About 135km from Hanoi, Mai Chau is a rural district of Hoa Binh province. In an idyllic valley, Mai Chau is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. Many minorities have been inhabited in the area, in which the two tribes, White Thai and Black Thai settle in the same area, making up the largest ethnic population of the region. The Thai women are masterful weavers producing various traditional-style clothes and souvenirs.
Mai Chau is well known for its stilt houses which border both sides of the roads. The houses here are quite large with palm leaf roof and polished bamboo-slat floors. The kitchen is situated in the middle of the house, the cooking and the making of the colorful embroidery – the main material used by Thai people to make their clothes, takes place in the kitchen. The windows are big and decorated with patterns. Most houses are elevated 10-12 feet off the ground in order to avoid water damage and shelter animals from the elements. Each house also has a pond to rear fish.
In weekend, the area attracts a large amount of tourists into town with the Sunday market. People from different tribes flocking here to sell their homemade products such as honey, bananas, corn…The market is also a big chance to enjoy traditional Thai dishes and to join in traditional dancing.
Mai Chau is a base for some trekking route to the surrounding villages with homestay overnight options on traditional houses of the H’mong and the Thai people. Travelers often enjoy the local specialties including rice cooked in bamboo and grilled meat and art performances (bronze, drums, and gongs). However, Mai Chau still faces several environmental concern as a gradual influx of tourists puts strain on the local environment. The opening of eco-lodge here will help raising local awareness on sustainable tourism.