|Mai Chau valley|
Mai Chau is located in Hoa Binh province, approximately 135 km from Hanoi and 60 km from Hoa Binh. From the top of Cun Mountain, one can admire the superb panorama of Mai Chau surrounded by a green valley and stilt houses. Many minorities, including the Thai ethnic group, live in Mai Chau.
Stilt houses border both sides of the roads. The houses are quite large with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo-slat floors. The kitchen is located in the center of the house; the cooking as well as the making of the colorful tho cam, the material used by Thai minority to make their clothes, takes place in the kitchen. The windows are large and decorated with patterns. Each house also has a pond to breed fish.
The Sunday market brings a lot of people into town. People from different minorities living in the mountains come to Mai Chau market to sell their specific products: honey, bananas, corn, and tho cam made by skilled Thai women. The Sunday market is also an occasion to enjoy traditional Thai dishes and to participate in traditional dances.
Mai Chau can be a base for some trekking tours to the villages around, this is with homestay overnight on the traditional houses of the H'Mong and the Thai. Worth a guided treking tour there.
Tours to Mai Chau
More information about Mai Chau valley
Hoa Binh is a mountainous province located in the North. It is bordered by Son La in the West, Phu Tho and Ha Tay in the North, Ha Nam and Ninh Binh in the East, and Thanh Hoa in the South. The culture of Hoa Binh combines six minorities with their own languages, traditional literature, and festivals.
Tourists especially enjoy the minority specialty dishes including rice cooked in bamboo and grilled meat. They also enjoy watching traditional dancing, music performances (bronze, drums, gongs), and Thai minority singing and dancing. The remote minority villages are attractive sites for tourists.
Mai Chau sights and attractions
Mai Chau doesn’t have a tourist service per se, but the staff at the new Mai Chau lodge can be pretty helpful, and many villagers speak enough English to help you out if you ask around. One trek we’ve heard of goes 18 km up a mountain about a kilometre above sea level to a H’mong village and typically includes an over night stay. The surest bet is to make arrangements at a travel agency in Hanoi before you arrive. Luckily you can return by road if you arrange to have a vehicle meet you for the trip back. There’s a lot of untapped potential for treks here, so if you’re giving Sapa a miss, this is the place to explore your options.
Boat tours can also be undertaken along the Song Da river that visit other minority villages, such as the Dzao tribe, and the Ba Khan Islands. You may be able to catch a boat on the fly by showing up at the Bai San Pier — go to the Tong Dau Junction outside of town, follow the road to Moc Chau, and the pier is about 6 km further down the road on the right. A return trip will be in the US$30 to 40 range, for one boat that seats up to ten passengers. Overnight homestays are also available. Ask at the Mai Chau Lodge to arrange something more official (and more expensive).
Getting There and Away
Buses directly to Mai Chau that drop off in town depart from the My Dinh bus station in Hanoi at 06:00, 14:00, 14:30 and cost 35,000 VND. Any bus leaving for Son La or Dien Bien Phu will also pass by and drop off at the Tong Dau junction about 5 km from town (the road sign for Mai Chau town centre reads ‘Pho Vang’). From there, a motorbike taxi will be about 20,000 VND, or more, and since you’re essentially stranded, bargaining won’t get you far.