Ma Le, Vietnam’s town of happiness and simplicity

Ma Le, Vietnam’s town of happiness and simplicity

Ma Le, Vietnam’s town of happiness and simplicity 441 592 Joaquim Miro

Welcome to Vietnam’s town of Happiness and Simplicity

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had this fantasy of living in a small village nested in a cliff side.

kids in ma le vietnam

A village that woke up with the sunrise and the sounds of the roosters.

town of ma le


Where you could walk down to the stream and take a swim.

stream in ma le river valley


Living in a log cabin built by locals hundreds of years ago.

ma le homestay sign


Offering a view that cannot be described by words alone.

Ma Le chilling


Enjoying meals with locals,

eating in ma le homestay


Delicious meals made with local foods that come from their own mountainside.

ma le food


Giving you a moment to think, and appreciate the good things of this world.

ma le vietnam

Ma Le is that type of magical place. The type which allows you to feel at home in a different world. A vertical world where 1000 meter mountain is considered small, and where over 150 rice fields stacked on top of each other within the mountain side is a norm. Welcome to Ma Le, Vietnam’s town of happiness and simplicity.

Situated in the Ha Giang Province, about 15 km north of Dong Van City, Ma Le can be easily missed when passing by it. At first, it looks like any other cross-town on these mountainous passes, but as soon as you get off the main road, you enter a new world of peace and serenity, where you feel as though time has left the town as it was centuries ago. If you plan on visiting Dong Van, I highly recommend staying in this small hidden gem of a town instead of Dong Van.


Up Next: 10 Local Foods not to miss in Vietnam


Where to stay in Ma Le

To experience the authenticity of Ma Le, you should stay at the Ma Le Homestay. Owned by Dung (pronounced Zoom), the Homestay has recently become part of a humanitarian project to help the town develop itself. Dung is a generous and righteous man who is also bringing electricity to one of the Hmong People communes, who live in the mountains about 4 KM away from Dong Van. At night, we would cook massive meals and invite all the neighbors to eat with us, drinking Happy Water (homemade rice wine) into the later hours of the night. Offered at a very affordable price, this Homestay exceeded my expectations in every way. It is the type of place you plan to stay in for 1 night, but end up staying for 1 week, so watch out!!

Alt Tip: The place is quite difficult to find if you don’t know where to look, so instead call Dung, and he will be able to help you. The number you can reach him at is: 097 379 18 42.

What to do in Ma Le

There are many things to do around Ma Le. Even staying around the Homestay will teach you how to do some pretty incredible stuff like this little animal made of plants!

animal made of plants

In Ma Le, you can

  • Go swim in the stream – The walk is over 2KM down to the bottom of the mountainside so be prepared!
  • Help prepare food and eat with locals at the Homestay
  • Drink Happy Water with local tribes
  • Enjoy one of Vietnam’s grandest views
  • Help locals on the rice fields

Woman carrying her own weight in plants

If you enjoyed the pictures to this point, check out this great article featuring inspiring pictures from all of over Vietnam!

Around Ma Le, you can

  • Motorbike and enjoy some of Vietnam’s most beautiful views
  • Go see the iconic flag pole in Lung Cu, the most northern point of Vietnam – This is only 14 KM from Ma Le
  • Go to the market on Sunday
  • Go visit Dong Van and the pretty pink flowers
ha giang buckwheat flower festival

Ha Giang Buckwheat Flower Festival

  • Go to Dung’s Cave next to Dong Van

dong van cave


How to get to Ma Le

It would be difficult to get to Ma Le without a motorbike. I would recommend renting one in Ha Giang and going towards Dong Van. If you bargain you should be able to get the motorbike for 150,000 Dong per day. Make sure it’s at least semi-automatic if you are not used to riding manual. Dong Van is at least 4 hours away going 40KM per hour, and Ma Le is only 15 KM from Dong Van, which takes about 30 minutes by motorbike.


Ma Le, Vietnam’s town of happiness and simplicity

If only moments and feelings could be captured by pictures, I am certain you too would want to spend a day or two in the mountains of Ma Le. These mountains will offer you peace of mind, a moment to slow down and breathe. They will show you the true Vietnamese culture, of generosity and serenity. So let me conclude with this simple question; are you ready to experience Vietnam’s natural beauty?


Until next time,

Joaquim Miro

The Alternative Ways


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Joaquim Miro

As a passionate traveler, pianist, paraglider, digital marketer, blockchain and vr enthusiast, I always felt the urge to travel the world, but stopped myself because of my career. So I took a leap of faith to prove that it is possible to grow your career through travel. And it worked! Now I am on a mission to help you do the same.

All stories by : Joaquim Miro
  • If you have any comments about the place or know other hiddens gems please comment 🙂

  • I often consider ditching my life in the US and moving to another country where life is a little bit slower. I’m a NYC native, that go go go mentality is in my blood to some extent. This place just looks so peaceful and idyllic. The grass is always greener- I know- but every few months my list of possible future homes grows longer and longer.

  • I have never been to Vietnam nor have I heard of Ma Le. Actually, all I’ve ever heard of is Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh. This place looks like the perfect retreat. I remember staying in a rainforest in Brunei and being so disconnected from the world. its felt good for a change plus I got to appreciate the things around me.

  • Excellent! This does look like a magical place, full of happiness! A nice, slow pace with spectacular views!

  • Christina from Happy to Wander November 1, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Aw those photos with the kids are so cute! Ma Le looks wonderful, and I would love to try a homestay there too. Seems like the way to go 🙂

  • What a gorgeous little town. It seems like you had such an authentic experience and got a true sense of Vietnamese culture. Awesome!

  • The pictures of the surrounding areas are spellbounding! I love the idea of doing a homestay, nearest I’ve done is couchsurf and its so much better for meeting locals and discovering the real sides of a place!

  • Looks like a great place to visit, totally my type of place. Is there no buses there? Not sure I would want to hire a bike!! I never made it this far north on my trip to Vietnam, hopefully next time 🙂

  • Wow Ma Le sounds like such a cool place to visit. You hear about Vietnam all the time but it’s nice to learn about off-the-beaten-path places like this one. You really immersed yourself in the local life there eh? Love it! Are there other ways of getting there without a motorbike?

    • Hi Ivy,

      It would be difficult to get there without having a motorbike. You could take a bus from Ha Giang City to Dong Van, and then hire someone to bring you out to Ma Le. Or you could hire a personal driver but this is generally more expensive. These would probably be your best bets!

  • Hi Joaquim,

    Thank you for providing such a great write up! I’m planning our trip the Ha Giang region and think Ma Le Homestay would be a great place to spend a night or two. Is there any need to make some sort of reservation in advance, or can we just show up? They don’t appear to have a website, but they did show up on Is that how you made your reservation?


    • Hi Evan!

      Really glad to hear you are going there! Please send Zoum and his wife my regards if they are there. I would recommend booking online and communicating with them ahead of time as the place can be hard to find. Last resort let me know and I can put you in direct contact with one of the owners.

      Cheers and enjoy your time there 🙂






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