Lying to the northwest of Vietnam and only 150 kilometers far from Ha Noi but Mai Chau seems to belong to another world, without any hustling and bustling. The serene and picturesque valley of Hoa Binh Province, nested in hills is home to a multitude of rice paddy fields and horizon - reaching mountains.
Nowadays, in spite of becoming an emerging hotbed for tourism, Mai Chau still maintains and treasures its signature rural atmosphere, one of the appealing factor to flocks of tourists all over the world.
2. BEST TIME TO VISIT MAI CHAU
Almost around the year, the climate is similarly nice and pleasant with lower rainfall and humidity, compared to the rest northern cities.
Should you love to visit at the comfortable condition, opt for September to May, when sunlight is warm for cycling and trekking tour. The period between October to November and February to May is especially favorable, for your recommendation.
The time between November and February is quite challenging due to cold atmosphere. And make sure you avoid June to September since there is the monsoon season with strong breezes and high humidity, making the climate fairly hot and tiresome.
3. THINGS TO DO IN MAI CHAU
Nowhere can beat Mai Chau as the best indulgence in the stunning natural beauty for relaxation. The most preferred activity to mingle with the surrounding, needless to say, is trekking with one of the most popular routes being from the Ban Lac Thai villages to Xa Linh’s Hmong village.
Throughout the challenging journey of around 18 km, trekkers enjoy a great opportunity to relish the charming surroundings as well as blend in with the authentic life of the indigenous as witnessing them working happily in the fields, busily growing farms or doing delicate hand-made craftings.
Mountain and Cave Exploration
Next comes the Thung Khe mountain pass, one of the most ideal locations for panoramic view of Mai Chau. Deemed as the rare witness of all 4 seasons in just one day, this mountain - nestled road experiences all shades of nature: from misty spring in the morning to crisp summer in the afternoon, followed by chilling autumn in the evening and end up in the typical coldness of winter at night.
Should you love exploring impressive caves, another highlight in Mai Chau, don’t miss out on some signature locations like Chieu Cave or 1000 step cave. Situated at the summit of steep hills, those places used to be the prayers’ chamber for meditation but now widely open for tourism.
There are a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites as well as rock formations in different shapes and sizes to keep in in awe of the natural mystery. Surrounding these caves are landscape - dotted colorful houses in traditional style, the terraced fields and marvellous mountain backgrounds.
No less intriguing is Mo Luong Cave of Pu Kha Mountain, which deserves to be a sophisticated labyrinth of modern age. Comprised of 4 rock formations - adorned grottoes, the cave glisters the mysterious darkness.
Culture and Arts Tour
A trip to Mai Chau, as to other ethnic minorities in Vietnam, cannot be completed without an insight into the local cultural life. One of the most unique features of culture is bamboo stilt houses. Dropping by these houses, getting inside, having a chit chat and even asking for an overnight sleep are memorable experiences so that you can get a better understanding into the local routine as well as the hospitality of local families.
Don’t forget to enjoy local dinners made out of fresh produce, enhanced by the tasty and warm flavor of local rice wine. Actually, sleeping space inside those stilt houses is quite exciting as offering an open and pure atmosphere to harmonize with nature.
As far as art is concerned, exquisite and creative brocades delicately hand - weaved by local women will certainly keep you in awe. Not only the products themselves but the whole crafting process is enjoyable, with colorful threads being intricately controlled to result in fantastic patterns.
You can even ask for a try to in such a skillful work yourself to appreciate more this essential livelihood of ethnic groups. One more art to enjoy is Thai folk dancing, which comes alive with the colorful images of young girls and boys in traditional outfits dancing, waving fans, cheering and exchanging romantic gestures.
Last but not least is the Sunday market, the most vibrant social hangout of the local. Coming to the market, you can witness the local from different villages streaming in to sell local produce and socialize with peers. The most famous for your recommendation is Pa Co Market, which lies 20 km far from Mai Chau.
4. THINGS TO BUY IN MAI CHAU
There is a multitude of local products and unique souvenirs to take home, available at various markets for your visit and definitely satisfy your artistic taste. Below are some places recommended for you to get the most authentic souvenirs.
Muong Ethnic Market: This lovely place, situated along Thung Khe Pass track, is quite enjoyable among tourists. There is a variety of things such as local foods like steamed corn, freshly farmed vegetables and unique flowers.
Pa Co Sunday Market: Another signature market you can’t miss, offering a wide range of livestock, fruit and vegetables, local delicacies, especially local white wine, as well as delicate souvenirs from hand-weaved clothes, broderies.
5. WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND
Bring along Basic Medicines.
To be noted that Mai Chau are still rural and under - equipped, it is quite challenging to buy medicines in case health problems crop up. Therefore, it’s best to prepare basic medicines like pain killers, anti-diarrhea.
Pack Good Clothes.
Most of the activities are involved in cycling and trekking. Therefore, sportswear and comfortable outfit and footwear is a must to prepare. Besides, include in your packaging hats, glasses and sun cream to avoid heating outdoors. If you go on winter, then be well-prepared with warm clothes like jacket, scarf and gloves.
Take Enough Cash.
Like most of rural areas in Vietnam, there would be no sight of ATMs. As a result, you must bring along more cash than intended to make sure you don’t run out money mid-trip. However, be cautious and get all your money as well as personal items well-secured.