© Emily Lush 2017

Uncle Ty’s Farmstay — The Perfect Overnight Escape from Hanoi

If you’re searching for an easy, affordable overnight trip from Hanoi, Uncle Ty’s Farmstay in Hoa Binh Province is a great choice.

About 70km from the city—or roughly three hours’ door to door if you’re travelling on public transport—it’s far enough to feel like you’re in the countryside, but accessible enough to take on as a quick weekender. It’s also incredibly affordable—our night away set us back 1,425,000 VND (about 30 USD each), including a private room, all transport, and three very generous meals.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

 

Set in charming Dong Bai village, Uncle Ty’s is a community-based tourism success story. The project was kickstarted in 2015 with a microfinance loan and guidance from an NGO in Hanoi. It later featured on organised tour itineraries, and is now thriving as an independent business—complete with its own Airbnb listing. Uncle Ty’s three daughters Loan, Quynh and Ly help manage the property. All speak fantastic English. Quynh, who is studying tourism in Hanoi, was there when we visited, and kindly acted as our guide.

Born and raised in Dong Bai, Uncle Ty was the village chief for 15 years before he resigned to set up the homestay. The wooden house he built at the front of his family’s property to house guests is a traditional Muong stilted house. (The Muong are one of Vietnam’s largest ethnic groups and you can hear their language being spoken by Dong Bai’s 300 residents.) Uncle Ty is a talented agriculturalist and craftsman. Most of what you see, including the bamboo furniture and decorations, are the product of his handiwork.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

 

The house sleeps 16 people and has been furnished with western tourists in mind (although we shared the place with two Vietnamese couples, so it is popular with locals too). The design flourishes are exquisite—woven fans for light fixtures, decorative fishing baskets, and bamboo four-posters. Private rooms are modest but well-appointed and spotlessly clean, each with new linens, a mosquito net, power socket and pedestal fan. The shared bathrooms are fitted with western toilets and hot-water showers. The best part of the property is the spacious breezeway underneath the house, which features bamboo chaise longue and day beds. A narrow moat runs around the perimeter—the occasional splash of an excited koi adds to the chilled ambiance.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

 

The food at Uncle Ty’s was an unexpected highlight. Lunch and dinner both consisted of seven or eight separate dishes, including loads of vegetables and a few seasonal specialties. At dinner time, we were also treated to some homemade rice wine and an impromptu flute performance by Uncle Ty. Breakfast was a little simpler—eggs, banh mi, cold noodles, and sugared donuts. Everything is prepared in the family’s home kitchen so you’ll need to order your meals in advance. Lunch and dinner cost 150K VND per person and breakfast (including bottomless three-in-one coffee) is 40K VND.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

 

If you’re up for more than just lounging and eating, there’s also a range of independent and guided activities on offer. This includes trekking, a cultural program, and guided trips to Hoa Binh city and beyond. We didn’t venture much further than the local dam, which is about a 200m walk from the house. Dong Bai village itself is quite bucolic and easy to navigate on foot, so it’s nice just to stroll amongst the herds of goats and buffalo.

 

© Emily Lush 2017
© Emily Lush 2017
© Emily Lush 2017

 

It may be a small community, but there’s a fair amount of industry in Dong Bai—there’s a brick factory (you’ll notice the chimneys and red clay hillocks on your way in), a bottled water plant, and a broom-making cooperative. You can visit the latter to learn how Vietnam’s ubiquitous straw sweepers are made. It’s not the most interesting thing in the world, but the women who work here are very sweet and it’s worth dropping in to say hello.

 

© Emily Lush 2017

 

Not only is Uncle Ty’s Farmstay one of the closest weekend escapes from Hanoi, it’s also one of the most affordable—the entire weekend set us back 1,425,000 VND (about 30 USD each), including a private room, transport, and those three very generous meals.

Good to know

  • There are two entries for Uncle Ty’s on Google Maps. This is the correct one. (It’s still not pinpoint accurate, but it’ll get you there.)
  • Apart from a small convenience-style store in the village, there aren’t any shops around. Remember to bring a refillable waterbottle.
  • The only difference between a private room and a double dorm room is a solid wall and bamboo door. If you’re not fussed about privacy, choose the double dorm room, which has curtains instead.
  • The Farmstay has WIFI and good phone reception.

Getting to Uncle Ty’s Farmstay from Hanoi

It’s easy to get to Uncle Ty’s from Hanoi using public transport (even better if you have your own motorbike). Local buses regularly depart for Hoa Binh from My Dinh station—staff at the Farmstay recommend using either Hien Vinh or Lien Minh coach companies, which share a ticket booth on the left just as you enter the station building. Tickets cost 45K VND per person and the journey to Ky Son (the closest town to the Farmstay, just shy of Hoa Binh city) takes between 1.5 and 2 hours.

Get off the bus outside the UBND government office in Ky Son. (If you’re unsure, call Loan or Ly when you board the coach and they will give the driver instructions. They can also organise for a taxi to be waiting for you in Hoa Binh.) A metered cab will take you the final 11km to the village for 120K VND.

Buses run in both directions every 15 minutes or so, thus there’s no need to book seats ahead of time. Heading back to Hanoi, simply flag down a bus from the other side of the road, opposite the government office.

Alternatively, you can travel further to Mai Chau or Son La, or duck into Ba Vi National Park on the way back to Hanoi. There are more onward options available if you have your own transportation.

 

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