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Mai Chau


The bucolic Mai Chau valley is a mere 150km away from Hanoi, though the town feels like it’s in a world of its own. Rice paddies and fields are spread throughout the vista, while the mountains fall behind the horizon sluggishly. The sounds of nature – specifically, the chirping birds, buffalo mumbles, chicken squawks, and kids having fun in the fields will be music to your ears. Mai Chau may have turned into a very popular vacation destination, but its inviting and lax ambiance is well maintained.  

The town is situated in an arable valley surrounded by sprawling hills that are covered in dense green forestry. The town’s fields and paddies are the primary substance for the inhabitants. During the spring, the fields bloom with vegetation. In the summertime, the changes happen gradually. By Autumn, the paddies morph into a blanket of gold.

A majority of the town is inhabited by the White Thai ethnic groups, though there are other groups in the vicinity, including Xa Linh in the H’mong Village. Each village smoothly integrates with the environment. Most of the homes are expertly constructed with a mix of timber and bamboo, along with other natural materials. Farming and weaving, which are the primary trades here, appeal to travelers that the area allures. Local family hospitality is a big part of the region’s charm. The environment’s relaxed atmosphere feels ancillary to the kindness of the Mai Chau people.

View of Mai Chau Township with paddy rice field in Northern Vietnam

See & Do

Many people visit Mai Chau to take in its peaceful surroundings. There are several activities that reflect the area’s charm. The TREK to Xa Linh’s H’mong village from the Thai village is a frequently used route to take in the valley’s sights. It is a wonderful chance to interact with the natives and see them at work in the fields, skillfully weaving charming textiles while living harmoniously with nature. With a rough elevation of 1000m, this 18km hike can be challenging, but the views justify the trek.

Green Terraced Rice Field in Mai Chau
Green Terraced Rice Field in Mai Chau

One must-visit place is the mountain pass of Thung Khe, which has dazzling views of Mai Chu from the top. Embedded into the white rock mountain, this broad road experiences the conditions of the four seasons in a single day. It begins with misty, dewy mornings in the Spring, then the vibrant sun of the Summer, a brisk evening Autumn breeze, and lastly, a rigid Winter night.

There are no shortages of activities in the valley to connect you with nature. The natives are always happy to show off their farming skills and way of living with travelers. Tourists can hang out with a local farmer, taking in the crisp air while gaining insight into conventional approaches of organic farming. The melody of birds flying above you are just as pleasant as the pretty butterflies that flitter around. You’ll learn about all types of vegetables grown in Vietnam, as well as how to spot the tastiest ones.

In addition to the colossal mountains and elegant green farmland, Mai Chau has an assortment of caves you can explore. One of them is situated above an elevated hill. The 1000-step cave (aka Chieu Cave) is an enigmatic chamber that is used to host prayer ceremonies. The rugged entrance of the cave is pierced with rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites. Besides the actual cave, the sights from here are astounding – you’ll take in daunting mountains, wavy green fields, and small colorful village homes.

Terraced rice field in water season in Pu Luong
Terraced rice field in water season in Pu Luong

Mo Luong Cave is situated in Pu Kha Mountain. This intriguing underground maze is easy to get to and has a pair of entryways. It has a quartet of grottoes majestically decorated by rock formations that shine when light penetrates the darkness. The most unique formations are the vibrant white stalactites that slump from the ceiling.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a brief trip from Mai Chau. This well-maintained region features limestone peaks, fertile agricultural land, and a thick, central tropical rainforest. It is a wonderful area to discover the countryside’s wildlife, or interact with the inhabitants over a fresh cup of tea. The breathtaking views are best seen by bike or on foot from a village, most of which have bicycles for rent.

Culture & Arts

Most travelers to Mai Chau can spend the night in a bamboo slit home. You’ll experience the warming hospitality of families who reside there. You can consume a hearty meal made up of local produce with a homestay family, and bond with them while drinking local rice wine. The places to sleep in these wooden houses are roomy and offer a basic atmosphere to rest in. Nighttime in Mai Chau is tranquil and still – the perfect ambiance after a long exploration day.

Residents of Thai ethnic minority communities have a reputation for being creative, as you will see from detailed brocades that are hand-weaved. The women work outside of their handcrafted looms, skillfully embroidering each thread to produce intricate patterns. You can look on as these women work or try to do some weaving with them!

Thai folk dancing is another conventional culture  as rural Vietnam stories are articulated in dance performances. Youngsters wear time-honored attire and dance to music, sometimes with an ensemble of cheers and songs. Young ladies get lost in a sea of colors as they move through the air weaving fans. The festive atmosphere of each performance will leave audiences mesmerized.

The largest weekly social event is the Sunday market. People from neighboring villages come together to sell wares and mingle with friends. Pa Cho Market is a mere 20km away from Mai Chu and is open each Sunday. There, you will notice H’mong natives  sporting multicolored embroidery their clothing. The brocade’s stalls are paired by handcrafted products, fresh produce, and animals.


Thai stilt house in Mai Chau
Thai stilt house in Mai Chau

Festivals & Events

The Praying for Rain Festival is celebrated in the Thai community. In hopes of crop growth, natives assemble to pray for rain to the God of Water. Once their prayers are shared with the god, the locals engage in dances, songs, and participate in all kinds of traditional games.

Food & Drink

As with most of the agricultural communities in Asia, Spring is when the new lunar year is commemorated. Happiness and prosperity are wished for in the coming year. Xen Bang Xen Mong is celebrated by Mai Chau’s Thai people.

The villages get colorful, and the smell of delicious food emanating from stilt homes fills the air. Once the preliminary tributes of offerings to the gods are performed, villagers unite to play conventional games like nem con. In this competitive game, a rag-made ball is thrown in the air before being shot with either a gun or a bow and arrow. Every year, the valley comes alive with the sound of Thai drums. Each person puts on their best garments, and the town becomes a flurry of excitement for the approaching festivities.

Road through a little village where a ethnic minority lives, Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Road through a little village where a ethnic minority lives, Pu Luong Nature Reserve

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