Trekking in the picturesque rice fields of Northern Vietnam is an amazing experience. We headed to the tiny Ta Van village, 5 miles outside Sapa, high in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of north west Vietnam to explore.
How to Get to Ta Van Village
Ta Van village is only 10 km away from Sapa and the best option you have is getting a taxi. A taxi ride from Sapa shouldn’t cost you more than 200,000 VND ($9 USD). The price to the village is pretty much set and they don’t use meters in these parts so don’t waist your precious time negotiating.
The journey is pretty easy, but make sure you have your homestay pinned (saved) on your smartphone. Our driver knew where the village was, but wanted to drop us off miles away from our homestay in Ta Van village. Luckily Charlie has everything pinned on Google Maps on his phone so he directed the taxi driver to the place we booked.
If you are adventurous and do not carry excess baggage, you can save the pennies and take the 5 mile plus hike to the village. The road is pretty straight forward and the views of the rice fields are spectacular.
On our journey to Ta Van village, it was so foggy we couldn’t see a thing in front of us, but on the way back to Sapa it was a beautiful clear day and the views were fantastic.
Booking a Homestay in Ta Van Village
Your best chance of choosing a Homestay in Ta Van Village is a quick search on Tripadvisor or Agoda to assess your options. There are plenty of places to stay in the village so you could possibly get one on arrival but we recommend booking ahead to secure the one you want. It all depends on what level of (dis)comfort you are ready to experience.
You will have different experiences staying in local homes depending on the time of year you travel. We visited the mountains in March and it was pretty cold. Once the sun broke through it was very pleasant, but most of the time we wore a couple of layers of clothes and a rain jacket, even inside.
What to Expect from a Homestay in Ta Van Village
Depending on what kind of accommodation you book, expect something very basic, a mattress on the floor, thin bamboo walls, cold shower or a broken shower in places and if you are really lucky, an electric blanket.
The food at our homestay was really good with a nice spread of meaty and non meaty dishes to choose from.
Lucky Daisy’s Bamboo Homestay in Ta Van village
We found our homestay through Tripadvisor. After reading endless reviews we decided to go for Lucky Daisy’s Bamboo Bar Homestay. We went for a private room with breakfast & dinner included for a total price of 892,000 VND ($ 40 USD) per night. We debated over the price for a long time and decided to go for it reasoning it with the included meals.
The location of the homestay is beautiful, with the views to the rice fields. It’s also surrounded by the huts of the locals which made our stay even more authentic.
In terms of our ‘private room’, well… it was literally a bed in a cupboard. We could just about squeeze our bags in. It was very clean though, the sheets were changed every day and we were lucky to have an electric blanket. Once we were in bed, it was easy to drift into the deep sleep even with the wind blowing through the thin bamboo walls.
The communal ‘lounge’ here is beautifully decorated with ethnic details, but it was too cold to sit in it. We shared this space with two other families so the only private space was our bed.
The shower is outdoors and on our arrival, there was no hot water. We were both very cold and tired and not being able to warm ourselves up made our day slightly miserable. Our best advice is to slip under the heated blanked if you have one.
The shower problem persisted throughout our stay. And even though the owners assured the problem was the lack of water in the village, we think the problem was the shower itself and the water tank.
A good thing about Lucky Daisy’s Bamboo Bar was the fireplace in the bar and dining area. This is where most people hung around during the day and in the evening. Even people from other homestays were coming in to have a drink and warm up.
The family dinner was really good. It was well prepared and really tasty, just a bit too little on the first night. I am sure everyone at the table went to bed with their stomachs still growling. However, on the second day, we had more than enough to eat.
The two volunteers at the homestay were really lovely, helpful and very hard-working. It seemed like they were running the whole show, from making drinks to taking orders and chopping the wood.
We really liked the location and the people we met in the village, but if we are totally honest, we felt overcharged for what we got.
This homestay is considered ‘luxury’ by the locals. A bunch of local women were always hanging around showcasing their crafts in hope of the ‘luxury travellers’ purchasing a scarf or a wristband from them.
Trekking in the Rice Fields without a guide
If you come all this way to see the amazing scenery, you have to trek, even if it’s muddy. There’s really no point in sitting around drinking overpriced hot chocolate and trying to warm up.
You can combine a guided trek to your homestay with the accommodation itself. We heard good things from other guests who booked via trekkingsapa.com to achieve this.
The main purpose of staying in Tan Van village for us was to do the trek.
Unlucky for us, the weather conditions weren’t great as it rained a lot a few days before our arrival and on the first day, it was very foggy. Therefore our host advised us not to do the trek due to extremely muddy fields.
However, after meeting a lovely Dutch couple and talking to them about trekking the rice fields, we were encouraged to do a short loop around the village independently, without a guide. And so we did. The trek was so refreshing and the views were breathtaking. Even the sun came out towards the end of our trek.
We set out on our journey armed with sticks, walking boots and rainproof jackets. It was a really muddy track, but not as bad as I expected it to be. We were as careful as we could and the bamboo sticks really helped.
There are a couple of routes you can take through the woods and rice fields. Most of them straight forward and the only obstacle we came across was a steep, extremely slippery slope down the valley.
But before we even blinked a bunch of 5 local ladies appeared from the woods in their dashing traditional outfits, took us by the arms and literally carried us down the slippery slope.
Don’t underestimate their tiny physiques, they are very strong. Of course, we had to pay them up for the help later once they brought us to safety, but that’s how the local ladies roll in the rice fields.
It took us around a couple of hours to complete the loop and after crossing the main bridge into the village, we ended our trek with some grub in a local restaurant.
There’s not much around food wise while trekking so make sure you have plenty of breakfast and pop in some snacks and drinks before setting off.
The Fascinating Locals in Ta Van village
Mostly we encountered the local ladies. Dressed in amazing colourful outfits, they roam the streets of Ta Van village with heavy baskets on their backs full of handmade crafts.
They lead us through winding little roads, telling their life stories and occasionally reminding us ‘you buy from me later’. You will meet them everywhere.
One way to make them stop following you is to make clear that you will not buy anything from them. But sometimes, even then, they will follow you. And if you buy from one, others will want you to buy from them too. If you give them some money for a ‘guided tour’, they will share it amongst themselves.
They are beautiful and fascinating people. Most of the ladies speak really good English, but none of them went to school, they can’t read or write. ‘We learned English from the tourists’ they say.
It really was amazing meeting the locals and learning a little more about their culture and daily life. On our last day, we bought a couple of handmade wristbands at 10,000 VND ($ 0.45 USD) each. They are very good quality and very neatly made. I love mine, blue with white flowers and it has a different pattern on the other side.
Have you trekked in the rice fields in Vietnam and stayed in a homestay? Where did you stay? Do you have any recommendations? Leave us a comment below…