When the sun hits the lush greenery of Mai Chau, most visitors feel like they’ve walked into one of Vietnam’s most perfect scenes. It’s not hard to see why: swaying rice paddies and thick jungle lay across its valley floors, while evergreen limestone mountains rise impressively on either side. This is true Vietnam in all of its glory – wild, pure and profoundly Vietnamese. With so many reasons to love Mai Chau, it is hard to whittle the list down to just 5, but follow Mai Chau Ecolodge as we take a glance at some of the best that Mai Chau has to offer.
Mai Chau Ecolodge offers half-day, full-day and 2-day tours of Mai Chau via trekking and cycling.
The Great Outdoors
Mai Chau certainly puts the great in the ‘great outdoors’. In terms of northern Vietnam, it is one of the greenest and most beautiful tropical places to visit, with an enchanting landscape that puts it amongst Southeast Asia’s best outdoor destinations. It is hard to refute this on an exploration of Mai Chau’s expansive jungle, which hugs the sides of walking and cycling paths throughout the region.
Take to Mai Chau by foot or bike and you will find that the beauty unveils itself around every corner. The downward cascade of golden rice paddies on sloped hillsides is high up on people’s site lists when they visit Vietnam, and Mai Chau certainly does not disappoint.
Trekking and cycling are hugely popular activities in Mai Chau for the mixture of nature and architecture that visitors can find. Each path takes explorers through villages dotted with stilt houses, buffalo-drawn carts, and smiling locals; creating not only one of the best reasons to love Mai Chau, but also Vietnam as a whole.
© carsten ten Bink
The locals of Vietnam often make the country a place that visitors fall in love with. This is typified in Mai Chau, where farmers, shopkeepers, and craftspeople are eager to share their corner of paradise with foreign guests. Residents of the valley’s quaint villages belong to a variety of different ethnic groups, each with a strong individual language and culture stemming from thousands of years of living uncomplicated and unchanging lives.
The main ethnic group occupying the valleys is the Thai. These are warmly welcoming people with traditions of folk songs and vivacious festivals that stretch back as far as anyone knows, creating an endearing culture that repeatedly brings visitors back to the Thai’s lush homes. Along with H’mong tribe villages and Dao tribe villages, the Thai live in gorgeous stilt houses raised above the floor, where generations of family members have lived beforehand.
Guests at the Mai Chau Ecolodge can get a grounding in Mai Chau’s ethnic culture with traditional dance shows every night. These are performed by our wonderful staff, all of whom come from different ethnic backgrounds and display that proudly in their distinctive uniforms.
No list of reasons to love Mai Chau would be complete without a look at its signature food, which contributes beautifully to the incredible appeal of Vietnamese cuisine. From looking at the scenery, one could be forgiven for thinking that Mai Chau’s entire diet is based on rice, but in actual fact, the resourceful locals here have had a long time to spice up their diets with the products of their surroundings.
One great example of this is a classic dish for locals but an experimental one for foreigners – stir-fried bees and sour bamboo shoots. Bees are one of the more unconventional meats for visitors to Mai Chau; those unwilling to try can rest assured that grilled pork, beef, and chicken is always readily available. Colourful rice cooked in a bamboo shoot is also popular, as is corn and ginger rice wine.
The best souvenirs are the ones with personal attachment, and nothing encapsulates your memorable time in Mai Chau quite like a brocade. Brocades are lovingly made by women in the traditional way, by feeding silk through a loom in a process that takes several days. Silk is first collected from the silkworms before being reeled through the loom, where the weaver will imprint her pattern, before steaming the brocade and dyeing it with the colourful fruits and plants of the forest.
All brocades are part of the personal portfolio of each woman in the village. They are expected by marital age to have weaved most of what they need for married life, including clothes and bed linens. The artistic flourish to these possessions is shown in the brocade. It puts that villager’s individual stamp on their clothing, which is something that tourists have become fascinated with in recent years. Because of this, ‘weaving villages’ such as Nhot and PomCoong make a decent income off selling tribal brocades to foreign visitors.
It will come as no surprise, after reading of the many different cultures here, that one of the best reasons to love Mai Chau is because of its wealth of traditional parties. In addition to Tết(Vietnamese New Year) in February, villagers come from miles around for different festivals throughout the year, each specific to a certain ethnic group and deeply rooted in their identity.
Every festival is full of traditional dancing, music, games and rice wine for the older folk. These are usually multi-day festivals thrown to celebrate harvests and to honour the various ancestors of villagers, taking place throughout the year and igniting a great community spirit.The Xen Muong and Xen Xo Pho Phonare the most famous festivals of the Thai group, while the Dao and Tay groups share a raucous festival called Long Tong.
Those were our 5 reasons to love Mai Chau – one of Vietnam’s most alluring destinations. The Mai Chau Ecolodge offers award-winning and eco-friendly accommodation for those looking to explore the green and gold of Mai Chau for themselves, with professional-run tours helping you to get the most out of your holiday in paradise.