Phong Nha – 30th April

Phong Nha – 30th April

I was awake early on Friday 30th April and the weather was better (the garden had benefitted), good enough for a trip to the market with Veronika. I checked the news and read that, because of the man flying from Japan to Danang, who did 14 day quarantine with negative tests but then tested positive after he had been let out, Ha Nam and Hanoi would impose stricter restrictions, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/937092/ha-noi-hung-yen-record-domestic-cases-ha-nam-closes-tourism-sites.html
Both Veronika and I suspected that there could be the possibility of this being a 4th wave and the likelihood of lockdowns coming. The Khung Ha market goers must have had the same thoughts as the place was heaving as we arrived by bicycle and left our bikes with the attendant. The market sells lots of fresh fruit and veg and some of the basics but I tend not to buy meat there. I didn’t have much money left until Captain Caveman got back later and I was conscious I had plans for dinner so I just bought the essentials; carrots, mushrooms, dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, potatoes, onions. I had forgotten to time my journey on the way their but the way back was 5 minutes 12 seconds. As soon as we got home Veronika had to go up to the Farmstay to babysit during the bank holiday chaos and I’d hoped for a shower but the housekeeping ladies were in. I had buttered toast (with no ill effects), half a pineapple, 1 apple and 2 pots of jasmine tea.  After the cleaning had finished the staff brought in some fruit for each of us, dragon fruit and apples (my favourite) which was very nice and was from Hien, the owner of Elements Collection. For lunch I had more chicken pasta with extra mushrooms and no reaction to the gluten.
The usual pizza night at The Villas was cancelled due to the holiday weekend and so we didn’t go to town that evening. It worked out fine though, as although I wouldn’t get to see Caroline and Vee, I had dinner at the Phong Nha Farmstay with Andrea, Bruno and Rob, where after several sunset ciders with Andrea, we went on to the red wine. I shared some tasty spring rolls and a fresh chicken salad with Andrea, both were lovely and better for my stomach than pizza anyway. It was a great evening, the wine and conversation flowed as usual and it was good to see friends from Saigon who were here to do some more caving with Oxalis. After Captain Caveman had finished his gala dinner at Chay Lap he went to Momma D’s, where he had left his bicycle, so I asked him to bring me a sausage roll home, it tasted bloody wonderful but I was ill before I’d even finished it (which I still did) – because of the gluten!!!

33 Things I Googled in March & April

33 Things I Googled in March & April

I decided to combine March and April’s list of things I’ve googled which will include some duplicates. I seem to have not made as many lists this last couple of months – here’s a treat:
1. After a bad stomach, why can’t I eat pork?
2. Baolau.vn
3. Bun mam ingredients
4. Citrus spa
5. Dong Le
6. EasyJet
7. Exodus
8. Eyedrops
9. Fermentable carbs
10. Florida Man
11. Fodmap diet
12. Foods to avoid with eczema
13. Gastropulgite
14. Ha Nam
15. Ideation
16. Israel Corona virus vaccine
17. Lao Cai
18. L’Spa
19. Lush
20. Marie Andree Leclerc
21. Newcastle Airport Hotel
22. Oxalis Adventure
23. Pagan
24. Poison Ivy song
25. Paw paw
26. Spent grain gluten content
27. Swollen ankle treatment
28. UK to Vietnam in miles
29. V-rhoto eye drops
30. Watermark, Hoi An
31. Weather
32. World Expectancy Corona virus
33. You’re so vain, Carly Simon

Phong Nha – 29th April

Phong Nha – 29th April

Veronika and I were meant to be going to the market at 7.30am on Thursday 29th April but the rain was just too heavy, we would try tomorrow. It was too rainy for me to even accompany Tatas for breakfast at the Farmstay so she left without me. Posts on Facebook showed that Dong Hoi had started to have some water on the roads that looked quite deep for the time of year.
I had toast for a late breakfast and was fine so I went berserk and made a chicken pasta for lunch which wasn’t gluten free and gave me a slight reaction. Plans to go to  The Villas were moved to tomorrow as there was no free shuttle and the cost of a taxi meant I wouldn’t have enough money to spend on booze – Captain Caveman’s budget didn’t stretch to transport but 9km each way is a bit too far for me to cycle.  Instead I decided to watch some Netflix and try to have a relaxing day.
For dinner I had a very healthy chicken, rice and sweetcorn while making plans for tomorrow, as some friends from Saigon would be in Phong Nha. Captain Caveman was due back from Son Doong tomorrow too which meant we could perhaps meet him at The Villas before his Chay Lap gala dinner. Andrea was staying at one of the Farmstay houses, as the Farmstay itself was fully booked for the Reunification day and Labour Day weekend. All in all a quiet day staying at home and taking it easy.

Photo credit – Dong Hoi, Facebook.

Phong Nha – 28th April

Phong Nha – 28th April

Wednesday 28th April was not as calm and relaxed as I was hoping. The loud tannoy announcement at 5.30am woke me up but I tried desperately to ignore it. I read the news to find it was getting worse in Cambodia for Corona cases, should Vietnam be more worried? Here’s the article:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210425/cambodia-closes-markets-to-curb-covid19-thousands-plead-for-food/60554.html
Tatas was on the train back from Hanoi by 6am and was hoping to meet me at the Farmstay later, all being well. I had been sworn to secrecy about Caroline being in Dong Hoi as she was on her way to Phong Nha to surprise people and she had booked to stay for 1 night at the Phong Nha Farmstay. I’d said nothing and agreed to meet for lunch, so I got there early (cycled the short route) and was the only person by the pool aside from a rather warm Ben, who was moving furniture. When Poison_I_Vee (Caroline and the dog on the Himalayan) arrived I managed to get a video and watched her unpack the dog from her special doggy back pack – they looked hot!

Poison_I_Vee arriving at Phong Nha Farmstay

We decided to have lunch by the pool and I ordered the bun cha, Caroline ordered a salad and just a beef patty for her canine companion and we had a glass of white wine each. Veronika joined us for lunch then a few more people arrived in the afternoon to say hello to Caroline and Vee and I decided to do the sensible thing and cycle back home while I was still sober and have a shower and change for dinner later.

I got a lift back with Duyet and I was very sensible and didn’t have the pizza I wanted as my stomach had been dodgy most of the afternoon, even though I’d not had anything with gluten or dairy in. I had the beef in bamboo for dinner which I really enjoyed with red wine and we had all eaten by the time Tatas arrived, fresh from a business trip to Hanoi. The night finished with just Caroline, Multi, Tatas and me chatting on and trying to prevent Multi from riding his motorbike home shitfaced! We even had to pretend we were going home to convince him to leave and then we came back and had another bottle of wine – this confused the staff who also thought (hoped?) we had paid and were leaving! We had a good evening and Tatas stayed at mine, the rain was very heavy as we left but we still arranged to go to The Villas tomorrow to see Caroline again and hopefully meet for a cocktail – instead of a Margarita Monday we would have a Thirsty Thursday, perhaps!?

Phong Nha – 27th April

Phong Nha – 27th April

Tuesday 27th April wasn’t filled with positive vibes at all and it was quite a sobering day! I didn’t wake up until 7am when Captain Caveman left to go on his next Son Doong tour, the rain was still heavy and had been stormy through the night. The news about Corona here wasn’t great; worryingly a report of hotel staff in Hanoi testing positive after being in contact with quarantiners from India, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/935067/member-of-staff-at-hotel-tests-positive-for-covid-19.html
News of stricter measures again in a neighbouring country, Thailand:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210427/thailand-starts-stricter-covid19-shutdown-but-experts-say-not-enough/60585.html
While the Vietnamese Prime Minister stated he is expecting a spike in new cases and asks us all to be extra vigilant, more here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/935078/pm-calls-for-vigilance-against-covid-19.html
To further cause concern in my day I read that I now even had to second check my strawberries:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20210427/chinesepackaged-strawberries-found-smuggled-to-vietnams-da-lat-by-air/60601.html
As I started to catch up on writing my blog posts, because I was now 2 weeks behind, I heard bad news; Phuong’s Transfers had sold his vehicle and closed because he was struggling without customers. Phuong has been a big help and support to me for a long time now and I was sad for him – more and more businesses were finding it impossible to continue without the tourism. The bad news wasn’t confined to Vietnam either, today Turkey announced it would go into national lockdown from 29th April to 17th May and no alcohol could be bought or sold during this time! A lot of my Turkish friends and the businesses where we spend the winters would be suffering for even longer without tourism too. I’d only had toast for breakfast and for dinner I had a look what we had in the freezer – I decided on veggie rice in the rice cooker and got that on around 5pm. It was a relatively early night tonight as I was saving myself for a bit of a secret reunion tomorrow night!

Danang to Phong Nha – 26th April

Danang to Phong Nha – 26th April

Our Monday morning on 26th April started with our SE8 train from Danang to Dong Hoi being delayed by 30 minutes. We sat in the crowded train station in our masks and waited, then it was delayed further, meaning we didn’t get going until 01.35am and Captain Caveman certainly had on his grumpy trousers and was being mean. I decided not to bother talking to him any more as he was in an argumentative mood, because he didn’t get his takeaway. I was also not looking forward to the train journey because Captain Caveman had only been able to book top bunks which, even with fully functioning legs, was a struggle for me to get on. As we boarded the train the guard showed me a message asking if we wanted to get our own cabin but Captain Caveman said no, we were fine with top bunks. In our carriage on the 2 bottom bunks were a family of 2 adults and 2 kids so another guard asked if we wanted to take another carriage by ourselves but, again, Captain Caveman said no. My knee ached after climbing up but it wasn’t too bad, I had some painkillers and then tried to go to sleep. The family below us were fast asleep and quiet whereas Captain Caveman was snoring so loud that I got no sleep at all. Early in the morning I needed to pee and I really struggled to get down off the bed (it was harder than getting up) but I had to do it and I managed with difficulty to get back up again. I fell asleep about 5.30am, just as everyone else was starting to get up. The cases of Corona in Vietnam had started to creep up a bit and there were 13 today, meanwhile Turkey had overtaken the UK for total number of cases but were still lower for deaths. Vietnam was still relatively low in comparison but it was likely that the next wave could hit at any time.
Our driver was already waiting when we arrived at Dong Hoi train station but I needed the toilet and to meet Kimmie with my passport who had got me another visa extension done. I was now allowed to stay until the 9th May and the agent had previously quoted me $60, it ended up being $65, but she said next month would be $60. Captain Caveman was still grumpy but I was even mardier and so tired I could hardly function. The driver had been instructed to drop us off at the Glass House in Phong Nha and Captain Caveman was trying to insist that I could wait there until he’d seen off Howard’s Son Doong tour then he would drive me home on a rented motorbike, once he’d got one. I was having none of it and insisted he at least drop me on the highway and I would walk. I wanted a shower and a sleep, where I lived, which we were almost passing anyway. Eventually he agreed and I got home, still in a mood and desperate to go back to bed.

When Captain Caveman returned from Phong Nha just after 10am I had accidentally fallen asleep after my shower. There was no more snoozing to be had, though, because we were off to meet Hanh, a friend who I was meant to meet in Hoi An but she was in Phong Nha for a couple of weeks. We decided we would go to East Hill for an early lunch of BBQ chicken and sticky rice by motorbike, even though it isn’t very far from our place. I managed the steps up pretty well and Hanh was already there, ready for our early lunch. I decided to have a pepsi and this was the first time I noticed the odd sugary fizzy drink was creeping in to my diet – it always seems to happen when the hot weather comes. Captain Caveman did the honours of cutting up the hot chicken and we tucked in, all rather hungrily. As always, the chicken was excellent and the views were stunning, it was lovely to see Hanh, who we hadn’t seen since she left Phong Nha last year, when her Bun Cha restaurant had to close due to lack of customers. Captain Caveman had a shandy so I decided a strongbow would be nice and refreshing on such a hot day. The steps back down were still a bit harder to do but Hanh helped me, then we said our goodbyes, hoping to meet again and headed home before what looked like a storm brewing.

I had another short nap and then there was a huge downpour and a storm. Unfortunately Captain Caveman’s next Son Doong briefing was at 6pm so we shared the falafel salad (the one we brought all the way from Nomad’s Kitchen in Danang and was still really good) and then he had to venture out in the rain. He had been suffering terribly with hayfever too, since returning to Phong Nha, but luckily he had the motorbike rather than having to cycle the 9km there. While he was at work, the rain continued to pour down, it was bad enough for a frog to try to take shelter on Captain Caveman. The two-toed frog had tried to climb up his leg, maybe to take shelter under his shorts, but had to settle with a rest on his shoe! By the time Captain Caveman returned I was already in bed, all the excitement of Danang had worn me out!

Danang – 25th April

Danang – 25th April

We decided to take Captain Caveman for a breakfast at Pho Thin on Sunday 25th April, even though he rarely eats pho. It was my 3rd time and his first but we all enjoyed our pho bo very much. Captain Caveman was very impressed with the hotel too and loved the industrial feel and bridge artwork at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel.
In the Vietnamese news there were reports of increased risk of Corona outbreaks coming into Vietnam illegally and it was becoming a bit more concerning. Here’s the info:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/933140/health-minister-urges-localities-to-be-vigilant-for-covid-19-amid-regional-outbreaks.html

After a bit of a rest our next stop was to meet Des at Roadhouse for a cheap beer because he felt bad about last night. Roadhouse was a small place and we got there just as the friendly owner was opening up for the day. Captain Caveman had a draft pint of Huda, Des stuck with a bottle of Huda and I had a soft drink, until the next round when I went on to the red wine. We decided to order burgers and Captain Caveman hilariously actually ordered by saying he would have a ‘big black cock’ because he thought that’s what BBC stood for (it was Beef, Bacon, Cheese – OMG)! I ordered a single dad naked which was without the bread and some chips and cheese. All the food was tasty and really good value so it was a great recommendation from Des.

Next we went to meet Steve and June at Dirty Fingers and bumped in to some of the others who were already enjoying a drink. There was a BBQ on and a promise of a live band later but we already had plans for a Sunday dinner. June and I sat chatting while the boys talked about sports and we had some very nice wine before Captain Caveman and I had to go back to the hotel to pack and check out.

I’d arranged for us to have a late check out from Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel on Sunday 25th April but leave our bags in reception from 6pm, we planned to get the 00.35 train to Dong Hoi and so would be back before midnight to collect them. Hamish had arranged a table at The Nomad Kitchen for 14 of us for Sunday dinner and a rather merry Des had decided to join too – he was having a second go at his birthday celebration! Captain Caveman and I were the first to arrive and we took some photos of me outside with the angel wings and all the motorbikes in front of the painting. We ordered the carafes of wine, which were great value, for me, June and Captain Caveman. Steve and Des had beer, Hamish and Ania were next to arrive with wine and join the table. They usually come with their mates on a Sunday for the roast dinner and so they had asked Captain Caveman and I to join them to put it to the test. Unfortunately there was some short staffing issues that night but we didn’t particularly notice it as we put our order in first, most of us going for buffalo meat, June had chicken. The meat was gorgeous, so tender and the veg cooked well except for a couple of us having undercooked potatoes. This was sorted out though and we were given a couple more nicely cooked ones. The Yorkshire puddings were marvellous and I didn’t get a gluten reaction from them which was great. The portion sizes aren’t big but for 130,000vnd (£4) it’s not to be sniffed at. Captain Caveman even ordered a dessert of apple pie with cream which went down a treat! Because we were getting the train just after midnight we also decided to order a takeaway; Captain Caveman enjoyed the buffalo meat so much that he chose to have that in a sandwich, I ordered a falafel salad. The Nomad Kitchen closes at 10.30pm so we ordered the food for then but, unfortunately, Captain Caveman was told too late that there was no buffalo left and so he didn’t get a takeaway. Because he was drunk he wasn’t best pleased that he had not been told earlier and had a bit of a strop, shouting at Daniel the chef – which was a bit embarrassing! We said our goodbyes to June and Steve then left to join Hamish, Ania and Mik, at Oi Bar for one last ‘end of holiday’ drink. I had a vodka and coke to try to keep me awake and then it was time to go get our bags and head off to the station. We said our goodbyes to Hamish, Mik and Des before getting a Grab taxi with Ania back to Bridges for our bags. It had been a fantastic week and I was grateful for all our friends’ hospitality and welcome, as well as very sad to be leaving. What a week, I think I was going to need a few days off to recover!

Danang – 24th April

Danang – 24th April

Captain Caveman arrived at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel at 5.30am on Saturday 24th April after a long bus ride which he did manage to get some sleep on. We met Hamish and Ania and went for breakfast at a place called Cohibar. I had bacon, beans and potatoes, Captain Caveman had a croque madame, Ania a chicken salad and Hamish chicken nuggets. The breakfast was ok, service a little slow but it was nice enough and we got caught up on the plans for the rest of the weekend. We were meant to be getting the bus back on Monday but we decided to change our plans to leave Sunday night, by train instead. Captain Caveman was concerned the bus might not get him back in time for work if it happened to be late and I was glad to not be taking a bus as I really don’t like them and prefer the train.

Our next stop was a quick drink (or two) in Vertigo Bar where Mik joined us, Hamish had to go to do something, and then on to Taco Ngon, a place that had been on our list to visit for a while. I had 3 tacos, Ania and Captain Caveman just had 2 and they were really good, especially washed down with a very well made Margarita.

It was Des’s birthday today so I had organised a get together that night at 7 Bridges Taproom where I’d booked a table on the roof. When we arrived the table hadn’t been reserved at all, despite me booking with the manager and Steve double checking, so they dragged some tables together and we made the most of the seating situation under the turbo fans which messed up everyone’s hair. A few of us had been before so knew the type of place it was but I think some of the party, who’d not been before, were disappointed there wasn’t any cheaper drinks or offers on, there was even a sign saying they no longer do any drinks offers. I’d not even thought of this because I don’t usually drink beer and am used to paying a premium for wine instead. It was a big mix of people who we knew from Phong Nha who all were currently staying in Danang and we had a good laugh. Most of the crowd had left to go to eat before the birthday boy had arrived, as he was working until 9pm. The rest of us watched the dragon bridge breathe fire and there was a parade on the streets below which made it tricky for Diana to get here and even harder for Des who finally arrived all stressed and in a bad mood. June, Steve, Captain Caveman and I ordered one of the gigantic pizzas, which were very impressive but I just had 1 slice then spent the rest of the night going to the toilet. I only chose the venue because I thought it would suit everyone else (beer and pizza) but it didn’t and was a bit of a none-party in the end, especially as my intolerance to gluten seemed to definitely be back) still it was good to meet up with friends I’d met in Phong Nha in Danang and I know Captain Caveman, June and Steve are big fans of the 7 Bridges Taproom. The most memorable thing about the night for me was the scary man, or the pigs, in the toilets and the 3 red wines I had! Going down the stairs from the 4th floor to ground level was not as difficult as it had been in recent months and I was getting a bit quicker. We toyed with the idea of going somewhere else to celebrate Des’s birthday but decided to call it a night around 11.30pm – not bad for a weekend night in Danang.

Video of the dragon breathing fire

Photo and video credit – Karl & Captain Caveman

Hoi An and Danang – 23rd April

Hoi An and Danang – 23rd April

It was incredibly hot in Hoi An on Friday 23rd April and I was sad to be leaving Caroline’s and Hoi An this afternoon. Before I went back to Danang, Caroline took me on her motorbike to the Roving Chill House for breakfast. It was situated in the rice fields so was looking really pretty and, to be on the safe side, I had a fruit plate and a peach tea for breakfast. Caroline had avocado and egg on toast and a coffee and she was also planning on a trip to Danang today with Neil. I was impressed that I managed to get on and off the big bike without too much hassle and it was super comfy.
We went home and packed my stuff up before going to meet Melissa at Sounds of Silence, a cute cafe on the beach. It was strange to still see the damage of the floods from last year and there were workmen trying to rebuild the beach side. I had a fresh coconut while looking out over the sea and Aaliyah made me a swan from paper. Caroline and Neil joined us before their bike trip and let Aaliyah have a sit on Caroline’s bike, which she loved. I was meant to meet old friends, Ben and Hilary but their plans in Hoi An changed. I said my goodbyes to Neil, who we hoped to see in Tam Hai next month, and Caroline, who would become Poison_I_Vee tomorrow when she set off on her exciting road trip with Vee, the dog. You can check out her adventures on Instagram here: https://instagram.com/poison_i_vee400cc?igshid=zgu7641ek8n8

I arrived back at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel on Friday 23rd April for the weekend, to a nice welcome and to check in to a bigger room for not much extra – 550,000vnd per night (£17). I was very impressed with the hotel and my room which, this time, had a sea view and a much bigger bathroom. Captain Caveman would be out of Son Doong later today and had a ticket for the 8pm bus to come to Danang for the weekend. After checking in, putting my washing in to the hotel’s great laundry service and eating some veggie rice and soup from room service I met up with Hamish and Ania.

That afternoon I had another important appointment at the opticians as I had noticed my eyesight was getting worse for distance and my glasses were very worn out. At the opticians they were very thorough and I had good news, my eyes were now both the same prescription (-3.25) and I chose some new glasses, this time I went darker. Unfortunately they would have to post them to me as they wouldn’t be ready before we went back home, but that was fine.
Back at the hotel we got ready and were off to a small BBQ restaurant which Captain Caveman and I had tried and failed to go to before. They only open at weekends and do a limited amount of food which when it’s gone, it’s gone. Hamish had organised it well and we had a big table at Eazy Pickins where I joined him, Ania, Mik, Darran, Kendra, Bryan, and a couple I’d not met before. The food was unbelievably good and we all forced as much down as possible before going for one more drink at Oi Bar. I had a couple of glasses of wine and Hamish got everyone a shot but got told off because we were all too full for shots. It was a great night but Hamish, Ania and I left the others at Oi bar and went back to the hotel. I didn’t want to be hungover when Captain Caveman arrived at stupid o’clock in the morning and my ankle was a bit swelled up from a lot of walking today.

Photo credit – Caroline and Melissa

Hoi An – 22nd April

Hoi An – 22nd April

I had a lovely day in Hoi An on Thursday 22nd April with Caroline. I’d slept much later than I usually do and so our first stop was for breakfast at Rosie’s. We met Neil who had just bought a new motorbike and so they were chatting on about parts and planning a visit to the Harley Davidson shop in Danang. Neil came up with the Poison Ivy song being used as her kind of backing track and he and I sang it while waiting for our breakfast to arrive. It was really hot and sweaty so I probably shouldn’t have gone for the English breakfast, I’d come to regret the choice of sausage later. Caroline had the breakfast burritos which looked good and Neil a salad bowl with extra chicken which was a better choice than mine. Back at Caroline’s we had a much needed dip in the pool which was so lovely, we even had a glass of fizz while we swam. I had a bit of trouble getting out of the pool and ended up having to go backwards because the tiles on the side were too slippy, but she did have steps and a bath mat so all was good.

Caroline had been invited to a friend’s house party for sunset, my stomach wasn’t great after the sausages so I had a little nap and then gave belly rubs to River. Around 7.30pm Caroline came home and we decided to get a taxi to the old town for dinner. I was shocked at how quiet it was as we walked from the main street towards the river front, something I couldn’t have done last time I was here. Caroline suggested we eat at a delightful little place called Cabanon where she introduced me to the chef and owner, Gilles. We decided to have a bottle of fizz and a half baked camembert to share for starters, Caroline also ordered the pâté which I don’t normally eat. We were quite hungry because we had not eaten since breakfast and I’d taken a Gastropulgite prior to dinner to help prevent any stomach problems. The starters were fantastic and I even tried, and enjoyed, some of the pâté. For mains we decided to share our dishes of carbonara and chicken cordon bleu and the food was so good! A man on the next table heard Caroline talk about her forthcoming motorbike ride and went off to buy her a bandana for wearing underneath her helmet to keep her hair good and prevent a sweaty head – how nice of him! Back home we had a nightcap, of more fizz, while singing and dancing to music – I’d had a great time on my last night in Hoi An.

Danang and Hoi An – 21st April

Danang and Hoi An – 21st April

Wednesday 21st April, as it fell this year, was an important day in Vietnam and is considered a holiday day. However with the risks of another wave of Corona there was likely to be more restrictions being put in place than usual. Read more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20210420/vietnamese-flock-to-festival-shrug-off-outbreak-risk/60474.html
Our last breakfast together was at Pho Thin again because we all enjoyed the pho there so much and it would be the last meal with Tatas. She had a pick up car coming at 11.30am to shuttle her to the bus to Phong Nha which should get her home for about 6pm that night. We all said how much of a good time we had coming to visit and we hoped to do it again as soon as we could all get dates that would allow it. I also decided I would get a Grab car at the same time as I had plans to go to Hoi An for a couple of days. When the car arrived, Tatas said her goodbyes and got in, only to find it was actually my car – I would have been so annoyed to have been sent back to Phong Nha instead of Tatas! I said farewell until the weekend and off I went to Hoi An to meet a friend for lunch.

I arrived at Veggie Hut in Hoi An at 12.15pm and ordered a pot of jasmine tea while I waited for Melissa and her family to arrive. I decided to have fresh spring rolls and some sweet potatoes, Aaliyah ordered the veggie moussaka with the intention of saving half for dinner and Melissa had the chocolate cherry cake. All the family were looking tanned and healthy and were enjoying living in Hoi An. They were our neighbours back at Elements Collection when they lived in Phong Nha (they even moved in with us during the floods in October 2020 for a couple of days) and they missed the Phong Nha Farmstay and all their friends there. When the food came mine was too spicy as it had something like kimchee in the rolls but Aaliyah ate all of her food because she really enjoyed it. Elijah and Rimaha shared a Snickers ice-cream dessert which looked really good. It was really good to see them and have a good chat about all the stuff they had been doing since moving here. The lunch meet up went quick and, because my Grab app no longer works, I asked for the staff to call me a taxi for my next appointment.

My taxi driver dropped me outside Citrus Spa in Hoi An where I had booked in for some waxing. I’d been to this salon before and knew they were good so had booked in for the works! I also fancied a bit of reflexology which I hoped to fit in at the end. I’d arranged to meet Caroline, who had kindly invited me to stay at her place in An Bang, Hoi An. When I came downstairs from having my waxing done, this time no need to bum shuffle, she was already in having a full body massage, which meant I had time for my foot massage. It was fantastic and I felt so relaxed after it that I could have had a snooze but there was not enough time. Caroline and I had a hug and paid our bills, I was surprised to get a big discount and paid less than 800,000vnd (£25) for everything.

Next we went to Hill Station in Hoi An for a cheeky prosecco and a selection of cheeses with some bread and gluten free crackers – it was delightful! After the Hill Station we decided to go to the wine shop to pick up a few bottles so we could go back to Caroline’s place and have a night in with the pets, who I was also looking forward to seeing, and a good natter. We got the prosecco open and had a really good chat, I was pleased I’d decided to stay at Caroline’s as we did have a good laugh and it was nice to just chill out and eat some gluten free crisps and salsa dip. We also reinvented beer koozies (insulated beer cooler holders) by fashioning them to fit our wine glasses so that we didn’t have to be philistines by putting ice in our wine!
My bedroom was really lovely and comfortable with an ensuite, balcony and a sliding door to the pool so I had a great sleep that night!

Danang & Hoi An – 20th April

Danang & Hoi An – 20th April

As Tatas was only here for a short time, we decided we should make the most of it on Tuesday 20th April and our friends had great recommendations for us. Captain Caveman had returned from Son Doong yesterday but gone back in today and I’d not had chance to speak to him before his next tour. Today the plan was to have a relaxing day at Hoi An Silk Beach Club with Tatas, who was also working while next to the pool. Transport is so much cheaper in Danang than in Phong Nha and was only 200,000vnd (£6.20) from Danang to Hoi An, about 45 minutes away. When we arrived we were the only people there and so we had the pool to ourselves. I was so hungover that I ordered a can of Fanta and some french fries for brunch and I’d forgotten my swimmers. As there was no one around I went swimming in my undies and was able to hoist myself out of the pool relatively ok, but not gracefully.

Once back at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel we had a shower and change before we went off for a full body massage at Herbal Spa which Kendra had also recommended. The 90 minute aromatherapy full body massage was looking like the best deal for what I wanted and I asked them to concentrate more on my shoulders and feet and they also asked about injuries and pressure which was great as usually massages in Vietnam are brutally strong. There was a special offer on of 150,000vnd (£4.65) for 60 minutes or 240,000vnd (£7.44) for 90 minutes including hot stones if you wanted them (I opted for it without). It was very relaxing and so professional, one of the best massages I’ve ever had and we even got a cute outfit to wear to protect modesty – what a lovely treat!
After the massage we were given free soup, herbal tea and coconut crackers, which you could also buy and were gluten free. I was so relaxed that I felt like going back to the hotel to go to bed but we had plans for Tatas’ last night of her mini-break. I made a note to self that I definitely would be staying off the alcohol tonight though!

After the 3rd shower of the day at the hotel, we were off out for dinner. It was Tatas’ last night so she got to choose where she would like to eat. We arrived at The Nomad Kitchen in An Thuong and ordered some drinks while looking at the menu. It was a shame that I’d decided not to drink as they had some decent wine for a good price.
For my dinner I had the fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce for 110,000vnd (£3.40) and it was absolutely amazing. Tatas had a buffalo dinner, while the rest of the table had dishes which included a side order of buffalo, bacon croquettes, and falafel salad. The food was really good and Daniel, the chef, is incredibly skilled. When a couple of us ordered the white chocolate tart for dessert I asked if I could have an extra price of fish for my pudding instead, it was that good and even came with extra vinegar. I could only drink sparkling water as I was honestly begging for mercy, I needed to remember I am much older than all of these party animals! Tonight I remembered that the AC needs to be turned on again after taking out the key card and I settled down for a relatively early night about 11.30pm, while Tatas carried on her night at Oi bar, Emma’s and Shamerock. Tomorrow Tatas and I would be checking out of this lovely hotel but only she was off back to Phong Nha – I had more adventures planned!

Phong Nha to Danang – 19th April

Phong Nha to Danang – 19th April

My alarm went off at 4am on Monday 19th April as I was off on a holiday within a holiday. Tatas was already on the bus, which was delayed a bit and would drop her in Danang at 5.30am but I find bus travel uncomfortable and dangerous so I had opted to get the train. Phuong picked me up at 4.30am and we drove to Dong Hoi train station. We were early for my 5.42am train and as we all waited in the station, masked up, it became delayed by 30 minutes. I was booked in to Coach 2 on a soft seat which was half the price of a bed and surprisingly comfy. I had 2 seats to myself until we got to Hue and managed to nod off to sleep a little bit.

I finally arrived an hour late in to Danang at 12.30 and my driver was waiting for me, carrying a board with my name on. On arrival at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel, in the Son Tra area of Danang, I was very pleasantly surprised. Even though I had booked a cosy double, it was still really good and not as small as I expected. The room had an industrial look with a picture of a bridge – Captain Caveman would love it.

I’d not eaten anything at all yet so I was starving and luckily Hamish and Ania were ready to take Tatas and I to a really good pho restaurant, a short Grab ride away. Pho Thin has great pho bo and was so tasty and filling, it’s a well known eatery here in Danang and also there is one in Hanoi.
After breakfast/lunch the 4 of us went to a bar called Section 30 in the An Thuong area of Danang to meet Kendra and a few of her friends who were all using the co-working space upstairs. We tried the cherry beer which was a bit too nice but I didn’t want to drink too much of it before my rather important appointment at 3.30pm.

It had been 1 year, 3 months, 1 week and 1 day since my last hairdresser’s visit so I was off to Ly’s Salon for a 3.30pm hair appointment – I was so excited! Kendra had recommended this place and so I had booked for the full cut, colour, head massage and styling. Ania and Kendra were coming at 5pm and Tatas decided to come with me for a bit of pampering. We walked it using Google maps, which neither of us are good with, and ended up having to walk across a building site and then still got the wrong place as they had moved. The place was small but professional looking and they had lots of activity. It felt so good to be finally getting a hair colour and then a good cut, but still keeping it long. The head massage was done in a separate room in the dark and it was absolutely amazing. Kendra and Ania came after work, Kendra treated us to a bottle of bubbles to drink while we were getting our new hairdos and it felt like being in a salon back in the western world, it was that good.

Once we’d finished it was time to go for a cheeky drink with the lads and Hamish had promised Tatas and I that he would take us to one of his favourite spots for a good value steak dinner. There was a group of us for dinner at Vertigo in An Thuong, Danang and, of course, it involved lots of wine, Hamish even got everyone a Jaeger shot before the food! Most of us ordered the steak because Hamish had recommended it and had suggested it could be the best in town so we were very much looking forward to it. A random stranger arrived and apologised for being late as he thought he was going to be joining us but it turned out he was meeting the bloke behind us but we all had a good laugh at that. My steak was perfectly cooked, very tasty and did not disappoint – I was impressed because the bar we were eating was nothing fancy.

After too much red wine we paid up and decided to head to Oi bar where we sat outside and had more drinks and the Tequila shots were on the go! They ran out of salt and lime at one stage and we had to improvise before apparently going to a bar called Emma’s, for some reason I don’t remember being at the bar although I do recall buying some pork and mushroom steamed buns and eating those, plus insisting every one try them. My stomach was fine and I even managed a drunken visit to ‘Shamerock’ where we got to dance the night away to some cool tunes, as Des became the DJ. I even met the owners and tried to get a few of the regulars to have a dance with us. It was such a great night and when we eventually got back to the hotel we had to ring the door bell to be let in – I was so chuffed with this! I wasn’t so pleased when I woke up, fully clothed at 4am, lights on and no Aircon feeling ever so parched! I can definitely say the first day of my holiday within a holiday was a huge success and Tatas had really enjoyed herself too. Hamish and Ania were the perfect hosts and their friends were welcoming and good fun.

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of April

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of April

The tannoy was back up to loud for the weekend at 5.30am on Friday 16th April. Captain Caveman was off to his next Son Doong tour and Tatas had confirmed she was going to be able to go to Danang on Sunday after her Tu Lan trip and was getting the overnight bus, we also agreed to meet up at The Villas for pizza night later, today she was off to lunch and karaoke with her customers.
Bich helped me out by asking Duyet to get me some eye drops for my irritated eye, he came over to check my eye and what kind of eye-drops I needed, which was nice. I ate peanut M&Ms for breakfast, gluten free quinoa crackers and an apple for lunch then started watching Series 2 of Love Island on Netflix. I snacked on dragon fruit and then made mushroom and egg fried rice for dinner because the oven had broken at The Villas so pizza night was cancelled, which also meant I didn’t meet Tatas there either.

I decided to cycle to the Farmstay on Saturday 17th April for breakfast of pho bo, soda water and a green tea. Bluey had to have her tyres pumped up but she made the ride there in 8 minutes 37 seconds, which wasn’t bad. I stayed at the Farmstay for a lunch of fresh spring rolls with pork and prawn and a ginger beer, beside the pool which was nice. My journey back was just 8 minutes 31 seconds and it was very hot and sticky! Later, I opened a bottle of wine and had a couple of glasses then some sourdough with laughing cow cheese-spread, which made me sick again – it was definitely Gluten and/or dairy! I had an early night watching Love Island, hoping the gluten intolerance would go away.

My stomach problem was back with a vengeance at 4am on Sunday 18th April and I felt terrible. By breakfast time I forced dragon fruit, water and jasmine tea in then rested a lot. By lunch time I had been really ill and hoped by eating gluten free quinoa crackers I might recover. I finished off Love Island and did some writing but the furthest I ventured was on the balcony to admire the views.
I saw the Corona stats were not looking good for Turkey as the number of cases rose to just 173,000 less than the UK and the deaths were 92,000 less, but they were catching up fast and with less progress on vaccines so far.
By dinner time I was feeling better so I ate a masaman curry which I added a couple of carrots, a potato and a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter to before packing for my ‘holiday within a holiday’ . Tatas messaged me to say she had already left Phong Nha on the bus, 30 minutes earlier than planned, which would arrive in Danang at around 3am. I would join her tomorrow for a bit of an adventure!