Sa Pa – Day 3

Sunday 6th October 2019

Sa Pa


Mount Fansipan offers a type of Vietnamese adventure we didn’t want to miss and this was one of the reasons we came to Sa Pa. We wanted to hike it.

When I first saw pictures of this mountain it encouraged curiosity, got our blood flowing, and satisfied our need for adventure.

Mount Fansipan is the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula, hence it’s nickname the “Roof of Indochina”.

At 3,143m (10,312ft) it is a real mountain but can be climbed without any specialised equipment.

We have read/researched the cans/cannot of climbing this mountain and there has been varied responses.

A few have told us that the ascent can take around 8hrs if relatively fit.

Sa Pa’s ever changing climate often means views can be hidden between a grey and lingering mist that refuses to lift but we were prepared for that…we just wanted the opportunity to climb this amazing mountain.

So when we first arrived in Sa Pa we started our enquiries and they were not good. We were being told you needed a guide in order to climb it.

Once we got to know Thái better we told him of our circumstances and basically asked him if there was some way we could sneak on to the mountain and climb it ourselves – cummon it was worth a try!

He told us the way up had ‘an entrance’ and it was guarded, as you had to pay an entry fee and you had to have a guide with you, we would have to bribe the guard/ranger if we wanted to go up on our own! What!!!!

He told us ‘laws’ had changed as there had been a few deaths on the mountain due to people getting lost, an English guy had died only last year…some may question this ‘law’…is this just another way of making money out of tourists!?

We checked out the guide situation and we would only be able to get a guide for two days, we wanted to undertake it in one day due to our time frame.

I wasn’t having the opportunity of standing on the top of Mt Fansipan being taken away from me…….

So on finally reaching the top of Mount Fansipan was I relieved – yes to a certain extent we had made it but I was not proud!

It certainly was the easiest summit attempt I have ever taken in my life!

The clouds lingered above the top of the mountain so views were obstructed but we were at the top. Was I satisfied – no! I’ll explain why!

We weren’t willing to or able to go with the whole paying for a guide option for various reasons and paying to climb this mountain or enter these villages wasn’t sitting well with me. If the money had been going to the actual community then that would have been a different story.

And also what about freedom of choice, give the information and let the people choose, if it goes pear shaped it’s their choice surely, as long as the information was provided in the first place.

And then we did the unthinkable!

There’s a controversial cable car to the summit and this is how we got to the top!

In 2016 Fansipan Legend, the highest, longest and most modern cable car system in the world was opened for everyone and anyone who dreamed of standing on top of the ‘Roof of Indochina’.

Fansipan Legend Cable Car could for some I suppose feel like an adventure for it spans 6,292.5 meters, making it the longest three-roped and non-stop cable car out there.

It also holds the record for highest elevation gain with 1,410 meters for a three-roped cable car.

It sweeps through clouds with views over Muong Hoa Valley, and through the magnificent peaks of Hoang Lien Son Range.

It was pretty cool if I’m being honest, but I was still in the frame of mind that we should be going up here by foot!

In order to get to the cable cars we had previously took the Muong Hoa Rail Route which connects Sa Pa and Fan Si Pan Station,which was opened in 2018.

The trains and the station are designed in European style with impressive architecture.

As we got off the cable cars we witnessed huge, humongous statues, pagodas, what looks to be the Great Wall Of China, a restaurant on top with a gift shop!

We are gobsmacked. Once again I read about this but when you witness it in the flesh well it’s a different matter altogether.

You still have to summit Mount Fansipan by walking about 600 stairs to the very peak after you exit the car.

And to top it all off you can imagine the overcrowdedness on the mountain. I think the whole of China were up top with us due to it being the weekend and us being so close to the border.

I have never in my life and hope to never again experience the top of a mountain with so many people.

I think if we had trekked all the way up here on foot to be hit by this I would have cried!

We climbed the 600 stairs looking at each other in disbelief.

Mt Fansipan could have been a rare adventure in Vietnam but on this occasion it was not.

The cable car provided sleek transportation to a place that I feel should only be accessible to those who can make the trek so you can gain the true grandeur of this mountain and Sa Pa….let mountains be!

It’s sad and disappointing that firstly the government is forcing you to use guides in order to climb the mountain, and secondly has put in these cable cars. However we played into their hands and did use them and I felt like a cheat!

I think I was hanging my head in shame by this point

So our time in North Vietnam is about to come to an end as we head south.

We leave Sa Pa to take the 6 hour bus journey back to Hanoi and tomorrow morning we catch an early morning plane to Da Nang.

We have enjoyed our time in Sa Pa, the town itself isn’t very picturesque, but it’s the incredible surrounding scenery that attracts travellers.

If you appreciate stunning panoramas, nature, the great outdoors and vivid landscapes, it’s worth taking the 6-hour journey to get here.

Sa Pa in its true sense has been a natural wonder but as mentioned previously how long will this natural wonder survive.

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