A visit to Onion’s

It’s been over 6 months since I had my hair cut or dyed so today I took a last minute trip to our local Hairdresser in Phong Nha. We call her Onion and she is really good with the scissors as well as doing a good job with colouring, shaving and even manicures. Onion also does one of the best head massages and hair wash combos I’ve ever had.

The building is far from the fancy salons of Toni & Guy and very basic compared to my own hairdresser back in the UK however Onion always knows what to do to make your hair look so much better than when you arrived.

Onion is the sister-in-law to the infamous Ho Khanh, her ‘salon’ is in a small building situated about halfway between Ho Khanh’s and Oxalis Home, on the right-hand side as your going towards town – it’s near a small church building opposite a small junction. There are no markings or name above the door but it has some blue wooden shutters on the window that will be closed when there is bright sun, cold weather or rain.

Today’s hair colouring didn’t go as planned as I arrived with some hair dye that I bought in Hanoi (and was meant to be a dark brown colour). I had a hair cut, the colour was applied and after the head massage and a face wash resembling less severe waterboarding I was ready for my blow dry.

The colour had turned the grey part of my hair a bright pink and the bottom of my hair was more a dark brown. It looked ok but a bit patchy and Onion wasn’t happy with my hair colour. She asked the other customers their opinion too and we all agreed it wasn’t my best look yet.

Onion doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Vietnamese so the colour chart was brought out and much pointing ensued until she decided she would start again. She mixed up a dish of ‘Vietnamese Brown’ and reapplied to my hair.  The ritual was repeated and I finally emerged with normal looking hair and a great cut for less than 5 dollars. Even the other customers, who’d been kept waiting longer than necessary because of me, said it looked ‘dep’ (beautiful) but then the Vietnamese are such a polite bunch.


Problematic Pooches


An appropriate song for my next blog as I ramble on about the state of the Phong Nha pooch population.

There are lots of dogs in Phong Nha and most of them are allowed to roam about as they like, getting in to all sorts of mischief – from rolling in cow pats, killing chickens and barking a lot.

Recently a few of the favourite dogs have died which has been terribly sad.  It seems that there has been a distemper type of virus that some of the weaker or younger dogs didn’t survive.

The one dog that I could live without in Phong Nha did survive and on my way in to town recently it jumped in to the road and ran alongside my bicycle. He normally barks at me but this time he didn’t and went straight for my foot, holding the heel of my trainer in his mouth while I tried to cycle. He was growling and so I screamed and tried to kick him away but then he barked and snapped at me. It was in the middle of the day so eventually he relented and went off to bully a nearby dog.  On the way home later, it was dark, and so I was looking out for him as I rode past where he lives but I did not see him.  Instead I have seen other dogs nearer home running up to my bicycle and chasing me home, the naughty canines. The dogs here are certainly good guard dogs, except for the ones you sometimes see ‘stuck together’.



Celebrating at a local wedding

Here’s a ‘flashback Friday’ story for you. It’s still the wedding season here in Phong Nha. I went to one last Monday and am looking forward to an invite to another this coming Monday.  Below is about one I attended 2 years ago.


When you get an invite to a Vietnamese wedding you are given a time slot. They range from early morning through to about 4pm and as far as I know the later the slot the more likely it is that you are closer friends or relatives to the bride and groom.
Once your time slot is finished you leave the wedding. The bride and groom drink with each table during that time slot but they don’t sit down or eat. Instead of long speeches a few words are said by the best man, mother, friends etc and then they sing a song!
We were invited, along with everyone from Oxalis to the 4pm slot and as Captain Caveman couldn’t make it I went instead. We got a bus for all of us and travelled about an hour over very bumpy road. As we arrived the best man and his girlfriend welcomed us and sat us down at tables with a burner on each and plates of uncooked food. A waitress put the burner on and told me to wait for the water to boil and then put the tray of prawns and squid in (I think that’s what she said anyway, as she thrust a tray of raw seafood at me).
The food and beers were free flowing and we ate and drank very well. By 5pm other guests were leaving but we stayed. I was only one of two English guests within the group to go into the crowd and shake hands with all the relatives. They didn’t speak English but one guy in a sharp suit said he was from the Mafia and I remembered how to say nice jacket (au đẹp) and everyone laughed and shook our hands more and did cheers with beers.
It was such a good atmosphere but then, all of a sudden, it was the end.
We decided to go on to a karaoke with the bride and groom and their friends. Hilarious!
All the other English group left about 7pm but I stayed with the vietnamese, plus a couple of westerners from Oxalis. The bus back was lively with very loud music and dancing in the isles and we stopped off at Oxalis office for a copious amount of whisky. That’s why I was awake at 6am with a hangover!!! 

Picture Perfect


There’s a wedding shop in Phong Nha and it does very good passport photos. Yesterday I stopped by the regular photo printing shop and asked if they could take me some 4×6 photos so that I could use them for my visa on arrival, I’d been advised they did 8 for 30,000 dong. Unfortunately the man who was just about to tuck in to an early lunch said no. The wedding shop man was great and had me sit in a room with a white sheet behind me while he took my picture. He showed me the image on his camera and then went outside to load to the computer. While I was waiting I noticed he was highlighting a section of the photo where my cheek was and then drawing an outline around my lips. It was only when he selected a lovely shade of pinky-red to colour my lips in that I realised he was touching up the image to make me look better. Passport photos back where I’m from are usually known for being bad, so now I’m going to be handing over pictures at the airport that have been slightly enhanced. If I hadn’t stopped him I would’ve looked like I was a mix of Dita Von Teese and the Mona Lisa – I’m not even sure it was an improvement! It cost me 50,000 dong for 8 but they are very good quality.
Of course I had to choose Def Leppard as the song, they’re from my home town – I could easily have looked like a clown if he’d continued!