Da Lat Authentic Home Stay – Da Lat – Vietnam – December 2014

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If you’re looking for an amazing experience in Vietnam, you won’t want to miss out of Dalat Authentic Homestay.  Finally after 6 months in Southeast Asia, a true Home Stay.  You stay in the house with Huan and his parents.  You cook with his sister-in-law, Trang.  And you drink in the adjoining house with his brother, Hieu. 

We booked 2 nights to stay with them… we stayed 10 nights over Christmas. 
The family is incredible and they love it when they have a full house.  The parents don’t speak any English but that won’t prevent mom from asking you if your food is good.  She will also babble on fully knowing that you don’t speak a word of Vietnamese.  Normally, she’s just looking for a smile and for you to repeat what she’s saying.  Most of my conversations ended with a hug. 

Hieu became like a brother to me.  We’re the same age and he’s really easy to get along with. We spent many nights sitting on a mat with him and his siblings doing shots of rice wine.  One night, I ate rabbit stew with them.  Another night, I passed on the chicken heads they offered. Anytime we saw him, he would invite us in for some shots of different rice wines.  They had a dark one that tasted like whiskey which was awesome.  They had one with bee larvae in it which was not as awesome but more popular. That’s what we usually drank.  It looks awful but you really don’t taste anything. Just close your eyes and down it!

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Huan is one of the most likeable people you will meet.  His English is great and he is always making sure that everyone is happy.  He is incredibly busy with tours, farms and running the home stay so some days we didn’t see much of him.  If you get the opportunity to hang out with Huan, take advantage of it. Some people don’t get that chance because their stay is too short and they catch it when he’s off running other tours. He is very genuine and he’s the reason why we’re able to have such an amazing experience with his family. 

Farm Land

On our first day there, Huan took us on a tour around his village.  His house is overlooking the hills of Da Lat with scenery that you normally see in photo shopped pictures. The different colors highlighted where one crop ends and another one begins, it was incredibly beautiful!  Huan showed us where his farm land where they have diversified and are growing all the major Da Lat specialties: Coffee, strawberries and flowers. 

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Cooking with Trang

My favorite part of staying here though, was every night at 6pm we and all the other guests would gather in the kitchen with Trang and prepare dinner together.  As we stayed longer and longer, Trang made us take on more responsibility.  One night I was in charge of teaching everyone how to roll the spring rolls.  Kristi did all kinds of cooking along side Trang, she was more interested in learning the recipes than me.  I burnt some egg plant one night… egg plant ; takes forever.  It will be cooking for like 20 minutes and it will still be raw. 3 minutes later it’s burnt.  Either way, being a part of prepping fresh vegetables and cooking authentic local dishes with the family is great. 

Side note made by Kristi: Miles usually would ask me (or someone else in the house) to look after the food he was cooking while he “went to the bathroom”. Then you’d later find him sitting in the living room drinking beer and socializing. Slacker…

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The Best Shave of My Life

On Christmas Eve I decided I needed a shave.  I went down the street to the little barber shop where I received the most thorough shave ever.  He was very precise and made sure every line was perfect and crisp.  What I expected to be about 15-20 minutes ended up being almost an hour.  He trimmed my scraggly hairs, took the peach fuzz off my forehead, nose and ears.  Just when I thought he was finished, he had me turned sideways and was cleaning out my ears! They use a headlamp and a scraping tool to clean out your ears here… It’s a weird feeling.  Though I will say, when he finished, I actually believed I could hear better.  This still wasn’t the end.  He spent another 5-10 minutes giving me a head and shoulder massage.  Once he finished, he charged me 20,000vnd.  That is less than $1usd!  No haircut or shave will ever live up to this experience for this price. 

Christmas

Our Christmas dinner saw a lot of new faces.  We had to move our dinner to 3 long tables outside to accommodate 30ish people.  People from all over the world: Vietnam, Finland, Ireland, England, Israel, China, Singapore, USA, France and Canada.  We don’t necessarily all celebrate the same thing but we all came together to celebrate tonight.  Huan set up a massive speaker outside and turned up the Christmas music to a level just loud enough for the entire village to know they’re in for a long night.  The Vietnamese know how to get a party going.  One of the guys grabbed a full case of beer and walked around handing them out like presents all throughout dinner like a drunken Vietnamese Santa.  You take a beer, he yells “YO!!” and everyone drinks.  He hands out another beer, yells out “YO!” and we all repeat and drink.  It’s a good system.

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After dinner, we connect someone’s iPhone to the sound system and start up YouTube.  Viet Santa is still passing beers and gets the dance party started and every now and then stopping to yell “Wah-Da! Wah-Da!” which is like yelling “I’m excited!”.  Whenever I think of this translation I think of Steve from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: “EXCITED!” Wah-da has a nice ring to it.  It flows smoothy and is easy to remember.  I think I may use this for all of my celebrations.  Birthdays, Christmas, winning on the poker table.  I like this. 

The night was long and fun.  I have been fortunate enough to spend Christmas in a few different destinations: Disney World, Hawaii, Nicaragua, and now I can add Da Lat, Vietnam to the list.  Christmas isn’t the same without family but the amazing family and guests at Da Lat Authentic Home Stay made it feel like we were with family.    

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The People you Meet

Staying at the home stay is like staying at a hostel minus the excessive partying.  You tend to meet a lot of people who are very different but looking for similar experiences to you.  They want the home stay experience that is so difficult to find in Southeast Asia.  Everyone comes together and you feel like everyone is part of the family whether you’re from Israel, Vietnam, Canada or somewhere else.  It’s difficult not to be close to people after spending a few days with them.  You get all ages too.  People that are in their 60s and younger travelers in their early 20s.  Age doesn’t matter when you’re looking for the same experience.  There are some people we met in the house that we believe we will be friends with for a long time!

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Leaving

Some of the guests made jokes at us because we kept saying “we’re leaving tomorrow” for about 4 days.  The thing is, when you’re on a long trip and you’re having fun, sometimes you want to stick around somewhere.  This was one of those places.  We weren’t in any rush so we stuck around.  That’s one of the best decisions we’ve made on this trip.  On the day we finally left, there were many hugs.  Hieu says he’ll call us if he comes to Ho Chi Minh so hopefully we hear from him soon.  I will never forget my Vietnamese family!

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