We found our holy grail – the tea trees of folklore


As we explored the primitive landscapes of the northwest highlands among the ethnic minority groups such as Lo Lo, Tay, Nung, Thai, Giay, Dao, H’Mong, we went so deeply into the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range that we found our holy grail – a forest of seasoned tea trees rarely visited by man.

By chance, I had once read an article about a forest which was home to trees that are hundreds of years old, dozens of meters tall and were so enormous you at once fell in love with them.  The article has stuck in my mind for some months.

As I was born in a region of B’Lao tea, my childhood memories associated with tea trees are imprinted in my mind, so having the chance to visit this area was a dream come true.

Also, we were unsure as to whether the forest warden would allow us to enter the area or not. But we could not restrict our passion and curiosity, we knew we had to at least try.

We departed in the drizzling rain at 4:40 p.m. from Mu Cang Chai in Yen Bai Province which has one of the most beautiful terraced fields in the world, heading to Sapa.

At almost midnight we reached O Quy Ho Pass.

In the dark, as we groped with the light of the old motorbike, we started to get a little scared with the sounds of wind wailing through the endless mountains and insects running around.

We were so tired, the mountains in front of us were like giants waiting to have us for supper. My friend behind me tried to sing  Vietnamese songs to try and dispel the panic. Even now, my heart beats in terror and amazement that in our terror we could be so strong and brave at that time.

However, we knew that our destination would present some difficulties ahead.

Some company, good health and money of course was easy enough but to go exactly where the old tea trees were located in the immense mountain range was much more difficult.

Also, we were unsure as to whether the forest warden would allow us to enter the area or not. But we could not restrict our passion and curiosity, we knew we had to at least try.

We departed in the drizzling rain at 4:40 p.m. from Mu Cang Chai in Yen Bai Province which has one of the most beautiful terraced fields in the world, heading to Sapa.

At almost midnight we reached O Quy Ho Pass.

In the dark, as we groped with the light of the old motorbike, we started to get a little scared with the sounds of wind wailing through the endless mountains and insects running around.

We were so tired, the mountains in front of us were like giants waiting to have us for supper. My friend behind me tried to sing  Vietnamese songs to try and dispel the panic. Even now, my heart beats in terror and amazement that in our terror we could be so strong and brave at that time.

The beautiful full moon lifted our spirits as the moon gave us not only the light to ride on but also made us feel as if we had some company in the dark.

When we arrived in Sapa there was a real biting chill in the air, it was misty and gloomy on the tortuous slopes and thus decided to go to a guest house to recover for the next day.

At twilight of the next morning, we started the journey to Hoang Lien Son with a local forest warden as guide.

The road to the mountain is like the road to Fansipan Mountain, sinuous, hazardous but beautiful. On the way wild purple flowers are scattered around, twittering birds, babbling streams but it is easy to get lost in the jungle. We also met some wild horses and buffalos who helped H’Mong people to carry goods to and from the mountain.

Some sections are adorned by fascinating surroundings but others are disgusting due to the mud and buffalo droppings. But it didn’t matter we had to pass them to see the sacred old tea trees.

Finally, after hours of trekking arduously, the trees appeared in front of our dazzled eyes and to our extreme happiness.

Here we were facing these amazing creations of nature which were hundreds of years old and over 20 meters tall. To us they were folklore no more, they were real – we could see them with our own eyes.

It’s hard to express my feelings at that time, I just embraced the tree, touched the tea leaves, kissed tea flowers and closed my eyes in the hope that time would stand still forever. By Hai An in Lao Cai

O Quy Ho Pass heading to Sapa in a full-moon night – Photos: Hai An

Mist on Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range

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One thought on “We found our holy grail – the tea trees of folklore

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