Mountain Vilage with its Rice Fields

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Green Nature Lodge

Flag of Vietnam  , Hòa Bình,
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 1 - Countryside Bike Ride, Village, Waterhole
Had time to kill in Hanoi so decided to head out on a two day tour to help pass the time. Had an 8am bus for Mai Chau which was about 4hrs away. Only me and three french girls doing the tour but a bus load of people heading to Mai Chau and staying in the same guesthouse. Seems that one of the guides vietnamese friends was going to Mai Chau for the weekend and while he was expecting here to bring vietnamese friends they were actually some brits teaching english in Hanoi.

This was unfortunate for the rest of us since these guys would be what you would call louts. Two of them hadnt been out all night and were still drunk. All were very loud, dribbling shit and annoying. Even the french girls (when I talked to them later) said they had never before met such idiots. While in the car popped the head phones in to try and drown them out but this only helped a bit since one of them was really loud and none of them seemed like they would shut up any time soon.

After one short stop a couple of hours into the drive we arrived at a small village just outside Mai Chau village. Found myself in a village with lots of houses on stilts. Found out later that the ethnic minority that live in the area originally immigrated from Thailand and that the stilt houses here are similar to those found in thailand.

Had some time to kill before lunch so dropped my bag off upstairs in the room and wandered around the village for a while. Headed out towards the nearby ricefields where I also had some views of the surrounding mountains. While the view was a bit hazy at least it wasnt completely clouded over as it had been in Sapa.

Had lunch at the guesthouse and chatted with the french girls who were in Vietnam on a uni student exchange. Thankfully at this point we didnt have to deal with the other guys on the bus. At least not until the later in the day.

After lunch headed out for a two or so hour ride through some of the nearby villages and rice fields. Bikes werent in such good condition and at one point one of the bike chains kept coming off. Seemed stuck at first when we tried to pull it up but managed to loosen it when I looked underneath and pushed it up to loosen the chain (rather than pulling). In the end though it wouldnt stay on and guide had to go back for another bike.

Found that there were quite a few people out in the fields harvesting the rice. Also found a number of places where the rice had been put out into the sun to dry. As can be seen in the photos, the parts of the field that are closer to being yellow are the parts of the field that are ready or nearly ready for harvesting.

Also ended up being taken to a locals stilt house where we had a look inside and had some tea. Found that the cooking area (dirty space) was separate from the living area and the floor was made from bamboo sticks that had been split in such a way as to create a flat floor. Didnt find to much inside the house but even so there was of course a TV.

We were greeted to the house byr a 55 year old grandma and for someone her age she sure looked young and fit. Nothing like my parents. Guess thats what happens when you spend your life working the fields and being active.

Over tea also chatted with the guide (american not local) who ended up joining the travel company after having finished his own student exchange. He also had a smoke and as I had seen elsewhere used a water bong to smoke the tabaco, which is the first time I have ever seen a bong being a normal way of smoking tabaco. Here the bong was a bamboo stick which had some legs at one end so the water wouldnt come out when you werent using it.

Rode a bit more and after making it back to the guesthouse we decided to go for a swim at the local swim hole and followed the guide through the town to the waterhole. Seems the place is fed by a natural spring that is  used by locals who collect water from it. Good thing that its separate as well since while the water in the spring may be clean I cant image the water hole water being completely drinkable since the buffalo are brought here to bath.

Jump in the water here to find a bit cold but not to bad. Ended up swimming for 30min or so before heading back to the village where I wandered around waiting for dinner. Found lots of houses with just as many shops. As had been seen during the ride, a number of houses had there own weaves. To be faie though everything sold in the village wasnt local since teh girls saw a few things that had made in china on them. Guess these days the only place to know 100% that your getting a souviner from the place is China since if its gonna be made somewhere else and sold as a souvineer it will be china.

While wandering round the village managed to get out to an open field part where I had some nice views of the surrounding mountains since the sky had become progressively bluer as the day went by.

Headed back and had dinner at the guesthouse with the girls while the other guys were on another table being load and getting stuck into the alcohol once again. Had a couple of beers myself and then headed off to catch up with the girls at a field where music was being played. Found lots of highschool kids dancing around a fire, people singing and around one spot people feeding each other soup and then watching it back on a big screen (very Japanese TV game show like).

Seems that the area is trying to promote itself as a festival place for people in Hanoi to come out on the weekend. Certainly were a lot of vietnamese out around the place. Am guessing its a lot quiter during the week. Also found that there werent so many western tourists and locals seems a lot less likely to try and sell you something and just say hello. Would be interesting to see how much tourism changes the place in a few years time. Got me wandering about how Sapa was say 5-10 years ago.

While at the festivak ran into the french couple who had been on the bus and were staying elsewhere and chatted with them for a while. While we hung around for a while it wasnt really the most exciting of places and so headed back into town where we bought some of the rice wind we had tried earlier. Unlioke Sapa the rice wine had some fruit in it this time which made it a bit more palatable. Guessing must have had some grab since it certainly tasted more like grape wine that I would have expected.

Found that this wind came in a jar and you had thing bamboo straws through which to suck it out. Also found the bottom of the jar had rice still there. Chatted with the guy from france for a while who had spent a year with his girlfriend in Oz and was doing Vietnam as his last stop before home.

Called it a night around 11pm which was around the time some of the other guys also arrived back. These guys were drunk as and making a lot of noise but eventually settle or at least settled enough for me to fall asleep with my headphones playing music in my ears.
Unfortunatley at 1am the rest of them arrived and these guys were a lot noisier and wouldnt shut up for over 30min. Problem with a group of loud drunks is that when one shuts up the next one decides to start. Also Seems that they had been fighting (wrestling) with each other since they were complaining about sore shoulders and backs. Also at one point heard something goes smash and it seems that one person had pushed another into a cabinet causing it to go over.

Once again had my headphones in but it just could drown them out this time. Definately would have been nicer if these guys hadnt shown up.

Day 2 - Cave, Village
Woke up around 7am and went for a walk around town before breakfast. Walked back to the rice field spot just outside of the village where I previously had a nice 360degree view of the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately this morning the mist/clouds were hiding the mountains.

Headed back around 8am for breakfast after which we walked towards the town and the cave in the hillside behind it. Our guide seems quite fluent in vietnamese and I gues he must be out here a few times a week so seems to know a fair few locals. Ended up stopping at a small shop along the way to buy water and chat with some grannies.

Had a fairly short (30min or so) walk up 1000 steps to reach the cave of 1000 steps. Not to bad for me even if it was a bit steep but the girls were breathing hard by the end of it. Guess its all relative to what your use to.

Since I had made it up quicker than the rest I ended up following a small dirt track a little bit further up the mountain. Seems that this is a track used by locals and if I had the time it would get me up to the top of the montain. didnt have time to go all the way though and given how much of the view was hidden by cloud it wouldnt really have been worth it anyway.

Found the cave to be just that a cave and not a tunnel like most caves you visit. while more natural in terms of lighting the chinese seem to love to cement the ceilings. Could see lots of cement on the ceiling above me and recalled from Halong Bay that this is done basically  to stop pieces of the ceiling from falling on people. Not really sure why they need the cement though since this is the first cave I have visited where people deemed it to be necessary. Maybe it has to do with all the water coming through the ground in the wet session. Who knows. Certainly not me.

Wandered around the cave for a while climbing around some of the stalagmites before heading back down. On the way down found that it seems that as the day progresses the amount of cloud hiding the mountains decreases so had a nice view into the valley below and down towards the town. Once at the bottom wandered through the local markets which werent quite as interesting as the Bac Ha markets but which did have dog meat being sold.

Managed to find some grubs, grasshoppers and frogs being sold. Guess if you can catch it in the field, you can eat it. also found a stand selling meet for lunch. None of which I would want to eat since it included chicken feet, intestines and other kinds of offal.

Ended up buying some fruit in the market and headed back to the village which I wandered around again waiting for lunch. Had been considering going to the water hole since teh walk uphil hsd been so hot but the girls had wandered off to go shopping and so didnt end up going. Instead went to look at the guesthouses pet snake before wandering around the town one more time while waiting for 3pm which was the time we were heading back.

Certainly felt a lot quiter today during my wandering around town. Guess the people from Hanoi had mostly headed back by now.

Jumped on the bus around 3pm and had a long but quite drive back into Hanoi. Seems all the loud guys were tired from all the drinking and previous late nights.

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