Beautiful Vietnam
Learning local culture with homestay holidays
  • | dtinews.vn | September 16, 2010 04:02 PM

Tourists who want to experience rural life in Vietnam first hand are increasingly turning to homestay holidays.

A folk band entertains foreign visitors at Ho Village in Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province
A newly built stilt house for homestay visitors in Lac Village Hoa Binh Province
The Mekong River Delta is also a nice place for a homestay experience

Homestay holidays were not the brainchild of the director of a tourist agency. They came about due to a rising demand from foreign tourists, especially back packers, keen to get a glimpse of reality for Vietnamese ethnic groups.

Sarah Melone, a tourist from England, speaks highly of her last summer holiday where she stayed with a local family.
“The most interesting time was when I stayed with a Thai family in Lac Village in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh. I got the chance to learn about their work, their food and customs,” Sarah shared.

She had a friend working in Hanoi so her vacation had been carefully planned before she arrived. “I was lucky because my friend John had been in Vietnam for a while so he knew where I should go and what I should see. He put the homestay at the top of my to-do list.”

Today, this type of holiday is not only attracting foreigners, but also domestic tourists. Among them is Ha Thanh Huong, a student at the Hanoi Economics University.

“Vietnam is a multi-cultural country so we think that homestay tourism is the best way for us to learn about the different regions in our country.”

Huong spent her last Tet holiday visiting ethnic minority families in Dong Van, Pho Bang, Ma Le, and Sa Phin, Ha Giang Province.

“We did a 10-day homestay tour with some of the poorest families,” she says. “All the locals were very kind and friendly. It was our most memorable Tet holiday ever.”

Students seem to be the pioneers in this field. Many become volunteers to help communities in remote areas to build a better life.

“These are good opportunities for us to gain more experience and knowledge outside of school,” says Do Dinh Hoa, who spent time living with a Thai family in Son La Province last summer.

According to Tran Trong Tao, director of PSD Travel, the number of customers booking homestay tours is growing. “We are considering opening more tours to Mekong Delta Provinces like Ben Tre, Can Tho and Soc Trang,” he says.

“If we can provide good homestay service, visitors will not have to worry about finding a hotel during the high season.”

Things to remember

While Vietnam is known as a safe destination with friendly people and a rich culture, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve homestay services.

In the meantime, there are a few preparations you can make to get the most of your trip, especially if you organise it yourself:

Most families lack conveniences so remember to pack carefully and observe customs to avoid any embarrassing misunderstandings. If you have the choice, you should spend the first night with the families of local authorities, police or village chiefs because they will be safer and more comfortable.

Good places to stay

- Ho Village, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province with the Tay, Dao and Mong peoples.

Not to mention the magnificent scenery, visitors are always pleased with the service here because families in this village have good experience in welcoming tourists. This village has been billed as a homestay destination since 2000.

- A Thai village in Mai Chau District, Hoa Binh Province, 135km from Hanoi.

Mai Chau is one of the most famous homestay destinations in Vietnam with beautiful scenery and comfortable accommodation.

- Chay Lap Village, near the world natural heritage site Phong Nha – Ke Bang, in Quang Binh Province.

- The Mekong Delta

Join locals for fishing trips and visit orchards, floating markets, traditional craft villages and bird gardens. This is an emerging homestay destination.

For more information about homestay tours in Vietnam, contact tour companies: Ben Thanh Tourist at 08.5202020, Saigontourist: 08.8303029, Fiditourist: 08.9141516, Vietravel: 08.8228898.

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