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Taking time out at the Mai Chau Ecolodge : Vietnam

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We couldn’t have picked our time to stay in Mai Chau any better.  After spending time in some of the major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the lure of lush green rice fields and rolling mountains was just the tonic.

Vietnam is a relatively flat country, with only a few regions boasting mountains.  On a trip that has so far seen the smog of the city, the fierceness of an ocean being swept up by a typhoon thousands of kilometres away, and the serenity of the Mekong, staying in the mountains offered another perspective.

Mai Chau is also home to three minority tribes.  Here the White Thai Minority have made their home.  But, more on all of that later.

Mai Chau is located approximately 150km south west of Hanoi.  Whilst the distance might not seem onerous, it takes 3.5 to 4 hours of driving time to get there.  Of course, part of the time is just trying to move through the chaos that is Hanoi traffic, but for the main part, it’s country roads.

mai-chau-eco-lodge-where-to-stay-in-mai-chau

The town of Mai Chau is not the reason to come out to this area.  It’s small and apart from the main street which has a small market and a few stores, there’s not much to see.  The real beauty lies a couple of kilometres down the road, in the valley, nestled in amongst the mountains.

Where to stay in Mai Chau

With a somewhat limited accommodation offering in this area,  the Mai Chau Ecolodge would be the best option for a comfortable stay.  There are home stay options available if this suits your sense of adventure and budget.

This is an independent lodge, with many people arriving here all at once on the hotel’s shuttle.  This means that there will often be a queue to check-in.  If you are not one of the first to be processed, the reception area is a comfortable spot to take a break from the driving.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
Reception

Take a seat on one of the timber chairs and it won’t be long before you are served with a welcome drink.  This one, a strong blend of ginger, was a little overpowering for me, but quite refreshing all the same.

The welcome drink at Mai Chau Eco lodge
The welcome drink

 

The philosophy

As the name would suggest, supporting the environment and the community through sustainable practices and processes is a high priority.  As you wander around the property, you’ll see weeds competing with other plants, all supporting different forms of life.  Bugs and other little critters lurk under the green foliage, and staff members collect garden snails every morning as a food source.  Butterflies, such serene and beautiful things are so hard to come by in so many places these days.  Here, they fly around everywhere, stopping to flap their wings on some overgrown lantana, or whizzing off beside a dragonfly (another insect not often seen!)

They use chemical free products, provide water in glass bottles from their own water treatment plant to avoid the overuse of plastic bottles and use grey water in toilets.  Electricity comes from solar energy and all waste is treated on site and used in the fields once treated.

Everything on this site has had input from locals, whether it be the provision of labour, products or consultation.

butterly at mai chau ecolodge
bugs at mai chau eco lodge

The rooms

The eco lodge and its rooms cascade down the hill, affording all of them a view of the mountains and the paddocks at their base.  Ranging from superior rooms, right through to the Presidential Suite, and several options in between there is something to suit everyone’s situation.

We stayed in the Junior Deluxe, a very spacious, airy and comfortable room, with an unimpeded view across to the mountains.

Due to the time of year, the rice fields had been harvested, meaning that they look more brown than green.  Still, so much work is obvious in the fields and it was amazing just to watch how hard they all worked.  The mountains in the background were of course as green as ever.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
The view over the rice fields

 

Let’s take a look

The room has a rustic, natural feel, as you would (and should) expect from an ecolodge.  Tiled floors that wouldn’t look out of place in some European countries or South America keep the room cool, and add an air of difference to a stock standard hotel room.  Natural stone walls, using remnants from the road through the mountain from Hanoi to Mai Chau  feature throughout.  All furniture including the bed is hand crafted.  A small cupboard has some hanging space, a minibar and safe.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
Bedroom with a view of the mountains

Perhaps one of the few non-eco inclusions is the air conditioning.  I totally understand why they have it, and whilst others might have a different view, in humid conditions such as these, I’m ever grateful for it.  It’s also essential at night time.  Signs around the room note that mosquitoes may be present and not to leave windows and doors open towards the late afternoon.  I didn’t see any mosquitoes in my room, but I just had to bring the net down.  I see these so rarely these days that it’s a treat to sleep under one.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
Mai Chau Eco Lodge
The main walking area of the villa

The bathroom amenities, including the vanity basin are located outside the actual bathroom, which makes no difference to me whatsoever.  It might perhaps be a little unusual to those who are used to it being in a dedicated bathroom.

The bathroom is reasonably spacious although made difficult to get into by a seriously solid door that can’t stay open.  This annoyed me so much that I got my engineer husband to use the bathrobe belt to rig up a contraption to keep it open!   In a room such as this I’d do away with the door completely (or at least have something lighter !)

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
Vanity basin external to bathroom

Looking right at home in an ecolodge was this timber bath tub, built by locals out of jackfruit wood.  With a view outside to the courtyard and total privacy, I didn’t see the need to draw the curtain across.

A note that this is an ecolodge.  There are some things that you will find here that you won’t in a normal hotel.  There was a rather organic smell in the bathroom as a result of the grey water used. (another reason why the door needed to be kept open)

The taps are those old fashioned types and were a little tricky to get on at times.  Anything where I have to select shower or tub off the one device usually sees me covered in water!

Once I worked out how everything functioned, the tub was a relaxing way to end the day.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
The unusual timber bath tub with a view of the courtyard
Mai Chau Eco Lodge
The back courtyard

Bottled water is provided in your rooms.  Whilst there are many who will try their luck drinking the local water in any country they go to (I’m not one), there were explicit signs here advising guests not to drink the tap water.

A jar of Mai Nhot (rice wine)  and fresh fruit was in our room as well.  A lovely touch, although I honestly couldn’t drink that wine.  It was pure alcohol!  The inclusion of a Non La (vietnamese hat) for both of us to wear when riding our bikes was super cool!

Our villa was in a bungalow adjacent to another.  Whilst I never heard another soul, it pays to remember your security as anyone can walk around to your room.  And even though I was happy to bare all out the back in the bathroom, the front window isn’t probably the best place to get dressed, especially with the curtains open 🙂

Junior Deluxe Mai Chau Eco Lodge
While away the hours outside your villa

 

 

Activities

For the most part, the activities here centre around exploring the local villages and relaxing.  It’s the place to take it easy. The gym at this ecolodge is an outdoor one.  Grab a bike and head off onto the dirt roadways, winding your way through the local villages, and saying hi to everyone you meet.  Just watch out for whizzing scooters (no escaping them even here), cows, dogs and all manner of other possible obstacles.

Tip – don’t just grab the first bike you see.  It took me a while to find one where I could a) reach the pedals b) didn’t have a seat that swung 90 degrees when I rode it and c) had pedals that didn’t fall off.

If you are staying a bit longer and want to explore further afield, the team at reception can assist with some organised tours.

Mai Chau Eco Lodge
The bike shed

Relax by the pool

In the heat of the day out here, the pool offers cool respite.  The water was incredibly cold and not at all what I expected, but ever so refreshing once I was in.  Pool towels are provided at the bar, along with a range of cocktails, beer and wine.  The service was a little slow at times, with the wait staff seeming to accumulate orders before preparing them.  What a great thing that no-one is in a hurry out here!

It’s also necessary to understand that this eco lodge employs locals from the minority tribes, teaching them English and other transferrable skills.  It’s one of those great opportunities to be truly helpful to other people and assist them with their learning.

Pool at Mai Chau
Simply relaxing here in this pool

Enjoy the food made from fresh local produce

The lodge is serviced by a restaurant located above reception.  The breakfast that is included in your room rate is served here each morning, along with lunch and dinner.  There are not many other options nearby so if you stay here I would expect to be eating all your meals here.

It was here I enjoyed talking with the White Thai minority people the most.  Ever so keen to look after you, and serve you good food, they were an absolute delight.

The food is all cooked fresh to order and there’s nowhere better to eat it than on the outdoor verandah.

Main building and restaurant
Main building and restaurant
Enjoying a beer on the deck with panoramic views
Enjoying a beer on the deck with panoramic views
Great curries and stirfries Mai Chau Lodge

Don’t miss the dancing show

Every night dancers from the local tribes put on a wonderful display of traditional dance.

dancers at mai chau ecolodge

Getting there

If you are a budget traveller, public buses connect to the town of Mai Chau from Hanoi.  If you are staying at the ecolodge, you would then need to find your own way here.

For ease, convenience and safety, I chose to pay the US$25 per person for a return transfer from my Hanoi hotel.  The van is air conditioned, comfortable and with bottled water and wifi included, it was a hassle free way of getting directly to the lodge.  The driver stops along the way at a local shop which also has clean toilet facilities.  It’s a chance to buy a drink and something to eat from the store owner to thank them for the use of these amenities which are few and far between along the road.

Shuttle bus Mai Chau from Hanoi
Mai Chau Ecolodge:
Na Thia Village, Na Phon Commune, Mai Chau
District, Hoa Binh Province, Vietnam
 
 
dancers at mai chau ecolodge

Going to Vietnam ?  These might come in handy.  Click on the images below.

    

A special thank you to the Mai Chau Ecolodge for extending an invitation to stay with them.   As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

48 thoughts on “Taking time out at the Mai Chau Ecolodge : Vietnam”

  1. I am blown away by the handmade bed and other furniture, even the bathtub! And those floor tile patterns in your villa are simply gorgeous! Nice to know places like this do exist outside of the main hubs in Vietnam.

  2. I wanted to see the terraces rice paddies and Sapa was on the list. But the time of year we were here meant that Sapa wasn’t really going to be worth the trip out from Hanoi. Mai Chau as the “sister” of Sapa was much closer, hence the trip. So glad we came. So worthwhile.

  3. Your photos are absolutely stunning. They add to the inviting quality of the place…a new way to visit Vietnam!

  4. This reminds me so much of an eco-lodge I stayed at in Bali. It was my first time and I definitely have a fonder apprectiation for them. Mai Cahau looks amazing and serene; like a nice escape. I´d love to check this place out the next time I´m in Vietnam.

  5. A timber bath tub!? Love it! The loge looks amazing and it is great that they are sousing everything locally to support the community.

  6. After a crazy city like Hanoi It looks like the perfect place to take a rest for a while and enjoy delicious food. Beautiful lodge with a beautiful purpose, I could do without the A/C and the bath (I tend to use less water with shower) though.

  7. This place is gorgeous totally somewhere that I would want to stay – Love it! It seems to have everything and love that bathtub after a long day of seeing sights the perfect spot for some down time! Thank you for sharing we will keep this for sure as a place to stay while in Vietnam.

  8. What a superb place to enjoy Vietnamese countryside! It seems to be so peaceful, relaxing and I love the nature eco orientation ! A perfect place to stay in!

  9. This looks like. a great hotel! From the welcome drink and lush green surroundings, to the wooden bath with a view of the courtyard, it all oozes vibes of peace and relaxation!- And I have to admit, I’d have been the same with the mosquito net. It’s so rare to see them that I would have had to get it down to take a look too!

  10. I’ve riden motorbikes up and down the length of the country, but sadly I’ve never been up into the northern parts of Vietnam. From my experience, I think the country contains much more mountains than perhaps you’ve experienced, and I think that’s what makes it beautiful, especially around the central regions. This area you visited looks brilliant, and I guess I’m surprised that this area is so developed now. Hope you enjoyed the food.

  11. It’s really nice of them that they employ people from local tribes. I also liked the environment and the rooms, although I am not a big fun of this bathtub to be honest! I would surely visit the lodge because I think that they have made a really good effort towards this ecological initiative!

  12. That bath looks luxe! What brought you to stay in this part of the world? I’m not sure I’d initially pick an ‘eco’ style resort, but this looks quite comfy and scenic.

  13. Mau Chau looks totally wonderful to visit and I would love to check out that accommodation. Loving the photos as always.

  14. Gorgeous photos and what a beautiful part of the world! So nice to see that they use chemical free products and minimal plastic. If only more places did this!
    Mhai Noht sounds like an interesting taste!

  15. Mai Chau was on our shortlist when we were in Vietnam a few years ago but the weather at the time was horrible so we dropped it. This place looks gorgeous, it would have been a great time out for a few days after 10 days in Hanoi. I think I would opt to try all the local food and do lots of nothing – just taking in the lush green views. Hopefully we can get there again one day.

  16. What a beautiful spot! It seems to strike the perfect balance between luxury and communion with nature. Sounds like you had a great trip, I’ll def keep this place in mind if I return to Vietnam anytime soon.

  17. When you mentioned EcoLodge right in the beginning, I could not even imagine that bedroom with the romantic, curtained bed…what a beauty. This is something I really must check out when we shortlist our accommodations for Vietnam.

  18. This looks like the kind of place we would enjoy too. I’m particularly liking the look of your room, and that timber bath, though a little concerned at that “organic” smell you mention! The pool area looks just beautiful too.

  19. Vietnam has always been on my bucket list but it’s still so far away and so different from what we’re used to that we still haven’t challenged ourselves with a trip there. Thank you for detailing your experience at the Mai Chau Ecolodge, I’ll read this to my husband too, as it could be a very good idea to lodge there!

  20. Hi Kerri,

    Cool tub, cool place!

    I dig the green feel to it. I also dig the big skeeter nets draped over the bed. We used these in Vietnam, Bali and Costa Rica, in areas infested with skeeters. We’d have been eat alive otherwise LOL.

    Fabulous share.

    Ryan

  21. What a cool place! I never really understand what’s meant by “eco-lodge” so it’s nice to hear how one actually operates. And it’s so beautiful in such a great place! PS: heavy doors are also my curse.

  22. Wonderful post. I’ll want to go to this beautiful place. I pleasantly surprised to me that in Vietnam recycle garbage and try to use less plastic. It is so important to preserve the ecology of our planet and such beautiful places.

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