We arrived very early in the morning on our sleeper train having had very little sleep and in desperate need of a hot shower after 3 days travelling! Shared a taxi with an English friend from the train and headed to his recommended hostel on the edge of the Old Quarter. Having arranged a room we had a few hours to waste until it was available, so dropped off our bags and headed out for a 6am stroll to Hanoi's central lake.
At 6-7am we enjoyed watching Hanoi's locals converge around the lake for their daily workout involving fans, slapping their thighs and playing badminton (nothing too strenuous it would seem!) whilst there we visited a Pagoda on a small island on the lake, which housed an impressively large stuffed turtle - apparently the stuff of legend!
We headed back to the hostel after some coffee for a much needed shower and some sleep - was so nice to be clean again! In the afternoon we tried to grab ticket to a water puppet show - SOLD OUT (you'll see a reccuring theme here!) A quick stroll took us to an old French cathedral; wasv very strange to see such familiar European architecture. We caught some food and wandered back to the hostel, rumours of a typhoon began to go around which was a tad worrying...
The following day we heard that Typhoon Ketsana had made conditions at Halong Bay too rough for a worthwhile visit, so we decided to hang around in Hanoi for a little while, no bad thing as we were both enjoying the city. After visiting the Temple of Literature in the rain we went to catch the puppet show - SOLD OUT! Had dinner with some people from our hostel and met some Australian girls and British guys, shared a few beers with them on plastic chairs on a street corner - they were evacuated from Hoi An in bathtubs during the typhoon so had some stories to tell!
The next morning we booked a one day trip to Halong Bay and finally got tickets to the water puppet show (but for the following day as it was SOLD OUT yet again!) Bumped into the group from yesterday and headed off for a 'few drinks' which resulted in a lock in; very entertaining evening!
Woke up a bit groggy from the alcohol consumption the previous evening, FINALLY went to the puppet theatre! Was an impressive show although it seems that the most 'authentic' experiences often become the most touristy due to the excessive flashes from digital cameras.
Halong Bay was beautiful. We set out for a long bus journey to the Bay from the city and arrived around midday to a crowded harbour - setting out on water we visited a floating fishing village where some of us picked up fish for lunch. We visited some slightly tacky caves and headed back to land for the journey home, would have been lovely to spend the night on a boat but we had a flight to Dalat booked for the morning.
Set off to the airport early, we were both glad to be moving on from Hanoi but it was certainly a very enjoyable, entertaining start to our Vietnamese adventure.