We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Saturday 22nd September via train from Guilin. The journey lasted 17 hours and we slept thel night in a soft seater coach with the exception of being woken for visa and passport checks.In Hanoi we found cheap accomodation of 8US$ per night then went to see the very dead Ho Chi Minh in his Mausoleum. He looked like a wax work of Madame Tousaurds. In the same area was one pillar pagoda, the presidential palace and the museum.
The highlight of Hanoi was discovering Bai Hoi ( draught beer) for 2000 dong ( 6 pence) sitting beside a busy crossroad junction with hundreds of scooters passing by without crashing.
The next day we caught 3 buses and a boat to Cat Ba Island to the east of Hanoi in order to go climbing. A company called slopony are new routing there so we thought it would be good for a few days. We got one days climbing done before it rained and so all plans of deep water soloing on the Ha Long Bay Karsts did not happen:-( We did not even get a boat to look due to a promised storm. We waited a day incase but all forcasts said it would not stop for 5 days. Apparently it stopped the next day! (We've now been told a typhoon hit the next day and wiped out a few of the boats - Ed. 1/10/07)
We decided to go back to Hanoi and catch the overnight train to Hue. This time a hard sleeper, and hard it was. The only thing between me and the bunk was a carpet and a sheet. Surprisingly we slept quite well. Toilets and sinks were cleaner than expected and better than many I have used.
When we arrived in Hue we got bombarded by hoteliers and taxi drivers wanting us to use them. So we walked about a mile just to get away. That afternoon we walked around the Citadel. Many beautiful buildings in the Imperial Enclosure either having been repaired or being reconstructed after years of wartime bombing.
The next day we visited the Demiliterised Zone (DMZ) on a tour. It set off at 6am for 12 hours stopping only to briefly walk around or eat. Very interesting walking down Vietnamese underground tunnels at Vin Moch which were built and lived in during the war by both the local farmers and the Viet Com.
So today we moved on from Hue to Hoi An by bus. Still it continues to rain.