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Homestay in Northern Vietnam: Authentic Vacation and Cultural Experience

If you’re vacationing in Northern Vietnam and want a raw feel of what’s it’s like living in the province with its clean air, fresh farm fields, breathtaking views and a simple but satisfying life, consider staying in homestays which not only provide an authentic experience but is also very affordable compared to commercial accommodations.

Mai Chau District in the Northern Province of Hoa Binh is a fast growing tourist destination because of its charming homestays despite the presence of many modern hotels. Westerners and even local backpackers in particular prefer staying in these quaint residences because it gives them a firsthand view of the lifestyle in the area and an overall authentic cultural experience. It is only less than 140 kilometres North West of Hanoi so it’s not really that far from the convenience and “fun” life that a city brings.

Lac and Poom Coong Villages are two of the most popular homestays in Mai Chau because of their distinctive characteristics depending on the preference of the traveller. Lac Village is the choice among young and fun-seeking tourists because it has an abundance of diners and tourist entertainment in general. In complete contrast, Poom Coong Village is ideal for those who came mainly to escape such hustle and bustle of a city life and want the quiet and simplicity of a provincial life. Each village is only 15 minutes away from each other, an easy walk for anyone who wants to get the best of both worlds.

Being in a homestay entitles one to witness the amazing architecture of Mai Chau. These are stilt houses made by hand by the local villagers themselves from natural material found in their surroundings. A stilt house in Mai Chau is made of wood, roof covered with thatch, and floor tiled with finely split bamboo poles. Most abodes are composed of three to five rooms with a storage at the basement big enough for a motorbike and working equipment. The stilt house is specifically designed to be cold in the summer and warm in the winter. Compared to the stilt houses in other ethnic minorities, the structure here is much higher with the floor rising two metres from the ground.

Guests at homestays also get to weave brocades with the Thai women in the village to teach them. Most families in the community have a loom which the women use to make scarves and clothes both to use and sell. A scarf for instance takes three days to weave and costs VND30,000-40,000 (US$1.5-$2). Very affordable yet one-of-a-kind and truly beautiful, they are ideal for souvenirs. The women usually work from morning to afternoon to create these unique items so tourists take delight in them.

Between April and late October, visitors can take in the full view of the paddy fields when they are at their best. The sight is perfect for picture taking which will hold a lifetime of wonderful memories of the place.

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When vacationing, tourists naturally look for the food specialties of the locality and Mai Chau is proud of its “com lam thit nuong.” It is a special rice with grilled meat. “Can” is the traditional wine which any visitor should try. For entertainment, homestay guests get to participate in the cultural “xoe” dance.

Going around the place is generally easy yet definitely satisfying. Bicycles are available for rent at the local residents’ houses themselves for only $1-$2 dollars per day which the visitors themselves will drive. Driving around the place with its naturally spectacular sights of lush paddy fields, majestic mountains, friendly locals and other charming features gives one a peaceful feeling that cannot be found in big, crowded and busy cities.


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