We left the hotel and headed for the perfumed river to catch a dragon boat to see the Citadel which was the home of the emperor before he was forced to accede by the communist government.
It was an interesting visit. Clearly it was once a grand palace. Like a lot of things in Vietnam the VC used them as hideouts during the war and the yanks bombed them.
At 5pm we headed to the rail station for our next overnight trip, this time to Hanoi. Hoan our guide said 'Good news'. Apparently this train is a superior one with only 4 to a cabin.
We arrived at the station and collected our tickets. As we boarded we could hear a commotion in the corridor. Get Hoan someone shouted. It seemed a Vietnamese family had set up camp in our sleeper. They were eating dinner and not impressed by a bunch of us gate crashing.
Hoan told them they were in the wrong place. I didn't need to speak Vietnamese to know what the response was. Next the guard came and him and Hoan went in the sleeper and locked the door. Lots of shouting and then quiet. It was agreed they could stay put and we would get another sleeper.
Off we went and started to get sorted making our beds. I found a big pile of clean blankets and started to sort Jill and I out. 2 blankets to sleep under and one to put over the pillow which didn't get changed.
Itis a hot bed system on the train and someone had left the carriage as we got on. The guard was not impressed by my liberal use of blankets and promptly grabbed one back. Again I got the gist of his views.
A short while later one of the girls went to his office and smiled and got my blanket back. It was only 6pm and we would not arrive in Hanoi until 5 am. Party time. We cracked the wine and the Pringles and put the world to rights before collapsing into slumber. Hoan said after midnight don't answer the cabin door. If we hear a knock it will be the people boarding the train who were supposed to be in the cabin we had moved into. Leave it to the guard to sort out.
5am came round quickly. We departed the train and drove a short distance to our hotel. We were not staying just dropping off our suitcases, having brekkie then a 4 hour bus trip to Halung Bay.
Back to sleep on the bus. Eventually we arrived at Halung Bay. This was billed as the highlight of the trip in Vietnam. We had been told it was a beautiful place.
We arrived at the pier. I've never seen so many boats in one place. There had to be one hundred plus junks. It was quite a sight. We were collected by a small water taxi and taken out to our junk. I have to say I was impressed. It was big and had lovely cabins with en suites.
We set sail into the bay. It is a massive area with literally thousands of large rock out crops in the water. Soon you felt like you were alone. The crew served us lunch and we relaxed on deck.
Hoan spoke to us and said he had good news. As it was New Years Eve the boat company had laid on a gala dinner in a cave for the people sailing with them. Ever the cynic I thought what will that look like. Fear not, it was stunning.
Our water taxi collected us and we went to a small jetty. A short climb up candle lit rock stairs and we were in a massive cave. It was like a posh restaurant. We had a buffet meal and some classical musicians playing.
After dinner it was back to the junk, crank up the sound system and welcome in the new year. A fantastic experience. After everyone had gone to bed Jill and I sat alone on deck and enjoyed a quiet glass of wine.
We slept soundly on the water. After brunch on board we headed by bus back to Hanoi.
On the way we saw corruption in action. Our bus was stopped by the police for allegedly overtaking in the wrong place. The driver was asked for money and told as it is new years day it was a higher price. Hoan said you didn't argue with the Police as they can bring big trouble to your family.
Once we had checked in the hotel we went out for dinner. Hanoi is like the other cities. It is noisy, dirty and full of mopeds.
This morning Jill and I went for a walk around. We went to Ho Chi Minhs mausoleum where his body lays in state. It was a bit surreal walking into a small quiet room with four armed soldiers at each corner of a dead bloke in a glass cabinet. The queue was never ending so clearly he was popular.
We wandered around the city and went to the one pillar pagoda and the lake of the restored sword.
A beer was called for. We struggled to find a bar but eventually found a kerb side cafe were the locals sit in the gutter on small stools and eat. 2 beers please and 2 beers we got. The kerb side cafe kept moving about and people sat down drunk a hot drink and smoked a communal pipe. I declined the offer of a smoke. 70p each for the beers and off we went.
Tomorrow we are flying back to Bangkok. 4 days back at the Hilton. Mmmmmm luxury.
ps Facebook is blocked by the Communist party of the Peoples republic of Vietnam so we cant use it. The Yanks must ask themselves everyday how the hell they ever lost the war.