I was awake at 5.20am on Thursday 11th March and was just about to fall back to sleep when the loudest tannoy announcement ever, came on! I know it’s meant to be to tell all the villagers the news, instead of newspapers or the internet, but it really does go on and I’m convinced some of it is totally not newsworthy. Today I think they had either turned up the volume or erected another speaker nearer to Veronika’s side of the house. I got up, it was still dark as I had my buttered toast and jasmine tea back in bed. I had saved some pork fat and scraps of lamb for Ky, the dog, so I gave them to one of the housekeeping staff and then decided to make an omelette, chopping half of it up for egg fried rice and saving the other half for Captain Caveman to have for breakfast before his next trip tomorrow. For my lunch I had my leftover shepherd’s pie and in the afternoon I was meant to be meeting Captain Caveman and Quyen at The Villas and needed to arrange transport. Quyen who lives in Saigon was coming to do the Hang Va trip with Captain Caveman and would be staying at Chay Lap that night.
At The Villas I had time for one margarita before the pick up car arrived which only just had room to fit us all. Quyen had kindly brought us several packets of the masaman curry paste from Saigon which we love and would make us lots of meals. We still had no plans as to how I would get home as I had made it clear I would not be walking in the dark, going on a bicycle or a motorbike once I’d had a drink and Captain Caveman agreed this would be fine!

When we arrived at Chay Lap Captain Caveman made sure I got a hand to get up the big step to the bar and I ordered a Margarita. Quyen had gone to check in to her room then borrowed a bicycle to go for a bit of exploring of the local area. Captain Caveman’s gala dinner started and I sat sipping my margarita at the bar and I ordered some sweet potato fries to nibble on so that I didn’t get too drunk as I was already on my third margarita. Last year Chay Lap had some nice vegetarian options and even some western choices but now it was mainly Vietnamese food. We ate pork ribs, chicken skewers, cabbage and rice and most of it came without chillies as requested, except for the aubergine on the chicken skewers which was very spicy.
Captain Caveman came over to say we needed to rescue him soon as they were nearly down a bottle of rice wine but he had another tour to go on tomorrow and didn’t want to be drunk. Quyen and Captain Caveman were off to Hang Va for 2 days the next day and, although Quyen was staying for longer, Captain Caveman would be going straight to Hanoi, by the overnight bus, then further north for a week. Captain Caveman picked up the tab for both me and Quyen and we left her talking to the rest of her Hang Va group, who seemed a nice bunch of people.
I would have preferred to go home but Captain Caveman said we would go to a belated Women’s Day celebration at Bom’s place. When we arrived the only woman there was Quet, Bom’s wife, everyone was drunk and they insisted on Captain Caveman and I chugging warm beer while some bloke sang terribly loud karaoke songs. We walked, in the dark, holding hands for my balance, back to the Glass House to sleep there for the night. It was surprising to see how easy it was to get up the steps and it wasn’t nearly as difficult to do all 4 sets of stairs to our room. Captain Caveman still has a room there with all his caving gear and luckily I still had a few things in a drawer so had spare clothes. Even the bed was made – it was like we were camping for the night, but I wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow’s arrangements for getting out of the Glass House.

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