It was the worst of our sleeping bus experiences. The seats were torn and the bus was pretty rundown, quite unacceptable for a 14-hour journey! But what can you do? You buy a ticket from an agent and you never know what you'll end up with. One couple got out in the middle of nowhere (actually it was just outside Vinh, Ho Chi Minh's hometown) at 2 in the morning. Apparently they were going to take another bus into Laos.
We went through a pretty sketchy neighbourhood on the way into Hanoi and I do believe we saw dog meat for sale in front of some shops!
Marti and I spent our last few days together, wandering the streets, strolling along the lake, trying to avoid the motorcycles, rickshaw drivers and travel agents who are everywhere. The weather has turned quite cool and we are wearing jeans for the first time. The old city is amazing. There are small lanes dedicated to various trades and products since ancient times, so you have a street where only shoes are sold, others for hardware, lanterns, cloth, pots and pans, bedding and mattresses, tiles and pottery, coffins, incense, etc. Women wearing conical hats carry baskets, balanced on the shoulder, loaded with fruits, fresh meat, plastic things, tofu -- right beside the motorcycles roaring by spuing diesel fumes! There are also some impressive art galleries featuring Vietnamese artists, as well as the propaganda poster shops. And the vestiges of French colonialism are evident in some of the buildings, especially the Opera House.
We took in a performance of the famous water puppets. Puppeteers stand in water up to their thighs behind a screen and manipulate beautiful human, animal and mythical characters who perform their stories on the surface of the water to the sound of live music played by musicians on traditional instruments on the side. The costumes and sets were so colourful and authentic.
My visa is up so I am going back to Cambodia and Marti will have a few days on her own, visiting Halong Bay. We've had a great month together and will miss each other. Despite the inevitable disagreements, we travel well together and have memories to treasure.
Marti has been ghost-writing these blogs for me, so I guess I'll have to do them myself soon and try to post some of the hundreds of photos I've taken!