A Weekend in Mai Chau

Our time in Vietnam is drawing to a close; we have just two and a half weeks left in the country and  it feels like time is speeding up. This is our last week of teaching and we’re struggling to fit in all the last-minute tasks we need to complete; packing up our apartment, sorting out finances, planning for the weeks ahead and saying our goodbyes. We’re also trying to squeeze in trips to places we haven’t had time to visit over the hectic school year; this past weekend we finally made it to the stunning country getaway, Mai Chau.

The view from our bungalow in Mai Chau

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Visiting Mai Chau

Our trip started in typical Vietnamese fashion, with a hellish bus journey where we were assaulted by booming dance music for four solid hours while we slowly lost our minds. Seriously, what is it with Vietnamese people and noise? Beeping horns, shouted conversations, blaring music, revving motorbikes, barking dogs and crowing roosters – this has to be one of the noisiest places in the world.

Bicycle in Mai Chau Valley

When we finally made it Mai Chau, a non-descript one-street town famous for its surrounding scenery, we immediately hired motorbike taxis to take us to the nearby village of Ban Lac Hai. On the short ride over, as my head throbbed, I squinted into the late-afternoon sunlight at the swaying fields of rice bordered by hulking mountains.

Tourist trinketts for sale in Mai Chau

The lush green rice fields of Mai Chau

The people who live in Ban Lac are of Thai ancestry, they live in traditional stilt houses and make a living from farming, running homestays and selling handicrafts to visiting tourists. We opted to stay in a basic wooden bungalow with a tiny balcony next to a river, beyond that vivid green fields stretched out for miles.

Getting around Mai Chau by bike

That evening we marvelled at being able to see the stars in the smog-free sky while we ate dinner and then watched the show our guesthouse puts on each evening; some traditional dances followed by rice wine tasting. On the village field we discovered a festival going on; groups of teenagers danced frantically around blazing bonfires to the same booming dance music Vietnamese people seem to love while others had watermelon-eating competitions or had equally loud karaoke sessions.

Traditional Black Thai dancers in Mai Chau

Crazy Vietnamese teenagers fire dancing in Mai Chau

There’s not much to do in Mai Chau besides relax and enjoy the scenery. After a broken night’s sleep thanks to the festival music, summer bugs, laughing geckos and the champion snorer in the hut next to us, we were jolted awake by roosters at the crack of dawn. Bleary-eyed we ate breakfast, borrowed two rusty bikes and set off to explore before the sun became too blazing hot.

A lonely cow in Mai Chau

Cycling slowly down dusty village roads and along paths through the rice paddies we passed grazing cows and buffalo, men chopping wood and children playing in the shade under their stilt houses or splashing around in plastic paddling pools. We rode through one village filled with stalls and shops laden with brightly-coloured handmade bags, clothes, bracelets and toys for sale; groups of Vietnamese tourists dressed up in traditional costumes posed for photos with paper umbrellas amongst the rice.

Cycling around Mai Chau

After a more peaceful nights’ sleep we left Mai Chau the next morning and headed back to the familiar chaos of Hanoi. The next two weeks will be full of changes as we say goodbye to teaching and Hanoi; we’ll be heading to one of the largest cave systems in the world in Phong Nha and revisiting Sapa before we board a plane to Thailand. New adventures await!

Sunset from our Mai Chau bungalow

A weekend in Mai Chau

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19 Comments
  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 14:31h, 19 May Reply

    I can’t believe your time in Vietnam is almost over! It sounds like you guys are mentally ready to move on, but I’m glad you’re having a few last adventures before you do so. Mai Chau was one of the first places we visited in Vietnam and we had one of the weirdest home stay experiences ever there (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a real home stay at all!). That said, I remember how beautiful and bright green the rice paddies in that area were and for that reason alone, I’d happily go back.

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:34h, 19 May Reply

      Oh, I’m itching to hear this story about the weird homestay! We’ve had a great time here but yes, we are mentally ready to move on now. We’re looking forward to leaving on a high by visiting some more beautiful places before we go 🙂

  • Helen
    Posted at 18:06h, 19 May Reply

    You do sound ready to go, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone! When you go to Phong Nha do go to the Dark Cave if you can, it was so much fun. Phong Nha was spectacular, it was definitely our highlight in Vietnam, you will have a great time

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:08h, 20 May Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation Helen; we’ve heard lots about Phong Nha and can’t wait to get there!

  • stefan
    Posted at 16:07h, 20 May Reply

    Lovely to meet you guys last week in Hanoi. Kisses coming to you both from us here in Boracay 🙂

    XXXXXX

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:09h, 20 May Reply

      It was great to meet you guys too, hope you’re having More Fun in the Philippines! 🙂 x

  • Patti
    Posted at 20:45h, 20 May Reply

    2 1/2 weeks, wow! You must be SO excited! Congratulations to both of you on a successful adventure teaching English in Hanoi. I know it was challenging, but think about how much you learned and how you can take that knowledge and put it to good use in your next teaching gig. Have fun wrapping it up in Hanoi and head on to the next adventure!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:04h, 21 May Reply

      We are so excited Patti! It has definitely been an adventure and I have learned so much; I will be glad to finish though especially since it is so hot here now.

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 21:23h, 20 May Reply

    Mai Chau looks lush, green and peaceful, but sounds like you had some noisy neighbours there? Your time in Vietnam is nearly finished and I am glad you will be leaving on a high note and visiting some exciting places on your way out. Enjoy Thailand.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:06h, 21 May Reply

      We did have one really noisy neighbour Gilda – we actually had to switch huts in the middle of the night because his snoring was so loud! Then the roosters started up! We definitely hope to leave on a high and have a nice relaxing time in Thailand 🙂

  • Jenia
    Posted at 12:47h, 21 May Reply

    This is so exciting — those weeks leading up to getting back on the road might be more exhilarating (for me) than actual travel 🙂 Well, I take that back, but you know what I mean! Are you planning to do a paradise cave 7km trek in phong nha? we loved it, but thought it was wildly overpriced. Excited to see more of your adventures!

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:59h, 23 May Reply

      I know what you mean Jenia, I love the build-up to an adventure and all the planning 🙂 Not sure about the dark cave, the trips are so expensive but we’ll see.

  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 13:39h, 23 May Reply

    Those photos are so amazing and now i have nick named Vietnam,the green country.You both have done really well ,when it comes to living your dreams.Enjoy thialand and if you can ,please visit Krabi ,it is a beautiful place

    • Amy
      Posted at 08:15h, 24 May Reply

      Great nickname Louisa, we will definitely enjoy Thailand 🙂

  • David Stock
    Posted at 22:22h, 24 May Reply

    Vietnam is the best, Next time and there will be a next time for us. We will buy bikes and ride the whole country. We only got a few days riding on our last visit. Good post, It all goes bye way to fast!

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:07h, 26 May Reply

      That’s a great plan David, avoid summer though as you’ll be burnt to a crisp (as I’m sure you know)! We are struggling now as it’s reaching almost 40 every day and the humidity makes it so hard to do anything.

  • Rob
    Posted at 21:31h, 29 May Reply

    The bit about the noise tickled me. By the time we’d finished in Mexico I was so sick and tired of NOISE! Grumpy and hyper-sensitive to any loud sound, that was me 🙂

    Can’t believe you are already finishing. I’ve enjoyed your tales and info from another part of the planet, looking forward to the next bit of your Fat Adventure.

    • Amy
      Posted at 06:57h, 30 May Reply

      I know, although the teaching sometimes felt never-ending when I think back on it now the time has flown by. I am really hoping that our next adventures in America and Europe won’t be so noisy!

  • Pingback:2015 Travel Round-up - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 11:31h, 01 January Reply

    […] home. During our last few weeks in the country we explored the spectacular countryside retreats of Mai Chau and Tam Coc and visited the most incredible cave system we’ve ever seen in Phong Nha-Ke-Bang […]

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