This post is long over-due and I have been meaning to upload these pictures of Vietnam for a while. Before taking the express bus to Sapa, I spent 3 days exploring crazy Hanoi. While there, I stayed at the Paradise Boutique Hotel, which I would definitely recommend. They organized a boat tour of Halong Bay and arranged transportation to Cat Ba Island. It turned out to be quite a bumpy ride getting there, and I was left stranded by the bus stop in the dark for an hour, but the staff at Paradise felt terrible and gave me a free nights stay. The boat trip itself was wonderful, and was exploring the beautiful natural wonders of Halong Bay.
I also took a boat to Monkey Island, a private little resort just off of Cat Ba Island. It was quite a relaxing stay, and their seafood barbecue is delicious and only 7$ per night. If you go, make sure to climb up the hill, past the bar and up the cliff. The top offers stunning views of the island.