Trips on Trips: Halong Bay and Fansipan

Traveling

In the last two weekends, I added and immediately crossed off two items on my bucket list.

First, I went deep water soloing in Halong Bay, one of the World Wonders. Deep water soloing is as cool as the name sounds: we kayaked out to a big rock with an overhang above a cave and bouldered (rock climbing without a rope or harness) over the water until we either jumped or fell off. Then we slept on the top deck of a boat and woke up the next day to do some more climbing (this time with a rope and harness). Unfortunately, I fell near the top of a route and punctured my finger so my climbing was cut short, but this was my first time climbing outside and it beats indoor climbing in every category. Also unfortunately, I failed to take many pictures on the whole trip. On the boat ride back to shore, we encountered a thunderstorm and downpour that also caused a flood in the first part of our drive home. The whole weekend was fueled by adventure.

Halong Bay is a bunch of rocks in water and it's awesome.

Halong Bay is a bunch of rocks in water and it’s awesome.

There were boat houses everywhere.

There were boat houses everywhere.

Living on a boat for two days makes everything look majestic.

Living on a boat for two days makes everything look majestic.

Second, I conquered the rooftop (i.e. highest mountain) of Indochina, Fansipan. On Saturday, I ventured with two other interns, Alanna and Natasha, to Sapa, a magical mountain town where the air is cool and the views are unmatched. Despite the semi-touristy vibe in the town and the ‘expensive’ prices (six dollars for a meal is spendy in Vietnam), I adored Sapa. I loved the climate, the colors, the mountains, and even the local women who followed us everywhere and expertly talked us into buying all the things (‘Hello! Where are you from? You buy from me later? You need bracelet? Bag? Ring? Music? Earring for your sister? You can’t say no forever! Why you buy from her but not from me?’ etc.).

The view from the rooftop of our hostel.

The view of Sapa from the rooftop of our hostel.

Rice paddies on rice paddies on rice paddies.

Rice paddies on rice paddies on rice paddies.

Sunday featured the high point of my trip, literally. We embarked on our day-long journey at 6:30 a.m. and spent the next 11.5 hours trekking up and down over rocks, streams, mud, and ladders with burning legs and ridiculous views. We overcame a lost comrade (she turned back early), a debilitating foot cramp (solved with massage oil and banana chips), and my entirely inadequate shoes (minimalist running shoes do not equal hiking boots) to reach the top (and more importantly, bottom) of Fansipan mostly unscathed. It was grueling and relentless and breathtaking. Technically speaking, the most difficult trek I have done; there were times when I felt close to disaster due to my worthless footwear. Plus, most people do Fansipan in two or three days, so doing it in one was a feat in itself.

This wasn't even at the top.

This wasn’t even at the top.

Our path was basically to keep going up and up and up.

Our path was basically to keep going up and up and up.

Some parts were legitimately terrifying.

Some parts were legitimately terrifying.

Our fearless leader (who has done Fansipan about 300 times).

Our fearless leader (who has done Fansipan about 300 times).

At the top, seven hours deep, Alanna and I shotgunned beers to celebrate. When we began the journey down, I immediately fell several times, which could be a result of the high altitude beer but was probably more related to the combination of ankle-deep mud, vertical directions, and my shoes. I don’t use the word perfect lightly, but we chose a perfect day to do Fansipan. It did not rain at all, we actually had a view at the top (that never happens), and the sun even came out on the way down. We kept waiting for a downpour to happen or a bone to break, but our only disappointment came when we returned to our hostel and learned that, contrary to our previous belief, we did not actually get a free margarita and burrito like we had pictured for the last three hours of the trek. So, we paid for them instead and signed the Fansipan Wall of Fame.

Victory shotguns.

Victory shotguns (go North America).

Alanna looking as majestic as the view.

Alanna looking as majestic as the view.

Fansipan: 10/10 would recommend. Doing it in old running shoes: 10/10 would not recommend.

Fansipan: 10/10 would recommend. Doing it in old running shoes: 10/10 would not recommend.

We signed the Wall of Fame so we made history forever. (not pictured: the medals and certificates we got)

We signed the Wall of Fame so we made history forever. (not pictured: the medals and certificates we got)

The next day, I managed to go for a run and we got cheap massages that didn’t help much, but my body still hurts.

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