We have been poked, pushed, prodded and patted, and our bikes have been used as a coat and purse hanger. Touching is how the Vietnamese express themselves, and when they are excited (to see we are biking, to get on a bus, etc) using their bodies is completely appropriate. We took the overnight bus from Hue up to Ninh Binh (contemplated cycling on Highway 1, but it was just too busy with trucks, buses, motos all honking constantly). Dan helped them load the bikes underneath, while I procured two “beds”. The beds were narrow, with a pod thing for your legs to slip down into and a railing on the side – made for the Vietnamese (i.e. smallish). A little claustrophobic at first, but we had to climb up and in even though it was 6pm. There were 2 aisles on the bus, and upper and lower beds – so 3 across all the way back. The lights went out and there we were, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable for 12 hours as we honked and swerved our way north toward Hanoi. We got off in the town of Ninh Binh, by the side of the road just as it was getting light out. We loaded up the bikes with our panniers and rode to a hotel where we found a most delightful man who gave us great directions for a serene ride through the countryside for the day. Little lanes, riding past pagodas and traditional houses, and up on the berms through the rice paddies. Just what we needed. But since we also wanted to see Halong Bay before heading to NW Vietnam, we got on another (very) local bus the next morning for 5 hours of more honking and swerving as the driver played chicken with the other buses and trucks. At the rest stop along the way there was one big trough for the women to pee in : ) Bought some pringles and noticed they had already been opened. When I showed the girl who sold them she said “that ok, only few missing” (saving face). Halong Bay is best seen on a junk (traditional boat) and that’s just what we did. It was a lovely wooden boat with 8 tidy bedrooms and quite an international group on board (Laos, Ireland, Denmark, China, Korea, Germany, Malaysia and Holland), all interesting people and fun to talk to. Next up: Hanoi!