About Mai Chau
Mai Chau is a mountainous district of Hoa Binh Province, sited 135 km (84 miles) from Hanoi. Nestled in the peaky valleys, Mai Chau is the home of 7 minority groups of Vietnam which mainly are Black Thai and White Thai people making up the totalpopulation of nearly 50,000.
Hiking along the plain trails, the towering cliffs and idyllic emerald rice field will gradually come out enchanting and fascinating. This make Mai Chau, though not granted with outstanding, but ecstatic to the visitors.
Best time to visit Mai Chau
Valley surrounding geography along with sea elevation of 400m (437 yards), the climate in Mai Chau is more pleasant thanother regions of Vietnam all year around with temperature range from 15 – 30 oC (59 – 86 F)
The best time to visit Mai Chau is period from Sep to May. During this period, Dec and Jan would be the coldest time of around 15oC (59F) and offer less sun than the rest months.
Jun to Sep should be reconsidered witha high rainfall thatmight influence your hiking and biking routes. The dirty land trails will get marshyand disturb your plan.
How to travel to Mai Chau
There are not many choices of transportation modes taking you to Mai Chau. Land driving is the most efficient means. You can get a private transfer (more flexible to stop on the way, call in at a local market and spend time for photo taking) or book the shuttle transfer provided by the tour organizers with a very moderate budget. However, the private transfer is not only convenient and affordable for solo traveler and group friends, family.
Contact us for the advices to arrange the transfer for you.
Things to do in Mai Chau
Hiking from village to village:
There are 9 villages in Mai Chau distributed over Mai Chau with 7 minority groups of which White Thai is the majority. Among 9 villages in Mai Chau, Lac Village is where settled by Thai Group ancestor is the most popular one.
The area is ambled with a rich culture with the inhabitant of human being for 700 years; they mainly earn the living by water rice cultivation and brocade weaving.
A full day or half day hike around a village or from one to another is great and ideal way to not only discover the natural magnificence but also to intermingle with local to learn more about their culture, costume, customs and lifestyles.
You can consider these villages for your hike: Lac Village, Poom Cong Village, Van Village, Na Tang, Tong Dau, Cha Long, etc.
Road condition is not so tough; though with trails sometimes, but you don’t have to be a professionally active hikers to cross the fields and travel between the villages. You can stop at local stilted house and make some conservations with the local or observe how are things done there; take a break on the rice fields or farming land and understand somewhat about the region’s cultivation methods.
An alternative option for hiking could be biking. Or it’s doesn’t matter if you have both hiking and biking experiences. Traversing the greenish and pristine lands overwhelmed by fresh atmosphere is exciting and extremely pleasant. From afar are the enticing idyllic mountains appearing one after another.
Many lodges and some local houses in Mai Chau offer bikes with very reasonable prices. Just wrap one and enjoy the wanderlust adventure.
Similar to the other regions of Vietnam, mountains in Mai Chau are granted with the karst cave with lovely stalactites and stalagmites.
The caves are not much far from the central village – Lac Village; and you could find them easily with the help of local directing you to the point.
Mo Luong Cave
In Thai language, Mo Luong mean a big stream course coming out from Phu Kha Mountain. It spread up to 500m and is divided into 4 cavities. The first one of 60m length was used as the warehouse for weapon during Vietnam War Walking through the cave is like getting in a mystical land for a while. The second cavity is only 10m length but offering more vivid and lively stalactites making up a unique brocade. Carry on under the archway, you will reach to the third one of 7m length. Slightly hit the rock, you will hear the merrily sound like of lithophones’. In last one of 15m length, there will be a stream of clear water.
Located on the peak of Phu Kha Mountain, Chieu Cave is a pretty steep one with more than 1,000 easy hiking steps. This will lead to a wide entrance of around 10m from where you can enter the impressive and cool cave of two floors stretching up to 150m.
The cave is impressed by its forested stalactite and stalagmite that the further you go, the more stunning the cave comes out.
Interacting with locals
Traveling in Mai Chau, the visitors would interfere with variable local interactions that is one of the most memorable things to do.
Observe their daily life
By walking and biking over the land, you will see the villagers work on the field, taking care of their plantations. Depending on the traveling period that you will meet the villagers planting, plowing, harvesting their products or catching fishes.
Staying with local is the best way to learn from their culture. Apart from the less fancy living condition, you would have chance to stay in a traditional house-on-stilts; experience their communal living style.
It’s not difficult to have a sleeping space in their house of only one room where all the activities of the family being taken place. Lac and Pom Coong Villages are places offer more homestay to visitors.
Early in the morning, the cocks will awake you on behalf of the alarm. Sometimesthelively naturalchoirswill have your excitement too.
Thai Dancing Performances
Local people call it Xoe Dancing, a folklore to describe locals’ love to each other and the wish for happiness as well as good crops.
The dancing is performed by the local people and the lively music of traditional drums and gongs are played by themselves too.
The locals will gather in the stilted houses and introducing the interesting traditional dances with some chances for audiences to dance and join them enjoying their dances.
Dinning local food
Local food is a wonderful aspect to experience local culture. There are not many dishes here, but they are all tasty and homey.
Com Lam is a rice dish cooked in the bamboo tubes. The sticky rice should be well washed and then soaked in water around 2 hours beforehand to become softer. Once the rice is ready, local people will have them stuffed into the bamboo tube collected from forest. The tube should be the long one up to around 30 cm. Then add a small amount of water and some topping like shreddedfresh coconut. Lastly, have it cooked on dim fire with constant turning or slipping over.
Com Lam is a specialty of Mai Chau and firstly mentioned whenever talk about the local cuisine. To savor this dish, local will eat with sesame salt.
The visitors not only can eat the Com Lam sold by local people is most of places; but also join with them making this rice tube at your own. This should be arranged in advance as the local need to help collecting the good bamboo tubes and even soak the sticky rice. Just contact Bonzer Tour and we will sort it out for you.
Grilled pork skews
The pigs are wildly raised here with natural food such as vegetable and farming products that make the pork fresher and tastier.
Local people will chop off the pork into square pieces; make them fermented by mixing with some local ingredients like sugar, salt, lemongrass, salt, chilly, turmeric etc. in a couple of hours; then have them grilled on charcoal.
Bitter bamboo shoots
Apart from their agriculture farming, the villagers get in the jungle very often for hunting and collecting food for the family. Bamboo shoots are the abundant one that local people collected them and cook soup or make fried-stirred dish with pork.
Despite of soaking the shoot in salted water, it’s still slightly bitter. The light bitterness and crispy of the shoots make people love them.
Can wine is a favored and popular drink to the local people in Mai Chau. The local people are reminded by this interestingly unique drinking style.
Drinking Can Wine shows the ethnic groups’ communal culture when every bodies share a pottery jar of wine by using long and super thin bamboo straw. The villagers also have to find a special piece of bamboo that provide this super long straw.
Can Wine is a type of wine made of sticky rice or cassava added with some other combination like herbal medicine, jungle fruits and so on. This make the wine taste a bit sweet and not immediate strong.
Drinking the wine together nearby kitchen fire is so cozy and help mount the family members and friends.
Brocade in Mai Chau
Brocade is one of the main jobs for the villagers to earn their livings. There sophisticated skills are showcased in the features of Thai women’s dresses, headscarf, waistband, etc.
As the customs that Thai women need to prepare the nicest dress for their wedding, sets of pillows and blankets presenting to her husband’s family, the women have to be skillful at brocade that their bright color products are quite attractive and lovely.
These days, Thai brocades are sold within the villages or in local markets.
It’s possible to call in a local house to learn from the way they do it from silkworm cocoon harvesting, silk reeling, threads dyeing by colors of natural plants, weaving with a wooden loom and then coming out beautiful patterns.
The local markets in Mai Chau are openedin some specific days of the week but not every day. To visit local market in Mai Chau, the travelers should make plan in advance with correct travel dates of the week matching with market organize schedules.
Pa Co Sunday market:
A miniature place to observe colorful culture of the minority lifestyle in Vietnam. Localpeople flood to this market sited 40km (25 miles) from Mai Chau every Sunday to buy food and things or sell their products.
The colorful hubbub is with dozens of shopping items which are fruits, vegetable, piggy, bamboo weaved baskets, brocade dresses, rice wine, sausages, etc. It’s also the place for the village boys and girls show up to find a partner.
The best way to travel from Mai Chau from Pa Co Market is by car or by motorbike via national route No. 6.
Other activities could be combined with Mai Chau:
- Excursion to Pu Luong Nature Reserve
- Trekking through jungle to Cuc Phuong National Park
- Reach Tea plantation in Moc Chau Town