Mai Chau is the heart of a beautiful valley that is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. The modern village is an unappealing sprawl, but as you emerge on the rice fields and rural living it is transformed into a real paradise. It’s a stunning area, and most people here are ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China.
Although most locals no longer wear traditional dress, the Thai women are masterful weavers who ensure that there is plenty of traditional-style clothing to buy in the village centre. You will see women weaving on looms under or inside their houses in the village. Much of the silk looks similar to that seen in Laos. The Thai of Mai Chau are less likely to employ strong-arm sales tactics than their H’mong counterparts in Sapa: polite bargaining is the norm rather than endless haggling.
Getting there & away
Mai Chau is 135km from Hanoi and just 5km south of Tong Dau junction on Hwy 6. There’s no direct public transport to Mai Chau from Hanoi; however, buses to nearby Hoa Binh (25, 000d, two hours) are plentiful. From Hoa Binh there are several scheduled buses to Mai Chau (20, 000d, two hours) daily. Usually these stop at Tong Dau junction; a xe om (motorbike taxi) from there to Mai Chau proper will cost about 15, 000d.
Theoretically, foreigners must pay a 5000d entry fee to Mai Chau; there’s a toll booth at the state-run guesthouse on the ‘main’ road. More often than not, there is nobody there to collect the fee.
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