Northwest Vietnam

Hoa Binh - Song Da Reservoir - Mai Chau - Moc Chau - Yen Chau - Son La - Tuan Giao - Pa Khoang Lake - Dien Bien Phu - Muong Lay - Muong Te - Sin Ho - Lai Chau - Sa Pa - Lao Cai - Bac Ha - Ha Giang Province


IDD Code:(+84) 18
Mai Chau is the heart of a beautiful valley that is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. The modern village is an unappealing sprawl, but as you emerge on the rice fields and rural living it is transformed into a real paradise. It's a stunning area, and most people here are ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China paradise. It's a stunning area, and most people here are ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China. Although most locals no longer wear traditional dress, the Thai women are masterful weavers who ensure that there is plenty of traditional-style clothing to buy in the village centre. You will see women weaving on looms under or inside their houses in the village. Much of the silk looks similar to that seen in Laos. The Thai of Mai Chau are less likely to employ strong-arm sales tactics than their H'mong counterparts in Sapa: polite bargaining is the norm rather than endless haggling.
Sights & Activities
This is one of the closest places to Hanoi where you can experience a 'real' Montagnard village. Other attractions here include staving overnight in one of of the Thai stilt houses (seethe boxed text, opposite), walking through the beautiful valley through the rice fields and trekking to minority villages. A typical trek further afield covers 7km to 8km; a local guide can be hired for about US$5. There is a popular 18km trek from Lac village (Ban Lac) in Mai Chau to Xa Linh village, near a mountain pass (elevation 1000m) on Hwy 6. Lac village is home to the While Thai people, while the inhabitants of Xa Linh are H'mong. The trek is quite strenuous to undertake in a day, so most people -spend the night in a village along the way. Arrange a local guide and a car to meet you at the mountain pass for the journey back to Mai Chau. Be warned that there is a 600m climb in altitude and the trail can be slippery in the rain, Longer treks of three to seven days arc posĀ¬sible. Ask around in the Mai Chau villages of Lac or Pom Coong. Many cafes and travel agencies in Hanoi run inexpensive trips to Mai Chau . These include all transport, food and accommodation.
There are two accommodation centres in Mai Chau: the village of Lac and the village of Pom Coong. Pom Coong is slightly more rural and less developed than Lac, so opt for it if you have the choice. Set a few hundred metres back from the 'main' roadside, both villages otter a rustic experience in traditional Thai stilt houses (60,000d per person). Villagers will sometimes organise traditional song-and-dance performances in the evenings and anyone is free to join in the fun. A mild word of warning about the showers: the doors may have fairly large gaps between the walls and the occasional opportunist guide or driver has taken the chance to observe the proceedings. Use your towel to good effect.
Getting There & Away
Mai Chau is 135km from Hanoi and just 5km south of Tong Dau junction on Hwy 6. There's no direct public transport to Mai Chau from Hanoi; however, buses to nearby Hoa Binh (25,000d, two hours) are plentiful. From Hoa Binh there are several scheduled buses to Mai Chau (20,000d, two hours) daily. Usually these stop at Tong Dau junction; a xe om (motor-bike taxi) from there to Mai Chau proper will cost about 15.000d. Theoretically, foreigners must pay a 5000d entry fee to Mai Chau; there's a toll booth at the state-run guesthouse on the 'main' road. More often than not, there is nobody there to collect the fee.