Mai Châu's rice fields turn gold in late October. Photo by Christian Berg
Sleep in a homestay
The Mai Châu Valley is home to two excellent homestay tourism villages: Lác and Pom Coọng. In both villages, White Thai families offer simple accommodation in stilt houses in an idyllic setting of verdant jungle, limestone outcrops, and mountain tops.
Cycle around the valley
Exploring the many quiet ribbons of paths that connect clusters of stilt houses might be the greatest pleasure you'll have in Mai Châu. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve found your own quiet corner, riding past humble villages and rice paddies.
Shop for local crafts
Mai Châu has no shortage of intricate fabrics woven by skilled weavers on ancient looms. A little gentle bargaining is expected and even welcomed. On Sunday, the morning market attracts ethnic minorities dressed in their finest traditional clothing.
Eat with the locals
Known for their warm hospitality, the White Thai are also fantastic cooks and serve up excellent home-cooked feasts for dinner. The meals you're served at the homestays in Mai Châu might be some of the best on your Vietnam trip.
Plan a day trek
For a full day trip, spring for a kayaking excursion on Hòa Bình Lake, a beautiful body of water surrounded by jungled hills. Or venture further to Pù Luông Nature Reserve where cool, fresh streams run among the trees, feeding waterfalls and aquamarine pools.
Mai Châu Valley is at its best from March to May and September to November. October is perhaps the most ideal month because harvest takes place and the rice takes on a glorious golden hue. Be careful if visiting from June to August, as monsoons can flood local roads.
Mai Châu is approximately 140km from Hanoi. Local buses from the capital run directly to Mai Châu town just a short walk from Lác and Pom Coọng villages. If coming from Sơn La or Điện Biên Province, ask the driver to stop at the Mai Châu turn off. In Hanoi, it is possible to hire a motorbike or a private car for the journey. Bicycles are the best option for getting around the valley floor, as small paths criss-cross villages and farms. Electric carts are available for hire to take you from one village to another.