Phong Nha – 18th April 2020

There was some good news on Saturday 18th April; the bottle of wine from Phong Nha Underground had made it home with me last night unscathed and I had no idea how. I, on the other hand, had not escaped without injury. Captain Caveman had to help me to the toilet because I couldn’t put my right foot down and my arse was killing me! My knee hurt and my ankle was a bit swollen and I had puffy toes. Captain Caveman strapped me up, gave me ice and a leg rest and went off in search of painkillers and compression sock things. I could hardly remember what had happened until I tried to sit up and the pain in my bum bone was quite bad, I even had to have breakfast in bed, on a tray.
There’s always someone worse off and so I still checked the Corona virus updates and checked in on my app to say I was healthy! Vietnam had 21 more recoveries which was great news and meant 73% had recovered already. The UK recoveries now were showing as ‘no data’ but there had been 14,500 deaths and 108,000 cases with lockdown looking to continue for a few more weeks. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that we had left over Indian food for lunch and then we decided to watch a film. Captain Caveman put on The Outsider but I fell asleep and missed what it was about. It was so quiet in town that a goat had wandered up to the door of Namaste and Raj had filmed it and sent it to us – so funny.
In the evening we ordered our food from Phong Nha Underground and watched another film, Lost Girls, which wasn’t bad. Captain Caveman was back on the beer but for me I think alcohol would have to wait a while!! Well, at least until I could navigate to the toilet (the one which isn’t broken) and get a shower unaided!

Saigon and Phong Nha – 4th April

Saigon and Phong Nha – 4th April

Having had a lovely deep sleep, Captain Caveman was awake before 6am on Sunday 4th April. I was still incredibly tired, having had very little sleep and took a few minutes to understand when Captain Caveman said our flight was delayed. We were booked on the 12.20 from Saigon back to Dong Hoi which was now due to leave at 14.30, giving us an extra 2 hours. We’d already arranged to meet friends at Lubu for breakfast at 8.30am so we stuck with the original plan and it just meant we could take it more leisurely. A couple of friends had to cancel but still on the guest list were Keith from Grimsby (who got back from Phong Nha late last night) and Andrea, who also brought her friend, Anne. We had packed, checked out of the lovely Common Inn and got a Grab taxi to the restaurant, where it turned out we had been before for tapas a few years ago. The food was really great and I had the best pot of earl grey tea and a bacon sandwich I’d had in a long time. At Lubu there is a free Bloody Mary included in the breakfast which the others all had and Captain Caveman even had a second breakfast of a buttered crumpet and I tasted it, I loved it. I’d been eating gluten all weekend without any problem but for some reason both Captain Caveman and I had bad stomachs after breakfast and he had to pop to a chemist for imodium.

We said our goodbyes to everyone after a lovely breakfast and got our Grab taxi to the airport. Just as we were about to board the plane a massive downpour came, I heard it on the roof first but Captain Caveman reckoned it was the sound of the planes! Typically, I hadn’t brought a rain jacket so it was a good job there was a bus to the plane, there was a lot of pushing and shoving up the steps and I eventually got sat down on the back seat.

Captain Caveman’s video of the rain at Saigon airport

Our original flight from Saigon on Sunday 4th April should have been landing in Dong Hoi just before 2pm. I had arranged for Kimmie, my visa agent, to meet me as we landed and so had to reschedule her as well as Captain Caveman having to change our pick up car. Luckily our vehicle was picking up some Oxalis customers who were also on our flight and so we were able to get the same car (for free) and get Captain Caveman back in time for his Son Doong briefing at Oxalis Home. It did mean that I had to get dropped off along the way, instead of going home to shower or change and, as luck would have it, another night out was on the horizon. It was Hamish and Ania’s last night in Phong Nha, they had decided to leave earlier than intended so we had picked the ideal spot for a bit of a leaving do – at the Lake House.
I had thought I’d be late but it turned out I was early and ordered some fried rice to line my stomach with before the shenanigans started. Tham and Tony, the Lake House owners, joined me for a chat and it was reassuring to hear that Captain Caveman and I may have been out of town but we were still being talked about! Tham insisted that we had moved in with Shannon, Stu and the kids and would not have it that we hadn’t – the guy who told her is apparently more reliable than one of the people involved. Tony and I found it funny and were still laughing as Hamish and Ania arrived. They had been on a lively one the previous night and were feeling a bit delicate so we all had to have a soft drink while we waited for Tatas to arrive. She arrived, wearing a really nice dress and ready to party – we were both going to miss Hamish and Ania! They were an entertaining couple that was for sure and we chatted about meeting up again in the not so distant future. Tatas and I got a bottle of the cheapest (but still very good) red wine, the others went for a nice bottle of white wine. Everyone but Tatas decided to have the Australian beef steak and, for 275,000vnd (£8.53), it is fantastic. Tequilas were requested and poor Tham brought 2 in martini glasses thinking that’s how much you get in a shot! In the end Tony took over and just brought the whole bottle out. It was a brilliant night and obviously got a bit messy. We had to wake the security guard up to sort out a taxi home and the waitress took Tatas home, we had had such a laugh and I had limited myself to the small shot glass for my Tequila, in case I’d had to walk home! When we came to pay Tony insisted he pay for the tequilas and would not let us leave until we finished the whole bottle, even though he had an interview tomorrow and his wife had long since gone to bed! Captain Caveman was pleased I was getting a taxi home as it meant he could go straight home after his briefing and have a relatively early night before his next trip to Son Doong tomorrow. Because he had cycled Bluey to the Glass House on the morning of the 1st April, she was still there and so he rode her home that night, thinking I would need her while he was gone for my exercise routine.

Saigon – 3rd April

Saigon – 3rd April

Captain Caveman was awake at 5am on Saturday 3rd April, slipping on his cycling attire and getting excited for his forthcoming participation in a 66km cycle route in the Tri An reservoir area. I had the day to myself and had arranged to meet a few different friends who I was trying to coordinate in to the one meeting place but failing.
In the Vietnamese news it was officially announced that there would be flights from Vietnam to Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan starting this week, but it was still only possible to book the return journey if you are Vietnamese or have a company sponsor as an expert, not to be used for tourism. More info here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/its-official-vietnam-resumes-international-commercial-flights-tickets-now-available/
Thao Dien is District 2 but the people I wanted to meet up with were in either District 1 or 7 and they were a bit reluctant/didn’t have time to come to where I was. I really liked the area we were staying in and had a list of places I wanted to eat at so my first meal of the day was at Marcel Gourmet Burger for lunch. It was a very short walk from Common Inn but because the last time I had gone past it, it had felt further away, I actually missed the turning and walked twice as far. When I arrived it was fairly busy so I sat on another high chair in the corner and ordered the blue cheese burger with French fries and homemade lemonade. As my food arrived an English bloke had started having a work related telephone meeting and he obviously wanted the whole room to hear how important he thought he was – I hate people who have to work loudly in cafes, what is wrong with people!? It went on for the whole hour I was there but I still enjoyed my food and would definitely eat there again. After a very filling meal I walked back in the hottest part of the day for a lay down and to watch The Serpent on Netflix.

I missed an invite, in the afternoon, to a cafe called Kashew which has vegan cheese so that went on my list to try next time but I did bump into one of Captain Caveman’s cycling mates in Bia Craft. I had regretted not trying the cherry beer yesterday so had stopped off for a couple where Neil and his mate Mark were drinking. After my beer I walked to try another recommended place called Union Jack’s, with the aim of Captain Caveman joining me for their famous fish and chips. He had finished the cycling, had a few beers and was now on his way back to the hotel for a shower so I told him to hurry up or we would be late to the gig later. I ordered a Bramble (cocktail) and was surprised at how good it was, by the time Captain Caveman arrived he was late and very sunburned and merry. We ordered cod and chips straight away, him with mushy peas and tatar sauce, me with a slice of bread and butter and I had another Bramble. They didn’t have non-brew condiment vinegar so I had the malt vinegar and I have to say the fish was as good as a lot I’ve had in the UK, the chips were good but less greasy than in England. I had to race mine down, Captain Caveman was already good at eating fast and then we got a Grab taxi to the venue so we could buy a ticket and reserve the seats.

At Cafe de Stagiaires we were a bit early to get to the rooftop but we only had to wait a few minutes, pay the ticket price of 200,000vnd (£6.20) each and navigate the oddly structured staircase – I couldn’t have walked up them a few months ago! The bar situation was a bit complicated and resulted in a long wait with staff stood about but unable to serve because of the ticket and payment process but eventually we got beers, only to realise there was table service from a bloke who looked more like a guest than staff (it’s a sign I’m getting old). Chris and Huong arrived and we had a great night, the music was really good and we were giving the ball a right old kick until Chris noticed Captain Caveman having a crafty nap! Because of the boozing and bicycling it looked like Captain Caveman was done in and so we waited until the grand finale of the band before planning our exit. Chris and I recognised the last song which all the Vietnamese people seemed to enjoy, only to realise it was a version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ – hilarious! I reluctantly said goodbye, with promises to come back again for more fun nights out and I managed to navigate the unusual staircase by holding on to Captain Caveman, thus holding up a big load of people behind us. I really liked the venue and would definitely come back again, I even decided we should walk it back to the hotel rather than mess about with a Grab but we got a little bit lost. Before I even got to bed Captain Caveman was fast asleep, fully clothed and snoring and I could not get him to move or stop snoring – I was in for a sleepless night!

Saigon – 2nd April

Saigon – 2nd April

After a big week of eating and drinking at the end of March, beginning of April, I was astounded to find I had lost weight when I stepped on the hotel room scales on Friday 2nd April. I had lost 3kg since I had last got weighed (2 weeks ago) and I was so excited about that. Captain Caveman had gone to meet a friend for coffee so I had a chance to relax but I made a mental note to get him to check the scales were working by seeing if he weighed any differently to normal (he checked later and the scales were probably correct). The Amanaki Saigon Boutique Hotel, in District 1, was very nice with lovely staff, a great shower and environmentally friendly products so it was a pity that we were only staying there 1 night really, we checked out at noon and got a Grab taxi to our lunch stop.

I’d suggested we could have a curry for lunch (we had eaten so much yesterday that we didn’t have breakfast) and Captain Caveman had on his list of recommended places an ideal spot, walking distance from our next hotel in District 2 (Thao Dien). We arrived at Baba’s kitchen, sat in a corner with our luggage, perused the extensive menu and ordered a couple of Saigon Red beers. Captain Caveman ordered onion bhajis to start and we shared those, then we had masala dosa for him and a chicken tikka masala with a chapati and plain rice for me. The food was amazing and the beers refreshingly cold on a hot day so we ordered another. The staff were great, I even got just the right level of spice for my meal and we were so full afterwards that I was needing a rest before our next lot of activities.

Captain Caveman had booked us in at the Common Inn hotel, in the Thao Dien area of Saigon, for a couple of nights so we walked there from Baba’s Kitchen. The receptionist was friendly and had good English so we chatted for a bit and I signed some paperwork. The room was small but with enough storage and a comfy bed so I was pleased, it’s location was also great for me to walk around by myself when Captain Caveman was busy. After unpacking, including the bottle of Israeli wine Captain Caveman received from Hung last night, we had a bit of a rest (I maybe had a little nannan nap) and then we had a short walk to Bia Craft on the way to meet our friend, Andrea. Captain Caveman and I met Andrea at Pasteur Street Brewery in Thao Dien, another short walk away, where I managed to sit on a high stool for the second day in a row – I even had a couple of actual beers which were great and the manager came across friendly and welcoming. Andrea and I had arranged to go for an Italian meal while Captain Caveman went to watch Saigon United play football, with Scott. I’d chosen to dine at Pendalasco (the Italian place recommended by Mauro, the Italian) and it was just a short walk away from the pub. Andrea chose a nice bottle of red wine for us to share and we ordered a mixture of foods which Andrea insisted I choose. Our shared starter of prosciutto and melon was so tasty but light and we shared a couple of delicious main courses; beef rib with tomato salad and a walnut and gorgonzola gnocchi which was fantastic.
As Andrea was joining the cycling event the next day too we didn’t want a late night so we got a taxi to drop me off on the way to her’s and then got lost. I got to the hotel, had a shower and got in to bed, waiting for Captain Caveman to come home so he too could get an early night. Instead, he called me to say he was at a Vietnamese BBQ place nearby, to get dressed again and come to join him.

Captain Caveman’s video of me getting on a high stool

I found Quan Ut Ut easily and a rather tipsy Captain Caveman had got a beer, some extra loaded (with cheese, jalapenos, sweetcorn, salsa, sour cream, bacon and crispy chicken skin) fries and a half rack of BBQ ribs. I ordered a diet coke and tried to resist trying the ribs and fries which smelled great. He couldn’t eat all of it so I did help out a little and the ribs were pretty good. As we were talking about meeting up with people while we were in Saigon and only having a short time left, Chris (the Belgian) and his girlfriend, Huong, walked past. What great timing, as I’d wanted to go out with them to the P’ti Sunday brunch which we would now be missing. We arranged to meet them tomorrow as they invited us to see a live band with them – I couldn’t remember when I was last at a gig and I didn’t even care what kind of music it was, we were in!
We walked the short distance back to our hotel, got in to bed and set the alarm for 5am!

Phong Nha to Saigon – 1st April

Phong Nha to Saigon – 1st April

April had an exciting start and on Thursday 1st April I was lucky enough to be able to join Captain Caveman on his weekend trip to Saigon. My visa agent had agreed to let me hand in my passport for the next visa extension on a Sunday so as long as I was back by then, all was good. Captain Caveman was up early and off to Phong Nha to do a few last minute jobs and have breakfast at The Villas. I packed my bag and then went downstairs to see if we had anything in for breakfast. I checked our fridge to find that there were quite a few things which had gone off, including a completely green block of cheese! I had the last of the 2 dates for my brunch and avoided bread in case it set me off for travelling later.
In the news there was hope of direct flights from Vietnam to the UK being put on, could this news mean I could go back to the UK this summer?
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20210401/vietnams-bamboo-airways-secures-slots-for-direct-flights-to-uk/60089.html
Reports mentioned a potential reopening later for the UK but there was nothing definite as yet. More info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20210401/vietnam-aviation-authority-proposes-timeline-to-reopen-intl-routes/60084.html
Captain Caveman got picked up from the Glass House at 1.30pm and then came to pick me up at Elements with an Italian customer, Mauro, who was also on the same flight as us. He was nice and chatty and even gave me some recommendations of places that he liked to eat at, in Saigon. At the airport we bumped in to Annette and Sonya and we even ended up sat near them on the plane.

Captain Caveman and I landed at Ho Chi Minh airport at 17.10 and I was really excited to be visiting again. This trip was mainly because Captain Caveman was cycling in a ‘fun’ event with some friends but I had took the opportunity to join him so that we could meet up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while and one in particular who we really didn’t know when we would get to see again. Ali, the filmaker, had finished the work on his film about Phong Nha so would be going back to Japan with no imminent plans to return. Both Captain Caveman and I really like Ali’s company and we always have a good laugh with him, I think it’s the passion that they both share for Phong Nha (the people and the caves) which makes them get on so well – it’s certainly really refreshing to see. We had agreed to meet for a cocktail (or two) around 6.30pm and this meant we were in a rush to get our bags to the hotel and then to the venue I had suggested. Captain Caveman dropped me off at Racha Rooms while he took the bags and checked in to our hotel in District 1, the Amanaki Saigon Boutique. After hand sanitizer usage and being escorted to my table by a masked waitress I ordered my first cocktail, noticing it was 50% off most drinks until 8pm. I was also extremely hungry, having only had 2 dates to eat that morning, so I ordered a couple of snacks. The Bellini cocktail was good, the duck dumplings and the wagyu beef gyozas were delightful and I’d scoffed the lot before Captain Caveman or Ali arrived. Captain Caveman was surprised to see a full martini with olives in front of me when he arrived, but I reassured him I’d drank a cocktail and had 2 starters already. He looked relieved as he knows I get hangry very easily and he ordered his cocktail. Ali arrived and he ordered a gin cocktail, we ordered more dumplings and the waitress remembered I had said I couldn’t eat chillies so she told me the pork dumplings’ sauce had chilli in it – impressive service. Captain Caveman and I decided to have the same cocktail as Ali when he ordered his next one and then we had to think about dinner.

As it turned out, the restaurant Captain Caveman and I wanted to try was the place Ali had been to the night before but he said it was great and that we should go again. Captain Caveman and I got the bill in Racha Rooms, mainly so that Ali didn’t see what a pig I’d been by eating so much before going for dinner, but I knew we would be drinking and didn’t want to get hammered.
When we arrived at Quince it was around 7.30pm and they were busy, being in Phong Nha we weren’t used to the city life where you should book a table at a restaurant – especially one that came recommended. Ali stepped in and was able to secure us a table at 8pm and we went to the upstairs lounge, Madame Kew, for a pre-dinner bottle of red wine. Ali and Captain Caveman were like happy little kids when they saw the leather Chesterfield sofa and I got a couple of photos of them messing about. The wine was really good and the next time I’m in Saigon I would like to try the food at Madame Kew’s as it’s a really nice place.

It was about 8.30pm by the time we got seated at our table in Quince for dinner. I managed a progress milestone by being able to sit on a high chair, which I hadn’t been able to do before very easily, because of my injury. We completely over ordered on the food but it was absolutely delicious and I would definitely go there again (no wonder Ali agreed to go 2 nights in a row). We had another bottle of wine, shared starters including some really good hummus, the service was excellent. For main courses Ali and I had the duck dish which was lovely, and a half baked cauliflower which we loved. Captain Caveman had a fancy version of pork with black pudding and mash, we had more wine and had to leave the side order of buttered lettuce as we were all too full. When Ali was given the bill, a plate of jelly teddies with a twist came too and they were very different!

Just as I was getting ready to go to our hotel for a much needed lay down, Captain Caveman had a message from his friend, Hung, who invited us for a nightcap at the Cork and Bottle. Ali got us all a Grab and we moseyed over there, where Hung was with his friends, An and Huyen. We were made very welcome, despite the bar being ‘closed’ and you could tell we were drinking expensive wine with VIPs when I noticed they had a member of staff constantly on wine top up and photo taking duties. Chugging glasses of posh red wine and shouting ‘một, hai, ba, dzo!’ which means 1, 2, 3, drink, is not how I expected the evening would end – but I managed it. We even met a famous Vietnamese TV actor, called Minh, who was very nice and had a lovely assistant who was very friendly.
We rolled in to the hotel after midnight and had to put the Aircon on to sleep, it was still hot!

Photo credit – Captain Caveman, staff at Quince and Cork & Bottle

Phong Nha – 31st March

Phong Nha – 31st March

Tatas was still in bed when I got up on Wednesday 31st March and I had arranged to get a lift to The Villas at 8.30am so that I could meet Captain Caveman for Happy Hour later that afternoon. Tatas was driving her motorbike back and I left her getting ready while the car arrived with Annette, Sonya and Ania in. They were off to Phong Nha cave and Ben had suggested I go too but I didn’t think my leg was up to getting in and out of boats just yet.
As I was going to be spending all day at Victory Road Villas I ordered bacon, beans and oolong tea for my breakfast and got comfy in the work space area so I could do some ‘work’. Tatas had gone to meet her housemate for coffee at Tree House who hadn’t shown up so she came to The Villas for coffee and pho, I had a lime juice.
Before lunchtime Annette, Sonya and Ania arrived back from Phong Nha cave, all at differing intervals, in a sweaty mess after walking from the tourism centre to The Villas in blazing sunshine – I was so pleased I hadn’t joined them as I walk too slowly for it to have been ok to do. We all ordered lunch and then Keith and his friend, Tra, arrived who had cycled from Funny Monkeys, where they were staying.
Ali was also there having lunch and had all the info on what Captain Caveman had planned for the weekend in Saigon and proceeded to update me, in the hope that I would also be joining the trip. On the first night Ali and Captain Caveman had arranged to meet for dinner, on the second Captain Caveman was off to football with Scott, a friend of Keith’s, then he had an all day cycling event followed by beers the next day then back to Phong Nha for work. It was interesting to hear how I fitted in to all these plans, as well as the friends we had tentatively arranged to meet up with! It was going to be hectic but fun, I expected.
There were at least 3 of the group working on their laptops this lunchtime at The Villas and it was good to see the co-working space was taking off – how they could concentrate with me wittering on is anyone’s guess!
Lunch arrived; Ania had the zucchini ribbon salad, Annette the smoked duck salad, Sonya had a burger and I had the potato, artichoke and edamame salad. Keith gave me his football season ticket card, as even he knew that Captain Caveman was going to football on Friday night and he wouldn’t need it as he was staying in Phong Nha until Saturday. I ordered a cider and Keith had a beer, well it would be rude not too. Annette and Sonya decided to ask for a lift back to the Farmstay as they preferred to swim there but Tatas and I were happy with the privacy of the pool at The Villas. Ania had work to do, Ali was off back to Saigon this afternoon, Keith and Tra were off to see Phong Nha cave then would come back for happy hour and a half at The Villas. I got in the pool and managed quite a few lengths until I had to take up my job as photographer for Tatas in a rather lovely bikini from Mommy Shark.

I think I was in a bit of a mood because I was very much aware that it was my Dad’s birthday (a big one this year) and we were all meant to have been doing something to celebrate together, but he was in lockdown in Sheffield and I was in Phong Nha where the day would take an unexpected turn.
Captain Caveman was the first to arrive at The Villas for Happy Hour and a half, Tatas and I were already round the pool with a pre-happy hour drink of sangria for me and a margarita for her. At first we didn’t recognise the handsome, clean shaven fella approaching us as he’d nipped off to Onion’s for a haircut and shave on his way and was earlier than we expected. He wasn’t staying long as he had to get his pick up at 5.30pm for his gala dinner at Chay Lap with his group. He ordered a margarita and had a quick chat before Keith and Tra arrived back from their Phong Nha cave trip and Keith ordered a margarita on the 2 for 1 offer, as did Tatas, Captain Caveman and I. Unfortunately, the waitress bringing the drinks had some bad news; margaritas were no longer part of the happy hour deal and were only 2 for 1 on Margarita Mondays! This couldn’t be right, especially as it was still on the menu and I’d not been able to get to Margarita Monday for the last couple so I wasn’t aware of the new Happy Hour conditions. I messaged Ben as this was the worst news I’d had in ages, he rang me and he agreed to honour the deal, which was fortunate as we had already had a couple each. Ania, oblivious to a potential margarita-gate, finished work inside The Villas and went to the bar to order a Margarita but was told she couldn’t have one and so ordered a sangria. She came to join us outside to find out if they had ran out of tequila. Hamish arrived back from his Tu Lan trip and ordered a beer for him and his tour guide, Victor, Keith ordered a beer and Ania’s sangria arrived. We decided we would eat at The Villas tonight and, as Captain Caveman left for work, 3 more beers were requested by the others. Tatas and I ordered another Margarita which arrived but the beers didn’t, the waitress told us there were no more beers left, not even warm ones! Unfortunately this meant that Keith, Tra and Hamish would go elsewhere for another beer after their caving trips which had built up a thirst so it was decided everyone was going to Momma D’s and they set off walking. Tatas and I sat finishing our drinks wondering how it had all gone wrong so quickly, as we finished up and went to pay some beers had arrived.

I had to make a choice on what and where to eat for dinner and also be able to get home (safely) so that I could call my Dad to wish him a happy birthday. I really didn’t fancy going to Momma D’s because of the stairs and the propensity to get drunk and reinjure myself on the way out. I also dislike having to rely on other people to make sure I’m safe and can get down the stairs when the people I’m with could just turn out to be more reckless than me! Captain Caveman knew this and when I messaged to check if he would be able to pick me back up later he was a bit put out because he couldn’t definitely say that he would as it would depend on his customers requirements. It was 2 weeks off from being a year since my injury resulting in my double torn ligament disaster which would end up costing us a lot of pain, time and money! I was also extremely hungry and the options were limited so I agreed to go to join the others at Momma D’s. Tatas and I went together very slowly and when we arrived she helped me up the stairs, which I managed to get up pretty well. It was a dry night and I had sensible (grippy) shoes on so all was good.
Momma D was so pleased to see us all, we got a frozen Bellini shot each and a welcome lick from Kevin, the dog. Hamish and Tatas were straight on the shots but I was taking it steady. Captain Caveman called to say he was dropping off his customers and to be downstairs for a pick up in a few minutes but I’d not had any food yet so I had to tell him I couldn’t be ready and he should come to Momma D’s – he wasn’t happy and was worried we wouldn’t get home. Colin and Martin arrived, and joined us for drinks and a chat. I ordered gluten free pulled pork tacos and nachos for my dinner and I had a cheeky bite of the sausage rolls which the others had. Wow, the food was amazing and it took all my willpower not to eat all of the sausage rolls and order more. Tra had the chicken parmigiana which she seemed to give more to the dog than she ate, on account of him mastering the begging look. Keith had the mac and cheese for dinner but he was almost orgasmic over the cheese cake. Captain Caveman arrived, declined the shots but had a drink and told me to keep checking my messages for a reply from Ben about our lift back, especially as I’m not quick to get down the stairs. Tatas got absolutely wasted and the only non-drinker of the party, Tra, agreed to drive her home the few hundred metres while Keith jogged along to walk Tra back to Funny Monkeys.
As Captain Caveman had predicted there was some confusion over our lift home with Ben and getting Momma D to order us a taxi which I got the blame for and wasn’t too pleased about! I’d already paid the bill before we ordered a taxi and then another round of drinks because it would be a while, when Ben arrived to pick us up – Captain Caveman ran down the 7 floors of stairs, Momma D cancelled the taxi and I tried to go my fastest (which was too slow) with Ania helping me down the stairs. It was one of ‘those nights’, I had spent just over £60 (1.9m vnd) for the whole day and I was just glad to get home so that we could sing Happy Birthday to my Dad. When I finally got to call him, Captain Caveman had already got in to bed and he must’ve been confused over what day it was because it was Wine Wednesday not Naked Tuesday. Oh well, it’s not every day my Dad gets sung Happy Birthday to by a half naked duo in Vietnam – it wasn’t quite the memories we were hoping to give him on his special day!

Phong Nha – 30th March

Phong Nha – 30th March

I had spent 590,000vnd (£18.30) yesterday I noted, when I got up on Tuesday 30th March and I was conscious that the spending was creeping up again. Wine is just so expensive here and I really didn’t want to have to drink beer or cider instead so maybe I would just need to limit myself a bit more. That was easier said than done as there was another girls night booked in for later. I put on lots of high factor suncream and packed a spare shirt and something to cover my head with, for the cycle to The Villas with Ania. She didn’t have a bicycle yet, or know the way to get to The Villas via our place, so I agreed to meet her for breakfast at the Farmstay so we could cycle together. Tatas had a day off and was keen to meet because she had a new bikini that she wanted to wear at the pool and get me to take photos of her for Instagram, as is the Vietnamese girl way.
When I arrived at the Phong Nha Farmstay I was a hot, sweaty mess and I started to think we might be a bit stupid to cycle almost 20km in a day in this heat. My journey only took me 8 minutes and 3 seconds which I think was my fastest yet but that was because I was desperate for some shade. I had a pho bo for breakfast and lots of water but then had a bad stomach straight after, with pain, even though it contains nothing I’m allergic to. Annette and Veronika had taken motorbikes for a jaunt around the national park for the morning, I said we might meet them at The Villas, along with Tatas for lunch but the more we thought about it the more it seemed a daft idea so we stayed where we were. Sonya joined us and we sat by the pool drinking water and chatting until lunch time.
For those who remember Keith, from Grimsby, he messaged to say he was back in Dong Hoi and would be coming to Phong Nha tomorrow. This settled the going to The Villas by bicycle conundrum as we could go tomorrow to meet Keith and so we had lunch at The Phong Nha Farmstay instead. Already having a dodgy stomach (for no particular reason) I chose a chicken salad without the cucumber which was really tasty but I was ill straight after and had to cycle home. It took me 9 minutes 40 seconds which was very slow but I felt quite unwell while riding Bluey back home. Veronika was already in the pool and after I felt a bit more stable I got my swimmers on and went to sit on the balcony. I noticed the pool had quite a lot of feathers and twigs in it from some sparrows who were building a nest in the eaves. While Veronika had to pop back up to the Farmstay for babysitting duties, I spent half an hour by the pool until it was time to get ready as Tatas was on her way over. She was going to stay at ours tonight and so had brought her overnight bag to drop off, then we got a lift with Duyet to the Farmstay.

Ania was still in an online meeting so we got a bottle of wine and started without her. When she arrived she brought yesterday’s spare wine and then Veronika came over to say she was already sat at a table in the dark with Annette and Sonya but they had already eaten. I decided to have duck a l’orange with rice and vegetables for my dinner, hoping my stomach could handle it and it was so good. Annette came to join us for a bit of wine and some girly chat before going to bed and we ended up drinking until gone 9.30pm again! It was a good night, less wine than usual and no shots this time so we would be ready for a full day tomorrow! My bill came to 610,000vnd (£19) as the duck dish is one of the pricier choices but I felt fine after eating it and I really enjoyed it.
Back in England today was the day that more relaxing of the lockdown rules took place and people were allowed to have 6 people in a garden without masks – it made no sense to me, as I couldn’t understand the rationale or timing, but a lot of my friends back home were going to be taking advantage of this new freedom. I read that the beer gardens in England would be opening next month so that socialising could begin again.

Phong Nha – 29th March

Phong Nha – 29th March

The tannoy this morning felt like someone had given it a service or turned the volume back up at 5.30am on Monday 29th March. Captain Caveman was on day 2 of his Son Doong tour, Tatas was on day 4 of her Son Doong tour and Hamish was about to do the Tu Lan Wild Cave 3 day trip, now that he had fully recovered from his hospital visit. For breakfast I ate the leftover spring rolls with some salad and I noticed the kitchen floor was soaking wet, like it had just been mopped – but it hadn’t and it was very damp. The humidity was horrendous so I opened all the doors and put the fan on but it made no difference. The floor was difficult to walk on as I took the laundry to the housekeeping room and noticed that even the floor outside was moist.
It was a very hot day as I ate my leftover Sunday dinner for lunch and arranged to meet the girls later at the Phong Nha Farmstay. Hamish had asked me to take Ania under my wing and make sure she wasn’t bored, or missing him too much, while he was gone for the next 3 days. When I got to the Farmstay I shared a table with Ania, Annette and Sonya, ordered a bottle of red wine and the beef in bamboo for dinner. Ania had banh xeo which always looks so good while Sonya tried the amazing chocolate fondant with icecream for her dessert.
The night was young so we ordered another bottle of wine but before we knew it the 9.30pm closing time was here so we paid, I requested my lift home and Ania took the remaining wine to her room to bring back out for tomorrow. It was a good night, no wild Margarita Monday for us, instead quite relaxed and I really enjoyed it Ania and I had decided to cycle to The Villas restaurant tomorrow where we would have lunch and then cycle back – I wasn’t looking forward to the journey but I needed the exercise!

Phong Nha – 28th March

It was an early start, the 5.30am tannoy blaring out, and I had a slight hangover, on Sunday 28th March. Captain Caveman was off to Son Doong but still had time to make me bacon and mushrooms for breakfast in bed. After Captain Caveman had said goodbye and left for Phong Nha I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t so I checked the news to see there was a report of a Phu Quoc Corona risk – more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210328/vietnam-s-phu-quoc-island-grapples-to-prevent-covid19-threats-from-border-jumpers/60015.html
I went to the Phong Nha Farmstay as Bluey needed to be retrieved after I had left her there over night. I had a second breakfast of pho bo and bumped in to Annette, Sonya, Ania and Hamish, some of who were hung over too. I stayed for a lunch of fried veggie spring rolls and an orange juice which resulted in stomach pains and a few visits to the toilet half way through, so had to take leftovers home with me. There was definitely something odd going on with my stomach which couldn’t be gluten or dairy related and I was beginning to wonder if I was allergic to booze! I eventually left the Farmstay to cycle the short route back home in 9 minutes 6 seconds, having agreed that white wine and tequila is not a good combo and to meet back tonight for Sunday dinner.
I had to have an afternoon sleep because I was feeling fragile so when I made it back the the Farmstay, Veronika had already almost finished her meal, Annette and Sonya were just about to start, Hamish and Ania didn’t make it out for dinner. We were sat at the darkest table and so I only ate a bit of mine and took the rest home, along with a piece of frozen cheesecake. I’d spent a total of 460,000vnd (£14.26) for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a glass of house wine.

Phong Nha – 27th March

Phong Nha – 27th March

Captain Caveman was up early and off to Phong Nha, by bicycle, on Saturday 27th March while I got busy doing stuff. We had a plan to meet up at the Lake House before 1pm as Captain Caveman had a friend arriving from Saigon, who was staying there. There was also a returning Farmstay customer and friend, Annette, arriving on the same flight for her third stay and we would be meeting her and her friend later. If I didn’t hear from Captain Caveman by noon my instructions were to set off cycling on Bluey, up the hill. I was almost ready to go when Captain Caveman arrived and decided to make himself a peanut butter sandwich before going for lunch. It took me a little over 9 mins to get there, which included about 2 minutes of walking when it got to the steep part and I had to get off and push Bluey.
Captain Caveman tried to order a shandy but they had ran out of beer so he had 7up and I had soda water. We were getting hungry so ended up ordering lunch – a sweet and sour chicken for me and a steak sandwich for him. The food came, and was really tasty, Tony returned and joined us for a chat, then David and his family arrived. It was a nice afternoon until I had to cycle on to the Phong Nha Farmstay, I found it a bit hilly in parts and difficult to navigate the turn off of the main road. The whole journey was just over 18 minutes and I was pleased to have made it there in one piece, so I celebrated with a cider!

Annette and her friend, Sonya, were both happy to be away from work and the hectic pace of their life in Saigon. We sat at a table by the pool and rice paddies at the Farmstay and Veronika joined us briefly while still supervising the grandkids. Matty joined us while Captain Caveman was still there, followed by Hamish and Ania. I decided to leave my bicycle at the Farmstay and ended up drinking lots of white wine and some tequila shots while Captain Caveman was at his briefing. For dinner I ordered chicken with fried rice which was really good, Hamish ordered spring rolls but didn’t eat any of them as he was too busy with the wine. Ania ordered a veggie curry and helped Hamish out as she ate some of the spring rolls still in front of him. All seemed to be going well and everyone was having a good time as we kept on getting more white wine. Annette even got in the pool fully clothed – twice! Captain Caveman rejoined us, he had cycled back from Oxalis and was sober so had a shot and some white wine. The last thing I remember of the evening was me following Captain Caveman home in the rascal with Duyet, as he cycled back. I remembered to put my phone on the Do Not Disturb mode before going to sleep and the alarm was set for early the next morning.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman

Phong Nha – 26th March

Phong Nha – 26th March

After only 6 hours of sleep the tannoy woke me up at 5.30am on Friday 26th March. I caught up on another one of Heather’s Untangled by Tingle decluttering challenges which was an easy one for me. Sorting out spices is something that would have taken me longer back in England but here, the humidity means even salt doesn’t keep long so we don’t store much of anything, mainly black pepper corns which are produced locally. Here’s the Facebook group for anyone interested in finding out more:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/springclearing2021/?ref=share
I didn’t bother with any breakfast, Captain Caveman, who had stayed at the Glass House last night, was too hungover to come home just yet and seemed to be in a bit of a tangle.
In the news it mentioned that Vietnam was looking to open up to tourists from July for 3 countries (Japan, S Korea, Taiwan), see more here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-will-receive-foreign-tourists-from-some-countries/
There were also some concerns in Vietnam that there could be the start of the next wave soon due to more border jumpers, which was still a problem, more info below:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210326/vietnam-confirms-2-new-coronavirus-infections-who-are-border-jumpers-from-cambodia/59975.html
Interestingly, there wasn’t too much information about it, but the first commercial flights in Vietnam restarted today, read more here:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/business/companies/vietnam-airlines-resumes-international-commercial-flights-4254235.html
Captain Caveman recovered just enough to send me his work schedule from 1st April onwards. We were hoping to have a couple of trips away in April but he did have 5 Son Doong tours to do, and I had the same issue with passport being submitted for most of the time, so we would see how that worked out. He was still in a mess when he returned about 4pm and got straight in to bed for a nap before pizza night.
Ben called to check we were outside waiting for the car pick up which was leaving the Farmstay at 6pm and we went outside where I spoke to Duyet to say we were going for pizza night. He said to wait 10 minutes so we thought that Ben and the bus were coming for us. He left in a car and returned 15 minutes later with Matty, who had come back from Saigon this afternoon, in the passenger seat, then took us to The Villas, where everyone else were already sat and had ordered drinks. Hamish and Ania were at the far end of the long outdoor table, opposite a new Farmstay couple, next to them were Karl and Sue, new long term Farmstay customers who were from England. Then there was Veronika and Ben opposite them, I sat next to Ben, Captain Caveman sat opposite me with Matty sat next to Captain Caveman. Hamish, who we were too far away to chat to, came to have a tequila shot with me and Captain Caveman but ended up doing 2 because of the fragile state Captain Caveman was in. This was the first time Captain Caveman and Hamish had met apart from when they bumped in to each other on their Son Doong and Hang En trips. Captain Caveman drank 2 litres of water and ate 9 slices of pizza and I only managed 7 slices and a soft drink. Unfortunately the Croatian couple had left already to Saigon so Captain Caveman wearing his Croation football shirt had been wasted and I was sorry he didn’t get to meet them. The pizzas were great, as always, I realised I’d not missed a pizza night in a long while and was getting to be an expert on which pizza had what toppings. As Ben had left his seat free, Hamish sat down for a chat with Captain Caveman until we came to leave. A fragile Captain Caveman was so glad to be back home and in bed that I’m sure he started to snore before he even lay down! As neither of us had drank tonight we only spent 300,000vnd (£9.30) which was great, but we had a hectic Saturday planned.

Photo credit – The Villas restaurant

Phong Nha – 24th & 25th March

Phong Nha – 24th & 25th March

The first thing I did on Wednesday 24th March was listen to a live chat from Untangled by Tingle on her second decluttering task – pens and pencils. I remember back in Sheffield I had loads of both, but here I have 1 pen which I keep with my notebook and a pencil for my diary (there’s no point having pen for diary events these days). I also have a spare pen and pencil in the bedroom so that was an easy challenge for me. For breakfast I decided to indulge in some sausages which are from Hue and are meant to be gluten free but they made me so ill that I had to go back to bed. I really hoped the after effects wouldn’t last long because we had arranged for Tatas to come over to mine and we were meeting Hamish, Ania, Matija and Daria at the Phong Nha Farmstay later for drinks and dinner. Tatas had just arrived when Veronika came back from the Farmstay, a bit frazzled after looking after the grandkids. She had a bottle of white wine in the fridge which she had been unable to open and was insistent we had some with her. We invited her to come to the Farmstay too but she was really looking forward to having a quiet night in for a change.
Tatas and I arrived at Phong Nha Farmstay before 6pm and everyone arrived ready for a good night, sat by the pool. Hamish and Ania had just arrived back from Danang and so they were celebrating being back in Phong Nha. Tatas and I started with a margarita each then we shared a bottle of red wine while Hamish and Tatas encouraged a few tequilas for everyone (sambuca for Ania). We ate food, had a good laugh and got a bit merry, Matija has a particular sense of humour that had us all laughing until our cheeks hurt and when Daria got out the rice wine which smells of farts we knew we may have gone too far!
The bar closes at 9.30pm at the Farmstay and we were still there, the only ones drinking at 9.45pm, so I put another bottle of red wine on my tab, and took it home. Duyet came to get us and we said goodbye with a plan to see everyone again tomorrow night. Tatas was staying at mine and we had more wine to drink because it was my mom’s birthday and we were going to call her. My mom was celebrating her second birthday in lockdown and it made me feel bad that she couldn’t even go out for a meal or drinks, while here in Vietnam we were so lucky to have our freedom.
I decided we should invite Duyet in for a glass of wine and we were all going to sing Happy Birthday to my mom via Facebook video call. I bet my mom was really pleased that we were celebrating more than she would be! We never thought about how much noise we were making and that poor Veronika had been looking forward to her early night. Tatas decided she was going to bed so Duyet left and we didn’t finish all of the wine.

I was so hung over on Thursday 25th March and if Tatas hadn’t have been staying at mine I would not have got up for breakfast at the Phong Nha Farmstay with Hamish and Ania. I ordered Pho Bo but couldn’t eat it and when I paid my bill I had the bottle of wine from last night on there too! I went back to bed after I got home and didn’t get up for lunch until 4pm, eating the left over shepherd’s pie from Tuesday. I did another of the Untangled by Tingle decluttering challenges which was an appropriate one – medication/first aid kit. It took me just a few minutes and I needed a paracetamol anyway for my sore head. When I messaged Veronika to apologise for being so noisy she surprisingly had not heard the renditions of Happy Birthday and things were all good. 
The Croatian couple (Matija and Daria), Hamish, Ania and Tatas were alcohol animals and had arranged to go to Momma D’s that night but I was too old to keep up with them all and declined. I had hoped for an early night but there was a wedding a few doors away and so the karaoke got progressively louder and worse until the crescendo at midnight. I was grateful that it stopped and to have spent only 500,000vnd (£15.50) today, 430,000 of it was last night’s wine! I was a bit disappointed that March should have been my month to get a bit fitter and thinner – I was running out of time!

Phong Nha – 22nd & 23rd March

Phong Nha – 22nd & 23rd March

Captain Caveman went off to Son Doong early on Monday 22nd March while I had buttered toast for breakfast and got on with some work from my To Do List. For lunch I ate some Banh Ep rice crackers and drank jasmine tea. It was the one month anniversary of Margarita Monday and I had got a message from Luc to ask if I was going, I wasn’t going to bother since we had drank a few impromptu ones the day before, but if Luc was up for it, I was. I tried to get a car to take me to The Villas and also to take me to the Glass House to retrieve my bag but the rascal was at the garage being fixed and there was no shuttle service available. Instead of The Villas, I went to the Farmstay and ate Aussie meat pie, chips and gravy which then made me have a dodgy tum (it must be gluten)! I’d spent 140,000vnd (£4.34) on my dinner and I was grateful for a quiet day.

I managed to sleep in until 8am on Tuesday 23rd March and was ecstatic about that. At 9.30am I went to the Glass House to get my bag back and the shopping. It was the first day of a friend’s challenge on Facebook for decluttering in which the task was sorting socks. Seeing as I’d just picked up more socks I checked them all and resorted them before getting carried away and doing my knickers too. I had buttered toast for breakfast, with a mango and a kiwi fruit I’d brought back from the Vinpearl Hotel. I was left with a big guava, which I chopped up and took outside for Duyet and the girls to have. Because it was shepherd’s pie night and I’d put my pre-order for one in, I just had dates and walnuts for a lunch/snack.
At the Farmstay that evening I got chatting to some English guests and it had got a bit chilly again so we sat by the fire, also with Veronika, who had lent one of the ladies some warm clothes. I treated myself to a glass of wine with my shepherd’s pie and vegetables but couldn’t eat all my meal and took half home. My stomach was fine again, I was glad to be feeling ok for a change and had only spent 235,000vnd (£7.50).

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – the 3rd weekend of March

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – the 3rd weekend of March

There’s often a change of plan where Captain Caveman’s plans are concerned and so it was no surprise that he had decided to get an overnight train to Dong Hoi on the evening of Saturday 20th March. I decided that I would go to Dong Hoi to get some shopping in and have a nice rest. I asked Mik, Kendra and Bryan if I could get a ride with them when they went to the train station and they agreed and we arranged for me to join them for lunch at Phong Nha Farmstay before our departure. I had soda water and the beef in bamboo with steamed rice and vegetables (a firm favourite), Kendra had the banh xeo, Bryan the pork clay pot and Mik a rather tasty looking cheese and ham toasty which I had food envy over. The men had beers, Kendra had vodka and soda and I had a couple of Magner’s – well, I was almost on a holiday within a holiday.

Our driver arrived at Dong Hoi train station just before 4.30pm on Saturday 20th March and I said farewell to Mik, Kendra and Bryan. I arrived at the Vinpearl Hotel where I had booked for 1 night, the receptionist checked me in while another member of staff gave me a welcome drink and a temperature check. I couldn’t go to the room straight away though as I was waiting for Kimmie, my visa agent, to drop off my passport. It was very humid today and so my face was so sweaty from wearing the mask.
In the room I had my usual fruit plate which I had the apple of while I ran a bath. The room I had been given was on the 7th floor and had ropes hanging outside our window, perhaps for window cleaning – Captain Caveman would be interested in that, being a rope fan! One of the great things about the Vinpearl is they have good weighing scales and so I was able to get weighed. Amazingly, I was now 70kg so had lost 1kg and just needed to lose 3-5kg more to be considered normal weight instead of overweight. I’d brought my own bottle of Lindeman’s sparkling white wine which was now warm and the fridge was not particularly cold. I decided to go healthy(ish) for dinner and had pumpkin soup, vegetables with garlic, spring rolls and steamed rice – a feast! I couldn’t finish all the fizz so I popped a teaspoon in the bottle and left it in the fridge for tomorrow. The room had cost £24 via Agoda, including breakfast and I spent 500,000vnd (£15.50) on room service. I was grateful to be having a break away and to have my passport back so that I could perhaps have a trip to Saigon  with Captain Caveman.
While I was sleeping in a comfy bed, Captain Caveman was on the overnight train from Hanoi which would arrive in Dong Hoi at 5.30am, I’d left him a key at reception so he could get in and would be able to join me for the buffet breakfast.

Captain Caveman arrived just before 6am on Sunday 21st March but the concierge wouldn’t give him a key to the hotel room. Instead, they came with him to escort Captain Caveman and let him in, thus waking me up. As I expected he was excited to see the ropes outside the windows and we wondered if we would see the window cleaners in action. The buffet breakfast awaited us and even the staff remembered me and asked about my leg, which was nice. Captain Caveman started us off with the pho ga each and then I moved on to fruit, then croissants each, an omelette for him, a bacon sandwich, a pancake and a waffle for me but I avoided the cheese and had no dairy, just gluten! I was fine and when we got back to the room the plan was to go shopping but we didn’t have much time before our taxi was arriving. We also had half of the bottle of Lindemans to drink so Captain Caveman knocked up a couple of mimosas at 10am! We also got to see the ropes being used as 2 window cleaners shimmied down to clean outside our room and we watched, waved and took photos while Captain Caveman observed the safety of their equipment – one of the workers dropped his cloth!
While I packed (he hadn’t unpacked) Captain Caveman nipped to the shop to get me coconut cream and mushrooms, he also bought gherkins but they had chillies in. I took the rest of the fruit home and when I came to check out, the food bill was given a 30% off, which was great.

Our next stop was Tree Hugger where Captain Caveman had iced black coffe and a smoothie, I had a Tree Hugger hot tea. We weren’t hungry after such a big breakfast and so we just chilled out for a bit. I read in the news that there was a possibility of Vietnam working with vaccine passports in the future – see below link:
https://en.thesaigontimes.vn/tinbaichitiet/81055/
By 1pm we could manage a lunch so Captain Caveman went for his favourite, egg salad sandwich, while I chanced a ham and cheese toastie. The car arrived at 2pm, as arranged, and there was already an Oxalis customer in it who was going to Chay Lap before her tour the next day. I felt absolutely fine until just less than 5 minutes in to the journey when I got the excruciating stomach pain, hot sweats and a desperate need to go! Captain Caveman was not amused as we headed for the train station squat toilets which I had real trouble with because of my injured leg, I still can’t squat! Actually, I got down fine, it was the getting back up which was tricky and painful. We deduced it had to be the cheese that had affected me and, after apologising to the customer and driver, we were on our way back to Phong Nha with no further issues and a pretty ‘cheesed off’ Captain Caveman!

By the time we arrived in Phong Nha on Sunday 21st March, Captain Caveman didn’t have too much time before his next Son Doong briefing. He dropped me off at The Villas so that he could go to the Glass House, unpack and repack his bags for his next tour tomorrow and then cycle back down to meet me. I made the mistake of letting him take my bag too because we had thought we might stay at the Glass House that night.
Captain Caveman came to The Villas before I’d drank my cup of tea and he ordered a beer and he asked if I’d let Tatas know we were there and that maybe she might want to join me for a margarita. Luc, a friend who was leaving to go to work in Malaysia on Friday and who had missed last week’s pizza night had said he might stop by to say farewell when I last spoke to him but he didn’t make it. Tatas came and we had a couple of margaritas while Captain Caveman went to his briefing, then she ordered french fries and I asked for the confit duck leg without chillies but I got it with chillies in the lentils so I just ate the duck, which was very tasty. Captain Caveman came back from Oxalis Home and I told him I had decided I wasn’t staying at the Glass House as it made sense for me to go home with Ben, who had kindly offered a lift back to Elements. Captain Caveman decided to come home too, so after another margarita, we left with Ben late and I completely forgot that my bag was still at the Glass House.

Phong Nha – 18th & 19th March

Phong Nha – 18th & 19th March

It was great weather here in Phong Nha on Thursday 18th March and I had my bikini on for the second time this week. It was the first time I actually swam in the pool too, even though it was still a bit too chilly in the water. Our garden was looking really good and I admired all the pretty flowers around the place. I heard from Captain Caveman to say he wouldn’t be back as he thought and would probably go straight to his briefing on Sunday 21st so I might not get to see him much before his next tour. I had a Snickers which gave me a bad stomach and so I was convinced it was the lactose in it. For dinner I had chicken, salami and pasta with onions, green beans, and olives in a tomato sauce with spaghetti and a couple of small glasses of the wine I still had from Tuesday.
I was able to spend no money at all today which made up for the previous day’s expenses!

There was a quieter loudspeaker announcement on Friday 19th March but it still woke me up! I had a bad stomach before I even ate anything and could only put it down to the pasta having gluten in last night, perhaps. I’d had toast for breakfast, my stomach was back to normal and, because tonight was pizza night, I just had popcorn for lunch. I was on the balcony, shade bathing, when the cleaners came – they were now on to afternoon visits instead of the morning. I wasn’t prepared for them and so all I could do was sit on my sunlounger and finish off the rest of the wine from Tuesday.
The minibus for pizza night picked me and Veronika up – there was already Hamish, Ania, Mik, Kendra, Bryan, Matija and Daria on it and we were off to The Villas to celebrate the last night as a group. It got messy, we drank loads and ate so much pizza I thought I might need a lay down!
Kendra and I shared 2 bottles of red wine which Matija said was shit (it’s my favourite one) and he was hilarious at being a Croatian wine buff. We all had pizza except for Mik who attempted to eat the confit duck leg and a portion of french fries. I told him the chocolate almond cake was better than sex so he had a piece and had to agree, as did some of the others who had a taste too! We didn’t have a late night as Hamish and Ania were booked on a 5.30am train to Danang the next morning, while the remaining three were leaving in the afternoon. I had spent 650,000vnd (£20 ish) and was sad that my new friends, who made me laugh a lot, were leaving. We made plans that Captain Caveman and I would go to Danang to meet up with them in the next couple of months. Hamish and Ania already had plans to return to Phong Nha and had been thinking of staying longer.