MAI CHAU HIDEAWAY GATE – VENUE OF RETREAT AND CULTURE
Mai Chau Destination
This evergreen valley is surrounded by the mountain range in Northwest Vietnam and 145 km far from Hanoi city center. It takes us at least 3 hours by cars and two days one night for exploring this site as well ass the surrounding area. For a more extended trip, we should combine Hanoi – Mai Chau – Moc Chau Plateau – Ninh Binh – Halong Bay – Hanoi, which is a big loop.
Don’t go to Mai Chau unless you are a crazy fan of Retreat and 100% rustic culture. Spending at least one night at Boutique retreat or Ecolodge is worthy of doing.
By exploring it, it is not only admiring the peaceful landscape but also outdoor activities such as rafting, village trekking, swimming under a waterfall, and farming at the local house. After half-day or full-day trekking, we retreat ourselves with a fresh shower at a local home or eco-lodge. For high-end option, we can choose a romantic bungalow at Puluong retreat or Mai Chau hideaway with a lovely swimming pool.
Mai Chau Smart Transportation
1. To access Mai Chau by motorbike
For adventure travelers, we recommend you to rent a bike in Hanoi Old Quarter – Tourist hub. Then heading to Mai Chau on Highway 6 and passing by Hoa Binh city where you can stop to visit Vit Co Xanh ecotourism resort. Spreading over a 25-ha land, it brings unique accommodation, from-teeth-to-toes services, and wild natural settings.
2. To approach Mai Chau by car
We can take both local bus or private car to get there. With the local bus, the ticket fee is low, around US$ 4-5 only but you still need to take taxi-scooter from the last stop on the main road to Mai Chau valley. It is highly recommended to travel by private car and should use from the 7-seat vehicle for comfort.
Almost visiting places and the ethnic villages are near-by each other, so it is suitable to bike around or trek from this village to another. A bonus in Mai Chau trip is to drop-in the local houses, sip a cup of tea, and a short chat with the host. These activities are typical for Community-based-tourism.
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When to visit Mai Chau
Mai Chau will be full of the yellow rice field in May and June. At this time, it looks like a girl with long blonde hair. Just imagine, in the morning, you open your bungalow window, fresh breath air and looking down onto ‘’the carpet’’ of yellow rice field in a vast area.
During July and August, you should avoid it due to the flood on the mountain with the hefty rain. Except for this period, you can visit Mai Chau whole year for amazing selfie photos.
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Top Things to Do in Mai Chau
1. Thung Khe Pass
Thung Khe Pass is between Tan Lac and Mai Chau (Hoa Binh) on Highway 6. In the early morning, when passing by, the pass is breathtaking under the sunlight and vast blue sky. In the afternoon, it is sunny with sunshine and the night is foggy all the way. Thung Khe pass peak is 1,000 meters above sea level. On the road, you can stop to taste the boiled corn, boiled sugar cane, or eat rice, etc.
2. Mo Luong Cave
For adventure lovers, we should visit Mo Luong Cave. It is not far from Mai Chau downtown and close to Highway 15 toward Lac and Pom Coong villages. Then moving to Go Lao Waterfall which is 15 km from Mai Chau center. We can step down to visit it; it will be too slippery if visiting in the rain season.
3. Lac and Pom Koong ethnic villages
From the main road, we need pass-by the rice fields to access to Lac and Pom Koong villages which are centrally located in this tourist site. These villages are the typical symbol of Mai Chau valley and community-based-tourism. Almost homestay are the stilt houses with western-style toilets and hot water. By exploring Lac and Pom Coong, we get a great opportunity to admire the fabulous natural landscapes and deep insight of the northern Thai ethnic minority. On the trekking route, we will drop-in the local house, practice basic Vietnamese words as well as get closer to daily life.
Mai Chau Food Guide
Almost population in Mai Chau is a Thai ethnic minority, so its specialties are from Thai cuisines. There are many kinds of stuff you can buy and bring home such as hand-made brocade craft /clothes, smoked buffalo meat, veal, fresh cow milk, etc.
1. Lon Man
‘’Lon Man’’ means the pig at the ethnic village which is very delicious and high quality. Why? The local feed it by natural food, and let them free on the grass field, not only inside the cage. That is why the meat is of high quality, not fat and delicious. We can cook it in many different ways such as: Boiling with lemongrass, grilling with ginger, and frying ball of meat, etc.
2. ‘’Mai Ha’’ Rice wine
‘’Mai Ha’’ Rice wine: We also called it ‘’Happy water’’ as all people laugh and speak out after drinking it. This wine is too strong and should sip a little bit each time to avoid drunkenly. It is handmade rice and cooked by the local families. Almost local families prepare wine for selling or inviting their guests as well as their friends/relatives.
3. Grilled River Fish
Grilled River Fish is the most attractive and healthy food in this lovely place. The local community always ate that in the big festivals of Thai minority. Each one is only 4 grams in weight. After catching this fish in the river, the local put it on the holder, put salt, herbs, lemongrass, chili, seasoning before stirring and grilling. Eating this fish with sticky-rice is fantastic.