Mai Chau Valley
Mai Chau is the heart of a beautiful valley that is a world away from the hustle of Hanoi. The modern village is an unappealing sprawl, but as you emerge on the rice fields and rural living is transformed into a real paradise. It’s a stunning area, and the most people here are ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China.
Although most local no longer wear traditional dress, the Thai women are masterful weavers who ensure that there is plenty of traditional – style clothing to buy in the village centre. You will see women weaving on looms under or inside their houses in the village. Much of the silk looks similar to that seen in Laos. The Thai of Mai Chau are less likely to employ strong-arm sales tactics than their H’mong counterparts in Sapa: Polite bargaining is the norm rather than endless haggling.
Mai Chau is 135km from Hanoi and just 5km south of Tong Dau junction on High Way 6. There’s no direct public transport to Mai Chau from Hanoi; however, buses to nearby Hoa Binh (25,000 d, two hours) are plentiful. From Hoa Binh there are several scheduled buses to Mai Chau (20,000d, two hours) daily. Usually these stop at Tong Dau junction; a xe om (motorbike taxi) from there to Mai Chau proper will cost about 15,000d.
Theoretically, foreigners must pay a 5000d entry to Mai Chau. There is a toll booth at the state-run guesthouse on the “main” road. More often than not, there is nobody there to collect the fee.
THE POPULAR TRAIL (Departing from Hanoi)
Day 1: You leave Hanoi for Mai Chau at 8.30 am. After 4-hr beautiful bus ride you will reach Pom Coong, a village of the Thai ethnic minority in Mai Chau valley. After a lunch in Pom Coong Village, you take light walk on village road to Xo, a village of the Thai ethnic minority. Dinner and overnight in a local house.
Day 2: After breakfast at the home stay you say goodbye to the host and walk to Buoc Village. On the way you would see villagers working on rice paddies and children going to school. Lunch on the way and in the afternoon, you will reach the beautiful village of Van. Homestay overnight.
Day 3: After breakfast at the home stay, you will walk on village roads which run between mountains and rice paddies. Reaching place for lunch stop, Van Mai village, around 11:30am. Lunch in a local house before taking a bus ride back to Hanoi. You would arrive in Hanoi around 5.30pm. Trip completes in Hanoi.
WHEN TO TREK
The best time to visit Mai Chau – Pu Luong is any time. One of the principal tourist lures of the area is its equitable climate. There aren’t any extremes of climate here, nor are there extremes of temperatures here. What you have are three principal seasons, hot, rainy and cold, with variations in temperature and the rainfall.
THE TREKKING DAY
A typical trekking day start at about 8.30 am after breakfast. Lunch times can vary depending on the terrain. We aim to reach the next overnight stop by 4.30 or 5. During the trek we will have short breaks for rest, snack and photographing.