Mai Châu village is ethnically Thai. There are some two million people with this heritage in Vietnam. These houses in the village, arranged to allow maximal air circulation around them, are typical of the culture, and seen throughout Vietnam The house at the back of this line, to the left, is the one shown at the top of the page. Mai Châu village and town lie in a deep and picturesque valley through which runs a tributary of the River Mã - more on coming pages As with many place names in Vietnam, Mai Châu designates more than one community. It is the name of the district which lies about 140 kilometres to the west of Hà Nội and has a population of some 55,000. Then it is the name of the main town of that district. And thirdly, across the fields from the town, is the village of Mai Châu. It is the village which accounts for the familiarity of the name, for it appears in every travel agent in the country with the offering of 'Home Stay'. This fame is due to a government scheme which established a number of such tourist villages in poorer rural areas. The success of this support has been impressive. The district is predominantly Thai (70%) and the stilted Thai houses make attractive accommodation for visitors - while the welcoming nature of the inhabitants does no harm at all. At the edge of the village, by the road that leads to the neighbouring small town... ...a new community centre was in the process of being built at the beginning of January in 2007 The base of the framework's posts... ...are kept well clear of the ground to prevent rotting And this is the building three weeks later And again two years later Here the community centre is seen as it stands near the entrance to the village. But 'Community Centre' is rather a mundane translation. The picture above, right, peps this up a little with the Vietnamese version in large letters on the balcony, it reads: 'Nhà Văn Hoa' - 'Culture House' The 'main' road which leads from the nearby town of the same name into the village Typically the areas under the houses have many uses, here, behind the clothes is a small shop Un-paved tracks, buffalo, and bare feet, seduce tourists Not all buildings are Thai - a small Việt house The huddle of a village lane: wooden panelled, plastered and woven walls; tiled, thatched and asbestos roofs; ground floor as shop, used for storage or filled in with a wall Outside walls may be of woven palm leaves on frames; some inside... ...walls use bamboo to create decoration Thai house, being on stilts, allow a variety of uses for the space so created, here dimly illustrated - the light is too poor below stairs - as shop (left) and bike shed (right). Punctuation is provided by a nearby sleeping dog of the edible breed, hence the always anxiously half open eye. All ground areas in Vietnam have dogs as fixtures, although not all are for eating. Nearly all the village houses offer accommodation. This is number 15, the faded Vietnamese print indicates that the 'serce' should read 'service' A little colour added to the browns of the woods Within the guest houses sleeping accommodation is mats on the floors of large rooms. Traditional large Thai houses have no internal divisions. And eating, too, is at floor level, although here the comfort of a low table has been added. For more mat meals go to this page Besides the provision of accommodation the sale of home made cloth is common and the open lower floors of the houses offer an ideal sheltered space in which to work. A Loom with a View. Maybe it is fair to warn the over enthusiastic tourist that not every single piece of cloth on display comes from the fair hands of the lady of the house And there are, of course, bars in the Mai Châu. Further the rapid building of new guest houses in the village... ...like the one above, mean that the proclaimed 'hidden charm' of this corner of rural life, is showing signs of fraying But here is charm on full display - from a guest house owner Trailers... The next page of this section stays in Mai Châu offering some pictures of the daily dancing displays. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Dragons'.
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of the Mosaic Section.