I've more photos uploaded here:
We headed off to Halong City about 3 hours from Hanoi and continued onto Halong Bay the following day. The fog was bad at the start but it eventually lifted and we got great views of the Karst landscape (read cliffs). We stopped in a floating fishermens village on the way out which was interesting. Here there are about 100 floating houses and even a floating school that the local children attend. We got off in the evening to kayak through a cave and even got in for a swim. It was as cold as Cahore in Co. Wexford. Tried to do a bit snorkelling but you couldn't even see your hand.
We slept on the boat that night and just had a couple of Bia Han Oi with an English couple who gave us great pointers for going south. It was more of the same the next day. While it was beautiful scenery I was happy enough to be going back to the mainland and Hanoi.
We looked into going to Sapa but unfortunately it was booked out due to Tet, which is the Chinese new year. Does the Tet offensive ring any bells? This was one of the major battles that decided the American war. Anyway we couldn't go so we decided on Ninh Binh as our backup that we would go to the following day. The following morning we did the cultural thing going to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Museum of Ethnology before heading for the train. We also visited the Womens museum detailing their impact in the American war, Hoa La prison museum aka the Hanoi Hilton and the museum of Vietnamese revolution. Alot of the Hanoi scene is history and barring that having a couple of Bia Hoi (fresh=draught=beer that was draught poured from a large plastic bottle) on the side of the road.
Well onto Ninh Binh which we arrived at last night. We hoped to stay for 1 night but because of Tet we can't get on the train. Instead we'll get the 12 hour night bus to Hue just south of the demilitarised zone, DMZ. Today we rented bikes and went to Tam Coc which is very like Halong bay on fresh water. Very impressive but I think we've got a bit spoiled. We got in a boat and myself and Caroline helped with the rowing.
We'll probably head to a primate sanctuary in a national park tomorrow and onto Hue tomorrow night. Slan. Happy new year of the pig. Oink oink. Although they're not being too kind to the pigs here with 6 here squealing outside the door.