Mai Chau (Mai Châu) is a beautiful valley in Hoa Binh. It is located in the middle of the road from Hanoi city to Moc Chau. Mai Chau – Hoa Binh is famous for its beautiful and majestic landscape as well as diverse culture.
Most tourists spend at least 1 day in Mai Chau before getting to Moc Chau. In this article, I will provide you with a preliminary schedule for a trip in Mai Chau.
What to do in Mai Chau
– Trekking or cycling around Thai villages. Some popular villages among tourists include Lac village (bản Lác), Pom Coong, Van (bản Văn), or Nhot (bản Nhót).
– Visiting Chieu cave (hang Chiều) and Mo Luong cave (hang Mỏ Luông)
– If you want to explore more, you will need a motorbike. You can go along route 6 to Song Da hydroelectric lake (Hồ thủy điện Sông Đà).
– In the evening, you may make a campfire with other tourists and pay some money for a performance of Thai traditional dance by Thai people.
Homestay in Mai Chau
Every time visiting Mai Chau, I choose homestays. There are many homestays in the villages so you don’t need to book in advance. The price is about $3/person/night.
Mai Chau travel itinerary
1. By bus in 2 or 3 days
– On the first day, you catch a bus to Son La (Sơn La) at My Dinh bus station (Hanoi). The fare is about $5 – $6/person. There are many buses to Mai Chau in a day, but you should start early at 7 a.m or 7.30 a.m. You will arrive at Tong Dau junction (Ngã ba Tòng Đậu) at 10.30 a.m or 11 a.m. Then you may catch a motortaxi to Lac village (bản Lác) or Pom Coong. You should stay at a homestay in Pom Coom with the average price of about $3.
After choosing a homestay, you should book meals with the host of your homestay. In the afternoon of the first day, rent a bike ($1 – $3) or walk (with a guide, $5) around the villages (Lac village, Pom Coom, Van village, Nhot village). At night, you can pay the local people for a traditional dance performance. The price ranges from $30 to $35/show.
– On the second day, trek to Mo Luong cave (hang Mỏ Luông). The cave is not far from the highway and opposite Mai Chau Lodge. From Mo Luong cave, you can climb to Chieu cave (hang Chiều) without paying extra money. This cave is on the mountain, so you have to climb for about 2km (1,3 miles). From the top, you can have an overall view of Mai Chau valley. When getting down the mountain, you can visit the market of district, which is not far away. At noon, back to you homestay for lunch if you have booked in advance.
If you travel for only 2 days, in the afternoon, you should get back to Tong Dau junction and catch a bus to return to Hanoi.
– Third day. If your trip lasts 3 days, you can adjust the schedule a little bit as following:
On the second day, in the morning, you should rent a motorbike to visit Hoa Binh hydroelectric lake. Remember to bring some food for lunch. Then, at noon, find a place to rest and have lunch with the food you bring along. In the afternoon, visit Bao La and Chieng Ve villages. It often takes about 4 hours to reach the two villages and get back.
On the third day, folow the schedule of the second day of a 2-day trip as mentioned above (visit Mo Luong and Chieu cave, etc.)
2. By motorbike in 3 days
According to my experiences, traveling to Mai Chau by motorbike is very difficult for foreign tourists. One of the reason is that foreign tourists are not familiar with Vietnam traffic rules and may be stopped by the police along the road to Mai Chau. However, if you can, I’m sure it will be an unforgettable experience for you.
– On the first day, you should start at 7h30 and take route 6 to Luong Son (Lương Sơn). Remember to be careful as there might be police on the road passing Xuan Mai town (Xuân Mai). After reaching Luong Son town, keep going for a short distance and take a turn at Kim Boi (Kim Bôi). The landscape in Kim Boi is fairly pretty.
If you want to visit Hoa Binh hydroelectric lake, don’t take a turn at Kim Boi. Instead, go pass Hoa Binh city to watch the grand dam. Then keep going and you will arrive at Cun Slope (Dốc Cun). There are often traffic police on the road before entering Cun Slope, so you should be highly aware and obey the rules. Especially, when passing Cun Slope, you need to pay attention to the speed of your vehicle as there is likely speed measurement tool here.
After traveling for about 155km (100 miles), you will arrive at Mai Chau at around noon. Then, get a room, have lunch and take a rest. In the afternoon, go trekking to Lac village (bản Lác) and Pom Coong, you may also go there by bike.
– On the second day, in the morning, visit Hoa Binh hydroelectric lake (located on the road to Son La). Then take the old route 6. Along the road, there is a beautiful waterfall, so you can stop there a little bit for sightseeing and taking photos. At noon, have lunch with the food you bring along or return Mai Chau for lunch.
In the afternoon, visit Bao La and Chieng Ve villages. It often takes about 4 hours to reach the two villages and get back.
– On the third day. Returning to Hanoi by taking route 12B to Vu Ban (Vụ Bản), taking a turn at Kim Boi (Kim Bôi), and passing Ben market (chợ Bến) to Van Dinh (Vân Đình), and Ba La (there’re usually police here). From Vu Ban to Kim Boi, there are many beautiful places and villages of Muong ethnic group (Dân tộc Mường).
At noon, you may have lunch in Van Dinh or at a restaurant along Ho Chi Minh road.
On the way from Thung Khe to Vu Ban, you can stop to visit Lung Van before continuing to get to Vu Ban.
Where to stay in Mai Chau
Best advice is to stay in Mai Chau ecodloge, or you can find some reasonable hotels or hostels here