A few kilometers west of Hanoi (about 3-4 hours by bus) there is a rural area that offers tranquility and peace called Mai Chau. If you want to get to know the traditional culture during your trip to Vietnam and get away from the stress, noise and bustle of Vietnam’s busy capital for a few days, you don’t need to travel to Sapa (the best known of Vietnam’s rural areas, sometimes too crowded).
Mai Chau: the least crowded rural Vietnam
The “district” (the equivalent of provinces in Vietnam is the district) of Mai Chau is about 160 km west of Hanoi. The capital of district is the homonymous city of Mai Chau. The territory is eminently mountainous and the most common ethnicity in this area of Vietnam is the Ban Lac, descendants of the Thai ethnicity that inhabited the northwestern region of Vietnam in the past. You can organize your days through an agency like OneMoreDestination.com or do it individually. In any case in this article we pass you the main information about this area.
How to get to Mai Chau
The most logical option to get to Mai Chau from Hanoi is by bus. There are regular lines offering several connections at different times of day, especially from My Dinh station.
Activities and visits in Mai Chau
Whoever visits Mai Chau does so to learn something better the culture and traditions of rural Vietnam, so if you move to this area of the country you can be sure that you will find tranquility and Vietnamese landscapes of the most rustic and bucolic. The main activities and attractions in Mai Chau revolve around the local customs and lifestyle.
Hiking in Mai Chau
There are many hiking trails of different lengths, routes and levels that you can walk in the area of Mai Chau. Cross rice fields or hike through the jungle while visiting several villages in this area of Mai Chau. If you hire a guide and you are a lover of trekking at the highest level you can even make routes of several days duration staying in typical houses of Vietnamese families in some of the villages that you find along the way. There are several companies that organize trekkings and that can design, guide and take care of that route on foot that you have thought.
Bike routes by Mai Chau
In the main villages of Mai Chau you will find bicycle rental shops that offer you the possibility to travel around on wheels for little money. The rural landscapes of Mai Chau are predominantly denominated by rice fields, which means that if you are going to walk them the terrain will be quite flat. Depending on the time of year you will be able to observe how the farmers work the rice fields, you will see water buffaloes (which are used to plow the fields) and in general many and varied scenes of rural life in Vietnam will open up to you.
Homestays in Mai Chau
Staying with a Vietnamese family is one of the most enriching social experiences you can have at Mai Chau. It is also a very economical option that will cost you no more than 30 or 40 dollars per night including meals. Some of the traditional wooden and bamboo houses typical of this area of the country have been used for some time as family houses or hostels. Normally you will have a mattress on the floor along with other visitors and the inhabitants of the house themselves, and pillows and bedspreads may even be made of silk grown in the area or in neighboring Thailand. Normally you also have the option to have a private room for a slightly higher price.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a protected area south of Mai Chau that offers an invaluable opportunity to hike and tour an area of Vietnam virtually untouched at a natural level. Forests, mountains and many rivers and waterfalls are the main features of the Pu Luong nature reserve. In some areas it is also common to find the typical rice fields in terraces or terraces so common throughout Vietnam.
Population and lake of Pom Coong
Pom Coong is a beautiful Thai village located in the heart of the tourist area of Mai Chau. This village still preserves the traditional culture and lifestyle of the Thai and is the perfect place to explore deeply the cultural beauty of this local ethnicity.
Thung Khe step
This mountain pass on the A6 road is quite famous for its natural and rugged beauty. Thung Khe Pass (or white rock pass, for the type of white and limestone rock in the place) is famous for its impressive beauty: while road 6 opens on one side of the mountain, on the other side opens a deep valley that offers very impressive natural views (when the fog allows it). At the top of Thung Khe Pass there is a small market that sells products and typical of this area of the country.
Mo Luong Cave
Mo Luong Cave is one of the most visited and well known places in Mai Chiang. It is a natural cave excavated by water in the limestone, which offers magnificent stalactites and calcareous formations. It is located near the town of Mai Chau and has two entrances. There are passages enabled for your safe visit of its more than 500 meters of route and its four main caves with heights ranging from 1.30 meters to more than 20 meters in some points.
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