Captain Caveman had booked us two bottom bunk (soft) beds in a sleeper carriage on the 09:57 train from Danang to Dong Hoi on Friday 21st February. Our friend, who we affectionately call Trouble, had previously been arriving in Dong Hoi at 09:20 but her flight from Hanoi had been changed to an evening one, giving us a bit more time. We checked out of the lovely Sincerro and did a quick stop off at La Nonna sandwich place so we could get a takeaway for the train, more useful for Captain Caveman than me as I did order a sandwich only so that I could eat the filling. On the train I ate my gherkins, camembert and salami and left the bread while my train buddy snaffled his sarnie in what seemed like three massive bites. The food was lovely and I so wished I could eat the soft fresh (full of gluten) bread too. We were also very lucky to find that there were no passengers booked on to the top bunk beds so we had the whole berth to ourselves. Of course this mattered not one bit to Captain Caveman who immediately put on his noise cancelling headphones and immersed himself in his phone with Netflix or whatever, without so much as a glance or a word to me for the entire journey – and we hadn’t even had an argument! I had a bit of a nap and watched an episode of The Pharmacist on Netflix which I really enjoyed. Six hours later we arrived in Dong Hoi and were getting in the taxi to go to Tree Hugger. Although the train hadn’t been full the balcony at Tree Hugger was and so we had to sit in the downstairs seating right at the door. Captain Caveman had his usual white russian and an egg sandwich (there’s only so many photos you can take of the same thing, so I didn’t bother) and I had some fried spring rolls and a juice. We also walked to nearby Geminai for another drink before we got our taxi.
At Dong Hoi airport Captain Caveman was back on duty and was picking up 4 guests on Tatas’ next Son Doong tour plus Trouble and we had let friends in Phong Nha know we would meet up for a late dinner once back home. Trouble had already been to Phong Nha before and was going to be staying with us so as soon as we got home we dropped bags off, grabbed our bicycles and headed to Namaste for a curry. I had my favourite dish there, the bhuna murg with garlic rice and we had a few drinks to welcome our friend back.
On Saturday 22nd February we got up early and went to Oxalis Home for breakfast where Captain Caveman had a bacon sandwich, I had pho ga and Trouble just had a juice. Captain Caveman and Trouble had planned to go off to Ozo Tree Top park for some adventure while I was happy to give it a miss, so they rented a motorbike and off they went. I’d booked a Di Di Thoi sunset boat trip for later so they promised to meet back at Ho Khanh’s for 3pm for our pick up.
I busied myself with some chores and blogging before heading to lunch at Veggie Box with a few mates. We had just ordered when Captain Caveman and Trouble arrived because the Ozo place had been closed due to rain. They ordered a smoothie but didn’t eat then we headed home to get ready for our sunset cruise. An ex Jungle Boss colleague and friend, Lana, had started work as a tour guide at Di Di Thoi and was to be our guide on this trip, she told me she was nervous because we were all more knowledgeable than her because most of us lived here or had visited many times but I told her to just carry on as if we were regular customers and she did a really great job. The tour just had our six on it and it had forecast rain but we were lucky for it to stay fine. There was vegetarian Vietnamese snacks provided onboard but we also took gin, tonic and wine so we could make a bit of a night of it and we certainly did. Captain Caveman got incredibly drunk due to him not eating and getting on the gins, then wine – I had to insist he ate half a sweet potato at least. It was a lovely evening despite arriving at Chay Lap well before sunset as we thought it too cold to swim. Three of the group went kayaking and said it was so peaceful and relaxing out on the water. We sat on the boat until late just chatting and drinking until it was time to get the minibus back. We finished the night with a nightcap at Ho Khanh’s and we were in bed by 10pm. The next day Captain Caveman had planned a day of adventure and he and Trouble were insisting I come along.
Some photos by Captain Caveman & friends
On Sunday 23rd February we went for breakfast early at The Villas.
Captain Caveman and Trouble were keen to visit a secret waterfall which our friend had told us about. Being completely risk averse I really didn’t fancy it but I agreed to go. I booked a car for the day and off we went. I took some crisps in case there were no lunch options for me, Tatas took a loaf of bread and some condensed milk, Captain Caveman took a Banh mi from the bakery in town but Trouble didn’t need any lunch. We drove for about 40 minutes then the driver pointed out where we needed to walk in to the jungle. All the other 3 were like mountain goats and were able to navigate the rocky path easily while I found it more tricky. When we got to the top of the waterfall I decided I was not going to risk climbing down to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall as, even though I could probably slide down on my bum, I still wasn’t confident I would get back up. Instead I sat on a rock and ate some crisps, drank my water and was going to do a bit of writing for my blog. It was a warm day but cloudy so I wasn’t in the sun and I also spotted a place to take pictures of the others. It was quite a drop down to the water and we couldn’t hear each other because of the sound of the waterfall. After about 1 hour everyone came back to the top and they decided we would go to Ozo Tree Top park, which was now open – I hoped there may be somewhere to sit and blog, or have a drink, when we got there.
When we arrived at Ozo it was pretty empty and the toilets didn’t have any soap, which given that there was so much talk of Corona virus around, it was disappointing. There was a weight restriction for the tree top walk of 75kg so Captain Caveman was told he was too fat to take part, which was highly amusing. We walked along a wooden path around the park, passing a cafe which was closed, until we reached the zipline. I was more than happy to stand holding the bags while the others took part. Captain Caveman went first, then Tatas and Trouble – the zipline is obviously made for Vietnamese customers because there isn’t much height between the landing platform and the wire – even the man operating stuff looked worried and his young kids had come to watch the fat man! It turned out that the tree top walk was closed because it had rained the day before and it would be ‘not safe’ so we headed back over a suspension bridge. The others loved it and kept jumping up and down on it while I was very uneasy about being on the bridge while posing for photos.
Back in Phong Nha we dropped Tatas off so she could get to her Son Doong briefing and we got ready for happy hour and a half at The Villas. We watched the sun set over the mountains and had a couple of drinks with free popcorn.We had dinner at Bamboo Cafe where I had two different meals because I forgot to ask for the first without chillies in but the meals were good and the wine flowed. It turned in to one of those nights again as we decided to try the bar at Central Backpackers with the gang. Josh was (remarkably) still on his dry veguary mission and so was slightly irritated at us lot being on the tequilas! We cycled home in convoy and Bluey, my bike, was pretty whizzy! I was looking forward to having a lay in the next day while Captain Caveman and Trouble went on the Hang Tien 2 day Oxalis tour.