Hoi An is THE place to go and get Tailor made clothes and shoes done. Buoyed on by the excitement of Nicola (she had been waiting for this day for some time!) we ventured down that afternoon to see what was on offer.... Kirstyn restrained herself quite well, getting two great coats and a couple of nice work shirts made while Jason was stoic and held out. Next stop was the shoe shop where K went a little bit crazy ordering 4 shoes and some boots while Jason got some shoes as well. The next day Jason caved in and joined the party getting an overcoat made for the UK, which will be very handy in winter and somewhat cheaper than getting one over there!
Due to the state of Jason's neck we didn't venture too far a field. Hoi An however is very cool with loads of old French buildings, narrow streets and funky stores. We also had a frightening ride on the back of a moto. We worked out early in the trip our driver was actually just on his way home from the local, Jason could smell the booze on his breath, and he drove like
a lunatic and ranted on the whole way often looking back at us and ignoring Kirstyn's pleas to stop as she hung on with white knuckles! Finally we arrived at our destination and we have never disembarked from a moto quicker!
We were disappointed to find the trains were all booked out for our next leg to Nin Binh, and very very relieved to find a sleeper bus (??) leaving from Hue that was available. It is even further than the nightmare last trip. Hoping it worked out to be a good trip as we had wanted to be able to visit Nin Binh in a day!
We caught a normal bus at 2pm and travelled to the city of Hue, 4hrs or so north. From here we transferred to the bizarre but luxuriously comfortable "sleeper bus." Basically it was a bus with narrow bunk beds bolted in, we managed to end up in the very back beds which were five across.
Needless to say the trip was much easier than the normal bus and we arrived earlier than expected at Nin Binh (i.e 4am). Due to the time and a few grumpy travellers we decided to
forgo Nin Binh and continued on to Hanoi. Arrived here around 6am and were promptly touted to a hotel in the tourist area. After an average breakfast we ventured out to see some of the capital, including the markets, the lake and the numerous narrow streets which make up the city. Had to head home for a sleep not long after and awoke around lunch to decide on and book one of the tours out to Halong Bay (every travel agent sells virtually the same tour, to the same places for the same sort of price - Brian you would appreciate this!).
The afternoon/evening was much more enjoyable as we hit the town on a Bia Hoi pub crawl and subsequently missed our cultural experience of the water puppetry (it twas a social experience instead, Bia Hoi is a local custom!). Bia Hoi is basically tiny little street stalls which sell homemade fresh beers out of kegs. The beer is preservative free and tastes pretty darn good. Especially considering it costs 2000 Dong for a large glass, that works out to about 6.5 beers per 1 AUS $!!
Despite being a little dusty the next morning, we headed
Nice way to see the old city
off on our 3 day boat cruise around the Heritage listed Halong Bay. This was spectacular! It is a beautiful bay which is dotted with huge limestone mountains jutting out of the ocean. The first day we spent visiting the "Spectacular Cave", kayaking, swimming, drinking and eating the plentiful and delicious food provided. We stayed on the boat that night which was a great experience, it even had a/c. Day two involved a boat trip around the bay before transferring to a small "junk" boat. From here we were put ashore Cat Ba island and trekked through the national park for a couple of hours visiting a lovely old couple in the middle of nowhere for tea and lychees!
Back on the boat for another great lunch, some more kayaking and swimming. That night we were dropped off at the tourist part of Cat Ba island and stayed in a flash hotel. The last day was simply travelling back to Hanoi, still loads of great food and nice scenery to be enjoyed. Due to our tight time schedule we were already booked on the sleeper train to Sapa that night and so after a few more Bia Hoi and
dinner we were back on the road (or tracks to be precise!). Andy purchased some 'take-away' Bia Hoi for the train trip....1.5 litres (in one of our used water bottles) for 20,000 Dong (about $1.50US)!!
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