Beauty in bloom

Bright red rhododendron flowers count among the many attractions found around Sapa.

By Thanh Cuong on April 12,2018 10:49 AM

Beauty in bloom

Photos: Thanh Cuong

As spring ends and summer begins, the entire mountainous area around Sapa in northern Lao Cai province resembles a cloudy paradise lit by the bright red of rhododendron flowers.

Tall, flowering rhododendron trees create what can appear like a huge colourful carpet blanketing the area, making it look like a paradise or fairy tale never found in the city. 

Every year at this time it becomes lively, with lovely songs describing the beauty of the flowers and the pristine nature of the north-western mountains and forests. Such beauty used to be only for local people to enjoy. Today, though, the pretty presence of the flowers is celebrated and honoured as a seasonal festival, so that visitors from near and far can come and be involved in the celebrations in the type of atmosphere that only the mountainous region of Sapa and Lao Cai has to offer, humming along to the melodies of flutes played by young ethnic Mong men and the dance of Mong women.

Several documents on biodiversity note that the Hoang Lien Forest, in which Sapa lies, has the broadest variety of rhododendron flowers in Vietnam, with almost 40 types in different shades of colours. This is why the region is also dubbed the ‘Kingdom of Rhododendron Flowers’.

Beauty in bloom

Rhododendron plants along the Hoang Lien Mountains and around the magnificent Mount Fansipan are in bloom almost all year round, but the end of spring and the beginning of summer is when they are most numerous and most beautiful. Those who have seen them once yearn to return to the area every spring.

Many people have taken part in ecological tours in the Hoang Lien National Park and conquered Mount Fansipan, which is also described as the ‘Roof of Indochina’. Apart from surmounting a height of more than 3,000 metres above sea level, visitors also have the chance to explore the jungle and its different types of endemic animals.

Beauty in bloom

The most beautiful thing for most travellers, though, are the rhododendron flowers. Tall, flowering rhododendron trees create what can appear like a huge colourful carpet blanketing the area, making it look like a paradise or fairy tale never found in the city.

Visitors must be careful with every step they take descending the mountains, crossing springs, climbing over rocks or navigating their way through the trees. But they’ll always feel a rush when they look up and see the ‘carpet’ of rhododendron flowers over their heads.

The higher they climb, the more rhododendron flowers they can see down the mountainside. Each peak is exciting in its own particular way, and all along are opportunities to snap yet another photo of the beautiful rhododendron flowers.

Conquering the ‘Roof of Indochina’ is actually quite a challenge, not only allowing visitors to explore how wonderful nature can be but also to test their health and the strength of their will. And amid this challenge can be the romance of getting lost in a kingdom of flowers.

It’s now easier for all to admire rhododendron flowers in spring because the investor of the Fansipan Legend tourist attraction has opened a cable car service to the top of Mount Fansipan. ‘In April and May, visitors to Fansipan Legend can take tours to experience the beauty on the way to the “Roof of Indochina”,’ said Mr Nguyen Xuan Chien, Sales Manager at the Fansipan Sa Pa Cable Car Company. ‘Visitors can see lots of white clouds on the mountains, up above Muong Hoa Valley, where water overflows from terraced rice fields and glistens in the sunshine. They can also see carpets of rhododendron flowers of different colours.’

The nature of the local jungle and the beauty of Sapa have sparked different emotions among visitors for hundreds of years. Interesting elements of the cultures of local ethnic minority people also attract visitors at different times of the year.

Beauty in bloom

The cable car provides a wider view for tourists. ‘The flowering season stirs different emotions among visitors,’ said Ms Phan Huyen Mai from the northern city of Hai Phong. ‘My friends and I took the cable car up to Mount Fansipan. We snapped photos to our heart’s content. We were excited to see clouds on the mountainsides and so many rhododendron flowers hundreds of metres below us.’

Different types of the flowers have been collected from around the area and taken to the Fansipan Legend so that tourists can get to know more about Vietnam’s ‘Kingdom of Rhododendron Flowers’. Other events are also intended to introduce the local culture and arts of the ethnic minority people, where tourists can happily take part in games and other activities.

‘It’s a great experience for visitors when they come here just as the rhododendron plants are blooming,’ said Mr Ha Van Thang, Director of the Lao Cai Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. ‘Provincial authorities expect to promote the development of tourism while retaining and introducing the cultural features of the different ethnic people in the province, creating fantastic tourist products and providing tourists with memorable experiences.’

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