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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Useful tips when climb up to the top of Indochina: Mount Fansipan in Vietnam

So finally I’ve decided to do that trekking trip to the top of Mount Fansipan, the peak of three countries in former Indochina (Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia), located in the North of Vietnam, in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range.
Top of Indochina:  Mount Fansipan

Trekking up to the top of the highest mount to hug that triangle metal piece saying “Fansipan 3,143m” has become a long time tradition among young Vietnamese people. And obviously, Fansipan is also a kind of tourist attraction since it is very close to Sapa, a famous destination for tourists in the North of Vietnam, and a few adventurous and athletic travelers love to combine their Sapa trip with this Fansipan Mount trekking.

Before the trip my travel mates and I had quite a naive thought about the trek. We thought “it’s foot path and we can literally walk up to the top of the mountain(!), only 15km up and 15km down, will be easy, everyone is doing it, we’ll be fine”. However, the whole trip actually turned out to be an intensive training of physical rock climbing, which no one had told us before.

1. Tours and train tickets:

It is quite easy to organize for the trip. All you need to do is do is to book a package tour, then to buy train tickets. To go to Fansipan and Sapa, you need to buy train tickets from Hanoi to Lao Cai then go by bus from Lao Cai to the town. And Sapa is so popular for both foreign and domestic travelers that train tickets sell like hot cakes, especially at weekends. Thus, you’d better go for them at least 2 weeks in advance, or else you may risk having no places at all. 
In the hard sleeper class of the train Hanoi – Lao Cai
Vietnamese trains are quite good if compared with the trains I knew in India or Poland. There are mainly 4 classes: soft sleeper (4 beds in one cabin), hard sleeper (6 beds in one cabin), soft seating and hard seating. Advice is to go for the sleeper or soft seating so that you can sleep a bit on the train (there are only night trains going to Lao Cai). 

2. Tips before the actual trip:

- If you don’t do exercise very often then I’m telling you that you need to do exercise intensively at least 1 or 2 weeks before the trip because it’s going to be brutal rock climbing, 15km up and 15km down, so don’t expect any leisure! And be prepared: there is no fun about this trip, you will just climb up and down, but there’s nothing on top of the mountain, there’s only that metal little thing and the pride of conquering the toughest route ever. 

- Bring warm clothes! Trust me, it’s freezing up there during night time (if you feel athletic you can do the trek within a day, but if not then you’ll have to spend one night in a camp at the height of 2,800m like we did).

- Bring as few things in your backpack as possible, only necessary stuff (such as warm clothes, new socks, scarf, and flash light that can be tightened on your forehead in case you have to go in the dark). It is not easy climbing up with a heavy backpack behind (unfortunately, we did), because the porters have to bring a lot of things on the way up and will not offer carrying the backpack for you.

- Best time to do this whole trekking thing is April and May when the weather is good, not cold (and especially) not rainy, and you will also have a clear view of the beautiful valley with flowers in bloom.

- However, if you are just as unlucky as we were and go on a rainy day then remember to bring rainwear with separate coat and trousers so that it doesn’t obstruct your attempt to climb up (we brought ponchos, which was not so wise). Also bring plastic socks so that your feet won’t get wet (be warned that you will have to wade in mud high up to your ankle). We had to put on plastic bags instead, but that helped.

- Wear sports shoes that can stick, your life depends on it! The rocks are super slippery.


3. Our trip:
I did the trip with my friends. Let the photo stream tell our story:
The path looked really nice when we still had energy to enjoy.
The route started to get tougher but also extremely beautiful. We needed to keep our shoes dry, so no chance to wade in the clear water of the stream (yet). There were many pretty little streams like that on the way.

Lunch in the road to Fansipan

Actually the view from the camp would be very nice if it were not rainy or too foggy. And in fact in dry weather you can even do camp fire here.
Celebrate with a champagne!
Recommended Mt. Fansipan tour by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA
" Conquer Mount Fansipan - Sinchai Route "-  A big challenge for Mt. Fansipan's conquerers
Hanoi - Sapa - Fansipan Mt. - Sapa - Hanoi
5-day tour with 3-day climbing Mt. Fansipan
Trekking grade: Challenge

At 3143m Mt. Fansipan is the highest peak in Vietnam and the entire Indochina peninsula. This remote trek provides plenty to see and absorb, from the scattered rocks inscribed with drawings and designs of unknown origin, to the French influenced hill retreat town of Sapa with its minority groups, beautiful villas and cherry forests. Our trek to the top of Mt. Fansipan is challenging and will be fully supported every step of the way by our guides, porters and cooks who's local knowledge and understanding of the different hill-tribe cultures we pass along the way will add to the uniqueness of this exhilarating journey.

Highlights 

Awesome scenery
Great view from the summit
Challenging trails
Fully supported

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