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The Mai Châu district is a rural district in the Hòa Bình province in northwest Vietnam. Mai Chau’s rice paddies have made the region into a popular tourist attraction in recent years. Whilst a lot of people head to Sapa for rice terrace trekking, Mai Chau offers a slightly less touristy experience. Here’s my ultimate guide to spend 3 days enjoying Mai Chau Vietnam.
How to Get to Mai Chau
There are a lot of Mai Chau tours from Hanoi on offer. As much as I usually advocate for doing things off your own back to save money and just enjoy the satisfaction, I opted to take Mai Chau tour in order to enjoy the region. I booked a 3D/2N trip to Mai Chau with Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (VBH). The tour included three days worth of activies, transport there and back, accommodation and all your food. It cost 125USD (approx. £94 – May 2019 prices)
There is 140km to Mai Chau from Hanoi but the difficult roads mean the journey there will likely take around 3 and a half hours.
What to Take to Mai Chau
The weather in Mai Chau, like with the rest of Southeast Asia, is often humid. So you only need shorts and t-shirts when it comes to clothes. But here is a quick list of things I would advise you take with you:
- Enough clothes to last 3 days and 2 nights
- Toiletries – shampoo, soap, toothbrush etc.
- Sun Cream – even if it’s cloudy that UV will still get you!
- Swimwear – for the lake swim on the motorbike ride
- Mosquito spray – this is a massive one because there are bugs EVERYWHERE
- Bite and sting relief – you’re inevitably going to get bitten at some point, whether it’s overnight or on one of the activities
- Flip flops – ideal for just walking around the homestay
- Trainers / walking shoes / shoes you don’t mind if they get ruined – for the trek and the bike ride
- Phone, camera, chargers etc.
Mai Chau Accomodation
There are plenty of options of Mai Chau accommodation from shared homestays to private lodges. Mai Chau Nature Lodge and Mai Chau Ecolodge are a couple of the mot popular places to stay. These are more expensive, than a backpacker homestay though. Find your perfect Mai Chau homestay here.
I stayed at Miss Tan’s Homestay, the VBH property in Mai Chau. You stayed in large shared bungalows with other travellers and the property had hammocks overlooking the rice paddies – a very idyllic set up. Vietnamese family dinner for every meal was fantastic and they had great veggie options, although I’m surprised I didn’t look like a spring roll after!
Things to Do in Mai Chau
Cycle Through Mai Chau Valley
The first activity of day 1 was a bike ride around the rice paddies and into the local Mai Chau village. We made lots of stops along the way to walk through the rice paddies, watch a lady weaving scarves and to wander around a local market.
Mai Chau Trekking
Day 2 of the tour was a trek. We were driven an hour and a half from our homestay to the starting point of our Mai Chau trek, which took us through masses of amazing forestry, rice fields and villages. Along the way we met lots of local people from the small Thai minority tribes found in the Hòa Bình province. As Mai Chau isn’t saturated with tourism, the trek was really quiet and peaceful.
Visit a Chopstick Factory
After finishing the trek we were taken to a bamboo farm where there was a chopstick factory. Workers here had to produce at least 1 tonne of chopsticks a day. The rapid machinery here seemed to be producing hundreds of them in a couple of minutes.
Ride a Motorbike Around Mai Chau / Hòa Bình
As part of the tour, motorbikes were provided for you. This was my first time riding a motorbike but I really enjoyed it and somehow didn’t fall off (wait for my trip to Trang An for that!). The bikes were semi-automatic so you had to change gear a little bit. We made a stop to see the Go Lao Waterfall and then carried along to the Hòa Bình lake, for a swim. This day was definitely the highlight of my Mai Chau trip.
Review of the Mai Chau Tour
I thought the tour was really good value and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Mai Chau this way. Of course you could’ve explore Mai Chau more cheaply if you’d made your own way there, but I enjoyed the activities that I did. It was also the ideal experience for solo travellers who want to meet people because there were loads of other travellers to socialise with. Although the days were structured to a certain extent, there was still plenty of time to relax and have time to ourselves. Find out more about the VBH Mai Chau Tour here.
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