An English Foodie in Phong Nha

To those who know me it’s pretty obvious I love good food although I am very difficult to cater for because I have allergies and am extremely fussy. When I first visited Phong Nha I craved cheese and decent wine but over the years the amount of restaurants and cafes providing all types of delicious food has improved immensely and there are many places I enjoyed eating at this summer. All my meals have been gluten free and without chillies so I’ve listed all the restaurants where I ate a few times. They are not in any particular order and the ones with a * are also places to stay (homestay/hotel/hostel).

1. Little Vietnam
I love the pho ga (chicken noodle soup) there and they also do a good sized portion of fried rice.

2. Sunflowers
My favourite dishes are mushroom curry and the fresh spring rolls but all the food is pretty good.

3. Phong Nha Vegan
This one is about 3km from the main town centre but they do a delivery service. I always have the same few dishes; mushroom la lot, banh cuon, and any of the soups are fantastic, especially the mushroom!

4. Funny Monkeys*
Near to the church (but don’t let that put you off) the owners are lovely and the BBQ food is really tasty. They also do some great passion fruit drinks and the beer is always cold.

5. Coco House*
One of the places I have been eating at since it first opened and the chef has skills. I highly recommend the clay pot dishes and the sweet potato fries are probably the best in Phong Nha.

6. A Little Leaf*
Seriously good seafood served here as well as being a contender for coldest beer. The owner is knowledgeable and will let you try his special tea too. I love the BBQ prawns, spring rolls and the scallops the most.

7. Vung Hue
One of the original eateries in Phong Nha and they still have some of the best food in town. A family owned business with a great menu, if you are eating alone you can try the mixed plate. As a group there is so much to share to enjoy a selection of pork, beef and veggie dishes. The spring rolls are good, the stewed pork excellent and the pork ribs delicious.

8. Thang Nhung BBQ
This place has got it spot on for pork lovers! Anything from breakfast through to evening meal is so tasty and cheap. Surprisingly they do one of the best tofu soups I’ve tried too.

9. Banh Xeo market stall
One of the best value meals in Phong Nha and is situated at a small space on the left as you enter the local market area. The pork and shrimp crispy rice pancakes are great and it’s served pretty fast when you want to keep ordering more. Great for lunch or dinner but get there early.

10. Lucky Home (formerly Lucky Lucky)*
Situated on the river about 1km out of town it has the perfect views for watching the boats go by. The owners give excellent service despite limited English and they have some of the best snacks (peanuts) in town.

11. D-Arts
This is directly opposite Easy Tiger has great staff who will make you feel very welcome. The bun cha comes in 3 sizes and is the best in town! There is a comfy chill out seating area inside for drinking a chilled cider or cold beer too.

12. Phong Nha River House*
Ideal for a group booking for dinner this place has some of the best pork dishes I’ve had in Phong Nha. Set on the river about 3km from the town centre. The chef is excellent, the portions are a good size and if you fancy western style chips here probably has the best ones! I’d recommend booking in advance.

13. Jungle Boss Homestay*
This is a place to go for either breakfast or dinner and you should book in advance. The evening buffet style dinner is superb and if you get chance to try the garlic pumpkin dish you should. They also have a pool, some of the nicest staff and a smiley bartender to make your experience a good one.

14. Carambola Bungalows*
A great place with nice views of the river and an extensive menu. The pork dishes are the best. This place also has wine which is a bonus and is in a quiet part of town.

15. Restful River Bungalows*
This was my place to go for a lunch break. The staff are friendly, the pool and River loaction are great and the food is simple but tasty. My favourites are the fried rice and the chicken stir fry dishes. They have a well stocked drinks fridge too.

16. Oxalis Home*
I absolutely love the tofu dish and the chicken and cashew dish here. It’s on the river and has lots of seating in the shade with good views.

17. Momma D’s
Known for its amazing cocktails, craft beer and incredible sunset views this rooftop bar is a gem. The peanuts and french fries are my favourite snacks here but you can also order from various different menus (Indian, Vietnamese, Italian) as well as their own food menu. Ideal with a bottle of decent wine!

18. Namaste
If you’re craving Indian food then this is the place to go, the menu is extensive and the beer is probably the coldest in Phong Nha. I often have the special menu which works out cheaper. I bet Raj, the manager could tell you my favourite dish – bhuna murgh with garlic rice!! Service is ace too.

19. Chao Vietnam
One of the newer places serving modern interpretations of classic Vietnamese dishes from around the country. Great menu, excellent wine and a cool place to eat. My favourites are pretty much everything on the menu and the spring rolls are fantastic.

20. Easy Tiger*
You can’t go wrong with eating at this well known hostel, plenty to choose from and the staff are well trained. I enjoy the stir fry and the sausages here the most but there is so much to choose from. The wine is good value for money too.

21. Capture Cafe
Next door to Easy Tiger and famous for its pizzas. My gluten free favourites are the bacon, beans and potatoes for breakfast, the fab smoothies and the bolognese with potato wedges. I’ve been known to create my own salad too. This place is my favourite for wine and picking up western style snacks (they have crisps)!

22. Bamboo cafe
My favourite dishes here are the pork kebabs and the beef stew. The staff speak good English and are friendly, including the owner who may get the guitar out and sing now and again. The cocktails are strong and beers cold.

23. Veggie Box
Another vegan restaurant which I am a massive fan of the hotpot – it’s great value for money, so healthy and tastes delicious. If you are by yourself order vegan soup which is the hotpot for one, already prepared and in the bowl. The coconut rice is so good and a chat with Ha, the waitress, makes everyone’s day.

24. Coffee Station
It’s worth saying I don’t like coffee but this cute cafe is still one of my favourites for breakfast. The fruit salad with homemade yogurt is filling and the smoothie bowls are just the thing to sort out a hangover. Dare I say the herbal tea is excellent.

25. Underground
One of my favourite places to eat in Phong Nha because I have much more gluten free choices with a western flare. The Forever Pork, the tamarind chicken dish and the fresh garden rolls are the best. The passion fruit smoothie is also excellent. Not the cheapest but you are getting excellent quality at this restaurant.

26. The Villas at Victory Road Villas*
This place is a bit of a treat! I love that it has some of the best staff working here and that there is a good menu selection. If you are looking for cheap eats, this is not the place but you certainly get good value. My favourite dishes are the confit duck leg with lentils, pho ga (for breakfast), potato gratin with asparagus and truffle oil and the potato and edamame bean salad. The wine is moreish, the happy hour a bit too good and popcorn is often served with your drinks. I can recommend the margaritas.

27. Moi Moi
I got a car there on several occasions but you can go by motorbike or bicycle (if you and the bicycle are fit enough). My favourite dish there is the bamboo pork but the casava dumplings and chicken are also good. The food is as fresh as it comes so probably best to order in advance. Great for groups and very relaxed.

28. The Pub with Cold Beer
This certainly lives up to its name but could just have easily been named the pub with the best chicken and peanut sauce. It’s a bit of a cycle ride and if it’s rainy I’d take a car or motorbike. The food is simple but brilliant if you love BBQ chicken and aren’t allergic to peanuts! I could drink that sauce, it’s that good.

29. East Hill
Also a BBQ chicken place but good to hang out at sunset. The food is cheap and tasty and has cold Tiger beers and a good selection of juices.

30. Phong Nha Farmstay*
One of my favourite places to visit when I want to get away from the Phong Nha town centre. They have a mix of western and Vietnamese food and there is a massive wine selection and a fully stocked bar. Service is impressive and it’s a great place to chill out by the pool or by the fire – an all weather kind of place.

Ho Khanh’s BBQ party – Phong Nha

Captain Caveman and Julia were picked up to go on their Jungle Boss tour to Tiger Cave for 3 days/2 nights while I had been invited to Ho Khanh’s, to a BBQ party at 3pm. We live nearby and often go to visit most days as it is the place Captain Caveman and his colleagues hang out, have great coffee or have a swim in the river.

The party was already started when I arrived, there were big bowls of beers and ciders in ice and water, even the dogs were impressed with the selection of drinks provided. The steak was unbelievably tender and juicy and I had 3 pieces, plus salad (no dressing), so was pretty healthy.

A good selection of guests were there and it was nice to see quite a few friends enjoying the new waterslide, including the adults! Once the rice wine came out and the more sensible guests had left I decided to make my move and leave. The next week was going to be my last full week in Phong Nha and it was already looking hectic, especially as I was about to share my room for a few days!

Bun Cha and bicycle rides – Phong Nha

Our friend, Julia, was coming to visit for 5 days so that she and Captain Caveman could join the Jungle Boss tour, Tiger Cave Series Adventure. That morning we were awake early and in the car by 6:30am on our way to Dong Hoi airport via Chay Lap. I had a bad stomach and almost didn’t go but once we got to Chay Lap to pick up 5 of Captain Caveman’s Son Doong customers we had a bit of a wait as they were all still eating breakfast. Luckily Julia’s flight wasn’t due to land until 08:35am so by the time we had said our goodbyes and walked to the arrivals she was here.
We ‘checked her in’ to our spare room and made arrangements for her to borrow my old bicycle so we could go for a late breakfast at Victory Road Villas. Later we had a couple of cold drinks at Easy Tiger, with Josh too, and then went to D’Arts for the best Bun Cha in town.

I’d already had a couple of ciders and a pepsi when Captain Caveman decided we would be going on a bike ride around Phong Nha, just as it started to get sunny – I had no hat or suncream and even Josh decided to go home but Julia was totally up for it. Of course they zoomed off and I didn’t see Captain Caveman for dust, while Julia felt she had a duty of care to stay with me, especially as I had already moaned it was too hot, it was too far, I didn’t know the way and that Captain Caveman never waits for me. Eventually even she got bored of me being quite a ‘slowy’ and went to catch up but I saw them ahead turn in to a new homestay called Escape.
I had a water and stuck my hot (as in sweaty) legs in the pool to try to cool down while Captain Caveman explained the next exciting part of the route which would bring us the long way to our house. I was assured that it was really easy and Captain Caveman promised he would be right next to us.

Of course it wasn’t easy, I got chased by dogs, splattered with mud by a child who was scooping muddy water from a puddle with a tennis racket (I had to get off and give him what for!) then we got heavy rain. Apart from that, we saw a nice full rainbow which Captain Caveman missed because he sprinted off before the rain started without a word to either of us, so he could get the washing in.
Back home we had a few minutes to get ready and then we were cycling back down to town to eat dinner at Chao Vietnam where I needed wine – a rather delightful 2 carafes of Chardonnay to be precise.
We even witnessed the owner kill a snake, right next to a family with young kids, using only his flipflop – another first for me. Josh had joined us for a beer after his Son Doong briefing but we didn’t go out after dinner because all of them had a tour the next day. I, on the other hand, had a busy few days coming up – I had agreed to do a favour for a friend.

Girls night out – Phong Nha

A civilised girls night out was planned before Jamie, our American friend, returned home and it turned out to be one of those Phong Nha memories that we will laugh about for some time.
My day started well with a healthy breakfast of garden rolls and herbal tea at Underground and more watching of The Vietnam War on Netflix. I had a simple lunch of cheese, rice crackers and cashew nuts before cycling in to town to shop at the market.

The girls (just four of us) were booked in for drinks at 5pm at Victory Road Villas so that we could enjoy ‘Happy Hour and a Half’, however this also clashed with Jamie’s ‘opening of a karaoke’ party in town.
I ate beef and pineapple rice from Chao Vietnam before heading to Victory Road Villas for just after 5pm where I was on my second margarita and had finished a bowl of popcorn when the first of the girls arrived. By the time Jamie joined us we were on the red wine and getting tipsy.

Eventually the last of the girls joined us and everyone (but me) was hungry so we went to Underground for dinner and more wine.
We also had more wine at Easy Tiger and Jamie convinced me to go to Andy’s Disco Bar – it’s the only late bar in town with a dancefloor and half decent music. Being a bit drunk we actually tried to go before it was open and we were sent away until 11pm, by which time we were hammered.

We needed an Andy’s stamp to get in and I wasn’t content with having one on my arm like normal people. Jamie’s shoes were hurting her and she wanted to go barefoot so we swapped and she got my comfy flip-flops in exchange for her sexy high nude sandals. I’ve not worn heels for years, although I love them, so I was loving prancing about and dancing in them. Jamie and I got invited to see some (husky) puppies out the back of the bar by Andy and we got involved with stroking, cuddling and feeding the cute little things.

August started with me dancing to some great tunes on a busy dance floor in Phong Nha’s only ‘night club’ – Andy’s. At my age it’s not a normal occurrence for me to frequent such establishments but I had been persuaded by the girls after drinking far too much on Wine Wednesday.
It turned out to be a good laugh and I didn’t get home until 1am (extremely rare for me). I still had on Jamie’s shoes which she’d let me keep and I was unsure how I’d made it up the 4 lots of stairs to my room.
I woke up at 5am to the sound of dogs barking and fighting and then had the hangover from hell. When one of the girls came to pick me up so I could retrieve my bicycle from Victory Road Villas, I was still in my pyjamas but didnt care, and we bumped in to the VRV owner. Breakfast of vegan soup with rice noodles and mint tea at Veggie Box sorted me out temporarily but then I went back to bed.