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If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi during your travel to Vietnam and have a few extra days in your itinerary, you may be interested in spending some time in the more rural climes of the north! While most travelers head to Sapa for their mountain getaway, there’s another excellent visit only 135 kilometers southwest of the capital city.
Located in the Hoa Binh Province of Vietnam, Mai Chau is a quiet, countryside retreat with attractions very similar to Sapa (beautiful landscapes and ethnic minority groups). With fewer tourists than Sapa (and no long, overnight train ride) visitors may be happy to find a more “authentic” hill tribe experience here.
Rice Paddies and Stilt Houses
Wedged between two precipitous cliffs, Mai Chau boasts picture-perfect landscapes that change beautifully with the seasons. Lush green rice paddies in the spring, beautiful golden colors in the fall- there’s a photo opportunity around every corner! Also famous for its unique accommodation, visitors have the opportunity to stay in “stilt houses,” built and managed by local ethnic peoples. Crafted of bamboo and timber, these traditional houses protect inhabitants from flood waters/water damage and act as temporary shelters for animals as well… an experience well worth having!
The Local Inhabitants
Mai Chau is famous for its different hill tribe peoples. While there are over 7 ethnic groups residing within Mai Chau, the Ban Lac people and Black and White Thais are the most prevalent. Spending an evening in their home or simply interacting with them can prove to be the highlight of a trip to Mai Chau… expect some traditional dancing and maybe even a taste of their local rice wine!!
Getting Around Mai Chau
During your stay in Mai Chau, you’ll find that the preferred means of transport is bicycle. The best way to explore the quiet region, riding along the paddies, tiny lanes and through the quaint villages you’re guaranteed to bump into some beautiful sites and cool experiences along the way. Don’t forget to sample some local delicacies, take in the surrounding mountain ranges and get a feel for what local life is like here! While some villages are a bit more secluded and quiet, there are others that offer gift shops, restaurants, cafés and even some nightlife options- so don’t worry about not having enough to do!
When to Visit Mai Chau
Mai Chau is a beautiful place to visit from October to April. In the autumn, visitors can capture the golden beauty of the rice harvest and in the springtime, rice paddies are swimming in vibrant greens. Outside this period, visitors may find the weather a bit difficult to bear between heavy rains and intense periods of heat and cold.
It only takes 3-4 hours to reach Mai Chau from Hanoi, so visitors can book both short and long stays in the region without too much travel time. A wonderful “step back in time,” the locals, landscapes, attractions and old-world feel will captivate and enchant all visitors!
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