Day 3 – Tuesday – Ha Long Bay and south toward Hue

Early breakfast, then off kayaking – or should I say kacking as I local guide Mr Bihn (Yes – Mr Bean) was saying. The kayaking was, again, very controlled, but well worth the $12 or so it cost. We paddled through a hole in the rock wall into a lagoon several hundred metres diameter, totally enclosed by steep cliff walls. And monkeys. Works can’t do it justice, so I hope photos can (once I get the opportunity t upload some photos).

We then headed back to civilisation and the 4 hour bus trip back to Hanoi, this time stopping at a workshop for people affected by agent orange and dioxins. They were making intricate embroideries and egg shell mosaics. Both were incredible. Lunch was Pho Bo – Beef Noodle soup, a staple of the north of Vietnam. On the trip back the bus developed a gear box problem, appearing to have lost low gears, so every time the bus slowed down or stopped it struggled to get going again.

Once back in Hanoi we had a few hours until we needed to leave for the overnight train, so we decided to go to the water puppet show that we had planned for Sunday but didn’t get time for. Again, works won’t do it justice. Amazing.

We then headed to “Train Street”, where cafés and restaurants line a narrow strip of railway line, with trains running through every half an hour or so. Real trains. As the train is approaching the restaurant staff blow whistles and remove everybody from the tracks for the train to pass, then return to ‘normal’ after it has passed.

Next stop was a coffee shop for ‘egg coffee’, which was beautiful. Liquid tiramisu! Then back to the hotel to get the bus to the station.

After boarding we jumped off, bought a few beers on the platform (Yes – beers on the platform) and half our group settled in for a somewhat rowdy night of recalling the events of the trip so far, a bit of politics and general story telling. We were loud enough to be asked to quieten down by a German woman two cabins down from our party. We didn’t! Fun night with a diverse and really interesting group of people. Finally, around 1am we all headed of for bed.

The train: It’s a lot more up-market than I was expecting. Everything is clean, comfortable and air conditioned.

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