The lodging situation in the Northwest has improved immeasurably in recent years. Established tourist destinations like Sapa have added several enticing new options to their hotel portfolio, and even the budget hotels have good amenities such as free Wi-Fi, hot water, and satellite television. The situation is also much changed in the smaller towns and cities in the region, with several family-run minihotels doing a decent, if unflashy, job. In more remote areas, such as ethnic-minority villages, you may have to share a mat or roll-away mattress in the living room of a host family—with a bathroom that's a curtained shack next to a well where you draw your own water. Don't write off such an experience, however; many of the stilt houses in ethnic-minority villages are exquisitely built, cool, and comfortable, and you may find the owners to be your most gracious hosts. In fact, in Mai Chau in particular, a homestay with a local family has become an integral part of the tourist experience.

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