Not too far from Hanoi, Mai Chau and Pu Luong in Northwest Vietnam are the 2 top choices to get escape from Hanoi’s bustle and enjoy hidden gems in Vietnam. In this blog, I will share with you a very detailed guide to exploring these places and having a lifetime journey.
How to get to Mai Chau from Hanoi?
Just turn up at My Dinh bus station at any time from 06.00 AM to 06.00 PM. You will not have to wait long (about 15 minutes) for one of the regular buses to Hoa Binh. Then from Hoa Binh bus station, you can catch regular shuttle buses to Mai Chau. The bus ticket to Hoa Binh bus station is around VND 50,000 (US$2.4). Tell the bus driver that you are heading to Mai Chau, he will drop you off at the right place and show you the correct direction to Mai Chau.
Alternatively, you can travel by direct bus, but of course, there are not as many choices as regular ones. Direct buses from Hanoi to Mai Chau depart at 06:00 AM, 07:30 AM, 02:00 PM and 02:30 PM. It takes around 4 hours and costs VND 100,000 – 120,000 (US$5-6)/person. To go from Mai Chau town to the villages, you can walk for 2-3kms or take a motorbike taxi ride for VND 50,000 (less than US$2.4).
Instead of bus transportation, a motorbike excursion is a favorite choice of many adventure seekers. In spite of busy, dusty, noisy and potentially lethal highways, the drivers from Hanoi will be rewarded with some awesome stretches, particularly jaw-dropping views over the surrounding paddy fields and limestone karst scenery.
Accommodation in Mai Chau and Pu Luong
The accommodation services in Mai Chau can meet the demand of the dramatically increasing number of travelers. Therefore, there is no need to worry about where to stay in Mai Chau, even when you go independently. Homestay is the best choice for those who want to experience local daily life. If you do not feel comfortable enough to be able stay with locals, Mai Chau Ecolodge is a highly recommended choice. It is a combination of luxury and eco style, giving you the feelings as being in nature, it is suitable for many foreign travelers.
The next day you can continue moving from Mai Chau to Pu Luong, where you can find Pu Luong Retreat. Located on 15C road – the main road of Thanh Lam commune and in close vicinity to many tourist attractions, it remains prominent among a number of homestays and inns here. Not being equipped with modern facilities, Pu Luong Retreat gives all guests the truly sense of nature. Expect the cost to be about $13-$20 per night.
What to do on your independent trip from Mai Chau to Pu Luong?
Here are some highlights of these two destinations, but there are many hidden things to do in Pu Luong and local touch experiences in Mai Chau await you.
Mai Chau highlights
- Trek through terraced rice paddies and small villages in Mai Chau.
- Discover the valley’s natural beauty and the ethnic minority Thai people’s culture.
- Enjoy jaw-dropping scenery, the marvelous waterfalls, water-wheel and explore the surrounding countryside on back of a bicycle.
Pu Luong highlights
- Take a stroll around the paddy fields, or arrange a longer trek to Pu Luong Nature Reserve.
- Bargain for traditional textile items without the usual hard sell.
- Sample local specialties such as sticky rice, Co Lung duck, etc.
- Enjoy the serenity when rafting bamboo along Cham stream.
- For the most amazing experience in Pu Luong, you can hike on hidden trails along the primary forests and explore Kho Muong village.
Best time to visit Mai Chau and Pu Luong
The period between May and June or September and October is the best time for a tour to Mai Chau and Pu Luong. The end of May marks the beginning of the crop season, so you can see charming greenery of Vietnam rice terraces if coming to Pu Luong at this time. Alternatively, September, when farmers prepare to harvest, is the best time to visit for those who want to witness yellow rice paddies on the slope across the valley.