VIETNAM TOURS & TRAVEL – Vietnam Homestays

by Dwight

A VIETNAM TRAVELER RELATES THE EXPERIENCE OF A VIETNAM HOMESTAY

Enjoy some southern hospitality at a rural Vietnam homestay in Vinh Long Province.

It took us half a day by motorbike to reach a small waterway near Uncle Tam Be’s home in Tuong Loc, Tam Binh District of the southern province of Vinh Long. He was waiting for us on his boat, ready to take us to his house that he runs as a homestay, a popular new way of visiting the country with both domestic and foreign tourists.

Simple life: Homestay tourists in Vinh Long Province. (VNS)

(Photos: VNS)

While we washed away the memory of the dusty road, dinner was served, featuring a variety of local delicacies including fried red snapper, spade fish soup and chicken and banana flower salad. They were all delicious, but I was most impressed with the carrot porridge, the ideal dish to help you recover from a long journey.

It was a warm and touching meal, surrounded by people who already felt like family, despite the fact we’d only met a few hours before.

“Homestays have been around in Vinh Long for quite a long time, but have only become popular in the last eight years. Foreigners were the first visitors to use the facility, and the concept spread to local people,” said Nguyen Thanh Trung, a representative of the Robe Tam Binh Garden House.

Trung said local people, mostly farmers, were welcoming visitors into their homes, and allowing them to share in their everyday activities such as farming, fishing, going to the market, cooking and of course, eating with the family.

Our hosts were happy to share their local knowledge with us, so we could get the most out of our time there.

We tried to help Tam Be catch fish by bailing out a small pool, a task easier said than done. Even though the fish did not have enough water to swim in, they still managed to wriggle away from us as we slipped around in the mud.

The morning ended with a several baskets full of fish and all of Tam Be’s guests caked in mud. That afternoon, we dined on a beautiful lunch, made from the ingredients we had caught and gathered in our host’s garden. It was the first time I had tried gardening, and we picked a variety of local fruits, including Tam Binh oranges – a local specialty, that Tam Be sells at the Tra On floating market. We sat in his garden and enjoyed the fresh fruit, which to me tasted a lot sweeter than any I had ever bought at a market.

Vietnam Homestay - Traditional Music - Entertainment

Tra On is 13km away to the south of the district. It is a daily market on the Hau River that attracts hundreds of traders, bobbing up and down on their boats trying to sell their wares.

Visitors can hire a boat to visit the floating market, where a variety of goods are available, but mostly fruit. Traders advertise their produce on the end of long poles, sticking up out of their boats like slim masts.

“It was a really new experience for me. I was enjoying myself so much, I nearly forgot that I’m scared of water. I tried to buy as much of the delicious produce as possible, even though our boat was moving up and down and I was in danger of falling into the river,” said visitor Nguyen Tu Phuong.

Phuong arrived with a couple from Australia who also expressed how much they were enjoying the tour.

“The people here are really friendly. They teach me to cook, make tea and speak Vietnamese. I enjoy the local food immensely. It is difficult to cook but delicious. And also the language, it’s difficult to speak but I like it and have learned some words,” said Amanda Westwood.

The trio visited An Binh islet in An Binh Commune for two days, which was enough for them to learn how to wrap traditional cakes and listen to the dan ca tai tu (talent music performance), performed by a group of artists who gather together once a week to practice.

“In the past, tour companies set up homestay programs in northern provinces such as Hoa Binh and Lao Cai. To give travelers more options, we decided to set up similar programs in southern destinations like Vinh Long,” said Nguyen Minh Quyen, deputy director of the Ben Thanh Tourist Company.

“The daily life of the southern people is an attractive aspect here. Our customers are especially keen on traveling by boat, visiting handicraft villages and making traditional cakes with the local residents,” said Quyen whose company receives more than 3,000 customers per year.

Vu Thanh Minh, a tour guide, said homestays were a form of sustainable tourism which suited the multi-cultural Viet Nam, helping them to introduce and promote different cultures and landscapes to foreigners while narrowing the gap between Vietnamese people from different areas.

However, Trung, who organizes tours to Robe Tam Binh, said although demand for homestays in Vinh Long was high, they had been forced to temporarily postpone the service.

“In order to improve the tours, provincial leaders have set rules on food safety and hygiene among others. It’s a good decision but creates difficulties for us because many home owners cannot meet the new standards,” Trung said.

“The standards have been set too high for us. We will have to withdraw many of the activities on our tour because of the new rules, which will detract from the whole experience,” he added.

My group, Phuong and her friends were lucky because we had the chance to live as real residents of Vinh Long, even if it was only for a short time. I’ll have happy memories of my time there, and Tam Be, who presented us with a large basket of fruit as we said goodbye.

Source:  http://english.vietnamnet.vn/en/travel/5479/enjoy-some-southern-hospitality-at-a-rural-homestay-in-vinh-long.html

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