After a short stop in Hanoi where I went to a water puppets show it was straight on to Halong Bay, I took a tour as it is supposed to cost about the same as heading that way independently. We were taken out to Halong City by minibus where we were transferred to these big wooden boats that looked like the contained a menagerie of animals.
The flotilla of boats drift through the bay to the first anchor point where you are taking onto one of the islands where we were taken into a cave that even the Americans on our boat considered a bit too Disney (fake waterfalls and colourful lighting abound). The main reason for spending the night on a boat is so that you can see the bay at dawn, sadly the clouds did a pretty good job of obscuring it. The next day we went to Cat Ba island which was memorable only for me managing to break my camera.
Once back from Halong Bay I headed straight up to Sapa for some trekking up Fansipan (the highest peak in Indochina, much climbing waterfalls and wading through streams brought us to the top in deep cloud. On the way down it cleared enough to see the valley.
The next day I hired a moped and went into the valley where the local indigenous people work the rice paddies.
Rosko recommends: For the fit, a trek up Fansipan is a rewarding experience and Sapa generally is an experience, even if the town itself is a bit touristy.
Food of the stay: The street food in Sapa was excellent; probably the best I’d had since leaving Hoi An, the restaurants aren’t up to much though.