Cham Islands Homestay

As a Guest you will be staying in the private homes of Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative members.  In 2009 we created Bai Huong Homestay and helped this village create its Tourism Cooperative

Cham Island Homestay portion starts minute 35:00 

Introduction

Today Tourism in Vietnam is about numbers and not quality.  

Cu Lao Cham is suffering badly from mass tourism - like the rest of Vietnam.  Despite what we have done - and still doing - we see little chance of any improvement for the benefits from tourism for the community or for the environment.

The best season for Responsible Tourists to Bai Huong Homestay is Winter - December thru April - when there are no tourists on Cham Islands and Bai Huong is quiet and relaxed.  

During Spring or Summer when seas are calm we can guarantee passage to the islands but unfortunately, despite this being UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cu Lao Cham - Hoi An, mass tourism comes to the islands and they are increasingly destroying the environment and villages.  Some of Vietnam's best beaches are on Cham Islands.

Our Cham Island Homestays are host family Guests staying inside private homes of people in Bai Huong village participating in preparing & cooking meals, local activities including fishing, harvesting food, etc.  

Volunteer at least 30 minutes daily to teach English to host family or find another suitable activity.

Host families, community and the environment enjoy substantial benefits as members of the Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative.

Bai Huong village is 500 people living together as a large family - it is more matriarchial than patriarchial.

Meet, see, feel & learn direct from the source about Vietnam - the people, community, religion, culture & environment. 

Please be open!  please join & participate with others in a Vietnamese village community which for a few days includes you.  Respect & trust the process & the people.  Join in to be  included.

Homestay IS NOT about false smiles for an unreal & hyped experience based on a business model of greed.   If you are open then Homestay IS real & simple - it is in your face & difficult sometimes because finally it is YOU that you & others are experiencing!  you are then participating in the community.

Community benefits of our Cham Islands Homestay include:

  • Karma Waters operates accommodation in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands) which was created 26 May 2009
  • Karma Waters is providing Homestay as an additional income to fishing for the people of Bai Huong - it is not an alternative income !
  • Karma Waters provides community benefit for Bai Huong; Host Family has income for room & food + activities income (snorkeling, walking, fishing tours, etc.) + community has additional benefits
  • Karma Waters is paying snorkelling & sightseeing fees to the Cu Lao Cham Islands Marine Park Administration (CLC MPA) which is used for marine conservation
  • Karma Waters requests at least 30 minutes per day volunteer community service from each Guest.   This can be teaching  English to household & community, beach cleanup, etc.

Location

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands) fishing village of Bai Huong (population 500) on the largest island of Hon Lao 9 nautical miles East of Hoi An river-ocean inlet. 

 

Departure place & time

We arrange pickup from a hotel in Hoi An latest 7.45 am for 8 am departure returning by 4 pm (depending on weather conditions).  Rate includes dropoff at a hotel in Hoi An.

Boat voyage takes approximately 2 hours each way or by speedboat 30 minutes (operate in Summer only).  We will confirm vessel used.

Cooperation with Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative

The only accommodation in Bai Huong is Homestays and there are other tour operators working with this village locally owned village Tourism Cooperative.  

In 2008 Bai Huong Homestay was the idea of the Owners of Karma Waters and parent Tara Co. Ltd. 

In 2009 Tara entered into a tourism development agreement with Vietnamese Government Department Cu Lao Cham Marine Park Administration (CLCMPA).  The first Homestay was 18 April 2009.

In 2011-2012 Tara worked on a Poverty Reduction program for Bai Huong under Agreement with SNV (a Development fund of the Netherlands Government) and CLCMPA.  In 2011 New Zealand NZAID provided a grant of NZ$25,000 to support the development of Homestays and the Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative.

 

Things to see, do & feel

Homestays are about people & communities.  Bai Huong village has 500 people living as one large family - which is something everyone needs to learn & do as planet earth becomes smaller & humans become more interdependent.  Bai Huong community & families have something to teach everyone !

Meet, see, feel & learn direct from the source about Vietnam - the people, community, religion, culture & environment.  Humans have living on Cu Lao Cham for atleast 2,500 years and most likely Bai Huong has a long history of inhabitation.

In a small fishing village there are few & wide boundaries between peoples - please be OPEN!  please join & participate with others in a community which for a few days includes you inside a Vietnamese fishing village. Respect & trust the process and the people.

Meals are sometimes eaten with the host family.  Fishermen and their families daily routines including meals are timed differently from tourists because they are often fishing late at night or early in the morning and therefore the host family may not eat at the same time together with Guests. Learn free of charge Vietnamese cooking with host families.

Bai Huong like the rest of Vietnam is mostly Buddhist.  The Bai Huong Pagoda despite its small size is an important Pagoda in the Hoi An area and is often visited by villagers.

There are two more important temples in Bai Huong; the bird's nest temple and the five elements temple.

The surrounding hills are part of a National Park and by Vietnamese standards are quiet well preserved.  There are a few hiking trails into the hills.

Close to Bai Huong are important corals which are protected by the Marine Park Administration.  It is easy to snorkel and see coral fish from the beach in Bai Huong; the beach is ideal for swimmers in Summer.

 

Volunteer activities

It is appreciated by the community if a minimum of 30 minutes volunteer work per day is given by each Guest.

Volunteer activities include teaching English to your host family, beach & village cleanup  - or create & introduce your own volunteer activity together with the Cooperative or host family !

If a Guests want to donate more time or resources (including money) to a specific project or family we would appreciate if first you check with Karma Waters Owners to find an appropriate & correct way of participation. We have volunteer & charity programs already in place - please enquire.  We are focused on children and education as a means of change.

 

Vegan meals

The best way to reduce global warming is to choose an organic vegan diet !!

Included in the daily rate are all vegan meals eaten with the household; approximate times are breakfast 7 am, lunch 11.30 am, dinner 6.00 pm.  Food is local Vietnamese dishes.

Note that some families, especially fishermen, will be eating according to their work schedule - so the family may not always be eating together with you.  In Vietnam out of respect vegans/ vegetarians are normally set a different table containing only vegetarian or vegan food.   

We do not provide seafood or meat meals because the Owners of Karma Waters are vegans and we are practicing Responsible Tourism which supports conservation of local fish stocks and the preservation & development of the community & environment for future generations.  By protecting the environment and fish stocks we are improving potential of future income from activities such as diving, snorkelling, swimming, etc.

If Guests want non-vegetarian dishes please discuss and negotiate prices direct with the homeowner.  We are not participating & responsible for non-vegetarian meals.

If Guests want free cooking classes then please ask the host family and then join in the preparation, cooking & cleaning.

 

Telecommunications

Most mobile phone networks work on Cham Islands & nearby waters.  There are no internet cafes or internet connections at Bai Huong, Cham Islands.

 

Homestay Accommodation

Homestay is INSIDE a village house with a family - this is their privately owned family home.  Our accommodation is NOT a separate building only for tourists!

Accommodation is a shared room with two Guests sleeping on a matress with mosquito nets. 

Young children normally sleep with their parents. 

Toilet (Western sit down type) & shower facilities are provided inside each home and shared with the household.

Electricity is available during daylight hours from solar panels (donated by Denmark's DANIDA) and at nighttime only available 6 pm - 10 pm provided by the local diesel generator.  (World Cup football games the generators work in the middle of the night!). In summer Homestay rooms have fans using with batteries and inverters.

Early to bed & early to rise - with many fishermen going out in the middle of the night fishing. 

 

Registration

Registration with the Police is required to Homestay on Cham Islands.  Passports with valid visas must be carried by each person on Homestay.  Vietnamese nationals must have valid ID. We request with confirmed booking customers names, nationality & passport number so that we can pre-register with the local Government.

 

Security & privacy

Bai Huong village is a safe and peaceful place to be and so far crime has not been a problem.  HOWEVER please keep cash and important valuables with you at all times.  Some rooms for Guests have doors with locks.  Although staying inside a private house there is privacy provided for Guests.

 

Families with children

Children run around freely because the community as a whole are looking after them ! 

Bai Huong Homestays are perfect for a young family - the Owners of Karma Waters have two young daughters that love to come with us to Bai Huong!  There are about 50 young children (age upto 12 years) in the village so there are lots of opportunities for children to play together.   Ask your Host family to arrange a special visit to the local school.

 

Facilities for people with mobility difficulties

As common in Vietnam there is a lack of facilities in this village for people with mobility difficulties.  

 

Toilets & showers

Toilets are the Western sit down type and were introduced for Homestay (although for health traditional squat type toilets are much better for body functions are normally cleaner to use !).  

All houses have showers using room temperature water - which can be cold in Autumn & Winter.  Water is from a local spring.

 

Karma Waters Guides

English speaking Guides are employed by Karma Waters and are always the Guests first point of contact.

Increasingly each Host Family is taking responsibility for providing Homestay and activities - so please discuss what you want with your host family.

Most people in the village do not speak good English - which is why English lessons for each host family are such an important volunteer program because they help to improve service quality and the homestay experience of Bai Huong.

 

Weather conditions & boats

Local sea conditions are governed by the very shallow river - ocean inlet averaging only 0.9 meter at Spring Datum. 

These shallow water conditions makes boat passage very difficult or impossible during the heavy monsoon season when ocean swells create large breakers across the inlet.  The inlet is closed to all vessels during sea conditions of Beuford 5 and above.

Passage by boat from Hoi An to Cham Islands:

  • Normally possible (90%) May - August 
  • Sometimes possible (50%) during the rest of the year January - April
  • Seldom possible (20%) September - December during monsoon season

June - August wind conditions are normally light and from the South or West (Laos) - so not really ideal for sailing !  Squalls (strong winds & rain) sometimes occur in the late afternoon in late Summer which requires departure from Cham Islands around 2 pm.  Look towards Laos (East) around lunchtime and see dark clouds forming and you know a squall is on the way.

Traditional local vessels for tourists are slow wooden boats taking upto 2 hours to voyage between Hoi An river inlet (Bien Phuong) and Bai Lang, Cu Lao Cham.  The largest of these wooden boats seats upto 49 passengers and is licensed for weather upto Beuford 7.  

There are a number of speedboats used during summer months for mass tourism.  With increasingly rough seas and squalls smaller speedboats are increasingly unable to comfortably and safely operate to ferry tourists to and from the islands.  Speedboats are normally used by Vietnamese and Chinese mainland tourists.

Tara owns and sometimes operates our Lifeboat which as a slow ocean going vessel with minimum pollution footprint is the most suitable vessel for Responsible Tourists.

 

Snorkelling season

The best season for snorkelling is during the calm summer months of June through the end of August when ocean sediment is settled and sun light is strongest.    

Normally Spring April - June is also reasonable snorkelling if we can get to the islands as the weather can be rough sometimes.  

Sometimes in Spring or Summer there are jelly fish so it is suggested to wear a T-shirt in the water for protection.  Globally jelly fish populations are increasing.

Autumn & Winter (September thru March) is normally rough weather with monsoon storms lashing the coast.  Rarely we can go to the islands or go snorkelling September thru December. 

Global warming is making unpredictable and extreme weather conditions and the season of good calm predictable weather in Central Vietnam is being significantly reduced.    Already because of climate changes there is almost no suitable diving season for Cu Lao Cham. 


Best season for Cham Island Homestay

The best season for Responsible Tourists to Bai Huong is Winter - December thru April - when there are no tourists on Cham Islands and Bai Huong is quiet, relaxed & ideal for walking, hiking or just hanging out !  Passage by boat is difficult due to rough seas - we can only confirm bookings 24 - 48 hours before departure. 

During Spring or Summer when seas are calm we can guarantee passage to the islands but unfortunately, despite this being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, mass tourism comes to the islands.  

Spring or Summer (May - August) the river - ocean inlet is relatively calm and we are able to guarantee voyage to Cham Islands everyday.   This time of the year the weather is normally hot without monsoon rains - making this the ideal season for all types of watersports activities. 

 

Do's & Don'ts

Do's include:

  • Please join in & participate in a respectful way with the community & household & be a part of their community
  • People in your household are working; so please early to bed & early to rise
  • Respect elders in the village & family
  • All children are watched & looked after by all adults
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Please always dress in a respectful way
  • Take minimum of items which create rubbish (plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc.).  Rubbish has to be collected & disposed by returning on our boat to Hoi An (there is no landfill on Cham Islands & there is a bi-monthly rubbish barge!)
  • Please refill and reuse plastic water bottles!

Don'ts include:

  • Break Vietnamese law including laws for the National & Marine Parks
  • Don't take, buy or eat protected species of fish, coral, etc. - please protect the environment including the land (National Park) & sea (Marine Park)
  • When snorkelling do not step on or damage live coral
  • Please do not litter - all rubbish must be collected & disposed correctly

     

Personal items

Minimum personal items all Guests should bring on Homestay includes:

  • Towel & swimwear
  • Soap & shampoo
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Medicines
  • Mosquito repellent

There are three small shops in Bai Huong selling to local households.

 

Maximum Group size

Maximum eight (8) Guests per night in our Homestay program with two Guests + children sharing a room inside a home.  This small group size ensures in a small village population of only 500 that tourism is sustainable & does not significantly affect or change the village, community or the environment.

  

Activities provided by Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative

There are activities and services available in Bai Huong village that we do not provide or include in our rate.  These activities and services must be arranged & negotiated by the customer.

Host families provide the following activities - please pay direct to the Cooperative:

  • Free cooking class
  • Fishing trip with local fishermen 250,000 VND/ trip
  • Boat trip 150,000 VND/ hour
  • Village discovery tour 80,000 VND/ trip
  • Bamboo round boat 80,000 VND/ hour

Recommended Homestay & Itinerary

Recommended is two nights & three days allowing one full day in Bai Huong.

Day 1: Depart from Hoi An for Bai Huong, Cu Lao Cham

- 8 am depart by boat from Tara at 63 Cua Dai Street, Hoi An

- 10 am arriving Bai Huong, meet host family

- 12 am lunch with host family & rest time

- 2 pm snorkeling by boat (option village tour, mountain walk or swimming)

- 6 pm dinner with family (option cooking class)

- After dinner free time (option volunteer teaching English)

 

Day 2: Trekking to Bai Lang main village

- 6:30 am breakfast

- 7:30 am 1 hour casual walk on small tarmac road to Bai Lang largest village in Cu Lao Cham, visit Hai Tang temple & other village highlights

- 11 am return by boat to Bai Huong

- 12 am lunch with host family & rest time

- 2 pm hiking to mountain (option snorkeling)

- 6 pm dinner with family (option cooking class)

- After dinner free time (option volunteer teaching English, etc.)

 

Day 3: Return boat trip to Tara, Hoi An

- 7 am breakfast

- 8 am hiking to mountain (option snorkeling)

- 12 am lunch with host family & depart for Hoi An

- Arrival Karma Waters Hoi An latest 4 pm.  Guide returns customer by taxi to hotel in Hoi An

 

Homestay Daily Rates for 2015/2016 for calm Summer June - August

Rate per person per night (based on minimum 2 persons sharing room)*:

2 days 1 night US$150
3 days 2 nights US$230
After 1 night each additional night US$80
1 week 7 days 6 nights special price US$500

For rate for rough Winter December - April please contact us with your enguiry. 

Book Now for online payment by PayPal.  For Refunds & Cancellation.

*Infants sharing bed with parents free of charge.  Children upto 12 years old 50% discount sharing room with parents.

*NOTE 5% discount for citizens of Denmark and New Zealand!

DANIDA has spent a lot of money, time & effort on helping marine parks in Vietnam and in recognition of the assistance & the fact that we as a business benefit we offer 5% discount to all Danes!  Thank you Denmark !  

New Zealand Government NZAID grant in 2011 in support of poverty reduction by responsible tourism in Bai Huong.  Thank you New Zealand !

Daily rate includes:

  • Pickup and drop off at hotel in Hoi An
  • Snorkeling
  • Local village discovery trip
  • Shared double room
  • Vietnamese food gathering, preparation & free cooking class 
  • All vegetarian meals 
  • Marine Park & fees
  • Return boat trip to Karma Waters, Cua Dai - Bai Huong, Cham Islands

 

Daily rate does NOT include:

  • Personal expenditure
  • Additional activities on the island
  • Non-vegetarian meals
  • Beverages
  • Any other service not mentioned in the included list



  

Gallery Cham Islands Homestay by Open Tour

 

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Cham Island map
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Lifeboat journey
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Lifeboat journey
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Bai Huong
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Bai Huong

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Going ashore
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Fishing nets
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Park instruction
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Beachfront homestay
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Beachfront homestay

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Standard homestay
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Standard homestay
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Interior
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Bedroom
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Food preparation

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Meals
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Meals
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Meals
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Visit temple
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Visit temple

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Bai Huong Temple
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Bai Xep beach
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Swimming
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Cafe
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Hiking with children

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Hiking with children
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Hiking with children
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Bai Huong beach
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School
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School

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School
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School
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Sunset Bai Huong
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Sunset Bai Huong
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Campfire

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Campfire
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Campfire
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Trekking to Bai Lang
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Trekking to Bai Lang
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Trekking to Bai Lang