Following the advice given by our friendly hotel reception, we decided to conquer Fansipan (Phan Xi Păng) in the afternoon and hopefully catch the sunset on the mountain peak.
Standing at 3,147.3 metres, Fansipan is the highest mountain in Vietnam and also in the Indochinese Peninsula (comprising Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). Hence, it has earned the nickname “the Roof of Indochina”.
There are two ways to get to the peak of Fansipan – take a 3-day guided hike or a 20-minute cable car ride. A 3-day hike didn’t sound quite exciting enough, so we opted for the cable car ride.
To get to Fansipan by cable car, we had to first catch a funicular that runs from Hôtel de la Coupole (a hotel we like to call “Opulence”) to the cable car station. From our hotel in Sapa town, we hiked a few hundred metres to Opulence and purchased a combo ticket that includes a round-trip ride on the funicular (50,000 VND) and the cable car (750,000 VND).
Following the short 4-minute funicular ride, we transferred to the cable car, which supposedly holds two Guinness World Records for the longest non-stop three-rope cable car in the world (spanning 6.3 km) and the greatest elevation difference by a non-stop three-roped cable car (elevation difference 1,410m).
Each cable car can take 35 passengers, but we somehow managed to snag a private cabin – probably because it was off-peak season and there weren’t too many tourists.
With the cabin all to ourselves, we could squeal unabashedly at the jaw-dropping scenery below us, as the cable car floats high above the rice terraces and rocky cliffs.
After the fun and exhilarating 20-minute cable car ride, we reached the top of Fansipan and were treated with more impressive views of Sapa town and the surrounding Muong Hoa Valley and neighbouring mountains.
Standing at the veranda looking down at the views, we soon realised that we haven’t actually reached the summit of Fansipan! There are 600 more steps to conquer to reach the peak!
Before reaching the summit of Fansipan, we had to first pass through a temple complex and its surrounding gardens.
Stone steps lead the way to an imposing statue of Buddha perched atop the mountain in calm meditation.
We were eager to check out the water fountain that was supposed to flow down the steps. But we were horrified to see that the water had turned into ice! That was how we found out that it was sub-zero temperatures on the mountain that day.
For those who prefer not to work their muscles, they could opt to take another funicular (70,000 VND one-way) that would transport them up to the summit.
We took our time to climb, while we explored the temple grounds and enjoyed the scenery all around us.
It wasn’t long before we reached the peak of Fansipan. Like everyone else, of course we had to take that obligatory photo with the summit marker.
Having worked so hard to get here, we simply had to spend some time to wander around the summit platform and enjoy the 360 degree vistas.
With impeccable timing, we were glad to be able to watch the sun set just before it was time to catch the last cable car back to town.