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[Photos] Watching the Sunset From Fansipan, the Roof of Vietnam

Conquering Mount Fansipan’s 3,147 meters was once a feat reserved for those willing to take on the potential multi-day hike from Sapa to the summit and back.

It’s now available to all those willing to spend around VND1 million each on the return cable car journey.

Taking the cable car allows for expansive views of the Lao Chai valley, with its curved rice paddies eventually giving way to steep cliffs and seemingly impenetrable jungle. At a certain point, the cable car steepens its ascent and takes you through the lingering clouds, revealing Fansipan’s jagged ridge.

The view from the cable car, looking towards the pass at the top of the Lao Chai valley.

The view evolves as you gain altitude, revealing hidden valleys and prehistoric waterfalls. However, before you know it, you’re swinging into the station, reminding you that you’ve yet to reach your destination.

The valley’s intricate terraced farming from above.

The visitor center and gift shop were bypassed on this trip as it was late in the day and the light was fading fast. The 630 steps to Fansipan’s summit were taken at pace, not least because of the cold and wind. The many steps wind around a multitude of statues and pagodas on your way to the summit, each with a different and seemingly more impressive view than the last. 

Looking back towards Sapa with Hàm Rồng (Dragon Head) mountain perched above.

By some stroke of luck, this visit afforded good visibility in every direction, and Fansipan’s summit did not disappoint. The low, rolling clouds. The ragged peaks extended into the distance. The setting sun illuminated all in its glow. 

Ascending — Fansipans’s peak and assorted pagodas and statues are silhouetted on the narrow ridgeline above.

The summit was quiet at this point as most tourists had departed and left the freezing wind behind. The few that remained rubbed their hands and stamped their feet in an effort to stay warm. Their reward? Seeing the sun dip below the horizon from Vietnam’s highest point.

The sun sets on Vietnam’s highest point.

Descending on the cable car allowed for cold bodies to thaw as a twinkling Sapa re-emerged from the mist.

There was a fear that the cable car would somehow dilute the experience, removing the sense of adventure and accomplishment found in the hard-earned summiting of mountain peaks. While that could easily be argued as being the case, the ease of which these views and this experience can be accessed makes for a memorable trip.

Left: A secluded waterfall hidden in the dense jungle. Right: Mist rolls down the near-vertical cliffs.

Bich Van Zen Monastery.

Left: Inside Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda, sheltered from the cold wind. Right: Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda perched below Fansipan’s summit.

The last light catches a ridgeline leading into the distance.

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