First stop was to halong bay where i ...

Trip Start Oct 25, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, December 15, 2001

First stop was to Halong Bay, where i travelled to Bac-Ca Island.
Surrounding Halong Bay are over 3,000 small high rise islands, surrounded by emerald waters. Looking at photos of the site are amazing, with clear blue skies illumunating the water, and the surrounding islands.
We were unlucky, having a long downpour of rain, low cloud, followed by light drizzle for the rest of the day making the islands look dull and grey in the low cloud.
By the time i got to the island (around 4) i jumped on a small rowing boat,(made simply by woven bamboo!!) where i was taken to the surrounding fishing boats, and floating huts around the bay. Everyone seemed so friendly, 'wanting' to be photographed! and trying to call me over to their boats. After taking nearly a roll of film, the light started to fade so i made my way back to dry land.
Cat-ba is only a small island with only a handful of hotels, with a population of just over 2,000 mainly consisting of fishermen, making it a fairly sleepy island.
But it's developing fast...
As i wandered around the 15 or so shops there were 2 suspicious looking 'massage' parlours that had 2 young ladies touting for buisness.
The Japenese holiday makers seem to like it here, and have brought their karaoke 'invention' with them!!! There are currently 3 main karaoke bars in town to cater for their needs, with one of them directly above my hotel room!!
Needless to say i got little sleep as the locals & Japanese sang their way through the night with songs such as:'wherever the wind blows, im a barbie girl in a baby world, and show me the way to go home'!!!!
Finally emerging out of the karaoke bars chatting loudly to eachother.(almost shouting)
The chit chat went on outside my room until around 4am, then all was silent...Phew at last. Silence, but then the street dogs started barking like crazy, until around 5.

From Halong bay, i diverted via Hanoi and travelled up to the mountain village of Sapa.
The bus trip took me 15 hours to travel the 350km trip, weaving around Northern Vietnams hills. As we passed through the small town of Lao-Cai we could see China on the other side of the river. (Lao-Cai has a border crossing into China)
From Lao-Cai our bus slowly climbed 1,600m to the small town of Sapa.
Sapa is set between a valley, and as we approached we were shrouded in low mist and light drizzle. Sapa is where a number of hill tribes live, and we were surrounded by a group of village girls trying to sell us 'traditional clothing'as the bus pulled up. There was only one thing i wanted to do, and that was get some sleep! I was knackered.
Of a night the temperature goes down to about 6oc, so the jumper i bought in Hanoi came in handy. The room im staying in is fairly basic. A bed, with a dimly lit attached bathroom and a erratic lighting stystem that had a mind of its own. (at times it would flash like a strobe light making me feel as if i was in a 'cold' nightclub!)
Because none of the rooms had heating, all the bed covers had a damp 'musky' feel to them (thank god i had the sleeping bag)
The following morning we took a 6 km trek around the hill tribe villages. The view would have been fantastic had it not been foggy (visability about 20m)We were followed around by a bunch of friendly locals trying to sell us their traditional clothing, all hand made although the dyes they used in the materials rubbed off on your hands. (all their hands were green!!) At the end of the walk i was wearing about 10 frienship bands in exchange of photos!! The rest of the afternoon was spent in Sapa wandering around the colourful market taking pictures of the locals selling fruit and veg.
The whole day was foggy. In the evening i had another traveller share my room.
He seemes friendly enough, having just arrived from Hanoi.
All he had with him was a sleeping bag, toothbrush and paste, and a 3 year old guide book with the words 'Queen Cafe' boldly written on the front cover!(this is a cafe in Hanoi)
I had to wonder if he had 'borrowed' the book, or stole it?
The following morning we went on another 'adventerious' trek to another hill tribe village, and again it was cold and foggy. Luckily in the afternoon the sun burned through leaving a spectacular clear view of the valley with a layer of cloud sitting in the lower part of the valley, and clear skys around the surrounding hills. Again the afternoon was spent wandering around Sapa taking photos.
I think my 'room mate' has been helping himself to my soap, and also drying himself down with MY towel! When i bumped into him in town he mentioned that he was going to have a shower, but i thought how could he shower if he has no towel or soap?.
When i later returned to the room my towel felt as if it had been used. (cheeky git!)
Photos to follow soon...
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