Barbara Adam and her kids explore a family-friendly homestay in the Mekong Delta, Happy Farm Tien Giang.
Within three minutes of arriving at Happy Farm Tien Giang, our ever-smiling host, Khoi, has introduced my kids to Kim, Cherry and Tin Tin, the farm’s resident horses. The kids then meet, in quick succession, a bunch of wriggling licky puppies, ducklings, a monkey, kittens, chickens, two geese and a gosling I named Ryan.
The kids are in ecstasy, feeding and patting the animals, and burning off energy running around Happy Farm’s big grassy paddock and exploring the paths, footbridges, swings and hammocks.
We’ve arrived before lunch, and the Happy Farm staff are setting a table under a shady tree for one of the families who is staying for the weekend.
Happy Farm opened in 2016, replacing a restaurant Khoi’s family used to run on the site. There are 12 rooms, simple little shacks made from bamboo and coconut fronds, set amongst lush grounds.
Oanh, Khoi’s wife, briefly emerges from the kitchen where she is supervising a lavish multi-course feast for the weekend guests. She finds time to whip up some delicious seafood banh xeo for us.
Khoi tells me that his farm stay is very popular with Vietnamese families on weekends, when a full programme of kids’ activities is available, with expats and international visitors mainly staying during the week. After lunch, my kids enthusiastically join the activities, which are conducted in a mix of English and Vietnamese. (English for my kids, Vietnamese for the other guests).
First up is a blindfold duck-catching game. Next is a sack race, then a hay bale rolling race, then tug-of-war. One sporty dad decides to take on all five kids, and ends up flat on his face.
Then comes the horse riding.
Some kids are quite intimidated by the horse, even though he’s a small and placid beastie. But each kid eventually takes a turn, sitting in the saddle — some nervously and some proudly — and being led around the field once or twice as their parents take lots of photos.
Just when I think the activities are done for the day, Khoi announces it’s time to go fishing.
All the kids stampede over to the farm’s fruit orchard, only to discover “fishing” involves getting into a water-filled ditch to catch fish with bamboo baskets.
The other parents seemed to have been forewarned of the wetness and muddy-ness of this activity. Some have changed their kids into swimsuits. But we are here on a quick day visit, and I didn’t bring a change of clothes.
I forbid my kids from getting in the water.
They both get in.
There is a lot of screaming and excitement, and not all the noise is being generated by the kids. It’s a lot of fun, and the highlight is catching an elephant ear fish that one of the families is going to eat for dinner.
After fishing, there’s a clean-off session under the sprinklers. Both my kids are dripping wet by now and I wonder if any taxi is going to let us get in. Because we’re only day visitors to Happy Farm this time round.
Suddenly Oanh appears with some of her kids’ clothes for my kids to wear home. I tell her we really do have to come back to her farm now. We have borrowed clothes to return!
Khoi and Oanh used to work in Ho Chi Minh City, both in the field of information technology.
They both prefer the countryside to city living, and they have found a fantastic way to share their lifestyle.
They especially love showing city kids how country life works. “Kids can help collect the eggs,” Khoi said. “They can help in the garden, help harvest vegetables. The children can learn how to be a farmer!”
A stay at Happy Farm usually includes a barbecue dinner, and boat trips and other excursions can be organised as well.
Happy Farm is 8 km from My Tho in the Mekong Delta, and 80 kms from Ho Chi Minh City, or about 1.5 hours by car.