How to get to Mai Chau
Mai Chau is easily reachable from Hanoi in just 3 hours with a limousine bus/minivan for only 150.000 VND ($6.5). If you want to go super cheap, you can take the local bus, which costs a mere 100.000 VND ($4). Another option is driving there by motorbike.
You can also book a tour to Mai Chau:
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What to do in Mai Chau
Bathe in Go Lao waterfall
Go Lao waterfall is just a 15 minutes drive away from Mai Chau towards the Hoa Binh lake. It’s one of the nicest waterfalls we’ve been to in Vietnam, one of the reasons being that you can bathe in it.
The waterfall is close to the road, and it will take only a few minutes to climb down some stairs before reaching it. There is also a nice hut where you can hide from the sun or have a picnic.
PRICE: There should be a ticket that’s about a dollar for parking and entrance fee, but we parked straight in front of the path that leads to the waterfall, and nobody asked us anything.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t forget to take a swimming suit and a towel. Bathing here is so refreshing, especially during the hot and humid summer.
Cycle through rice fields of Mai Chau
Mai Chau is a valley full of rice fields, so one of the main things to do is to cycle through the rice fields. The paths are smooth, and they circle the whole area. We went in all directions, and we loved it.
TRAVEL TIP: Almost every homestay should have free bikes included, or a rental for a small fee (around 20K VND or a bit less than a dollar).
Enjoy the view from Mai Chau flagpole
Sitting above the Mai Chau valley is the flagpole viewpoint from which you can observe the whole valley below. Many people come here to chill and enjoy the view.
Explore the Ba Khan area
Ba Khan is an area we stumbled upon while doing an extended ride along the Hoa Binh lake upon leaving the Go Lao waterfall (TIP: there is also a nice view of the waterfall if you continue a bit down the road). We drove through the villages on the plateau there, and the whole area looked beautiful. The road is perfect for seeing a bit more of the local life. 🙂
Admire the mighty Hoa Binh Lake
We haven’t explored the Hoa Binh Lake much, except for driving next to it for a short while, but it looks fascinating, and we hope to do it at another point in time. It’s enormous, and it reminds us a bit of Ha Long bay.
Stop and enjoy the view at one of the nice viewpoints (thank you to our friend TTP for marking them on google maps) on the way to Ba Khan.
Meet ethnic minorities at Pa Co Market
Your visit to Mai Chau isn’t complete without visiting Pa Co Market. It’s located between Mai Chau and Moc Chau, and every Sunday morning, it becomes a gathering point for the Hmong and Thai ethnic minorities. Pa Co Market is a must-visit location! Try some of the classical what we call “fried market pastries” there, you will love it!
TRAVEL TIP: Rent a motorbike to get here. The road is great and the views are amazing!
TRAVEL TIP 2: Get there early to catch the most action! The ideal time would be around 7 or 8 am at the latest. And keep in mind that it takes around 45 minutes to get there from Mai Chau.
Visit the Lac Village
Lac Village is where you find stilted house homestays of the Thai ethnic minority. It’s also where you can see their traditional crafts and buy some souvenirs or enjoy some lovely home-cooked food.
Where to stay in Mai Chau
You have several options for staying in Mai Chau. You can stay in a traditional stilt house, but there are also hostels, hotels, and lodges.
We stayed at the Mai Chau Hostel Lounge Bar Restaurant in a lovely room for almost a week, and it had everything we needed. Highly recommended as you can stay in the dorm in the stilt house or a private room like we did. The host was terrific, and Arijana still daydreams of her pancakes.
Where to eat in Mai Chau
There are many places to eat in Mai Chau, but as vegetarians, we only frequented the vegetarian Quán 3 Chị Em, which translates to Three Sisters Shop. This family restaurant has tasty, fresh, and affordable vegetarian and vegan food. Three Sisters Shop is where we had our first banana flower salad and fell in love with it.
Vegan or vegetarian?You HAVE to read this! You will be surprised.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vietnam.
Things we didn’t do
If we weren’t stuck to the toilet for 2 days while in Mai Chau, we would have probably done these things and more, but what can you do… 😀
Hike to Chieu Cave
Read any review online about the Chieu Cave, and you will realize why we didn’t dare do the hike to the cave with a bad stomach. It takes over 1000 steps to get to it! The photos look pretty cool, and it supposedly also offers a great view of the valley.
Hiking in Mai Chau
There are a few hikes that you can do in the Mai Chau area where you can explore the beautiful nature and village life.
Watch an ethnic show/performance
You can watch a show of the local Thai where they perform their unique dances. We saw one of the performances when passing a hotel nearby, and it looked really cool.
What is the best time to visit Mai Chau
The best time to visit Mai Chau, in general, is in April, May, September, and October when the weather is the most pleasant, with not that much rain.
In the winter months, starting from November and ending at the beginning of March, you won’t see any nice rice fields, and it’s going to be a bit colder, so plan your trip accordingly.
Best time for rice fields in Mai Chau
The best time for seeing green rice fields in Mai Chau is from April to the end of June and from August to October.
The best time for seeing golden rice fields in Mai Chau is just before the first harvest in June and right before the second one in October.
Is Mai Chau worth visiting?
Although Mai Chau doesn’t offer as many things to do as some other places we’ve been to in Vietnam, it’s still very much worth visiting. It’s a beautiful valley with captivating rice fields and high mountains all around. It’s an excellent location for people from Hanoi that come to Mai Chau during the weekend for a well-deserved city escape in nature.
How many days to spend in Mai Chau?
To relax and do everything without too big of a rush, we suggest at least three days in Mai Chau. Plan your trip around the weekend if you’d like to visit the Pa Co Market on a Sunday morning.
To see a bit more of the atmosphere of Mai Chau, check out our video on YouTube.