Vietnam is much more developed than Cambodia, and we felt it was much more like Thailand and therefore catered better for tourism. Firstly, we arrived in Saigon, a city towards the south of Vietnam and home to 8 million people (and 3 million mopeds!). Although many people we had met had told us about the crazy driving in Vietnam, we didn't think that it could be that much worse than Thailand... we were wrong! Paul even did a bit of filming while in a taxi to show how mental it was! The city is quite developed and has many french-style colonial buildings from when the French occupied Vietnam around the 1850s, in fact, some areas around the French cathedral were more like Europe than Asia.
From Saigon we took a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels where a lot of fighting from the Vietnam war took place. The Cu Chi tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by NLF (National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam) guerrillas during combat to resist American operations, they served as underground hospitals, living quarters and even supply routes. The tunnels were very interesting and it was only when we went through into the tunnels when we could appreciate how cramped and dark they were.
Although Vietnam looks like a long country on the map, it wasn't until we tried to travel up to the north of Vietnam that we realised how long it actually is! In order to get to Hanoi in the north, we would have to travel for 2 days straight, so to break up the journey, after 12 hours on the bus we stopped off at Nha Trang. Nha Trang wasn't anything special and there wasn't a great deal to do there, so after hanging around for a day we took a 26 hour train to complete our journey to Hanoi. The train journey turned out to be quite an experience in itself, we had managed to get a 2nd class sleeper train that had six beds in each room. The beds were small, but Paul was stuck with the top bunk that was more like a shoe box in the roof. After struggling for a while to get in, Paul noticed that a Vietnamese guy, that looked about a 100, was in the top bunk opposite and we still don't know how he managed to get up there! It wasn't until 5am the next morning that we also found that we were bunking with a cockerel that was in next doors cabin, which we all found rather amusing.
After the train journey we arrived in Hanoi. The Communist rule was much more obvious here than Saigon, with a greater military presence enforcing curfews, which we discovered on the first night when all of the lights went out in the restaurant we were in - time to get the bill then! Due to the narrower roads, the carnage of all the mopeds seemed even more intense! We spoke to a couple that were going to a bar but they couldn't cross the road so they just went back to their hotel! We discovered that the art of crossing the road is to edge out slowly so that the mopeds drive around you, but even when you have done it a few times it was still nerve wracking!
From Hanoi we took an organised 2 day 1 night boat trip to Halong Bay. The boat that we went on was wooden and traditional looking and took us around the many islands. The views were amazing and reminded us of the scenery in southern New Zealand. Part of the trip was to walk around some recently discovered caves which was quite cool, but it was very geared towards tourists and looked slightly tacky with pink and blue lighting around the cave and random waterfalls that they had installed - the long length of piping and electric motors not so discreetly hidden behind a rock confirmed our suspicions!