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There are a ridiculous number of homestays in and around Sapa. Homestays are great opportunities to hang out with locals, as you’re literally staying in peoples’ homes. Because of the tourism boom in Northern Vietnam (and much of Southeast Asia), there now seems to a homestay on every corner. Despite the plethora of options, Hoang Kim Homestay totally stands out, and I think if you stay there you’ll agree!
I did a lot of research, seeking out the perfect homestay. Some “homestays” were perplexing, as they looked just like a hotel or hostel. I think people realize the word “homestay” sells, and tourists will eat up anything that seems raw, real, authentic, etc… luckily, the mediocre homestays were easy to identify, thanks to the modern age of Internet reviews!
As those internet reviews all confirm, Hoang Kim Homestay is anything but mediocre. Another thing drawing me to it was its location; Hoang Kim Homestay is in Ta Van Village, just Southeast of Sapa town. I thought, since we were already going out of our way to have a unique experience staying with locals in Northern Vietnam, might as well get off the beaten path a bit.
Getting to Hoang Kim Homestay from Sapa Town
There are two options for getting to and from Hoang Kim Homestay once you’re in Sapa town.
The first option is arranging a car with the homestay. They’ll pick you up anywhere in Sapa town and drive approximately 30 minutes to an hour (honestly, it just depends on what kind of weird road projects are happening in the area that day) to Ta Van Village. There’s an extra cost for the car transport, but it’s not much. We were in constant email communication with them before arriving, so arranging a pick-up time and place would’ve been easy. We did arrange a car pick-up in a way…
Which brings me to the second option: walking. Even though we’d just taken an overnight bus from Hanoi, we decided to walk the several hours to our homestay. Obviously, we wouldn’t have done this if they weren’t able to send a car to pick up our bags, which were later waiting for us at Hoang Kim Homestay down in Ta Van Village! The walk is more strenuous and less scenic than we’d hoped—the dirt roads along the way are still teeming with noisy motorbikes—but it was still a cool experience. We saw a lot of local daily life on that walk, and there were a few gorgeous views of the rice paddies and mountains around us.
We followed Google GPS on our phones to get there. I recommend using some sort of map, guide, or GPS, since there were a few turns which seemed correct and actually weren’t. Even with the GPS, we walked down the wrong road for a bit at one point! Once you’re in Ta Van Village, Hoang Kim Homestay is maybe 50 feet up a very steep paved hill just off the main road. There are a few other homestays and eco hotels in the immediate area, so you can ask around if you can’t find it.
What is Hoang Kim Homestay like?
Like most homestays, it is truly humble lodgings. My bro and I shared a room with two fairly comfy beds, each with its own mosquito net. There was one other private room, and then one giant, two-story room. I say the room was two-story because the first story was our eating area and the second was another sleeping area. The backpackers in the big second floor sleeping area could look down into the eating area from where they slept.
Next to the eating area was the kitchen, and a few (very clean!) bathrooms. There was even the option to shower, which I think is very nice for a homestay and something I definitely hadn’t counted on.
Just outside that main building, there’s another outdoor dining table (this is where we had breakfast) and a gorgeous patio with a bunch of hammocks on it. The patio overlooked the entirety of the stunning Ta Van Village. Many of us enjoyed a nap or two here after a day of trekking!
Finally, there was a second smaller building with a few more simple rooms (I guess business has been good!) and I believe most of the family slept in there.
What are the meals at Hoang Kim Homestay like?
A major highlight of staying at any homestay should be getting to eat dinner with the local family who lives there. We stayed several nights and this was definitely a highlight for us!
It’s so easy to just talk to fellow backpackers in Southeast Asia, especially those who speak the same language, but staying at a homestay gives you a great excuse to bond and communicate with some cool locals!
The meals at Hoang Kim Homestay did not disappoint. Holy moly.
The family cooked us breakfast and dinner every day. We had a choice of traditional Vietnamese noodle soup for breakfast, or a generous serving of banana pancakes. The coffee, as in most of Vietnam, was amazing.
You also have a choice whether you’ll have dinner with the family every night. You let them know earlier in the day so they 1) know how many people to cook for and 2) know whether to charge you or not. Yes, dinner is a little bit extra (I think $3-4, if I remember correctly), but it’s so worth it. There’s more food than anyone can finish and it’s all delicious, local, and authentic.
I will say that by our third night we’d discovered some excellent restaurants nearby that were actually cheaper than the homestay dinner, so we opted out, but I would’ve also been happy eating at the homestay every night! Remarkably, they never seemed to run out of beer, either!
What is there to do at Hoang Kim Homestay?
This is an easy one: when in Sapa and Ta Van, you’ve got to go trekking! There are a ton of trails on which to hike around the homestay. Make sure you bring enough water, and just knock yourself out!
One of our favorite hikes was to a waterfall way up the mountain behind Hoang Kim Homestay. Basically, you turn left out of the homestay and just keep going. The view got better and better the higher we went! Apparently there was even another waterfall we never found, according to the other travelers at the homestay, but one of them got stung by a poisoning caterpillar swimming in its pools so perhaps we got lucky!
We did entirely self-guided hikes throughout the area, and this worked just fine. In fact, we were walking the same paths as other backpackers who’d hired guides. I’m sure guides have more useful, relevant information about the area, but they are not an absolute necessity for trekking in Sapa.
Hoang Kim Homestay is a truly special place
The entire family was so kind and the food was so dang good. Plus, if we hadn’t stayed here, I don’t think we would’ve seen as much (or any) of Ta Van Village. It was neat to experience a smaller mountain town, much less touristy than Sapa.
If you get the chance, definitely give Hoang Kim Homestay a chance! It was one of my favorite experiences in all of Vietnam. You can check availability and book a bed here!
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