We are now back in Hanoi for the last time! After we lwrote last we drove to Cuc Phoung National Park (about 1 1/2 hours) and had 2 nights hearing birds instead of horns. We had a birding guide there so were up and on the trails by 6:30am. We had some nice walks and saw about 50 new birds. From there we came back to Hanoi for one night then drove to the coast (3 1/2 hours) to Halong Bay where we got on a junk like the one in the picture for 2 nights. Our cabin was very spacious and we lucked out getting one at the very back so we had lots of windows and our very own balcony.One day just Malcolm and I went off in a boat with our own guide and cook. We got to pick the seafood we wanted for lunch from a pen and it was served to us sitting in the sun on the top deck - crab, little crayfish, fish, chicken and lots of veges all nicely presented. We cruised past a pearl farm and a floating village where 450 fishermen and families live - quite the life! There is a school there now as apparently the government wants to improve their living standards. We went ocean kayaking twice in the 2 days - went into caves and through tunnels into lagoons in the center of the island - quite beautiful and very quiet as we were the only ones there- a bit of an achievement in Vietnam so far. We also walked up into a huge cavern with spectacular stalagmites and various limestone formations.
The weather there was overcast the first day then nice and sunny and now, in Hanoi, it is raining so we were very lucky! We just got back from dinner where I (Elinor) had steamed duck breast in orange sauce with mashed potatoes and steamed veges - delicious and all for $3:81 ( yes, wierd pricing because the exchange rate is 100,000 dong =$17 so prices aren't round when they convert from dong). We are finally millionaires here!!
Well, I had better go and sort out my pack - we are getting picked up at 8am to go to the airport to fly to Hue.
hope all is well with you,
take care, Malcolm and Elinor