Vietnam - Sapa - Time for the highest mountain in Vietnam, bring on Fansipan or as my fellow trekkers called it Fancy-pants.


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Asia » Vietnam » Northwest » Lao Cai » Sapa
November 18th 2011
Published: November 29th 2011
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Vietnam - Sapa & Fansipan- No sleep and a bloody hard trek, not a great combination to reach the summit, but worth every second!

After searching in Hanoi for a group of willing fools such as me to climb Vietnam’s highest mountain called Fansipan I found no takers. It left just one option, make my own way there and hope to find someone interested once in Sapa, I had my fingers crossed because to trek it on my own would be very expensive at $200 when it could be just $60 with a small group.

I arrived in Sapa on a very comfortable tourist train complete with timber cladding and a flat screen TV I felt like I had jumped off the "roughing it" tourist trail and found a touch of comfort for once, result for just an extra $4, things were looking positive.

Once off the train it was time for the standard bus ride after a long train journey and I was finally in Sapa one hour later where I would be greeted by several traditionally dressed local Hill Tribe women offering to be my guide for the day or requesting "please buy something from me Sir." After ten minutes of polite conversation I headed off empty handed in pursuit of a hostel, there were plenty of options and I ended up staying in a place called Pinocchio’s, it was a no thrills hotel but had a lovely friendly atmosphere with plenty of fellow backers staying there, so it seemed like a good place to bed down and hopefully find someone to trek with. The hotel was run by a really helpful and friendly family who simply offered all the tour information you could ask for without a huge push to sell you something, it made for a pleasant change.
My mission on day one was to try and find other willing victims who wanted to trek up to Vietnams highest peak called Fansipan or as it would later be renamed by our group, Fancy-pants! Let the search begin. It had reached 5pm and I had no joy finding anyone else to trek with, my only option was to pay $200 and do it alone which was out of the question. Thankfully the owner of the hotel overheard a couple of guys talking and suggested I speak to them, so not wishing to hang around I headed straight over to their table to see if I could join their trek. Result, after a great chat about previous travel tales it was all sorted and we would be trekking together at 8am the following morning. Bring on the two day trek and sleeping in some sort of shack in sub-zero temperature, I must be bloody stupid but it seemed like a great idea at the time.
Whilst in Sapa on my first day I did a small trek to a local village called Cat Cat, it was a very pleasant walk to a beautiful waterfall, this seemed like a good warm up for the trek to come, but in hindsight it was not even close.
My two trekking buddies were twins from Israel called Alon and Ella, I knew it would be a good trek because we all got along really well whilst chatting the night before the trek.
We set off at 8am on the dot and the trek was very demanding, the heat and humidity along with the gradient and terrain made it a very tough trek, it was a mix between jungle trekking and rock climbing, which was nothing like what I was expecting. Because the trek was so hard I think this is why we were all a little disappointed to see our sleeping arrangements for the night, it was a metal clad shack, which looked like it should sleep maybe 15 to 20 people. As we were the first there we picked the best side to sleep on, I say the best side but it was still bad, but because Alon managed to collapse the other side be simply sitting on it we figured our selection was a good bet for the night. We quickly found some rocks and carried out a temporary repair to the other side and did what all good tourists do in
Sapa - Cat Cat VillageSapa - Cat Cat VillageSapa - Cat Cat Village

Views from the start
such situations we just pretended it never happened. After a couple of hours a group of Vietnamese and Korean travellers arrived and there would now be 40 people staying in the “shed” that night. But at least we were safe in the knowledge our bed wouldn’t collapse half way through! As many of you will know the Korean’s and Vietnamese aren’t renowned for being quiet, so with 40 people in a bed I got NO sleep and spent the night shivering in sub-zero temperatures, in a word hideous!
After my first class preparation involving no sleep, it was time to trek the final two hours to the summit, we set off at 6am and arrived after another really hard trek to the summit. I’m pleased to say it was all worth it, the views were stunning and we had picked a great day to complete the trek it was perfect sunshine and not to cloudy. We could see China and Laos along with all the surrounding valleys and mountains. And for at least one day I would be the highest person in Vietnam because I was the tallest person in all the groups trekking on that day, this is a small fact that I know just slightly annoyed Alon who was an inch shorter than me, sorry buddy!.
We stayed on the summit for around 30 minutes and commenced with the decent, it seemed to take forever and was just as hard as the climb up, after finally getting back we all headed for a much needed sleep and something to eat.
On my final day in Sapa I jumped on yet another bus to Bac Ha and visited a famous Sunday market. The market was super busy but I think I have seen so many markets now I really can’t tell the difference between them. After all there are only so many stalls selling, fish, vegetables and scarfs that I can look at. I think for a while this could be my last market.
This was the last of my days in Sapa and it had been a great few days and boy did my legs know about it! It was time to head back to the Chaos of Hanoi for my final day in Vietnam before flying out to Malaysia for a family reunion!!!!



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Sapa - Cat Cat VillageSapa - Cat Cat Village
Sapa - Cat Cat Village

The sun breaking through
Sapa - Cat Cat VillageSapa - Cat Cat Village
Sapa - Cat Cat Village

Pigs on the walk down
Sapa - Fansipan - Alon and me at the summit!Sapa - Fansipan - Alon and me at the summit!
Sapa - Fansipan - Alon and me at the summit!

At this point he was the highest in Vietnam


3rd December 2011

We found the north of Vietnam was far less pushy than the rest, almost no-one trying to shovel you in to a taxi or put shitty "crafts" in your hands. Keep the blogs coming :-)
4th December 2011

North/South divide
Yeah I have to say you’re spot on, I think from Hoi An upwards the country seemed a lot more chilled out and as you hit Sapa it changed a little bit with the Mountain women continually pestering you to buy yet more sh*t, but they weren’t too aggressive so it didn’t really matter. More blogs on the way, happy reading! Dora the explorer

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