Travel to the south-west, just over 3 hours from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s Capital Hanoi and you will discover the peaceful Mai Chau Valley. An exquisitely remote valley filled with rice paddy fields affording both wonder and relaxation.
Small local roads and pathways built for the farmers and villages to access their rice paddy’s and village homes allow you to stroll or cycle your way amongst the fields and through the small villages to explore this farming community.
To me this is the true Vietnam, away from the cities and the main tourist trail. A visit to Mai Chau allows you not only to witness daily rural life but also to stop and communicate with the ever smiling locals. Yes there will be lots of arm waving and gestures as everyone tries to make each other understood, most of the time culminating in roars of laughter.
There is a range of accommodation dotted amongst the fields from Homestay to the fabulous Mai Chau Ecolodge. Even though there is the main town centre of Mai Chau, the central hub for the local farming industry, it is the small villages that will draw your attention.
This is where the farmers live with each village surrounded by their farms, no long commute times in Mai Chau Valley. You will find locally made treasures to remind you of your stay with an added bonus, the store holders are not pushy, allowing you to take your time to make your selections without being hassled.
In the small villages you discover fabulous small local restaurants, usually with views over the rice fields. Your taste buds come alive as you savour meals prepared from the locally grown produce for lunch or dinner. You find yourself eating with a mix of locals and some fellow travellers in an atmosphere filled with chatter, laughter and smiles. For those that dare, maybe finish your evening sharing some of the local rice wine… (Luckily you can ride on one of the village electric carts back to your accommodation rather than stumble home in the dark.)
It is best to explore the surrounding fields just after sunrise or in the late afternoon before the sunsets. It’s these cooler times of the day when the farmers are out tending their fields – Planting, cajoling or harvesting their rice crops – moving their flocks of ducks to and from the local ponds – or taking their cow to find some tasty grass for a days feeding.
As you wander the pathways you will be passed by people walking, on their motor bikes or even on bullock draw carts – it’s daily life at it’s best in rural Vietnam.
The middle of the day can be spent relaxing just like the farmers, giving your eyeballs a rest from the fabulous sights you discovered during the morning exploration. Your midday rest also allows time for eager anticipation to build for what is to come during your late afternoon stroll, with a definite highlight, witnessing a delightful sunset to conclude your day.
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