Hanoi was crazy, really really crazy! Scooters everywhere - you should really look up a you tube clip of the place - there is bound to be one - this place you take your life in your hands every time you cross the road! It turned into a bit of a fun game after a while - a real sport to see if we can get to the other side without being squished - and we all survived intact, a few close calls but we all made it. In Hanoi we went to that Water Puppets Show - which is apparently a highlight of Hanoi - and yes it is kind of clever how they move these puppets in the water on long sticks, but it wasn't really my cup of tea! We went to Ho Chi Minhs mausoleum and saw him lying there all preserved! We had to line up in a huge line and had to get there by 8.30 or you just didn't make it in before closing time - its crazy that this many people go there every day! Then we had a wander around the palace grounds where he refused to live because it was too grand, and a look at the pole house he built down by the lake as it was more modest. We then went to the temple of literature which was quite neat apart from the 100's of school children that were there on a school trip that swarmed around everything! And then one of the school teachers sat down beside us and started chatting us up! Asking us where we were from and if we wanted to go dancing? It was only 1pm! And then all the children swarmed around us saying "hello, hello" as that was all they knew how to say in English.
That night we met the new members of the group, three older couples and three single girls, all seem really nice.
The next day we drove out to Halong Bay and went on a overnight sail on a boat cruising around the islands. There were heaps of boats in the harbor, heaps and heaps - but most were doing day trips so we managed to get out further than then and it was much quieter. We visited a couple of caves - one was huge! And walked up 300+ steps to a small temple on another one with a lovely view to the other islands and boats. That night we anchored in a small bay where it was perfectly still and the next morning we jumped into a small boat and rowed into a secluded cove through a tunnel in the rocks that's only accessible at low tide and saw some monkeys and it was beautiful and still and huge tree lined sheer cliffs either side - it was nice - I could have stayed there for ages.
The next day we returned to Hanoi for a few hours before we headed to the train station for our overnight train ride to Hue. We were lucky to be bumped up to first class which was great. It wasn't too fancy but it was nice to have four person cabins and free tea and water and a guy offering slippers. In Hue we checked in and then went straight onto a motorbike ride of the town. We saw a heap of the countryside and rice paddies and small villages and went to a rice museum which was actually more enjoyable than it sounds! There was a little old lady there that was about 80 and couldn't speak English and showed the process of harvesting rice and she was old but very fit! And she even did a dance for us and sang and she was really entertaining, it was really funny. And we saw a couple of pagodas and the walled forbidden purple city and also went to a nunnery for lunch - and the food was fantastic! The lady there did not accept it if you stopped eating before all the food was gone so she would go around getting scoops of food and baby feeding it into peoples mouths - it was hilarious. It was a great day on the bikes, especially navigating the roads - there was a lot of beeping and swerving round other motorists!
The following day we came to Hoi An. It's a really beautiful little city all lit up with Japanese lanterns! The whole place is really lovely. And it has over 300 tailors, and well it would be foolish not to take advantage of that huh! So I got some shorts made that were similar to the ones I ripped in the Mekong - as I don't think they will last much longer. When I went back for a fitting I saw a lovely little skirt so I had one of those done too and then when I went back for that fitting I saw a great coat in another shop so I had one of those made too! The skirt and pants were $15 US each and the fully lined wool coat was $35 - can you believe it!!?? What a bargain - and they were all made to fit perfectly. I have had to post the coat home as I have no room for it and I shouldn't really need it when I go to Spain, so it will be a nice surprise for me when I get home!
So we have had two full days and two half days free here which have been spent in the pool, reading, at the tailors, walking around town and eating - so pretty much great really! Its been a good break from constantly being on the go. Tomorrow we fly to Ho Chi Minh and nearly time to farewell some of the old crowd and welcome some new ones - man time is flying by!