Phong Nha – 23rd February

Phong Nha – 23rd February

There was only one person close to me on Tuesday 23rd February who was more annoyed with the loud tannoy from 5.30am, than me – a very hungover Captain Caveman! He got up and went to Phong Nha and I went back to sleep when the noise stopped! I woke up at 9am and caught up on some Duolingo and some writing. I’d not checked my emails for a while and, after hearing that the UK wouldn’t allow holidays until 17th May, I wondered if my April flight to Turkey would get cancelled. I had toast for breakfast and when Captain Caveman came back he had only been to The Villas for his breakfast! I managed another spot of cycling and this time I took 10 minutes but Captain Caveman did get a video of me.
I just had walnuts and cashew nuts for lunch as Captain Caveman had plans for dinner – for the first time in a long time we were missing Shepherd’s pie night! I suggested that I might try a mini triathlon tomorrow and asked Captain Caveman if he’d like to join in as the weather was meant to be getting hot. He replied that he didn’t think eating breakfast, lunch and dinner counted as a triathlon! It wasn’t meant to be a joke, either!
He made sausages with potatoes and veg for dinner and I had a small glass of red wine. It was a relaxing, easy going day which I was grateful for and there was some optimistic news reported during this day which felt somewhat hopeful for the future.
In Vietnam the vaccination process looked good and was coming soon;
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210223/vietnams-health-ministry-lists-target-groups-for-upcoming-covid19-vaccination/59419.html
The authorities were still dishing out penalties for not declaring whereabouts or giving misleading info on the forms:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210223/teacher-in-northern-vietnam-fined-for-false-health-declaration/59421.html
And proof that in all countries there will still be people who go ahead and cause the spread instead of preventing Corona:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210223/vietnamese-official-requests-investigation-of-two-nurses-for-allegedly-causing-local-covid19-transmission/59429.html

Phong Nha – 22nd February

Phong Nha – 22nd February

On Monday 22nd February I was woken up at 5.30am by the loud announcement through the tannoy system. It was starting to get really annoying now that we are forced to listen to it and it wakes us up. On a positive note I was able to catch up on the news and was only a few hours late to catch up on the UK prime minister’s latest update – it seemed to be good news.
In Vietnam there were plans to retest all experts who entered Saigon in 2021 because of the death of a Japanese man, more here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/saigon-to-re-test-all-foreign-experts/
Reports of mass screening of medical staff resulted in 1 nurse being positive who was asymptomatic (see below):
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/886061/nurse-in-hai-phong-tests-positive-for-sars-cov-2.html
In the UK Boris Johnson’s announcement suggests that things could be ‘back to normal’ by the 21st June, I was sceptical but remained hopeful (see Facebook page):
https://www.facebook.com/228735667216/posts/10158568653927217/
Meanwhile, in Phong Nha, we were still virus free and I was about to have an exciting trip out! First of all I completed my third Bluey ride to the French Road and back and this time it took me 9.5 minutes, which is pretty good and a whole minute quicker than yesterday. I arranged with Bich to have a lift to The Villas for a late lunch and we had organised a bit of a celebration, considering it was Margarita Monday. My Dad had reminded me that it was the national Margarita day and so I had arranged to have lunchtime margaritas with Matty, Veronika, and Trang. I messaged them all to inform them (and Tatas) of my arrangements and got various responses; Veronika was already at The Villas sat by the river, Matty was also already at The Villas sat on the terraced area with his laptop out, Trang was already at Tree House with Tatas and didn’t know if she would make it to The Villas as she had to get back to Dong Hoi to her sick mom, Tatas wouldn’t make it because she didn’t want to drink before tonight’s Son Doong briefing and she needed the afternoon to pack. Well, this looked like it could be a bit of a piss-poor Margarita Monday!
Ben picked me up and he was going to be working at The Villas because Manu was away, we had a laugh driving in as we discussed the rather impromptu Margarita Monday! On the way we saw Veronika walking in to town and so she didn’t join us for Margaritas, or lunch, and it was just a cosy one for me and Matty! Ha and Lan popped in to say hello on their way back from a nearby wedding and I ordered a margarita and a tomato soup with a toasted cheese sandwich, Matty ordered the same. The food was great, although the bread there does give me gluten tummy, it would appear.

Trang finally arrived (she’s usually late) and was introduced to Matty but he left shortly after as he had to work later. Tatas arrived, I ordered a second margarita for me, nothing for Tatas and a watermelon juice for Trang and we were having some serious chatting, including encouraging Trang to stay an extra night to take a well earned rest.

Our friend Luc arrived and joined our table and then Captain Caveman and Ali turned up after their Son Doong trip. Margaritas were served all-round, even the non-drinking girls had one but some of the group had to take it easy. Tatas went off to do her briefing, Captain Caveman to his gala dinner at Chay Lap and Ali went to Momma D’s for dinner instead of the gala dinner.

Luc, Trang and I moved to an inside table to eat dinner, with another margarita. I had salami and prawn spaghetti, Luc had smoked duck salad and Trang the confit duck leg – all of which were very tasty. Tatas came back after her briefing and by the time Captain Caveman returned from his gala dinner, he was hammered. We had a great Margarita Monday and unfortunately my day 4 of being frugal with the housekeeping had not been successful. I had spent £1,425,000vnd (£44) in one day and was very grateful for the free lift back home from Ben. Margarita Monday had been successful in my eyes and I fell fast asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Photo credit – Ben, Trang, Quyen.

Phong Nha – 21st February

Phong Nha – 21st February

The noise was blaring out from the tannoys again from 5.30am on Sunday 21st February and had finally stopped at 6.45am! I went back to sleep and managed to sleep until 10am, it must have been all the exercise yesterday. I had toast with butter and toast with jam for breakfast because I was really hungry by the time I’d read all the news. One of the reasons Vietnam has had a lot lower Corona virus numbers is because of their prompt testing and tracing. The Health Minister here is asking for increased testing too, read here;
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/885579/testing-plays-key-role-in-controlling-covid-19-health-minister.html
All big events have been stopped again in Saigon as a precaution, see below:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210221/ho-chi-minh-city-ceases-large-religious-events-due-for-fear-of-covid19-spread/59373.html
In Vietnam they don’t mess about with rule flouters here and will do all they can to prevent and punish accordingly, check this out:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210221/couple-fined-when-kissing-at-public-park-in-vietnams-covid19-epicenter/59379.html
It was worrying though that so many cases found are asymptomatic making the spread harder to stop, here’s the info:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210221/over-80-of-cases-in-vietnams-current-coronavirus-wave-are-asymptomatic-ministry/59378.html
There was great news in the UK with regards the amount of vaccines being given so far, this means by mid November all vaccines will be fully completed and all protected before Christmas, assuming the same rate and all goes to plan, source below:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56141867
The rest of the morning I spent blogging, writing, editing and learning languages and then just after 2pm, when the roads are quiet here, I decided to try the same bike ride to the French Road and back. This time I remembered to put my stopwatch on and was really surprised when I got back to find it had taken 10.5 minutes. It was a sunny day and I needed a shower but the cleaners had snuck in to clean our room so I decided to clear My List on Netflix, then started to watch The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel. It was intriguing but annoying as they pronounced the hotel Cee-cil throughout but was ok.
Once showered I headed up to Phong Nha  Farmstay for dinner (the infamous Sunday roast of course). Matty and Veronika were there as well as recently returned Steven & Laurence, and Ben, of course. This week I went for the full works and only took home a small portion of the veg for my fried rice. I also had to go for the chocolate fondant dessert, which is so indulgent but good. 
I had ‘spent’ 300,000vnd (£9.30) for Sunday roast, a good measure of red wine plus a dessert on day 3 of the ‘being careful with money mission’ but was unable to actually pay by card until Tuesday – this was working out well for me as Captain Caveman would be back tomorrow so he could pay.

Phong Nha – 20th February

Phong Nha – 20th February

I finally got to sleep in until 9am on Saturday 20th February and I was absolutely thrilled! It was nice weather and so I decided to take Bluey, my bicycle, for a ride to the French Road and back. It’s just less than 2km and the route I have been walking so I thought it would be a good one to try the cycling on because then if I had to, I could walk it back. I pumped up the tyres and double checked everything, as well as taking the pump with me. I didn’t take a phone, a bag or my house keys but I didn’t expect to be very long. I was going to time it on my watch but as I set off all of the staff came out to watch (how embarrassing) so I forgot to press start. I found it hard but it wasn’t particularly painful and Bluey was quite whizzy. When I got to the incline at the turn around point I was very slow and it was tricky, but I made the U-turn without stopping and carried on back again. If I had to guess it took me about 15 minutes tops and it went well. I wished I’d had a photo or video but I’d have to wait for Captain Caveman to come with me for that.
I had not had breakfast but did have cheese on toast for lunch and wasn’t ill, which made a change but now I still didn’t know what was causing my allergic reactions these days. After rattling through my To Do list I started watching a Leftovers programme on Netflix and then had a glass of wine with Veronika. She had meatloaf (from Momma D’s), mashed potatoes and green beans for her dinner while I had masaman curry (from the freezer) with rice and sweet corn and thoroughly enjoyed it. It had been quite a good day for me, and I was happy to have finished day 2 of being frugal with the cash, spending no money at all today.

Phong Nha – 19th February

Phong Nha – 19th February

The first thing I did on Friday 19th February was read the Vietnamese news about what was happening with Corona, here. There were plans to reopen Vietnamese schools (more info here):
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/885365/cities-provinces-announce-plans-on-resumption-of-in-person-learning-after-tet-holiday.html
People returning to Saigon, from the areas with outbreaks, after their Tet holiday would automatically get quarantined (see below):
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210219/ho-chi-minh-city-quarantines-all-people-from-vietnams-covid19-epicenters/59350.html
It was also a good reminder that, although it was great news that a vaccine was becoming available to people I knew back home, there was still quite a way to go before we could all get too excited (info below):
https://vietnamnews.vn/opinion/885367/covid-19-vaccines-offer-hope-but-are-not-a-silver-bullet.html
The announcement on the tannoy had been belting out at full volume since 6am, without music, so Captain Caveman was up before his 7.30am alarm. He, along with Ali (the filmmaker) and the rest of the group, were off to Son Doong this morning and this time he did remember to give me some money. Having done the 4 day challenge to spend less cash previously, though, I was on a bit of a mission to see if I could ‘not go too mad’, after all we had quite a lot of stuff in the fridge at the moment and wine in the cupboard. We had a couple of red peppers which were starting to wrinkle and so I decided to lightly fry them and then store them in a jar of olive oil.
For breakfast I decided I would have the rest of the pepper that wouldn’t fit in the jar with some sweetcorn, a dragon fruit and a pot of jasmine tea. I had intended not to eat again until pizza night later but ended up having toast and butter mid afternoon.

For pizza night at The Villas I was picked up directly from our place, Veronika had already walked it to the Farmstay so was in the bus when I got in the front seat next to her. It was a good mix of pizza lovers tonight, including Chris (the Belgian) and his lovely Vietnamese girlfriend, Huong. As we arrived Tatas was there to meet us and we all ordered drinks (I went for the included in the pizza deal, diet coke as I was trying to stick to a budget). The pizza was amazing this week and I managed 6 slices, maybe more, 2 of which were the Showstopper (my favourite). Chris generously insisted on paying for a bottle of wine which he shared between him, Huong, Matty, Tatas and me and it was a great night as we celebrated Chris and Huong’s last night before they flew back to Saigon tomorrow morning.
We arranged to keep in touch as we had a similar sense of humour, which can be hard to find outside of your own country.

Phong Nha – 18th February

Phong Nha – 18th February

The alarm went off at 5.30am on Thursday 18th February for Captain Caveman going to the beach with Ben and Matty for a spot of surfing. I did my blogging until 8am and then fell back to sleep, finding out it’s the quietest part of the day to grab another 2 hours. When Captain Caveman returned it was raining and he made us salami and asparagus for breakfast, mine with toast and his with egg. After breakfast I went to welcome Bluey, my bicycle, back in to my life and was pleased to see she already had a lovely parking spot in a sheltered area. I couldn’t go out on her in the rain so I tried a couple of metres under cover and I seemed ok. Her brakes still worked and she just need a little bit of air in her tyres so all was good and I looked forward to having a proper go on her the next dry day. I didn’t think I was hungry enough for lunch but then later needed a snack of bread and cashew nuts. Captain Caveman had another Tet party at Mr Sic’s, to attend in Phong Nha, on his way to deliver his Oxalis briefing for his first trip to Son Doong after the Tet holidays.
For my dinner that night I had some chicken masaman curry and a Snickers for dessert.
I had something to be really thankful for today too; my parents had their first dose of the Corona vaccine today. Their second dose was scheduled for May, so just short of 3 months later, meaning they should be as fully protected as possible by the end of May. This gave me hope that I might be able to see them this year so I went online to do the calculation of when I would be able to have the vaccine if I was in the UK. I wouldn’t be due until July for the first one, meaning October for the 2nd and able to go about my ‘normal’ activity by November. Hopefully I would be able to get it quicker in Vietnam so that I could get back sooner, but if not there was hope I could be with my family by Christmas, all being well. As I was getting ready for bed it dawned on me that maybe Captain Caveman had brought Bluey, the bike, back for a reason! I’d consumed a lot more than I should have lately and, if I was going to loose the last few kilogrammes in readiness for a summer body, I’d really better start trying a lot harder!

Phong Nha – 17th February

Phong Nha – 17th February

We were meant to be off on a day trip to Dong Hoi on Wednesday 17th February so that we could visit the museum and have lunch at Earth cafe. Unfortunately, things didn’t go ahead as planned and before I’d even got out of bed Captain Caveman had collected his motorbike from the Farmstay and then rode up to the Lake House to collect freshly baked bread.
For breakfast I just had buttered toast (no adverse reaction was encountered) and for lunch I had a jam sandwich, some walnuts and cashew nuts. In the afternoon Ali was booked in to interview Captain Caveman for the film he is making about Phong Nha. Just before Ali arrived there was a wedding nearby with loud music pumping out, but luckily they managed to record ok. I left my phone in the bedroom where they were recording and so I sat and had a White Russian in the lounge area. The cavers, including Captain Caveman, had been invited to a party at Ho Khanh’s at 5pm, I decided not to go and Captain Caveman got a lift to Phong Nha with Ali, so he could have a drink this time. After he had been to Ho Khanh’s and a few other Tet parties Captain Caveman collected Bluey, my bicycle, from the Glass House and rode her to meet Ali for a drink at The Villas. He’d told me he was bringing Bluey home but because of recent accidents around I was a bit worried about him being out on the country roads after dark. He eventually got home safely, a bit tipsy, after 10.30pm, with a fully working Bluey (who’s not good on hills) and had enjoyed a good evening out. I’d stayed in, watched Netflix, and had a picnic style dinner for a nice change. I was happy that both Bluey and Captain Caveman were safely here and I was very much looking forward to seeing if I could still ride a bike, tomorrow.

Phong Nha – 16th February

Phong Nha – 16th February

I was certainly taking advantage of some quiet time at home on Tuesday 16th February. The post-Tet loud music went on until 7.30am so I ended up watching more Love Island in bed until the housekeeping ladies arrived. I had tea and toast in the living room and then did some blogging. I ordered a couple of Shepherd’s pies for dinner at the Farmstay later, not knowing what time Captain Caveman would be back from his Hang En trip. Ali was keen to join us for a drink later so I organised him a lift from The Villas with Ben at Phong Nha Farmstay. For lunch I had my leftover Sunday dinner which was still very nice and the rest of the carrot cake. I noticed we had a new kitchen table runner which was nice and I lit the Tet candle which had been put on our upstairs coffee table during Tet. In the news Vietnam had more Corona cases, linked to the areas already locked down, and news that a vaccine for key people would be made available as early as this month was reported.
That night I went to the Farmstay and met Ali and Veronika, Captain Caveman got back very late from his tour and only just made it in time for shepherd’s pie. We chatted to Bich and the kids for a bit and it was a nice night, sat outside, by the swimming pool, eating our delicious meal. We ended up drinking 2 bottles of our favourite red wine between 3 of us and I was grateful to have an easy going, drama free day.

Phong Nha – 15th February

Phong Nha – 15th February

After a busy few days I was looking forward to a bit of a mundane day on Monday 15th February. I also needed to catch back up with a few items on my To Do List and start getting back in to the swing of a routine. My exercises had been a bit sparse and I hadn’t been walking every other day, either. The alarm went off at 7am and Captain Caveman went to the Farmstay to collect his motorbike before heading back to the Glass House to get ready for his 2 day Oxalis tour. As well as the Son Doong tours he also does 2 extra days per month on other tours where it is more of an inspection trip. Captain Caveman always enjoys going on the other tours so he was pleased to be heading to Hang En. I got an extra 1 hour sleep, finished the series of The Big Bang Theory I had been watching and did some blogging. I didn’t have any breakfast because I spent the rest of the morning doing some of my exercises and reaching number 1 on the Diamond League of Duolingo. It was already lunchtime so I had some leftover tortilla and the carrot cake from last night. I carried on with more writing and ate some crisps! I had a bad stomach (probably because of the cake or eggs) and decided to have a rest. I started watching Love Island while doing crossword puzzles. By the evening I had a really bad back and a massive headache so I just had dry bread for dinner and went to bed early. I was grateful for a day just to myself, to be honest!

Phong Nha – 14th February

Phong Nha – 14th February

We had a busy day planned on the third day of Tet, Sunday 14th February and, as it was Valentine’s Day, I got my bacon sandwich breakfast brought to me in bed. We got our helmets and big coats on, filled up with 50,000vnd of petrol and were off on a day out.
Our first stop was to visit Giang’s family at Rice Paddy homestay, where we received a warm welcome. They gave us a cold drink and some nibbles and were really pleased to see us, especially Alice who’s 14 and misses her aunty Giang.

Our next stop was Funny Monkeys where we wished Moon a happy new year and we had a drink and some nibbles, including delicious cashew nuts. Before we could finish chatting Moon had a family of 4 arrive for lunch and so she had to go cook and we forgot to get photos.

On the way to our next stop at Lucky Lucky (now called Lucky Homes) I popped to The Villas for a green tea and to use the loo, while Captain Caveman ran an errand. When we got to Lucky Lucky the owners were so pleased to see us but had been expecting us yesterday so we didn’t get to see Xiem, the English speaking daughter. The lady there is so sweet and gave us some Banh Chung to take home. I had quite a bit of beer and did a lot of cheers and of course I couldn’t resist a couple of spring rolls.

We had an important party to attend at 5pm but before that we had chance to meet up with Ali and Mo (owner of Earth cafe in Dong Hoi) at Tree House where I said happy new year to the owner and tried a cinnamon tea. It’s the first time I’ve been in the place and it is very nice and reasonably priced.

At 4.50pm we set off back towards the Glass House as we were invited to Howard and Deb’s house for a Tet party. On the way, outside Green River homestay, there is a bend in the road and as we approached there was a lot of people and traffic congestion. As we got nearer it was evident there had been a nasty accident and I could see the injured people were on the floor, no helmets, lots of blood. I didn’t want to look but it was too late and I felt very sick – luckily 2 of the cavers and lots of helpers were there so Captain Caveman decided to carry on as there were enough people there.
It’s a sad fact, here in Vietnam, that far more people will be killed in a road accident in 1 week of Tet than will die in a whole year from Corona.
When we arrived Deb had to send Captain Caveman back to pick up Momma D’s chicken and it turned out he didn’t see an email asking him to bring ice as his contribution – it was too late to start putting warm beers in ice now, anyway.

The party was good, the buffet spread was impressive; roast chicken, pizza, sausage, chips, beef and beers. It was lovely to see all the Vietnamese friends I had not seen for so long and I even managed a little dance with Phuong to some Faithless. Watto was in charge of the whisky and he was doing a grand job of persuading everyone to have a shot or two. I felt a bit bad that Captain Caveman had to drive me around and so couldn’t have a drink with all his colleagues. I didn’t want to be out after dark with so many drunk drivers on the road so we left as it was getting dark.

We drove straight back to the Farmstay where we received a welcome from Bich in the form of rice wine shots, a free margarita and some Tet table photos, she even interrupted Veronika and Matty to come join us for a shot!
We rounded off the day with a fabulous Sunday dinner (most of which we had to take home as we were already so full), wine and lots of laughs with the usual gang as well as Chris (the Belgian) and his lovely girlfriend, Huong, who had just arrived. They had only been going out for 3 months so I hoped she wasn’t too disappointed by having to share her Valentine’s dinner table with us but I really enjoyed their company and didn’t mind when the boys went to play killer pool and us girls, we are both slow eaters, finished our dinner and wine and chatted. It was a lovely day in Phong Nha, continuing to celebrate Tet with all our friends.

Phong Nha – 13th February

Phong Nha – 13th February

Captain Caveman had a second day of Tet party at 9am on Saturday 13th February, in Phong Nha, so off he went to Hung’s house.
While Captain Caveman had been out I had been invited to Ha’s to celebrate but, as I didn’t have transport, I invited her and Lan to our place. I prepared a few nibbles (bread, ham, Banh Chung, tortilla, salami, fruit and walnuts) and I had a ham sandwich for lunch while I waited for our guests. When they arrived we took our nibbles and some cold beers outside and included the Elements Collection team and some of the owner’s family members. Mr Ky, the dog, saw that a guest had a small, nappy wearing, poodle and he wanted to eat it. Later we saw Bich, the kids, Hien and Khanh and I got my first lucky money – a brand new 50,000vnd from Khanh. Everyone was very nicely dressed in their Tet clothes, including Ha and Lan, who we posed for some photos with – I should have wore something nice.
It was Hoa and Tom’s party at 6pm, Hoa was in the kitchen and the cavers were already eating when we arrived. I ate some excellent chips, a spring roll and a pork rib and then had some potatoes and carrots out of the soup. After 1 hour Captain Caveman stood up and said we had to leave if we were to make it to the next party in time and I got my coat on and followed him to say thanks to our host for the lovely food. Traditionally Tet has an order to the visiting which if family first, then friends and then colleagues but we didn’t necessarily follow that.
Back home we had drinks, some biscuits and watched Breaking Bad. I was grateful today for having a good second day of Tet and was looking forward to more celebrations with friends tomorrow.

Phong Nha – 12th February (Tet day)

Phong Nha – 12th February (Tet day)

It was Tet day on Friday 12th February and although I awoke at 6am there was no announcement or Tet music over the tannoys today!! I went back to sleep for a bit and then had a delicious bacon sandwich with brown sauce for breakfast, made by Captain Caveman.
We were planning on going out on the motorbike when Captain Caveman got a last minute text to ask if he was coming to the Tet meal at the Vung Hue, (with the cavers and Momma D) so we jumped on the motorbike, with our new helmets on and off we went. The Vung Hue family were there to greet us and were very welcoming and the food looked great as always. I had a pork rib, some chips, a bowl of rice and some beef stew (which I loved), then some juicy kumquats. I even had a beer while Captain Caveman had a shandy as he was driving. As we were leaving, Watto said he thought my knee was still leaning inwards and I walked up and down to show him, he told me to persevere in trying to keep it straight.

Our next stop was the Pub with Cold Beer where only 4 kids were about, but we had a cold beer and gave the kids lucky money. On the way back we called in to see Multi and the gang at The Pepper House, had a drink and some snacks. At home Captain Caveman and I sat on the balcony with a beverage and some tortilla but it was still a bit chilly for sunbathing. We decided we would have a walk to the Farmstay as it was Pizza night at The Villas and we could get the pick up transport from there. I took my poles and off we went and I’m glad I was accompanied as there was some strange activity on the way. First of all, an older Vietnamese man who was either drunk or mentally ill (maybe both) kept trying to walk nearer to me and so Captain Caveman had to walk with me, seeing as I’m so slow. We stopped to let him go past but he then stopped to wait for us again and he was putting me off my stride a bit. Next there were a group of young men on motorbikes who had been drinking and they stopped in the road, when a girl came towards them on her motorbike they grabbed her boob and then all cheered. Captain Caveman slapped him on his shoulder and I pointed my sticks at him in a threatening manner – I don’t think he was in the least bit bothered. Despite the phlegmatic old creep and the tit grabber I still made it in 35 minutes so I was pleased with that and treated myself to a ginger beer when I got to the bar.

The pizza night was really good; sat with us was Chris (from Antwerp), Ali (the filmmaker), Tatas and Veronika. We all shared red wine and I managed 9 slices of pizza which I was pleased with. For once, I was having so much fun at The Villas that I completely forgot to take any photos of pizza night. We had a lovely Tet day and felt rather lucky to be in Phong Nha.

Phong Nha – 11th February (Tet eve)

Phong Nha – 11th February (Tet eve)

Tet Eve fell on Thursday 11th February this year and it started with 5am announcements and loud music, which went on until 7.30am.
Captain Caveman had to go to Oxalis Home for 7.30am and so he agreed to meet me at the Farmstay at 10.15am for our exciting outing. As it turned out Captain Caveman got back early and I got to go to the Farmstay on the back of his motorbike in my new helmet, which was really snazzy. Ben had organised a trip to the Pub with Cold Beer for lunch and a few of us went up in the jeep while Matty, Chris (the Belgian guest) and Veronika rode their motorbikes there.
Ben was driving, Howie was in the front, in the middle was a nice family and in the back with me and Captain Caveman was Catherine and her son. When we arrived we had a quick look around the kitchen and then the food was served. We ate BBQ chicken with peanut sauce, steamed rice, morning glory, pork, and spring rolls which was all so delicious. I even drank Huda beer, went on the swing and chatted a lot with Catherine who was so funny. Captain Caveman and some of the others went in the incredibly well- maintained swimming pool and the food was very good value for money – we even bought some peanut sauce to take home. When we got back to the Farmstay I decided to walk it home, I had my poles and Captain Caveman had a beer to give me a headstart. I managed to get home in 35 minutes and quite a while before Captain Caveman made it back (I suspect he may have had a second beer) because he expected me to take longer. I had a bit of pain but it went after ibuprofen and a short rest so I was pleased with that. In just 1 month I had managed the same journey 8 minutes quicker but I still wasn’t as fast as a 74 year old, who can do it in 20 minutes.
I’d been waiting to hear that it was ok to call my parents so I could get an update on how Dad was doing, after a hospital visit yesterday and the news was good. It was really nice to have a laugh with ma and pa over video call and see that they looked really well and quite relaxed which was so good. Music, karaoke and bombs (fireworks are banned in Vietnam) were to be heard until 1.30am and I was getting quite good at staying in the house for new year’s celebrations now and quite enjoyed being antisocial.

Here’s a couple of video clips of our trip on Facebook courtesy of Matty & Ben;

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2860937884224294&id=100009243321087

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=4270275809653671&id=148614098486550&sfnsn=mo

Phong Nha – 10th February

Phong Nha – 10th February

At 5.30am on Wednesday 10th February there were announcements on the loudspeaker for quite a while, followed by the usual loud music. Captain Caveman went to the beach with Ben while I got on with some editing for a bit and had one of the expensive apples for my first breakfast. Around 8am it was quiet again and I’d fallen asleep but had luckily set my alarm to meet Captain Caveman at the Farmstay for an exciting event. We had been invited by Bich and Ben to join in one of the most important preparations for Tet by helping make the Banh Tet from 10am. There were quite a few guests, family and staff all on the tarpaulin set down near the swimming pool and the process commenced. The key, I learned is to select the appropriate banana leaves as your base and layer them so there are no holes. Everyone was shown how to put plenty of sticky rice in a chunky line down the middle, making a small ditch for the mung bean and then the fatty pork. The whole thing is rolled tightly, making sure all the meat and beans are covered by the sticky rice and encased by the leaves. The tricky bit was securing the package with strips so there would be no leakage. Once finished they would be simmered over the fire for between 12 and 20 hours. It was very interesting to watch and I was impressed at how good the security guys were at making it – they were definitely the best I thought.
After the excitement of the cooking class gathering I had an orange juice and then we went back home for a breakfast of bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onions.
I had a strongbow cider for lunch and it was quite sunny in the afternoon so we went for a walk to the French Road and back. This time I did it in 35 mins which was 6 minutes quicker than the last time so I was happy about that. Captain Caveman went to the Lake House to get bread and bumped in to the nice couple from the Farmstay who were drinking with Tony. I assumed he would be back late and ate my leftover shepherd’s pie for my dinner. I then ate a second dinner of spaghetti with salami when Captain Caveman made his dinner with plenty for me too. We watched more Breaking Bad and drank red wine then got an invite for lunch out tomorrow, which would be Tet eve. I fell asleep before I got chance to get an update on how a family member had got on with his hospital appointment today but knew I’d probably be awake early tomorrow to check.

Phong Nha – 9th February

Phong Nha – 9th February

I woke up at 5.40am on Tuesday 9th February to the pumping music of pre Tet over the tannoy system and when it finished, just before 7am, Captain Caveman started snoring – I don’t know how he had managed to sleep through the noise. I did some languages and blogging in the morning then Captain Caveman made a cooked breakfast, with my favourite sausages, for us. It was a quiet day and I didn’t bother with any lunch as we had ordered our shepherd’s pies for dinner at The Farmstay that evening.
When we arrived at the Farmstay Veronika and Matty were already there, we met some nice new guests and a couple recommended the Minera Spa resort in Vung Tau, near Saigon, for if we fancied a relaxing break. Later we had the shepherd’s pie dinner with a lovely chap from Antwerp, Belgium, so I insisted on recommending the best bar in the world to him, The Kulminator, which I had loved visiting when Captain Caveman and I were last in Antwerp. I felt a bit foolish when he said he’d not lived there for quite a few years! The shepherd’s pie was delightful (as always) and the very substantial portion beat me so I took leftovers home (again) for tomorrow’s lunch. I was pleased to see that this week cauliflower was included in the vegetables served with the main dish – I love cauliflower. I had 3 glasses of red wine and even had room for the chocolate fondant dessert, which is absolutely delicious, and is available on the usual menu to have any time.
Back home we got confirmation that the Netflix issue was sorted and we could now use it again!
In the news today more airport staff tested positive in Saigon, here’s the info:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210209/two-more-airport-employees-test-positive-for-novel-coronavirus-in-ho-chi-minh-city/59220.html