For our next expedition, me and the dong millionaires take a little spin over to Mai Chau. About 4 hours drive from Hanoi, Mai Chau, we’re told, is a glimpse of the “real” Vietnam. Rice paddies, farm animals roaming the streets and yet more incredible scenery in abundance. It’s well worth the trip just to rent a bike and take in the views- which is saying something coming from me, because I didn’t think I could ride a bike and had to push myself through tears and a few falls in order to get going and explore with the rest of the group!
Whether you’re on a bike or a moped there are plenty of markets you can stop and explore as you navigate your way around. The locals were incredibly friendly, and willing to haggle with us over the already low prices of their wares- if you’re looking to pick up souvenirs, you’ll get beautiful handicrafts a lot cheaper here than in Hanoi, and you can even watch as scarves and wraps are woven infront of you.
Once we’d worn ourselves out cycling, we filled up on traditional Vietnamese food provided for us by the hosts at our homestay- think “big, clean, stilted room with 12 very comfortable mattresses” rather than “shack” – and headed into the village to see some equally traditional Vietnamese dancing!
The performers were great and got us involved in some bamboo dances- which, like spring roll making, we absolutely sucked at- and as a grand finale we were encouraged to drink together from a fairly substantial jar of rice wine. The best way to end any dancing, I reckon.
|Photo credit, our lovely guide Duyen Nguyen|
I’m told that it’s best to visit Mai Chau between October and April, as the rest of the year can be unbearably hot, and that while we only saw water buffalo and various farm animals you can apparently spot civet cats, leopards and bears in the valley! Pu Luong nature reserve, on the edge of Mai Chau, is home to all these things and more.
It’s worth knowing before you set off that there are no ATM’s in Mai Chau, but there are places you can exchange dollars for dong! So be ready with whatever money you need to spend on renting bikes and buying treasures from the market stalls.