Mai Chau – Tranquil Green Valley in Northern Vietnam
Located in the Hoa Binh Province, Mai Chau is 170km from Hanoi and it’s in the southwest of the city. This rural area is where bright yellow and green rice fields grow amid a mountainous landscape. That makes Mai Chau is a perfect alternative to Sapa for any luxury Vietnam holiday on a limited time frame. The valley is the inland equivalent of the famous Ha Long Bay, with gigantic limestone hills rising dramatically from the valley floor. The main difference is that here the emerald green is not water but an ocean of lush rice paddies stretching as far as the eye can see.
After a 4-hour journey from the capital of Vietnam, the first thing you notice about Mai Chau is how quiet it is. The sounds of honking motorbikes and noisy truck engines are replaced by the shouts of farmers tending to their herds. And the dull clang of bells around the necks of water buffalo. All you can see are rice fields are bursting with color surrounding by the mountains. Also 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 on a path side and local children playing … All of these sound and images make the landscape painting much more vivid.
1. CYCLING IN MAI CHAU
With amazing landscape which is typical of northern mountainous Vietnam, the best activity to start your day is cycling slowly down the village paths. Without having to contend with city traffic, the biggest challenge cyclists may face will be staying focussed on the road. Those soaring limestone cliffs and rice paddies fields can be pretty distracting. You can always stop your ride between the green fields, deeply breathe in the pleasant fresh air. Letting the breeze through your hair and a few playful blades of grass tickle your feet… For a moment, you may recognize that by learning how to be happy with little things, you are learning how to be happy with life.
2. TREKKING THROUGH THE RICE FIELDS AND VILLAGES
Vietnam is home to a total of 54 minority tribes, and the Thái’s made this region their homeland 1000s of years ago. Much of the traditional costume has now been replaced with more Western apparel, but the way of living has changed little over the years. Local people who live in these villages (Ban in Vietnamese) are White Thai ethnicity. They make a living from farming, running homestays, and selling colorful handmade bags, clothes to visitors. Hiking to through the picturesque rice paddies, and beyond to villages that climb up the valley sides is a wonderful choice to immerse in the beauty of Mai Chau.
3. BOATING AND KAYAKING IN MAI CHAU
Not too far from the village’s center is Ho Binh Lake, which is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Vietnam with a storage capacity of nearly 9.5 billion cubic meters. Formed during the construction of Hoa Binh hydropower plant, Hoa Binh lake is called “Halong Bay on the mountain” with its wild natural beauty. Board on a boat or kayaking to discover the surroundings. The gorgeous beauty of the lake can be fully reflected whilst paddling among the tropical forest, karst mountains. And also numerous hill tribe villages make an experience of a lifetime
There are a number of activities you can enjoy while staying in Mai Chau, however, if you are not into biking or hiking, it’s fantastic to have leisure time, stretch your leg and enjoy the nature at your own pace.
There’s no way we can talk about Vietnam without mentioning its delicious cuisine. And here, food isn’t just fuel: it’s a way of life. And, due to the strong influence of the Thai ancestry in the region, it takes on a different flavor than the rest of Vietnam. Local favorites include Com Lam (bamboo-tube rice). You will find the delicious traditional Thai sauce cham cheo. Grilled pork meat marinated in spices then cooked on charcoal. And if you are feeling adventurous, try the distinctly local delicacy of stir-fried bees with bamboo shoots. Then washed down with a drink of home-produced wine delicious! The cuisine is just simple but delicious and nutritious.