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TMI re Northern Vietnam rural "homestays"?

TMI re Northern Vietnam rural "homestays"?

Jul 3rd, 2015, 04:58 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2004
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TMI re Northern Vietnam rural "homestays"?

As you all probably know, homestay in some areas (e.g. India ) has become synonymous with "small guest house." Sometimes you are actually IN the family home; sometimes not.
But I'm getting the sense that "hometays' in the rural area of VN are often in stilt houses, where there is large room mattresses/bedding on the floor where you may or may not be separated from other people by a curtain. This is o k with me--if they can put up with my nocturnal noises, i can put up with theirs.

Here's the possibly TMI part: : where are the toilets located? No way can I last through 7 hours of sleep without at least one--more likely two--trips to the loo. After a few sips of rice wine, it may be even more of a challenge. I read that the toilets are literally outhouses, down a possibly long and steep flight of un-bannistered stairs and outside the sleeping area building, without lights on the way. Sure, I could use one of those headband flashlights, but I can also imagine potential problems!

Experiences? Thoughts? I'm ok using hotels, but it seems that the rural homestays are so unique, I'd hate to miss out. If you stayed at hotels, did you regret later (perhaps after passing by) that you had not had the more "nitty gritty" homestay experience?

As always, thanks to all for insights!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2015, 06:43 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
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No idea, but since we've already booked flights for N. Vietnam and briefly discussed this idea ourselves, I'm coat-tailing, hoping you get an answer!
CounterClifton is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2015, 10:31 PM
  #3  
 
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We stayed in 3 or 4 homestays on our recent trip all of which were "real" homestays as opposed to small guesthouse. All were stilt houses and the sleeping arrangements were pretty much as you describe, a large room, mattresses on the floor with a curtain or sheet strung up for privacy. Some had sort of bamboo open cubicles ( if that makes any sense!).

haven't a clue what TMI means but the toilet arrangement weren't as bad as you might imagine. All had western style as opposed to squat toilets and most were just downstairs underneath the house. One I recall, was a bit of a walk away but no problems at all ( unless you REALLY overdo the rice wine!). Take a torch

The meals are great fun. Some of the best food we had in Vietnam. You eat with the family and more than likely some neighbours who want to get in on the action. Copious amount of rice wine will offered and consumed. Just remember the phrase "chuk suk khwae" each time you raise your glass - it will go down very well (just means good health) . It is generally early too bed and early to rise. Bed usually once dinner is over and done and the ubiquitous cockerels take care of the rising bit!

Finally you really do not want to miss out on staying at the real homestays out in the country. The people are so amazingly welcoming and pleased to accept strangers into there homes. It really was the highlight of our two months in Vietnam. You will regret it if you don't. Well worth forgoing the comfort of a hotel room for a few nights.
crellston is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2015, 10:35 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Here is link to our blog entry which
May have a little more info on the homestays
http://accidentalnomads.com/2014/12/...-and-mai-chau/
crellston is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2015, 11:38 PM
  #5  
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Crellston, thank you!! I'll make sure to convey this to the wonderful Vietnamese travel agent who'd been dvising me to stay in local homestays, whether in the Ha Giang region (which she is still advocating for!) or in Sapa. She took pity on me when I described my fear, due to 66 year old badder weakness, of numerous bathroom trips!

TMI means "Too Much Information" and is what we say here when conversations get too personal!!!

More and more, I'm leaning to combining a trip to Sapa and the Ha Giang/Meo Vac/Dong Van region. It'll mean robbing Peter to pay Paul, in terms of other parts of VN (specifically Ninh Binh and Mai Chau) but everything i read here and elsewhere is saying "Do it!" Ah, if only time and money weren't factors! There are homestays, L'Auberge de Meo Vac, and Pan Hou Village Resort in the itinerary I'm contemplating.

I've spent the past hours reading the blog of a couple who visited both regions.(I'm not sure copyright or courtesy laws allow me to post the link.)
OK, now to learn more from the accidental nomads' blog about homestays
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 4th, 2015, 04:54 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I've no plans [and really not much intention] of going to N Vietnam, indeed I had no idea that it was possible to go there and stay in people's houses, but I'm joining in to say how much I appreciate the information and ideas that are shared here on Fodors.

Crellston - I'm going to be back to read your blog, promise.
annhig is offline  
Jul 4th, 2015, 06:47 AM
  #7  
 
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@annhig - you should definitely add Vietnam, both north and south, to your "places to visit" list! Very easy traveling, very nice people, very good food, good scenery and sights. And then there's Laos and Cambodia and Myanmar all nearby...
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 4th, 2015, 07:08 AM
  #8  
 
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I'm also following along for the "someday" trip. I love the idea of staying in a homestay as well, and, like annhig, appreciate the information that is shared here.

And CaliNurse, thank you for asking about a very delicate topic with such good humor!
progol is offline  
Jul 4th, 2015, 12:43 PM
  #9  
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These are homestays I'm considering if doing trip to Ha Giang area:

Chung Pua aka Auberge de Meo Vac:

Three friends restored a circa 1930s traditional Hmong house. It sounds and looks like "homestay lite" -- less rustic than most others in the region, but still far from "boutique en suite" accommodation!

Thon Tha village--one of the Tay Village Cooperative homestays:

More like what Crellston described above. There are several from which to choose, but apparently, all work together and share the fruits of the business.

(Apologies i can't give the direct URL links for the above--blame it on a baffling "upgrade" to my computer.)

Another stay would be at Pan Hou Village Lodge. It's not a homestay, but it looks intriguing:

http://www.panhou-village.com/en

Happy Fourth to all Americans and Friends of Americans!!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 4th, 2015, 02:36 PM
  #10  
 
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TMI of course! A phrase I often use myself! Not too much at all, it is a concern probably shared by every man over the age of 50, but of course we would be too scared to ask!

Annhig, totally agree with Thursadayds comments re Vietnam. If you like Sri Lanka you will loved Vietnam. The food is simply the best in SE Asia - even better than pasties!!!,

Don't be concerned about the basic homestays they really are great for a few nights. They probably won't have names but will be "approved by the authorities to allow foreigners to stay. A good guide, and one that speaks the local dialect is essential. Do quiz your agency on these points.
crellston is offline  
Jul 5th, 2015, 02:01 AM
  #11  
 
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crellston - we are hoping to try something similar in Cuba in Jan next year; the casas particulars are the same sort of thing, I think.

no plans for long-haul trips after that so I will put SE Asia and Vietnam on my radar - thanks! [but better than pasties?? - never!]
annhig is offline  
Jul 5th, 2015, 06:05 AM
  #12  
 
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crellston, we're on a little holiday and having a bit of free time in the evening, I've been having a browse thorough your blog.

I hadn't seen it before but have been enjoying your blog the last couple of nights. SE Asia is our favourite region, but we've never been to Vietnam, so it's very helpful info, as well as entertaining. Thanks for keeping it up and sharing it.
CounterClifton is offline  
Jul 5th, 2015, 12:58 PM
  #13  
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Crellston, by local dialect--you mean Hmong??
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 5th, 2015, 02:51 PM
  #14  
 
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CN - there are many ethnic minorities, Hmong is but one, albeit the largest minority group in the region. We visited a number of "white Thai" and "black Thai" villages which each spoke their own dialect. It was an entirely different sort of Thai to the language I spent a couple of theirs learning ( so that was a wasted of time!!).

I have hear tell of some agencies in Hanoi that send guides that don't speck the local language and it doesn't make for great interaction with the family. A question worth asking of any tour operator.

Annhig - "better than pasties?? - never!" It was hyperbole on my part! You are right of course, nothing could be better than pasties, especially my late grandmother's!

Counterclifton- thanks for your kind words. Great to hear you are enjoying our blog. Sadly it is way behind ours travel. We leave Indonesia today for a return to Vietnam to spend some time near the beaches in central Vietnam where we hope to play catch up with the writing.

Belated Happy 4th of July to all Americans
crellston is offline  
Jul 30th, 2015, 10:47 PM
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Calinurse - how is your trip,planning progressing? Looks like we will be heading back to Hanoi in October to have another go at Ha Giang. What are your dates, if they coincide with ours maybe we can have a mini gtg?

BTW which agent are you using? I am trying Ethnic Travel again and have also asked Vietnamstay but the latter seemed very overpriced - when I queried the cost they did drop it considerably, almost immediately!
crellston is offline  
Jul 30th, 2015, 11:41 PM
  #16  
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Crellston, great to hear from you! (BTW, I LOLed at one of your recent posts about urine color comparisons, but didn't want to digress from the original thread topic). Meeting up with the Crellston party would be the icing on the North VN trip cake!!!!
Coincidentally, i was just about to post yet another question which I hoped you could answer. Check it out. I'll start another thread, as it may be useful to other travelers, now or in future.
My plans are progressing quite nicely, with this weekend being the big official plunge to plane booking.
Tentative dates are: arrival 23re September starting in Hanoi--departure 8th or 9th October from Hanoi. Itinerary includes Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Giang/Meo Vac circuit, Ba Be Lake, Bai Tu Long Bay, possibly day trip to Ninh Binh (see new post), and ending with a couple more days in Hanoi.
I'm working with Susan (Hien) Nguyen at Custom Vietnam Travel. Started with a bunch of initial queries to other companies, but Susan "got it" amazingly, quickly and intuitively, with fantastic daily communication, patience, passion and knowledge about her home country. She's from a village near Ninh Binh, lives in Hanoi, and has traveled extensively in the country. She's gone "above and beyond" already in numerous ways. I'm almost embarrassed to say how many emails we've exchanged since original contact.
Other agencies might be a bit cheaper--I suspect Custom Vietnam Travel is mid-range. It was started by a well-reviewed private VN travel guide several yrs ago. Anyway I was so "blown away" by Susan's level of caring and knowledge that choosing her company instead of others i queried, was an easy decision.
Do you have specific October dates? The "ha Giang" loop for me starts Sunday 26 Sept in Bac Ha (for the market) and ends 1 October in Meo Vac, before proceeding for two nights to Ba Be Lake area --inspired by your descriptions of it!!!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jul 31st, 2015, 01:39 AM
  #17  
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correction--Bac Ha Sunday morning market 27th September. I expect busy crowded. Also, that is date of Mid-Autumn Festival, so perhaps more colorful/chaotic/ than usual. Either more fun or more frustrating--probably both, as busy tourist attractions often are.
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Jul 31st, 2015, 05:37 AM
  #18  
 
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We arrive in Hanoi on 15 October. Shame we will miss each other. Thanks for the info on your agent. I will definitely check her out as she sounds wonderful and I am rapidly losing the will to live dealing with a couple of them! So much so that I am seriously contemplating just going DIY.

Off to have a look at your other post..
crellston is offline  
Jul 31st, 2015, 11:56 AM
  #19  
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Darn darn darn, barely (or is it bearly )missing a Crell crew/Cali mini meetup!!
Interestingly, original plan was to be there in mid-October. One of the reasons I changed to earlier, was learning from the travel agent that the rice harvest will be over by mid October. Scenery still wonderful, but not the same pre-harvest jaw-droopingly beautiful lush green layered hillside color as seen in alluring North VN images.
The timing can be a way to give back all the help I've received from you and others as I plan this trip, in case I have any feedback on the Ha Giang routes.
If interested, I've found some great info on days of markets in that region. Some, as you know, are set days of the week, but others go by lunar Chinese calendar and are quite confusing!
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