In a sign of the times, there are even free shuttle buses that run from Saigon to the Grand Ho Tram Strip and back five times a day at weekends, while the Doi Moi Express rail service from Saigon to Phan Thiet is four hours of stress-free travel and can see you on the beach at Mui Ne around five hours after leaving the city.
But greater ease in getting to places means increasing numbers of tourists, and even if you want to get away from it all, you can still wind up sharing with those who had the same idea as you. However, there is one destination not far from Saigon that’s easy to get to, affordable, but without the hordes of tourists.
La Gi Farmstay is a family-owned homestay just outside the fishing town of La Gi in Binh Thuan province, approximately 160km east of Saigon. By car, it’s about a three-hour drive. By motorcycle, it’s about four to five hours depending on stops via Ba Ria.
La Gi is roughly halfway between Vung Tau and Mui Ne along the East Sea coast. The coast road that takes you there is one of the best you’ll see in Vietnam. See our story on The Land of the Dragon Fruit in this issue.
La Gi Farmstay has been in operation since 2015 and is owned and operated by La Gi local Tri, his wife and two sons. A professional tour guide for foreign tourists for over 10 years, Tri quit his job and returned to his hometown with a dream of opening his own business.
The site he chose for his farmstay is about 6km southwest of La Gi town and 2km from Cam Binh beach, which makes it far enough from the parties at nearby Coco Beachcamp, but near enough if you want to spend some time at the beach.
Tri used to fish and raise chickens nearby and eventually decided the area would be the perfect place to build some bungalows so people from the city could come and experience country life. His decision has proved a smart one. While the location feels rural, it’s not isolated.
Diamond in the Rough
The farmstay has 12 rooms suitable for couples and small families, and one stilt house with 13 beds that can cater for backpackers, large groups of holidaymakers or company staff who come for meetings, dinners and team-building activities. Double rooms including en-suite start from around VND400,000 per night including breakfast. There’s a swimming pool and plenty of green space to escape the sun.
The property is quite small (about one hectare), making it intimate enough to have a family-friendly feel, but big enough so you can slip away unnoticed to enjoy your own space and privacy when needed.
At night-time, however, things get a bit livelier as Tri and his family encourage you to join them in cooking dinner on the barbecue and sharing travel stories with them over a few cold drinks. Tri’s family is big on music, so don’t be surprised to find yourself singing for your supper at some stage.
La Gi Farmstay is a diamond in the sometimes rough Vietnamese tourism landscape. This farmstay represents the early stages of what appears to be an emerging trend in Vietnam, where small-scale accommodation providers offer an authentic stay, something that larger and more established providers might benefit from taking note of.
As a result, guests can enjoy time together without being distracted by unnecessary amenities that 5-star properties sometimes force upon them. You make your own fun here. Indeed, the experience that Tri has created harks back to pre-social media times when people communicated across dinner tables, not platforms.
Perhaps Tri himself best sums up the vision for his property, “I’m planning to make my farmstay environmentally sustainable, where people can come to relax, eat healthy food, and become friends with my family.”
La Gi Farm Stay is on Nguyen Du, Cam Binh Hamlet, Tan Phuoc Village, La Gi. For more information and bookings, go to facebook.com/lagifarmstay or search online at airbnb.com. Tri can also help out with transport arrangements
Photos by Mike Palumbo