I can`t believe it`s ony been 2 days since my last update - it feels like ages! I don`t know if I`ll keep this rate of updates up for the entire trip, we`ll just see how it goes.
Rest of Day 1 - Hanoi
Most of the tour group met at 6pm in the hotel and we had a meeting of the trip. Out tour leader Hung, is great. He loves Vietnam, extremely knowledgable and has great English. The groups is myself, 4 Brits (Sarah, Glenn, Anne and Charlotte - I`m sharing with Glenn), an Aussie couple from Melbourne (Rhonda and Mike), Paul the Kiwi, Mitsu from Japan. Yael and Lissia from Canada had a late flight and missed the meeting. Everyone is fairly like minded and the group seems to be getting on really well at the moment. We want out to tea and back to the hotel. Everyone`s on different time zones and in various stages of jet lag so it was an early night.
Day 2 - Hanoi
We started the day going to the markets nearby. Lots of `unusual` stuff to buy. I said I was going to be brave and try the local foods. But some of stuff on display would be a challenge - If I ever work out how to get photos off my camera at an internet cafe you`ll see for yourself.
We then went to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Lot`s of tourists (mostly Korean and Japanese). I didn`t know much about Ho Chi Minh so it was an interesting diversion.
We then went back to the hotel and caught a bus to Ha Long City (about a 4 hour drive). We stopped at the learning centre for people affected by Agent Orange and a village where they make `authentic` pottery (ie not Chinese mass produced crap). Both were interesting, but it felt a bit artifical piling on and off the bus to spend half an hour in these places.
Ha Long Bay city is a bit of a dive. It only sprung up to cope with the touism demand of Ha Long Bay (understandable), but its just a strip of hotels, a few crap resteraunts, a night market where each stall sells the same thing and quite a few `massage` parlours.
Day 3 - Ha Long Bay
Early start for a 6 hour cruise of the bay. You cannot get an idea of the scope of this place until you see it for your self. Almost 2 thousand limestone rock islands jutting out of the water. Again I need to post photo`s for those of you who`ve never heard of it. We moored near a pearl farm and got to jump off the roof of the boat. I was the first one off, and last one back in (no surprise there). The water was amazing and being surrounded by the karst cliff was the highlight so far.
We spent the night on Cat Ba island (only populated island in the bay). Nothing special, the rest of the group went kayaking, which was pretty disappointing by all accounts. I was a bit sore after all the jumping so had a rest. Although then I got bored and climbed the hill in the centre of the town. Great views.
Day 4 - Cat Ba to Sapa
Thats today. We had a free morning. Lissia, Yael and I went for a run, it was hot and humid and I sweated buckets and the locals thought we were mad, but lost smiled and waved. I was expecting a nice easy run, but when Yael dropped off, Lissia picked up the pace. The girl is fit! I had my GPS and was able to upload the run. You can see it here http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/invitation/accept.mb?senderPk.pkValue=2260&unitSystemPkValue=1&episodePk.pkValue=669299 (Click `dashboard` and `Google Earth` to get a kml file to open it in Google Earth to see exactly where we are! Resolution may be bad though). We`re about to leave for about 6 hours of travelling to get to Sapa (right in the North West of the country. Lots of hill and local tribes, and meant to be a lot cooler - we`re all looking forward to that!