Witnessing azalea flowers on Pu Ta Leng peak
For a long time, Fansipan and Mau Son mountains have been considered as kingdoms of azalea flowers. However, few people have known that the second largest peak of Vietnam, Pu Ta Leng is the most wonderful place to witness this noble flower.
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By: Long Vu
Conquering the “second roof of the Indochina”
Pu Ta Leng, which its “Pu” in the language of H’Mong means “mountain”, is situated in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Ta Leng commune, Phong Tho, Lai Chau. At the height of 3,049m above the sea level, after Fasipan (3,413), Pu Ta Leng is regarded as the “second roof of Vietnam”.
We prepared for the trekking in 5 days 4 nights with two nights on the car from Hanoi – Ho Thau and vice versa and 2 nights in the forest during two weeks. Although 10 people enrolled for participating but, finally, only 5 members were going to travel. We were very excited even though many other groups had failed to conquer this peak. However, then, two groups that were hornored to fix the flags on the peak, made us more determined to conquer.
We started our trip at 8p.m at My Dinh startion, Hanoi to Ho Thau (Lai Chau). Our sleep on the car was not very good because of zigzagged streets with many turnings in Lai Chau. We arrived at Giang Ma commune at 6a.m on the following day, then two porters, Pao and Duc, who are black Dao ethnic people, picked us up to Ho Thau for our conquering trip.
Because it is a long trip and we will stay in the forest, we have to prepare many things such as tents, clothes, personal things, foods, pans and climbing equipment. We have two porters to carry luggage for us during the trip. Water is always available at streams along the path, therefore, we do not have to include this source. Each of us must carry about 10kg of luggage while Pao and Duc take about 20kg, including pans, tents, rice and other foods. Even though, we are always left behind by them, who have been used to this mountain so well.
On the first day, we conquer the height of 1,982m instead of 2,422m as expected because one member of the group is exhausted after the long journey in the previous night. We take a rest at a shack built by local people in a cliff for their picking up cardamoms (a kind of fruit trees that is growned much in this area).
On the trekking, we are first impressed by a thick and lush primeval forest. Big woods that require many people to hold, are grown with a 10-cm lush layer of lichens and creepers are also filled with lichens. Many huge broken trees blocking the path are also covered by moss. These make the entire scenery was like in fairy tales. Some enormous ferns are seen along the path as those of dinosaurs’ forests.
The path is also a challenge with many steep slopes that cause us to cling onto bushes on two sides. Some stretches of road pass through streams with blocking stones. In some stretches, we have to stop to tale a breath before continuing although we practiced running in many days before the trip to get used to this terrain. As a reward, we can witness the wonderful scenery, especially azalea flowers with their purple, pink and white colors above. The higher we trek, the more azalea flowers we can contemplate. The flowers spread on leaf canopies and stones. We are actually amazed at many azalea flowers, which are inviting us to the peak of Pu Ta Leng.
The higher we trek, the more azalea flowers we can contemplate. The flowers spread on leaf canopies and stones. We are actually amazed at many azalea flowers, which are inviting us to the peak of Pu Ta Leng.
At our first night in the forest, we cook and have dinner in the shack of local people. The fire from dry woods picked up by Duc and Pao is mixed with the light of our flashlights can relieve us from the tiredness of the first day after a dinner with local chicken and Hanoian vegetables
Amazing azalea flowers
On the second day, five members are recovered after a good sleep. We continue our trip to conquer Pu Ta Leng peak and pick up bunches of azalea flowers, which according to our porters, Pao and Duc, are grown abundantly on the peak.
We must pass by steep slopes and across steams. At the height of 2,422m, our team and two former teams decide to throw some luggage in order to be lighter to climb up to the peak. We just bring some food for our lunch. Then, in the evening, after conquering 3,045m, the whole team will return to this place to relax and have dinner.
Although Pao and Duc help us to carry foods for the lunch, we still feel tired and breathe heavily while climbing. In many stretches, we must use both hands combined with both legs to creep to the peak.
At nearly 12:00 at noon, we nearly reach the height of 2,922 and take a rest to have lunch. From this height, big woods and ferns are replaced by the bamboo forest. Bamboo trees with diameters of 2-3cm cover the path as if we were standing in the film studio of the movie “House of Flying Daggers”.
Some purple azalea flowers scattered in the bamboo forest. Preceding teams opened a small path in the bamboo forest, however, many bamboos, which were cut on the path, are sharp enough to make us, sometimes, hurt. Anyone, who is unlucky to fall down, also bursts into tears because of the hurt caused by bamboo roots even though we wear thick trousers and fit tightly. The wind at the height of nearly 3000m is blowing more strongly and the sun is still shining. We will feel quite cold if we do not wear a thin overcoat or a scarf.
At the height of 2,922m, we enjoy the lunch with the rice cooked from the previous night with fish sauce and sesame and salt, stir-fried pork and fresh cucumber. Azalea flowers on our head shield us from the blazing sun on the high mountain. From this height, we can see the Vietnamese flag blowing in the wind on the peak. While we are relaxing, a member of our team shouts out when realizing a piece of mountain covered with azalea flowers. We immediately stand up and climb up to the nearest azalea flower. All of us are surprised at the scenery in front. It is a carpet of pink and purple azalea flowers, which is so picturesque that make us moved. We are excited to climb up high to view more azalea flowers on mountain slopes.
All of us are surprised at the scenery in front. It is a carpet of pink and purple azalea flowers, which is so picturesque that make us moved.
After we are strengthen by that scenery, we decided to continue the rest of the path to the peak. At 14:15, we reach the peak at the height of 3,045m and kissed the Vietnamese flag that two previous teams put in. Our team also prepared another flag to tighten on the “second roof of Vietnam” with our pride and endless love of our nation. From the peak of Pu Ta Leng, look at the height of 2,922m, where we stopped forlunch, purple azalea flowers become smaller and mixed in the green color of the forest.
We can view the Bach Moc Luong Tu (2,998m) in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range along with Fansipan, Pu Ta Leng and Phu Song Sung. But we have to see Bach Moc Luong Tu in another occasion because we are now totally allured in Pu Ta Leng.
The way to the fairy forest
On the way down, we return to the height of 2,422m at 17:10. Here, we set up camp, make a fire and immerse in the striking stream nearby. Although it is more than 5:00p.m, the sun still shines its lightly beams to add the miracle for the scenery. The water in this stream is like that of any other streams that we passed by. It is cold and sweet. We can quench our thrist by these stream. However, none of us dare to have a bath in these streams because the water is cold no matter how hot the outside ambiance is. In the evening, we can also indulge in the forest’s moon. The forest is becoming brighter with the starry sky and bright moon.
On the following morning, we depart down at 8a.m towards Ta Leng. According to our porters and two previous teams, the way down to Ta Leng is much easier than the way to Ho Thau. Although this is a long way and take us a day, the scenery of the beautiful primeval forest attracts us to follow this path. In addition, we are also afraid of climb onto steep slopes as two first days.
In fact, the way down to Ta Leng treat us with the very fabulous scenery. Green trees are abundant and mosses and lichens are seen on tree-trunks and stones or along the streams. Here, the track slope gently with trees grown as open European temperate thin forests. Sometimes, we bump into forests of cardamoms of Dao and H’Mong ethnic people. Many people mistake cardamom leaves for the leaves of edible canna or phrynium leaves. Beside cardamom forests, local people built small shacks to dry the cardamom after being harvested.
On the way down, we sometimes meet yellow petals of azalea flowers. Unlike pink azalea flowers, white or purple ones often grow as small woods of 2m. Yellow azalea flowers are often high woods of tens of meters and it is very difficult to witness their flowers because its color is mixed with sunshine.
It is nearly 5p.m and we arrive at the national road of Ta Leng commune to catch a passenger car to Hanoi. Say farewell with two sincere porters, we return to our daily life in the city, but every of us is satisfied with our trip of conquering the second largest peak of Vietnam.
One thing is also very special during our trip. It is the blooming season of azalea flowers that few people can witness in their trip to the peak of Pu Ta Leng.
+ The route: Hanoi – Ho Thau – Pu Ta Leng – Ta Leng – Hanoi. To travel to Pu Ta Leng, you can only take a passenger car to Lai Chau at My Dinh station. The car such as Hai Au passenger car often departs at 8p.m (300,000VND/person). The car will stop along the street at 23:00 – 24:00
+ At Ho Thau, Lai Chau, you will conquer the peak of Pu Ta Leng with porters in Po village. On the first day, you should climb up the height of 2,422m to throw away some unnecessary luggage and also the place to take a rest in the evening. The other day, you conquer the last of the path to the height of 3,045m and return to the height of 2,422m to stay overnight.
+ On the third day, you can go down the mountain to Ta Leng (you can also take the old way to Ho Thau) to return to Hanoi.
+ During three days of the trip, you should bring some foods, including kohlrabis, carrots, pachyrrhizuses and cucumbers. Do not bring many vegetables because they are easy to be rotten during the trip. Do not bring can foods because these cans cannot be burned down and cause the pollution. Plastic bowls and chopsticks will be burned down after being used. Bring empty bottles to hold water from streams along the path. In addition, tents, raincoats and specialized clothes for mountain climbing should be included. Dry woods will be picked up by porters in the forest.
See more Vietnam travel guide at here.