What is your ultimate goal when traveling to a traditional country in Asia? I believe that many of you are looking for something authentic, a genuine reflection of tradition and culture that leave you a great memoir of a beloved nation.
Vietnam, an emerging destination in Southeast Asia has seen a booming growth in the number of tourists for the past decades. There is one thing in common that these tourists have been looking for despite the difference in their travel styles – a glimpse into the real Vietnam.
Trust me, you can only see the real Vietnam only when you step outside of the so-called “tourist attractions”, play chess with the oldies in a park, share a meal on the same table with a Vietnamese family and sleep in their home.
To get you a specific idea of how to travel like a real local, let’s slice the pie and start with this handy guide: how to spend a night at a Vietnamese homestay?
Homestay in Vietnam: What Is It Exactly?
Homestays are best described as privately-owned residences that offer accommodation to anyone willing to pay and stay.
Looking closely, there are two prominent types of homestays throughout the country. First is what’s called the “Destination Homestays”, which are located in the rural parts of Vietnam. These homes are for tourists visiting the local scenery and usually double as “rest houses” where they take a break after sightseeing.
The next accommodation is called “Convenience Homestays” geared towards the people living in the urban side of the country. It’s called as such because these houses are often near establishments that make the experience, you guessed it –convenient.
But you might be thinking, how does this differ from the services offered by the rentals in Airbnb? It’s quite simple – homestays are more family-oriented. The family operating the business will provide meals, organized activities, and safeguard your belongings and other hospitality services.
It’s a surefire way to experience an authentic Vietnamese family vibe compared to checking-in at a hotel. Given that the profits are driven towards the family, homestays became an essential part of the thriving community.
Staying in a homestay is an experience itself, that’s why local tourism is seeing an increase by visitors each year. This gives families and local NGOs the initiative to develop and open their residence to such business.
Organizers offer financial loans, training, and marketing support beneficial especially to those situated in the rural areas. But not everyone can easily open their gates and call it a homestay.
Hosts are still required to get a license permitting them to host foreign guests at their abode. Once granted, it’s up to the family’s creative direction on how they can make the place look homely and at the same time impart a wonderful homestay experience.
4 Reasons Why You Should Stay at a Homestay in Vietnam at Least Once
You could spot a couple or two in most rural places and more so right in the city center. Families that have set up their homestays in remote areas have been a boon to hundreds of visiting tourists.
The relaxed atmosphere away from the city’s hustle and bustle is a welcome feeling for those seeking respite. The term “getting off the beaten track” may be synonymous with rigorous activities, however it could also mean the complete opposite.
Imagine lying on a hammock, cold glass of Vietnamese coffee in hand while enjoying the glistening sun. With herds of buffaloes toiling tirelessly, to the call of roosters on the following sunrise, it’s a vibe you’d prefer over hundreds of revving motorbikes.
It’s certainly a humbling experience to witness a slice of life in the daily routine of a Vietnamese household.
Delve into the Underbelly of a Real Vietnamese Life
Homestays that are run by a family residing within the premises would guarantee a one-of-a-kind experience. Not only will you get the chance to meet the household, but also interact in their element.
Vietnamese culture abides by intergenerational living arrangements, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you meet their great-grandparents!
Often these owners have stayed in the same area and lived in the same household for generations. Not only does this give them expertise of the local area, but also in-depth wisdom about their land and culture.
And it wouldn’t be called authentic for nothing if you don’t get to meet the other neighbors as well! Sometimes, even people from other villages would drop by for a friendly encounter.
Remember that every place is different, but one thing remains constant, and that is to be mindful and respectful of your host’s culture! Take the opportunity to brush up on your Vietnamese language, and maybe even converse with the kids in English. If the respect is mutual, then you would feel as if you’ve never left home.
Get an Insight into Traditional (And Perhaps Ethnic) Culture
The ethnic groups you’ll come across will be different from the majority of the Vietnamese Kinh people that you’re accustomed to. It is unique to each respective ethnicity and often boasts its own set of cultures and traditions.
Many homestays offer cultural activities letting guests witness and be a part of their daily life. These often range from traditional dancing, playing eccentric musical pieces, and even enjoying in an herbal bath (which is a common activity in Sapa).
Language barriers may sometimes come into play, but you can expect outstanding hospitality from the hosts.
A Chance to Indulge in the Best Authentic Home-cooked Meal
The home-cooked meals included in your stay will be some of the best tasting dishes you’ve ever had.
It’s not on the same level as Michelin-starred establishments, but it can stand on its right. You’d even be surprised to know that a humble double-burner or at times just a coal stove will be used to prepare those meals.
The thoughts “how did they pull that off?” will certainly come to mind. But it’s no secret, fresh and organic ingredients are used to serve dishes that are simple but full in flavor.
Best Places in Vietnam to Spend a Night at a Homestay
Villages outside the city proper are filled with all varieties of homestays. One great example is Sapa, where many accommodations are becoming great alternatives.
The area of Ninh Binh lies the majestic rice fields and the humongous limestone karsts.
Homestays in the city center are available too if one decides to take the views in the metropolitan.
South of Vietnam, is undeniably one of the best destinations in the country. For instance, Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta with its many highlights boasts natural landscapes and is rich in traditions. Utilizing the life-sustaining Mekong River, you can expect the homestays in the vicinity to be geared towards an authentic rural vibe.
What to Expect before Visiting a Homestay in Vietnam?
There are tons of things in store with your homestay experience. You would be surprised what the host has lined-up and sometimes even activities that you wouldn’t even expect.
Feeling a bit courageous? Then muster your willpower to brave outlandish treks! Or maybe you’re feeling peckish for a local cuisine? No worries, cooking classes led by industrious mothers got you covered.
Ultimately, if you’re just looking for a way to get to know the locale, homestays are the perfect way for an immersive interaction. Our perfect advice is to be open-minded, because you will never know the life-long friends you’re about to meet.
Whatever your next itinerary is, hosts will ensure to support guests by getting in touch with the correct transportation service. But sometimes you don’t have to wander far for the best adventures to tell back home. Waterfalls, caverns, ruins, lots of other sights and activities are just in the homestay’s backyard, all you have to do is ask!