Mai Chau is a small rice field valley in the North of Vietnam. It is about 160km from Hanoi and nearby to both Pu Luong Nature Reserve and Moc Chau. Mai Chau is a popular tourist destination and quite famous amongst both Vietnamese and backpackers. It is known for it’s tranquil rice fields, with homestays in the middle of these whilst surrounded by mountains.
Nearby to Mai Chau there is plenty of things to see and do. There is a large lake, waterfalls, the Pu Luong Nature Reserve as well as plenty of rice fields and restaurants to enjoy.
Getting to Mai Chau by Motorbike
The ride to Mai Chau from Hanoi takes about 4 hours. From Hoa Binh it just follows the main road via the QL6. To get to Hoa Binh you can just head straight down the AH13 or if you want a nicer road then following the Red River from Hanoi to Son Tay then passing Ba Vi to cross the Da River and heading south on the Western bank. This route takes a little longer but has some much nicer roads to take.
Coming from the south you will be heading up the QL15 or the QL15C if you come via Pu Luong. Heading up from the south you will be riding through the valley so miss the view point showing all of Mai Chau.
If coming from the North West then you will be coming via Moc Chau. Via this route you can take a short detour to take in the viewpoint which is mentioned below. When coming this way you will be either on the QL6 which is a high pass which offer nice views. Or you will be on the smaller road a little North of here. It is a smaller road running down in the valley. Whilst it doesn’t have the same views as the QL6 it is still very nice to ride.
Mai Chau has a large range of accommodation from local homestay to high end resorts. All of these options are in the valley so not far apart. Most of them are overlooking the rice fields and close to Lac Village which has many of the restaurants and tourist shops. The further back you get from the main road running through Mai Chau then the quieter and more peaceful the area gets.
As well as staying in Mai Chau itself you can also stay in the surrounding area and just pass through Mai Chau in 1 day. The most common places to stay would be Pu Luong Nature Reserve and Hoa Binh lake.
Depending on the view you want from your accommodation you might prefer to be staying in the mountains around Pu Luong, the lake of Hoa Binh or the rice fields of Mai Chau.
As there are both resorts and homestays here, it is easy to find suitable accommodation for any budget here. Finding and booking accomodation can easily be done on booking.com or searching on Google Maps for “homestays”. As there is so many restaurants and homestays it is less important to book in advance here as you can turn up late and still find accommodation and food easily.
As mentioned above there is plenty of restaurants in Mai Chau, especially in Lac Village or on the main road. Whilst on the main road the restaurants are similar to the restaurants you find in any small town, fried rice, pho, and restaurants specialising in 1 dish. In Lac Village they offer many BBQ restaurants. The BBQs are placed outside the restaurants so you can enjoy a drink whilst you watch your food being cooked. The most common dishes here are BBQ fish, chicken and pork skewers.
Whether you stay in Mai Chau or are just passing through then the BBQ lunch option here is always a good idea. BBQ food, cold beer and relaxing rice field views.
What To Do in Mai Chau
Go Lao Waterfall
A stunning waterfall just North of Mai Chau is Go Lao Waterfall. The waterfall is hidden in the trees and mountains and you can only see it once you get up close. But when you do then you are rewarded with a beautiful waterfall there you can swim.
To get to the waterfall you just head North towards Hoa Binh lake. From the road you can park the bikes and walk down. You will have to climb over some rocks but it is well worth it to get to the waterfall.
Hoa Binh Lake
Hoa Binh lake is a huge lake located to the North of Mai Chau which dominates the landscape in the area. The Southern part of the lake which you can easily reach from Mai Chau is less populated than the Northern bank but still has some homestays and even resorts offer accommodation.
From here you can also take a boat ride out into the lake or just take a swim from the bank. If you are coming from the North East of the lake then some boats will offer to ferry you across the lake with your motorbike. Although there isn’t much of a dock to disembark so it isn’t for the unadventurous or unexperienced.
From Mai Chau you can ride up to the lake and then following the lake East you can take a short loop back to the main road, then back. It will take you past Go Lao waterfall, Hoa Binh lake and the viewpoint.
Mai Chau Viewpoint
At the North of Mai Chau from the QL6 there is a viewpoint overlooking all of the valley. This is the most famous picture of Mai Chau and it is a great first impression of the area.
There is a place to buy a drink here so you can relax and enjoy the view knowing that you have nearly finished the ride and will be arriving soon.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Just East of Mai Chau and part of the mountains that create the valley is Pu Luong. A stunning nature reserve with so much to offer. Click here to read more about Pu Luong.
You can easily spend 1 or 2 days in Pu Luong since it has so much to offer. But if you prefer to stay in Mai Chau then you can make it a day trip. Heading North then East towards Hanoi you can enter Pu Luong from the north being a clockwise loop returning from the South.
The rice fields of Mai Chau are what it is most known for. All the pictures showcase the lush green rice fields with small houses or homestays dotted around and mountains in the background. When you are staying here you can ride through the rice fields or from Lac Village or your homestay walk. More than likely your homestay will also be amongst the rice fields. So you will be waking up and enjoying a coffee to this view.
The best time of year to get the rice field views is May and October when the rice is at its peak. The colour will be an amazing green and it will be ready for a harvest.
Chieu Cave is close by to Mai Chau, located on the East side of the main road. It is 1200 steps to reach the entrance of the cave. Inside the cave is a path with a handrail making it easy to nagivate around.
The cave is particularly stunning in just before sunset. As the sun can reach deep inside the cave and lights it up in fantastic colours.
Mai Chau Summary
Whether you are looking to stay in Mai Chau or will just be passing through then the peaceful rice fields, BBQ lunch and great photo opportunites from the viewpoint making Mai Chau a place of note for your travels.
Below is a map highlighting the locations mentioned above.