Sahi Retreat: Leading the Next Generation of Homestays in Hue

jammin homestay

Tucked down an inconspicuous alleyway lies one of Hue’s most aesthetically fascinating homestays. Sahi was built to meet the owner’s dream of creating a retreat where guests can relax and meditate. Although grand in scale, the construction isn’t provocative. Rather, it stands harmoniously amongst the trees and its neighbours; complementing the alleyway‘s blend of nature and community.  

Meditation Retreat and Homestay

SAHI Homestay

SAHI Homestay and Retreat is a result of Thuy’s vision and Duong’s expertise, a desire to transform reality and create a space of communication through nature’s elements. Thuy and Duong, from Quan Tri and Hue respectively, returned to Hue after years spent raising their family in Saigon and Danang. They decided to set ground in Hue to accomplish Thuy’s dream of owning a homestay where she can connect develop community-based projects while sharing her knowledge on the world of meditation. The couple became interested in meditation during their time working in Saigon where they felt its benefits and have since participated in several VIPASSANA courses and groups around Vietnam and Hue respectively. 

A Model for Sustainable Architecture in Hue

SAHI Homestay Sleep in Hue

SAHI Homestay and Retreat’s unique design stems from its designer’s impressive resume. An architect by trade, Duong is the mentor of the Hue-based firm SILAA Architects. This 75.0 m2 hut was designed as a dorm-style homestay project and the open spaces are an extension of the surrounding landscape.  Connection is at its best when navigating through spaces and there is never a feeling of separateness. Spaces communicate; they connect, live amongst each other democratically. The project respects sustainability and was built using wood salvaged from deconstructed buildings or waste materials.

 

Duong now lives, works and contemplates his latest project in the same place he was born; his parent’s house. Like an emotional tryptic, his parents’ house overlooks the office that is an extension of SAHI homestay where every line connects tradition and modernism. Duong´s architectural inspirations are wide and varied judging by his collection of books; From the 20th-century designs of Eduardo Souto de Moura, the public spaces of Mario Botta and the nature/urban amalgamations of Vo Trong Nghia. 

Topics of Vietnamese Architecture in the 21st Century

Architect's Hands

Like SAHI, Duong is in harmony with the world and every gesture, words and feelings drift peacefully within him. He believes the foundations of a successful project lay in the power of an architect’s choice in client as much as the client’s employment of the architect. SILAA architects are educating a whole generation to perceive the artistic work that lies in each project. As Duong would agree, a building isn’t just walls for enclosure but a space of connection.

Frequently, when planning a city “architects don’t ́t have a voice and their influence extends as far as the walls of the building they are planning”. Judging by Hue’s economic growth and some questionable decisions made on cultural heritage and urban planning, we know this to be every word the truth. Opposing the heavy theoretical components in Hue University of Architecture, Duong makes sure that SILAA  architects work with builders and know firsthand how materials work and behave in relation to the building and its people. Duong also believes architecture is transversal to several study areas and buildings influence the sense of community in that “when you make something real and people use it”, they will realize how buildings affect their daily lives. 

SILAA Office and garden

We kept thinking about the future of Hue ́s planning, the neverending conflict between tradition and contemporaneity as well the social responsibility of architecture.  To Duong´s eyes, architecture has a social responsibility in creating spaces where people engage. Not forgetting the government’s responsibility as they ultimately have the final decision on the city’s planning. Rather than responding to economic interests, decision makers should engage civil society, architects and artists to convey a narrative that is consistent with the city and serve a community purpose. 

Duong mentions the new walking street and how it doesn’t engage with the public. He suggests that temporary buildings could occupy areas of Le Loi street to demonstrate what architecture can do to bring people in communicating with the spaces of Hue in a more meaningful way. Public spaces, such as museums, stand idle and empty as if they were impenetrable and untouchable. The opposite should happen and in Duong´s words;  “destroy the fences and connect with museums, shops and people”.

An Optimistic Perspective for the Future

Hue Dorm Bed

Duong is an artist at heart, like all architects should be, but also a historian, a social worker and a sociologist. His knowledge goes beyond design and life has provided him with the sensitive insight that all visionaries hold. Álvaro Siza Vieira once wrote that Architects don’t invent anything, they transform reality. SAHI homestay retreat resonates this feeling. Like children, we climb up steeply wooden ladders to the ethereal dorms where whites and wood browns play with the greenery of the garden that comes to lie on the beds.  Everything falls into place: an easel next to the counter in the aftermaths of a painting community project Thuy is developing with the neighbors, even Happy the family’s dog wobbles whimsically in the kitchen . From this, we know that the SAHI family are just in tune with all we love and dream what this city could achieve. 

It feels a defining moment in Hue and we hope more people like the family behind SAHI project can lead this new city to a more sustainable, green and socially-committed future.

Happy the SAHI Dog Grit SAHI Homestay

Written by Ana Fortuna
Edited by Luke Digweed

Sahi Homestay
27/245A Bùi Thị Xuân
Hue, Vietnam

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SILAA Architects
27/245A Bùi Thị Xuân
Hue, Vietnam

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Best Homestays in Hue Vietnam-Live Like a Local

homestay in hue

Homestay has been something of a buzzword in the South-East Asian tourist industry the past few years. For travellers looking for new ways to engage with local culture, a homestay can provide so much more to their guests than hostels or hotels. Here are some reasons why to choose a homestay. If you’re sold on a homestay and just looking for the best homestays in Hue, skip further down the article.

Why choose a Homestay When Travelling?

Engage with Local People

Homestays are run by people that aren’t necessarily affiliated or professionally trained in hospitality.  Hosts often work in other industries and have specific interests outside of travelling. You could be staying with artists, government officials or business men. Their recommendations and view on their city will differ from the tourist narrative and you’ll have a unique insight into where you’re staying.

A Different Perspective on Vietnamese Life

It’s hard to get a real insight for life at home in the country you’re travelling if you’re staying in hotels. Homestays are often made up of different varieties of family units or even friends! This leads to candid moments that will be  interesting to the anthropological traveller. You’ll see how people eat together, how rooms are used and feel the atmosphere of household life.

A location Away from the Tourist Area

For the most part, homestays are modifications of buildings that function as homes for a family. They’re generally located outside of tourist spots and in residential areas. While your homestay might not be conveniently placed among all the tourist attractions or places to interest, you’re going to be in a real Vietnamese neighbourhood where the tourist industry hasn’t dictated the growth of the local community. With Vietnamese streets being so lively, you’re certain to find some local eateries and shops near to where you will be staying.

Eat with the Family

As mentioned before in the Cafe Nha article, it’s hard to get homemade food in restaurants. If your homestay proes food for guests, then you’ll have the rare opportunity for a home-cooked meal! Eating with your hosts will be an opportunity to learn local table etiquette and dining habits.

What is a homestay?

With the rise in popularity of homestays in South-East Asia, it’s worth noting that there isn’t any standardization of the word. A lot of small guesthouses and hostels use the term ‘homestay’ even though their accommodation doesn’t provide the experiences you expect them to. It’s best to read reviews and be frank when contacting the homestay about what you’re looking for. Similarly, couchsurfing is a database of people offering free accommodation and similar experiences to a homestay.

Best Homestays in Hue, Vietnam.

We’ve found some fantastic homestays during our time living in Hue. We encourage you to look through this list and see what fits your needs.

Lagom Home:

Artistic community Homestay, riverside, clean, great hosts

homestay hue grit tour

Sitting on the Huong River’s edge is the elegant Lagom home. This spacious homestay is run by friends Tram and Beo who have a keen interest in local arts and sustainable living. Lagom home is on the peaceful Trinh Cong Son street opposite the northern-side of the Huong river. Plenty of restaurants nearby but the bigger attractions such as the citadel are a walk away.

The building is new and beautifully decorated. It’s best to book in advance  as rooms here are limited (one private room and a small dormitory). Not a place to meet travellers but as Lagom homestay doubles up as a cafe, it’s a great chance to meet local people.

Bikes and motorbikes can be arranged for rent. For an additional fee, The hosts are happy to show you how to cook or cook Vietnamese meals. Breakfast is free every morning. The hosts frequently hold a community crafts session which guests are welcome to participate in for a small fee.

Lagom Homestay
196 Trịnh Công Sơn, Phú Cát. Huế
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homestay kitchen hue grit tour

Le Robinet Homestay:

Great Location, close to Citadel, helpful staff, good value

Robinet Homestay Grit Tour

Le Robinet is a recently new homestay that opened in early 2018. It is run by Linh who has taken over her family-in-laws house and turned it into a hip place for independent travellers to stay. Being a fellow non-native Hue enthusiast, Linh is admirable in her determination to find the city’s best spots for food and entertainment.

Le Robinet Homestay is situated down a small road within a stone’s throw of Hue’s Purple Forbidden City. This is one of Hue’s better locations as you really get a feel here for old Hue. While the citadel is flocked by tourists during the daytime, the citadel’s serenity is more distinct after dark.

The homestay composes of three buildings. Despite guestrooms being in the newest part, The oldest building, which dates back to the 1940s, is still accessible to look around. The spacious patio out-front has tables and chairs scattered around for a few evening beverages. The family room on the top floor is accompanied by a pleasant balcony with furniture.

Le Robinet has 5 rooms at very affordable prices ranging from dormitories, a family room, double bed and twin bed rooms. There is also self-serving kitchen for travellers who want to cook at home. Bike rental and motorbikes available.

Le Robinet Homestay
47B Trần Nguyên Hãn, Phường Thuận Hòa
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Le Robinet Homestay

Bamboo Homestay Hue

Friendly owners, Off the Beaten Track

Bamboo homestay Hue Grit Tour

Bamboo homestay is run by jolly newly-weds Trang and Hung. They recently took over the premises and after a refurbishment of all the rooms, are open for business. Thuy is exceptionally welcoming and more than happy to help visitors on their trip to Hue.

Although simplistic in decoration and minimal in design, Bamboo Homestay has a range of room options for all types of travellers. The bamboo furniture in the homestay was inspired by Japanese furnishings but all was made locally by nearby manufacturers. The concept of Bamboo homestay is to reinvent the purpose of a local cornerstone raw material into a contemporary, yet sustainable use. A large proportion of the furniture is made from bamboo!

Although it’s not popular location for tourists, Bamboo Homestay is within reach of some Hue’s lesser-travelled places of interest such as; the Nam Giao Esplanade, the Phan Boi Chau memorial house and Tu Dam Pagoda. The nearby streets Phan Chu Trinh and Phan Dinh Phung run adjacently along the An Cuu river and make for a nice evening stroll. Le Loi street also includes a variety of museums and art galleries as well as riverside park. While I was initially put-off by Bamboo Homestay’s location, it makes for a good place for people who want to avoid the tourists crowds and want a real experience of urban Hue

Dien Bien Phu street receives a large amount of traffic but the windows and doors are double-glazed so noise pollution in the rooms is limited.  There is a kitchen where guests can cook themselves or the hosts will cook for an additional fee. Breakfast is free and vegan options available. Bamboo Homestay offer motorbike and bicycle rental as well as a bus-ticket booking service.

Bamboo Homestay
56B Điện Biên Phủ, phường Phường Đúc
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Bamboo homestay hue grit tour

Khanh’s Home: Homestay and Art Gallery

Artistic, new rooms, out of the city

Khanhs homestay hue grit tour

Khanh’s Homestay was initially an art gallery where Khanh and his father would display their work. Due to it’s out of town location, Khanh’s family decided to extend their family compound for tourists wanting to get out of the city and head somewhere more relaxed.

The homestay is made of two recently furbished en-suite bedrooms. Breakfast is optional and guests are free to browse the gallery through the day. the trees between the houses bear an assortment of tropical fruits and flowers. This isn’t a boutique hotel but it’s worth remembering that Khanh’s Home primarily functions as residence to Khanh’s family.

Khanh’s Home is on Minh Mang street. It’s a short driving distance from a number of tombs as well as graffiti wall and the abandoned waterpark. Probably more suited to the intrepid traveller and people willing to travel by motorbike or bicycle on the city outskirts.

Khanh’s Home
89 Minh Mang, Hue.
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Khanh homestay hue grit

Other Homestays of Interest

Homestays come and homestays go. I imagine this list will have to be repeatedly updated. Here’s a few more to check out if you don’t strike luck with any of the above.

Quynh Hostel

Beautiful house down an alleyway in the heart of Hue tourist area. The building itself is still being decorated at the time of writing but host Hoan is incredibly entertaining and loves to hang out with his guests. Once the homestay is complete, Hoan will have his work on show at the homestay. Only dormitories here but prices that can’t be beaten.
31 Kiệt 56 Nguyễn Công Trứ tổ 15
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Citadel Homestay

Exactly what is says on the tin. Based on the north-east side of the Imperial City, Citadel Homestay is new and refurbished. Nice balcony, cool living room and a kitchen for guests to cook in. Owner Anh Tuyet doesn’t speak much English but can speak French. Mrs Tuyet can cook up a storm in the kitchen on demand. Breakfast is free too!

86 Tran Quoc Toan
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What do you prefer? Hotels or homestays? Have you stayed in any great homestays in Hue? Have you stayed in any of the homestays listed? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section at the bottom of the page!

All photos in this article by Ana Fortuna

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Beach Of Hue: Thuan An Fishing Town. The Allure of the Sea

beach hue grit tour thuan an

Thuan An Beach for 2019

Thuan An is Hue’s closest beach. Around 15KM from the city centre, it isn’t as tourist-convenient as the beaches that serve Hoi An or Danang but it’s charm and the variety on offer makes it a worthy day trip. Thuan An is a small fishing village with a population of around 21,000. While a resort and some villas have cropped up, Thuan An has retained it’s strong cultural identity tied closely with the sea. Ultimately, this means cheap seafood, cheap beer, strips of sparsely-populated beach and an authentic culture to discover!
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*Closed* Mo Rua Garden: Beatnik Homestay in Hue *Closed*

*CLOSED* Mo Rua Garden is currently closed. We are awaiting news on whether it will re-open*

Mo Rua Garden is not only a garden and a homestay but a delicate response to the yearnings of peacefulness from the young cosmopolitan city dwellers that frequent here.

Mo Rua means ‘where is’; a unique term to central Vietnam since neither northerners nor southerners use it. Lying on the outskirts of Hue, the homestay frequently receives phone calls asking “where is ‘where is’ Garden?”

Despite it’s hard-to-reach location, Mo Rua Garden offers you a different perspective of Vietnamese culture through an authentic rural setting.

Read more “*Closed* Mo Rua Garden: Beatnik Homestay in Hue *Closed*”