Mai Chau - Land of Thai Traditional Xoe Dances
Mai Chau - Land of Thai Traditional Xoe Dances
Mai Chau is a vision in every season. In spring, it is a lush, bright green while in autumn, just before the rice harvest, it turns golden. Nowadays, people should count themselves lucky to get the chance to see such colors because before 1993 Mai Chau was an isolated farming town whereas now, it is a recommended stop for any traveller who wants to explore Vietnam.
Located in Hoa Binh Province, Mai Chau is in a valley about 139km from Hanoi. The town is situated between tall cliffs and is surrounded by bright-green paddies, making it a sight to behold; the beauty of the place is enough reason for many tourists to stay longer than expected.
Stilt houses are a common sight in Mai Chau. In fact, these structures line both sides of the road, with palm leaf roofs, bamboo-slat floors and large, patterned windows. Visitors can stay the night in these houses, especially in Lac, which is the village of the White Thai minority group near the main road. Here, one can live like the locals but with modern facilities.
If you’re looking for hard-core exploration, this is not the place, but for biking, hiking and relaxation, Mai Chau fits the bill nicely.
The best time to visit Mai Chau
The best time of year to visit Mai Chau is between October to November, and February to May. During these months, the weather is sunny but not too hot. From December to January (sometimes extending until February), the weather can get pretty cold. Visiting any time between June and September is strongly discouraged and it is hard to deal with the heat when electricity only comes on at night. It is also during these months that the heavy rains pose a challenge for outdoor exploration.
Getting There & Away
Direct buses to Mai Chau leave Hanoi’s My Dinh bus station regularly from 6am to 2pm (100,000d, 3hours15minutes). Alternatively, catch a regular Son La or Dien Bien Phu bus to Tong Da junction (100,000d, 3hours30minutes). From the junction it’s another 5km by Xe Om to Mai Chau (20,000d). There are also regular buses from Hoa Binh to Tong Dau (40,000d, 1 hour).
You may have to pay a 5000d entry fee to Mai Chau, but the toll booth is often not attended
Sights & Activities
This is one of the closest places to Hanoi where you can sleep in a stilt house in a tribal village. There’s also fine walking past rice fields and trekking to minority villages. A typical trek further afield covers 7km to 8km; a local guide can be hired for about 10$. Most homestays also rent bikes to explore the village at your own pace.
A popular 18km trek is from Lac village (Ban Lac) in Mai Chau to Xa Linh village, near a mountain pass (elevation 1000m) on Highway 6. Lac village is home to White Thai, while the inhabitants of Xa Linh are H’mong. The trek is strenuous in one day, so most people spend a night in a village. Arrange a guide and a car to meet you at the mountain pass for the journey back to Mai Chau. Note there’s a 600m climb in altitude, and the trail is slippery after rain.
Ask around in Mai Chau about longer treks of three to seven days. Other options include kayaking and mountain biking excursions; enquire at Mai Chau Logde.
Eating & Drinking
The best places to eat when in Mai Chau are in one’s hotel or homestay. Those staying in Mai Chau Lodge should try The Lodge Restaurant and The Veranda Restaurant. These establishments serve traditional Vietnamese fare alongside international dishes, which are better enjoyed with wine from the Lodge’s impressive selection.
The food may be good in the aforementioned restaurants but nothing beats the family-style Vietnamese cooking in the homestays. The stilt houses in White Tai villages provide more than just lodging; they also offer their guests food and drink, but for a fee of course. Homestays often serve breakfast and dinner, but these are not included in the price for staying the night. Breakfast is often Western fare (bread, jam and the like) while dinner is a feast of different home-cooked dishes. However, the food served is more White Tai than Vietnamese, and the rice is stickier than usual.
Mai Chau – The land of Thai traditional Xoe dances
Xoe Dan has long been considered as a cultural and folklore activity of Thai ethnic people in Mai Chau. Visit Mai Chau, you will have a great chance enjoy a traditional Thai dance performance of Thai ethnic young girls with unique dance which bearing deep of charming and graceful dances.
Xoe is the common name of different dances including “Xòe chá”, “Xòe ồng bổng”, “xòe kiếm”, “xòe đánh máng”, etc. All of those dances are originated from labor and production activities as well as daily living practices of local people. For example, the dance “Xòe ồng bổng” is an ancient dance of Thai ethnic group in Mai Chau with simple movements in which people holding hands and dancing around a big fire to celebrate the fruits of after a hunting day. You will easily find out that the main characteristics of this dance are the performers wear their casual costumes and there is no instrument, just the singing of Thai ethnic people and the cheering sounds when they enjoy simple but strong, fun and liberal movements.
There is also a different dance which travellers often enjoy in Mai Chau, named “Xòe đánh máng”. This unique dance is dedicated for women only. Dancers are divided into three groups of two and each group hold two pestles and hit them onto the trough used for pounding rice to create strong rhythmic melody.
Recently, in Lac Village and Pom Coong Village, there are nearly 10 teams which regularly practice traditional Xoe dances to perform as a cultural activity in those villages and also to attract travellers visit Mai Chau. Almost every old Xoe dance has been modified and become attractive dance with eye-catching movements, props and accompanying music. Those team which included Thai local ethnic people can not only perform for travellers as a great tourist attraction to increase their income but also preserve, promote their ethnic cultural identity.
Coming to Mai Chau when the drums, gongs have been sublimated is the time traditional Xoe dances of Thai ethnic people are being performed, as beautiful as iridescent flower