This past weekend, we planned a little getaway to Mai Chau, which is located in North West Vietnam and is in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. There are a lot of local minorities in this area, especially White Thai people.
We stayed at the Mai Chau Ecolodge, which we chose because of their values:
- Close to nature;
- Environmental Protection;
- Responsible Tourism;
- Cultural Preservation.
There is a pick up service (for an extra fee) from your hotel in Hanoi, which picks you up at about 8 AM. The drive is supposed to be 3 hours, but on the way there it took us about 4.5 hours on pretty rough roads.
But it is really worth the drive. The place is beautiful, surrounded by a lot of nature and very peaceful.
The bungalows were built and are operated with ecological principles in mind; they are made from only natural materials and are built according to the local stilt house style traditional to the Thai ethnic culture.
We were in a "superior" room (which is the cheapest option) so our room was next to two others and had a garden view. We really loved the construction and the outdoor shower. However, maybe it was just due to our particular room, but it wasn't as quiet as we had hoped. In the evening, we could hear loud music from the nearby town and our neighbors (we were happy we had earplugs).
They say they value nature and protecting our planet. However, although we respect their efforts, it isn't really clear in what ways they are eco-friendly.
We are not sure how eco friendly their pool is (if it is at all). We know there are such things as sustainable or eco pools, but nothing was mentioned about it. However we enjoyed it anyway;
They have two large glass water bottles which they labeled "eco water", but they also sell many drinks & water in plastic bottles;
There were no recycling facilities in the room…that is something to think about;
They offer towels near the pool so it would be easy to pick one every time you go for a swim, so it would be good to encourage people to only use one pool towel;
The shampoos and products are not organic / chemical-free etc.
That being said, it is a pretty good step to find a business like this in Vietnam and it isn't a big chain. We would love to go back someday, spend more than one night there and hopefully see the improvements made.
The staff was very friendly. We loved that Mai Chau Ecolodge supports the local minorities by hiring 90% of people from the village of Mai Chau with mostly Thai, Dzao and H'Mong minorities that live locally. Most of the staff were farmers before working for them. They usually have not had a formal hotel training and are recruited and trained directly by Mai Chau Ecolodge. Which is a great way to support the local community and economy (by creating local jobs) and is a key component to responsible tourism.
There are quite a few activities you can enjoy during your stay: go to the spa and get a massage, ride a bike through the rice fields, visit the ethnic villages, take a cooking class or just relax.
Pictures by Emma