We have since found out that South Vietnam has two seasons, wet and dry, whereas North Vietnam has four. It is currently winter in North Vietnam! So the further north we go the colder it gets, to the point where we were huddled around an open fire drinking hot chocolate in the far north.
We spent two days and one night on the water, in a junk boat. The bay was stunning, with the many limestone peaks. We kayaked off the boat, visited an extensive cave and nearly became dinner for several eagles. It would have been picture perfect minus the cold and cloud! It had rained in Hanoi the day before, the lady we booked with promised us the sun was due for our trip, when she told us of the sun deck on board the boat, we really laughed, and the scheduled swim time just took the biscuit! She was right though it didn't rain and the trip was well worth it, there were however some minor downsides; like all transport we seem to go on the boat broke down, and we established earplugs are essential when stuck on a boat for two days with a suicidal portuguese guy!
Small mountain town in the far north, near the chinese boarder. We took the overnight train to get there, which unsurprisingly broke down! At the station in Hanoi we had to cross several train tracks to get to the correct platform...safety, what? We loved the train though, it was like the train from Harry Potter, four birth cabins with a slide shut door, and a refreshment cart that comes around occasionally, sadly no funky jelly beans! Lucy also got to practise her french with the two french ladies in our cabin, and rick got to practise his confused face!
We did do some light trekking in zero visibility, but the main reason for going which the weather didn't spoil was to visit some of the minority villages in the mountains. The highlight was stopping at the side of the road to be led by women from one of the villages, down a sheer mud drop! We did hesitate at first as we thought they were taking the piss, but no! We had walked quite quickly, and caught up with some others and their guides so about ten of us descended. It was abit wierd at first having our hand held by women half our size to prevent us from slipping, but soon realised how essential it was! It was really nice to have a laugh with them, well really them have a laugh at us!
We visited four different villages, it was really interesting to see the different dress depending on the minority group they were from, all very colourful. Our guide taught us two Vietnamese card games, which rick can't wait to beat Jill and John at. The cold weather did mean hot drinks, open fires and the real treat of an electric blanket at the hostel.
The return to Hanoi for the third time (as it was our base point for the north) was slightly annoying after peaceful sapa. The car and bike horns, make you want to remove your ears!!! Only one night though before our flight to laos. Seems mad but due to limited time left, we fancied an hour flight, over more than 2 days on a bus!