I have been to Sapa two other times, and I never heard of Ham Rong Mountain until this year. I chanced upon it because our student’s hotel was at the bottom of the staircase on the way up to the entrance of Ham Rong. I couldn’t understand why I would see crowds of tourists climbing up this stairway. I finally decided to find out and I found the entrance of Ham Rong. From the pictures, I was guessing this was going to be a garden. I decided to take the boys up here to explore with me; we waited for a nice, clear day.
I thought this was a great excursion for the boys. They loved choosing which path to take and there were so many places that they could explore. We explored all the paths so we spent about 2.5 hours up there–but I also had a slow 3 yr old. If I was on my own, I would probably just walk to the overlook (called Cloud Yard), take a few pictures, and come back down (this would take about 30 mins if you are not behind a large groups of tourists).
How to get to Ham Rong Mountain
If you are at the Square in Sapa, walk to the Catholic Cathedral. Walk down the street on the left of the church (Ham Rong Street). Once you get to the end of the road, turn left. You should see lots of stairs and the sign in the picture on the right. Once you get to the sign, go to the ticket office on the left. Purchase your tickets and climb the stairs to the front entrance.
Ticket cost (June 2015): an adult ticket was 70,000 dong and a child’s ticket was 20,000 dong. REMEMBER to purchase your ticket here BEFORE you walk up all the stairs!! Tickets are not sold at the entrance gate.
There are a lot of stairs and moss which makes the paths VERY slippery, especially on wet days so bring shoes with traction!
The Different Sights on Ham Rong Mountain
The Garden of Twelve Earthly Branches: Once you begin seeing various sculpture animals, you will know you have reached this garden. The Twelve Early Branches refer to the Twelve Vietnamese zodiac signs; each of the sculptures should represent one of the zodiac animals.
The person who designed this garden must have had a sense of humor because the sculpture, I suppose, represents the “RAT” is Mickey Mouse, the sculpture of the “CAT” is Tom from Tom & Jerry fame, and the sculpture of the “DOG” is Scooby-Doo. Look closely at Scooby-Doo!! Is he giving us the finger?
The Garden Center: This area is just above the Garden of Twelve Earthly Branches. The Garden Center is an open area without trees. Most of the flowers are found in this area. There are great views of the craggy rock formations that are found on top of this mountain.
This is where you can find the big SAPA sign made all of flowers. The boys enjoyed watching all the bumble bees and big butterflies move from flower to flower.
The Cloud Yard. If you follow the signs in the park for the Cloud Yard, you will find a metal platform at the top of one of the peaks. This peak is nearest to Sapa so you can get a great view of the whole of Sapa. I wanted to go up on a clear day so we could see the town. If you go on a cloud day, the clouds will probably be so thick, you won’t be able to see very far.
In order to get to the Cloud Yard, I was told to follow the path to Heaven’s Gate. But the map is kind of confusing once you are in the park and the Cloud Yard was closer to the Stone Forest near #15, #16, and #20. If you head up the stairs from #12, you will come to some rocks that has a sign pointing the way to Cloud Yard.
The Stone Forest: The stone forest was a pretty fun rock formation to go through. My kids liked this area the best. There were a few tunnels they had to go through along the path, and some areas were the rocks were really tall on both sides of the path.
The Love Cave: The Love Cave is on the opposite side of the hilltop from the Cloud Gate so it is a bit of a walk if you really want to see it. I am guessing it is called the Love cave because of the tree branches in the shape of a heart on the outside of the cave. I don’t know if the heart was naturally here or if it was placed here; I would guess it would be the later. The cave isn’t very deep. It’s maybe 15 feet to the back of the cave; you can see the back of the cave in the picture.
The Orchid Garden: I was excited to see the Orchid Garden because I hadn’t seen many orchids while here in Vietnam. I was quite disappointed with the garden. There was only one orchid that was in bloom. I may have been their hibernation time so hopefully the garden is great when they are all in bloom.
Live Performances: There is an area on the Mountain #10 where they have local performances. While I was there, there was some singing performances. I don’t know if there is a list of times for the performances and what the performances are, but I am guessing they have performances during the highest traffic times for the park.
From what I have observed, the park is very busy on Saturday and Sundays from 9am to noon, and then around 3pm to 6pm. The park is pretty quiet on the weekdays. I would suggest going to the park when it isn’t busy because you do feel like you are stuck in a line the whole time and you can get pictures without other tourists in them. This could be a very peaceful place, without all the tourists.
Food: Yes, you can find food in the park. There are restaurants at #6, #10, and #11 (on map). The restaurants are bbq style. You show the person what skewers of meat or veggies you would like and they will grill them for you. You can also find stands throughout offering water, sodas, and ice cream.
Shopping: And it wouldn’t be Vietnam if there wasn’t an overload of shopping available!!
I was surprised to find Hmong and Dao merchants selling inside the park. There were about 10 sellers around #12 (on map). They were selling the usual items they sell in the markets in Sapa.
Then there is a plethora of stores on your way down to the entrance once you pass the Twelve Earthly Branches statues. You can choose to stay on the stairs and avoid the shops. This is actually a safer option if it is raining because the path along the shops is a constant slope with not great traction. I slipped a couple of times and it was drizzling. All these shops sell the same merchandise as you see elsewhere in Sapa.
A Few Extra Pics: