For some travelers, Tet is a chance to push the limits

By Lan Huong   February 3, 2022 | 05:00 pm PT
For some travelers, Tet is a chance to push the limits
Phan Quoc stands next to a bridge in Lukla Town of Nepal, January 27, 2022. Photo courtesy of Phan Quoc
Many people choose to celebrate Tet with family and friends, but some climb mountains or traverse the country as personal challenges.

Phan Quoc felt dizzy at 3,900 m above sea level. On the first day of the lunar new year he was on a quest to conquer the Mt Everest base camp.

The Quang Ngai native said he had to ascend slower and stay at a camp for two days to get used to the altitude and lack of oxygen. His companion was an American named Chris.

Quoc flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2021 with transits in Singapore and Malaysia.

Covid-19 restrictions meant he had to go through tests in a number of countries, and it took him around 30 hours to reach his destination, 2.5 times the normal time.

He said he wanted to celebrate Tet in Nepal. His family could not gather this year nor could he visit people since children are yet to be vaccinated.

Besides, he wanted to travel to new places anyway, he said.

After visiting Kathmandu and Pokhara and seeing the Mardi Himal peak from a helicopter, he decided to challenge himself by reaching the Everest base camp, which is around 5,334 m above sea level.

In 2018 he had tried to climb Mt Annapurna, which is 8,091 m above sea level, but had to stop at around 3,270 m due to health problems caused by altitude change.

This year he decided to train his body and learn from other climbers to reach the Everest base camp.

Starting at Lukla Town on January 27 Quoc and Chris began to climb. The roads were easy at first as they were well mapped. They carried around 15 kg of baggage each, including recording and climbing equipment.

The duo crossed several mountains and woods, rivers clear as the sky and dark, deep trenches. They had to alternate between climbing up and down to get used to the altitude.

Phan Quoc treks a frozen path at around 3,800 m up Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of Phan Quoc

Phan Quoc treks a frozen path at around 3,800 m up Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of Phan Quoc

Quoc said it would have been more efficient to move constantly, but rests were necessary since his body was not used to high altitudes.

"You senses can trick you while climbing, so you need to know your body and know when to stop."

At the 3,000 m mark, Quoc could feel his lungs heaving as his feet tried to maintain a foothold on slippery slopes.

But deep breaths do not work as well at heights as they do at lower altitudes.

The sub-zero air physically hurt him, causing cracks on his skin and making his head spin. He reached the 3,900 m mark but there was still a long way to go.

"Just opening the phone and seeing people celebrate Tet made me miss home. But this would be a special Tet for me, knowing that I'm challenging the elements."

Nguyen Thanh Tuan of HCMC chose to travel across Vietnam during the holidays. He began on January 27 accompanied by a close friend. They rode motorbikes and camped instead of staying at hotels.

Thanh Tuan (R) and a friend pose at the Nam O Reef in Da Nang. Photo obtained by VnExpress

Nguyen Thanh Tuan (R) with a friend at the Nam O Reef in Da Nang. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thanh Tuan

Tuan said he had spent many years away from home during Tet due to his job, and his family seemed to be used to it. This year he had returned home to help his parents with housework and other Tet tasks before beginning his journey.

He wanted to make this Tet a memorable experience by doing the cross-country trip.

The duo had planned to travel to Hanoi on motorbikes, but adverse weather along the central coast forced them to settle for Da Nang instead.

Their trip spanned around 2,022 km.

This year there were not many tourists and they were able to camp at several places like Ta Dung Lake in Dak Nong, Tan Son Dam in Gia Lai and the Norodom Monineath Waterfall in Quang Nam.

On Lunar New Year’s Eve they reached the green moss-covered Nam O Reef in Da Nang.

Tuan said they picked the destination to watch the first sunrise of the lunar year, and the green moss represents evergreen luck.

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