Being 3,143m high above the sea level, Fansipan, the highest peak of Vietnam, challenges many explorers and nature lovers from around the world to conquer. As on-demands, hundreds of ethnic people of both genders mostly Hmong now make a living as porters and trekking guides for tourist to climb the Fansipan. Despite of the hard and risky work, all the porters are poorly equipped with low pay rate around $8/day. For many ethnic people, being a porter is the only way that they can make money due to the lack of education and land to harvest.
Starting from the end of 2013, a $200 million cable car is being built to connect the closest town Sapa to the top of Mount Fansipan that will shorten the 2-3 days trekking trip to 15 minutes of leisure. Coming along with the cable car, an entertainment complex included resorts and religious sites is due in September 2015 and expected to serve 20,000 tourists a day that will transform the sleepy mountain.
This long-term project aims to chronicle the life of ethnic porters working on Fansipan during the fast pace of urbanization as well as the affect of modern tourism to the local nature.
Our Mother The Mountain 2014 – 2015
October 25, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Vang A San, 28, sneaks through a gap of trees on Cat Cat route. Cat Cat is the longest and most challenging route among 3 popular ones to climb Fansipan, the others are Tram Ton and Sin Chai.
August 18, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A big forest fire in the beginning of 2010 destroyed 3.000ha of Hoang Lien Son mountains range. It took thousands of firefighters, rangers, polices and local people two weeks to extinguish the fire.
August 16, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Hmong porters load up their baskets which can weight up to 40kg at 2,200 camp on Tram Ton route.
October 25, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A group of porters has a break for cigarettes and cover their basket with plastic bag to avoid the coming rain.
October 18, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Tourists take the path up to the summit of Fanispan, this path has been created recently by landmines to take surface for the cable car project.
October 26, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Porters take a short break while tourists celebrate at the summit on a crowded day.
October 26, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Hang A Dau, 15, is on the search for some wood to make fire camp near 2,800m camp on Cat Cat route.
September 20, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A Hmong woman picks herbs for her family's meals at the main landfill of Sapa.
September 16, 2014. Hau Thao, Lao Cai, Vietnam. The big family of Ma A Di, 34 - leader of a porter group, gather to work on the harvesting season.
March 3, 2015. Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam. The big family of Hang A Linh gathers to see the new TV which Hang A Linh brought home that day.
August 16, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A Hmong porter takes a rest on the way to 2,200m camp on Tram Ton route. As a tropical forest, it is foggy and wet all year round on Fansipan.
October 26, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A worker takes water from the rainwater catchment tanks outside of her camp at 3,000m on Tram Ton route. There are around 100 workers stay on these camps permanently to build the cable car.
October 25, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Hang A Dau, 15, covers himself with a blanket on a dark cold night at 2,800m camp on Cat Cat route. Many Hmong kids start working as climbing porters at the age 14-15.
October 26, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Vang A Ma, 30, looks for the trail to the summit at 3,000m on Cat Cat route.
March 28, 2014. Lao Chai, Lao Cai, Vietnam. H'mong porters hangout on the center of Sapa waiting for their tourists before heading to climb mount Fansipan.
October 18, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A vast of mountain is flatten by landmines for the cable car project.
March 29, 2015. Lao Chai, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Sunday service at Lao Chai Protestant church. A major of Hmong people in Lao Cai are Christian.
March 29, 2015. Lao Chai, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Locals try to save the daughter of a Hmong porter by praying and traditional treatment at Lao Chai Protestant Church after she was returned and claimed to be incurable by the local hospital.
September 15, 2014. Hau Thao, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Ma A Di, pickups his nephew on the rice field. Agriculture is still the main occupation for the most minorities in northern mountains of Vietnam.
October 25, 2014. Fansipan, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Hang A Sa, 22, take a quick nap while waiting for the tourists to catch up with him.
March 28, 2014. Lao Chai, Lao Cai, Vietnam. Ma A Di is on his way home with the motorbike helmet on after 2 days working on the mountain. His house is deep in the mountain that cannot access by motorbike so he has to park his vehicle at a friend's house then walk another 20 minutes home.
October 28, 2014. Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam. The city guards chat on a low season night in the city hall. The cable car project is expected to bring double number of tourists to awaken the sleepy town of Sapa.