After a gruelling, smoky, uncomfortable 15 hours on the overnight bus from Kunming we finally arrived in Hekou at the Chinese border. We also had to contend with "The Weasel" at Kunming bus station. He is well documented on the net by fellow travellers so luckily we were wise to his scam. We avoided having to pay him off by calling his bluff when he threatened to call the police over our failure to pay his made-up fee! After all this, we were very excited to be able to walk across the border into a different country!
Alas, more dodgy scammers awaited us but we will have to just get used to it from now on and trust no-one! We went by bus up to Sapa in the north of Vietnam, did a short trek to Cat Cat village and booked ourselves onto a guided group 2-day hill tribe trek which was hard work in muddy, slippery and hot conditions but great fun meeting the locals and overnighting at a homestay in Ban Ho village.
Last night we got the bus back to Lao Cai at the border and the overnight train to Hanoi. The journey was a pleasant surprise, reasonably clean and comfortable, and our room-mates were a friendly English speaking couple so the journey passed pretty quickly!