Experience the hospitality of Vietnamese people firsthand by Scott Herder.
From century-old heritage buildings bursting with charm and history in the busy cities, to beaches lined with indulgent spa hotels complete with infinity pools and world-class restaurants--most often at prices far lower than you might expect--there’s something for everyone. But a trip to Vietnam would not be complete without stepping into a local home. Vietnamese hospitality can be found in every corner of the country, with homestays nestled in the northernmost mountains and down in the steamy river delta of the South. Some homestays in Vietnam are chaotic and simple, while others have an organized extravagance. All offer a glimpse into the daily life of the local people and, more often than not, a chance to experience the raw beauty of rural Vietnam.
"I glance over my steaming bowl of rice and watch Mao, squatting on her tiny legs among her guests, as she throws back her head in laughter. She catches my eye and turns the laugh into a warm, knowing smile before moving on to the next guest. She pours shots of rice wine into tiny, chipped cups and passes them around. Faces grimace and she giggles, asking each and every guest how they feel and how their day was. There are over 10 of us in her home, but she makes time for everyone."
"We wake early, to the sound of roosters and the not-so-distant echo of omnipresent construction going on elsewhere in the small, dusty village. Our group of five gather around one of the long dining tables and admire the morning. The sun drips onto the vibrant green rice terraces, disappearing down the hill we are perched upon and a dog lounges lazily by our feet. We are sleepy in that distinct way you are after sleeping on hardwood floors and our minds are on the long day of riding ahead of us. Slowly but surely, cups and plates and tea and breakfast are brought out to us, filling the table just like the night before at dinner. There are stacks of pancakes, far more than we could ever hope to finish, as well as fresh honey and fruits. It’s a breakfast worthy of any hotel buffet and it’s a wonder that it was all created on an open fire in the middle of a nature reserve. The icing on the cake is a steaming pot of fresh Vietnamese coffee, presented to us with the widest of smiles."
"An imposing sign, complete with a large Tripadvisor logo, leads us from the winding mountain road into the homestay and, immediately, our jaws drop. Luxurious sofas wrap around a covered balcony, complete with hanging lanterns and fluffy pillows. Hammocks are strung between the strong wooden beams of the traditional stilted house and a quick survey of the upstairs offers a glimpse of rooms with even fluffier pillows and crisp white sheets. It would seem that not all homestays in Vietnam require you to leave your comfort zone… and yet these beds, complete with real mattresses, still cost a meager $5."
"Just as we are beginning to give up hope, having passed fewer and fewer houses on our way through the national park, we come to a stop beside what looks like a local shop. We mime sleeping, pointing our fingers along the gravel road and shrug our shoulders. Body language is our only means of communication. The male shop owner thinks for just a moment before pointing upwards to the shuttered rooms above his store. We exchange glances and questions in English he does not understand and everyone nods furiously. We park our bikes and begin unpacking our bundle of dusty possessions. We order beers and make ourselves at home. We cook our own dinner in their dimly lit kitchen under instruction from the mistress of the house, enjoying a meal of instant noodles and fresh, golden duck eggs with a sprinkle of chili. Rice wine is handed out, as is customary in these neck of the woods, and we sleep early, exhausted from the day but content in the warmth of Vietnamese hospitality."
At Buffalo Tours, we recommend Sapa and Mai Chau as two of the best places to enjoy the homestay experience in Vietnam. In Sapa, you can trek between lofty peaks and along elegant rice terraces to reach remote ethnic minority villages, home to some of the most welcoming people in the country. There are over 35 ethnic minorities in Vietnam and thus, spending time with them can give you a fuller picture of the cultural identity of the country. Mai Chau offers beautiful natural scenery and picturesque villages just a few hours from Hanoi and some of the best souvenir shopping outside of Hoi An.
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