One of our ongoing hiking checklists is to tick off as many highest points/tallest mountains in Southeast Asia.
As of this writing, we’re done with three peaks – Mt. Kinabalu, Doi Inthanon, and Mt. Fansipan. Of these three, Malaysia‘s highest mountain has the best views.
Here, we’re going to give you an introduction on Mt. Fansipan. Not only is it Vietnam‘s tallest mountain, but it’s also called the “Roof of Indochina” because at 3,147.3 meters, it’s the highest peak in the Indochinese Peninsula.
We signed up for a guided 1-day hike to the peak with a multi-awarded agency called Sapa O’Chau. We specifically chose this operator because based on what we read online, it’s the only tour agency in Vietnam officially registered as a social enterprise. In short, Sapa O’Chau is a responsible agency that truly gives back to the ethnic minorities in Sapa.
Read this page to know more.
Hanoi to Sapa
Before you can climb Mt. Fansipan, you need to get to Sapa either of two ways: by train or by bus.
We recommend that you take the bus. It’s more straightforward, and you can have the trip arranged by the tour operator of your choice.
Our journey started at Sapa O’Chau‘s Hanoi office at about 6:30 in the morning. We were fresh from the airport.
Shu Tan, the founder, (image on the right) was expecting us because aside from the hike, we also arranged for a bus ticket to Sapa.
The office was still closed when we got there, but as soon as it opened, two girls walked with us to the bus stop. It didn’t take long before we took off.
The journey was about 6 hours, similar to a Manila-to-Baguio trip. It was smooth, the seat was comfortable, the leg room was wide enough, and the other passengers were cooperative.
At Sapa, we were dropped off near the Town Square where we were greeted by an array of beautiful Hmong fabric.
Where to Stay in Sapa Before a 1-Day Fansipan Hike
Other than climbing Mt. Fansipan, you’ll want to allot at least one day to check out Sapa’s terraced rice paddies and one afternoon to walk around town.
Sapa is a small place that gets chilly from time to time, especially when the clouds dominate the skies. Walking, therefore, is a good way to explore what this town has to offer.
Some points of interest within the town center include the Sapa Museum, Sapa Market, Town Square, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Ho Sa Pa.
Where is the best place to stay in Sapa?
Choose a hotel within the center of town. For an added perk, book a room that gives you a view of the lake or the mountains.
– Sapa Lake View Hotel overlooks Ho Sa Pa. The rooms are one of the cheapest in the area. It’s also very near Sapa O’Chau.
– At Sapa House Hotel, get a room with a balcony or rooftop to have a stunning view of the nearby mountains.
Images below: Notre Dame Cathedral; mountain view from our hotel
What to Bring for the Hike with Sapa O’Chau
Everything is taken care of, from permits and certificates to your meals. Just make sure you’re wearing proper clothing.
Hiking boots or trailrunners are reliable for this hike. A day-backpack will best protect your smartphone, IDs, and money. Just don’t forget to wrap them in plastic if the bag is not waterproof. A jacket is not necessary, but if you get cold easily, at least take a windbreaker because it gets chilly as you inch towards the top.
RELATED: What to Bring When Hiking Mt. Agung
Mt. Fansipan Trail
Expect a well-established trail with a few spots that will surprise you with their level of difficulty. One section, in particular, requires you to go down a very steep slope so that you can struggle your way up to a flatter spot.
Here are some videos for your reference.
At the Peak
Thanks to the cable cars, anyone including women in heels can reach the peak in only 20 minutes.
For you who spent more or less 6 hours at the trail with nobody else with you but the guides, the sight of a crowd at the top can be quite shocking. It can also feel anti-climactic.
After taking some pictures at the marker, we chose a spot with the least amount of people to have our lunch. The meal was supposed to last for an hour, but it felt awkward being stared at, so we had to finish fast.
We took the same trail on our way back. At the trailhead (last image), we were given a certificate with a medal. It was a proud moment despite the anti-climactic peak.