Sleeping in a Stilt House

Last weekend we took a trip through the beautiful mountains into northwest Vietnam with the company of the Valdes family, who have three children of their own.  After three hours in a big van, we arrived in Mai Chau, a small village in a valley surrounded by mountains and rice fields.  There was a beautiful breeze and lots of green space.

Mai Chau is home to one of the indigenous tribes people of Vietnam called White Thai, and they build their homes on stilts which keeps them dry if the rivers flood.  We did a “homestay” in Mai Chau to get the real experience. Here’s our house on stilts.  It’s just one big room that you get to by climbing up a ladder.  The bathroom is outside on the ground floor.  It was quite rustic as you can see.

Sleeping quarters in the stilt house

Underneath the house was a place for meals and also a loom where the lady of the house made beautiful scarves and fabric.

We took a walk through the village.  Everyone was selling something out of their house to the tourists that came through.  Most of the tourists we saw were Vietnamese, but there were some other Westerners like ourselves.  We also walked around the rice fields, which was a big treat for the kids – no worrying about being run down by mopeds!

Fabrics for sale

Fighting roosters so aggressive they must be kept in separate baskets.

A typical stilt house

A well

Entering the rice fields

Weeding her rice paddy

Kate checking out a conical hat

Water buffalo

We saw some traditional dances that night after dinner.  The dancers had everyone join in the bamboo dance, too.

The stilt house was fun to look at and play in, but for sleeping it turned out to be less than ideal.  Everyone was very tired the next day. We left Mai Chau and went to another remote village about two hours away that has absolutely no tourism or homestays. It was also in the mountains, but these were covered in mist. It was beautiful.  There were no washing machines or dryers, but there was electricity and satellite dishes on many homes, and most people had cell phones and motorbikes.

Walking into the village of the Mung people

We had tea in the home of some of the Mung people. They raised ducks and rice.

This is the village school (with water buffalo out front)

Before we came to Vietnam, I swore I would never allow my children to get on a motorbike so I could keep safe. Unfortunately, the road into this village was an hour walk straight down a steep mountain road (this was not on the tour description). There was no way our kids would be able to walk out. Michael had to carry Matthew down on his shoulders half the way, so how would he ever walk out? Our guide tried to hire a truck to carry us back up, but the truck wouldn’t start. So we were left with, you guessed it, riding motorbikes, without a helmet, up a steep and rocky dirt mountain road. Next to very steep drop offs.  Here is Anna, her friend Vicente, and their chauffeur, at the end of their ride.

On the way home we stopped at a roadside market and ate wonderful sticky rice that is steamed and sold it its own little piece of bamboo. You pull chunks of sticky rice out of the bamboo and dip it in sesame seeds and salt. Delicious!

Eating sticky rice

And one last photo this week — I saw another local delicacy back in Hanoi near my house that I have never seen before – not sure if it’s an eel or some kind of water snake (any help on this one?). But you eat them fried. (I did not partake). Thanks to my friend Lobie Stone who was brave enough to get close and take this picture for me, since I was without my camera.