Climbing Fansipan – the “Roof” of Indochina

With a height of 3,143m, Fansipan peak is considered the “roof” of Indochina, and to climb it is a dream of any visitor who has a passion for discovery. To reach the mountain peak, besides the traditional route along which visitors have to trek through forests, a modern cable car system can help them arrive the destination faster while at the same time experience unforgettable moments when sitting in the cable cars and looking at primitive jungles and valleys covered by clouds.

Trekking through “a flora treasure” in the Northwest

In May 2012, we decided to make a trip to the top of Fansipan, nicknamed “the highest mountain in the Southern region”, or “the roof” of three countries in Indochina, with the help of Hoang Tung, a local photographer.

The Guinness Book of World Records has granted two records to Sa Pa’s three-line cable car system, for its longest distance from departure to arrival (1,410m long), and its being the world’s longest three-line cable car system (6,292m).

Our team had almost 30 members, starting from Ton Station 1,900m above sea level, and trekking through forests to 2,900m on the first day. From there, we could see the hamlets of the ethnic groups of the Mong, Dao, Giay and others who reside there on the mountain slopes.

At 2,800m, the wind blew strongly and the cold went deep into our body. However, we could see different kinds of trees growing and sticking firmly in the rock. In that moment of time, we understood more about the saying that often compared the characters of upright men with such strong, high trees.

In late afternoon, some local Mong ethnic tour guides prepared dinner and sleeping bags for us to rest overnight, which gave us energy for the following day to conquer the highest peak. A guide, named Sinh, told us that if we travelled in March, we would have a chance to enjoy the fantastic beauty of blooming water-rail flowers.

We woke up early the following day when clouds were still covering all the Northwest region. We brought along all necessities for our trip and continued to the mountain top. The road was a bit dangerous then, as the higher it was, the narrower it became. The abrupt mountain slopes, plus thick mists like rain, made the road so slippery, and we had to be very careful when climbing. Finally, someone shouted out with excitement, “We did it!” In front of us, there is a pyramid shaped metal block carved with the words “FANSIPAN 3,143m”. Although very tired, we were all very happy. The surrounding environment was a sea of thick mists which prevented us from seeing much. We took a national flag, holding it high and taking pictures with it to record such a significant moment in our lives.

The departure terminal is in Muong Hoa Valley. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

The departure terminal is designed according to Colonial architecture of the 19th century
with delicate decorations. It looks like a castle in the middle of forest. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

The modern interior of the departure terminal meets different demands of tourists. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

An elevator at the departure terminal. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

There are restaurants and departure stores at the departure terminal. Photo: Khanh Long/VNP

Tourists take photos and observe the great beauty of Hoang Lien Mountain Range
in the cable car that can carry 35 people. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

A group of tourists from Hai Phong take photos from the cable car to Fansipan’s summit. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

The cable car takes tourists over Muong Hoa Valley, where they can admire the golden yellow,
ripening terraced rice paddies. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP

Breathtakingly beautiful terraced rice paddies in Muong Hoa Valley seen from the cable car. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP

The cable system takes tourists over the cloud-covered mountains. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

From the Fansipan cable car, tourists can admire a “treasure” of biodiversity
in Hoang Lien National Park. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP

Clouds beneath the cable car on the way to Fansipan’s summit. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

The arrival terminal is an ideal place for relaxing and sightseeing. Photo: Tat Son/VNP
Magnificent Hoang Lien Son seen from Fansipan Mountain. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP

At the top of Fansipan, tourists can see white clouds covering everything. Photo: Khanh Long/VNP

From the arrival terminal, tourists have to climb more than 600 stone stairs
to get to the summit of Fansipan. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Panoramic view of Fansipan’s peak snapped by flycam. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

The surrounding area of Fansipan’s summit has been covered
with wood to ensure safety for tourists. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

According to statistics of the Sapa Tourism Department, during weekends
more than 8,000 tourists visit Fansipan by cable car. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

After the Fansipan cable system was opened, the dream of reaching the top has been feasible
for travelling enthusiasts, even seniors and children. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

The happiness of tourists at the top of Fansipan. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Journalists of Vietnam Pictorial take photos with Singaporean tourists at Fansipan’s peak. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

Sun Group is conducting the construction of religious projects at the peak
of Fansipan to meet the demand of tourists. Photo: Hoang Quang Ha/VNP

Sa Pa Fansipan cable car system has a transport capacity of up to 2,000 passengers per hour, with each cabin holding from 30-35 passengers. It helps reduce the time to reach Fansipan peak from two days on foot through forests down to 15 minutes by cable cars.

Getting to the peak of Fansipan by cable cars

Sun Group, specialising in high-quality tourism, vacations, entertainment and real estate, built a three-line cable car system in Sa Pa, making it the most modern one of its kind in the world. The cars were put it into operation in February 2016, and since then, millions of domestic and foreign visitors have gone to Sa Pa to enjoy standing on “the roof of Indochina”.

We started our journey from the cable car station at Muong Hoa Valley. Designed in the Colonial architectural style from the 19th century, the station has sophisticated decorations, which makes it look like a palace. We were told that Sa Pa Fansipan cable car system can with stand strong winds and harsh weather that ensures safety for visitors.

In our cable car, there was a couple from Singapore who were on their honeymoon. They said they chose Fansipan as their first destination in Vietnam. To many Singapore people, they said, Fansipan peak is a mysterious site, among others in the country.

The couple shared with us their joy that made us feel stronger when we had to climb more than 600 stone steps from the last cable car stop to Fansipan peak. It was a big surprise when we met a group from the Vietnam Science and Technology Academy’s Geology Institute, who “conquered” the mountain top by trekking through forests, the same way we did four years earlier. We shared stories about how we got there, and about the pictures we took along the way. We all joyfully contemplated the magnificent view from Fansipan peak, the “roof” of Indochina.

By VNP’s Golden Moments Photography Club