Many believe Sa Pa has been suffocated by overwhelming concrete buildings and luxury hotels but a trip to Lao Cai Province should not be limited to Sa Pa only.
|Bach Moc Luong Tu is among several mountains with different levels of difficulty that Lao Cai offers daring trekkers. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Trung|
One can enjoy the best of this northern province by climbing mountains and enjoying the wondrous landscape while feeling the authenticity from the local people.
For would-be adventurers who want to gain valuable experience and mountaineering skills, Lao Than is a perfect fit.
The mountain is in the Y Ty Commune of Bat Xat District 2,800 metres above the sea level.
Starting from Hanoi, one can take the train to Lao Cai which is about 300km away. From Lao Cai City, you can rent a motorbike and drive 90km to Y Ty Commune. This route is challenging with turns and bumpy roads.
But choosing a motorbike for your trips is the best way to fully experience the beauty of the route with scenic terraced rice fields blended among the sea of clouds and mountain ranges.
Another 15km drive from Y Ty Commune you arrive at the foot of Lao Than Mountain, passing by the Trung Chai Village and vast vegetable farm in Phin Ho Village.
|Lao Than, at the height of more than 2,800m above sea level, is among the most-climbed mountains in Lao Cai and an ideal introduction to the strength, energy and the endurance needed for more technical mountain climbs. — Photo nepxua.com|
Lao Than is among the most-climbed mountains in Lao Cai and an ideal introduction for non-technical climbers. The hike, which is mostly on well-established trail, covers about 8km one-way. A guide can be rented to help you along the way.
It takes around six hours for mountaineers to conquer the peak. Along the trail is forest and hills. One can finish the hike within a day but to fully enjoy the experience, it is recommended that trekkers stay overnight on the mountain, watching sunset and sunrise, ideally from the summit.
For those who want a more technical climb, Bach Moc Luong Tu is the choice. This is among the five highest peaks in Vietnam. While Fansipan, the highest and maybe the most challenging, has lost some of its appeal due to the large crowds that visit, Bach Moc Luong Tu is a much more isolated choice.
Though the peak of has been successfully ascended many climbers, it is far from easy. Dealing with the rough and boggy roads is the main challenge when ascending the mountain might be exhausting for some. As the mountain is notoriously sheer, trekkers should be prepared to conquer the road and deal with vertical sections.
One can conquer the peak from two directions: from Sang Ma Sao, Bat Xat District, an easier route than the one which starts from Den Sung tribal village in Sin Sui Ho Commune in Lai Chau Province.
It takes three days and two nights to reach the summit. The one-way trail stretches more than 30km and features different landscape: bamboo forest, phong leaf forest, the ancient forest with giant old trees with layers of leaves and its large trunks covered with moss.
|Lao Than trekking route|
When one reaches the area near Muoi mountain, they will see a hut set up by local ethnic Mong people for trekkers. The hut is made of wood with a metal roof and can accommodate up to 60 people. This is a perfect place to rest and spend the first night.
It takes about five hours from the hut area to Bach Moc Luong Tu peak, climbing up and down three mountains, trekking among rhododendrons and bamboo forests. The hiking season is from October to March.
International trekkers need to acquire a hiking permit from the local authority as the mountain is close to the border.
Offering plenty of mountains with different levels of difficulty for trekkers, Lao Cai is truly a place to visit for those who want a simple hike up or need something more tricky.
The spectacular Hoang Lien Son mountain range alone stretches from Sa Pa to Van Ban and Yen Bai Province with various peaks like: Fansipan (at the height of 3143m and dubbed ‘the rooftop of Indochina), Ngu Chi Son (3090m), Phu Luong (2,985m), Lung Cung (2913m), Xi Gio Pao (2,876m), Sa Phinh (2,871m) and Pu Gia Lan (1,458m).
Whether one is a novice or experienced trekker, the climb they choose can be easy or exhausting and challenging. Whichever you pick the one thing that is certain is that Lao Cai never disappoints.