Part One- Hanoi
We landed around midnight in Hanoi after a nice flight with possibly the most amazing sunset I've ever seen. We were forced into an 'Airport Bus, yes yes! This one airport bus!'
It wasn't the airport bus and they refused to drop us at the hotel we wanted to stay at and instead dropped us in front of a hotel they get paud commission at. It was pouring rain and we were hungry an tired, so we ended up using the hotel as it was relatively cheap anyways.
The next day we did some sightseeing around Hanoi; lakes, temples yada yada yada. We also booked a trop to the Perfume Pagoda.
Part Two- Perfume Pagoda
An hour's bus ride from Hanoi, we arrived at a small river dock. It was raining heavily and my budget poncho was proving its budgetness by tearing to shreds and getting me all soaked in typhoon rains. Hooray.
At the dock, we were taken to a small tin boat, where 4 of us crouched on tiny wooden pews whilst a tiny, ancient Vietnamese woman rowed us up the river for about an hour and a half. My concerns at the time invovled her suffering cardiac arrest and our resulting sinking.
After a really peacuful and amazing, albeit soggy hour and a half, we arrived at a tin shack which was the port at the pagoda. We walked on makeshift board walks (ie. A plank of wood) across the muddy banks, past hawkers selling loads of junky shit and turtles and up towards the pagoda.
After eating lunch we caught an overpriced cable car to the pagoda, which was in a big cave. Was kind of cool, but not really all that exciting. Underwhelming is the correct word I think.
By the time we caught the boat back, the weather had cleared up and we were graced with sunshine and blue skies.
Arrived back at hotel and organised our trip to Ha Long Bay
Part Three- Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a big archipelago in Northern Vietnam, filled with limestone karsts and all kinds of caves and grottos and such. Most of which have been heavily touristified (New word!). We were on a big old junk that took us to check out a cave and a grotto which were realy quite impressive although the multicoloured neon lighting made them look more like karaoke-brothel-rave-caves rather than natural wonders.
We spent a night on the junk (That's not slang for getting drunk, we slept on the boat), then visited Cat Ba island the next day. It was nice- We trekked up a mountain, mistakenly taking the 'adventurous route' which was made all the more difficult by our choice of footwear: thongs. The short spells of rockclimbing and trudging through mud probably did't make it any easier either.
We made it to the top of the mountain though, which was great- Nice views over the island.
Spent a night on Cat Ba island, drank loads of cheap bia hoi (Draught beer) and were forced out of bed at 6.30 the next morning to 'get back before the typhoon comes'
We got some wind and rain, but nothing typhoonish.
Now we're back in Hanoi, heading off for Hue tomorrow.
More installments in this series to come...