First published January 2018 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
This post was last updated 5 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.
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Atmospheric homestays in wood-and-thatch structures in scenic locations are something I normally associate with the mountains of northern Vietnam. But, in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, in Vietnam’s southwest, a collection of bamboo and palm-thatch huts on wooden stilts above a sea of lotus flowers and rice paddy, prove me wrong. In the lush and largely forgotten (at least by travellers) district on Thap Muoi, several stilt villages, connected by raised, rickety wooden platforms, offer a night in a hammock or on a futon under a mosquito net in a hut, just a few feet above the frogs, the fish, and the lotus. There’s excellent, locally-sourced food available, plenty of local alcohol, and lots of friendly southern charm to boot. Oh, and it’s dirt cheap too. This is a wonderful way to experience the Mekong, and it’s only a 2-3 hour drive from Saigon.
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REVIEW: LOTUS LAKE HOMESTAYS
Address: Hamlet 4, Tan Kieu Commune, Thap Muoi District, Dong Thap Province [MAP]
Average Price: $5 per night for a hammock or futon
Lotus Lake Homestays, Thap Muoi District, Dong Thap Province
View in a LARGER MAP
Dong Thap Province, roughly 120km west of Saigon, is usually overlooked by travellers, who tend to focus on more famous Mekong Delta sights and towns, such as the floating market of Cai Be, and the commercial hub of Can Tho. This has left Dong Thap, a green and, by Mekong Delta standards, quiet and sparsely populated province, relatively unvisited. About halfway along Provincial Road DT845, there’s a turn off for Gò Tháp, down a peaceful, green lane. After crossing a small bridge, a smaller lane turns back on itself, leading through a shady grove of trees and along the edge of a large expanse of flooded fields, full of rice seedlings and lotus flowers. On the edge of this flooded farmland, there are about half a dozen homestays consisting of clusters of wooden huts constructed on raised plank-walkways above the lotus lake.
It’s difficult to know which of the homestays to choose. Personally, I like Hai Lúa, one of the first in the row. But 9 Theo and Hương Sen, further along the lane, are also very good. During the week, it’s quite likely that you’ll have the whole place to yourself, at least in the evenings. The owners tend to go to bed early (around 8pm), after which the lights go out, and you’re left to enjoy the peace and romance of a night suspended above sleeping lotus flowers and croaking frogs. But on weekends and public holidays it’s a very different experience: Vietnamese groups from around the region come to eat, drink and be merry, which involves a lot of great food, loads of rice wine, and lots of noise from the karaoke systems. Of course, this is not the peaceful, rural Mekong Delta experience that you might want/expect, but it can also be a lot of fun. Therefore, before planning a trip to the lotus lake homestays, bear in mind the differences of visiting during the week vs the weekend. Also note that during the week there’s no need to book in advance, but on the weekend there could be limited availability.
As there’s no public transportation, the homestays are best reached by motorbike, bicycle or hired vehicle. If you really want to, you could reach the homestays by a series of connecting public buses from Saigon, but for the purposes of this guide, I am assuming most people will come on their own wheels. Motorbike parking is by the side of the road, opposite the homestays. The owner or staff member will come out to meet you and then punt you across the muddy canal, separating the road from the homestays, on a wooden raft. This alone is a lot of fun, and it sure beats the marbled lobbies of five-star hotels for a theatrical entrance. (During the night, your motorbike is also punted across the water to be kept safe in the homestay).
Your hosts will sit down to discuss prices, sleeping arrangements, and food and drink. In most cases, not much English is spoken, but as people in the Delta tend to be gregarious and outgoing, there’s rarely any problem with communication. Sleeping is between 100,000-150,000vnd ($5-$7) per person. There’s usually a choice of a hammock or a mattress on the floor, both under the thatched roof of one of the wooden huts. (It’s worth noting that, as romantic as a night in a hammock sounds, it’s not that comfortable after a few hours, so if you intend to get some sleep, it’s probably better to opt for the mattress.) The huts have mosquito nets, power sockets, WiFi, and small trash cans.
Dinner is also negotiated on arrival, so that the family can prepare the ingredients for your meal. Most homestays have a full menu with prices. In general, each dish is between 50,000-150,000vnd. The food is all local: indeed, much of it is sourced from the homestay itself. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of lotus dishes on the menu – the lotus plant is famous in Vietnam for every part being edible: the stem, root, seed, flower; even the leaves are used to steam rice inside. In Vietnamese, lotus is sen, so make sure you order something with sen in it. Vegetables, including the ubiquitous and much-loved rau muống (morning glory), are very good, and so are the ‘Mekong meats’, such as rice fields rat (chuột đồng), snake (rắn), eel (lươn), frog (ếch), and snakehead fish (cá lóc). I know some of this might some too ‘weird’, but trust me, it’s all delicious, especially the rat and the eel and the fish. If you’re not feeling adventurous, there’s plenty of free-range chicken (gà) dishes to choose from too. Alcohol options include the usual insipid Vietnamese beers, but much more interesting are the liquors (rượu). Try the rượu sen (29% proof lotus liquor), which is dry and slightly bitter. Depending on how many guests there are, your host may dine (and drink) with you.
Most of the homestays are arranged in similar fashion: the host’s living quarters, dining area, and communal bathrooms are at the front, on a dyke between the canal and the flooded lotus fields, then a network of wooden platforms and walkways extend out over the lotus lake for about 50 metres, with a dozen or so thatched huts every few metres. The bathrooms are kept very clean but do not feature familiar Western-style conveniences, such as flush toilets and showers. Instead, a large amphora is filled with water, and a plastic scoop-bucket used to self-flush toilets and to shower. There’s running water from the taps in the sinks outside for brushing your teeth or washing your hands.
The most atmospheric times of day at the lotus lake homestays are dusk, night, and early morning. At dusk, as the temperatures cool, the homestay families work the lotus fields: checking the plants, catching fish and frogs (which live in the flooded fields), making repairs to the wooden plankways, and preparing dinner. At night, the chorus of cicadas and frogs is hypnotic and romantic: this is a good time to sit out on the walkways staring out over the dark fields. However, mosquitoes are a constant irritation, so make sure you cover up and bring good repellent. Also, remember to bring a flashlight, because there are many potentially dangerous wires and obstacles on the wooden walkways. The mornings start early, with motorized canoes on the canal, cockerels calling, and dogs barking. The lotus flowers are in full bloom during the first few hours of the day; they close from midday onwards.
Close to the homestays is the historical site of Gò Tháp/Tháp Mười. Recently excavated and restored, this is the site of several ancient towers, which were places of worship during the time of the Funan Kingdom. The towers, which are now little more than brick foundations, were active places of Hindu and Buddhist worship between the 4th-12th centuries CE. While there isn’t much to see here, there is a certain ‘sense of history’, and the area is also a nice, green, shady place to walk around.
*Please support Vietnam Coracle: I never write a review for money: all my content is free & my reviews are independent. You can support the work I do by booking your hotels via the Agoda links & search boxes on my site. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. Any money I make goes straight back into this site. Thank you.
Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this review because I want to: I like this homestay and I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here
Good morning, we are going to Vietnam ride from SGN to explore mekong Delta for about 6 days.Which route would you recommend.I was thinking My Tho,ben tre,Tra Vinh,can tho (maaybe 2 nights to explore floating market),Chau doc and maybe Cao lanh.What do ypu think I saw beautiful pictures of the lilies but not sure about the season.We are planning january.Thank you so much for your recommendation, they are always the best.Anne.
Personally, my favourite areas of the Mekong Delta are Tra Vinh, and Ha Tien. I’ve written a motorbike loop guide for Tra Vinh and a travel guide to Ha Tien.
The prettiest part of the Mekong Delta is between Chau Doc and Ha Tien where there are seven sacred mountains – I’ve written a motorbike guide to that area on this page. Dong Thap Province is famous for its lotus and lilies, I’ve written about that on this page. There are also a few good nature reserves in the Mekong Delta, such as this one.
My Tho, Ben Tre and Can Tho are fine to visit, but personally I find them too big, busy and touristy compared to other areas, such as Tra Vinh and Ha Tien.
Remember that in the Mekong Delta it is very easy to get off the main highways and off the beaten path: there is an enormous network of small, paved lanes and dyke roads that you can take instead of the major highways.
I hope this helps,
What’s the best (most scenic) route from Saigon to Hong Ngu in Dong thap province?
Thanks in advance!
Personally, I’d take a route similar to this one. Of course, the first hour or so getting out of Saigon isn’t very pretty or fun, but after that the riding is quite good, the scenery quite nice.
I hope this helps,
Unfortunately I found this community to be unwelcoming. (Admittedly I had no reservation and I don’t speak any Vietnamese.) I arrived in early afternoon, every place was quiet except one that seemed to be hosting a Vietnamese group. I didn’t go there. I went first to Hai Lua and, via Google translate, they said they had a bungalow available. I told them I had never been to their community before so I wanted to look at other places. That’s reasonable right? The next boatman waived me off, which I interpreted as “No vacancy”. No problem. The next two boatmen brought me across the canal *without my bag* just to be told there were no rooms. (They appeared mostly vacant.) If I had a reservation I would have brought my bag, right? So I went back to the first place and now the boatman waived me off and said “No home stay”. So I left. On my way out the boatman at the last place pointed down the road out of the community. I feel like I dodged a bullet. I don’t recommend going here without a Vietnamese-speaking friend.
Thanks for sharing your experience at these homestays. I’m sorry to hear you had a negative experience. I’ve not had any problems there myself, but perhaps things have changed or perhaps there’s something else going on there that we don’t understand.
Ya, you win some you lose some. Upon further consideration, I still feel I was unwelcome, but I now realize it may have been temporary. Much Vietnamese was said to me, which I can’t comment on, but it’s possible they were just saying come back later, since I did arrive during siesta time and the place was quiet. Either way, Vietnamese language skills are my strongest recommendation for this place.
Just wondering when you traveled? was it TET? was it during Covid -19? I also had an issue much farther south of here where the police first said we could stay then they said no at 7 pm that night and moved us to another place with better security. And, Yes your lack of Vietnamese is why we as travelers need to be super patient and not read into things. “which I interpreted as “No vacancy”” This could have meant 1000 different things.
Would you know how to reach Dong Thap by public transport from Saigon?
I think the best way to do it on public transport would be to go to the Mien Tay Bus Staion (ben xe mien tay) and ask about buses there. There might be direct buses to Dong Thap or at least buses between Saigon and Cao Lanh that stop in Dong Thap.
I hope this helps,
I was not able to spend the night here, and pre-booking didn’t work either. I was told at several places that it is for dining only. One of the places told me that they could not provide security, which is why they don’t allow overnight guests. I am a single female traveler by motorbike, and I arrived mid-week…if that makes a difference.
The place and the people are lovely and welcoming, taking the raft across the water was special, as was being up close to a vast garden of lotus. I found a nearby motel, which was basic, clean, with air con and wifi: Nha Tro Hoa Bao 1. 0944 744 809 / 0915 78 2969 https://goo.gl/maps/uSVDUNujNEQdLNm96
That’s very strange. I’ve never had that problem before. But I’m glad you found somewhere nearby to sleep instead 🙂
Hello Wendy, hello Tom,
First I’d like to say how much I love this blog! I’m in Vietnam right now and love to travel off the beaten track. This blog has helped a lot. I also love how you manage to find nice places even in very touristy areas.
This entry in particular was very accurate, it was exactly as described. I also could not book ahead, but on a weekday it was totally empty and the light went out at 8 pm.
The nice things being said, it was probably good that Wendy could not stay and the security issues are real. I am also a woman traveling by myself by bike. The hosts did take me in with the result being that the son (or son in law) of the owner tried to film me in the shower. Since there was no one else there the confrontation was fruitless. And I did not want to push the matter too far because my scooter was on the water side, hence I depended on them. There was no physical threat, but it might not be the best place for women to be alone in the middle of nowhere.
I want to make very clear, that I do not hold Tom or this blog accountable in any way. I simply wanted to address this serious issue to warn others who want to go there.
Thanks for your feedback. I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. And it sounds like you handled the situation as best you possible could under the circumstances.
Although I’ve never experienced this at the homestays in this guide, it is not unheard of for this to happen in homestays in Vietnam. Indeed, I myself have been filmed on a couple of occasions in homestays throughout Vietnam. This is certainly the exception rather than the rule, and there are far fewer reported incidences in recent years, since there are now far more homestays, far more foreign travellers, and a far greater awareness of, let’s say, etiquette for the hosts.
I’m sorry you had to experience this, and I hope it doesn’t spoil your impressions of Vietnam.
There’s a problem mate, whatever date I try to book it’s always sold out, even in July. Is it that popular? ??
Oh dear. It could be that they’ve taken it off Agoda for certain months. Or that Agoda haven’t updated it yet. Anyway, try this number (092 716 2502), or as long as you’re not travelling on a weekend or public holiday you should be OK just showing up.
Wel that’s the thing haha. I’m going this coming holiday 30/4, maybe Sunday night already or on Monday. will try to call again. Thanks anyway. Will you go somewhere ?
Ah, well, it’s quite likely it will be very busy and that’s why they’ve taken it off Agoda. Unfortunately, public holidays aren’t the most relaxing times to travel in Vietnam.
I can’t stop reading your blog.. I am planning my time in Vietnam for the next 2 weeks.
I am already in love with this Lotus Lake but motorbike or car is not an option for me as my driving licence is not valid for Vietnam. Can you recommend other way to get there? Preferably, to rent a bicycle from closest town that can be reached from Saigon.
Thanks for sharing your view on Vietnam, I found a lot of useful information.
Thanks in advance!
Vinh Long, Cao Lanh and Cai Lay are the nearest big towns with any kind of tourist infrastructure. But it’s still quite a long ride from there, even if you can find a place that rents bicycles. You can hire a car and driver for a day or two, but this would cost around $100.
Another option, if you’re looking for a less touristy experience of the Mekong Delta, is to contact Susan Tours. She’s based in Can Tho and runs unique local tours in the Delta region. I know her and her tours are far better than the usual Mekong ones. You can contact her through her Facebook page. You can say Tom from Vietnam Coracle sent you.
I hope this helps,
Seems it is not so easy to get there if you are not on your own wheels, I will contact Susan for advise.
LOVE your site – I’m afraid I’m about to read ALL OF IT!
Visiting Vietnam for the first time 02-12 January so planning already. Four days in Saigon and the rest was open for research. Kinda wanted to visit Con Dao but after reading your posts “kinda” turned into a “must”. Same goes for those Lotus Lake homestays. Now I’m trying to figure out how to combine it in the best way if I’m thinking of flying to Con Dao from Can Tho. We’re thinking of getting some sort of a tour from Saigon to include making it down to Dong Thap, doing the Mekong boat tour – ideally staying at one of those homestays you recommend here – and then being dropped off to Can Tho to catch a flight to Con Dao. A lot of intro for a simple question – is there a reliable tour operator or an agency or an individual that you could recommend for this endeavor? Also, do you think it is too ambitious of a plan if we left Saigon say early morning on the 5th, drove down, did a day Mekong boat tour, overnight, off to Can Tho on the 6th?
Thanks a lot!
You could try contacting Buffalo Tours – they’re good and they should be able to tailor an itinerary for you based on what you want to do.
That’s just about enough time, but one more day would more comfortable.
Just a quick question. Are these homestays geographically close to the floating forest of Long An? On the map, it says they are about an hour apart. Would love to do both in one trip. Is it possible to have this be a 2-day/1-night trip, including the homestay and the floating forests? Anything else you would recommend to make it the most rewarding trip in the South? We like to stay away from crowds, and would be visiting the Mekong during weekdays.
Yes, the floating forest and floating homestay are about an hour away from each other, and both can be visited as part of a 2 day 1 night excursion from Saigon. You could also continue to Tram Chim National Park which is about another hour west from the homestays, and take a boat tour here, but you would need an extra day and night to do that.
In general, the most interesting part of the Mekong Delta is the southwest, particularly around Ha Tien, which you can read more about here.
I hope this helps,
Perfect – thank you!
Hi Tom. You mention that weekends get pretty crowded and possibly pretty loud. Does that include Thursday and Friday nights as well?
I was there on a Thursday night and it was fine. Friday might be busy though.
Wow looks very nice.
Can you tell me how to get there from Ho Chi?
And do you have anymore Must Do’s?
I’m travelling in Juli – Aug for +- 3 weeks starting in Ho Chi ending in Hanoi
Thanks in advance,
Well, this whole website is all about my personal recommendations of things to see and do in Vietnam, so browse the archives and see if there’s anything that particularly interests you.
As for getting to these homestays, it’s best visited by motorbike from Saigon. But you could also hire a car and driver or take a tour from Saigon too.
I hope this helps,
Wow, I wouldn’t have even known to look for a place like this, but I’m so interested! Do you happen to know if the lotuses bloom in Mid-March? I read that the season is much later.
I’m not sure about mid-March, but there have always been at least some lotuses in bloom whenever I’ve been there – usually in the mornings the flowers open, then they close again around mid-morning.
I hope you get to see them,