Vietnam Day 1 – Mai Chau: Spend Time With Yourself
Just 140 Kms from Hanoi, lies the quaint little town of Mai Chau. Nestled deep in the limestone valley, it is a place for anyone and everyone looking to go back in time.
Lush paddy fields, clear blue sky, fresh air, farm animals, fabulous food and almost no mosquitoes!
Exhausted as we all were – from work, from the daily chores, the kids from their routine – all of us were sure we wanted a holiday to unwind. In other words, we needed to go back to nature.
In Mai Chau, that’s exactly what we did.
However, the trip wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did, had it not been for Max and The – travel desk advisor at a hotel and our guide. We hadn’t considered having a guide. It was something we’d never done earlier during our travels.
In fact the entire holiday planning happened over a span of a few hours. Woke up on a Sunday, decided on the destination, booked the tickets to Hanoi and back, did some research on hotels and homestays.
The two criteria I kept in mind while doing this research – hotel in Hanoi’s old quarter that was clean and hygienic, and a homestay in the other destinations with the same requirement!
When we reached Hanoi, we happened to bump into Max. As unplanned as we were, it was great to chat with someone who could fluently speak English and understand exactly what kind of holiday we were looking for.
In a span of one hour, he confirmed a car and suggested a guide. After an initial hesitation, we decided to go for it. And now I can easily say that it was the best possible decision we made on our trip.
Off To Mai Chau
Next morning, the driver & car, and the guide were at the hotel lobby waiting for us even before time. We set off at 10am.
Mai Chau is a 3-hour drive. We left at 10am and with a little stretch-break in between, we were at our homestay at 1.30pm for lunch.
Ever since we’ve switched to a vegetarian diet, the biggest concern while traveling to countries where meat is a staple, has been food. But even before we could put our thoughts to it, The had spoken to the owner of the homestay, Phuong. And when lunch was served, let’s just say, it was nothing short of a feast!
What made it even better, the location and the surroundings. Phuong had carefully put so much thought into the decor.
Mai Chau is home to the White Thai ethnic group and their vibrant coloured handicrafts adorns every corner of the village. Another prominent thing seen across this tiny place are stilt houses.
A sumptuous meal, followed by an afternoon siesta and we were all set to explore the serenity of Mai Chau.
You can spend days riding bikes through the villages. Every homestay has a bike rental facility. If you want to go slower, walking around the village too is possible. For people who want to give their feet some break, the village has small buggy carts for rental (so unique!).
As we walked through the village, it was also a great time to stop by at various spots, sometimes to relax and reflect and other times just to speak to the locals. We tried some local snacks (Don’t miss the sticky rice in bamboo shoots!) and watched their craft making.
Although language is a barrier, the facial expressions and emotions were enough to have some brief chit-chat. For everything else, we had The!
The village also has an EcoLodge, which promotes sustainable tourism. If one is looking for resort comfort, this would definitely be a great choice.
However, during our entire time at the homestay, we realized that Phuong, like most of the local people, used local products and sustainable means in whatever possible way she could.
As the sun set, the chirping of crickets became louder, the temperature dipped and we returned to our homestay, right in time to slip on our jackets. We sat outside in the verandah watching the star-studded sky and soon the homely, mouth-watering aroma from Phuong’s kitchen began to fill the air.
The next morning we woke up to an ideal slow life. As I opened the window, fresh cold air gushed in. There were roosters in the field across and up came Phuong with a hot cup of tea and her warm smile. It all seemed surreal.
I nodded to thank her and she pointed to the kitchen to tell me that breakfast will be ready soon.
I decided to soak up the view and feel a little more before heading down to the verandah, where the boys were already lying down on the hammock and reading their books.
No, I hadn’t given them the idea! I guess the ambience was such that it was something everyone would want to do.
I sat at the table, curled up in my jacket sipping on my second cup of tea and soaked up the smell of cinnamon and toasted bread coming from Phuong’s kitchen!
We wouldn’t mind spending our entire week here. But , we too were short on time. As always!
If North Vietnam is on your itinerary, take a trip to Mai Chau and spend some time with yourself!