Trip to Northern Vietnam into Mai Chau valley

October 2014 

Journey through the picturesque countryside of Northern Vietnam, among green mountains, extensive rice fields and tiny villages home to people belonging to various ethnic groups such as Thai, H'mong and Muong. Overnight stay in a stilt house in the village of Van with a family, where visitors have the opportunity to enjoy local life and typical dishes of the region.

Xom Chieng
The valley of Mai Chau is located in Northern Vietnam about 4 hours by road from Hanoi and is a quiet place where small villages are alternated with extensive rice fields. In the village of Xom Chieng the roads are narrow, so the main means of transport are the motorbikes and the bicycles.
Bike excursion
I choose therefore to explore the villages and the surrounding countryside by bicycle, a good way to better enjoy the quiteness and the wonderful views.
Thai white rice Mai Chau
Photos of Mai Chau. At the end of September, in Mai Chau valley in Vietnam, the rice fields begin to turn yellow, announcing that it is about to ripe. Vietnam is a very extensive country, over 1500 km long, which has a rather complex rice ripening pattern: in fact, this depends on latitude, altitude and cultivation techniques, which may allow even multiple harvests per year.
Ears of rice

On the left picture: the ears of rice almost ripe. On the top picture: a farmer in a rice field, with the classic Asian conical hat.
Water buffalo
Washing a water buffalo in a stream.
Vietnam Rice
Thai homes Field of rice
The peaceful surroundings of the green landscape in Mai Chau, among vast fields of Thai white rice almost ripe. Rice is vital for the economy of the entire region.
Ban Lac village Weaver
Ban Lac

I visit the village of Ban Lac, mainly inhabited by Thai people engaged in their daily activities...
Thai house Van (Vietnam)
...before arriving at the village of Van, where I will stay for the night with a family.
The inhabitants of the village of Van engaged in a game of volleyball and a social dinner.
Giant bamboo manufacture of chopsticks for food
Other people are instead involved in the processing of a large trunk of bamboo (left picture) and in the manufacture of chopsticks for food (right picture).
Van village
Photos of the houses in the village of Van in North Vietnam.
traditional Vietnamese food
In the town of Van, I overnight in a family stay, into a traditional house built on stilts. The bed is on the floor, but the environment is very clean and the food (traditional Vietnamese) is great.
Harvesting rice Ripening rice

The next morning I leave the valley of Mai Chau proceeding to the mountains in the west. With the increasing of altitude, rice fields become more and more yellow, and it is not uncommon to observe people busy in harvesting it.
Drying rice

On the way, there are interesting villages visited only very seldom by foreigners. The most common ethnic groups in this region are the Thai, the H'mong and Muong, and each live in homes with different characteristics. In the photo above, the newly harvested rice is dried in the open air, spreading it over large plastic sheets.
Tea plantation Plantation of tea
Tea plant

Pictures of tea plantations. This region of Vietnam is known to host large tea plantations, which often cover entire valleys and hills.

On the way to Nghia Lo, the destination of the day, it is necessary to cross the branch of a reservoir created by a large dam upstream. A small ferry, which can load one vehicle at time, is the only shuttle from one bank to the other.
Northern Vietnam Corn fields

The overland journey continues through the green valleys of Northern Vietnam, cultivated with rice and corn.
Mountains in Vietnam

The scenery in the mountains of northern Vietnam is particularly impressive and dense virgin forests alternate with fields of corn.
Vertical corn field
The mountainous territory require to use every single piece of land, so the corn plantations cover even the steepest slopes. The journey then continues to Nghia Lo, where I arrive late in the afternoon.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.