQ Company, thus helping them to earn a higher income than by doing farming work.
Since its inauguration in 2012, Cu Lan village has attracted much interest from both domestic and foreign visitors. Covering 40 hectares, the village is designed with the typical cultural, architectural and cuisine features of Central Highlanders.
As people in modern cities often lack clean air and a fresh feeling, Tuan Anh didn’t set up Cu Lan village as an imposing tourist site but a small and well-equipped tourist facility with idyllic beauty.
He also tried to keep intact the natural beauty of the site so that visitors to the village can take a deep breath and enjoy a slow lifestyle with the freedom to connect with themselves.
A sincere heart turning toward the jungle
Bounded by Da Lat city, Lac Duong district is one of the districts with the largest ratio of forest coverage (85%), according to statistics from the local People’s Committee in August 2020.
In an effort to safeguard the green space, Tuan Anh’s wife, Ngo Thi Minh Hieu, who is Director of the GBQ Co. Ltd., signed contracts with households and individuals to protect and care for the forests.
Lieng Hot Ha Dinh, a K’ho ethnic man who signed such a contract with the GBQ company said that the payment from the contract has helped him increase his income. The company have also invested in pine trees, cherry blossoms, and flamboyant along the roads in the area.
The company has launched communication programmes and campaigns to increase people’s love and responsibility for the forest, calling on visitors to “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.”
As a result, a total of 263 hectares of forest around Cu Lan Village, which runs from Suoi Can village to Da Nghit village, have been well preserved and kept intact.
The company was recently granted a license from the Lam Dong provincial authorities to implement a tourism project in the 216-hecatre forest area in Bi Doup – Nui Ba National Park.
In addition to establishing himself as a sharp businessman, Van Tuan Anh is also a talented musician. In 2001, he joined musician Bao Chan in releasing an album entitled ‘Vang’ (Void), including two songs composed by Tuan An. The songs, namely ‘Bong Me Xa Xoi’ (Shadow of mother) and ‘Trai Tim That Tha’ (A sincere heart) won much appreciation from listeners, encouraging him to release his own CD entitled ‘Giao Khuc Bien Ca Va Nui Doi’ (Songs of the Sea and the Hill) in 2006.
In mid-2018, his second CD ‘Cu Lan Hat’ (Singing from Cu Lan) was introduced to music lovers with 11 songs delivering a common call of protecting the forest and animals so that people can live happily together alongside mother nature. The songs were performed by popular ethnic singers in Central Highlands region, including Ksor Duc, De Ly, Rman Moly, Rcom Nguu and Ya Suy.
“I’ve always been obsessed with the forest, and I have a feeling that I am always reminded by the God of the Forest to take action to protect the earth,” Van Tuan Anh said.
Cu Lan village’s architecture is envisioned to have strong attachment to the forest and sets an example of a small town full of love and joy.