Overview

Introduce the place. Say where it’s located, and summarise its main selling points, and anything unique about it.

Activity 1

These Activities will likely correspond to map markers you’ve made on the map above, which should probably be a map of the destination and the activities around there, rather than a route guide, since those’ll be covered by your ‘How To Get To…’ posts.

the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay
the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay

Perhaps add a tip about hawkers, public holidays, appropriate dress or anything else that’s destination-specific. It’s worth adding tips in this part of an post rather than at the end, since it encourages the user to read through the whole thing rather than skimming to a sorta summary at the end.

Activity 2

As above, ad infinitum. One of the cool things about creating posts in this way, with discrete sections each focussing on a different attraction, is that we can easily add a point to our map and a corresponding paragraph, and have to change nothing else in the post! I think of this as a ‘modular’ blogging method: it’s efficient af.

the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay
the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay
the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay
the view of Ba Be Lake from a homestay

Again, tips, opinions, whatever you like. 

What to see in the area

If you have some time to spare when you are on the Hanoi to Mai Chau route or in the Mai Chau Valley, there is a lot to do. Only a few of the easier and quicker options, ones which you can easily fit in to your trip, are listed here.

Thung Khe Pass

You may stop here on the way down into the Mai Chau Valley if you come from Tan Lac. There is a small cafe, a flag tower and a viewpoint about 5km out from Tong Dau Junction, 10km from Mai Chau town. There is nothing to do other than have a drink and look at the view over the valley. However, it can often be misty and you will see nothing. On a clear day, you can try to make out the villages of Lac and Poom Coong.

Go Lao Waterfall

An excellent place for a quick stop to look at the waterfall or to walk down and swim. Head out of Mai Chau and past Tong Dau Junction (6km) towards Moc Chau. Around 4km further on you will see a sharp left turn and a junction. There are lots of cafes and restaurants here. Keep going straight. Do not follow the road to Moc Chau. This road takes you down to the Hoa Binh Lake but you will take a right turn about 3km after the junction. You will likely hear the waterfall by then as it is only about 500m further on.

There is a house on the side of the road and the owner will let you park your bike, 10k fee, and sell you drinks and snacks. You can then clamber down to the waterfall and take a dip. It is very refreshing and good fun.

Chieu Cave

This is a great cave to visit BUT you have to walk up 1,200 or so steps. It is not for the weak-hearted and it isn’t the thing to do on a hot sunny day at lunch time. Early evening would mean you might get a sunset…….

The entrance is easy to find as it is opposite Mai Chau Lodge (the old post office) and there is a parking area. You will see someone selling drinks, snacks and tickets at the bottom of the steps. It costs 20k for a ticket.

Normal rules apply: Wear sensible shoes, take water, remember it is a cave and so could feel cold inside.

Loop of the area

If you already have a bike, take it out to explore the area. It is easy to go deeper into the valley in the direction of Moc Chau and see what is there. This is where you will get away from the tourists and see life going on as normal. A loop around Sam Khoe Village will while away half a day easily.

Explore the Old Highway 6

If you are feeling adventurous it is possible to make a loop on the old highway 6. You can get to this by taking the route to Go Lao Waterfall but not taking the right turn. Instead keep going down to the lake and then cross the bridge and turn left. You will be heading towards Moc Chau and will be able to get back on to the QL6/AH13 a short way before Moc Chau. This is a bumpy track but accessible to all but the most inexperienced rider. The route back to Mai Chau is on fast highway so won’t take long at all.

Remember to fill up, at Tong Dau, before going on the QL6 cu ! ! There are bottle of petrol available but why take a chance?

Where to go from Mai Chau

Hanoi to Mai Chau is often a first day’s ride on a tour. It is an easy ride and the places you can stay are clean and comfortable. You can get used to the roads and way of driving in Vietnam without too much pressure. It also allows you great choice in where to go next. From here you can get to many places and the most obvious options are listed below.

Moc Chau

This is a short trip on the AH13 or along the QL6 cu if you have the time. The AH13 is fast but the QL6 cu will make you want to go slow.

Bac Yen / Ta Xua

You need to take the QL43, which is a lovely winding road, and cross the river at Van Yen to get up to Bac Yen. You can stay there or you can head on up to Ta Xua to go ‘ Cloud Hunting ‘.

Da Bac

You can get across the Hoa Binh Lake by ferry and over to Da Bia, Da Bac to then go back to Hoa Binh and Hanoi. You would need to call to arrange this but it is easily done, (not cheap). You then have the choice of taking the winding lakeside road (yes, yes, yes but beware of landlsides !!) or the faster, busier DT433 back to Hoa Binh.

Pu Luong

If you are making a Mai Chau / Pu Luong trip then you will wantto head South on the QL15. You will then need to turn off on to the QL15B to enter the park and get to the several areas that have homestays.

Muong Lat Loop

This is a great loop that will take two days to complete. You can get from Mai Chau to Muong Lat easily. The road is bumpy and under construction in parts. You will need to head South on the QL15 and then take the Nam Ma Rd.

South to Danang / HCMC

It depends on how far you need to get on this day as to whether you stay on QL15 (much faster) or take the more scenic QL15B (much steeper in parts, slower). I tis possible to get to Tan Ky ( Km0 ), but you may only want to go as far as Thai Hoa.

Ninh Binh

This is quite a drive. Not sue to the distance but due to the fact that the roads are slow. You will have to navigate a fair deal and if you take some of the smaller routes you are quite likely to get a little lost. Allow enough time for this i.e a full day, no leaving at lunch time.

Cuc Phuong

Again, quite a long drive to do this but the park is an excellent place to stay. I would choose it over Ninh Binh any day but it doesn’t seem to get the exposure.

Weather considerations

It is wise to consider the weather before planning your trip from Hanoi to Mai Chau. Consider the following information when choosing the best time of year for you.

Average Yearly Rainfall and Temperatures

General Weather Information

Mai Chau’s location in northern Vietnam results in it having some interesting temperature extremes. Winters are often dry and cold from January to February, ranging from just over 10C to 20C. Summers are usually hot and wet from June to September with temperatures between 25 – 35C. The extreme humidity in the Summer can make the ‘feels like’ temperature sky rocket to over 40 !! It is not the time to be wearing full protective biking gear.

The Best Times to Visit Mai Chau

Mai Chau is best between these high and low periods. Between March to May will offer quite warm and dry weather before the summer monsoon hits and the landscape is lush with new bloom. Late September through to late November, and sometimes beyond, will see temperatures fall and most importantly evenings cools (so you can sleep easily) time. It can be quite chilly some days but this is not a problem if you plan on hiking or for only shorter periods on the bike.

For a good graphical representation of the Max/Min and Ave temperatures, take a look here.

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Tips and Advice:

Set your Google maps to motorbike mode.

This will stop Google routing you on the highways which motorbikes are not allowed on. If your phone doesn’t have motorbike mode, go to the hamburger menu, and select Route Options. In this option, select ‘avoid tolls’ and ‘avoid highways’. This will do the same job.

Hang way behind trucks or overtake.

Vietnam’s roads are filled with large vehicles. The route up to Mai Chau will have large trucks and coaches that will be very slow to get up the hills. You have a choice when meeting these: hang back or overtake. Hanging back means you do not eat dirt and fumes but you will probably have to slow down. Overtaking means you will have clear road and clear view ahead of you but you need to choose your moment wisely. I prefer to overtake. generally speaking, keep away from large vehicles as they often cannot see you.

Look for the driver in the mirror.

When you are behind a large vehicle which has huge blind spots, take a look in their mirrors. If you can see the driver, they can see you and vice versa. Use this to see if you are in a safe position or not.

Flashing lights means get out of my way.

Oncoming traffic may flash their lights at you. This means they do not wish to yield to you and expect you to get out of their way. Usually, it is best to do so as these drivers are often intent on going fast and may not be able to move out of your way.

Call ahead to book room / food.

When planning to stay in remote homestays or ones that are family run, announce your intention to the host. These places will often be able to provide a bed very easily but food might mean a trip to market. Turning up at 6 or 7pm and expecting dinner could be a recipe for disaster. Call in the morning to check they have room. Confirm you will make it to destination sometime just after lunch. This will give them time to get food and prepare. If the you are not able to communicate that easily with the host, why not use text message and Google Translate?

Do not pack too much gear.

You will not use half of what you plan to wear so why pack it in the first place? Just make sure you have a spare set of clothes and spare underwear to change into. Particularly in Winter you may need a change if you get wet. However, you can probably dry out most clothes overnight in aircon or by the fireside. Being a bit dirty on a road trip is part and parcel of it all.

Buy a local SIM card with data and calls.

When you need to call someone in an emergency but have no call time is when you wish you had spend that 5 bucks on a local SIM. Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will. So, try to preempt this and get a local SIM with calls. It could save the day.

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Where to stay

There are of course, many places to stay in such a popular area that has been catering for tourists for such a long time. The villages of Poom Coong and Lac have the longest history but newer areas such a the Hoa Binh Lake and Sam Khoe are beginning to develop. There is nothing wrong with the original villages except they can be a little busy during local holidays. If you are happy to have company and enjoy crowds it is good fun. Should you prefer more solitude, then the newer areas can offer this. You may still find they have some noisy guests but you never can tell.

If you are looking for a deal, Booking.com is a good place to start.

Booking.com

VietNomad will get a small commission if you book through Booking.com but it doesn’t cost you anything.

Hoa Binh Lakeside

There is a small cluster of homestays that have grown up on a spit in the Hoa Binh Lake. They are now offering a range of accommodation and access to some basic water sports on the lake. You can get to and from them by road or boat. The boat access is from Hoa Binh Port, Thung Nai Port or Da Bia Village.

Mai Chau Hideaway

Web: maichauhideaway.com Tel: +84 987 53 67 87

This is a very nice and quite expensive resort homestay. It is situated on the shores of the lake and has its own swimming pool.

Rooms cost between 2 to 3 million VND per night here. Breakfast included.

For full information on how to get to this area, take a look at the information provided by Mai Chau Hideaway in this link

Homestay Tan Xuyen

Tel: +84 359 770 269

A small family run homestay near the shores of the lake. A little bit grubby but overall a nice place to stay with good food. Sleeping in the shared accommodation area is only 70k per person per night. They also have 02 private rooms and these are 200k per night.

Breakfast is simple and is usually instant noodles for only 20k and dinner for 180k per person.

Homestay Duc Thao

Tel: +84 397 452 960

Another family run place with clean rooms and good food. The shared dormitory rooms are 100k per person. Breakfast is a simple meal, noodles and egg, and is 30k.

Homestay Truong Giang

+84 98 229 41 92

A family run homestay much like the two places above. The shared dorm rooms are 100k per person. Breakfast is a simple one and is 30k, whereas dinner is 150k per person.

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Mai Chau (Ban Poom Coong & Ban Lac)

The classic Mai Chau experience is visiting one of these two villages. There are some 20 stilt houses in each village bunched together. They offer open plan shared sleeping areas and will provide dinner and breakfast (lunch on special request). If you wish you can ask for evening entertainment, which will be the local dance troupe. They will perform a variety of local dances and let you join in. This is followed by drinking local rice wine.

Mai Chau Sunset Boutique Hotel / Homestay

Web: maichausunset.com Tel: +84 96 282 62 33

A great homestay with fantastic food and a choice of the traditional stilt house sleeping area or very plush hotel room accommodation. The bar on the roof gives a nice view and a little breeze. It’s a good way to end the day.

The traditional stilt house has very large communal rooms, enough to fit 20+ people. You will rarely find that many people there and will often have a large room to yourself. This costs 120k per person. Breakfast is 80k per person and Dinner is 150k per person and is excellent.

The hotel rooms are very plush and comfortable and start at 800k each. This is for a 02 person room with a double bed or two singles. This includes breakfast.

Take a look at my review here. To book a room without the hassle of communicating in Vietnamese, click here

Book here

Mai Chau Home

Tel: +84 98 663 71 85

A family homestay with only private rooms. They are comfortable and reasonably quiet and cost 400k for a room with a double bed. This includes breakfast.

The second choice is to sleep in the shared dorm room for 180k with breakfast included.

Dinner can be arranged but you should do this in advance and is 200k per person.

If you would like to book click here

For those of you who want more western style accommodation you can try Mai Chau Sunset above or one of the resorts. Two excellent resorts are listed below but there are now quite a few to choose from.

Mai Chau Lodge

Tel: +84 2183 868 959

This is the old Mai Chau Post Office and you can see this easily onthe main road before you turn into Poom Coong Village. There are very nice rooms, a swimming pool and a small restaurant. It is a great place to stay with a family as it is very clean and the service is good.

The rooms begin at 1.1 million dong per night and this includes breakfast. You can dine in the restaurant from the menu.

Book here

Sol Bungalows

+84 982 91 29 99

Set some distance away from the two villages, this is a quiet and peaceful resort. There is a very nice pool, the rooms are clean and spacious and the restaurant is good. Overall, it works very well for those seeking a little extra comfort or those that have kids who need to burn off a bit of energy in the pool.

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Sam Khoe

This is very similar to the villages above but it is set further away and is much quieter. It is a bit like stepping back in time to the days when Mai Chau was less well known. There are several homestays here but they are harder to get in touch with than others in the area.

Ban Buoc Homestay

A small homestay in the village that is quiet and peaceful. There are only private rooms here, which are 200k per night.

Breakfast is the standard noodles for 30k per person and Dinner is from 100k to 150k depending on what you choose. Again, you should book this early so that there is enough time for it to be prepared.

La Maison De Buoc

Book here

Mai Chau Eco Home

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