Cham Islands Homestay Notes

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Cham Islands Homestay Notes

How the Cham Island Homestay program was created

In 2008 Karma Waters and parent company Tara Co. Ltd. created the Bai Huong Homestay program to help the village create its locally owned Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative.

In 2009 Tara Co. entered into a tourism development agreement with Vietnamese Government Department Cu Lao Cham Marine Park Administration (CLCMPA). The first homestay was on 18 April 2009. Tara Co. worked on a poverty reduction program for Bai Huong village under agreement with a development fund of the Netherlands government (SNV) 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. In addition western style toilets and solar panels (donated by Denmark's DANIDA) were installed.

The only accommodation in Bai Huong village is the homestays. There are other tour operators working with the Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative.

How homestays benefit the local community

  • The homestay program provides an additional (not alternative) income to fishing for the people of Bai Huong village.
  • The homestay program host family has income from the room & providing food plus activities income (snorkelling, walking, fishing tours, etc.) which also helps the local community.
  • Karma Waters pays snorkelling and sightseeing fees to the Cu Lao Cham Islands Marine Park Administration (CLCMPA). This funds marine conservation.
  • The suggested 30 minutes per day volunteer community service from each guest helps the local community.  English and other volunteer activities are available.

Homestay accommodation details

  • Homestays are inside a village house which is also occupied/owned by the host family.
  • Accommodation is a shared room with two guests sleeping on a mattress bed, mosquito nets included.
  • Young children normally sleep with parents.
  • Toilet and shower facilities are provided inside each home and shared with the host family.  Showers use room temperature water which can be chilly as it is from a local spring.
  • Electricity is available during daylight hours from solar panels.  At night time electricity is only available 6 pm - 10 pm and is provided by the local diesel generator. In hot summer months homestay rooms have fans using batteries and inverters.
  • Early to bed & early to rise - many fishermen going out in the middle of the night fishing.

Things to see, do & feel

Homestays are about communities. Bai Huong village has 500 people living as one large Bai Huong community & families have something to share with everyone.

Humans have living on Cu Lao Cham Island for at least 2,500 years and most likely Bai Huong village has a long history of inhabitation.

Guests can learn Vietnamese cooking free of charge as meals are prepared. If guests want free cooking classes then please ask the host family and join in the preparation, cooking & cleaning of the meal.

When you volunteer with the community you may also learn some Vietnamese.

Bai Huong village is mostly Buddhist. The Bai Huong Pagoda 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 village 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 village.

Families with children

Bai Huong homestays are perfect for a young family.  There are about 50 young children under age 12 in the village so there are lots of opportunities for children to play together. Please ask your host family if you would like to arrange a special visit to the local school.

Volunteer activities

We ask each guest volunteer with the community 30 minutes per day.

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

Most people in the village do not speak good conversational level English.  English lessons are an important volunteer activity because they help to improve homestay service quality and experience of the Bai Huong Homestay Cooperative guests.  It gives the host family confidence in their services and future opportunities.

If guests want to donate more time or resources to a specific project or family we would suggest you first check with your guide to find an appropriate way of participation. We have volunteer & charity programs already in place in the local community which focus on children and education as a means of change.

Vegan meals

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.

Fishermen and their family’s daily routines including meals are times follow the schedule of the fishermen therefore the host family may not eat at the same as the guests.

In Vietnam, out of respect vegans/ vegetarians are normally set a different table containing only vegetarian or vegan food.

We do not provide other than vegan meals, our way to support responsible tourism. Our goal is that 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.

Telecommunications

Most mobile phone networks work on Cham Islands & nearby waters. There are no internet cafes or internet connections at Bai Huong, Cham Islands.  Vietnamese sim chips can be purchased on mainland Vietnam.

Guest 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 all guests name(s), nationality & passport number(s) so that we can pre-register with the local Government.

Security & privacy

Bai Huong village is a safe and peaceful place and thus 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 but there are no safes in the homestays.

Facilities for people with mobility difficulties

There is a lack of facilities in this village for people with mobility difficulties.  Transportation to and from Cham Island would also be difficult.

Karma Waters Guides

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

Weather conditions & boats

Local sea conditions are governed by the very shallow river - ocean inlet averaging only 0.9 meter. These shallow water conditions make 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 up to 49 passengers and is licensed for weather up to 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.

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.

Help us protect the community, environment and homestay program

  • Be a part of the community. Interact in a respectful way with the community and household.
  • Follow your hosts habits of early to bed & early to rise.
  • Respect elders, offer a slight smile or bow.
  • Notice village children are minded by village adults.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Take minimum of items which create rubbish.  Rubbish has to be collected & disposed by returning on local boat to Hoi An.There is no landfill on Cham Islands, there is a bi-monthly rubbish barge.
  • Refill and reuse water bottles, bring your own!
  • Be aware of Vietnamese law including those for the National & Marine Parks.
  • Be mindful of the environment including the National Park & Marine Park.  We consider them a treasure.
  • Be mindful with your purchases.  Beware of protected species of fish, coral, etc.
  • Take care not to step on or damage live coral when snorkelling.
  • Be mindful not to litter.

Clothing suggestions

Dress code is conservative. Comfortable shoes, clothing, hat, sunglasses, day pack.