I Fancy Fansipan

“Get your shit together, we’re heading to the mountain” says David.  “It’s clear, we’re leaving at 2:00 PM with or without without you guys”.  I look at the mountain off in the distance and see that things have cleared up significantly.  “OK” I say, hanging up the phone.  It’s 1:50 PM–that gives us ten minutes.  I push myself back from the table, leaving the common area and beautiful view behind me.  I find Andreas in the dorm room laying in bed and fucking around on his phone–classic.

Kevin and David had spent the last couple hours at the mechanic dealing with myriad motorbike issues–extra classic.  We grab what we need, and five minutes later there’s the roar of motorcycles at the door.  We all saddle up and hit the road. “Where the fuck is this place” I wonder, as we seem to ride around endlessly in all different directions.  David’s at the helm again.

Standing at 10,312 feet, Mt. Fansipan is the highest peak in Indochina. Lucky for us, the world’s longest three cable gondola was completed this February, making it easy for us to reach the top on a whim.  Finding the gondola was a quest in itself, however.


Fansipan looms on the ride up to Sa Pa

After finding the base station, we park our bikes in the massive but empty parking lot. Low season has its perks. We’re greeted by a sparkling and brand new station, where we buy our round-trip tickets.  No one’s around, so we have a huge gondola to ourselves for the ascent. For 20 minutes we’re transported higher and higher, eventually transcending the clouds and reaching the top. Everyone’s a little nervous but loving the views. Close by you can see another cable system, but it’s buckets of gravel traveling up or down the mountain.  Clearly, this was still a work in progress.

The place is sparkling new–almost too new.  You exit the gondola and walk past the shiny food-court with a spectacular view.  Ascend the marble stairs to get to the surface.  The next 15 minutes are spent climbing many marble stairs to reach the peak.  Construction sites are in the foreground, while beautiful views are in the background.  I see what will be some sort of authentic temple under construction as I walk up.  It’ll be aged–but in the way that distressed denim is. Tourists in a few years will take pictures inside of what looks to be an ancient temple, but watching it be built piece by piece kind of ruins the magic for me.  Clearly, there were huge plans for this place.  It’ll be like Whistler–but we get to see the behind the scenes


Resort coming soon

We reach the top, finding some Asian tourists dawdling around. We take in the views for a minute or so, and then do what all tourists are guilty of–taking a shitload of pictures.  While you’ll never capture the real perspective of what you’re looking at, they’ll bring you back to that time and place.  


Terre Mauvaise

There’s two Vietnamese flags you can hold as props at the very peak of the mountain, and we spring at the opportunity.  I hand my camera to a French tourist, and man, that guy knew what he was doing.  He took about 100 photos of us, and then handed us back the camera and disappeared like some sprite into the ether.



“Oh hey, how’s it going” says David to a strange woman who has ascended the steps, out of breath.  “So many stairs” she replies in a British accent.  We all take in the view for a little longer, and then descend the stairs back to the terminal.  


Crane operators take a break on the roof, taking in the view.

We’re a little thirsty, so naturally we have to grab a beer at the cafe overlooking it all.  The price of beer isn’t as usurious as we expected, so we order two. We get to chatting with the strange woman, who happens to also stay at our hostel–Laura.  David met her earlier, and she told him about this place. She had some delicious left-over spring rolls that she made in a cooking class. We took down the name for future reference–and demolished those delicious treats.

She bought a motorcycle to tour Vietnam, but after crashing it twice she just abandoned it for good in the countryside–convincing some locals to give her a ride back to Sa Pa town.  We laughed about it over beers and then rode the Gondola down together.  

Sometimes you’ve just got to make a snap decision.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *