Well we've made a nice escape from the city life over the past week or so - and plumped for the easy option of an organised tour to Halong Bay. We've done well to resist the 'sheep tours' so far by doing virtually everything ourselves, but it seems there are some places that you just can't get to without a guide or fellow travellers, which is no bad thing sometimes I guess.
So ahoy we went and boarded our very own 'junk' boat and spent a very pleasant two days cruising through the most stunning scenery - which Dan will no doubt describe to most of you as 'all right' when he gets back home.
We've not been total lazy bums though and managed some kayaking AND swimming on day one, then on day two we set off for a two hour trek, which for the whole day before we assumed was an activity of 'check-in' at our next hotel?! Turns out our guide's english wasn't that clear and he actually mean 'trekking' - so while we were quite pleased not be spending the morning stuck in a hotel lobby it did mean we turned up inappropriately attired for such an activity, i.e flip flops!
We did pretty well hoisting ourselves over rocks though, and to be honest, the biggest threat to our group was the chubby frenchman who kept heaving and wretching most of the way round. We were all genuinely scared half way round that he'd collapse with a heart attack and we'd all have to carry him down - thankfully he made it down ok. Then we got a chance to recover (and I finally had a chance to dust off the bikini - wahoo!) by spending the rest of the day on the beach. Unbeknown to me though, the only way we could get to the beach was by motorbike, which I wasn't too pleased about, as after a swift 'ok lets go' from my driver, he sped away at full pelt leaving Dan still paying and generally faffing about with his driver. I was petrified! It was a bit of a hairy journey even if it was only five minutes but we both swore never to get on one again...hmmm.
So now we've moved from the beach to the mountains and have spent an equally relaxing time here in Sa Pa. We wanted to get out and about whilst we were here by doing some sort of visit to some local minority villages. Lo and behold it seems the only way we could do this was by motorbike. Still we couldn't come all this way and not see anything and everyone seems to travel this way so with strict instructions from me to 'GO SLOWLY' and Danny insisting we wore helmets - which I might add he wore upside down for part of the afternoon - what a numty! (Ed. I admit it was stupid, although Beth's visor made it easier for her to distinguish top from bottom. As gaffes go, it's probably up there with checking the bonnet of my VW beetle to see what the matter with the engine was!) we set off with our trusty guides Quynh and Lob - well that's what it sounded like anyway.
We saw some more stunning/all right scenery and stopped off at three villages where we were warmly welcomed by each of the tribespeople. Everyone here is so amazingly friendly and the children are particularly excited by the face of a visitor. They loved having their photo taken, and were thrilled when Dan produced apples and biscuits for them from his bag. Having said that though, they were all scared witless when he grinned at them with his big white smile - they all ran away screaming! We're putting it down to the fact that black teeth are revered and beautified in their tribe (they even stain them black on purpose) so we must have looked like two right ugly mugs walking into town!
We've also met some interesting people, local and fellow travellers. In fact weirdly in the space of two days we've met a girl working in Bromley, a guy who went to York Uni and lives in Elephant and Castle, and a couple from Dulwich who want to rent their flat out later this year and have given us their details. In the words of one Mrs Thorne 'spooky' I think and a small world in some sense at least.