Discovering the mountain lives of the Thai people in Mai Chau

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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Located 130 km from Hanoi and about three hours over a cloudy mountain range, Mai Chau offers a great day trip to tourists who are curious about Vietnam's northwest. The mountainous climate offers a full four-season experience in a single day. Photos: Minh Hung

Tourists can go by bus for VND180,000 (US$8.5) or rent a bike for VND100,000-300,000 a day and drive from Hanoi. Mai Chau valley comes into view near the Thung Khe Pass -- a small, pretty town surrounded by green rice fields.

A majority of Mai Chau's residents are members of the Thai ethnic minority and reside in traditional nha san (stilt homes).

Ha Thi Thu, a 60-year-old Thai woman, preserves a traditional weaving technique. "Traditionally, a Thai woman could only hope to marry after mastering this technique, by which it takes several months to complete a single piece of cloth," she said.

From Mai Chau, tourists can rent a motorbike for around VND200,000 a day and drive to pristine Thai villages or cross over the Thung Khe Pass to visit Kim Boi Spring and Hoa Binh Reservoir. For even less, they can rent a bicycle and pedal to the Chieu limestone cave and Thai ethnic museum in town.

Xam Khoe Village, some 45 minutes drive from Mai Chau, offers an experience of the rural mountainous lives of the Thai locals.

A man fishes a stream in Xam Khoe Village next to a bathing buffalo. Buffalo are still used to plough the region's terraced rice fields.

Young locals in Mai Chau play volley ball at the village's cultural house which sits on a hillside covered in clouds.

In Mai Chau Town, tourists can buy local fabric and souvenirs and enjoy traditional music and dances at the Lac and Poom Coong villages or a home stay with the locals.

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