Finding balance and inner peace while on the road can be quite challenging, especially in a country like Vietnam where the major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, are constantly buzzing with action 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As my time in Vietnam neared its end, I took some time to clear my head through both getting active and relaxing.
Hiking to the Roof of Vietnam – Fansipan, Vietnam’s Highest Peak
During my stay in Sapa, which you can read more about in my last blog post, my friends and I decided to do a one day trek to Fansipan, Vietnam’s Highest Peak situated at 10,312 feet (3,143 meters). I’ve completed many hikes before, including a ten-day hike to Everest Base camp in Nepal, so felt well prepared going into the hike.
We hired a guide named Su, a twenty year old male who spoke excellent English, for the day through Sapa O’Chau – a tour company that provides high school students with education, housing, and job opportunities. The hike is typically completed in two to three days, but we were feeling ambitious. After a fairly mild ascent, the climb got significantly steeper. In no time, we were climbing ladders, clinging onto ropes, and scrambling over large boulders. Aside from the steepness of the climb, we were trekking at a very fast pace – 3 times as fast as my typical climbing speed. Needless to say, it was a challenging climb.
We hiked in fog nearly the entire climb. On one hand, it was too bad that we couldn’t see the stunning scenery from where we were, but, on the other hand, I am pretty sure I would have turned around halfway up the mountain if I had looked up to see what we would be ascending. We stopped for lunch mid-way to the top, which was a welcomed rest-stop. After another couple of hours of climbing, we finally made it to the top of the peak where I kissed the route marker upon completion. Photo cred to Jay, who took some of the stunning photos on our hike.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful Buddhist temple at the top of the mountain, as well as a cable car station, built in 2013. Given the cold weather, wind, rain and exhaustion, we decided to take the cable car down the mountain – which is the world’s longest three-wire cable station (6,293 meters long). Luckily, we got our own private cabin and could finally view some of the stunning scenery we had passed over.
Motorbiking Vietnam’s Highest Mountain Pass
After a fantastic and challenging day of climbing, we decided to rent motorbikes for the day (which cost a whopping $8 per person) to explore more of the Sapa region. We headed towards Tram Ton Pass, on the northern side of Fansipan, to ride along Vietnam’s highest mountain pass at 1900 meters high.
Along the way, we stopped at a few lookout points including Thac Bac (Silver) Waterfall and Love Waterfall.
Post waterfall, we headed to one of the closest villages to Sapa called Ta Phin village, primarily populated by the Hmong and Dao ethnic groups. The village is located in a remote valley covered by rice paddies and hemp fields, used to create the stunning Hmong textiles.
This was my absolute favorite part of the day. I love, love, love seeing how people live, meeting the locals, and learning about their livelihood. We encountered livestock, children, and adults both young and old. I will miss Sapa but absolutely know I will one day return.
Exploring Vietnam’s Southern Tropical Island of Phu Quoc
Not long after returning from Sapa, I was off on yet another adventure. I met my friend Jenny in Phu Quoc, an island off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. Pho Quoc is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam and for producing some of the best fish sauce and black pepper in the world.
Unfortunately, much of the island has been rapidly developed over the past three years so what was once considered ‘the cleanest and most beautiful beach in the world’ no longer seems appropriate. As a result, my friend and I enjoyed the beautiful beach at our resort, which had excellent service and delicious food. The ocean and beach by the hotel was also phenomenal – the best water temperature I have ever swam in.
With that, my time in Vietnam came to an end and back to Ho Chi Minh I went for a final goodbye lunch with my roommates, Lena and Michelle, and a goodbye party at Saigon Outcast, a playground for adults, where I got to scale a few walls.
5 Ways to Clear Your Head and Heart in Vietnam
- Go for a trek on Fansipan Mountain or its surrounding villages in Sapa
- Rent motorbikes for the day to check out the town and surrounding villages
- Relax on one of the tropical islands, like Phu Quoc, for a bit of R&R
- Go swimming in the stunning Gulf of Thailand – the most fantastic water you’ll ever encounter
- Indulge in a foot massage after your hike
Next up is my transition to Cambodia and first impressions.