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.