THE BEAUTIFUL RICE-FARMING VALLEY OF MAI CHAU
150 kilometres from Hanoi, in Hoa Binh province is a really appreciated destination for travellers for its natural mountain scenery where green rice fields stretch as far as the eye can see. This eco-touristic place has activities such has bike rides, hiking and meetings with the very welcoming White Thai ethnic group.
Discovering the valley on foot or on bicycle
The land of Mai Chau is relatively flat. Therefore, discovering it on bicycle is really pleasant and easy. Take the little paths going through seemingly endless rice fields to discover ethnic hamlets of Thai and Muong people, with lovely wooden traditional houses on stilts. According to the seasons, you can observe different agricultural works in the rice fields: ploughing, sub culturing or rice harvesting, happening twice a year in May and the end of September.
Mai Chau is a choice destination for walking enthusiasts of all levels. Several itineraries are possible according to your hiking desires, from a simple walk of a few hours to trekking during several days with nights hosted by locals. From Mai Chau, you can hike to Pu Luong's nature reserve or to the Muong village of Hang Kia located in a beautiful karstic circus.
On foot and by bike, you can discover some of the caves that have made Mai Chau famous for their magnificent geological formations where stalactites and stalagmites compete in quiet elegance.
The valleys of Mai Hich and Ban Buoc
As beautiful as the Mai Chau valley, the rice valleys of Mai Hich and Ban Buoc have the advantage of being less touristy. Here again, the small villages of the Thai and Muong ethnic groups hide in a beautiful setting, in the vegetal jumble of lataniers, bamboo and banana trees. Numerous bicycle and walking tours are proposed to discover these green oasis valleys where agricultural traditions are perpetuated. One crosses the farmers there going to the fields, accompanied by their devoted water buffalo, others taking their ducks to go paddling in the flooded rice fields where the rice has been cut; or the smiling schoolchildren, happy to just meet travellers.
The White Thai ethnic group
The Mai Chau valley is mainly populated by the white Thai ethnic group. Arriving very early in Vietnam from Yunnan, China, as early as the 10th century, the Thais have invested the most fertile valleys where they excel in rice-growing thanks to ingenious hydraulic systems. White Thai women are known for their great beauty and coquetry. They are proud to wear their traditional costume which consists of a very fitted blouse with short sleeves and V-neck, called "ao com", that two lines of butterfly-shaped buttons emphasize elegance. They wear a long, wide and colourful cylindrical skirt held at the waist by a beautiful brightly coloured silk scarf. Like the native Vietnamese, the Thai practice the cult of ancestors. Very attached to their culture, the white Thais do not lose an opportunity to practice their music, dances and very melodious traditional chants. White Thais live in beautiful wooden houses on stilts covered with thatch. Under their house, there is usually an old weaving loom, a famous craft of the White Thais.
Enjoy an unforgettable homestay experience
Although there are several establishments offering you to sleep in excellent conditions of comfort in Mai Chau, we advise you to sleep in a local's house for an unforgettable experience. White Thais are known for their extreme kindness and hospitality. And even if you lose terms of comfort, it is a real pleasure to share one or two nights with the people in their typical beautiful wooden house on stilts. In the evening, you can give the family a hand in preparing the dinner which is always a convivial moment. It will be the occasion to taste some local specialities such as sticky rice, grilled buffalo meat or fish with aromatic herbs. Usually days at the home end with traditional songs and dances from the graceful white Thai women.
Discover the Hoa Binh Reservoir
Hoa Binh Reservoir, the largest in Vietnam, forms a beautiful artificial lake with limestone mountains reflected on its undisturbed waters. A beautiful ecotourism destination where you can bike, swim under the waterfalls and/or kayak to discover this magnificent natural setting. There is also the possibility to sleep in a local's house.
Best times to stay in Mai Chau
To stay in Mai Chau, we advise you to go there in the spring, from mid-March to the end of June. In July and August, it can be very hot. Mid-September to the end of November is also a good time to discover Mai Chau.