Forgot to mention that we stopped to tour a large cave with many chambers on our way to Cat ba Island.
We left by regular ferry boat the next morning for Hanoi where we were reunited with our luggage. There are many markets here and the traffic is non-stop - there are often no lights or signs at intersections but pepole just seem to be able to merge - we didn't see any accidents. We saw a Water Puppet show which was quite unique - the large puppets are somehow attached to poles and the action is all done on a large stage which is actually a big pond of water.
Our drive to the Laos border was long but we were on our own mini bus so could stop to take pictures now and then The driver took us along a rural route so we got to see something other than a highway lined with shops and markets. We saw many rice fields as well as bananas, bamboo, and sugar cane. Most of the work is manual though some jobs used water buffalo and we saw the odd rotor tiller.