A Ho Chi Minh City couple spent two years taking over 1,000 photographs atop Vietnam’s 12 highest mountains for their wedding album.
Binh Thanh District residents Do Thuy Diem, 30, and Pham Tan Lap, 32, met in the days just before the pandemic.
It was their love of mountaineering that brought them together.
In March 2020, Diem was organizing a group photography trip to see the azalea flowers at the peak of Mount Putaleng in Lai Chau province. After being introduced to the group by an acquaintance, Lap asked Diem if he could join the trip.
But then the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the group’s plans.
However, Lap and Diem stayed in touch. They each found the other’s common interest in adventure, particularly in summiting difficult mountain peaks, attractive. Over the next five months, they met in person, got to know each other, explored the mountains near Saigon together, and eventually fell in love.
The couple pose at the top of Putaleng mountain in Lao Cai Province. Photo courtesy of Diem and Lap
When the young couple agreed to tie the knot a year after first meeting, they decided they would commemorate their journey of love by dedicating their wedding photo album to pictures of themselves at atop Vietnam’s highest mountains.
The couple spent a month preparing for their first trip. To stay healthy, they trained together every day. They climbed mountains near Ho Chi Minh City together as practice.
In March 2021, they set started their journey in Northwest Vietnam, conquering three mountains – Putaleng, Ta Lien Son and Ngu Chi Son – in five days.
It took the couple two days to ascend the 3,049-m high Putaleng, one the most dangerous mountains in Vietnam.
They flew to Hanoi in the evening and took an overnight bus to Sapa immediately after arriving. From Sapa, they rented a motorbike to drive to the trailhead. Diem said the two days of climbing went smoothly, but unfortunately the azalea flowers the couple expected to see at the summit were not in bloom when they arrived.
Undeterred, the couple continued their mission.
“When I got down at the foot of the mountain, I had a slight knee pain,” said Diem. “But instead of taking time to rest, the next day we continued to climb Ta Lien Son and Ngu Chi Son mountains.”
Traveling to Northern Vietnam is quite expensive, so Diem saved money in a variety of ways.
“We didn’t hire a photographer,” she said. “We took all the photos ourselves using tripods, or we asked the porters to help sometimes.”
On the peak of Ta Xua mountain in Yen Bai Province. Photo by Lap and Diem
In February 2022, Diem and Lap made a second trip to the North to climb five mountains in eight consecutive days. The adventure included the mountains of Ky Quan San, Lao Than and Nhiu Co San in Lao Cai Province, as well as Ta Xua and Ta Chi Nhu in Yen Bai Province.
Every day, Diem and Lam started climbing at 3-4 a.m. and came down around 9-10 p.m. During their journeys, there were many times the couple wanted to give up because it was too difficult.
“There was one day when it rained so hard, the road was slippery and leeches were everywhere,” said Diem. “I almost cried because I was so tired. But the next day, I was healthy again and continued climbing.”
But if the climbing was a challenge, so was taking the wedding photos in extreme mountain conditions. Diem said each time they reached the top of a mountain, she’d have to quickly change her clothes, put on lipstick and comb her hair, sometimes in the middle of freezing windstorms or rain. Sometimes it was so cold that she had to wear hiking pants underneath her dress.
“We had to take several photos many times,” Lap said. “Sometimes it was raining and cloudy and we had to accept bad photos with wet hair.”
Each trip was a special and unforgettable experience for the couple. In early December 2022, they continued to conquer the remaining four mountains, including Nhiu Co San in Lao Cai, as well as Chung Nhia Vu, Khang Su Van, and Po Ma Lung in Lai Chau.
After two years, Diem and Lap’s wedding photo set, including more than 1,000 photographs, was complete.
“This set of photos is just for memories, the important thing is that my husband and I have overcome our limitations,” Diem added.
A higher shot of the couple on Ta Chi Nu peak in the northern province of Yen Bai. Photo by Diem and Lap
In January 2023, the couple got married. They now have plans to climb the mountains of Lung Cung in the northern province of Yen Bai, Nam Kang Ho Tao and Pu Si Lung in the northern province of Lai Chau together.
“We often joke that there is no experience that can make us understand each other better than climbing mountains together. During these journeys, we can be ourselves, overcome difficulties and see the beauty of nature together,” Diem concluded.
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