Captain Caveman was on a 90km cycling day to a brewery all day on Saturday 23rd January and so I arranged to go straight to Veronika’s hotel in District 1, about 30 minutes from the airport, by taxi in rush hour. Saigon was hot and humid, even at 5.30pm I was warm in just a t-shirt. In the taxi Captain Caveman called me and said he would come to meet us for dinner and would get there around the same time. The fare to the Majestic Hotel was 200,000vnd (£6.40 ish) and when I arrived Annette was also there. Captain Caveman arrived in a sozzled mess and thought he had lost his bank card (which he hadn’t) so we had a short walk to a restaurant nearby called Jasper’s. I ordered chicken fajitas, seeing as I had missed the Mexican the previous night, Captain Caveman and Annette had massive burgers with chips and Veronika had chicken with spinach and mashed potatoes. Everyone but Annette was drinking red wine but after a glass each both Captain Caveman and Veronika went on to liqueur coffees and I had to finish the rest of the wine, plus my Jameson’s (I don’t like coffee). We walked Veronika back to her hotel where a massive kid’s party was ending and I’ve not seen so many people in such a long time, hoards of them – a large portion not wearing masks (I kept mine on). The taxi took a while to come and the rest of us were all off to District 7 so Annette dropped us off on the way to her place. It was a lovely night and we made some casual arrangements to possibly meet for breakfast the next day. In the room of the hotel it was hot so we had to put the Aircon on and I had to roll some clothes up under my pillow because there was just one thin pillow each. I was glad to have finally got my passport and been allowed to fly.
I woke up at 4am on Saturday 23rd January, desperate for a drink and a pee, the terrible hangover was on its way. I went back to sleep for a bit and then realised I needed to get up and get ready for my delayed trip to Saigon. I had to get to Dong Hoi, collect my passport, book a flight and get to the airport. Captain Caveman had forgotten his phone charger and so he was already in Saigon unaware of my plans but at least I had the name of the hotel he was staying in, in District 7, so I could go there. My visa agent, Kimmie, offered to book my plane ticket and bring it, with my passport to Tree Hugger.
I messaged Tatas to find out what time she was going to Dong Hoi so I could go with her and I would have lunch before my flight. I chose the 15.40 flight so that I could be sure I had my passport in time. An’s Grab car picked me up at 11.10am and was already full, including Tatas who had also woken up, hungover. We got to Tree Hugger and I ordered (too much) food and drink – french fries and veggie spring rolls.
I was still eating when Kimmie arrived with my documents and we were game on.
I managed the airport stairs, the walk to the shuttle bus and the plane stairs all fine and the flight landed in about 1 hour, earlier than expected. I was masked up, sanitiser on, up to the elbows and ready for the city life!
It was a stressful day on Friday 22nd January and it wasn’t helped by Captain Caveman being a bit shouty first thing in the morning, for no apparent reason.
Phuong, of Phuong’s Transfers, picked us up at 9.45am and then we went to pick up Shannon, Stu, Max and Jack as we were all off to GuiGui and Stephanie’s wedding at the Royal King in Dong Hoi. There were hundreds of people going and it looked to be a big posh event, Bich had kindly saved 2 seats for Captain Caveman and I very near to the speakers, while the others went upstairs at the massive indoor venue. The food came out straight away and I tried to watch the ceremony and eat at the same time, there were some professional singers and even a violinist. I ate 1 big prawn, a piece of chicken, 2 prawn crackers, some sticky rice, some meat and a few chips, plus I had Tiger Crystal beer to toast with. The bride looked stunning and the groom and the rest of the party all looked very dapper. Shockingly we had been there only 50 minutes when everyone started leaving already and it was time to go and get photos taken with the happy couple. Even though the venue was very upmarket the floor was a greasy, slippy mess and it took me a while to walk to the toilet and back. When I got back there was only a handful of people still around, we waited for our turn to get photos and then I checked my messages to see what my plans would be for the rest of the day.
I had messaged Kimmie about my passport but still no word so Captain Caveman and I decided to go to Tree Hugger and wait there until the time for the flight. We got dropped off by Phuong, who then went back to Phong Nha with Shannon and family. Outside Tree Hugger were Momma D and Davis, sat having coffees and so we joined them. I ordered a peach tea while Momma D went back to the Nam Long Plus hotel to get Kevin, her new puppy, who was being cared for by the staff.
I still didn’t hear from Kimmie and I was on my second White Russian when it was time for Captain Caveman to leave for the airport and I was absolutely gutted to be missing the trip. Veronika and Captain Caveman had arranged to meet that night with Annette to have a Mexican dinner and I was so cheesed off that I wasn’t going!
To go back to Phong Nha I decided to try An’s new grab car (which is only 50,000vnd per person, one way, in a shared car) and even though it was meant to leave Dong Hoi at 3pm, they were still able to get me so I waited outside until 3.20pm. There were already 2 women in the car with An and we picked up 2 men from a bar, Quynh and Hung, who were drunk after carrying on drinking since the wedding. By 3.50pm we were leaving the airport after picking up a mother and screaming daughter. An hour later we were still travelling but dropped Quynh, from The Duck Stop, first while Hung had an impressive 7 minute pee at the back of the car. I was also desperately needing a pee by this time too but waited as we dropped Hung off at Karst Villas and then headed to Phong Nha town.
I decided to go straight to Victory Road Villas for Happy Hour and a half with Tatas before pizza night. I finally got there at 4.50pm, having taken longer than it usually would, but it was cheap. Luc, Colin and Matty also joined us and we had a fair few margaritas and a good laugh as I tried to forget about my passport issue and not being in Saigon. Unfortunately I got a message a bit too late to say that my passport had actually arrived in time for the same flight as Captain Caveman – I wasn’t happy but at least I could go tomorrow instead! Because we were drinking a fair few cocktails at The Villas before the all you can eat pizza night, which is a bargain for any pizza lover at 150,000vnd, I didn’t eat as many slices as usual but I still managed about 6 or 7 – even Tatas managed more than usual and shared a salad with Luc. It was a good night, finished off with me falling asleep as soon as I lay on my bed, still with some clothes on and the bedside light! I think I might have a hangover tomorrow, those cocktails were too good!
My phone had been playing up, was running out of space and all my notes pages that I tried to edit were unable to show the content, on Thursday 21st January. Captain Caveman had bought me a new, bigger SD card and so I decided to put that in to my phone, taking out the old one. This caused an issue with all my photos being labelled as today’s date which I had no idea how annoying it would make my blogging until later. All my videos disappeared completely and I still couldn’t access Keep Notes, despite being able to see the thumbnails. This also meant all my passwords were lost too and I was in a mood. I added a new notes app so that I could start again, I missed breakfast and I still wasn’t feeling too well. Veronika had decided she was off to Saigon for a few days and booked her flight for that afternoon, Captain Caveman’s flight was booked for Friday afternoon and I still had no idea if I would get my passport back in time so I couldn’t book my flight. The visa agent, Kimmie, messaged me just before lunch with a photo of my passport and visa stamp and to say my passport might be back tomorrow afternoon as it was leaving Hanoi today. I had a small cheese sandwich for lunch and then packed a bag in the hope I would go to Saigon. Captain Caveman prepared a pork casserole in the rice cooker and went to Phong Nha town while I got peckish and finished off the sweet peanut and ginger snack Thuy had given us. My exercise plan was getting a bit easier even though I still couldn’t do a press up or a lunge despite attempting them every other day and the stepping one was a bit hit and miss.
When the casserole was ready Captain Caveman was back and brought it upstairs so we could watch a bit of Netflix on the big TV, while eating it and finishing off some red wine. We watched Man on a Ledge which was ok and fairly enjoyable.
Captain Caveman was working on the morning of Wednesday 20th January and so I decided to finish off the rice crackers which had been in the cupboard for a while, for breakfast. It turned out they were a bit soggy because of the humidity and not having been put in a locking tupperwear container, so the rest of them went in the bin. I had a bit of buttered toast instead and then caught up on some more work from my To Do List. The birthday celebrations had ended now but we did have an invitation for a wedding in Dong Hoi on Friday, a few hours before our proposed trip to Saigon. For lunch I ate the rest of yesterday’s shepherd’s pie, Captain Caveman cooked himself salami, asparagus and egg for his. I had a cup of earl grey tea later on with a couple of pieces of dark chocolate and put in a request with Captain Caveman to have something simple for dinner as I wasn’t feeling too well – I even had to turn down wine with Veronika. By the time our pork dinner was cooked I was hungry again and was really looking forward to the pork, red cabbage and mushrooms in red wine with steamed rice but unfortunately I didn’t put enough water in the rice so it was slightly undercooked and Captain Caveman decided to tip too much rosemary in and it overpowered the taste. The quality of the pork was great though and the rest was chopped up and made in to a casserole for tomorrow. There was a lot of pork from Thuy, the physio, so it went a long way and kept Captain Caveman busy in the kitchen.
1. Average White Band
2. Baba O’Reilly lyrics
3. Barbara Marineau
4. Customer synonym
5. Dong Hoi flight departures
6. Elon Musk
7. English to Vietnamese
8. English to Turkish
9. English to French
10. Ferry across the Mersey
11. Flight Tracker
12. Gin bar
13. Hanoi to Tuyen Quang in km
14. Ian Astbury
15. Intermittent fasting
16. Joe Lycett avocado smash
17. KPMG full name
19. Keep Notes not working
20. Leon bar
21. London lockdown wedding
22. Majestic hotel, D1
23. Oxalis Adventure
24. Phong Nha to Tam Coc in km
25. Psycho Killer covers
26. Pop up YouTube shared controls
27. Quang Ninh
28. Rabble rouser in German
29. Richard Ramirez
30. Rico Taco
31. Symptom checker NHS
33. Vinpearl Dong Hoi
35. World Life Expectancy
36. YouTube errors
37. Yorkshire pudding with buckwheat flour
1. Google translate
2. Grandma got run over by a Reindeer
3. Instagram next button changed to arrow – error
4. Jones the Bootmaker
5. Jam in French
6. Joe Biden
7. Man on a Ledge
8. NHS Entitlements
9. The Queen’s Gambit
11. Ursula Von Der Leyen
12. Vietnam weather in September
13. World Life Expectancy
15. The Yorkshire Ripper
16. Ukulele tuning
When the alarm went off before sunrise on Tuesday 19th January I wanted to go back to sleep but Captain Caveman was already up and ready, on the terrace with his chair positioned facing the lake, to see the sun come up at Phong Nha Lake House. I made us both a cup of tea and decided to join him and I’m glad that I did – the sunrise was lovely.
Our breakfast was included in our stay so I chose a pho bo and a tea, Captain Caveman had fried egg on toast and a coffee. We had really enjoyed celebrating my birthday (again) at the Lake House and felt very lucky. There was a bit of a chill in the air but it looked like it was going to be a sunny day, hence why the walking group had picked today for their outing. Captain Caveman took the motorbike and dropped our bags at home before heading off to meet Matty, Veronika and Shannon at Tree House in Phong Nha for a pre walk coffee. Although I was suffering badly the effects of gluten and probably too much wine I decided to walk the 1.5km home (without any sticks) and set off along the main road, down the hill.
It took me 35 minutes and by the time I got home the sun was shining and I needed a rest.
I had mini hot dog sausages for lunch but then was ill again and felt really cold, I sat out in the sun, I put warmer clothes on and I even got in bed but just couldn’t keep warm.
In the evening I went to the Farmstay for shepherd’s pie night and had a Magner’s cider and felt better. Captain Caveman had brought our Henderson’s relish to put on the shepherd’s pie and by the time I had eaten just a quarter of mine, he had cleared his bowl! I was full after half of my dinner so I took the rest home to finish off tomorrow, Veronika did the same with her’s. We didn’t stay long and went home for an early night, I think all the celebrations were taking their toll on me, finally!
We decided to go to Phong Nha Farmstay for a late breakfast on Monday 18th January so we could see off Captain Caveman’s friend, who was heading back to Saigon. Captain Caveman had already been to work and met me at the Farmstay after 10am where I had a pho bo and an orange juice, Matty joined us so he could also say bye to his fellow Hang Va tour participant who had tried out the private pool that morning and was definitely going to be booking in again at the Jungalo Collection when he could enjoy it in hotter weather.
I just had a bit of bread and butter for lunch as we were off for dinner later with Tham and Tony at the Lake House for another birthday celebration. Captain Caveman needed to go by motorbike because he had an early start the next day but I got a lift in the van with Co and our bags. We arrived around 5.30pm and were checked in to the fabulous accomodation overlooking the lake, there was a massive bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers and an outdoor luxurious bath. We had a four-poster bed with comfy pillows and nice furniture in the room. The walk from reception took me about 5 minutes down a steep slope and was a little painful and slow, which is why we were given the first room.
We met Tony first for red wine and a catch up, I’d not seen him since he had managed to get back from Australia and it was good to hear about his 14 day quarantine experience in Hanoi – it seems he had enjoyed his better than some had experienced! Tham came to join us at the table, bringing us a starter of pumpkin soup and a massive plate of the most amazing looking Yorkshire puddings I had seen in a few years! I felt a bit overwhelmed and I couldn’t be polite in reaching out for one straight away – they tasted just as good as they looked. I can honestly say they were as good as my nan used to make and better than my mom’s (sorry, ma). I ate a small one and a big one and I was amazed that a young Vietnamese man had made these incredible Yorkshire puddings. The wine was great and going down well and we were then brought, what I thought was a sharing plate of, ribs and roasted vegetables. We were to be given a plate each and the portion was so massive that I couldn’t finish mine. Tham had a vegetarian meal while we shoved sticky ribs in our faces, drank more wine and had to leave the chicken side salad as we were far too full. It was such a lovely night with amazing food, too much wine and fantastic company. Tham had an early morning the next day and Captain Caveman was keen to see the sunrise from our villa terrace so we said goodnight. Tony, the legend, insisted we take another bottle of wine to drink in the room, of which I managed half a glass before falling fast asleep in the comfy bed.
I had been glutened by the Yorkshire puddings but they were so worth it! Captain Caveman set his alarm for just before sunrise and drank another glass of wine.
Phuong dropped me off at home after my trip to Dong Hoi and I had toast, cheese and a massive dragon fruit for lunch. I was a bit behind on the To Do List so I worked my way through some of it until it was time to get ready for a quiet Sunday dinner at Phong Nha Farmstay. Captain Caveman came back from his Hang Va tour and we headed up in the rascal with Duyet. He and Matty went in to the sauna while Veronika and I chatted with Bich and Howie.
On the Oxalis Hang Va tour there had been some great guests and 3 of them had decided to come to join us for a Sunday roast dinner at the Farmstay, one of them decided to book a room there and got an upgrade to one of the pool villas in the Jungalo Collection. Another was from the UK, although works in Saigon and she was really lovely, her friend (a South African Canadian) was bright and funny and we all enjoyed a spot of wine together by the fire. We moved to a table for dining and all ordered the fantastic Sunday dinner and more wine. I’d optimistically brought tupperwear to put my cake in but when I saw it, I had to have the carrot cake, which was very nice. Everyone agreed to meet up again and the Hang Va group were going to be coming back to Phong Nha to explore more and do another Oxalis tour in May. It was a good night and everyone enjoyed lots of wine, an excellent Sunday roast and some great conversation, with an interesting and fun bunch of visitors. Captain Caveman organised another exploration walk with Veronika and Matty for Tuesday and I had definitely drank more wine than I anticipated. The next day Captain Caveman was off to meet his work colleagues in the morning but then we had another birthday celebration planned!
I was up and about before Captain Caveman on Saturday 16th January as I was also leaving Phong Nha for the weekend. He was off on tour to Hang Va with some customers he knew (including Matty) and was looking forward to it. I had decided to book in for an 8am physio session and so Phuong was picking me up at 7.10am. I had an aching ankle from the 10,000 steps I walked yesterday and so a few different therapists had a go on sorting that out. Before lunchtime I went to the Nam Long Plus hotel, where I was booked for 1 night, to drop my bag off. I then walked all the way to Earth cafe (about a 20 minute walk for me) in the sunshine. I had tofu vegan rolls for breakfast, followed by udon soup for lunch and some lovely herbal tea. It was all very delicious and there was a new waitress, Ly, who’s English was very good and she was on the ball.
Back at the hotel my usual room with a bath was already booked so I had room 703, a really nice room with good views, better WiFi and a shower. I managed the shower fine without slipping and I finished off Night Stalker on Netflix in the afternoon before having another walk, this time to Tree Hugger. I treated myself to a White Russian and a toasted sandwich before ordering a chicken salad to take away for later. It was my sister’s birthday and, even though she was in the UK in lockdown, the photos of her birthday celebrations (at home) looked fantastic with a birthday cake I would have loved a slice of. For a Saturday in Dong Hoi I’d been pretty healthy and eaten fairly cheaply, spending less than £30 on transport, a hotel room and all my food and drink for the day. I was pleased at my mastering a shower in a hotel room without a cubicle without my shower shoes.
Even though I was trying to stick to a healthier eating regime I wasn’t going to miss out on the roast dinner on Sunday 17th January and so I was heading back to Phong Nha from Dong Hoi around lunch time. I’d left it too late to walk to breakfast at the vegan Earth cafe and so I went to the nearby Mr Bull, I’d had a good night’s sleep at the Nam Long Plus hotel and was feeling pretty good. I ordered Bo Ne but without the fried egg and so I had a steak sandwich for breakfast. After a bargain and delicious breakfast I left, walked back to the Nam Long Plus hotel and checked out. Phuong (of Phuong’s Transfers) picked me up around 11.15am and I thought the rest of the day would be a pretty steady one in Phong Nha.
It was a momentous day on Friday 15th January in my injured leg progress! In the morning I decided to walk to the Farmstay which is about 2.2km away and I walked up and down the block first, while waiting for Veronika to catch me up. It took me 45 minutes to do 2.3km, which I was still disappointed with as it is probably twice as slow as it should be. Once there I had fresh spring rolls (a healthy choice) with soda water while Veronika had a cappuccino and a slice of cheesecake. Veronika and I decided to walk back, this time Howie came with us and there was an incident involving a buffalo. We had passed the buffalo which was tied at the side of the road and paddy fields, minding its own business on the way there but on the way back I thought it’s rope looked a bit stuck and too short for the animal to move and so I suggested to Veronika we should move his rope a little. Without further ado the sprightly septuagenarian sprung in to action and leapt across the water gully, much to the buffalo’s surprise, and started to unravel the rope which was caught on a small bush. Howie and I stood in the middle of the road watching when a man on a motorbike raced up shouting ‘no, no, no, no!’ He thought Veronika was trying to steal the massive, confused looking, buffalo and made her wrap the rope back again. She did and we went on our merry way with a feeling of buffalo rustling accusations and a concern locals would be watching out for her in future. I’m pleased to say I was slightly quicker than a 5 year old – I did 2.2km in 43 minutes on the way back, even with the stop off for the buffalo. I also continued with my exercise plan but found I still can’t do press ups, lunges or the pretending to step down a step with my good leg so I was a bit frustrated with it.
Captain Caveman and Watto came back from Son Doong that afternoon and met us at The Villas, along with Matty and Colin, for the infamous Friday Pizza night.
The all you can eat pizza night was good and I managed a massive 10 slices but only had the 1 glass of wine, this week. It always starts off slowly and you feel like you could eat so much more and then you realise you are almost too full for your favourite slice, mine is The Showstopper (blue, cheese, spring onion and fig/apricot jam) but Captain Caveman prefers the ones with salami or pepperoni on. That night, before bed, I checked my pedometer and found I had completed 10,000 steps for the first time since before my injury, 9 months ago this weekend, and I felt more positive about my progress!
I was hoping for some extra sleep on the morning of Thursday 14th January but the housekeeping staff knocked to come in and clean our room, it was a lovely sunny day. I went in to the kitchen to watch more Night Stalker on Netflix and was glad I had not had jam on my toast! I also finished off the rest of the breakfasty potatoes which were still in the fridge. Tatas had arranged to meet me that evening for more birthday celebrations and so I had a light lunch of dates and crackers. I booked Phuong’s Transfers for my jaunt in to town and back and got to The Villas at the exact same time as Tatas. We got on the Happy Hour and a Half margaritas and stayed on them all night – we both love a margarita and they make really good ones. For my meal I decided to go for a dish I’d never tried before, one of Tatas’ favourites, salami and prawn spaghetti. She had it without parmesan or spring onion but extra chillies and I had it without chillies and it turned out to be one of the nicest meals I have had. I really enjoyed it and it is now on the list of (neverending) favourites. We had a good catch up after her trip to see her family before the holidays and we even got to chat with Manu, the manager, and Ha, one of our favourite waitresses in town. The evening was lovely and it went so fast, too soon my chariot home awaited, Tatas and I topped the night off with a Jameson’s and it was such a lovely birthday treat with probably a small hangover due tomorrow.
I was glad to be celebrating someone else getting older on Wednesday 13th January and Bich had arranged to pick Veronika and I up to take us to The Villas for brunch. On arrival it was absolutely stunning scenery outside, overlooking the river, the weather was starting to warm up a bit but we still sat inside by the fire. The sun was out again but it wasn’t particularly hot and I ordered a hot chocolate with cream for my breakfast. Bich had work to do and had to go to meetings so we sat and had a chat until Matty arrived by motorbike. Veronika ordered the smoked duck salad for brunch and both Matty and I ordered the tomato soup with cheese toastie (or grilled cheese if you order it in American). We had a chilled bottle of our favourite Lindeman’s sparkling wine, which we had polished off before midday! Unfortunately by the time I got home I had been glutened by the bread (it was worth it though) and felt terrible so I went to bed. I didn’t realise it at the time but Veronika didn’t get away with a quiet night in and had to go to the Farmstay for birthday wishes and cheesecake. I was grateful to get to stay in and eat a handful of dates and walnuts, once my stomach was back to normal(ish) because tomorrow I had another celebration to go to!
Captain Caveman’s alarm went off very early on Tuesday 12th January as he was off to Hang Son Doong. He was going on the preparation trip with Watto for 4 days to get it ready for the first customer tour of the season. I had an online job that I needed to complete so I decided to get that out of the way before my important appointment at 9am.
Bich had organised a joint birthday celebration for Veronika and I at Tree Hugger in Dong Hoi and had also invited Matty and Hien. We arranged to meet at the Farmstay at 9am and so I got there early.
We arrived at Tree Hugger and we were seated in the shop area upstairs, I managed to get up the stairs, for the first time, fairly easily too. Hien was meeting us on her lunch break from work and so we ordered. I decided to have the honey, lemongrass, ginger and kumquat tea which I really like. Bich had the same, Howie a hot lemon juice, Veronika and Matty went for cappuccino with Bailey’s in. Howie and Bich shared pork spring rolls and the beef and veg rice plate, Veronika went for a pretty breakfast bowl with beetroot in, I had pork and ham toasties and Matty ordered the special which was pumpkin soup, burger and ice-cream. I was still a little hungry after mine so I ordered a portion of spring rolls and Howie shared them. The meal was finished off with plates of free fresh fruit that was so juicy and then we had a browse of the shop where I picked up some wool socks. It was a lovely brunch and I was feeling rather full as I slowly tackled the stairs and we left. Bich had an idea to wander round a massive market which had smelly fried food on sale – we weren’t in there long but it was interesting to see all the stalls – I even crossed a big road with traffic on for the first time since my injury. We also had to have a pee in the bathroom of a bedding shop and a stop off at the organic shop, just for good measure.
That evening we met back up at Phong Nha Farmstay as it was shepherd’s pie night and we opened the bottle of Bordeaux from Matty which we had between the 3 of us. I was grateful to get home and get my warm socks on as it had turned cold again and I’m not sure how much more birthday celebration-ing I could handle.