Len Con Peak

I couldn’t resist adding this tune to my post.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to put the original one on but this is not a bad mix and is relatively short. I’m apologising now for the ear-worm it might become.


Len Con Peak is set back from the underused dual carriageway that goes from opposite the Tourist Centre in Phong Nha and joins the road that takes tourists towards Paradise Cave. From within the village road, Highway 20, it can be reached by taking a turn away from the river near to Green River homestay and restaurant, following the path around to the right, behind the school. It conveniently has a makeshift shelter to shade motorbikes and bicycles at the edge of the road.

Walking along the path from the road to Len Con Peak
Looking towards the road from midway along the path
Views of the paddy field and limestone peak
Buffalo grazing while a rice planter has a rest

On the first occasion that I visited there was a group of us and I got a lift on the back of my neighbour’s motorbike so we were there in no time. Subsequent visits have been by bicycle. We parked up and walked down the short set of steps in to the paddy field and followed the thin gravelled path. I had flat sandals on so ideal footwear but was glad I’d not wore heels as it could be a little tricky in places or in the dark. The path is easy to follow and leads you over two small bridges and past the frogs, who are sat in the water with a cage over them. I was surprised how big and well-fed the frogs looked, almost like toads.

We turned left after the pond with the frogs and saw a traditional built building which is the restaurant and bar, along the path to it is a pond on the left and hammocks and seating to the right, at the bottom of the peaks/hills.  One of the first things that we noticed is how peaceful and calm it felt.

We ordered cold drinks that came with glasses and ice and perused the menu.  To choose from was whole chicken, spring rolls, rice, fish, soup, french fries, veggies and frog. We were given free peanuts to eat with our beer and while the food was freshly prepared.  On the first occasion our group was the only customer but having been on further visits I can see it is going to be a popular spot with locals and tourists too. There are three big tables in the bar area so fully shaded, with fans, two more big tables outside and slightly shade by trees, plus a couple of smaller seating areas. I counted at least 4 hammocks for lounging in too.

The bar
Our group enjoying the cold drinks
Cute little chicks at feeding time

The owners and staff are really welcoming and make every effort to ensure you are happy.  The food is great and a decent portion size. The soup we had was delicious and on my last visit the older lady of the family cooked the best sticky rice I’ve had. Once the chicken arrives whole, it will be pulled apart for you into pieces and it’s served on a platter lined with banana leaf accompanied with the lime, salt & pepper mix and some spices and crushed peanuts. It is absolutely delicious and we think the chicken goes from roaming around to in your belly within about 90 minutes.

The chicken is fresh
Chicken with sticky rice and crushed peanuts
Gloves on ready to break up the cooked chicken

Len Con Peak has all you need including western style toilets that are clean, they welcome well-behaved dogs and it’s a beautiful place to relax. I’m already looking forward to another visit.


From Phong Nha to Dong Hoi – the last day (day 4)

It’s a sad day to be leaving Phong Nha, my parents and I will spend the last night of the holiday at Beachside Bckpackers before they head back for an afternoon in Hanoi and then a flight back home.  Here’s a track that matches the mood of the end of the holiday.

We started the morning at Phong Nha River House where we had a great last breakfast – the food as always doesn’t disappoint here and the views were perfect as we ate inside but looked over the gardens and river.


Our trusted taxi driver picked us up and took us in to town where I had arranged for mom and I to visit the Lemon Tree spa for a pedicure each.  Dad sat in the Lemon Tree bar having a coke and reading his book while we were pampered with a really good pedicure and gel nails for a great price. The lovely Trang did both our pedicures and was also training some new staff at the same time. I’ve had massages from the partially sighted guy there which have been great and so I can recommend a visit if you need any treatments while you’re in town. Mom & I were so pleased with our treatments and couldn’t stop admiring our pretty toes as we set off, in the taxi, to Dong Hoi.


The three of us arrived at Beachside Backpackers in Dong Hoi in time for lunch and a few beers (what a surprise) – we each got a free beer at check-in, as is the norm. I was pleased that my parents got to meet the owners Michaela and An as well as their little baby.  As you’ve probably realised my parents aren’t backpackers and we probably could have stayed at a hotel in town as there are quite a few to choose from, however I really love this place and I wanted to show it off to my parents.  I think they enjoyed visiting the place that Captain Caveman and I often escape to when we want to relax at the beach, we had lots of beers and even some cocktails and shots during the course of the evening and we managed to forget that tomorrow would be the last time I’d see my parents for maybe 5 months.

For dinner we took a short taxi ride in to town and visited one of my old favourites, 7th Heaven. The steaks were amazing, the wine was great and the staff really friendly – it made for a brilliant last night of the holiday too.


The next morning after an early breakfast I accompanied ma & pa to the airport and the taxi driver waited while we said our goodbyes. Of course there were tears and I cried quiet tears in the taxi all the way back to Beachside.  Luckily for my parents their holiday hadn’t finished just yet and they flew to Hanoi where they managed to find their way to the famous water puppet theatre and have some food before their flight home.


Phong Nha – Day 3

This day’s soundtrack deserves one of my favourite songs ever…..

Day 3 in Phong Nha would be my parents’ last full day in town. Captain Caveman was working for the day as part of the expedition team who were here exploring new caves while we decided to visit some of the places we still didn’t go to the previous day.

Grandma ensuring that Dung welcomes visitors to Ho Khanh’s
The river view at Ho Khanh’s


After breakfast at Ho Khnah’s we decided to walk down to the hairdressers (Onion’s) so that Dad could get a shave. For a small fee Onion does a very close shave which tends to make people look 10 years younger.


Next we walked to Oxalis and had drinks at the café overlooking the river before walking down in to town via a few bars/restaurants.


One of the nicest places we stopped that morning was Lucky Lucky, a Vietnamese run bar and restaurant with some wooden seating by the river.  They served us green tea and peanuts on the house and a couple of cold beers and a large bottle of water were very reasonably priced considering the remarkable river view.  The family who own this place are really welcoming to their home, which we used the bathroom of, is exceptionally clean and tidy. I made a note to let the others know we had found another new place to add to the list of places we can visit.

Ma & Pa at Lucky Lucky
Free peanuts and green tea at Lucky Lucky

Our next call was nearer to the town centre and also a fairly new place, Coco House.  This place is a homestay as well as a bar and restaurant, situated on the river – it has some of the most stunning views and the owners are really friendly and welcoming too.  This time they had added hammocks to the shaded seating area and so mom spent some time relaxing in one until our snacks arrived. The beers were cold the sweet potato fries were pretty impressive too.

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Once in town we visited D’Arts restaurant and the sun had started to come out which meant we could sit in the comfy outdoor seats, made from pallets, with the pet dog.  Usually I enjoy the Bun Cha here but as we had already had peanuts and fries along the way we decided against a meal and plumped for 3 cold beers.


For lunch we ate a mixture of dishes at one of my old favourites, Bamboo Café. This is one of the long standing places in town and the owner is busy with lots of Eco conservation work, including recently rescuing a primate.  His famous eco-tours help to raise money and awareness for endangered monkeys that need rehabilitation. The food, drinks and staff in the café are also great. We also bumped in to one of Captain Caveman’s fellow expedition men, Brian, who joined us for lunch.  Brian was staying at a local hotel, the Thanh Dat (also newly named Elegant Hotel) which is not far from Bamboo Café, and is where a lot of the cavers tend to stay when they are based here looking for new caves.


Later we had arranged to meet Captain Caveman over at Easy Tiger, this was a place my parents remembered visiting last year – Dad and I even did a song together there a couple of years ago. It’s one of the biggest and busiest hostels/bar/restaurant in town and a huge hit with backpackers and local drinkers alike.  There is often live music from an extremely talented band who cover quite a few genres of music, they also do requests and are happy for people to get up and sing/play too. There is also a few happy hour deals that we managed to take advantage of before we headed off to the Indian restaurant, Namaste.

Happy Hour for gin & tonic at Easy Tiger
Namaste – sorry ma, getting a bit tipsy now.

Namaste is relatively new in town and a welcome addition to the town, it has a very full menu so there’s lots of choice and one of my favourite starters is the fish pagoda. The food here is definitely on the spicey side so only Capain Caveman had spicey while we all stuck to medium or mild. More beers were had before we headed to the last place of the night, Little Vietnamese Restaurant.

This bar is one of our favourites for beers, it’s also a bit of a sports bar as the owner does his best to how important football matches as well as other sporting events.  It’s also one of the oldest bars in Phong Nha, previously called the Why Not? Bar.  The food is also pretty good with one of my favourites being the pepper pork with steamed rice. The owners are lovely and also know how to mix a strong gin & tonic.

Our taxi, booked once again through our friend Phuong, came to pick us up as arranged and we were quite merry.  I was also quite sad that tomorrow was going to be our last morning before we headed off to Dong Hoi for one last night before my parents left.


Phong Nha – Day 2

The song for today was an obvious choice seeing as both my parents love The Beatles as well as us all being on a day trip.


After popping over for a drink at Ho Khanh’s we were back in the house and waiting for our taxi – the sunshine bus as it would later be called. We always use our friend, Phuong, for booking the taxis as he’s really reliable, speaks good English and lives nearby. He has a business ‘Phong Nha Backacker Services’ too which can accommodate up to 8 passengers on half or full day tours to the various tourist attractions around Phong Nha and the National Park. While waiting for the taxi we had some entertainment from the neighbouring house who had set up some kind of water pump contraption outside the house, it looked like it could get messy and we had no idea what they were meant to be doing.

The rain had started and so we were glad we had a car to take us the 3km in to town for our first stop off – breakfast at the Thang Nhung restaurant. The Pork Shop, as we call it, is one of the best places to eat in town if you like pork. If you don’t like pork then it’s probably not for you, although the veggie dish of Tofu is pretty good. The pork bang mi and the pork fried rice are among my favourite meals in Phong Nha, the prices are very good and the drinks (from the shop next door) are cold. The people who own the Pork Shop are so lovely and the BBQ pork is outstanding.


After about an hour we got back in the taxi and travelled out of Phong Nha and turned left at the main road where we drove towards the Phong Nha Farmstay, calling on our way at The Lake House. My mom had been before a couple of years ago when we had spent the day in the pool, drinking cocktails and eating delicious food while my Dad had been on the 2 day Hang En cave trip with Oxalis.  This time the weather was cooler and there was a little rain so we sat inside with hot drinks and admired the view.


We had planned that we would have lunch and wine at the Farmstay and so that was our next stop, the taxi driver had a break while we looked about the place and chilled out. The food is always good at this place and so I went for the sausages (as did Dad and Captain Caveman), while mom went for seafood. We were the only customers so it was really nice to relax and have the place to ourselves, we even got to take lots of photos of the beautiful grounds and pool area with my new phone.



After lunch we got back inside the sunshine bus and headed back towards Phong Nha via the scenic route, calling in at the Bomb Crater bar. This is a fairly new addition to the area and is built next to the river besides a bomb crater, it’s a lovely bar that serves beer and spirits in a great location.  There were kayaks but due to the weather we decided just to have a drink and take a few photos.


Our next stop was Sy’s Homestay, a little further along the river road, nearer to the petrol station, set in the rice paddies. Sy and his family have a small homestay there which has some stunning views as well as selling cold beers.  As the rain was still a little drizzly we sat undercover next to the Booking.com sign of 9.4, later my Dad stood up quickly and knocked it  off so it now has a piece missing.


By this time the day trip had turned in to more of a pub/bar crawl but we still had more to do that evening.  We called in to Bamboo café, pointed out the fridge shop that sells pillows, bought some great T-shirts and a bag at Phuc Dat before heading over for our evening meal at Capture Café, one of the best eateries in town for western food and great wine. It was great to see all the staff and, as promised Giang had put lots of wine in the fridge for us.  At Capture we all had pizza but couldn’t finish it all so Captain Caveman was in charge of the takeaway boxes, we bought a bottle of wine to take home and headed back to the house where we were invited to a soiree at Veronika’s. Other cavers, friends and neighbours joined us for gin, wine or whisky and we got quite merry before heading to bed knowing that tomorrow Captain Caveman was working while we had more sights to see.






Home Sweet Phong Nha – Day 1

I chose this song as it represents coming home to Phong Nha, I doubt I will ever live in Alabama so it’s the nearest I’m going to get to Sweet Home Phong Nha – love a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd.


We passed our house in Phong Nha, got out of the taxi at Ho Khanh’s, before popping over to Rustic Homestay for breakfast. Mom joined me and Captain Caveman with pork noodle soup while Dad had a bacon sandwich. The homestay is fairly new, it has delicious breakfast options and a few of the locals seem to now frequent. It’s owned by a local and has nice rooms to rent as well as being available for smoothies, beers and meals. It’s a few doors away from us so is very handy – my usual breakfast consists of the bun heo with a banana smoothie although I sometimes treat myself to one of the best bacon sandwiches in town.

After breakfast we took our bags to the house, where my parents would move in to the room next door to us (on the 2nd floor). The weather was cool and a fine drizzle was in the air so we got some washing in, sent Captain Caveman off to buy pillows and we walked to down the main street towards Oxalis.


The Glass House – our home.

On the way we had a nosy at a new bar that is being built close to our house, Mountain Bar, owned by our friend, next door neighbour and landlord’s son. It still had workmen in there and we said hello and took a couple of pictures – this was going to be the first bar within walking distance to our house and looking like it would open sometime in May.

Mountain Bar – coming soon to Phong Nha

We continued our walk and it was evident that in the last 2 years there was so much building work going on, even at our end of the village. I pointed out my friend Vinh’s homestay that was also new and almost finished – a beautiful traditional wooden house, opposite the volley ball court, called Highway 20 Homestay.




By the time we had managed a beer at Oxalis it was time for lunch and so we ordered food. I went for one of my favourites there which is the chicken curry and it didn’t disappoint. My parents were impressed with the changes to the Oxalis Home and restaurant which has been improved over the last 2 years – the beach looked impressive but it was a little cool and drizzly for us to sit there so we sat under the shelter and admired the river view instead.


In the afternoon we headed back towards home but not before having a cold beer by the river over at Ho Khanh’s. My parents had stayed here previously a couple of years ago and so it was good to see how the gardens had flourished as well as the new buildings had shaped the place now.



In the evening I had arranged a bit of a welcome meal at one of my favourite places, Phong Nha River House. A meal was arranged for early evening with a mixture of western and Vietnamese friends, so we could welcome my parents. We ate mostly pork dishes which were amazing and we drank beers and wine while one of our friends managed to skype call from the jungle to say hello to my parents.

Because of the close proximity to our house the River House is also a great option for an evening meal in a quiet location, beside the river, just past the pineapple totem pole type structure. My parents were able to meet our friends, the owners Bom & Quet, as well as meeting Chubby and Milo (the resident pooches). We all enjoyed the great food and promised to go back for one of the delicious breakfasts in a few days’ time.

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After we said our goodbyes we stopped for a nightcap in our room and made plans for our Phong Nha taxi tour the next day. We had a lot of places to visit and so we would start early to make sure we could fit as many places in as possible.


From Hanoi to Dong Hoi

I’ve chose this song as I’ve always liked a bit of Fatboy Slim and this particular track reminds me of the sound a train makes. I also think this version’s video is pretty quirky.

We left Mai Chau at noon, again by private transfer, and headed back to Hanoi. My mom and I both needed to get a new phone – I was still using my iphone 4s, which I’d gone back to when my 2 year old Oppo had decided that it no longer liked connecting to the internet.

We popped in to one of the Gio Di Dong shops in the Old Quarter and looked at phones while Captain Caveman popped to make a reservation for dinner at a nearby restaurant. After deliberating over different phones for some time we decided to both get the same and plumped for the Oppo A37.

Armed with a new phone with a pretty good camera we went to a rooftop bar for a couple of cold beers.

Cheers to new phones
A view from the bar in Hanoi


Dad posing for the new Oppo phone
St Joseph’s Cathedral

Dinner was at The Mediterraneo, near St Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi and was delicious. We even had free prosecco to celebrate their 25th birthday, had great food and a good end to that part of our holiday before we headed to the station for our overnight train.

It was my parents’ first overnight train trip and we’d booked the soft sleeper so that all 4 of us were in the same compartment together. Captain Caveman and I had the top bunks while Ma & Pa had the bottom bunks. It cost around 500,000 VND each for the bed and the journey took about 9 or 10 hours.  I read for quite a bit and eventually went to sleep after midnight; my Dad had some dreams that caused him to shout out during the night which made me jump.  We arrived before 7am in to Dong Hoi, the nearest town to where Captain Caveman and I call home, got a taxi and arrived in Phong Nha by 8am. The first stop was obviously going to be breakfast, even before we had dropped off the luggage. It was going to be the start of a few days of being a tourist in my own village and I was looking forward to showing my parents the changes since their last visit, 2 years ago.