A Guide To Exploring Mai Chau, Vietnam

When you search for images about Vietnam, among the photos that will most likely show up are stunning images of bright green rice paddy fields. Some of these images were taken from Mai Chau, a charming rural village in the northern part of Vietnam, about three hours away from the capital city of Hanoi.

Set in a tranquil valley that’s surrounded beautifully by hills, Mai Chau is a great place to unwind and experience the laidback lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. If you’re heading to this beautiful village soon, here’s a guide to help you with.

Apply for a Vietnam Visa

Getting visa on arrival at the airport of Vietnam
Getting visa on arrival at the airport of Vietnam

Most foreigners visiting Vietnam will need a Visa (Please see who is exempted from Vietnam visa  to make sure you are require visa or not). If you’re from a country that needs a visa to Vietnam, you should apply for your visa ahead of time at evisa-vietnam.com. This will save you from the hassles and of course, it’s very important that you come prepared. The last thing you want is to get turned away at the airport just because you don’t possess the necessary documents to enter the country.

When you apply for your visa at evisa-vietnam.com, you just need to fill in the form and make a payment afterward. Then wait for an email for the pre-approval visa letter that you need to print and present to the immigration upon arriving at the airport. Visit the website for more information on this (Where to pick up visa on arrival).

How To Get to Mai Chau?

Since Mai Chau is located in the northern part of Vietnam, it’s a good idea to start your journey in Hanoi, which is around 140 km away from Mai Chau. From Hanoi, you’ll have many options to get to Mai Chau. If you want a comfortable and convenient way to get there, you can hire a private taxi that should cost you around $40. There are also private minibuses that travel to Mai Chau and you can book them through your hotel and some operator companies in Hanoi. This should cost you around $20, which is way cheaper than hiring a private taxi.

If you are on a budget, your best bet is to take the local bus at Hanoi’s My Dinh Bus Station, which will only cost you around $3 each! It’s the cheapest but not the most comfortable option. You can also expect a much longer travel time that could take up to 5 hours!

What To Do In Mai Chau?

Cycling around the Ban Lac, Mai Chau, Hoa Binh
Cycling around the Ban Lac, Mai Chau, Hoa Binh

Aside from admiring the scenic views, there are many activities that you can do in Mai Chau, depending on the kind of traveler that you are. Here are some of the most recommended activities:

  • Explore the village on a bike – if you’re into adventure, consider renting a bike and pedal your way across the countryside. You’ll be passing by the scenic rice fields and local villages with the scenic mountain views at the backdrop. Consider hiring a local guide who will guide you through the biking trails.
  • Sleep in a Tai homestay – among the most interesting things that you’ll encounter in Mai Chau are the traditional Tai stilt houses where the locals live. You can choose to stay at these houses if you want a more authentic way to experience the local culture.
  • Visit Mai Chau’s caves – there are caves in Mai Chau that are definitely worth exploring. For instance, the Mo Luong Cave stretches to 1,600 feet and goes towards the interior of Mount Phu Ka. Another is the Chieu Cave, which can be accessed through a 1,200-step staircase. It’s a good idea to hire a local guide when exploring these caves.
  • Sample the local food – traditional Tai cuisines are different from those local foods that you’ve eaten in the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Their dishes often consist of steamed sticky rice, grilled meats, bamboo shoots, etc. If you’re going to stay with a local family in a Tai house, you’ll most likely be served with a traditional Mai Chau feast.

More Tips to Keep In Mind

When planning for your trip to Mai Chau, there are some things that you need to take into consideration. First, think of the weather. Mai Chau’s location, which is in the northern part of the country means that it will experience extreme temperatures. From January to February, the place experiences dry and cold winter while from June to September, the place will experience hot summers with the temperature reaching to as high as 30°C.

Considering the weather, the best time to visit Mai Chau is during fall and spring. From the middle of February to May, the village experiences pleasant weather and flowers blossom during this time, resulting in a more scenic experience.

Whether you’re traveling solo or in a group, it’s always a good idea to hire a local guide. The mountainous village can be difficult to navigate especially if it’s your first time. So for your safety and to avoid getting lost, it may be best to hire a knowledgeable local guide.