25 Jan 2020
An amazing trip that was like absolutely no other experience I have ever had. We trekked through mud and mountains and got quite dirty, but it is exactly the kind of experience that makes you realise the true beauty of the local village people. Our guide Sõ was amazing and never hesitated to tell us about the local people, their culture and the village way of life. The homestay was somehow both incredibly comfortable and rural at the same time. Zizi homestay was in of itself beautiful and we got a chance to eat their local food, drink the local made rice wine, hang out with the family and play with the kids. All in all this experience was truly incredible, and as long as you don’t mind getting a bit dirty the trek and homestay will take your breath away.
I cannot speak highly enough of Zizi, Lily and the entire team at Zizi Homestay in Sapa. They welcomed us to their lovely wooden, two-storey home in a small village outside of Sapa town. The taxi from Sapa took about 30 minutes and cost us 180k Vietnamese Dong the first time and 230k the second time.
The homestay itself is lovely, beautiful wooden houses overlooking rice fields with chickens, dogs and the cutest baby pigs wandering around the patio and outside areas.
We stayed 3 nights in a private room with a good mosquito net and nice pillows. They also had a power strip in our room which was a huge help with charging all of our devices as we were there to make a film.
The price/value for money were outstanding. Nice cold beers cost about 25k (~$1) and the absolutely delicious group dinner was ~$4 per person, per meal and included many different dishes of local food each night.
Zizi and Lily are so generous. They took the time to show us how the Hmong indigo batik fabric is made and then, to my surprise, Zizi made our piece into a beautiful bag for me and presented it as a birthday present the night before we left!
Lily took us to her parents' village many kilometers hiking away so we could experience village life and film it for our project.
They offer many different options of things to do, from hikes and treks to trips to markets and more.
The bathrooms are shared but the hot water is good! The coffee is delicious and Zizi, Lily and Quynh all speak good English. They even taught us some words in Hmong!
This is not a place for people who have mobility limitations because there is a nice hill climb to reach the house. Nor probably for people who require 5 star creature comforts. However if you want a real, beautiful, memorable and special experience in Northern Vietnam, book a stay with Zizi!
Zizi's Homestay in Sapa
I came to Zizi's out of chance. I had previously spoken to a friend of hers about a work exchange deal, but they didn't have space for me at the moment. Instead, she offered to ask Zizi's to host me and feed me in exchange for work. Zizi's team were enthusiastic about it and even offered to pay for all travel expenses, from and back to Hanoi.
The night I arrived they already had a private room for me. I'll admit I was very tired and went right to sleep, but the next day it was straight to work. After giving me some time to appreciate my new surroundings and take in the scenery, they gave me a tour of the house and explained the things they needed from me: during the day go on treks to take pictures and videos. At night, teach the tribe's children some English. Pretty straight forward.
That same day I went on the Bamboo trek, which I highly recommend, but I'll go into detail on another time. Zizi bought me lunch at a riverside restaurant and at night, I joined all the guests for family dinner. Let me tell you, I was not expecting that amazing food. It was delicious and so healthy! The flavors and colors were very diverse, and it had the warmth and attention to detail of a wholesome home-cooked meal. It was obvious there was a lot of care put into it.
Sitting down to eat with all the guests opened a communication channel and we all made good use of it. As a solo traveler, it's not always easy to strike up conversation with strangers, it takes some time to gauge a person's social availability. So the family dinner dynamic was right on the spot. Gushing over the new found flavors, it wasn't difficult to find an ice breaker. Family dinner is arguably the heart of Zizi's Homestay. And the cutest thing is that they don't do it because it's good marketing, they do it because that's what dinner is like for their family and what comes naturally for them. They just want to share that with you.
Of course, you can decide to opt out of family dinner and stay on the terrace, enjoying a few beers and the company of other travelers. We backpackers know how gratifying it can be to meet someone from a completely different culture and connect on a deep level, even if just momentarily. As a fellow traveler would say, we're all in this world momentarily, so why not make the best of it?
It goes without saying that it is a rural place, with all of which that entails (farm animals, a remote location, lights out at 11 PM, etc...), but let's be real: you're reading this because you want to be in an enchanting mountain away from the crowds, cozied up in a warm cabin. The home is made mostly of wood and is super charming. It has a beautiful, sun-kissed terrace that oversees the rice fields in the valley. The children are amazing and have a lovely energy. The staff and family are a thightly-knit bunch and their friendy banter makes you feel like part of the house. Zizi and her family were beyond kind and accommodating. They gave me a private room, 3 meals a day, and even did my laundry in exchange for my work. It made me feel really appreciated that they went the extra mile, and I'll always be thankful for that. I have to say, going to Sapa was one of the best travel decisions I've made so far. If you're looking for a quiet but cheerfully cared-for place with a homey feel and an incredible view, search no more. This is it.
Lovely views, friendly and helpful people, good food. The only downside was the beds which are VERY hard. I had trouble sleeping each night because they were so uncomfortable. Other than that though, we had a wonderful stay. Also, be aware that the road that leads to the homestay is only a road for motorcyles, if you take a car from Sapa you will still have to get out at the main road and walk .75 km uphill to the homestay.
An amazing Homestay with fantastic hosts. Both treks were magnificent with ZiZi and the atmosphere back at the Homestay relaxing. The distance and time from Sapa to ZiZi Homestay was perfect with boots able to be bought in Sapa. Would highly recommend this Homestay for anyone visiting Northern Vietnam.