A night in the valley of Mai Châu


Yesterday I was with Lan almost the whole day on the way in the Hòa Bình province located in the west of Hanoi. At Kim Bôi district we looked for some eligible plots for my street children project. I almost decided one, but there is no hurry. For the negotiations on the purchase I definitely will consult an expert. Since there was beautiful weather the whole day, I spontaneous proposed Lan not to go home in the afternoon, but to spend a night in Mai Châu. Because she did not know the place, she was happy to do so. The small market town of Mai Châu is located about 120 kilometers west of Hanoi at an altitude of 400 meters. From the pass road there is a spectacular view of the gorgeous valley, which contains the small villages of the National Minorities of the Thái, H’Mông and Dao. The landscape is certainly not quite as spectacular as the well known area around the tourist town of Sapa, but beautifully. So May Châu is especially for travelers with little time a worthwhile alternative to the overflow Sapa, because the arrival from Hanoi takes just three hours. Overnight we have not stayed in a hotel, but in the small village of Bản Lác in a traditional stilt house of the White Thái. The houses stand on thick tree trunks. Approximately 2.50 m in height, the floor starts from bamboo. Thereon woven mats of rice straw to be laid. Through the cracks of the bamboo floor all remnants are swept down to where the chickens are already waiting. An ingeniously simple method of keeping the apartment clean. The house has a pointed roof, thick bamboo poles as roof battens, covered with reeds. For the construction nails are not used. Over a large area of the house there are hanged mosquito nets. One or two mats and blankets under each mosquito net. So you have quickly small guest rooms. Before going to bed a sumptuous dinner was served to us. The kitchen is fitted separately. There is a sandpit on the bamboo floor, benches running all around. Done is the hearth. Above the fireplace, the roof is open on two sides so that the flue and fresh air is guaranteed. In the kitchen there are storage boxes, dishes, large bowls. Pots and pans are dark black. They are never washed and daily disinfected by the fire. The only fuel is wood, there is still enough forest in the area. We slept well. The base was very hard, but one can get used to it. A hard, cuboid pillow for the head, as big as a brick – very convenient and pleasant. We were disturbed at 4 o’clock by a huge crash. All cocks in the village were crowing about the bet! After a quarter of an hour there was silence again. The day in the village begins early. Everyone has something to do after getting up. The mother makes breakfast. The older children hang the woven materials and scarves for sale on the ropes in front of the house. The first people were already on the fields around the village. The shop on the other side opened: biscuits, beer and souvenirs. A dog yawned and stretched. The mountains surrounding the valley were still enveloped in clouds, they were only dimly to guess more than to see. Then a light wind chased away the clouds pretty fast. After breakfast we explored the valley for a while and admired the paradisiacal scenery, before we went on the drive back to Hanoi at lunchtime. As usual my Honda does not let us down and we arrived our home just in time to make us pretty for the concert of Lê Cát Trọng Lý at the French Cultural Center. Best wishes Cathrin Cathrin’s Blog: Zwischen Traditionen und Moderne