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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Moon Garden Home Stay

Let's start by explaining the concept of a "Home Stay". Ostensibly this is an opportunity to stay in a local home and "experience real Vietnamese life". We had a brief exposure to this when we stopped along our hike in Sa Pa and our guide cooked us lunch. That home was barely basic and if pressed we would likely have preferred camping. So we anticipated our own full Home Stay experience with some trepidation.

So the good news is that the Moon Garden Home Stay was more like a 5 star hotel in the quality of its accommodation - and its price. We were surprised to learn that this 6 room Home Stay was developed by an architect interested in preserving heritage buildings. All of the buildings on site were dismantled and moved here from other parts of Vietnam. The owner who was only on site the first afternoon was probably the least friendly of all the Vietnamese people we have met over the last 3 weeks. This unfortunately affected our experience and is part of the reason we did not find this part of our vacation as pleasurable as most of the rest.

The other part was the disconnect between how the Home Stay was described to us, " An opportunity to spend time with the Vietnamese family." The staff at the Home Stay were genuinely friendly and eager to please; but as far as we could tell they were not related to the owner, or necessarily to each other. They provided a good hotel experience.

We seemed to have signed up for the full program, some of which was delivered and other parts forgotten - like the Happy Hour beer. The cooking class began just as we arrived and we thoroughly enjoyed making Spring Rolls and a small pork roll wrapped in a Betel leaf. It was a great food experience. This was followed by a hand soak and rub by a wonderful woman who later that evening prepared our foot soak and then the second day led us in 15 minutes of exercise. We found her to be warm and fun. We also watched her 30 minute prayer chanting ritual before dinner.

A guide appeared soon after we arrived and he stuck with us wherever we went. It seemed that we were his English teachers. He did take us on a fun 3 hour bike ride where we met some local people; including a visit to his home to meet his wife, mother and daughters. The next day we had a 2 hour walk where we saw some great scenery and homes. The chance to meet local people was the most enjoyable part of this Home Stay. The farmers in this community are noticeably more prosperous than any we have seen in other parts of Vietnam. We also enjoyed seeing the old buildings in the towns of Ky Son and Tam Son.

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