Khuoi Ky Stone Village: A Highlight of Community Tourism in Cao Bang

"Because of recommendations, I went to Khuoi Ky village, which is only about 2km from Ban Gioc waterfall. Everything is great: the food is delicious, the people are hospitable and always willing to give advice on where to go, how to get to somewhere," said Redouane Mahi, a French tourist.
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On his trip to Vietnam, Redouane Mahi spent a lot of time in Hanoi and Sa Pa (Lao Cai). During his travels, he spent two days in Khuoi Ky village, Dam Thuy commune, Trung Khanh district, Cao Bang province. He said he wanted to further explore unique community cultural activities here.

Khuoi Ky Stone Village: A Highlight of Community Tourism in Cao Bang
Khuoi Ky stone village seen from above. (Photo: Duc Yen)

Khuoi Ky village stands out with stone stilt houses spread over an area of ​​about 10,000 square meters, leaning against the towering limestone mountain, in front of the clear, cool Khuoi Ky stream. In recent years, the Tay people's ancient village has attracted many tourists thanks to its unique architecture and traditional culture. The Tay people have turned hundreds-of-years-old stilt houses, built entirely of stone and roofed with traditional yin and yang tiles, into homestays to welcome tourists.

Trieu Ich Sy and Ly Thi Diep are pioneers in community tourism in Khuoi Ky.

"In 2016, I traveled to Hoang Su Phi (Ha Giang), saw people doing good community tourism," said Sy. "I discussed with my wife to establish a homestay, named Yen Nhi. We use a 5-room house in the village to welcome guests. It only costs VND 50 million to buy additional blankets, sheets, pillows, and mattresses. In 2021, we built a second homestay named Yen Nhi 2 with 17 rooms and a stilt house with shared bedroom that can accommodate from 25 to 30 guests.

Khuoi Ky Stone Village: A Highlight of Community Tourism in Cao Bang
The cave room in Yen Nhi homestay attracts tourists for its uniqueness. (Photo: Yen Nhi homestay)

Taking advantage of the homestay's unique location: nestled against the mountain and overlooking the stream, we built two rooms close to the rocky cliff. One side of the room is the undulating limestone cliff, the other sides are built of stone, with windows overlooking the common yard. The room is fully equipped with a closed toilet, air conditioning, wardrobe, free wifi. The renting fee ranges from VND 800.000 1.000.000/night. This room is loved by many tourists because of its novelty and uniqueness. They come here to experience sleeping in a cave."

While gradually improving service quality, Trieu Ich Sy's family also advertise their homestays on social media such as Facebook, Zalo, TikTok, and partner with major travel platforms such as Booking and Agoda. Thereby, they can reach more domestic and foreign tourists.

Initially, when a foreign customer reached out, he and his wife had to rely on Google Translate to understand and fulfill the customer's needs due to the limited foreign language skills. Over time, with training and the help of their university-enrolled child, communicating with international guests at Yen Nhi Homestay became smoother. As a result, the homestay is frequently fully booked.

"Over the past two years, awareness of homestays has increased, attracting 20-30 customers per day on weekends. Before, my family only cultivated enough corn and rice for subsistence, and we had to sell them whenever we needed to visit the market. Now, our primary income is from running the homestay," explained Sy.

Khuoi Ky Stone Village: A Highlight of Community Tourism in Cao Bang
Nguyen Thi Phuong, owner of Tay's homestay. (Photo: Nhat Anh)

Nguyen Thi Phuong, who entered the homestay business in 2022 and is based in Ban Gioc village, Dam Thuy district, Cao Bang province, has learned from earlier homestay operators in her village and from various other places.

Preserving the Tay people's traditional stone stilt house architecture, including the yin-yang tiled roofs, five-room wooden pillars, wooden railings, and stone stairs, Phuong has modernized the amenities to enhance comfort and convenience for her guests. She raised the height of the house to prevent guests from bumping their heads, installed a double-layer corrugated iron ceiling beneath the yin-yang tiles to prevent leaks during the rainy season, and laid concrete before fitting wood-effect tiles to eliminate floor creaks. Additionally, the homestay offers cultural experiences like then singing, dan tinh, and bamboo dancing. Visitors to Khuoi Ky are invited to engage in local activities such as rice harvesting, stream fishing, and adventurous trekking and mountain climbing.

"We balance work and study simultaneously. On days without visitors, we still tend to the fields and adhere to our daily routines. When the homestay fills with guests, the village women are quick to lend their support. The average monthly income for our staff is around VND 6.1 million. In peak seasons, we employ locals on an hourly basis for VND 350.000 or for particular events at rates ranging from VND 100.000-500.000 per event," Phuong explained.

Khuoi Ky Stone Village: A Highlight of Community Tourism in Cao Bang
Women in Khuoi Ky maintain clubs for "then" singing and "tinh" instrument. (Photo: Tay's homestay)

Community tourism creates jobs and stable income for women in Khuoi Ky village. They can earn additional income from joining service such as performing traditional "then" singing and playing "tinh" instrument. This contributes to improve the quality of life and preserving the traditional culture of the Tay people in Ban Gioc village.

According to Luong Van La, Head of the Culture and Information Department in Trung Khanh district, Khuoi Ky so far has 17 homestays, which are increasingly attracting tourists. In 2023, the district welcomed nearly 1 million visitors, 5,000 of which came to Khuoi Ky stone village. More than 20% of them are international visitors. The success of the community tourism model in Khuoi Ky has contributed significantly to tourism development and poverty reduction in Dam Thuy commune. By the end of 2020, the commune's poor households rate was only 8.9%.

To develop sustainable tourism based on indigenous cultural values, La said that in the coming time, Trung Khanh district will continue to organize training classes on reception, cooking, and short-term English classes for people so that they can better approach visitors. The district coordinated with the Non Nuoc Cao Bang UNESCO Global Geopark to instruct people in building a community tourism management board, establishing a performance team and organizing a waste classification model for waste collection and treatment.

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