Isolated Mai Chau town and the nearby villages are in a valley around 139km from Hanoi and only 150 metres above sea level. Nestled between two towering cliffs and surrounded by emerald green paddies, it is an enchanting sight as you approach down the windy cliff side road and the villages and surrounding countryside present an idyllic rural scene that could easily charm you into staying longer than intended.
In spring Mai Chau is a bright, almost parrot-green and by autumn this green transforms into golden hues as the rice approaches harvest. Taking the time to watch these transitions of colour seems like a perfectly useful way to spend your time while there.
The scenery isn't the only reason visitors flood to Mai Chau though; those bemoaning the dearth of truly budget accommodation in Vietnam will be happy to learn that this is one place you can stay for a song. The budget accommodation option is a 'homestay' in a stilt house in one of the ethnic White Thai villages a short walk from Mai Chau town: Ban Poom Coong, Ban Lac 1 and Ban Lac 2. The luxury accomodation option is highly recommended at E-co Mai Chau Lodge Resort.
Despite this tourist-driven set-up, and the regular influx of visitors, the villages remain a relatively peaceful retreat, and it's heartening to see how the influx of tourist dollars hasn't changed the essential character of the locals, which we gauge to be as warm and easy-going as you please.
The best time to visit Mai Chau is between October and April, as outside of these times Mai Chau can become unbearably hot, particular in June through to August.