The weekend would turn out to be one of the hardest so far since being in Vietnam. There was definitely a sense of slight panic around on Friday 13th March as people started to grasp that without tourism Phong Nha could grind to a halt. Rumours were rife and the biggest one to affect us was that all the cave tours would close soon and we didn’t know how long for. Phong Nha relies heavily on the the caves for income and so it would be pretty difficult for locals to find jobs, especially legal ones. Already the famous Paradise cave had issued a notice to state that it was closed from the 14th -31st March. Captain Caveman was still away and so I couldn’t discuss with him but I suspected he may be told he had no job soon – more and more Son Doong customers were having to postpone or cancel trips which was bound to have an impact. Chrissy and I went to yoga and on the way back it was so sticky and hot that we went straight to meet Veronika in the aircon of The Villas for our lunch date.
We drank 4 massive bottles of chilled water between the 3 of us and we didn’t even indulge in a wine. The food, as always, was delicious and probably still of the best standard in town; I had veggie spring rolls and a courgette salad, Chrissy had the chicken sandwich with chips and Veronika had the salmon with mashed potatoes.
In the evening I decided to stay in again and watch Netflix and I ordered a delivery from Phong Nha Vegan which was so good that I forgot to take a photo of it. I downloaded Pandemic to watch on Netflix but never got round to it and instead fell asleep quite early.
After yoga and breakfast at Nguyen Shack on Saturday 14th March I decided it would be a good idea to start stocking up on wine. The sun had gone in and it was a bit cooler out when Chrissy and I went to meet Veronika and a friend of her’s. I’d bumped in to Des at Capture and we decided to share a bottle of red wine, I also bought 3 bottles to take away. Josh had returned from Son Doong to be told the news that Oxalis would stop all tours from the 17th March until the end of May and that he, and the remaining cavers, had the choice of whether they would go home (to the UK) or stay in Phong Nha. Of course Captain Caveman was still underground somewhere and didn’t know this and I wasn’t sure how he would feel about the news. A few of us stayed at Capture for food, by which time Des had gone on to beer and I had started another bottle of red and we decided to share a cheeseboard. Capture has an amazing menu but because it’s all western food (with gluten in) there are only a couple of things I can order and so cheese (without bread) is a winner. The White Russian came out with us and it turned in to a messy evening, with Josh joining us after his gala dinner, old fashioned cocktails at Momma D’s and I even agreed to go to Andy’s disco bar. I spent the night dancing away. I knew I was going to have a hangover but I needed to be up for yoga class.
It was a funny old day on Sunday 15th March, not only was I hungover throughout the whole of yoga but the repercussions of the Corona virus pandemic were starting to have a direct affect on Phong Nha.
I met up with Veronika who gave me the keys to our new home and I should have been more excited but there was the small matter of us having agreed to take on a bigger room at an extra cost. I’d been told by quite a few expats here that I should get out of Vietnam while I still could and that I should book a flight. I was reluctant to leave, knowing that I had no home or job to go back to and that, if the UK was sensible, it would be locked down any day now. My parents were completely supportive and said I should not leave and that once Captain Caveman came back we could make some plans to stay here and keep safe.
Josh and I went to Lucky Lucky for a late lunch and then got a message from Captain Caveman to say he was due back. He’d been gone only 5 days but it was clear to see that the world had become a bit more mental in that time. In some ways it was better that he had no contact with any media or outside world during that time but it also meant that any decisions he had to make (and quickly) may not be with enough research or proper thought. Regardless he was off to meet his fellow cavers and have a curry at Namaste while Josh and I were grateful to be able to go back home after a drink (and a brownie for him) at Underground. I was in bed in my PJs when a rather merry Captain Caveman came home with his group for a party in the spare room (he didn’t even know we had the keys for our new room, yet). They cracked on with the dark beer stash from Laos and chatted shit about caves for what seemed like a while and I did the dutiful wife thing and joined them (but I didn’t drink). By midnight I was ready for bed and they all went home, they were back on another cave trip the next day but just for the day so I would hopefully get a chance to talk to Captain Caveman about his plans and what the next few months would look like, when he returned.