Tam Dao

Three Summits and three experiences

Tam Dao recreation area is about two hours from Ha Noi, if you are traveling by car. Tam Dao consists of three hills (the name refers to three summits) and it has been for a long time a very popular visiting target for Hanoians. Although the hills are lower than 1 000 km, the climate differs considerably from that of Ha Noi close to the sea level. Especially during the hot summer season many are dreaming of a cool sunday trip and the new five day week might give more actions for this area.

It is said that one can feel all four seasons in the summer. In the morning the crisp of spring, during the day the heat of the summer, in the evening the cool of fall and at night time you better have good bed sheets to avoid cold.

Visit 1.
We visited here first time in April 1998. After one and half hours drive in the direction of Bai Bang one gets to the base of the summits. As Tam Dao is the official tourist center, you have to buy also tickets (4 USD, 2 foreigners and car) and then you start to climb upwards.  We found the scenery very familiar from the serpentines in the Canary Island of Spain.
As we did know anything about the accomodation level, we decided to opt for a day trip. And noted very quickly that the Spanish accommodation standards are still a good twenty years ahead (although you should never say precise predictions in Asia). In 1998 there were mostly hostals and/or hotels for local tourists. So we decided just to look around and try to make something interesting. After short sightseeing we found ourselves on the base of interesting steps that would eventually lead us to the summit and TV tower.

And we had no idea that the trip would tike a long time. We had made a significantly longer climb at Perfume Mountains, but there the climb was alternated with downhill and  steady sections. And with our luck it started to rain slightly and the stone steps became slippery. And the main problem was that the goal was unknown.
After about half an hour Sini said on a larger pit stop (right picture above) that it is enough. She has had constant problems with sweating in Viet Nam and now the humid, moist air seemed not to provide enough oxygen to her.

Visit 2.
After a half year we tried again. The weather was better and we believed that we could reach the top. But it was easier said than done. After some breaks the goal seemed to be unreachable and we decided to turn back. Just before turning, we asked a couple going upward, how long it is still to go. They could not tell either. And you have to believe, how disappointed we were as we met them again at the base and they said that we were would have had to climb merely 100 meters to reach the top.

However, we had grown a good appetite and we decided to find somewhere to eat. And we found ourselves in a typical Vietnamese restaurant called Huong Son (Perfume Mountain). With the assistance of Jari's Vietnamese, the hostess took us in prime climbing condition all the way to 4th floor. We were assuming that they had there a roof restaurant with a breath taking view, but she had assumed that we wanted their best room. Though surely a quite room, but we were only hungry, this time. And got a healthy laughter as appetizer.
Sini had merely something to drink and although Jari made it clear that he only wanted to order for one, they brought anyway food for two. So there was plenty to eat. The hotel was kept by a family with grand parents (maybe slightly older than us), parents (20+) and a little girl. It was a modest place, but offered a good meal and soon we very ready to start for home.

Visit 3.
Well, the third time we went for the summit in March 2000. But already on our way to Tam Dao it started to rain. So far all the pictures on this page are from that trip, so do not (ladies) think that we use all the time same clothes.
But we had no choice than to start our ascent that this time took us all the way. We had many breaks and we found that the couple on the previous time was right and it was really 100 meters to the summit from we had the last rest. We were greeted first by an iron gate and then we found a restaurant and many huge antennas. Don't know how they have been brougt there, because you would need a helicopter to do that. At least is what we were thinking.
But going back was a adventure with a big A. Slippery steps and descending all the time made feet like jelly. And luckily we came down hand in hand as now and then either of us were going to fall. On the way we met also wood choppers (probably illegal), or their wood loads. You have to understand that these wooden loads weigh 35- 50 kg (around 100 lb) and they will be delivered by small women close to 10 km down to the village on the base of the summits.
We having only to carry ourselves looked at this task without any envy. But we made safely down and headed to have some lunch at Huong Son. And this time we did not inspect the upstairs rooms but ordered some food. And although Jari made it more than clear that we need one portion, they doubled it (with adding another full plate) and the invoice was still for one. So Jari had a long lunch and Sini of course assisted a little.

But our satisfaction of the successful climb was overwhelming.
On our way down from Tam Dao, we had to stop for a good while as there was road work and we were not allowed to drive on the soft asphalt. We were of course not glad and Jari went to find an alternative route. As he is not yet used to the Vietnamese traffic (no objections to anything), car did have some difficulties to follow.
So, in all the Tam Dao is worth of its name as we had to make three trips to the summit and it is not likely that we will go there for a fourth time,

Last modified 1 January, 2005
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