We reach Susan after her month-long trip to Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand.
“When I travel I don’t need luxury, but I need clean sheets in a nice four star hotel. I am a 'champagne-in-a-hotel-room' type of traveller. Or actually, maybe a sparkling wine type.”
It sounds like her experience in Duara village Huong Non was far from clean sheets and champagne.
“My friend posted about Duara on Facebook, and I got interested. It seemed like such a romantic experience. I had never tried a homestay in a local village before, but I decided it was time for me to do it. It felt something real to do while abroad.”
Susan prefers to explore destinations on city trips, and couldn’t ever picture herself lying on the beach for a week. “I get bored very easily.”
Before going to the village Susan had spent some days in Hanoi, slept in a hotel and visited Halong Bay on a day tour. After Vietnam she flew to Bangkok, then Pattaya (which was far from the idyllic Thailand she had in mind) and then Singapore, where her friend lives.
“When I arrived to Huong Non I thought I had arrived to the wrong place. In my head I was expecting a remote village in the countryside with a green landscape, but in reality the weather was grey and the surroundings were dirty and quite urban.”
“Now you probably think that I hated the experience. But I absolutely loved it! I have never met people this friendly in my entire life, and although I didn’t even learn the names of everyone in my host family, I miss them like crazy.”
Her host family would grab her hand and take her to places - visiting the neighbors, feeding the pigs, shopping for groceries at the farmer’s market and planting seeds on the rice field.
“No one in the village spoke English. It was quite tricky and even lonely without a common language, but I was sure not alone. When I didn’t understand a word they were saying, they just yelled louder!"
“Elderly ladies came and touched my hand, and even smelled it! Others were more shy but I was surrounded by locals all the time. If you need a boost on your self-esteem, definitely go to the village! She laughs. “The attention you get there is endless.”
“The longer I spent in the village, the more I loved being there. It was so easy to get along with everyone, especially the children. By the end of the stay I no longer remembered the first impression, which was a bit of a culture shock. All I remember now are the people.”
“I have to warn you about one thing though – if you are a hygiene freak, it’s going to be tough.”
Photos by Susan.