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+ Bobby Chinn

When Bobby Chinn is not hosting cooking shows on the Discovery Channel or running his restaurant in Hanoi, he tells PAUL EHRLICH, he’s relaxing with his head in the clouds

Published on Sep 6, 2010

Bobby Chinn in the sea of mist.

Bobby Chinn

You can hear it all the time in Hanoi: the car horns, the construction, the buying and selling, the talk of money and the greed that comes with it. I can still catch a glimpse of Hanoi’s old charm, and still remember why I moved here 13 years ago. But for a few years now, I’ve been wanting a piece of land, a place to go hide away from the new chaos of Vietnam’s capital.

Tam Dao seemed the best choice. It’s an hour and a half away, 1,000 meters up, mountains, trees, views and crisp, clear air. The fog and mist in winter is a nice contrast to the polluted air, while the cool mountain breeze is refreshing from the burning heat of summer.

A friend bought land and built a place in a village just below the town. It’s Tuscany, Morocco, Japan and California all rolled into one. Like others who book the place, I come to escape. Dug down into the hill, his compound is hidden from view—all you see is a pebble courtyard, and beyond that, the lush mountains and valleys, and the clouds floating by. This is where I come to relax, recharge my batteries, and get away from it all.

A traditional Vietnamese wooden house is tucked along a stone wall fronted by a simple Japanese rock garden. I sometimes chill out on the wooden deck, look out to trees and mountains and breathe in with the good and out with the bad. The house has floor-to-ceiling windows to let in the light and the greenery of the vegetable fields that surround it.

And there’s a narrow infinity swimming pool, its emerald tiles shimmering under the water. The valley below plays host to rising swirls of fog—it’s like a clichéd Chinese scroll painting coming alive in front of your eyes. Here you sit and listen to frogs and crickets. You watch birds and butterflies. Or you fall asleep among the clouds.

If I can’t get it together to build a place for myself, my friend’s house does the trick. I listen to the wind pushing the clouds outside, and the crackling logs inside the fireplace, or the water dripping in the courtyard. And as they say, I can hear my own thoughts. A treat. A real retreat.


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