Hoa Binh is a mountainous province of Vietnam, Hoa Binh city is the Provincial capital of Hoa Binh province and arguably the only major city you will go past if travelling to Mai Chau village.
At present, there are more than 50 ethnic tourism hamlets within Hoa Binh available to visitors both inside and outside Vietnam. Lác Village and Muong Village are the most well-known sites that have been officially developed for cultural and ecotourism by Hoa Binh Authorities. Besides, visitors are advised to visit Culture Tourism Village in Dong Mo, Son Tay, Hoa Binh. The village is composed of Vietnamese ethnic traditional architecture, established with the purpose to preserve and promote Vietnamese culture to the world.
Although Hoa Binh’s geographical characteristics cause it many difficulties in developing its infrastructure and economy, the accumulated mountainous topography here is really a Godsend in term of tourist attraction. Together with average-high mountains are green valleys; surrounded by primitive forests with thousand species of rare plants and animal and hundreds of fanciful caves and streams that offer tourists numbers of tours like adventurous hiking, walking, hunting or hot spring.
Going 30km further from Hoa Binh Town, travelers may recognize a bunch of hotels and inns which offer hot-spring service on both side of the road. The area is lucky to have the source of mineral water from Kim Boi hot-spring. Mineral water here is always naturally kept at 36oC and is proven to be able to drink and bath. More interesting, the water may help healing diseases like arthritis, gastritis, and hypertension.
Thung Nai is another ideal spot for ecotourism which ones can get there by travelling on romantic green surface of Da River through winding currents and wonderful view along its sides. Thung Nai is especially suitable for tourists who seek for peaceful relaxing time with family or friends, forgetting all about the stresses of busy life and enjoying stunning natural wonder. Thung Nai is also regarded as “Ha Long Bay on land”.
Other ecotourism destinations for travelers in Hoa Binh are Da Bac and Luong Son District with primitive sceneries. However, tourism there is not as developed as the first two sites.
One of Hoa Binh’s districts, Mai Chau is noted for its beautiful scenery as a mountainous region. The district is about 60km from Hoa Binh and covers an area of 520 km2. In Mai Chau Valley, there are also national caves and grottoes such as Mo Luong Cave, Chieu Cave, Pieng Kem Grotto, and archaeological sites such as Lang Cave and Khau Phuc Cave. When standing on the peak of the Cun Mountain, the first things that catch tourists’eyes are the picturesque panorama of Mai Chau stilt houses along with a lush green valley. Another thing that is unforgettable in Mai Chau is that tourists are warmly hosted by the ethnic groups, especially Thai people in Lac village. Those who are in their spare time away from the rice paddies will cook, lead hikes and pull out a sleeping mat for wandering guests.
Normally, most travelers choose to stay a night in one of the stilt houses to experience the life of the ethnic tribe people. Stilt houses are the typical feature of the ethnic people in Vietnam. The houses border both sides of the roads. The houses are quite large in which up to 60 people can stay together. They are roofed with palm leaves while the floors are made of bamboo. The kitchen is situated in the center of the house. This is the place where cooking and weaving work take place. Thai people make colorful clothes themselves from “Tho Cam” materials. They also make many kinds of souvenirs such as wallets, bags, embroidered pictures, hats etc. Tourists can find those in various types and colors in the Mai Chau market. Mai Chau market, especially in spring, is the mixture of nature and people. Feeling the cold wind and going around the market to admire the beauty and exquisite talent of the Thai maidens or enjoying the local specialty food or buying local fresh products all gives you great pleasure.
In the recent time, Mai Chau has undergone considerable changes as it has become a popular break point for travelers. Some areas have now been commercialized; as a result, compared to the past the prices here may go up a little bit. However, this trend is not worrying so much because the breathtaking scenery and hospitality of the people as well as the valuable traditions still remain. It is even more convenient as tourism services are highly developed. Mai Chau never stops being a welcoming place for tourists in general.
With the background of being an ancient land, Hoa Binh is not lack of antique and historic relics, in fact, the province honorably preserve 37 national relics and 18 regional vestiges. The residents here consist mainly of Muong ethnic group and various ethnic minorities such as Thai, Yao, Tay and Hmong. This contributes a lots to the cultural diversity of this mountainous province as well as the development of its tourism industry.
Dam Da is actually a vast complex of temples, pagodas and caves in the district, including Trinh temple (also known as Quan Trinh), Mau temple, Tien pagoda and etc. The temples and pagodas here are closely related to legendary characters in Viet Nam’s history such as Au Co mother, Lac Long Quan Father, Hoang Bay Mandarin and Tam Toa Thanh Mau. In Tien cave and Ho cave (other name: Nguoi xua cave), archaeologists have found traces of ancient people, contributing a great deal to the historical study. Now Tien pagoda has received national recognition as a historical cultural site and it is attracting many visitors to come here for sightseeing or worship.
Apart from historical and cultural values, Dam Da is marked by its natural spectacular caves. There are Tam Toa cave, Thuy Tien cave, Cung Tien cave, Hoang Muoi cave, Co Chin cave etc. One will find it extremely difficult to list all the caves here. When coming into each cave, tourists will be totally taken by surprised at the gigantic and illusory stalagmites and stalactites.
Dam Da is most crowded in spring, particularly from January to March when there is Chua Tien festival. It is also convenient for tourists to visit Huong pagoda nearby – a famous attraction in My Duc district, Ha Noi.
Coming to Hoa Binh on Tet Holiday, ones may have chances to attend a wide range of festivals organized by the locals in different areas and by different ethnic groups. To illustrate Chua Tien Festival in Lac Thuy Prefecture, “Khai Ha” Carnival of Muong Bi people and “Xen Ban Xen Muong” Carnival of Thai ethnic group