The Mai Chau’s proximity to the capital makes it an ideal escape for nature lovers. Here, small ethnic minority villages sit among a patchwork of paddy fields surrounded by green mountains. Spend a night or two immersed in Vietnam’s rural culture, dining on delicious home-cooked cuisine, and learning about the traditions of the ethnic groups.
Sleep in a homestay
The Mai Chau Valley is home to two excellent homestay tourism villages: Lac and Pom Coong. In both villages, White Thai families offer simple accommodation in stilt houses in an idyllic setting of verdant jungle, limestone outcrops, and mountain tops.
Cycle around the valley
Exploring the many quiet ribbons of paths that connect clusters of stilt houses might be the greatest pleasure you’ll have in Mai Chau. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve found your own quiet corner, riding past humble villages and rice paddies.
Shop for local crafts
Mai Chau has no shortage of intricate fabrics woven by skilled weavers on ancient looms. A little gentle bargaining is expected and even welcomed. On Sunday, the morning market attracts ethnic minorities dressed in their finest traditional clothing.
Eat with the locals
Known for their warm hospitality, the White Thai are also fantastic cooks and serve up excellent home-cooked feasts for dinner. The meals you’re served at the homestays in Mai Chau might be some of the best on your Vietnam trip.
Plan a day trek
For a full day trip, spring for a kayaking excursion on Hoa Binh Lake, a beautiful body of water surrounded by jungled hills. Or venture further to Pu Luong Nature Reserve where cool, fresh streams run among the trees, feeding waterfalls and aquamarine pools.
Mai Chau Valley is at its best from March to May and September to November. October is perhaps the most ideal month because harvest takes place and the rice takes on a glorious golden hue. Be careful if visiting from June to August, as monsoons can flood local roads.
Mai Chau is approximately 140km from Hanoi. Local buses from the capital run directly to Mai Chau town just a short walk from Lac and Pom Coong villages. If coming from Son La or Dien Bien Province, ask the driver to stop at the Mai Chau turn off. In Hanoi, it is possible to hire a motorbike or a private car for the journey. Bicycles are the best option for getting around the valley floor, as small paths criss-cross villages and farms. Electric carts are available for hire to take you from one village to another.