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Tet 2020


AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM

Mai Chau Valley is one of Vietnam’s hidden gems. Most tourists head to Sapa to see the beauty of the Vietnamese Countryside, but Mai Chau is actually 3 hours closer to Hanoi. So It is really a good alternative to Sapa.

You can experience Mai Chau Hoa Binh in a day trip, but we recommend you to spend 2 days cycling around the rice fields and beautiful scenery .

AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM
Photo by thanhvh on the pixabay

Where is Mai Chau?


Mai Chau is 140km south west of Hanoi.  It rests in a peaceful valley, surrounded by mountains and rice fields.  Here, the pace is much slower to the big cities, providing a terrific opportunity to relax and unwind.

The Mai Chau valley is home to the White Thai Minority group, and whilst tourism has made this sleepy area a little busier, there are no dramatic impacts caused by this.

Is Mai Chau worth the visit?


Mai Chau is one of the best but that is not all that this village can offer to you. This rural area is completely different from the hectic Hanoi. This is the place where you can forget all the tiredness and worries of a busy everyday life. And it is pretty cheap compared to other places in Vietnam and suitable for family, group or solo travel.

Coming to Mai Chau, you can see rice fields are bursting with color surrounding by mountain, red-brown, narrow land paths run between them, some wooden traditional stilt houses of ethnic people are scattered amid the green of leaves, water buffaloes lying lazily on a path side, local children playing and dog barking from the distance… All of these sound and images make the landscape painting much more vivid. Very soon, you will recognize that “resting” is the last thing you want to do here.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM 1
Photo by Franzfoto

Best time to visit Mai Chau


The best time to visit is during the months of March to May, and then later in the year during September and October. The weather is cooler during these periods. Harvest time takes place during October, and many travelers also visit at this time.

Best Things to Do in Mai Chau


Biking through Mai Chau


With amazing landscape which is typical of northern mountainous Vietnam, Mai Chau is best seen by bike. Morning cycling through the rice fields was one of the best Mai Chau activities. Getting through the rice paddies filled with green color on your bicycle,  you have a chance to praise the peaceful rural life of Vietnam.

You don’t need to be fit for cycling, as the land is quite flat in the village.

Book your Mai Chau bike tour in advance —> HERE.

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Photo by Franzfoto

Trekking


Just like for those visiting Sapa, trekking is one of the most popular things to do in Mai Chau. You can choose a half-day or full-day trek into the terraced mountainside, or opt for a multi-day trek, spending your evenings in homestays along the way.

Day treks range from easy- to medium-difficulty, whereas many overnight treks are classified as difficult.

If you’re up for a full-day trek, we recommend the Pu Luong Nature Reserve Trek.

During the Pu Luong Trek (Pu Luong means ‘Great Mountain’), you wind down through the valley, passing many terraced rice fields and small villages of the White Thai ethnic minority group. Their houses are different compared to some of the other ethnic minorities in the region. The wooden houses are built on stilts and are said to be similar to a turtle. The roof is the back or shell of the turtle, the room is classified as the body, the legs of the turtle are the stilts of the house, and the head of the turtle is the ladder that is drawn up each night when the family retires inside.

The houses are cooler being higher up, and their animals are housed underneath when required.

The White Thai people along the Pu Luong Trek grow rice for their family. Some of the villages we passed also grew corn, pineapples, and peanuts - all also for personal use. The wealthier families may even own a buffalo or two - buffalos are then their main possession and since they cost up to US $2,000 for one. If you’re fortunate to have more than one you are considered very wealthy, indeed.

A detailed itinerary is available if you want a long day trekking in Mai Chau and Pu Luong, see article details at: http://vietnamtypicaltours.com/tour/mai-chau-pu-luong-trekking-4-days-3-nights/

Handicraft Villages


If trekking and cycling is too exhausting, opt to visit some of the local villages within walking distance of the town. During the visit, you will learn how to weave a traditional White Thai scarf and enjoy tea in the process. Even if you go on a trek, considering visiting the handicraft villages as it makes for a great way to enjoy this Sapa alternative, where being in Mai Chau is half of the experience.

Meet the people of Mai Chau


Like all parts of Vietnam, these villages are full of friendly people.  Because they are minority tribes they can, quite rightfully, be a little over anyone treating them like a tourist attraction.  Say hello, stop to chat, buy something from their stall and ask before you take a photo of them if they are in close proximity to you.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM 3
Photo by Jason Hollinger

Explore the small villages around Mai Chau


Bike on hit the dirt roads through the tiny villages that are dotted throughout the valley.  It’s a casual and fun way of getting around, and you are able to go completely at your own pace. 

Beware the speeding motorbikes (yes they still exist out here!) and the odd cow or water buffalo.  Of more concern is possibly the potholes and dodgy road edges that could see you falling into a muddy rice field before you know it.

The houses of Mai Chau


The houses of the villages are built from timber and are usually high set.  Intricate carvings may be visible in the timber work.  The houses are high to let the breezes through under the house where many of them work.  It is also good flood prevention.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM 4
Photo by Paul Mannix

How to Get to There


Mai Chau is an easily-accessible 4-hour drive from Hanoi. As there is no train service, you have three options available: bus, motorbike, or taxi.

Several bus companies ply the route, and the fare ranges between US $8 and US $13. These buses can take up to 4.5 hours since they stop along the way.

A taxi can cost up to US $175 for the journey and takes up to 4 hours.

If you’re an experienced motorbike rider, this option is available.  You can hire a motorbike in Hanoi for approximately US $15 – 20 per day. The journey to Mai Chau takes up to 4.5 hours by motorbike.

Want to have a interesting trip to Maichau? Mai Chau is a featured destination in the Northern Vietnam Tours by Vietnam Typical Tours so you surely can join and experience yourself with professional help from our travel expert. Take your time and tell us your requests via us email: info@vietnamtypicaltours.com
Item Reviewed: AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAPA - Beautiful MAI CHAU VALLEY, VIETNAM Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nga Do
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