This article is everything you need to know about the best things to do in Mai Chau valley provided by Hanoi Eco Tour.
Mai Chau is a great place to come and recharge your soul in beautiful nature, only 3 hours drive from Hanoi and less touristy than Sapa. That’s why it is getting popular among top attractions in Northern Vietnam. On the other hand, it is much less touristy than Sapa and there are some of the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the area
Mai Chau travel maps
See an amazing list of top 10 things to do in Mai Chau, Vietnam
1.Take a panorama picture of Mai Chau valley at the flag pole
On the way from Hanoi to Mai Chau, there are several roadside markets along Thung Khe pass where locals sell lots of stuff such as boiled egg, Com Lam (sticky rice wrapped by banana leaves with a bamboo tube), fresh vegetables, BBQ pork skewer and so on.
After a few more kilometers drive is the flag pole of Mai Chau. It is a common stopover for travelers to Mai Chau on a private car or motorbike ride where you see an awesome view of the whole Mai Chau valley with tons of great photo shootings. It is a cool check-in spot and a must for the Mai Chau area. I have to say breath-taking.
My advice is to take a photo if you can because you never know what’s the weather like tomorrow. It might be misty and foggy. Parking at the stopover and follow a small pathway to get to a platform for taking photos.
2.Check out a local market in Mai Chau area
Your visit to Mai Chau won’t be completed without a visit to local markets. There is a variety of things to buy in the Mai Chau area such as handicraft products, the traditional dress of Thai ethnic woman called “Xua Com”- a colorful jacket, scarves, bags, cross-bow. Please be aware that some of the products aren’t of high quality because it’s cheap.
If you are checking out the market on Sunday which is the market day for the one in Mai Chau town, you can see lots of stuff and many ethnic people from different regions in Mai Chau to meet and exchange the stuff
On the other hand, you can also see colorful markets with fresh vegetables, meats, fishes, clothing and many more. There are weird stuff like silkworm, eels, cicadas or crickets if you are traveling in the summertime.
3.Conquer Afternoon cave with over 1000 steps
There are quite a few limestone caves in Mai Chau but Hang Chieu (afternoon cave ) is worth a visit for those who like adventure travel. Honestly, it is tiring but cool experience after climbing 1200 steeped steps
The best time to visit the cave is in the morning before it is getting too hot or late afternoon when you may get the sunset. Chieu literately means “Afternoon” because the caves look awesome when it comes to the afternoon light. The stalagmites and stalactites aren’t as impressive as most of limestones caves in Halong Bay but it looks like a mysterious land.
4.Joining farming works with locals
It sounds like something a bit strange for some of the travelers but cools for those who like hands-on experience and interact with locals. Mai Chau is a great place for both rice and vegetable farming depending on the season. You can help with preparing the soil, rawking, sowing and watering.
This is a guided farming tour in Mai Chau you can take part in also. I also recommend this experience for a family with kids. It is fun, educational and meaningful which provides you a better understanding of the hardship of Vietnamese farmers.
How can you do it?
The planting rice season begins in Feb or July and for vegetables are from October to December. You can join with the farmers along the way of walking or cycling around.
5.Taking a cooking class and feast on your DIY lunch
Mai Chau cuisines are totaly different from what you have eaten in Hanoi. If you are a foodie, taking a cooking class in Mai Chau is the best way to learn, enjoy and experience the very best food in Mai Chau valley. There are sample dishes for you to choose from : Com Lam (Sticky rice in bamboo tube), BBQ pork skewer, steamed fish wrapped by banana leaves, Bamboo shoots with stir-fried forest bee
Where to take a cooking class
Mai Chau Eco Lodge
Ume Mai Chau Eco Homestay
Mai Chau home
6.Having fun with bamboo rafting on a local stream
Getting to Lac 2 village and ask Ume Mai Chau Eco Homestay who will show you the next-door house which hosts bamboo rafting. Per person, the rate is $5 USD and you take a raft on your own.
You can float along the local stream nearby. It is actually a good thing to do for school trips, group of friends or company trip with team building activity. Make sure that you bring along a waterproof bag or a waterproof camera. There is a bamboo paddle for getting around.
7.Sleep on a bamboo floor a Thai homestay in Lac 2 village
Sleeping arrangements are simple but comfortable. A mattress is laid out on the bamboo floor and a mosquito net hung from the ceiling. Leave the wooden windows open at night for a cool breeze off the rice paddies and lovely views at dawn.
Bathrooms are clean with hot running water. In the summertime, it might be a bit noisy at night in the stilt houses: the humming of cicadas, the heavy rains hitting the rooftops, the throbbing chorus of frogs in the fields, the morning cockerel calls, dogs barking and but it is quiet during the wintertime
Lac 2 village is near Lac bridge which is a few hundred meters from the busy Lac 1 village. I recommend for staying overnight in Lac 2 village. There is lots of campfires organized by the Vietnamese group at the weekend (Saturday and Sunday night).
But it is only happens up to 10.00pm. Staying in Lac 2 village is much quieter than Lac 1 village. One of the homestay I recommend is Ume Mai Chau Eco homestay whose owner is also a local guide for trekking in the area and great hospitality with a warm smile. Having an authentic meal with a local family and enjoy a cup of rice liquor is a memorable experience.
There lots of hardworking locals in the village with a traditional way of living. They earn their living by providing tourist services as well as rice farming with lots of works on their rice field. If you are photographers, there will be a great photo shoot of the house on stilt surrounded by lush green paddy fields.
The great quality of soil allows local people to grow a variety of food such as bananas, bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, water spinach, etc. On the other hand, there is lots of animals raises in the area such as ducks, chickens, pigs, water buffaloes, cows, goats; which plays an important role in their lives. It may encounter people tending water buffalo for eating the grass. A village is a perfect place for recharging your soul.
8.Go on a walking or cycling tour around the Mai Chau area
Mai Chau valley is a great place for trekking and taking a bike ride around the area. My suggested trekking or biking trail is to starts from Lac 2 village > Na Phon > Nhot > Na Thia > Pom Coong.
It takes around 2 hours for getting around by bike and 3 hours by walking. Otherwise, ask your accommodation’staff where you are staying for the advice on the best routes. If you don’t know how to get around, take a guided tour around the area. You can easily arrange it by your accommodation.
Bike rental service is available in lots of places. The cost is from $3 to $5 USD for half-day and full day.
9.Watch traditional Thai dance and drink Can wine in the evening.
Check with your accommodation in Mai Chau if the show is available. As far as I know Mai Chau Eco Lodge, Sol Bungalow and some others offer a free show for visitors staying in their accommodation. I really like the last performance of dancing with bamboo poles amongst the artisans and drink traditional Can wine with a bamboo straw, which is fun.
If the show isn’t available, check with your accommodation and ask for their help to find a place to see the show with extra fee of a few American dollars. It is a great cultural activity in which you can learn more about the cultures of many minority ethnic groups in Vietnam such as Thai, Muong, Hmong. A private show values at $45 USD includes the performance and a jar of “Can” wine.
10.Taking a boat ride in Hoa Binh lake
This is a cool thing to do in Mai Chau when it comes to a day full of sunshine. 20 kilometres with half an hour drive from Mai Chau to get to Hoa Binh lake. Take a private boat trip from 1.5 hours to 2-hour values at $20 per trip.
A relaxing trip along the cave to see lots of limestone islets and rustic beauty of hill tribe villages, enjoy a swim and jump off the boat with clean water. I do recommend doing it from April to October. If you are touring from November to April. It’s sometimes foggy so check the weather forecast before arranging the trip. The full-day taxi to the lake costs around $40 USD, arranged with your accommodation’s staff.
What to do around Mai Chau
Check out Paco Sunday market and Xa Linh village
Just 20 miles away from Mai Chau, the Paco market is worth visiting in Sunday where Hmong ethnic group meet to changes their stuff. Because the market is far away from home so locals choose a day to meet. There is an array of things that you can look for from colourful dress of the Hmong woman to different type of fresh vegetables and fruits.
On the other hand, feast on Hmong cuisines with water mouthing dishes. There is a village called Xa Linh which is home to Hmong hill trible which is worth checking out. Meet the locals and learn more about local living by visiting a Hmong family living in the village. I suggest to bring some candies or gifts to give them to the kids in the village
Read more : Paco day tour from Mai Chau
Day trip to Pu Luong nature reserve
Pu Luong nature reserve is the right choice for an off-the-tourist-trail day trip from Mai Chau. You have a short time, love the wonderful landscape, Pu Luong is just right for you.
Joining a guided tour, you will trek from villages to villages along the buffalo trails which is only known by locals. If time permits, ask your guided to take you see the waterwheel machines which is a featured things to see in Pu Luong
Independent travellers can travel on a motorbike ride so you can stop as much as you can to take awesome photos of terraced paddy fields, meets the locals and more
Top things to see in Pu Luong
- Hieu village waterfall
- Don village for its amazing terraced rice paddy field
- Kho Muong village
Read more : Pu Luong day trip from Mai Chau
Mai Hich village, Mai Chau
Mich Hich is much less touristy than Mai Chau, just 20-minutes drive from Mai Chau. A bike ride or a walk for 1.5 hours around the village is just enough time to explore the village area. On the other hand, there are homestays for staying overnight.
Mai Chau travel tips
- Taking a tourist bus from Hanoi is the most convenient way to get to Mai Chau, which costs around $8 to $12 USD
- There is two ATM machines in Mai Chau town, however, if you are staying in the village, we recommend taking cash with you.
- Having dinner with the local family if you are staying in a homestay because it is a true dining experience, a great time to connect to locals, share a life story like a friend, not a traveller
- Avoid travelling at the weekends, especially summertime from May to August because there is a lot of domestic travellers going there at the weekend.
- Bring a simcard with 4G internet connection because there is no tourist map available in some of the homestays and guest houses
- Staying in the village is way better than the town because you could enjoy the rural landscape, feel tranquil setting, meet locals and more.
Read more : Mai Chau travel guide
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