At the top of a steep flight of steps, tucked away alongside the Trade Union Hotel in Sapa, is Ham Rong Resort. Not, alas a hotel resort, but a swathe of landscaped land swooping around Ham Rong Mountain. Easily accessible, it’s a relaxing escape from Sapa town – well, if you ignore the hundreds of steps, that is.
Ham Rong translates as Dragon’s Jaw and many dragon-related legends surround the mountain, mostly involving a young dragon who was left behind by his older brothers and turned into the mountain. At an elevation of 2,000 metres, Ham Rong is nowhere near the height of Fansipan, which is 3,000 metres. It’s been set up as an easy place for travellers to check out and is not an arduous climb.
The resort is owned and managed by Ham Rong Rubber Tourism Company – we’re not really sure what the connection is between rubber and tourism, but they’ve done a good job. Developed in 1996, it covers 148 hectares of land divided into a dozen or so loosely themed areas.
The first area you will reach after the ticket checkpoint is the Orchid Garden where a few narrow paths weave around a secret garden-like set-up, with some beautiful but scarce orchids. From here you can take the steps up to an excellent vantage point for views of Sapa town and Fansipan.
Next is the Garden of Twelve Earthly Branches. We’re not sure what this was supposed to refer to as all we could see – you can’t miss them – were large models of various Disney and Hanna Barbera characters positioned around gardens and ponds. Still, kids should like it.
After this is a large and attractively landscaped garden from where you can turn left and walk up into the rocks towards Heaven Gates 1 and 2 and other interestingly named areas such as Cloud Yard and Stone Forest. Paths lead all over the place so it’s easy – and quite fun – to get a bit lost, or at least walk round in circles. Cloud Yard is another good spot from which to enjoy the view.
As well as wandering around and enjoying the view, traditional art performances are put on throughout the day. Times vary, so check the information at the ticket desk.
How to get there
To reach the entrance, walk along Ham Rong Road, which runs behind the church, and turn left at the end before the Trade Union Hotel. The ticket desk is near the bottom of the steps, opposite the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.