Nothing beats discovering a local culture and experiencing their way of life firsthand.
For us, this is the ultimate experience we seek when we visit a country, even more than checking the most popular attractions off our list. And what better way to experience a culture than by staying at a local homestay?
One of our most memorable experiences was at a local homestay in Tu Le, a small village nestled in the picturesque mountains of northwest Vietnam. It is run by a Thai ethnic family who welcomed us into their home and provided us with an authentic cultural experience.
So if you’re wondering what it would be like to stay at a local homestay in Vietnam, read along as we share with you one of our best experiences staying in Tu Le.
A Glimpse Into a Local Homestay Experience
In different parts of Vietnam, the concept of "homestays" takes on unique interpretations. Some use the term loosely, offering accommodations similar to a guesthouse, while others provide a more authentic experience.
You’ll find that the more remote the village is, the more authentic the homestays get. These local homestays are usually only known through word-of-mouth, from local guides and other travelers who got lost somewhere along the way.
With each local homestay comes a different experience, depending on which parts of the country you stay in. What remains the same, however, is the hospitality you'll experience time and time again as you stay in these homestays. Despite the language barrier, their eagerness to make you feel comfortable is evident.
From welcoming you with curious eyes that soon transform into the broadest smiles you have ever seen. You'll be surprised at how quickly strangers become like family, sharing meals, laughter, and toasting to the strongest local wines.
Although not for everybody, there’s a certain charm in these authentic local homestays that is just irresistible.
Our Tu Le Homestay Experience
Imagine this: One chilly evening, three people arrive unannounced at your door and ask if they can stay the night. What would you do?
That’s exactly what happened to us on one of our motorbike trips in Northern Vietnam!
It was the Tet Holiday, the most important holiday in the country, and the weather was unforgivingly cold and rainy. We originally planned to spend the night at Mu Cang Chai but after a long day of driving, it started to get dark, so we stopped at Tu Le and decided to ask around for a local homestay.
We then got directions from a woman we met on the road to Duong’s house, who welcomed us with open arms along with his whole family.
We spent the night celebrating the holiday with the rest of his extended family, playing games, and eating food. It was definitely a night to remember and we couldn’t have been more grateful!
Duong’s Homestay in Tu Le
Located in a Thai village in the middle of the rice fields, Duong’s homestay is the definition of a true Vietnamese homestay experience.
The homestay offers basic yet comfortable accommodation.
The house is a traditional wooden building, with the ground level dedicated to the kitchen and food preparation. While the first floor has an open layout with beds separated by curtains. It is where the family sleeps for the night and shares their meals.
Sleeping arrangements consist of mattresses laid out on the wooden floor with the family's best sheets available for your comfort.
Recently, Duong has expanded the homestay with two additional rooms and a modern bathroom to accommodate guests.
What they may lack in amenities, they make up for with the abundance of food they serve throughout your stay.
During our multiple stays, we were served with plenty of delicious local food prepared by the family. From catching our own chicken in their backyard to freshly picked vegetables and caught fish in the river. It was always a feast!
Our first meal in Tu Le was during Tet when they served us a relatively simple meal of pork belly and sticky rice. The meat was so tender that it almost melted into our mouths! We've later found out that the Thai ethnic minorities spend months smoking their pork bellies in preparation for the holidays. We also learned that Tu Le is famously known for its sticky rice!
It was definitely one of the best meals we’ve had in Vietnam!
Many of Duong's family members also live in the village, so it is not uncommon for relatives to stop by the house for meals and celebrations.
The atmosphere in the house is warm and inviting, filled with laughter and conversation. The sense of community and togetherness is evident as everyone gathers around the table to enjoy delicious homemade meals. It truly felt like we were a part of their family during our stay.
Where is Tu Le?
Tu Le is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. It is located in Yen Bai province in Van Chan District and is inhabited by the Hmong and Thai ethnic minority.
This small town and valley lies on the road from Nghia Lo to Mu Cang Chai. It is around 240km away from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, and it will take you about 6 hours to get there.
What is Tu Le Known for
Tu Le is mainly known for its specialty sticky rice, which is famous for its smell, chewy texture, and wonderful flavor.
Aside from sticky rice, Tu Le offers some of the most incredible landscapes in Northern Vietnam, including rice terraces, valleys, and streams. Tu Le also has natural hot springs that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Explore the Beauty of Tu Le
Staying in a local homestay includes more than just sleeping under the same roof as the family or sharing a hearty meal. It's the beauty of experiencing a day together, whether it's exploring the village or discovering places only locals know about.
You can walk around the village and witness the local life. From children playing around the village to the elders working in the yard and in the rice fields.
Since the village in Tu Le is located in the middle of the rice fields, one of our favorite ways to start the day is to walk around the paddies towards the river stream.
When you visit Tu Le during the rice season, the fields are a breathtaking sight, with lush greenery stretching as far as you can see.
The vibrant colors of the fields create a picturesque landscape that is truly mesmerizing. The peaceful ambiance of the village combined with the stunning natural beauty of Tu Le creates a truly unforgettable experience.
If you’re looking for an adventure, we recommend following Duong around. From hiking in the forest to discovering caves and waterfalls. You can even go fishing in the river with a makeshift bamboo raft. Whatever your fun entails, Duong knows all the spots around Tu Le!
Another highlight of Tu Le are the natural hot springs! So after a day of exploring, we recommend heading to the local hot spring pool to freshen up!
What We Liked Best
What we like the most about staying at Duong’s homestay is how hospitable everybody is. In fact, after the Tet holiday, we’ve gone back to his homestay frequently!
We managed to communicate quite well in spite of the language barrier. They are incredibly patient and we used gestures and simple English phrases to ensure we understood each other.
Having a local guide also makes communicating easier. During some of our visits, we traveled with a local friend who also served as our guide. Having him nearby made things simpler, but we were able to communicate well on our own during our last visit.
Also, a big thank you for coming to the rescue, Google Translate!
Don't miss the chance to book your stay at Duong's Homestay for a unique experience.
Plan Your Trip to Tu Le
Want to travel with a local guide? Contact our friend An, who is based in Hanoi and can customize your itinerary to your preferences. He has traveled with us on numerous trips throughout Northern Vietnam, and we highly recommend him.
Book your trip with An today! You can also contact him through whatsapp at +84979658293.
Best Time to Visit Tu Le
While Tu Le is captivating year-round, the months from May to October offer the most picturesque landscapes with vibrant rice fields and perfect weather for outdoor activities.
Getting to Tu Le from Hanoi
Car: Most convenient way to reach Tu Le is to rent a private car. We took a car from Tu Le to Hanoi before and it was super fast and comfortable. We recommend booking with your accommodation in Hanoi so they can contact a reliable driver for you.
Bus: You can take a bus heading to Mu Cang Chai and stop at Tu Le. Speak to the driver so they can drop you off at Tu Le. Book your bus to Tu Le now!
Motorbike: Getting to Tu Le from Hanoi is a long stretch if you’re on a motorbike. We only recommend it if you’re doing a multiple day motorbike trip along the Northwest Region of Vietnam.
Here is a 7 day Northwest Itinerary in Vietnam to help you plan your motorbike trip! It includes everything from the best route to take, where to stay, and many local tips!
For us, staying at a homestay is more than just the accommodation. It's an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the daily lives and culture of welcoming local families.
Living in similar conditions with the locals, even for a single day, creates a whole new sense of togetherness and understanding.
We hope that this post has inspired you to support the local community by staying at local Vietnamese homestays. So get out there and experience a destination, build meaningful connections, and create memories beyond the usual tourist attractions.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comment down below!
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