At 4.30am on Monday 2nd March a Vietnamese woman landed at Hanoi airport who would become well known. On that flight was a British caver called Josh (2), not to be confused with Josh (1) who works for Oxalis and at this time was in Son Doong. Captain Caveman left for his caving expedition with 4 other cavers and would be back on the 7th of March at the latest. Meanwhile a second group of expedition cavers also set off to a different location but were still awaiting Josh 2 who had only just arrived in Vietnam.
I had breakfast at The Villas with Tatas and then for lunch, after wrestling with a melted toblerone, managed to eat some of that. The second caving group (not Captain Caveman’s) had returned home having been refused permission/access to the area they wanted to explore but it was unclear to me exactly why. In the afternoon the girls met at Momma D’s for a sunset drink and our Tequila bully decided to start with the shots before dinner! All 4 of us ate at Phong Nha Underground where I had the pork dish for the last time as it is being removed from the new menu. Back at Momma D’s and the drinks were flowing with more people joining us and it turned in to a bit of a party at the rooftop bar. Maxime from Nguyen Shack and his dad came to join us and brought their new employee, who I would meet again on Friday. We decided that the next day we should do something and I suggested getting a car over to Lake House for lunch and a swim.
Coffee Station had been out of herbal tea since Tet holiday and so on Tuesday 3rd March I agreed to meet Tatas there even though I only had water and a fruit salad, which was very nice and well presented. At lunch Chrissy joined us and we went to Veggie Box where I had coconut fried rice, Tatas had vegan soup and Chrissy the pumpkin soup. Back home I watched a bit of Netflix and then ate the rest of the toblerone. It was Tatas’ turn to choose where to go for dinner and so we went to Capture Cafe where I tried to get Bolognese with potato wedges (instead of pasta) but despite Tatas ordering in Vietnamese we both ended up with spaghetti and she ate two while they made me another which then came with small potatoes instead of wedges but tasted fine. We had wine too and then went to see what offers they had at the T-shirt shop, Phuc Dat, which was closing down the next day. I bought 3 vest tops, a t-shirt and a couple of notebooks and got a free hat. GuiGui, the owner had said we could have discount and so his fiance gave us some great deals.
We met the ex-lodger at Momma D’s for a drink and then called it a night. Before bed I got an update from our housemate who had moved out, she was unable to fly to Iran, as planned, because of the Corona virus threat and was in Saigon, another time I had noticed the virus affect people I know.
I should have known that the day that Josh (1) got out of Son Doong after his month of doing dry veguary could’ve been a bit eventful – Wednesday 4th March was a blast! I decided to get up and go to Phong Nha Underground for breakfast and take my notebook to do some writing. The place was quiet at first so I ordered a smoothie bowl and a cup of herbal tea and got down to business. I do say a lot that for such a small town/village it is near on impossible to find somewhere quiet or where you aren’t being disturbed for long.
I was back at home when I got the message from Josh that he was on his way back and to meet for balcony beers at Chez White’s, I also had said I’d meet up with Caroline and so we grabbed some ciders and went round. Josh also spoke to his boss who told him that he and Watto had to change their tours so they could cover his as he was very busy. Oxalis had started to have quite a few cave tours cancel from customers who were either affected by, or worried about, Corona virus and it was starting to have an impact on tourism in the area.
The three of us popped down to The Villas for Happy Hour so that Caroline and I could enjoy the cocktails and Josh a beer before his gala dinner at Chay Lap. I had the potato and artichoke salad followed by a few wines and when Josh returned a few hours later we looked like we hadn’t even moved. Caroline was sensible and went home relatively early however Josh was on it as he went on to vodka and sprite! D-Dub and Manu joined us and we ended up on the whiskey! At The Villas they sell tubs of popcorn so I bought one to take home for snacks but we ended up opening it and eating it stood at the bar. The Villas was definitely our Easy Tiger replacement now but it is nearer to home to cycle back, which we did well after midnight!
The weather was wet and cold and I had a massive hangover on Thursday 5th March. I’d promised Tatas we would go out that night but I already knew there was no way I was going anywhere. I opened the bucket of popcorn to find there was only half of it left! I ate some for breakfast and tried to go back to bed but the builder noise next door was too loud. At lunch me, Chrissy and a very messy Josh managed Phong Nha Vegan and I only turned up because Chrissy had knocked on for me to get me to go! I forced down fresh vegan spring rolls which are usually my favourite. We walked back in the rain and then I had a lay down. Tatas chose The Villas for dinner so Chrissy and I went but I drank only tea and ate my favourite dish, the confit duck leg. I was begging for mercy the whole night and couldn’t wait to get back in bed. Tomorrow I had plans and I was about to try something new!