Mai Chau is set in an idyllic valley and about 150 km south-west of Hanoi, which puts it close enough to the capital city to make it a worthwhile destination for the weekend or overnight trip for travellers.
This is a great place to visit on the Mai Chau. It is appreciated for its easy cycling, some good treks, welcoming local minority people, and long stretches of natural beauty. If you don’t have the time to get to the northern town of Sapa, you may find Mai Chau is a great compromise to still be able to experience the mountain country and its ethnic minority people.
Mai Chau travel guide highlights
- Hire a bicycle and explore the scenic and peaceful countryside
- Take a long or short trek through the valley and paddy fields
- Chat with the local minority people over a cup of tea
- Have a go at bargaining for traditional textiles without having to experience the hard sell
Most travellers on a short stay at Mai Chau can easily find accommodation in the settlements of Poom Cong and Ban Lac which offer the traditional stilt houses. Travellers get to stay with real minority communities and real families in houses that had been set up with the tourist in mind. The locals are complementing their weaving and farming income by offering the relatively authentic accommodation for the traveller.
Once the traveller is fully settled in the stilt house, it is time to start the Mai Chau homestay tour and explore the local area. This valley is mostly dominated by small villages and rice paddies that are hemmed in by hills. While a one or two day stay is likely to be typical, it is possible to stay longer, especially for those that wish to experience the Mai Chau trekking tour. Cycling is another easy and scenic way to get around.
The local villages are populated by mostly white Thai who are distantly related to tribes from China, Laos and Thailand. The villagers in this region have their own cultural uniqueness while also having a difference in personal style, with many no longer wearing traditional dresses. The Thai women are expert at weaving traditional style textures. One of the most welcoming aspects of a Mai Chau tour is the hospitality of the locals that serve up the delightful family meals.
Best time to visit Mai Chau
The preferred time to visit Mai Chau is between October and April when the weather is a lot less intense. The weather during June to August can become unbearably hot and you will find little respite from this for the duration of your stay. But for those that are looking for the best possible deals, it may be worthwhile to book outside the busy tourist period.
There are a variety of relatively authentic stilt house homestays throughout the villages that are available to stay on this type of Vietnam travel package. Most of the homestays are priced quite similarly (about 80,000 Vietnamese dong per night excluding meals), so it is usually a case of finding one with space and gives the preferred views.
Most of the villages are within easy walking distance, so use a Mai Chau Nature Place guide to help find the best places to stay. Also, it is worth noting that the homestays are communal, so if you would prefer a little privacy, it may be worth looking for one that is empty and has no guests. Additionally, there is also the option of the more luxury at Mai Chau Sunrise Village, which is located near to the village. This is a nice boutique resort with its own outdoor swimming pool and steam room.
What and where to eat
The only real choice to eat is in your homestay, although there are a few small pho and rice places if you head into Mai Chau itself. Most of the homestays will serve dinner and breakfast, but the food service isn’t included in the price of the accommodation and is extra on top. Dinner is likely to consist of a variety of home-cooked dishes while breakfast is likely to include fruit, jam, bread, etc.
The journey to Mai Chau from Hanoi is in the region of 4 hours on a direct bus route. There are several start times throughout the day with the cost in the region of 80,000 Vietnamese dong. There are also bus routes from Hanoi to Hoa Binh with the connecting bus to get you to Mai Chau. On arriving in Mai Chau town, the actual villages are about to 2-3 kilometres further on, which is easy to complete on foot or by hiring a motorbike taxi at 20,000 Vietnamese dong.
Getting around Mai Chau
If you’re planning to stay in one of the villages or Mai Chau town it is really easy to get around on foot. But if you’re planning to undertake a long trip it is possible to rent a bicycle in the villages for 30,000 Vietnamese dong per hour.
Things to do in Mai Chau
The Mai Chau homestay tour has become a very successful tourism project for the villagers and continues to increase in popularity. For this reason, you’ll find that travelling to this valley region is more favourable during midweek, rather than waiting until the weekend.
Mai Chau trekking tour
A major highlight of visiting this valley is the Mai Chau trekking tour that makes it possible to explore the less visited parts of the region. You get to see untouched and remote villages, experience the stunning scenery (waterfall, tea plantations, lush-green rice fields and jungle-clad limestone mountains), and learn a lot more about the local life and culture. The highlands of this part of Vietnam are home to several ethnic minorities that have their owner beliefs and culture.
Mai Chau cycling tour
Mai Chau is a perfect destination for the keen cyclist with a diverse range of trails with undulating rough trails, single track paths and several climbs that are finished with great descents. The Mai Chau cycling tour gives the opportunity to admire stunning views with its close proximity to lush rice paddies and plenty of villages, as well as to learn more about the local hill people. After a day or two of cycling in the countryside, you may wish to reward yourself with homely accommodation at the nearby Mai Chau Sunrise Village.