Having recovered fully, we had time for one last trip in Vietnam. We had spoken to a few people who had been to Mai Chau and they all recommended visiting, so we caught a bus through the mountains and arrived in a beautiful valley, filled with rice paddies and small minority villages.
A homestay here is de rigeur, and we quickly found a pretty little stilt house in Pom Coong with a very welcoming family. English was limited, but smiles (and food) were the language of choice! We slept on mats on the floor under a mosquito net and woke to the sound of the cockerels in the morning.
We planned only one full day in Mai Chau, and we spent it wandering through the villages, browsing the craft stalls and exploring the rice paddies. We were stopped by a camera crew and interviewed for Vietnamese state television. We are not sure yet when it will air, but are expecting the fan mail to start any day now when we go Vietnamese viral!
Sufficiently shopped out (finally finished with souvenir purchasing) we chose somewhere to stay in Lac village – a stunning bamboo room in a beautiful guesthouse overlooking a lily pond and the mountain scenery. We entertained ourselves playing with a very boisterous 7 month old Belgian Shepherd called Kip until the family served dinner. For the first time in any homestay in Vietnam, we actually ate with them, a lovely Tay family who cooked an incredible feast, with hotpot, fried chicken, BBQ pork, rice, pigs ears, chickens feet and tofu. As tradition dictates, it was washed down with a bottle of strong rice wine, which the family patriarch insisted must be finished. After all that, and as he promised, we slept like logs!
Next morning it was back on the bus to Hanoi as we had one last night in Vietnam. We celebrated the end of an amazing two months with a fantastic Barbeque, with chicken, beef, pork, sweet potato, mixed veg, bread and more, all presented to us to cook ourselves. It competes pretty favourable with Korean BBQ (Andrew was relieved that there was no Kimchi). All that was left was to pack and fly (and have a heart attack at a taxi who turned up nearly an hour late!).
But it’s not quite the end, there are a few days of Thailand left for us to enjoy.
Nearly every house in Lac and Pom Coong offer a homestay. Bed, dinner and breakfast seems to costs around 250,000VND while just bed and breakfast is about 100,000-150,000VND, but there aren’t many restaurants (at least in low season). Quality varies obviously.
We stayed at Guesthouse 32 which had stunning double rooms with ensuite for 300,000VND. Amazing food as well for 100,000 each. Dorm bed in the stilt house were 150,000VND per person. Very welcoming atmosphere and a lovely family.
Buses leave regularly from My Dinh bus station in Hanoi (70,000-80,000VND). These drop you in Mai Chau (but might drop you in the village if you ask) and it’s a 15-20 minute walk to homestay, or there will always be a moto driver!
To get to My Dinh, catch the number 34 bus from the Old Quarter in Hanoi (7,000 VND).