As many of you already know, I love getting to know the locals when I travel just about as much as I love trying a country’s authentic cuisine. While I’ve eaten dinner in many Chinese homes, I’ve never done a homestay while traveling. Frankly, I’ve never even come across a way to find one.
That’s why when I heard of the new startup BonAppetour, I knew I had to jump on board!
What is BonAppetour?
BonAppetour is an amazing new startup that allows you to experience the local culture through food. This site gives you the opportunity to discover unique in-home restaurants run by locals who open up their home (and kitchen) to travelers. BonAppetour offers everything from home cooked meals to in-home cooking classes!
Home Cooked Feast in Bangkok
After checking out the site, I finally decided on Sky and Phorn’s Authentic Home Cooked Feast in Bangkok! Located in the Bangkok suburbs, I thought it would be a great way to meet locals and experience a genuine home cooked meal in Thailand. I also wanted to get out of the city and explore a real residential neighborhood.
Host Sky grew up in Thailand but moved overseas to Australia, so she speaks perfect English. Now she’s back in Thailand running amazing homestay meals. She even hosts couch surfers!
The Optional Overnight Homestay
Booking the homestay dinner was fairly easy, and a day later I was messaged by Sky. To be honest, her message was kind of confusing because she gave me directions from the airport, and wrote about luggage and staying overnight. Was an overnight stay included?
I thought $17 USD was really pricey for just one meal (albeit an amazing meal) in Thailand. It made way more sense that accommodation was included as well. However, I was a bit confused by the fact that an overnight homestay wasn’t mentioned in the original listing. You’d think she’d really promote that!
I decided to message her back, telling her that if an overnight homestay was included in the price, I would definitely be interested. She responded, “Happy to hear from you Richelle, thank you, and I would like to welcome you to homestay with us for the night of 24 June and it’s ok if you would like to stay longer :-) for only a small homestay fee of 300 baht a day.”
Score! $17 for a home cooked feast and a night’s accommodation with a real Thai local. I was so excited about it, I even convinced a friend to come with me.
Getting to the Homestay: A Catastrophe
Sky gave me extremely clear directions to get to her home from Bangkok. We were to take a minivan from Victory Monument in Bangkok to the Big C store at Thanyaburi Klong Hok. My friend and I took the subway to Victory Monument and eventually found the minivan station. After some confusion, we were directed to a counter to buy our ticket.
When it was time to go, we huddled near the entrance, hovering around the various minivans. No one would tell us which one to get on, so we just kept showing the ticket to each and every driver, getting a firm “no” in response every time. We did this for about a solid 20 minutes, because there was literally no way for us to tell which minivan we needed. Eventually we received a yes, and hopped on!
The van ride was supposed to take us an hour and a half, but for some reason we arrived in only 45 minutes. Seeing a Bic C store in the distance, we figured we were in the right place. But since we were a half-hour early, we figured we’d just wait until she arrived.
We waited… and waited.. and waited… Sky was late. Sky was super late.
Neither my friend nor I had a Thai SIM, so we borrowed a random man’s cell to call Sky. No answer. We tried again. No answer again. We waited another twenty minutes and tried again. No answer.
Here we were on a dirty highway in the middle of nowhere, choking on exhaust, calling Sky over and over again with no answer. She was over a half-hour late and we’d be waiting for about an hour at this point. Eventually we decided to walk to the Big C in case she was there. She wasn’t there. We then borrowed another person’s phone at a cell store and finally got in touch with her!
It turns out she had been waiting for us the whole time… at another Big C 30 minutes driving from where we were! Apparently the minivan company sold us a ticket that would only get us halfway there, thinking we could buy the second ticket from another company once we arrived. They wanted to make a quick buck from us, but didn’t realize (or didn’t care) that we wouldn’t understand we were in the wrong place. Also, there just happened to be a Bic C at both locations, which completely threw us off!
My friend and I ran back to the minivans and eventually found a different company who could take us the rest of the way. We were a solid 1.5 hours late when we arrived and we were starving!
While I get that it was an accident we ended up in the wrong place, it really bothered my friend and I that Sky didn’t pick up her phone for the first 30 minutes we were calling her, especially since she gave us her number and told us to call if there was a problem. We were really close to just returning back to Bangkok and asking for a refund.
But I’m not one to let something like that spoil my day. Besides, Sky was all smiles when we arrived and it was easy to forget how stressful and crappy the last two hours had been.
Sky’s home was extremely welcoming. While her mother Phrom was out of town, Sky’s sister and niece were there to help us cook dinner, along with a couch surfer from…. CHINA. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Who knew there were Chinese couch surfers? Regardless, this girl was awesome and I reveled in the fact that I could speak Chinese again since I was already having withdrawals after only two weeks.
When Sky and her sister found out my friend attended culinary school, they set him to work on chopping all the ingredients. He loves cooking so he was really excited about it, and there was pretty much nothing for me to do but take photos of everything.
Eventually dinner was ready and we dug into a giant feast of green curry, vegetable stir fry, a Thai omelette, spicy sausage, and brown rice. All the food was amazing, but my favorite was definitely the green curry. I’m obsessed!
Afterwards we had banana rice pudding for desert. It kind of reminded me of mango sticky rice, because you could really taste the rice in the pudding. I absolutely loved it, and I wish I left a little more room in my stomach to fully enjoy how amazing it was.
After a good night’s sleep in comparison to the sweatbox I was previously staying at in downtown Bangkok, I woke up to enjoy another amazing meal. Our breakfast mainly consisted of bananas: fresh bananas and sweet cooked bananas. It turns out Sky grows them on a banana tree in her backyard!
Sky also had fresh homemade bread which was so good! Honestly, when I settle down I am buying a bread maker. This was the first time I’d had home cooked bread since I visited my (ex)boyfriend’s grandparents’ farm in Australia 3 years ago. Too long!
In addition to the bananas and bread, we also had coconut custard in a banana leaf. I’m not sure exactly what it was or how it was made, but regardless I could eat it every day and be happy… no, seriously.
“You need to pay me for the homestay”
As we were heading out the door, Sky pulled me aside and asked if I could pay her the 600 baht for the homestay fee. Ummm…. what? I thought that was included?
“Happy to hear from you Richelle, thank you, and I would like to welcome you to homestay with us for the night of 24 June and it’s ok if you would like to stay longer :-) for only a small homestay fee of 300 baht a day.”
After reading the message again, I guess I can see how there’s some confusion there. I felt way too awkward to whip out my phone and argue over the wording of her message, so I forked over the money, making a joke about how we thought it was included… awkward.
While I would normally brush it off as Sky not being fluent in English, Sky lived in Australia for a really long time and her English is perfect. I know it was a miscommunication, but I definitely think she could’ve been much more clear and upfront that the overnight homestay wasn’t included in the price, preferably in the original message.
If I was just by myself I wouldn’t have minded much, but I felt horrible that my friend had to pay after I had assured him the homestay was included. $17 USD for dinner plus another $8.50 for the home stay? That’s a lot of money in Thailand. This, plus the transportation fees we paid to get to Sky… plus the huge hassle of getting there… I’m surprised he’s still friends with me.
The worst part? Since the Chinese girl was couch surfing, she was staying at Sky’s for free… thus rubbing it in more that we had to pay extra. Guess I better get started on my Couchsurfing profile…
Surprise Visit to a Primary School
After the really awkward money moment, we hopped in the van to take a visit to Sky’s niece’s primary school. They were having Teachers Day, and Sky invited us for a visit! Sky’s niece attends a Buddhist school, which is pretty much exactly the same as Catholic schools in the US… which I attended growing up.
For Teacher’s Day the students met at the local temple. Each student had a gift to give to their teacher, usually some combination of flowers and incense. Then the head student of each class held an elaborate flower structure to be gifted to their teacher in the ceremony. Apparently the students created them in art class!
We sat for about 30 minutes watching the ceremony. Kids chanted Buddhist songs, older students gave speeches, and the head students shuffled forward on their knees to give gifts to their teachers while bowing.
The best part of the ceremony was when the kindergarten teachers were receiving their gifts. Since there was no one left to watch the kindergarteners, the front row descended into utter chaos. Kids were standing up, walking around, hitting one another… and they all wore bright blue pinnys, which apparently are used for keeping their uniforms clean.
Visiting the primary school was definitely the most culturally immersive experience I’ve had in Thailand. It was so interesting to see a Buddhist school and interact with the kids! After an awkward moment with the money that morning, it was nice to leave the day on a positive note.
Would I Recommend the Homestay?
I still have incredibly mixed feelings about my homestay experience with Sky. Minus the arrival debacle and the money confusion, I had an incredible time. Sky is so nice and welcoming, the food was incredible and visiting the school was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Honestly, I had a really, really great time.
However, I don’t think I would recommend Sky’s homestay purely based on price. $17 is pretty steep for a home cooked meal, especially considering how far away Sky’s home is from the city of Bangkok. This $17 isn’t counting the money we spent just getting to the homestay, and the time we spent getting there and back. I think $17 would be a lot more reasonable if Sky lived closer to the city.
While I originally thought a night in Bangkok’s countryside would be a great addition to my trip (which in all fairness it was), Sky’s place is really hard to get to if you don’t speak Thai. Buying a minivan ticket is extremely confusing and stressful, and getting lost did not start our homestay out on the right foot.
I honestly think Sky should up her price to $25 and include everything: pickup from Victory Monument, a visit to the local market, the home stay dinner, and a night at her place.
While I know for a fact Sky doesn’t want to drive 1.5 hours into the city and another 1.5 hours back (it’ll eat up her whole day), she could always hire a driver to do it and factor it into the price. She’ll be making less money sure, but she’ll have better reviews and more customers. $17 is a LOT of money just for dinner!
To be honest, writing anything negative about Sky’s homestay is really hard for me. She’s such a nice person and I did have an incredible time. I just can’t lie to you guys by glossing over the negatives because that’s not fair to you! I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed with your experience (and hate me).
Honesty is key here, and I really think Sky’s home stay could be excellent if she just made a few changes.
What About BonAppetour?
While I don’t necessarily recommend Sky’s homestay as it stands right now, I do definitely recommend BonAppetour.
BonAppetour is a very new company, so there aren’t many reviews on the site just yet. Once BonAppetour starts accumulating more reviews, it will be easy to tell which experiences are the best value for your money. The site also now features interactive maps so you can see exactly where your home dining experience is.
After my mixed experience in Bangkok, I sent BonAppetour a long email detailing why I couldn’t give them a 100% positive review. The response I got back was really fantastic. Not only were they open to constructive criticism, they encouraged me to tell you all my honest opinion.
Because of this, I can’t recommend BonAppetour highly enough. They are extremely professional, and want you all to have the best and most immersive experience possible. I 100% stand behind the idea of the company, and I would love to try out another experience with them again!
Get $25 Credit for your own experience!
Congratulations! since you actually read this monstrosity of a post (which is over 2,500 words) you my friend get $25 to spend on BonAppetour however you like! This is a limited time offer while BonAppetour builds up their site.
All you have to do is create an account, find an awesome experience and book! They have in-home dinning experiences all over the world (including my hometown of Seattle), and they’re constantly adding more every day. You can even host one yourself if you’re a good chef!
Thanks again to Bon Appetour for hosting me in Bangkok. As always, I give my honest opinion…. obviously.