Looking for an authentic homestay and trekking experience in Sapa, Vietnam? Skip the organised tours and call Em, a local lady who comes from the Black Hmong tribe in Hau Thao.
It’s a village relatively untouched by the hotel-boom that’s engulfing Sapa; there are no luxury homestays or high-rise hotels, just simple wooden houses and warm, welcoming families.
One of the best things about staying in Hau Thao is the 14km trek from Sapa.
Em will meet you off the bus (while her husband Cha takes the heavy backpacks on his motorbike) and lead you up through the Fansipan mountains on a 5-hour hike through rice paddies, winding roads and misty peaks.
The descent to Hau Thao is steep, with slippery paths winding down the mountain past grazing water buffalo and heavily pregnant pigs.
Em’s house, which is surrounded by looming mountains that cut across the skyline, plays a major part in the community.
Not only is it home to her beautiful children, Thao a vang (nicknamed ‘me-too’) and Thao Thi xi (pronounced ‘see-see’), it’s also used as a church on Sundays.
Simple red chairs are gathered round a small table and beds are placed either side of the living area, which can accommodate up to 6 guests.
After a huge dinner (‘you must finish, or tomorrow will not be good weather!’ says a smiling Em) we gather round a little fire in the kitchen to keep warm. Before long we were entertaining a crowd of local kids who wanted to see pictures on our laptop.
The next day we stayed for a Christmas Day service, held at the house, which was one of the most humbling experiences we’ve ever had!
How to book
When we said this was an authentic homestay we meant it. There’s no website or email address, just a phone number for Em!
You can call: 0914644154 or 0168 9786202
Em’s English is excellent and she will happily take phone calls (no texts as she can’t read English) and arrange pick up from the bus in Sapa.
We recommend calling her from Hanoi to organise, preferably a few days in advance.
Price: $20 USD per night, which includes the guided 5-hour trek to her house, food, accommodation and return journey (part trek, part bike) back to Sapa.
This is SUPER CHEAP when you consider the organised tours cost up to $150 for a similar experience in a more touristy village, such as Tavan.
If you’re feeling generous, buy some apples for Em’s 4-year-old son or some sweets/toys for the local kids.