Sunday 16 December was the last day in sunny Sapa so we decided to take in the views all day with some great food, my first ice cream of the trip, maybe also some carrot cake (to share!) and then we treated ourselves to a nice Vietnamese body massage. Half an hour of massage lying on a heated bed was heaven and only cost 80,000 dong (£2.37)! We were all relaxed to jump on the night bus! I didn't manage to get much sleep as I had to keep turning over from one butt cheek to the other - it was getting numb and we had 3 people getting sick too so the bus driver was obviously rubbish, not a smooth driver at all! I experienced the most disgusting toilet in history on this journey. It looked like some open concrete urinal for women where you squat standing on piss looking bricks with your butt hanging out for everyone to see, where the men the other side cold easily peer over and see us pissing! The smell was also horrific. We would have had a more pleasant experience going in a bush that's for sure. I must admit I was cautious not to piss on myself this time J and succeeded.
So 6am Lottie and I got thrown off the bus where the driver claimed we had arrived in Haiphong. We got off the bus with our bags half asleep to then realise that we had been dropped off at a petrol station. I was expecting a bus station so this was a little surprising. As soon as we got off the bus about 4 men on motorbikes were crowding us saying "motorbike taxi" over and over again. This wasn't a great welcoming as we were both still sleepy. We attempted to ask the petrol station staff but they couldn't speak English, in fact, no one we met there could speak any English. A taxi stopped at the petrol station so we managed to point to a word in Lottie's Lonely Planet book which he seemed to understand where we wanted to go. It was a metre taxi so we thought that was safer and he wouldn't overcharge us this way so we jumped in the taxi in the hope that he did know where we wanted to go. He did J yey. So as soon as we got out the taxi we had a lady shouting in our ear "ticket, ticket". These guys really don't give us a break! But we did actually buy the ferry ticket from the lady as Lonely Planet said it would be about 130,000 dong to Cat Ba island. 7am we were on the ferry heading to Cat Ba. That day we rented out a scooter and drove around the entire island. The town itself is really bad and so sad that they have built many hotels just for the tourists, it ruins the tranquillity of the island. It was fab to see the rest of the island though and it was beautiful - great mountains, it looked like we were in Jurassic Park or something! There were only 2 roads on the island, so we didn't get lost either. We found a really cute restaurant in the middle of nowhere which was built above water. It was made of bamboo and not only was a great place to chill and watch the sun go down, but they also served great food there. It was just Lottie and I in the restaurant, our own private cabin. The following day we went on a boat trip to Halong Bay and another island called ?????. Unfortunately the sun wasn't out for us so it was rather chilly and overcast but it was still really cool to see the cliffs and we managed to get some good photos of them the previous day when we went to the top of the island. There are about 300 limestone islands around - its pretty impressive. We went kayaking and had a lovely meal on the boat with 2 German girls and a very quiet English bloke who now lives in Australia. The kayaking was an experience to say the least! So Lottie and I were in a 2 man kayak, and for some reason our boat would not go in a straight line! Now we are not that special that we can't paddle together and go in one direction, there was definitely a problem with the boat. So we ended up being way behind the other 2 kayaks trying to go in a straight line - we discovered the only way it would work was for Lottie to paddle and for me to steer! We managed, but I did mention that they really should let that boat sink.
The following day we chilled in a cafe all day playing cards until it was time to jump on a ferry at 4pm, followed by a taxi and then onto a night bus to Hue....which took 18 hours (this would have been fine, however Lottie and I were told when we booked the bus that it would take only 12 hours, so we had no idea where we were or even if we had passed the stop...we attempted to ask the bus drivers but they couldn't really speak English so they didn't really understand what we were asking. We just had to wait and see where we ended up! My butt was killing me by the time we got off. The sleeper buses are nice with reclined big seats, but there is only so much tossing and turning you can do from one butt cheek to the other without my entire butt becoming numb. I was so pleased when we actually got off the bus at 1pm the following day J We stayed at Hue Backpackers. It was a cool place, very sociable and clean with a bar and good food too so we enjoyed their happy hour with a few beers after we had a quick walk around the city near to Citadel.
It was nice to see the city but a day was enough to walk around. We didn't really explore much more than the Citadel, which was the famous place to see in Hue. Citadel was an enclosure where the emperor and his family lived but the area was badly bombed so there really wasn't much to see as it was more rubble than anything. There was a flag tower, canons, a moat and a palace and that's about it. We jumped on a bus and headed to Hoi An which took a very rapid 4 hours...