Conquering Ky Quan San’s Sea of ​​Clouds

by VTVTimes14 May 2024 Last updated at 10:03 AM

Trekking routes are always full of hurdles, trials and challenges for those brave enough to venture into the wilderness. The deeper one goes, the more nature’s captivating allure unfolds. In the early morning, Ky Quan San presented us with a surreal sea of clouds and an enchanting forest of rhododendron flowers.

Three years ago, a mountain trek convinced me I wasn't cut out for this outdoor activity. However, driven by my passion for exploration, this Tet holiday, I signed up for a trekking tour to Ky Quan San (Bach Moc Luong Tu Peak), the fourth-highest mountain in Vietnam, standing at 3,046 metres above sea level. During the early days of spring, this is considered the most beautiful trekking route, with the rhododendron flowers blooming profusely. This place is also renowned as the northwest’s best spot for cloud hunting.

The more challenging the path, the more beautiful its scenery

Conquering the summit of Ky Quan San takes three days and two nights. The group departed Hanoi for Sa Pa and then transferred by car to the foot of the mountain in Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province. We were equipped with backpacks, trekking poles, hats, gloves, flashlights, and water. The backpacks we carried weighed only around two to three kilograms, containing the most essential items for the journey. The rest of the gear, heavier items for use at the campsite, were carried by porters.

From the first steps on our trek, we admired the pristine beauty of blooming cherry blossoms and pear flowers that seemed to obscure an entire corner of the sky. The path grew steeper as we progressed, leading us through diverse terrains, from bamboo forests to streams, waterfalls, rocky slopes, and grassy plains grazed by livestock. Amid the ancient forest, the colourful rhododendron blossoms stood out. Sometimes, we encountered vivid red flowers; other times, the blossoms were a mysterious purple, while, in contrast, the patches of orange flowers brimmed with vitality.

The backdrop to these flowery clusters, by turn, blended with the mossy green of the mature forest and the white of the cloud-enveloped mountains. During the 32-kilometre trek to the summit of Ky Quan San, we had to win firm handholds on rocks to steady ourselves. Flexible trees were often the option for our next contact points. But sometimes, along the trail, we had no choice but to hold hands for support. At the "Dinosaur's Backbone," a vast sea of clouds obscuring the horizon left everyone awestruck. This would ultimately prove to be the highlight of the journey rather than the summit's cairn inscribed with "Ky Quan San."

However, the sunrise at Salt Mountain (2,215 metres above sea level) was perhaps the most romantic and warmest I have ever experienced. To catch the sunrise, we awoke at 5 am to enjoy the sunrise while sipping a cup of early morning coffee in the chilly wind. The sun gradually rose on the far horizon, casting warm sunlight on a comparatively clear sky punctuated only by a few drifting clouds. We were mesmerised by the stunning and dynamic natural painting. We were lucky to experience such a beautiful day and breathtaking scenery.

Amidst nature's vast wilderness, the rhododendron flowers symbolise something special and miraculous, like a warm ray of sunshine in the hearts of travellers.

People who carry burdens for tourists

To round off this amazing journey, we must thank the locals who carried the guests' luggage. It wasn't just the personal belongings of our 12-strong group: it was also rice, meat, and all the food for meals throughout the trek. Despite the heavy loads on their shoulders, they always tried to reach the resting point first to prepare the freshest and most delicious meals for us.

I'm truly grateful that the porters managed to whip up sumptuous meals in such remote spots. Hotpot, grilled meat, noodles, coffee, and tea were on the menu. The cold weather didn't hinder the porters. Though getting to bed late, they woke early to care for the whole group. I was deeply appreciative and moved by all the effort that went into providing us with hearty meals.

The porter team consisted of men and women of various ages. Despite carrying heavy loads over long distances, they remained glad of the employment and the extra income instead of solely relying on farming like before. I met Phang Thi Khu, of the Mong ethnic group, who was born in 2003. She has been a porter for two years. She enjoys serving tourists like this because she gets to leave home, chat with guests, and learn many new skills. With a little effort, she can earn nearly 800,000 Vietnamese dong per week, covering the costs of diapers and school fees for her child.

Ma A Thong, our local guide, has been involved in tourism since 2016. Initially, she worked as a porter, and in 2017, she furthered her knowledge and skills to become a guide. During the peak winter tourist season, she works 25 days a month, earning up to 18 – 20 million Vietnamese dong.

Local people like Thong, Khu, and other seniors are sincere, humorous, and lovable. They brought us joy and reassurance. I was deeply appreciative and moved by all the effort that went into providing us with hearty meals.

This expedition is about tourists improving their physical fitness, broadening their horizons, and bringing hope to the local people. They look forward to welcoming guests on weekends and earning a few hundred thousand dong to buy meat and gasoline. Meanwhile, we have more memories and new stories to share.

Our journey is not just about chasing clouds but also seeking moments to connect emotionally with nature and life.

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