While Captain Caveman had a day working in Hang Va on Monday 5th July I was awake at stupid o’clock wondering if I would actually be booking that flight to Hanoi or unpacking my suitcase today. I didn’t bother with any breakfast because I had arranged for a group of us to go to my leaving lunch at East Hill at 11.30am. I didn’t get a message about my visa so I messaged Bich, to see if she could help find out what was happening, she replied to say that there had been no further update and so I was to go ahead and assume I had to leave. I was a bit shocked because I had hoped for a few more days at least but I started sorting through my toiletries and bits and bobs to add to my packed luggage. At 09.02am my phone rang and it was Bich, I’d answered it within 5 seconds and was listening carefully as she said that she had got a call back, but then went on with a little story about someone not having any signal and the WiFi being rubbish. Apparently somewhere in the conversation she said I could stay a bit longer and that I should send my passport off to request another visa extension. I went downstairs to make a cup of tea and Veronika came in, when she asked how it was going, and I told her, I think we were both a bit shocked, but pleased! After chatting for a bit I realised I’d probably better cancel the East Hill leaving party but it was already 10am and some people had arranged to come in their lunch break. I decided we should go ahead as planned but I updated the Facebook invite to a ‘staying’ do instead!

I had rather foolishly chosen to cycle to East Hill for my ‘staying not leaving’ lunch and the heat was pretty relentless. I’d turned down lifts because I had planned on it being Bluey’s last trip out and I even chatted to her as I pumped up her tyres, reassuring her that she might be going on short rides for a bit longer, all being well. Astonishingly, I was almost the first to arrive despite Tatas saying her and the Funny Monkey’s mob were going there early for some photo taking. Phuong, Hong and his 2 little kids had all come on the one motorbike and were just getting off when I got there and I parked Bluey in the shade. We went up the steps and had a bit of trouble finding a big enough table with a fan, Tatas was there next closely followed by Duyet and the 3 ladies from Elements. I asked Tatas to let them know I was no longer leaving just yet and they were so happy it was heartwarming. Shannon arrived and we got seated at a big table and Tatas ordered 2 chicken combos to start us off. Momma D was the next to arrive with Kevin, the dog and we decided to order beers, I had a pepsi then Hien arrived. The next people to arrive were Ly Ly, Moon, Ngày and Leonard (who’d impressively managed the steps with a walking stick) from Funny Monkey’s, just in time for the chicken arriving and a second load of beers (cider for me). They presented me with a gift of gluten free cake which I didn’t look at the note until later but it was really sweet of them. We ordered 2 more chickens and I was worried the Elements team weren’t eating enough and went to sit at that end of the table to check they were getting stuck in. Moon even snitched and said our gardening lady was eating like a small bird and we said she should have more! Leonard, who’s 80 years old, was his usual amusing self and I was happy to learn that he had introduced Tatas and the Funny Monkeys mob to an impromptu Pina Colada night where everyone had got rather merry last night. We played a really funny game, brought by Funny Monkeys, which was hilarious to see some people’s reactions: does anyone remember this?
There were much cheers shouted and a few photos with a few drinks but I stuck to 2 ciders because I had to cycle back home. We had a really good time and I was so glad it wasn’t my leaving party because we all wanted to be able to do it again another time and for it to be a happy time, not a sad one. I had another leaving, now staying, party for other friends booked in for tonight at the Farmstay but first I cycled the 10 minutes back home in over 40°C sunshine. I was a hot sweaty mess when I got back to Elements and I went to sit with the staff to thank them for coming for BBQ chicken. After a cool shower I got in the pool and then chilled in the shade of the balcony.

Captain Caveman was back from his Hang Va day earlier than expected and we had a drink by the pool. That evening, mainly because Captain Caveman had been working I’d organised the 2nd of my leaving events. Duyet drove Captain Caveman and I to the Farmstay in the Ural and it was really good fun – my leg was so much better since I last got in and out of the sidecar too. Trang, Andrew and Chung Son were already in the pool and they said they would come over to join us in a bit so we sat at our nicely reserved table with Stu, Max and Jack. I gave my passport to the Phong Nha Farmstay receptionist so that it could be arranged to take it to immigration in Dong Hoi to hopefully get me my next visa stamp. The 2 Farmstay guests from last night had heard my good news and came over to congratulate me on not leaving Vietnam yet and they joined our party as we took advantage of the Happy Hour margaritas – the Farmstay had put them on 2 for 1 as a special for tonight from 5.30-7pm. Trang and the boys came over and ordered some food, Captain Caveman ordered a pizza as a starter and we had more drinks with Veronika, Bich and Momma D. For dinner I think Captain Caveman had something western (but I don’t remember what) and I had duck a l’orange which was beautiful. Having already had 3 margaritas I then had a glass of red wine and a whiskey. Shannon joined us later when she finished work and it was a nice civilised evening and a good excuse to have dinner at the Farmstay again. At the end of the night our guests from Hanoi had said if anything went wrong with my visa extension application while they were in Son Doong that I could have a lift with them up to Hanoi when they got out on the 10th so I could fly out if I needed to, which was very nice and we had hugs and kisses all round. Duyet picked us up in the big bus and I was pretty tired when I got to bed, it’s the most I’d been out in ages.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman, Hien, Moon.

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