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Hiking Mount Fansipan

Fansipan summit

Hiking Mount Fansipan

Fansipan is the highest peak in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, hence earning itself the romantic title ‘Roof of IndoChina’. So when we went to Sapa this April, it topped our list of things to do (pun unintended haha).

In general, there is not much info online on self-exploring Fansipan and the villages around Sapa when this is very much possible. We booked a 2D1N up Fansipan via our hotel, since a guide is required for an overnight stay. If you are fit enough for a day hike, this can be done on your own, albeit super strenuous. Just arrange for a taxi to the entrance (14km from Sapa town) and pay the fee of VND150,000. Another option would be via Vietnam Nomad Trails, who offered a decent deal of US75/pax for 2D1N, when we walked into their shop in Sapa.

The most common way up is from Tram Ton Pass, through the same entrance as Thác Tình Yêu or Love Waterfall. The area was undergoing some upgrading construction works then, but there is a small sign that marks the start of Fansipan’s hiking trail.

Mount Fansipan entrance

The entrance carpark – furthest point of access for vehicles

Fansipan-Start-Trail

The start of a long and strenuous trek

As with other mountains in Southeast Asia, the start is an uneventful hike – trudging on soil trails, stepping over gigantic tree roots and clambering up rock boulders through the dense jungle.

This goes on for two hours before we reach our first checkpoint for lunch, also where 3D2N hikers get to rest on their first night.

Fansipan-tent

The tin-roofed cabins were simple but decently clean

We continued into the jungle for another hour before emerging onto the spine of the lower hills, where we had to walk up and down the undulating path leading to our base camp. It was demoralising to ascend and descend repeatedly, but the unobstructed route also meant we had a first-class view of the surrounding mountains whilst at it.

A ladder to aid the steepness

Fansipan-Hike

An amazing view of the valley

Another 1.5hours and we arrived at our base camp!

Fansipan-base-camp

Campsite at Fansipan base camp

We had kept our expectations low, so when our lodging came in the form of a hut – sleeping bags all laid out on clean, wooden planks – it was a pleasant surprise. We were all ready to sleep in pitched tents!

Fansipan-base-camp-hut

Our cozy hut where ‘guests’ of the mountain stay (the guides would sleep in their tents)

Fansipan-room

Our beds for the night

Since we had arrived early at base camp (about 3pm), there was ample time for rest before our summit attack. We decided to rise early the next day, setting off at 4.15am to catch the sunrise.

Fanxipan-sunrise

Chasing the sunrise on our way up

We raced our way to the summit wanting to catch the sunrise. Everywhere around was shrouded in clouds, but we knew we had arrived when we saw the distinct metal pyramid with ‘Fansipan’ engraved on it. We made it!

What an exhilarating moment it had been – just the three of us standing on the Roof of Indochina – KT, Minh (our guide) and I. At first it had been nothing but fog all around us, but thankfully the clouds cleared below us to unveil a gorgeous view of the undulating mountain ranges.

You know that nibbling doubt that always appears while climbing a mountain, the one that asks “why the hell am I doing this”? With a view like this, every bit of doubt clears away, along with the clouds.

Fansipan-sunrise

The sun slowly lighting up the skies as the clouds clear


Here’s a map of our actual route, tracked on KT’s Suunto:

Tragically for fellow mountaineers, this beautiful peak is currently undergoing ‘construction’ of a cable car that will carry up to 2K passengers per hour from Sapa Town to Fansipan peak, slated to open by end of 2015. We found out about this – to our horror – only a few days after our hike, when we chatted up two Chinese workers over lunch in Lao Chai village. They had come from Zhejiang, taking a train down from Kunming to seek better working opportunities across the border. As of April 2015, they are still transporting the necessary building materials up and construction hasn’t even begun, so we shall see if it opens as planned this year. Meanwhile, if you have any intentions of scaling Fansipan peak, do it soon! Before the crowds come in and this beautiful nature site becomes yet another attraction filled with tourists 🙁

Fansipan-cable-car

Tins of building materials being transported up the mountain

Raring to conquer Fansipan already? Here’s how you can get to Sapa from Hanoi.

And here’s where I stayed in Sapa town (highly recommended!):

Sapa Unique Hotel

Sapa Unique Hotel

View from my room at Sapa Unique Hotel

Ladyexplorer
10 Comments
  • Teck Chee
    Reply

    Hi, may i know which travel agency u engaged for the tour and how much was it? i am planning a trip there this dec 🙂

    September 9, 2015 at 7:33 am
  • Corrinne Lam
    Reply

    Hi Pei Xun, I’m Corrinne from Singapore, and I’m planning to do a 2D1N trek at Mt. Fasipan. Possible to advise if the trek routes are easy to follow and if it is really necessary to engage a guide. As I have some intentions to doing this trek alone without the guide. Thanks! And I look forward to hearing your reply! 🙂

    October 1, 2015 at 5:18 pm
  • Yi Ying Ng
    Reply

    Hello! Can I ask which tour guide you hired, and how can I contact them? (:

    October 17, 2015 at 2:11 pm
  • Skye
    Reply

    Hello Pei Xun! May I ask if your hotel helped you book Vietnam nomad trails? Thanks for sharing the good information. Enjoyed reading your post

    February 29, 2016 at 11:01 am
  • Raring To Go
    Reply

    Hi, great blog on mountain hiking. I suggest you may mention the peak elevation of the places you conquered.

    October 11, 2017 at 8:47 am

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