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Reisfeld auf den Bergen in Mai Chau, Bild: Phuong D. Nguyen / shutterstock

Mai Châu: Picturesque Mountain Landscapes of Vietnam

The comparatively sparsely populated region of Mai Châu is located in the north of Vietnam, a good 130 kilometers from Hanoi. Mai Châu is a picturesque mountainous region in the province of Hòa Bình. The largely untouched nature and the breathtaking mountain panoramas that open up to travellers when exploring the region make a visit an experience. But Mai Châu also has a lot to offer culturally. Above all, the houses built on pillars characteristic of the region are an interesting curiosity – especially for travelers from the Western world. In the following article, we have compiled the most important information about Mai Châu for you.

Explore natural wonders: hiking and active holidays in Mai Châu

The Mai Châu region is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and active holidaymakers. In the mountains of the region there are a variety of hiking and cycling trails. These lead from the rice terraces typical of the region to forest areas largely untouched by humans. The Mai Châu region has also become increasingly popular with cyclists in recent years. The most popular routes lead through small villages, where there are often opportunities to spend the night. In some cases, tour operators also offer trekking tours through Mai Châu, where overnight stays in the villages are already organized.

Alternatively, there is the possibility to set off on day tours starting from the regional capital, the city of Mai Châu. This can be an attractive option, especially for cyclists, to explore the region from a fixed base.

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Since tourism has become an important source of income for the region over the years, numerous English-language tours are now also offered, offering insights into the local culture and flora and fauna.

A visit to the capital of the region

View of Mai-Chau City
View of Mai Chau City, Image: Phuong D. Nguyen / shutterstock

The capital of the region, Mai Châu City, is the cultural center of the region. Even though the city itself is rather tranquil by European standards, there are numerous opportunities to get to know the culture of the region. Traditional weavers, and especially weavers, often go about their craft here on the street. The city’s market also offers insights into the rich tradition of Mai Châu. Local artisans offer their works here, as do farmers from the surrounding area of the city. During a long walk through the streets, there are numerous opportunities to experience the daily life of the locals up close. Street artists who make music or devote themselves to other artistic activities are also common here.

The traditional houses of the region, built on stilts, are an integral part of the cityscape of Mai Châu city. This construction method protects the houses from being washed up and damaged in the humid seasons. Restaurants and inns with accommodations for travelers are also often built in this way. If you want to experience Mai Châu in style, try to stay in such a house.

Culinary discoveries in Mai Châu

Mai Châu’s cuisine is as diverse as the landscape and people of the region. Mainly influenced by the culinary tradition of the two dominant ethnic groups (the “White Thai” and the “Black Thai”), the cuisine here differs at least partly from that in other regions of Vietnam.

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The local cuisine draws on a wide range of different ingredients. “Cơm Lam”, for example, is a rice grilled in bamboo for a long time. It is served in the bamboo shell, from which it is then peeled out on the plate. Traditionally, a spicy dip made from ground peanuts is served with it. “Gà Đồi”, a carefully grilled chicken, and “Thịt Lợn Xiên Nướng”, pork cooked on a spit and then marinated, are among the most popular dishes in Mai Châu. In addition, there is a selection of green vegetables that varies depending on the season, which are either also grilled or sometimes steamed.

A very special specialty of the region, which is certainly not something for all travelers from the Western world, is “Ve Sầu Chiên”. These are cicadas that are first stuffed and then fried in hot fat. In addition, there is of course also a rich selection of purely vegetarian dishes in the region, which are offered by street vendors and restaurants.

Even though tourism is an economically important factor for the region, only a few restaurants in Mai Châu have so far specialised in catering for travellers. As a result, it is still possible for visitors to experience the culinary culture in direct exchange with the residents.

Sustainable tourism: the importance of eco-travel for Mai Châu

Tourism has become increasingly important for Mai Châu, just like the rest of Vietnam , over the years. The protection of local landscapes and biodiversity is therefore of utmost importance for the region. With the support of the regional government, travel offers are now increasingly being marketed that focus on nature conservation. If you want to leave as small an ecological footprint as possible, you have the opportunity to organize your own trip accordingly.