The short answer to your question is "it doesn't matter who you go with, you will NOT be doing a homestay'"?
The long answer is more complex, but here goes...
Homestays are popular precisely because tourists get to stay in a hamlet, and (generally) interact with locals.
That said, homestays are an industry.
The idea of homestays has been organised by the Vietnam Gov't. Generally, the central gov't has told the province gov't to organise the local 'people's committee' (in tourist attractive areas) to develop homestays as a traveller option.
Increasingly, private operators have caught the 'bug' and also engage with the local 'people's committee' to undertake homestays in areas where there is demand.
You must remember that in Vietnam, decisions to do anything on land that changes status quo MUST be approved by the local 'people's committee'.
The point I am making is that where a homestay is advertised, it means that the local 'people's committee' has both approved the tour operator, and the village involved, to facilitate the homestay.
In some places, demand is so great that the villagers are sick of the tourist intrusion and have constructed 'purpose built' dwellings for the homestay. In effect, tourists are directed to stay in a 'sleeping' building, with a common room and the local villagers provide food, etc.
Sapa is just such a place.
You can choose any of the 'tours' that advertise the homestay option. But in Sapa you will stay in a 'sleeping hut' that is purpose built for tourists. You do NOT stay in a villagers' dwelling-home.
Be aware that Vietnamese travel agents will generally promise you anything to get you to commit to a tour, but once you've paid your money may not deliver on their promises. Some agents are worse than others in this regard.
Having said all this, do go to Sapa and do a trek.
Now to your question, which firm.
Many Hanoi based firms will sell you a package tour that is organised by a travel company in Sapa.
Vega is a Hanoi firm and if you choose them, they will be using someone else for your tour.
SapaPathfinder is a Sapa based tour group. So, they may be organising the tour, or using someone else.
If you are interested, compare SapaPathfinder ( www.sapapathfinder.com/ ) with Sapatravel ( www.sapatravel.com/ ) and choose the best for you.
Hope this helps.
I'm really not sure,how to read/understand your reply. Maybe my english isn't as well...
I was asking for travellers-experiences with Sapa Pathfinders (sold as well in Hanoi by Vega, as by themselves in Sapa). Are I'm right, you didn't any trek with them?
I hope I'll hear from anybody here in this forum, sharing his selfmade- experiences with me.
I had a look on different homepages, followed your advice to compare with Sapatravel, but there treks do CatCat village, and this is the worst example for too much tourisme, isn't it?
The interesting part of your answer is the information about the developpment of so-called homestays. To stay overnight in a hut, built nearby the village for hiking tourists , I know from different hiking-tours in the north of Thailand. Concerning Sapa, I will think over that, no problem to change our planning, no problem just doing trekking.
Your answer sounds a little bit like a lesson for tourists.
In your optinion, better to do no trekking arround Sapa because the villages got sick already? No more trips in Halong Bay to save the water...
(You don't use the plane just for your personel fun/travel, for saving the air .....)?
This is a complex problem with tourismus in not so developped ,even poor parts of the wourld.Be sure, brucemoon, we are intelligent persons, travelling with a big respect of foreign culture and people.
#3 muggel has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 14
Sorry if I was not clear.
I wanted to try and alert you to the fact that 'homestay' is a term that is used in Vietnam, and in popular tourist destinations is misleading. Because you are not staying in a villagers' home.
But, is Sapa worth visiting. YES!!!
Why? because you get to interact with local people, and if you approach the conversation properly, you'll really enjoy yourself.
What do I mean by "approach the conversation properly"? The villagers in the Sapa area HAVE to work to make a living. If they have to plant rice, or plough a field, they can't talk to you. So, the village people you will talk to are the ones who are trying to make money by selling you things (mostly made in China). You MUST expect that these people will try to sell you things. But, after you say "hello" and they say "will you buy", if you turn the conversation onto them by saying "do you have children", or "is your house far from here", or "how many years did you go to school", they will answer. The villagers like to talk about themselves, and will stop selling things if you talk about them and their village life. This way, you will enjoy yourself.
Is Cat Cat worth visiting? YES!!!
Cat Cat is a short walk from Sapa. It is a Black H!Mong village. Many tourists walk through Cat cat. The villagers HAVE to work to earn a living. If you are nice to them when you talk to them, they will be nice to you. The village is very pretty, and there are displays of Indigo dying, a rice milling machine (powered by water), etc.
I do not need to trek with any company. I can go trekking on my own. I can get a map, and I can go trekking on my own.
If you want to go trekking with a comapny that organises things for you, any of the firms that are based in Sapa will be OK.
Hope this helps.
I'm in Sapa , now and our one day trek booked through Mountain View Hotel this morning was scenic and very pleasant. A few hilltribe, Black hmoung ladies walked with us and were more informative than our male tour guide who generally just led us.
We really enjoyed the ladies company and learned a lot from them. They even pointed out their homes, friends, etc. Of course they hoped we'd buy their handicrafts during lunch and we all bought a few items at very good prices and had lots of fun interacting.
The tour cost $10/person. Well worth it.
We saw some of the sleeping "homestay" shelters as we passed.
Thanks for the insights, brucemoon. They helped to clarify what we saw. I agree with all your other comments.
Tomorrow, I'm going to Cat Cat by myself or with whoever wants to join me and apparently There's a small fee at the village for tourists, but they give you a little map. So, I'll wander to my heart's desire tomorrow and hope to meet more of the locals.
By the way, some of the hilltribe women speak English very well and they love to talk!!! Have fun with them, they're a real treat! and so imformative.
I'm really enjoying Sapa after having spent the last 4 weeks travelling South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I like active adventure tourism and suffered heat exhaustion 2 times already. Almost thought i'd have to go back home to BC, Canada, but Sapa saved me!
Wishing you happy adventures!
#5 rosa has been a member since 26/4/2009. Posts: 2
If you are still in Sapa when you read this, go to:
I suggest you'll find it enjoyable.
Thanks rosa and brucemoon, for your repies.
I think, we will do Cat Cat by our own,like rosa.
Also, if the weather is fine, we would love to rent a motorbike, to go to the Tram Ton Pass.
What is your advice concerning motorbiking: is it worth to do it, or too
dangerous? (We do also do motorbiking at home)
Finally, we decided, to hike with a local guide for 2 days, passing the villages Ylinh Ho, Lao Chai,Tan Van Giang Ta Chai and Su Pan1.
Hope, that will be fine.
#7 muggel has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 14
The 2 day trip sounds fine. At least you now know the sleeping situation. You also now know that much of the enjoyment you will get from the 'trek' is to talk with the various hilltribe people you meet along the way. Please remember that these people - probably only women - will be wanting to sell you things, so don't refuse to talk to them. Just start asking things about their life.
Each hilltribe group has its own language. For a person from one hilltribe group to speak to another, they have to have a common language. The common language for the hilltribe is not Vietnamese. They speak English (its what tourists speak).
If you go to Cat Cat before your trek, you will enjoy it because Cat Cat will be the first time you interact with H!Mong hilltribe people. When you walk to Cat Cat (10 to 15 minutes) other hilltribe women may come along to try and sell you things. If you keep talking to them, they might walk to Cat Cat with you.
If you go to Cat Cat after your trek, you might think the village is the same as Lao Chai, TaVan, etc. It is, but it is different. Also, if you look, you will see several traditional ways of living farm life.
Renting a motorbike?
You have the choice of automatic (about 120,000 VN dong) or semi-auto [Honda Dream or similar] for about 100,000 VN dong per day.
The road to the pass is being repaired, and is covered in many places with rocks and gravel. But it is still passable. Along that road, there is a waterfall that many people visit.
Hello, here is muggel again with a short review of our stay and homestaytrek in Sapa.
We had an organisazed tourpackage by SAPA PATHFINDER, a wellknown local Traveloffice. Arriving soon in the mornig in Hanoi, 5 am, we had the possibility to store our backpack, shower an relax some hours in a room in the VEGA ttraveloffice, relationship of the owner from Sapa. (No more costs for us)
In Sapa, we had 1 day for our own, and our hotel was great:25 USD for all full meals this day, big room, good shower...hotel ist siuated nearby Victoria Hotel and belongs to the traveloffice.
Next 2 days we had a trekking, passing several villages, very nice hilltribes, friendly and helpfull. We bought some handicrafts from the women, joining our trek.
The homestay: We say some of the hotellike builings, called homestay, but no guests there. Thinking about brucemoon, we aks for it. Our guides answer was, government builts lots of this hotellike buildings, but now, governments changes, regrets to lost originality...
We stayed in a house (Mr. Chin), familiy and kitchen in the first fluor, balcony with matrass and blankets for the guests in the second floor. But we had been disapointed, because we had been seperated for all meals, made by our guide.
But our guide invidet us to a local familiy, friends of him, the have lunch together..and this was a real good experience this the local family.
#10 muggel has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 14