I struggled as to whether to include all the details, especially the photos in this post, due to how it might make people feel. I would advise not reading the middle section if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Our day started well on Sunday 13th December with a bit of a lay-in at the Nam Long Plus hotel followed by a walk to a new cafe in town. An former colleague of Captain Caveman’s has opened Earth cafe on a small street in the centre of Dong Hoi which serves vegan food from 8am to 9pm. Captain Caveman had arranged to meet Thao, another former colleague, at the vegan cafe for breakfast and he would stay and chat while I went off to physio. The menu looked great and we got to try peanut milk, which literally tastes like peanut flavoured milk, and I enjoyed the blue tea. Captain Caveman ordered the udon noodle dish and I asked for the pineapple fried rice without chilli. There were a few teething problems but the place was nice and the menu had plenty of choice. When my food came it was so spicy and I could hardly eat it. Unfortunately, as is usual in Dong Hoi, when Mo, the owner, checked about the no chillies the chef had not put any in but had cooked the rice with hot Sriracha sauce, a very hot Thai sauce made from chillies! I had a quick taste of Captain Caveman’s soup and I wish I’d ordered that instead, it was delicious. I had to leave though as it was time for me to head over to Thuy’s house before our planned lunch outing.

The (very small) taxi arrived and I got in the front, Thuy, Trang and Grandma got in the back with the 2 kids on laps and off we went to pick up Captain Caveman. I tried to get the address of our lunch stop to tell Captain Caveman to meet us there but they had none of it and when we arrived back at Earth Cafe I had to squeeze in the back while Captain Caveman got in the front. The driver, with his 5 adults and 2 kids load, drove out in to the middle of nowhere and we stopped at an empty cafe. We were about to try a definite first for me and Thuy took the liberty of ordering for us, from what we could make out we were getting an assortment of bird dishes, grilled or fried and some cooked with bamboo. Fried rice was ordered, kimchi on the table already, a case of beers and a bucket of ice (with tongs). More diners began to arrive and most of them had big families so I started to feel a bit more relaxed that all would be fine, the place was clean and well run.

The first dish to come out was a bowl of about 20 or so small birds which were sparrows and they have to be eaten whole, the bones the heads, the feet – the whole shebang! I felt a bit apprehensive to try them but actually the sparrows tasted pretty good, although I couldn’t bring myself to eat the head and bones so I picked at it like it was a miniature KFC. I managed 4 sparrows but Captain Caveman really did take one for the team on that dish. The next dish to come was the fried rice which I heartily filled my bowl up with, not realising it had minced bird in it as an ingredient! It tasted very different, like nothing I’d tasted before, but I managed to eat a couple of small bowls of it, encouraging Captain Caveman to have more – the fried onion and peanut gave it a tasty edge! Everyone else was really enjoying the lunch and we were all drinking quite a lot of beer and doing cheers. The kids had Coke as a treat and they behaved really well at the table, eating the food they were dished out and joining in the cheers. The second bird dish to come out was described as Kingfisher but it was an egret, it tasted like the smell of a fishy wet dog! I had one piece and found that, because it had plenty of meat on and was much bigger, I didn’t need a second piece. The third dish I had no idea what the bird was but Captain Caveman was a bit miffed with me for saying we would have it with sauteed bamboo as he doesn’t like bamboo, neither do I but I thought it might be the least offensive ingredient in the pot and I decided to pull the ‘I’m full’ card (over a week later I found out it was boiled duck and would probably have been my favourite).

We got the taxi back, all 7 of us, and were dropped off at the Nam Long Plus hotel where we quickly packed and checked out. We were glad to see Phuong but our day was only halfway through as Captain Caveman had plans to do a quick shop before we headed back to Phong Nha. I felt a bit queasy so Captain Caveman sent me to buy myself a 2021 diary then get 12 minutes on the massage chair in Co-op Mart, while he did the shopping.

We were back at Elements by 4pm, saying hello to Mr Ky, the dog, and then I had a shower and got changed, ready for Sunday dinner that night at the Farmstay. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to eat any more food and I still could taste the egret has I ordered a drink. The taste of the egret was still repeating on me throughout the evening but the wine, pork, lamb, vegetables, and gravy did help me take my mind off it. Bich had been growing her own strawberries and it was lovely to try one! After dinner I read Howie a story before going home for a much needed sleep.

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