Yesterday, after touring around by foot in Hanoi - visiting the "Hanoi Hilton" - the Maison Centrale - an old prison, the city art gallery, some travels in and around the city walking around the streets and markets, taking in some fab sites, smells and street life, downing several beers in Maos Red Lounge, I saw the best sight so far - a motorbike travelling down the street with a full size fake blue and white Christmas tree standing upright on the bike travelling at high speeds down the street - so as you can probably tell I have not avoided any Christmas crazyness, although they are not trying to sell you stuff you don't need under the guise of Christmas.
Later in the evening we boarded the train heading for our next destination, Sapa, up in the northern highlands, very tribal, hopefully with the promise of being very funky. The train journey was great, very comfortable, and our compartment was very glam! After many Baileys, we slept all night, waking at 5am, the train due to arrive at 5.30am. We were met and transported an hour to Sapa, and realised how freezing it was. Our hotel was freezing, there was no heating, and we couldn't check into our rooms til midday. They did however feed us a fantastic breakfast, albeit downed to the tunes of an annoying new "friend" from the land of the Union Jack - who incessently complained about the weather and anything else she could.
After breakfast we left with our guide Kee, a H'mong guy, lovely and friendly and who really liked Aussies. They were 4 French in tow and little miss annoying - but we soon got rid of her as we ventured into the valley towards Cat Cat village. The H'mong people are gorgeous and we soon had a mob around us - they are so tiny and wear bright gorgeous tribal gear, so a winner in my eyes. Our trip was about 6kms round trip, steep down and as you guessed it - steep up. At the top my new friend Sy, a H'mong womand and a few of her friends extorted some $$s out of me in exchange for some nice textiles and jewellery.
We arrived back at our hotel - had a freezing shower - if I don't come back with pneumonia it will be a miracle. A hot, lunch, some warm coffees and a few beers later, and we are all smiles - loving Sapa and the local people. In fact the Vietnamese as a whole are lovely, am enjoying it more than expected - the sights, the people, but particularly loving it here in Sapa!!