The Mai Chau Valley provides an alternative for travellers who don’t have time to make it all the way up to Sapa yet are keen to experience rural Northern Vietnam, where hill tribe culture dominates. The White Thai, the most prevalent local group, nowadays adopt dress similar to the Vietnamese but they retain their cultural uniqueness – you’ll certainly notice their distinct personal style. There are several other minority groups including H’Muong, Dzao and Tay inhabiting the region’s picturesque valleys, rolling hills, shimmering paddy fields and bustling villages. The Sunday market brings a lot of people from the surrounding countryside into Mai Chau itself.
Just 80 miles south west of the capital – a 4 hour drive – the region offers some excellent trekking and easy cycling. It really is an idyllic valley and it’s a shame that many travellers only come here for a day trip. Spending a night here, or even longer, is recommended, particularly for those who packed their walking boots. The genuinely warm welcome is a highlight for those visiting out-lying villages, with family meals served to guests by hill tribe families. The region is famous for handicrafts, inparticular embroidered clothing.
The town also serves as a convenient staging post for those travelling overland into Vietnam from Laos (or vice versa).
In general Mai Chau enjoys decent weather throughout the year – it rains less and humidity is lower than other Northern Vietnamese cites.