Vietnam has been a popular destination ever since it opened to tourism in the mid-1990s. In fact, it’s so popular that it can feel like you never left home in some of the most popular destinations. Mai Châu (pronounced Mai Cho) is not one of those places. Filled with lush green farms, rice terraces, traditional stilt houses, and the opportunity to take a deep breath and relax, Mai Châu is the perfect long weekend getaway whether you are traveling through Vietnam or looking for a break from the hustle and bustle.
Book a driver – don’t even think about driving by yourself. You are going to Mai Châu to relax, you don’t need the stress or trying to figure out the unique set of unstated rules that govern driving in Vietnam.
We made our arrangements through Asia Mystika and they were a dream to work with. Alternatively, you can book a driver with a reputable hotel in Hanoi.
Where to Stay
Avana Retreat is perched high up on a hill with rice terraces cascading into the valley below. You’ll be pampered with daily massages, private waterfalls, and a private host to attend to your every need. You’ll During the day, you can plan excursions into the village markets, Jeep tours, or attend classes where you learn about the traditional arts of the region.
What to do
Thung Khe Pass
After you leave the glorious chaos of Hanoi and wind through the mountains, you’ll arrive at Thung Khe Pass. There is a small market precariously balanced on the steep slope with the local Thai people selling food and drinks. The view is impressive but I think it’s equally as breathtaking to step out onto the bamboo floors to take in the area.
We rode through the jungle and villages in vintage US Army Jeeps. Was it cliche? Yes! You should still do it. Everyone in the area is in on the joke so just go with it. The locals with smile and wave as you go by, just smile and wave back. This area is developing and largely agricultural so the way of life will be very different than what you may be used to seeing.
A fun, peaceful experience that allows you to see the landscape from a different perspective. It’s extremely relaxing especially if you choose to go at the end of the day as the sun sets. Just be sure to bring mosquito repellant.
You can arrange the experience either through your hotel or with your driver.
The Hmong people, another ethnic group living in the region, produce a unique form of batik that is visually striking with indigo and white motifs. We were able to see a demonstration and try doing it ourselves at Avana Retreat. Basically, a cloth was stamped with a block print dipped in hot wax to create the outlines of various motifs, your would then “color in” the outline with more hot beeswax so that when the fabric was dyed, these areas would remain white. It typically takes a week or more to complete one piece but I love how beautiful it is.
Avana Retreat provides regular demonstrations but you can also go to several of the local markets, such as Pa Co to find this traditional art form.
Tradition Thai Stilt House
You’ll see the traditional stilt houses of the Thai people throughout Mai Châu. Stilt houses were built to protect the occupants from wild animals while they slept and are still the preferred architecture of the Thai people today. You’ll see plenty of these as you drive around the area. If you really want to experience a stilt house, there are several homestays that can be booked in the area, particularly in Lac Village.
If you are looking for a quiet, long weekend to rest and experience a slower pace of life Mai Châu is perfect place. Let me know if you find this helpful. If I’ve missed some recommendations, please let me know!