Vietnam’s northwest mountain region is always on the list of many travelers thanks to its beautiful nature and colorful culture. If you don’t have enough time to visit Sapa which requires 8-hour driving, consider Mai Chau. This hilly land offers the same beautiful mountain landscapes as Sapa but still retains the quietness of the countryside.
1. How To Get To Mai Chau?
140 kilometers in the southwest of Hanoi, you can get to Mai Chau by car or motorbike. There are Limousine shuttle buses that travel from Hanoi to Mai Chau and back daily. The buses are clean, modern, and comfortable with large seats and free WiFi.
2. What To Do in Mai Chau?
- Visit Thai Villages
Ethnic Thai people make up to 60% of the Mai Chau population. They live in stilt houses that are often built near the river or stream and face the rice fields. Thai people no longer wear traditional dress except on important occasions but the women are masterful weavers. They still produce plenty of colorful textiles based on traditional weaving techniques. A visit to a Thai village gives you a chance to gain knowledge about local life and culture. People in Mai Chau are very friendly and hospitable. You can always stop by a stilt house to ask for a cup of water or have some small talks.
There are many Thai villages in Mai Chau but the three most popular villages are Lac Village, Pom Coong Village, and Buoc Village. Even though all these villages have idyllic rural landscapes, Buoc Village is less touristic due to its distance from Mai Chau town.
- Ride A Morning Bike or Take A Hike
Famous for the bucolic landscape, Mai Chau isn’t the place for hard-core activities, but if you look for hiking, biking, or a leisure walk, this land fits the bill nicely.
Different than Sapa, Mai Chau has 2 rice seasons a year. That means you might always see rice fields bursting with color most of the time. Ride your bike or hike along the narrow village roads to breathe in the fragrance of young rice and fresh mountain air and watch water buffaloes lazily resting under the shade of a big tree on the sidewalks. This land exudes an idyllic atmosphere that lures everyone who is looking for a peaceful hideaway for their soul.
- Try Local Cuisine
When you travel to a new land, you can learn a lot about its culture by exploring its food. Most of the dishes are well marinated with special local spicy and herbs to create a taste of place then presented on a traditional bamboo tray. The most popular dishes include bamboo-tubed rice, grilled pork meat, chicken soup cooked with young bamboo shoots, glutinous rice, and Mai Ha traditional wine of Mai Ha village.
- Enjoy A Thai Dance
While Muong people are famous for their gongs, Thai people are well known for their dances. Thai women dress beautifully performing traditional dances. That’s how the Thai tell stories or show thankfulness to God for abundant crops. Visitors are welcomed to join the show with local artists.
- Visit A Local Market
If you want to get deep insight into local life, visit a local market. Most of the local markets in Mai Chau are open-air markets where people come to purchase. Visitors can find many interesting at the markets, from fresh vegetables in the family garden to tribal colorful textiles.
- See Hmong Women Weaving at Pa Co Village
Located at the height of over 1,000 meters above sea level, this quiet village used to be a dangerous cocaine hot spot in the northern mountain region due to its mountainous terrains. But now, Pa Co village is known for its effort in preserving Hmong’s traditional brocade weaving. Visitors can witness the complicated processes of beeswax painting and indigo dying. If you go on Sunday, don’t forget to visit Pa Co market where you can find immerse yourself in local life and bring home some beautiful handmade crafts.
3. Where To Stay?
- Local Homestays
Mai Chau offers many options to choose from. Visitors who want to be close with local life can choose a homestay where they can sleep in the family's stilt house and have meals with family members. Homestays in Mai Chau provide private rooms with single or double beds for couples and small families and a large sharing space for groups of friends. Due to the low price, the homestays offer basic facilities only. It might not very comfortable without air conditioning and a comfortable mattress. Visitors have to share the bathroom and toilet with other guesses.
- High-end Resort
Among many resorts in Mai Chau, Avana Retreat is the one & only 5-start resort and also the youngest. 30 kilometers far from Mai Chau Town, this secluded retreat attracts travelers not only by its elegant architecture and luxurious furnishings but also by its stunning natural landscapes. There are rice terraces, hills, valleys, natural waterfalls, pristine forests within the retreat. Orchid Spa is a true wellness sanctuary while Cloud Pool Bar offers amazing views over the valleys below.
There are only 41 bungalows and villas in an area of 15 hectares to remain the privacy of guests. Avana Retreat says NO to single-use plastic and practices sustainability to bring a better life and better environment to the communities.