There are not as many fascinating tourist attractions as its “neighbor” – Moc Chau but Mai Chau Valley still attracts a large number of tourists and lovers of backpacking tourism due to its poetic beauty, cool fresh air, cultural diversity, and distinctive cuisine.
In the rest of this post, I will provide you essential information to get a fun trip of exploring the beauty, culture, and cuisine and all Mai Chau travel guide.
The most beautiful time to travel Mai Chau
Because of a valley, the climate in Mai Chau is quite mild, cool, and pleasant. In this place, the winter is not too cold and the summer is not too hot. For that’s reason, you can travel Mai Chau whenever in year. However, the most beautiful and worth time to explore Mai Chau is:
• October to December: This period is the beginning winter in Mai Chau so the air is quite cool and pleasant especially you will be admired a great spectacle that is pink cherry blossom and white plum blossom in color covering the whole Mai Chau. It’s probably that if anyone witnessed the spectacle – “the sky of white coffee flower in the Center Highland”, they will also have a strong impression with the images of a spotless white and pure Mai Chau.
• March to April: The weather is quite pleasant. It’s time of blossoming Purple Bauhinia (hoa ban) which characterizes the Northwestern mountains and forests bringing a distinct beauty for this place. In particular, in this period, there are quite many festivals of ethnic minorities, especially Thai peoples.
How to get to Mai Chau
Mai Chau is about 140km from Hanoi and 60km from Hoa Binh towards Northwest so it’s very easy to transport. Thus, you can use either coach, car or motorbike for traveling. Below is a detailed instruction about transport to Mai Chau:
• Travel by personal vehicles such as motorcycles, cars:
Let you follow the route Ha Noi – Xuan Mai – Luong Son – Hoa Binh – Muong Khen – Mai Chau. Along the Highway 6 is the fastest and shortest to come to Mai Chau. If don’t want to follow this route, you can select following the Highway 12B. It will, however, take more your time and don’t have many attractions along the way.
• Travel by coaches:
You are able to come to My Dinh Station or Giap Bat Station to get on one to Mai Chau (Hoa Binh). There are the following coach companies: Tuan Dung, Hoang Thao, Ha Loan. When arriving at Tong Dau fork, get off and continue getting on a motorcycle taxi to come to the center of Mai Chau Valley. The fare of coach is about 90.000 – 110.000VND/ person depending on each different company.
• How to get around Mai Chau:
Because of quite the small Mai Chau Valley, its attractions and villages are also located near together. Thus, the most convenient means to discover Mai Chau is bicycle. All motels and homestays here have bicycle rental service with price 20.000 – 25.000VND/ a bicycle so you can set your mind at rest. In case you travel Mai Chau by motorcycle, keep in mind to bring gasoline for reserve.
Where to stay in Mai Chau
Like other tourist destinations, Mai Chau is a well-known attraction in Hoa Binh. That’s why the system of hotel in Mai Chau is very rich and varied especially in 2 tourist villages: Lac Village and Poom Coong Village so you don’t need to worry about place to sleep and rest. Depend on the budget as well as your trip, let you choose for yourself the most appropriate place.
There are two methods: staying hotels, motels or staying house on stilts with locals to experience the lives of people here. If you just want to relax, let you opt for an area of villas or resort. In case you travel in a group, let you choose a house on stilts to save and get interesting experiences.
A special thing in Mai Chau is that you don’t need a reservation as the majority of tourists here just stay one night then they will move to Moc Chau or come back Ha Noi. That’s why you can directly book a room when arriving at here. If you, however, travel with a big group over 20 people, you should book rooms in advance.
Most of them are well-equipped, good-quality facilities with an affordable price. The average price of a common room in the house on stilts is 50.000VND/ person/ night. If you would like to have a lunch in the hotel, price will be 80.000 – 100.000VND/ person/ night
Address: Chieng Chau Village, Mai Chau
Price: $105 – $138
This is a good point because it is located near to the center so you can easily and freely move other attractions. Aside from great service, each room comes with a private balcony for viewing the scenery around the pool, bar next to the pool, motorcycle, bicycle rental service so that you can move to other attractions easily.
Mai Chau Villas:
Address: Cha Lang Valley, Mai Mich, Mai Chau
Price: $57 – $94
Located in Cha Lang Valley, Mai Chau Villas is nestled under the mist of the northwest mountains and forest. This villa provides a lot of services for your more attractive trip such as visiting caves, waterfalls, Lac Village, the exchange of local culture, and many activities meeting the demands of tourists such as harvesting, fishing, learning how to cook. Besides, when coming here, you will be enjoyed the excellent relaxing services of hotel such as pool, restaurant, coffee shop, and bicycle rental service…
Mai Chau Lodge:
Address: Mai Chau Town, Hoa Binh
Price: $40 – $43
This hotel is famous for perfect services, beautiful view, and convenient location where is near to the center of the city so that you can easily reach other attractions in the city. The hotel provides some services such as pool, massage, hot tub, airport shuttle, and bicycle rental service…
Mai Chau Valley View Hotel:
Address: Mai Chau Town
Price: $29 – 39
It is located in a convenient position for transport especially this airy hotel has beautiful view. What’s more, there are many other services such as bicycle rental service, restaurant, and coffee shop…
House on stilts 20 in Ban Lac:
Address: Ban Lac, Mai Chau
Price: $5 – $15
Its beautiful location is a convenience to reach other attractions. This place offers services such as bicycle rental service, karaoke room, trekking tourism, coffee shops… Nha San So 20 Ban Lac will be a smart choice for tourists to get an interesting and attractive trip in Mai Chau.
Where to visit in Mai Chau
As mentioned above, Mai Chau doesn’t have too many tourist destinations but it is still very attractive because all these are very beautiful.
Lac Village, Poom Coong Village:
These are Mai Chau’s largest and busiest tourist villages. If you want to book a hotel or homestay, enjoy the specialties in Mai Chau, buy souvenirs and explore culture, life, and festivals of locals in Mai Chau, let you come to these villages.
In Ban Lac, you will be seen the roofs of houses on stilts looming in the Northwestern mountains and forests. Come to this tourist village in Mai Chau, you will be stayed in one of the pretty houses on stilts, enjoyed the delicious dishes of the Northwestern cuisine especially you will be cycling around to admire the view of houses on stilts in the middle of the fields of corn and rice. Stay overnight in Lac Village, you are taken part in a lot of fun, and attractive activities. At night, it’s also very happy and interesting for you to see the beautiful Thai girls in dance or Vietnamese bamboo dance (Nhay Sap).
You shouldn’t also ignore Poom Coong and its pristine natural scenery. Because the tourism industry here still hasn’t developed, its landscape is unspoiled. That’s why when traveling Poom Coong Village, you will be experienced the life of locals in Mai Chau, moreover, this is an ideal location for relaxing.
Mo Luong Cave and Chieu Cave:
They are Mai Chau’s 2 big and distinctive caves. The most special feature of both Caves is that their thousand-year-old stalactites which are in many shapes and beautiful colors. I am sure that they are as beautiful as stalactites in Phong Nha – Ke Bang.
This beauty is very attractive with lovers of discovery. If you haven’t visited these caves, it doesn’t consider that you have traveled Mai Chau. Its location is not too far the center of Mai Chau Town so you can easily move to here to visit and explore. Let you quickly discover the mysterious beauty of these caves. You will be surprised for sure.
Thung Khe Pass:
If want to enter Mai Chau, you have to pass this Pass. This road is very dangerous but extremely beautiful where all lovers of backpacking tourism would like to experience at least once. When standing on the top, you can enjoy the whole scene of Mai Chau Valley in your sight. In particular, you will be enjoyed the feeling of “4 seasons in only one day” in this place. Along the road, there are some small shops of Com Lam, Grilled Corn so you can rest and eat something in the Pass or buy some special items as souvenirs.
Other tourist destinations: Van Village (Ban Van), Nhot Village (Ban Nhot), paddy-field, fields of vegetables are also attractions you should visit, in the event of your free time or wanting to take pictures.
What to eat in Mai Chau
You can eat right at the motel, hotel where you stay. If not, you can come to Mai Chau Market to enjoy a varied and rich cuisine of Mai Chau. However, in my own experience, you had better eat at the hotel especially homestay where you stay because the homeowner will cook for you the specialties of Mai Chau coming with right taste and cheap price. Mai Chau Market doesn’t open every day.
The following dishes will definitely captivate any tourists when traveling Mai Chau:
Skewers of grilled wild boar:
After wild boar is grilled well, the processor will cut it into small pieces then marinate them with many kinds of various spices: chili, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, and leaves of clausena indica. After leaving them within 30 minutes, let you put all into skewers and grill on a charcoal stove until the meat is browned well.
Steamed Glutinous Rice:
This dish is very colorful and attractive in Mai Chau so you can’t refuse when seeing it the first time. Glutinous rice in Mai Chau is a very special kind which is more fragrant and more glutinous than the normal type. For that reason, when cooking, the taste of glutinous rice in Mai Chau is also distinctive. There are a lot of tourists who want to buy this kind of glutinous rice to cook steamed glutinous rice that’s more delicious. This is considered as an indispensable dish of Thai peoples. In particular, it has the taste of mountains and forest.
Rice in bamboo tube (Com Lam):
Mentioning to the typical dishes in Mai Chau, we can’t ignore this well-known Com Lam which many peoples in the Northwest love. However, each area has a distinct taste and Com Lam in Mai Chau is also something’s special. Rice in Mai Chau which is so soft is grilled in bamboo tubes so there is fragrant of the northwestern mountains and forest. Soft Com Lam is a popular dish with tourists.
Stir-fried Beef with Bamboo Shoots:
This is a specialty in Mai Chau that has the greasy taste of young bees as well as the sourness of bamboo shoots and the piquancy of chili. Diners can never forget this strong flavor. It’s worth to try this dish at least once in your life. If you haven’t enjoyed it that means you haven’t yet traveled Mai Chau really.
The reference price of kinds of foods which are processed or unprocessed in Mai Chau as follows:
• The unprocessed Man Pork: 150.000VND/ kg – the processed one on demand: 210.000VND/ kg
• The unprocessed Doi Chicken: 150.000VND/ kg – the processed one (grilled, steamed): 180.000VND/ kg
• A 4-liter jar of rice wine: 70.000VND
• Mai Ha Alcohol: 50.000VND/ liter
• Forest honey: 600.000VND/ liter.
Notes when traveling Mai Chau
• Before visiting houses of Thai peoples, you have to ask for permission in advance. You are just entered their house when getting their permission. Pay attention to the altar of Thai’s ancestors to avoid turning back or foot on their altar.
• You need to prepare tidy clothing for moving more convenient. If traveling in summer, you ought to bring long-sleeved shirts to avoid fog at night and cold weather. Also, don’t forget to bring insect repellent and some other personal belongings.