The minority villages of the Mai Chau Valley, inhabited mainly by White Thai, are close enough to Hanoi (135km) to make this a popular destination, particularly at weekends when it’s often swamped with large groups of students. The valley itself, however, is still largely unspoilt, a peaceful scene of pancake-flat rice fields trimmed with jagged mountains.

MAI CHAU is the valley’s main settlement – a friendly, quiet place that has a bustling morning market frequented by minority people who trek in to haggle over buffalo meat, star fruit, sacks of tea or groundnuts.