I have had a lot of inquiries about where I was in the rural country-side of rural Vietnam, and this place was so special that I wanted to make a post about it. So here it is.
Uncle Ty’s Farmstay: A Sublime Oasis
How pretentious can I be to use both the word sublime and oasis in a single description? I have studied a lot on the sublime; it can mean a lot of different things depending on the philosopher in which you’re studying. My own interpretation of the sublime is that it’s something involving the greatness of nature’s vastness; the sublime is awe-invoking, indescribable, powerful, remarkable, and at times, makes you feel small in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, the dictionary definition of an oasis is “a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.” When I say sublime oasis, think of oasis metaphorically; Uncle Ty’s is definitely not a desert, but it is definitely a place you can find something amid a desert of your life, whether what you find is peace, love, compassion, happiness, or some part of yourself.
I was spending almost 3 weeks in Hanoi; I didn’t want to spend all of my time in the center, so I was looking for places outside of the city that I could go to for a few days before Tet actually started. I went onto AirBnb and was looking for homestays or accommodation that was within 2 hours of Hanoi and in nture. And there it was: Uncle Ty’s Farmstay. I googled it and actually found an article written by a blogger I’m very familar with, Emily Lush’s blog, and I remember already having read that post but had completely forgotten about it. That was enough for me to book my stay.
Booking & getting there
The one person who messaged me on AirBnb had perfect English: her name was ‘Loan.’ She gave me all of the details on catching a bus outside of Hanoi; I had to get a bus to Hoa Binh and give the phone to the bus driver and he would tell me where to get off. When I got off the bus, there was a taxi waiting for me. The drive in the taxi was about 30 minutes through some bumpy terrain. They have maps on their Facebook page if you’re curious of directions and location, or if you want to find a way there yourself.
My room was a double bed with a window with a view of the land across the road and a plug with a light. There was also a fan, but because it was cooler, I didn’t need it. They also gave me a single towel. There was a mosquito net that went around the bed at night and two huge comforters to keep me warm. I was the only person there, so I didn’t have any neighbors.
The place where guests stay is a wooden/bamboo house on stilts; there were two double bedrooms and one giant room that slept 16 people on twin mattresses.
Let’s be clear: this is a farmstay. It is definitely a farm. There is wifi, but it can be spotty in some places. There is electricity. There is no heating or air conditioning, but there are western toilets and hot showers. There are roosters and chickens roaming around. There are cows wandering freely and eating grass. There are a whole lot of dogs wandering around, too. If you want to be pampered in nature with a spa and luxurious amenities, this place isn’t for you; but if you want to relax, read, do some work, take great photos, build connections with locals, wake up early without feeling exhausted, all while surrounded by nature and its beauty, then you should not just want to go here; you need to go here.
If you walk out of the property and make a left, you’ll see some rice paddies and cows. You can keep walking all the way up into the jungle. The neighbors don’t speak English, but they will say hello and are very kind. If you walk off the property and make a right, you’re walking toward town, but it’s a very long walk. If you arrive on a scooter, it’s pretty easy to get around yourself; Uncle Ty’s also has bicycles. Just a few houses down, there is a woman that sells some candy and regular household items. A pretty eclectic shop of eggs, seasoning, etc.. I kept going there to buy candy and cookies for the children. They could not speak much English beyond hello and did not know numbers in English either, but they are related to Uncle Ty’s family. I never spent more than $2.
They have a whole lineup of activities offered from boat rides, fishing, farming, trekking, basket weaving, and more. You can check out all of their “leisure” activities on their Facebook page here.
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Hands guiding hands; at Uncle Ty’s Homestay in Hao Bin province, my expectations were exceeded. While I was imagining myself enjoying myself in nature and away from the city, I never imagined such great hospitality from the sweetest family I could have ever come into contact with. On my last day, they showed me how to make a traditional rice dish wrapped in bamboo leaves (which I definitely needed a lot of assistance with). — I thought four nights in a single place would be a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Even with a language barrier, I played with the children, hung out with the neighboring family members, drank beer, rice wine, and made countless memories that didn’t even involve language. — I learned more about myself and my ability to communicate. I am eternally grateful for this experience, and I can’t wait to go back.
About the meals:
Super delicious and traditional. Ate things I never would have tried otherwise. I was alone, but they gave me enough food for two people. It was very delicious food, but there was just no way that I could eat all of it by myself! I hated wasting food and ended up skipping lunch on my last two days because then I could finish everything and be super hungry. They give you the option of eating there or not; because I was staying there full time without transportation really, I chose mostly all meals in the beginning. They also have vegetarian options.
Breakfast per day: $1.70
Lunch per day: $6.50
Dinner per day: $6.50
Like I said, I started skipping lunch because I just didn’t need that many meals per day. If you’re with someone else, there will still probably be more than enough food for two people. My breakfast was usually 2-3 dishes while my lunches and dinners consisted of usually 6-8 dishes and a huge thing of rice.
Just a note, they only had instant coffee: it was fine with me, and I’m sure you could ask if they had other options, but I never did. I survived.
My Time at the Farm
Before I give you my day to day breakdown, I just want to tell you that the family is what makes this place really special. I am already planning on going back. I have multiple posts about the way the family made me feel and just how generally welcoming they were. Staying there has changed my perspective of humanity and my ability to build connections with people. I genuinely miss them every single day as I travel. I mean, look at that face:
Arrival/Tuesday Loan, the woman I was communicating with via AirBnb, was not able to meet me upon arrival; her brother, Chien, was the one who helped me with everything over the next few days. When the taxi dropped me off, Chien and I sat down and scheduled what I wanted to do over the next few days. Realistically, I didn’t want to do much: trek, see the village, and make some Vietnamese dumplings. Everything was very flexible in terms of timing. Chien grabbed my bag and put it in my ‘room.’ I filled out the paperwork, told them what I eat/what I don’t eat, and around what time my meals would be. That day was pretty simple. That night, after dinner, Chien built a fire and we chatted, mainly through google translate. His sister came over with her little baby girl and we watched some pug YouTube videos on my phone. You can read more about that experience here.
On the first day/Wednesday, I woke up to the sounds of roosters and cows. It was one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a very long time. Chien brought me my breakfast downstairs, some pho ga, and afterward we went on a bike ride to the local school. I had mentioned wanting to teach, but I wasn’t exactly sure what the plan was at the school. I thought we would wander around and I would shock some of the locals with my being western, but we just went upstairs with some adults and chatted for a minute.
On the bike ride home, we passed by a little “market” and Chien asked if I liked beer. I said yes, so we turned around and walked in: it was a room with a cooler and a tv. He opened the cooler, took out two beers, and we started drinking. At 10am. I was ok with it. I was more than ok with it. It’s not like we were doing anything else. Then, on the way home, I was surrounded by school children waving and saying hello. They were all very excited. In an attempt to take my hand off of the handlebars and wave, I lost control and fell. They thought it was hilarious. The rest of the day was filled with my blogging, watching some Netflix, eating so much food, and then we hung out by the fire and watched some more funny dog videos.
The next day/Thursday, we went on a “trek.” We definitely got lost a few times, as it was just Chien and I, and I don’t recommend wearing any material that anything clings to: my leggings were almost destroyed by the end of it with little things sticking to it, but they were salvaged in the end. It had recently rained, and I fell on my ass a few times. I was definitely a workout. If you don’t want something difficult, ask about an easier option. The views were SO worth it, though; once we got out of the jungle, there were rice paddies upon rice paddies.
That night was a soccer game against Japan. Chien wanted to take me to the local market so we could drink beer, but instead, we ended up going to his Uncle’s house. It was a really great experience; cheers-ing with a bunch of Vietnamese men every minute and watching the soccer game. I felt like I was one of them, and even though it was such a casual experience, it was one of the most memorable. Most of them did not know much English: they knew Hello, America, Obama, Donald Trump, beer, cheers.
Friday was my last full day there, so I asked if we could make dumplings. I took my day pretty slow. I walked around a bit and then after lunch, it was time to start making the dumplings. This was a fun experience, especially because I was so bad at it. It was hilarious. I was trying to get the hang of it, but the language barrier definitely made it difficult. Either way, we exchanged laughs. As we waited for them to cook over the fire, I spent time with the children and some neighbors; I let them play with my phone, download games, and use PhotoBooth on my laptop. Even though they could not understand anything I said to them and vice versa, it was still enjoyable; they were so cute.
That evening Uncle Ty invited me to their home for dinner. I graciously accepted and they were getting ready to pour shots of homemade rice wine. The dinner was already ready, but I had no idea what it was. They were all curious about my inability to use chopsticks, and I had to physically move my shot glass out of their reach in order for it to not be refilled. It was hilarious and amazing all at once. They are so kind and so welcoming. They also like to “cheers,” pretty often, so be ready for that. You’ll go through a beer within 3 minutes if you keep up with them (and you’ll have about 5 shots within 10 minutes).
My last morning/Saturday morning was pretty laid back. I woke up early and we went to the local market on the back of Cheg’s motorbike (my first time on a motorbike in Asia!) it was a big, huge market with vendors upon vendors. We got some pho for breakfast that had a duck egg in it, which I could not really eat the entire thing (I had a bite of it).
Afterward, I packed up my stuff and was ready to go. The taxi driver was the same man who picked me up and was very kind; he even drove me alllll the way back to Hanoi because I was too lazy to take a bus.
I truly, genuinely cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed my time here. Uncle Ty and his family made me feel like family while being thousands of miles away from my own. I do not think anything will compare. Like I said, it might not be for everyone; however, if you’re interested in relaxing in the countryside, are in Hanoi or plan on going, go here. Your money will not be wasted.
For my other blog posts regarding my stay/reflections at Uncle Ty’s, check out:
Thank you for reading. I love these people.
Until next time,
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More breakfast pho 😍 I told my homestay I can skip dinner, they make so much amazing food! I feel bad not being able to eat it all, so I would rather just skip a meal and fill up 😂 . . . #foodie #food #foodporn #foodblogger #travelblogger #dametravelerfoodie #foodandwine #dinner #breakfast #lunch #yum #foodgasm #nomnom #noms #hungry #finedining #eatlocal #travellerspath #solotraveler #backpacker #glt #travelgirl #womenwhotravel #girlswhowander #wanderlust #dametraveler
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Green beans, chicken / onion / carrot skewers, ribs with GINGER in this amazing sauce omg I want to put it on everything! These hosts are trying to make me gain about 500 lbs in a few days! . #foodie #food #foodporn #foodblogger #travelblogger #dametravelerfoodie #foodandwine #dinner #breakfast #lunch #yum #foodgasm #nomnom #noms #hungry #finedining #eatlocal #travellerspath #solotraveler #backpacker #glt #travelgirl #womenwhotravel #girlswhowander #wanderlust #dametraveler
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The amazing spread at my homestay… and all of this food is for me!! 😳😳 I couldn’t even finish half of this food but it was all so tasty and truly homemade. . . . . #foodie #food #foodporn #foodblogger #travelblogger #dametravelerfoodie #foodandwine #dinner #breakfast #lunch #yum #foodgasm #nomnom #noms #hungry #finedining #eatlocal #travellerspath #solotraveler #backpacker #glt #travelgirl #womenwhotravel #girlswhowander #wanderlust #dametraveler