13 Things to do in Phong Nha when it’s raining

1) Go on a tour – most adventure tours will go ahead as planned or in a safely modified way so check with the company and get ready for your adventure. You will be out of the rain when you’re in a cave so there is no need to cancel any pre-booked tours.

2) Eat – there are so many good places to eat in Phong Nha that you will be spoiled for choice. A few places also do takeaway and delivery too.

3) Drink – grab a smoothie or a glass of wine. Lots of places will offer free water refills too so you can help reduce the amount of plastic.

4) Phong Nha cave – spend a half day on this trip from the Tourism Centre by boat which will drop you inside the cave for you to explore inside both caves.

Captain Caveman’s photo at Phong Nha Cave

5) Play pool – there are a few bars and hostels offering free pool tables including Easy Tiger, Sunflowers & Phong Nha Farmstay.

6) Read a book – you can often do a book swap or even buy a new book at a cheap price at Capture Cafe.

7) Get a massage – my favourite is Dr Sy of Magic Fingers, he’s very good and great value. If you’re staying at Chay Lap Farmstay resort they also offer a massage service.

8) Have a manicure or pedicure – there are a few places around so ask your homestay for a recommendation or visit Lemon Tree for a treatment or two.

9) Go to the market and buy a rain poncho and plastic sandals – the local market will sell cheap coverups and shoes for if you are still wanting to get out and about by foot, bicycle, or motorbike. Expectt to get a poncho and sandals for less than $3.

10) Sing – there are so many karaoke places where you can rent the room by the hour to belt out a few ballads and ruin a couple of rock anthems. They vary in price according to the size of room, variety of songs and quality of the snacks.

11) Go for a swim – you’re already going to get wet so why not have a swim in one of the many pools in Phong Nha.

12) Cooking Class – why not learn how to cook some local food and then eat it! Your hostel or homestay can advise of one close by.

13) Sit in a bar or cafe and people watch – there are so many places you can sit and watch the world go by, and wonder at the people out in the rain wandering about.

Karst Villas, Phong Nha – Vietnam

Our first visit to this new place was brilliant! The sun was out but with the promise of cloudiness and rain ahead. Captain Caveman and I ate breakfast at Coffee Station and were joined by our two friends for a day out. Captain Caveman had rented a motorbike for the day from a local company, who has good bikes for 100,000vnd per 24hrs, so that we could drive over to see the newest accommodation in Phong Nha. The owner happened to have his birthday that day and we let him know we were coming to check out his new place!
Karst Villas is wonderful and probably the nicest place to stay in town! We had a tour around the rooms and villas, went on the roof and tested out the pool. The owner invited us all to come to stay to try out the place soon, however, Captain Caveman has little time off this month and none of us had matching time off. Being a lady of leisure I could go any time, of course.
The chef was away but the owner knocked up a lunch for us, gave us fruit and waters and fluffy towels at the pool – it wasn’t even open yet!! The girls posed as models by the pool for the day and we took so many photos, mostly of bikini-clad ladies.

It was so good a visit that we have been back again since and tested out the chef’s Vietnamese food which was delicious. My favourite is their deep swimming pool, which Captain Caveman loved to dive in to, and the comfy sun-loungers. Even on the second visit, which was cloudy, we still caught the sun.

The Duck Stop & Moi Moi

Being a lady of leisure, as well as having Jamie and her family over for a visit, has meant I can join in on the fun stuff for a change instead of saying I can’t come because I’m working. It was only 5 days since the start of my tourist visa and 6 weeks until I would be with some of my UK family and friends in Turkey so I was looking forward to being a tourist for the day in the Phong Nha area.
Captain Caveman and I had a leisurely breakfast at Capture cafe before getting picked up by Jamie and her family for a day out to one of the famous places in the nearby Bong Lai Valley. I’d never been before and I was so excited, although a little bit nervous as I’m scared of some birds (I have a terrible fear of pigeons).
At the Duck Stop we got to see, feed and touch ducks and it was so good – it’s not just for the kids! It was busy and we waited with a cold drink and some fresh peanuts while chatting to the owner and the other staff and their kids. We were shown the best way to eat the peanuts, with the local pepper corns and salt before being given a conicle hat to wear.
Inside the duck enclosure we were guided by the owner who is so good with the ducks. Both Jamie and I love animals and so we were pleased to see they were treated very well. Each and everyone of us, including the 2 little kids, were allowed to feed the ducks and we were given so much opportunity for photos and videos. It was also my first time touching a real live duck and it felt so soft!
When we eventually felt like we had spent enough time with the ducks we went out of the enclosure to a hand and foot washing station, which is basically a hose pipe and some soap which does the job for hands and feet. I did wear my own porter sandals but if you don’t have them you can borrow them so your own shoes don’t get dirty. There are also some great quality t-shirts you can buy for a souvenir but the staff are not pushy so you can ask to try on at the back of the bar area.

After all the excitement of the Duck Stop we went to Moi Moi for lunch and had a selection of delicious food. We should’ve pre-ordered as it took a while to come and we were all hungry and tired. It was sunny and hot but not unbearable and we got to chill in hammocks while waiting. Moi Moi is a simple eatery ran by the family, where your food is very fresh – our chicken was still alive when we arrived!
The bamboo pork is my absolute favourite while Captain Caveman just loves the veggie cassava and peanut starter. All the food is prepared and cooked in the very basic kitchen over an open fire next to where the children and dogs play. The beer is cold and the staff warm and welcoming despite not speaking too much English. All in all a great day out and we didn’t even have time to visit all the other places in the Bong Lai Valley – maybe another time.
We cheated and did it by car with a local driver, however, fitter and more adventurous types can certainly make the journey by bicycle from Phong Nha.

Leaving the Jungle

On my last day at work with Jungle Boss (for this year, anyway) I was meant to work 2-5.30pm at the sales office and then have my leaving party at Sunflower’s straight after, but as luck would have it there was a shift change which meant I had to do my handover with the manager before 2pm. I worked from home after seeing Captain Caveman off to Son Doong and I knocked up a spreadsheet containing all my customer details before cycling down to the Sales Office to hand in my laptop and Sim card.
Later I stopped by the Jungle Boss Homestay to have a swim and confirm details for the leaving drinks which then got changed. Boss suggested we have a Jungle Boss pool party and everyone could join the party which was a great idea. Most of the staff live nearby or have kids (or both) so would be easier to drink locally. There was a new bartender with some cocktails and juices for him to try on us, as well as having some comfy poolside side seats and the refreshing swimming pool. It was a really great send off! I had such a great time and I think we really worked Tuan (the bartender) hard.
I went home in my wet swimwear but with my dress over the top and a little bit merry! I was looking forward to having some free time in Phong Nha, taking some Vietnamese lessons too, but I was also going to miss the Jungle Boss family!

For anyone reading this who is coming to Phong Nha, Vietnam and wants to do a tour or stay at Jungle Boss, here is their website.

Jungle Boss Adventure Tours, Homestay & Organic Farm

Danang in July – 2 nights

Our flight from Chiang Mai to Danang was at 8am on Tuesday 23rd July so we were up at 5.30am. Sometimes being a lady of leisure can be hard work!
At the airport there are no gluten free options so while a tired Captain Caveman scoffed a croissant and an espresso I made do with an earl grey tea.
The plane landed early and I took my visa approval letter to the visa processing man. I didn’t have a passport photo but he took my photo for $3. Captain Caveman had a tatty $10 note which he’d been trying to get rid of and I used it to pay for my visa and the photo. All went well and I got my visa in less than 15 minutes but the queues to get through passport control were lengthy and hardly moving. Once out we got a taxi to the hotel which Captain Caveman had booked and I was really impressed that he’d chosen an apartment, mainly because it stated it had a washing machine and we were out of clean undies. We were too early to check in but we were allowed to use the pool if we wanted – first I needed to eat!!
It wouldn’t have been my first choice for breakfast and I was a bit tetchy from being tired and hungry but burgers it was. I had a cheese burger, no bun or sauces just wrapped in lettuce and with loads of raw onion. Captain Caveman had a massive burger with everything on which I’m sure he swallowed whole. Burger Brothers in Danang doesn’t look great but their burgers are fantastic!! I ate mine too fast to remember to take a photo and I could easily have had another one.
Back at Moon Hotel and Apartments we headed up to the rooftop pool, which we had to ourselves. When we did check in I was amazed how nice the apartment was however Captain Caveman noticed right away that it did not meet his expectations and had to go to reception to complain – there was no washing machine, no safe, no matching robes, no (wine) glasses and no toaster!!! They agreed to bring us a washing machine that afternoon but in the end the manager, realised that would be a nightmare, offered to let us have a free laundry service. We were happy with that and put in all of our clothes including the swimmers.
At 4pm I went to L Spa for a very thorough waxing experience (I’ve had gynecologists be further away during a procedure)!! I also got a shoulder and foot massage which was brilliant. If you’re in Danang and need any of these treatments they are definitely great value and extremely professional.
I called in at a minimart on the way back and bought (screwtop) wine, paper cups, cheese, fruit and cashews which we had some of before going out for dinner. We tried to go to a BBQ place that had been recommended but it was closed so we went to Fat Fish instead. We shared a salad and I had ribs for main with more wine!

Breakfast at the Moon Hotel and Apartments on Wednesday 24th July was great! I was lucky to have lots of choice and ate dragon fruit, pineapple, bun cay (vegetarian soup), spring rolls and steamed rice with lotus seeds. We had a lazy morning, ate cheese cashews and mangosteen then, when I eventually managed to get Captain Caveman off his phone, we went to Bread & Salt for lunch on it’s opening day. My chicken salad was amazing and I only drank water (trying to cut down on the booze a little).
In the afternoon Captain Caveman needed the bank and so we walked to Dirty Fingers, a sports bar, where I ended up having 3 small wines! The owner also talked us into having a T-Bone steak each with chips and salad. It worked out well for me as that night we were off to a function where I wouldn’t be able to eat anything. We called in to Seven Bridges for a gluten free beer before heading to meet a friend.
Hops & Crust had their opening party from 7pm and they had free pizza being handed round. I just had the gluten free beer although I really wanted the pizza which looked amazing. Back at Moon we watched a film on TV (a rarity as we don’t have a TV at home) before bed.

Captain Caveman should’ve been in Hang Son Doong on Thursday 25th July but instead he got to spend all day with me – of course he had no idea how lucky he was!
He’d been up in the night with a bad stomach and just as I’d started to feel better he was not well. He didn’t make it to breakfast and instead stayed in bed, on his phone, until just before noon.
Unfortunately we had to check out at 12:00 and were getting a car back to Phong Nha which is just over 300km away (about 6 hours).
We went for food at Mini Breakfast, just round the corner from Moon Hotel and Apartments, as Captain Caveman was feeling hungry and seemed to be recovering well. I had the best second breakfast I’ve had in a long time – bacon, potatoes, onion and melted Camembert!
Before our pick up we squeezed in another dip in the pool and a lounge about. Captain Caveman was convinced we would arrive home by 8pm while I was less optimistic. We’d been driving for less than an hour when the driver pulled over after a toll and waited for another car and driver. He didn’t speak English so we weren’t sure why but then we followed that car a few minutes to Lang Co, where both cars stopped for food.
We didn’t eat or drink but both driver’s had some sort of noodle soup and quails eggs with an energy drink. I took the opportunity to have a pee and was glad I had as we then drove non-stop to Phong Nha in silence for the majority of the way, arriving back after 9.30pm!

Chiang Mai via Danang

We were off on a bit of a jolly for Captain Caveman’s birthday and my visa run. Having finished working for the year I now needed a tourist visa for the rest of my stay in Vietnam. On Friday 19th July we were up very early to get our lift from Phong Nha to Dong Hoi for the 08:04 SE1 train to Danang. Captain Caveman had been unable to get us beds in the same berth so he had booked separate ones, both a top bunk in a 4 berth. I’d downloaded the rest of The Affair (on Netflix) to watch on the train too and had my new ear phones to be put to the test. When we arrived at Dong Hoi station the train was delayed by 40 minutes so we went to a cafe for a hot drink – I chose ginger tea because I had a terrible sore throat as well as still having aching limbs from our recent caving trip.
We boarded the train and went to our sleepers. Mine already had 2 adults and 4 kids in it and they proceeded to be loud, hyperactive and generally very annoying. I tried to watch Netflix with my earphones in but I kept getting messages to say my hearing could be damaged for having the volume on so high – I couldn’t hear a word! I told the kids off a few times but they ignored me and got worse. When we got to Hue the train steward asked me if I would like to join Captain Caveman in his sleeper so I agreed. When I opened their door there were also 4 other people but they were quiet and happy, sat on the bottom bunks and so I could watch The Affair (at a much lower volume).

Our train got in late and we got a taxi to our hostel, Roma Casa, so we could drop bags off before going for breakfast or lunch.
We got neither and instead went to the bar for lemon juice, some peanuts and a passion fruit margarita. Finally we went out to eat and we went to an amazing place called Le Comptoire – a fancy french restaurant.
I had a duck and lentil salad for starter, roast chicken and veg for main and then shared a cheese board with Captain Caveman for afters. We had a lovely bottle of wine and I was happy to have eaten at last.
Back at the hostel I found the bed very comfy and the toilet and shower block were spotlessly clean and nearby. They had a swimming pool made out of a shipping container which we didn’t get to go in this time. We set the alarm as the next day we were off to Thailand.

Our flight from Danang to Chiang Mai wasn’t until 10:30am on Saturday 20th July which meant we had time for breakfast. I had pork fried rice and it was a large portion. We were excited to be off to Chiang Mai, both of us for the second time but the first time together.
We arrived at our hotel, I Lanna House, around 1pm and were able to check in early. Captain Caveman had chosen the accommodation and it was lovely. For lunch we went to SP Chicken which is one of the tastiest places I’ve ever had a whole chicken. We shared the chicken, some sticky rice, morning glory and of course a couple of cold beers. I found out that many of the Thai beers are made with rice and so I was able to drink them without any problem. In the afternoon we lounged by the pool and had a refreshing dip. I had started with a cold and my sore throat was worse so I had a little nap before we went out for the evening. We visited Mixology, a firm favourite of mine from my last trip and a first for Captain Caveman. Unfortunately it seemed to be a little less sparkling than last time so we had just 2 cocktails each but ate elsewhere.

Amigos was a tiny cafe where Captain Caveman enjoyed the nachos and I had a corn taco with chicken. Directly above the Mexican place was Cru, a delightful wine bar where it would be rude not to have a cheese board. It rounded the night off well and once back at the hotel I slept the best I had in a while.

Sunday 21st July was an interesting day and I got to meet a famous person.
We started with breakfast at the hotel but the gluten free choices were limited to pineapple, lettuce, carrot, cabbage and yoghurt – definitely different but healthy. In the afternoon we went in search of snacks and sore throat sweets and found an abundance of Hall’s in all flavours at the Seven-Eleven shop. I got loads and felt a bit better even after one sweet.
In the evening we went to meet Sid, his wife and dog at Gekko restaurant just as it started to rain. Sid Perou is a famous caver and film maker who’s also written books and is writing one now – he’s 82, from England but living in Chiang Mai. He and his wife were so lovely and it was nice to meet them at last.
For dinner I had a few beers and a plate of ribs while Captain Caveman had a masaman curry.

Our short trip to Chiang Mai was already coming to an end and Monday 22nd July was our last day at I Lanna House. I was still waiting for my visa approval letter so I could re-enter Vietnam the next day and was assured I’d get it by 6pm. The plan was to have a few days in Danang before going back to Phong Nha, assuming I got back in the country ok.
When we booked the trip to Thailand Captain Caveman had needed to be back in Phong Nha to do his Son Doong briefing on the 24th but we found out later that the tour was cancelled which meant he could be away for longer. At 5.55pm my visa approval letter was emailed to me and I got the hotel to print it me out. For dinner we went to Dash, a popular Thai place where I had a masaman curry and beer. My cold was still around but my sore throat was starting to go and I was hoping to be feeling better for our early flight the next day.

Tu Lan Cave Encounter – 2 day tour with Oxalis

Tu Lan Cave Encounter – 2 day tour with Oxalis

Our Tu Lan Cave Encounter started at 7:35am on Tuesday 16th July when Kien, our guide picked us up from our house. We had not had time for any breakfast and we were the first of 7 more customers to pick up.
By 8:30am we were off to Tu Lan office where there were already groups having briefings. We were given a 10 minute break to stretch our legs while we waited for a table and I got changed in to my trekking gear and Captain Caveman packed our stuff in to one bag. Unlike other days recently there was absolutely no breeze and we didn’t set off walking until 11am of day 1. I also didn’t take my new phone as I didn’t want to break it and asked Captain Caveman if he would take some photos of our trip and share them.

The first bit of walking was relatively easy except for the sun beating down and the sweat pouring off us. After just over an hour we stopped for lunch in Ton Cave and I ate rice rolls with tofu, Laughing Cow cheese, lettuce and chicken followed by a couple of bananas for some energy.
After lunch we walked back out of the cave and over a big mountain towards Tu Lan Valley and it was quite tricky, even though I had done the Tu Lan 4 day trip before. For an AC loving office monkey it was challenging and I began to wonder if I should have come – it was definitely not easy for me in this heat and humidity. On arriving at our campsite we all went to the water to cool off, Captain Caveman was already in the larger pool with a waterfall, Lien joined me in the river. After a break where we were treated to homemade crisps we put on our helmets, lights and a life jacket so we could go and explore Ken cave. At this point I was ready for bed, Lien also was flagging but she had the excuse that she’d arrived that morning from Hanoi on a sleeper bus. Luckily she kept me going and she never stopped talking, even when we did the swimming part. I actually enjoyed the swimming much better however I was petrified of the bats which flew in front of our lights to feed on the moths – I even ignored Kien and turned my light off hoping the bats wouldn’t be as close to me.
I used all of our bug spray on the first night as Tu Lan had loads of mozzies – they liked me but they loved the Spanish girl and one of the Dutch boys even more (including our faces).
Dinner was fantastic and I could eat all but one of the 7 dishes, 4 of which were veggie/vegan and I ate loads of it. We even had rambutans for afters, which I love.
By 8pm dinner was done and the first few had gone to their tents. Captain Caveman, the Spanish guy and the Greek guy finished the rice wine while talking about caves for a bit longer and then we went to bed.
The tent, which I shared with Captain Caveman, was roomier than I expected and not too uncomfy. I finally fell asleep but there was a huge rain storm during the night – I hoped it meant a cooler second day of the tour.

On Wednesday 17th July Captain Caveman and I woke up at 7.30am in a tent in Tu Lan campsite. I got dressed in to fresh clothes and went to join for breakfast but could hardly walk – I felt like I had been kicked by a large horse. We had ordered our breakfast the night before and the usual choices for everyone was pancakes or instant noodles, both of which aren’t gluten free so Kien had a special meal for me – beef fried rice. I was very hungry and I was really looking forward to my food but unfortunately it contained chilli sauce and was far too spicy. I checked with Kien and he said there was definitely no chillies in so I tried another mouthful but couldn’t eat it at all – instead I had a banana and a sweet ginger tea.
After breakfast we donned our helmets, lights and lifejackets and crossed the small river heading in to the Tu Lan Cave system. The morning consisted of a bit of swimming, some trekking and a bit of squeezing through a rocky section which we had to climb up. I was terrible at it and really struggled to work out where to put my hands and feet – I had my Merrill’s on but they were still slippy and I could not get my legs to stretch or bend in to some of the positions other people could. I had a bit of a claustrophobic melt down at Tu Lan Cave and Captain Caveman wasn’t too impressed especially as he kept reminding me I had been here before (I hadn’t been that particular way though).
We visited Ken cave which was ok for me as there was a lot more swimming, which I was good at. We trekked up and down a bit more before we got to the Hung Ton Valley where we would set up for lunch. I was shaking and felt weak so I was very much looking forward to lunch which we had at a gorgeous little spot sat in the river. There were already 2 other groups at the same spot so we put a table in the river and ate while our feet sat in the flowing water.
I greedily snaffled 3 spring rolls and 4 pieces of mango but it did mean someone didn’t have as many spring rolls – they were fantastic and I could easily have eaten more. The others also had boiled eggs (which I don’t like), Oreo biscuits and Choco pie chocolate biscuits. Everyone had coffee too to give them some extra energy, apart from me and the Spanish girl.
After lunch Kien told the group we would be exiting a cave via a ladder which we would be clipped on to a rope to do, I’d done this before on the Tu Lan 4 day trip and wasn’t looking forward to it. I’d not seen it on the itinerary either but some of the other customers and Captain Caveman asked if we could swim out instead so Kien agreed. It was much better than I expected and I actually enjoyed swimming and floating on my back through Ton cave.
When we got back to the easy part of the walk back to the Oxalis office I didn’t see the rest of our group for dust. It was fairly cloudy and so not as hot as on the way in. Kien was at the front with the fittest of the group while Captain Caveman was at the back with me, Lien and Hoa (one of the guides/porters).
When I eventually got back to camp I had a shower using my Lush toffee shampoo bar which is still lasting well – it felt great and I was relieved to be back.
When I got back to the others we went over to a small cafe for some rice noodle and beef soup. That bun bo felt like the best I’d ever had, I was so hungry and I even had a warm beer to wash it down with.
The drive back was long and we got dropped off at our house where I could hardly get up the stairs and went to try to have a little sleep but couldn’t. Looking back I should’ve been a little bit more prepared in my fitness, especially as I thought it would be easier than it was.

It’s been a while.

It’s been over 2 years since I used my JOLOYOLO blog however I’m now in a position to start it again. I can quickly catch you up with what I’ve been up to before I write more of my experiences as a lady of leisure.

2018 started in Cambodia with friends and Captain Caveman before returning to Phong Nha, Vietnam, to start a full time job with Jungle Boss for 3 months. I spent almost 4 months during the summer back in the UK, living with my parents and working in a local bar. In September I went to Dalyan in Turkey for 3 months where I caught up with family and friends before flying to Australia for a first time visit.

In 2019 I have already worked full time for 6 months at Jungle Boss. I celebrated Tet holiday and recorded a podcast in February, had friends visit Phong Nha in April, then went on a trip to Tuy Hoa, Quy Nhon and Tam Hai island during May. Last month I had my second visit to Chiang Mai and am now being a lady of leisure in Phong Nha again.

Please feel free to read my old blog posts on here and listen to my podcast interview with the fantastic Chapin Kreuter: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3z8zX2AKdcNZs2myxIjnwI?si=GREw49ETQiuVOtaf_qvYKQ