Mai Chau Valley - Maichau vacations info
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Mai Chau Valley

From the top of Cun Mountain, one can admire the superb panorama of Mai Chau surrounded by a green valley and stilt houses. Many minorities, including the Thai ethnic group, live in Mai Chau.

Stilt houses border both sides of the roads. The houses are quite large with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo-slat floors. The kitchen is located in the center of the house; the cooking as well as the making of the colorful tho cam, the material used by Thai minority to make their clothes, takes place in the kitchen. The windows are large and decorated with patterns. Each house also has a pond to breed fish.

The Sunday market brings a lot of people into town. People from different minorities living in the mountains come to Mai Chau market to sell their specific products: honey, bananas, corn, and tho cam made by skilled Thai women. The Sunday market is also an occasion to enjoy traditional Thai dishes and to participate in traditional dances.

You can get a good run off the top of the dam, hammer it down the road and up the steep runaway truck sidings. A word of warning here, dropping your bike at the top of these steep inclines is a sure way to lose all your gas, and its virtually impossible to pick your bike up again, as the incline means your are practically underneath it. 

With the flood gates in full swing, the torrent of water creates a very damp wind tunnel, as the air is sucked under the thousands of cubic metres of water rushing pas each second. It’s inspiring stuff, standing on the viewing platform just beside the wall of water.

The roads through this country region are lined with stalls hawking ruou can a sweet rice wine that is popular for parties or day trips where you want to get hammered. Ruou can is delivered from a pot via thin bamboo straws, of which there are many. As a team of drinkers race to guzzle it down, water is added to the mix until its drunk dry. The leafy turns through the foothills are a prime spot to stop off and have a little dram.

From Man Duc, the route over the mountain pass is beautiful, affording views out over the farming plains. Unfortunately, for the last year or so, it’s been rough with road works. Currently tours are being diverted the long way round the mountains, or via a tantalising alternate route by boat across Hoa Binh Lake. The boat voyage adds a few hours to the trip, but quietly skirts around the side of the dangerous road works over the mountain pass. There are plenty of other destinations in the vicinity, which can form a nice loop, particularly the Kim Boi hot water springs, or follow the road right through to Cuc Phuong national park.

Mai Chau is the perfect escape from hectic Hanoi, and really ought to be visited even if you are on a tight tour schedule. It is easily accessible by bus, car or motorbike, but it might be best to check on the road works over the pass. They are expected to continue through most of 2004, and it can be pretty treacherous up there.