🖐 In this travel guide we’ll share all our experience travelling to Mai Chau, located in the south North of Vietnam. If this is your first time on Dronemade, we're a community of drone pilots around the world and thus like to share our travel experiences and how we see things from up there. Give a 👍 at the end of this post & feel free to share your experience or any updates you might have in the Forum. Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our knowledge & does not replace official sources & your research.
Mai Chau was a pleasant surprise for us to travel to, close to Hanoi yet peaceful and charming with a true feeling of disconnection. This is a place for all tastes as it has a little of everything; road trip loops, markets, hikes, and a nature reserve at its doorstep. We found here a good alternative to busy Ninh Binh and stayed 3 nights time to enjoy the town and its surroundings.
Where is it exactly & how to get to Mai Chau?
Mai Chau is located in the south North of Vietnam, only 4 h bus from Hanoi making it an easy access from city or nearby Hoa Binh. Its location makes it an ideal destination in itself or a pit stop on a larger loop road trip to Ninh Binh for example (Orange itinerary).
🛵 The easiest way to reach Mai Chau is by bike, ideally your own. It will take you half a day to complete the trip from Hanoi but most of the route is easy and nice with views towards the end.
🚌 From Hanoi, the cheapest & fastest way is to go by local Bus. You will need to catch the bus from My Dinh bus station. With a departure every hour or so from 7 am until 4 pm, its pretty easy to find one. In every case we recommend you to arrive at least 1H prior departure to get the best seats but also make sure they don't go without you (it will leave earlier if full). The trip takes about 4 h and will cost you 90,000 dong.
💡 If you miss the bus to Mai Chau, you can still catch one to Hoa Binh which is about three quarters of the way from Hanoi. From there, in addition to the buses from Hanoi, there are local buses bringing you to Mai Chau in about 1 h that will cost about 30,000 dong.
What to do in Mai Chau?
Mai Chau is before anything an agricultural town with hundreds of rice fields surrounded by picturesque cliffs and mountains topped with forests. There are a couple of small lakes and a cave nearby but the place's biggest asset probably being the entrance door to Pu Luong Nature Reserve. If you're more of a foodie, there is a central market happening every day and nearby village ones happening every weekend, notably in Cho Pa Co.
Probably the first thing you wanna do when getting here is hit the flat roads with a push bike and enjoy the calm scenery. If you arrive mid October, you will arrive just in time for harvesting time, seeing the rice at its greenest before been cut and dried for next meals.
💲 You can get a good bike from 25,000 dong per day, you won't need gears if you stay in the central zone of Mai Chau but if you intend to go a little back on the main road then gears are probably a good thing to look at.
Rent a scooter
We've tried them all and they will all (absolutely all) answer you 200,000 dong / day. However, if you tell them you might consider 2 days, then some will be more open to discuss and offer a reduced price to 180,000 dong /day. Renting a scooter here is a little pricier than elsewhere in Vietnam and not a must if your're staying onsite.
Pu Luong Reserve
Definitely our best time over there with a road trip of two days doing a loop with Pu Luong Nature Reserve starting and returning in Mai Chau. We started going onto QL15 anti clock wise to finish with the plateau the second day.
The roads are alright except for one very steep 5 kms, if you're two on one scooter, one will need to get off at some points for it to pass. Good bring a rain jacket as you get quite high and weather is more unpredictable up there.
🛵 You will need a scooter or moto to complete this loop.
Go Cave Exploring
Chieu Cave is an easy hike from the town centre, you will need to climb a little to the entrance but its cool inside. Don't forget to bring a torch with you.
Probably not the first activity you would consider in Mai Chau but there are a couple of rivers and a man made lake near Ban Lau about 5 kms away from Mai Chau, perfect for a run and reward.
There are so many options from Mai Chau with different outcomes:
Hike for a swim; make yourself a trail to the lake near Ban Lau (10 kms return). If you're really pumped you can head Hoa Binh Lake (25 kms return).
Hike for a view; near Na Phon hides spectacular rice field views (15 kms return).
Hike to meet; go around the town and meet the local farmers or shop holders.
There is a market every day in the centre of Mai Chau, next to the main road. You can find there all kinds of fruits and veggies you need along livestock and a street barber you will take good care of you under the shade of his tree.
💡 A noteworthy market is the one happening every early Sunday at Cho Pa Co. Once a week, all the local minority communities descend the mountains to sell their artwork and produce over a few hours. It is a lively market, full of life and with little if any foreigners (be aware of the low roofs). An absolute must if you're around on a Sunday.
If you're more after souvenirs and gifts, there are plenty of handmade items in the town of Lav village to purchase from. If you're lucky, you might see some of them making scarves in front of you.. Or if you have time, you can custom order one to match your taste.
Where to stay & eat in Mai Chau?
🚪The place you want to look for when booking is Lac Village and its surroundings which is where the nicer part of the city is. Unfortunately our hotel was just 'ok' so we don't really have a place to recommend for the moment.
This said, if heading to Pu Luong Reserve, we are very happy to recommend you the Jungle King Homestay & Pu Long Treehouse. Two complete products with the first one being a family homestay run by a local family from 50,000 dong per night and the second being a more upscale resort style in the middle of rice fields from 300,000 per night.
💡 If non are available, don't be too sad, there are a myriad of other homestays and hotels available just nearby and a lot seem to have great ratings. We found them using our hotel price comparative tool to make sure we booked at the best price.
🍴 When it comes to food it was pretty much all delicious but Bun cha Mai Chau stood out for the food quality and presentation. We also really appreciated the dinner organised by Jungle King Homestay as we had a long day and mentioned eating for twice our size which they answered by serving us twice our needs (all gone 😋).
Can I fly my drone in Mai Chau?
🚨 Be aware of the airline you purchase to travel as some main ones will only accept your drone on-board if its batteries are detached & placed in a firecase during travel time. Most airlines will have a battery voltage limit based on the recommendation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can find more info about a specific airline here.
✅ Currently, there doesn't seem to be any restrictions on bringing drones within Vietnam as long as your import is considered as legitimate (generally one drone per person). Mai Chau is mostly rice fields making it ideal drone footage. Just make sure to not fly above people and the city centre and avoiding the main road.
✅ In every case you should follow the Vietnamese drone rules and laws at all times. Note that these can evolve within months and its always a good thing to double check upon departure.
What to think of Mai Chau?
Well we don't like to write this part of the story so we've put together some of our coolest pics. If you don't feel like seeing them before heading there, we get it and won't be sad.
✅ Please leave a comment or update the Forum when you receive news and/or gain experience in Mai Chau! Have fun over there and make a lot of good memories!
Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information.