Well since my birthday at the Hilton we did a cruise to Halong Bay; it was very nice. The scenery was amazing. We went to a cave where we saw huge stalagmites and stalactites; then we went kayaking. I didn't really like the kayaking so rob took we back to the floating house which was our base and I saw some monkeys whilst he paddled off. We then went back on board our boat where Rob and the others participated in jumping off the boat into the sea. The second day the weather was sunnier and despite my sickness due to sampling shell fish (I should know better) we went to Monkey Island off CatBa Island; we saw about 6 monkeys on the beach. We started a climb the cliff to the 2nd beach but it was scary on the spiky limestone so Rob and I climbed back down to the 1st beach and sun bathed. I am sure over the past 3 days we sampled Vietnamese food and this included crinkly cut chips which are v yummy :-) after the tour we went back to Hanoi. It was so hot we were actually dripping re packing our bags for our next trip to Sapa, that evening at 9pm.
Our train arrived in Lai Cai station at 6am. We got on our tour bus for a 45 min drive up hill on a scary narrow road to Sapa town. We started our day with a 7am breakfast which was tasty then a quick change into warm clothes, as we were in the clouds and it must have been 9oc... :-( we met our guide Che who was from the black h'mong tribe; her and her friends took us on a walk to a tourist village to see how hill tribes live,weave and dye hemp for clothing etc. Her friends then produce from their wicker bags handmade bracelets, belts, bags, tapestries etc etc.... rob bought a few bracelets and we then escaped back to the hotel for lunch and a shower. The girls learnt their English from tourist and most of them speak it very well. They hound you with BUY FROM ME BUY FROM ME and MAYBE LATER and YOU BUY FROM ME TOO. That afternoon we went to the market with our new friend Sam; we saw the girls who were our guides friends and they laughed at Rob and Sarah for drinking apple wine at lunch time J
The second day we trekked for 3 hours through rice paddies and what looked like the jungle to get to the Green Zi tribes village; it was a tough walk. Some of it was like rock climbing and jumping over waterfalls etc etc; Che's friends were helpful with holding our hands over tough bits. The lady Tu who helped me was a mother of 5. We finally got to the village that we were doing our home stay at; it was a wooden 2 storey building. It was fun but freezing. we sampled Vietnamese food again but this time garlic crinkle cut chips J spring rolls also come with every meal J
The last day was less wet but as cold; we trekked again over dodgy, wet slippy, rocky terrain to a Red Zao village. Rob found some bamboo to use as a walking stick. We visited an orphanage in the village and gave some children colouring pencils which they seemed really happy with J
Finally we were back at the hotel where we could shower and change into clean, dry clothes. Although it wasn't warm in the hotel so we were still cold... L Then back to Lao Cai train station; it is meant to be a 45min drive and in the mist maybe one hour, we made it in half an hour. Rob and Sarah thought they maybe sick as the bus hurtled down the road that was just wide enough for one vehicle over taking scooters and veering round blind bends!!! Well we made it back to Hanoi at 5am in one piece and oh surprise surprise it was raining! We got back to the drift to decide where to go next; after the toss of a coin we decide on Hoi An. The options were Ninh Binh or Hoi An. We found refuge in the hostels movie room to spend the day as we had 12 hours to kill. After a trip to the supermarket, the bank and the fake bag shop (to buy Lee a krumpler bag) we got the sleeper bus from Hanoi to Hoi An, it was dirty on the bus! Rob managed to change beds with a local lady so he was near me and had room for his legs.
We stopped at a Vietnamese style service station where I used the men's loos / hole in the floor as it was cleaner than the girls but because I was holding my knickers and my breath I managed to wee on my hand BAD TIMES... well back on the bus for lots of applications of alcohol hand gel and sleep. When we woke up in the morning I noticed that Danielle's (a Dutch girl we met in Halong Bay) bag on the floor being used as a bed by some lady who got on the bus at the side of road n paid the driver cash...! We had to change buses in Hue for Hoi An. It was really wet in Hue. The bus went through Danang to Hoi An and in Danang you could really see the effects of the recent Typhoon. Ships and boats washed up onto the shore/beach. We arrived in Hoi An about noon on Tuesday it was wet on the floor but not actually raining; we walked for 10 minutes in the wrong direction but found another hotel that was in the lonely planet (my new bible)we chose it mainly because it says on the lonely plant - free flowing cocktails by the pool between 6 and 7pm. We bargained a triple room with air con for $18 a night. Sarah, Rob and I went to the room and had a well deserved shower and went to find some lunch. We got back ot the hotel for cocktails; they were not so good, rum in banana and melon juice!
Today it is rainy...... Rob and I spent the day going from cafe to restaurant to dodge the rain but did manage a brisk walk on the peninsula J this is real Vietnam in Hoi An and I like it J