Phong Nha – 19th July

Phong Nha – 19th July

I was so hungover on Tuesday 19th July but I made myself get up early with Captain Caveman. We had breakfast at The Villas together; I had a tasty Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) and he had Bo Ne which had surprise tomatoes in, but he likes tomatoes.
Captain Caveman said goodbye and went to work, off back in to the cave again for 4 more days. I went to have an extra nap as we didn’t need to check out until noon. I’d hoped to catch up with friends while I was in Phong Nha town so I checked out and went to sit in the aircon at The Villas. I ordered a mango lassi instead of having any bottled water, it was really good.
I’d been trying to book a bus to Danang as there were no trains left for when we wanted them but the bus ticket lady was not replying. Lan told me it was because she was getting married today so the bus tickets were on hold while she did her nuptials. I stayed at The Villas for lunch and sampled the infamous Aussie meat pie with chips and gravy. It was actually even better than I remembered it being, the pastry was proper crusty and there was a generous and tasty filling. Some of my plans for later changed so I was still there for an afternoon ice-cream too and then, when I’d come round a bit, I had a cold beer.

After leaving Victory Road Villas, I walked to A Little Leaf homestay to meet Phuong. I’d not seen him since I’d been back and I’d promised to go see him and his newly improved homestay. A Little Leaf looked wonderful and was full of guests from all different nationalities and he even had a family with cute dogs staying there. He plied me with beers and food; fried pork spring rolls, Banh Loc and Banh Te so I got rather full. Banh Loc is a small, clear, chewy tapioca dumpling type of snack food. They are usually filled with shrimp and pork belly, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed to cook, then served with sweet chili fish sauce. Banh Te is a variety of small steamed snack made of rice flour, black pepper and herbs, then wrapped with Dong leaves into a long, thin cylindrical shape. Dong leaves are common here and are also said to be used by locals as antidote to drunkenness and snake bites. The food was delicious and had been made in Phuong’s village by his mother so I gave them a good go, while avoiding the chilli fish sauce. We video called his wife who is still working abroad and was about to do her 12 hour night shift. The beer kept on coming and Phuong insisted I had ice in my drink, which I try to avoid in Vietnam as most people use their hands to pick it up.
I was also meant to be meeting Chung at the Phong Nha Vegan restaurant but by this time I was drunk and Phuong had ordered me a taxi home. On the way down the tricky metal steps I asked Phuong to carry my bag so I didn’t fall and then we said goodbye. He invited Captain Caveman and I to come to his village with him when we had chance.
As I was going to the car, I saw Thu, the lady who used to work at Jungle Boss and is amazing! We had lots of hugs and were so happy to see each other again after all this time. I left with a female taxi driver (a novelty in Phong Nha) and Thu blowing kisses to me through the back window.
The taxi driver had no clue where she was going and we drove most of the way dangerously slowly on the highway with her phone in her right hand and very close to her face. I directed her in my best Vietnamese and we made it home at a cost of 200,000vnd (£7).
I unpacked my bag and put the laundry bag in for tomorrow’s housekeeping then went to bed for an early night.

Photo credit – A Little Leaf, Phuong.

Phong Nha – 18th July

Phong Nha – 18th July

I was quite excited on Monday 18th July to be getting to see Captain Caveman on his birthday, even if it was for just a few hours. I had arranged for us to stay at Victory Road Villas tonight and Lan, the manager, had given us a good deal. I asked her to put some fizz in the fridge and Captain Caveman was going to be due out of the cave in the afternoon. He would try again to get the shave he desperately needed before his briefing at 6pm tonight and then he would come to The Villas restaurant as soon as he could after the briefing so we could have a romantic birthday meal. That was the plan, anyway.
Captain Caveman messaged when he was 20 minutes away from Phong Nha, I got a nice bottle of Primitivo wine out of the fridge to take with us and packed the last of my stuff. When Captain Caveman had showered in Phong Nha and got to the hairdresser’s it was closed so he still couldn’t get a shave and a hair cut. He came home so that he could put his laundry in and pack for the next trip then we drove to Victory Road Villas on Trigger, the motorbike. Captain Caveman didn’t even come in to Victory Road Villas, he just had time to drop me off so that he could go to Oxalis, ready for the briefing. I bumped in to Darren, Captain Caveman’s colleague, who was going to have dinner at The Villas at 6pm. He mentioned that Captain Caveman had messaged him earlier to say to meet after his briefing for birthday drinks. I went to check in to the room and chilled out with a glass of water in the Aircon for a while. The room, or should I say villa, which Lan had allocated was impressive and it was my first time staying at Victory Road Villas. I unpacked my things and got ready for dinner, I wore my nice orange dress.

At 8pm Captain Caveman came back from his briefing, knocked on the door of the room, dropped his bag off and went to meet Darren for a birthday drink. By the time I’d got my shoes on and locked the door the two cavers were talking about caves and work. I asked for three glasses and we had a birthday toast with the Lindeman’s sparkling white wine. At 8.45pm Darren said his goodbyes so we could sit down to eat the birthday meal. I took some photos and we ordered fried spring rolls to share as a starter, then a pizza each for main. Lan also gave us a complimentary glass of red wine with our dinner as a birthday treat which was a really nice thing to do. We finally got to eat our Classic and Showstopper pizzas about 9.20pm and polished off the fizz. By 10.20pm we were back in our gorgeous room, lounging on the couch and we opened the Primitivo. The wine was very nice, we had been saving it for a special celebration. We were pretty merry, despite Captain Caveman having to be up early for work tomorrow. He’d barely had chance to read and reply to all of his birthday messages, of which he had lots. At gone midnight we got a nice surprise when John, Andrea, Mark and Kate called, from Dalyan, to wish a Happy Birthday to Captain Caveman. It was so nice of them and we had a chat, I got a bit emotional as I was rather inebriated but we were all looking forward to catching up next month.
We went to bed and I had another birthday surprise for Captain Caveman, I’d brought my red lacy Ann Summers number which I hoped would still fit after all the booze and food!

Phong Nha – 17th July

Phong Nha – 17th July

Sunday 17th July was a steady day as I made some preparations for Captain Caveman’s birthday tomorrow.
I had a bacon sandwich and shade-bathed round the pool for quite a while. I did a bit of Duolingo and even added Kate and Vanessa as friends on there. I thought it would be good to try to do more Turkish learning before I go back to Dalyan. Vanessa and I were trying our best to keep up so that we weren’t behind when we got back to restart our weekly Turkish lessons.
The weather in Phong Nha was cooler than the UK, apparently, so I couldn’t moan that it was 31°C at 6pm in the room with the AC on.
I had the last of the butter chicken and managed to work around a spider on the kitchen floor, on condition that it eat all the mosquitoes. I packed a bag for tomorrow as I was pleased to be able to spend 4 hours of Captain Caveman’s special birthday with him, after his briefing tomorrow night.

Phong Nha – 16th July

Phong Nha – 16th July

My measurements on Saturday 16th July were hardly surprising given that I’d had a 5 day holiday in Hanoi and eaten like a pig yesterday;
Bust +3cm,
Waist +3cm,
Hips +1cm,
Right thigh -3cm,
Left thigh -0.5cm,
Right calf no change
Left calf +1cm.
It had been 2 weeks since the last measuring and now my legs were back to having 1.5cm difference in thigh measurements and 1cm in calves – my bad leg still being the smallest after 27 months since the injury!
I had just 6 weeks left until my flight back to Istanbul so I thought I’d try to get a bit of a tan. I popped on my leopard print swimming costume and tried to take a few nice photos of me on my holidays. Unfortunately it was a bit tricky to get any decent ones and I gave up being in the sun after 12 sweaty minutes. I ate some fruit for my lunch and then applied for my next e-Visa. I still had two and a half weeks left on my current visa but, as I knew when my leaving date out of Vietnam would be, I may as well apply. I had to use my Turkish bank account and was a little nervous as it might not work in Vietnam. It sent me a message in Turkish and I understood it enough to be able to know I had to log in to my internet banking and put in a code. As it was a Saturday the money didn’t go out of my account, I had to wait until Monday to see if the payment would be accepted or rejected.
I had an early dinner of more butter chicken with steamed rice and then polished off the rest of the Chardonnay.
I got peckish before bed and had the crumpet I had got out of the freezer for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Phong Nha – 15th July

Phong Nha – 15th July

It was rather muggy, but sunny, on Friday 15th July as we ate a fry up for breakfast together. Captain Caveman was going back in to the cave so he would miss the final catch up with Veronika and Ross this lunchtime. By 8am I was swimming in the pool and then I got ready to go to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Duyet was not about so I had to wait for awhile for a pick up. I chatted to Sox, the squirrel, for a bit, he seemed to be getting more friendly, then Dung arrived. I never get tired of seeing the cows and today we disturbed a family of them so I took a cute video.
At the leaving lunch for Veronika and Ross there were Bich, Ben, the kids, Stu, Max, Jack, me and Saoirse. Most people ordered Aussie pie, chips and gravy but Ross had fresh spring rolls, Saoirse had bun cha and I had beef in bamboo. The Vietnamese meals always take longer to come out because they are cooked fresh but are definitely worth the wait and I really enjoyed my lunch.
By 2.30pm there was just Veronika, Ross, Saoirse and I left and we ordered a chocolate fondant cake, each! Well, it’s not every day you get to celebrate with such a nice family. Saoirse had a couple more days left before she left but Veronika and Ross would be in Saigon tonight, then Paris tomorrow. The chocolate fondant cake is amazing and very filling, they’d got chocolate ice-cream with it today but it often comes with vanilla. I had 2 beers, the beef dish and a dessert for 405,000vnd (£14.18) which now included tax and service charge. We said our goodbyes and arranged to meet up with Veronika in Turkey, later this year.
When I got home I was so full that I decided to have a little rest on the bed. I woke up after it had gone dark, I had taken a meal out of the freezer to defrost, luckily. At last it was the butter chicken from Baba’s Kitchen in Saigon and it was going to easily last for 2 decent portions. I had it with steamed rice and opened a bottle of Australian Chardonnay.
It was a lovely meal, with leftover curry and wine for tomorrow.
In the news the Corona virus numbers were high again in England and my friend, Vanessa, was just recovering from it since returning from Dalyan. Her and a lot of my friends and family were also struggling with the rare heatwave in the UK right now. I don’t see a lot of British media over here but it was evident from my Facebook feed who probably wouldn’t be much good in Vietnam during the summer.
As I got in bed I realised I hadn’t taken my measurements today but couldn’t be bothered to get back out of bed, I would do them tomorrow.

My cow video

Phong Nha – 14th July

Phong Nha – 14th July

On Thursday 14th July I had bacon, sausage and beans for lunch, having not had breakfast, with a pot of Yorkshire tea. The rains had subsided but it was still cloudy today, which was nice.
Captain Caveman came out of the cave in the afternoon and there had been a lake at the Great Wall of Vietnam because of the storms. He had his briefing for the next tour a few hours later but had been trying to get a haircut and a shave for some time now and managed to fail again today, as the hairdresser’s was closed. While he was at Oxalis, I went to Veronika’s for fizz again, this time with Ross and Saoirse, her granddaughter over from Australia. On the way to the Phong Nha Farmstay with Dung, in the jeep, there was a cow which was on a rope but had wandered across the road. A guy on a motorbike had to help out by riding in front of the cow to make it move across the road again.
While we were enjoying our Lindeman’s sparkling white wine, one of Ben and Bich’s kids came to tell us that Ben was taking the family to The Villas for dinner and that we had to go now. Veronika invited me but I declined as I was hoping to see Captain Caveman before his bedtime. I went home but Captain Caveman wasn’t back from his briefing yet, then more heavy rain came. I was just thinking that Captain Caveman would probably stay in Phong Nha, instead of riding his motorbike home in this weather, when he walked in. He was so wet and dripping water everywhere as he went straight for a hot shower. He had called at The Villas to ask for a plastic bag when the rains had started so he had seen the Le Mitchell family. He had promised Bich he would let her know he was back safely as she was worried the storm was a bad one to ride home in. I messaged her, opened a bottle of red wine and got out 2 glasses.

Phong Nha – 13th July

Phong Nha – 13th July

Having been awake most of the night due to the storm, I woke up to nice weather on Wednesday 13th July.
Our mate, Stu, had invited me over to his place for lunch with Tatas today and I was looking forward to that. Because their house is a bit far for me to walk, and is slightly too far to cycle in hot sun, Stu arranged for me to get picked up. Jack, Stu’s son, came to collect me on his motorbike and I was a bit apprehensive at first. He’s very experienced in riding motorbikes solo, despite only being 16, but I wasn’t sure if he’d taken a (heavy) passenger like me before. I have my own crash helmet so I was ok and he went fairly slowly through the countryside lanes. Tatas didn’t know the way so she followed from my place, which meant I could have had a lift with her if I’d known.
Stu’s home is a fab 4 bedroom house with a large pool and open plan living/dining/kitchen area. It has plenty of space and great bathrooms – they even have sunken baths! It’s in the Cu Nam area which is higher up than where we are, in Khuong Ha, so is a safe place, even in flood season. Did I mention that it is currently up for sale and at a great price too? If anyone is in the market for a property near to Phong Nha and Dong Hoi they could get an amazing property at the Belafonte, as it’s nicknamed.
It was the first time that Tatas had been for a visit as she had been busy with work so it was good to see her on her day off. We were given beers with ice as we sat down at the huge kitchen table to catch up on what the boys had been up to.
We ordered East Hill chicken for lunch, which was fantastic, chatted a bit more and drank a few beers. Stu is not normally a drinker these days but he joined us for a couple of cold ones on this hot day. Tatas had forgotten her swimmers but that didn’t stop her jumping off of the plunge pool edge, in to the big swimming pool below, in denim shorts. I got in to the plunge pool to cool off as it was so hot and humid again. Tatas kindly took some photos of us in the pool as the clouds started to roll in a bit more. When she left, as she had a briefing that night, I had a lift back to mine with her. We had just got back in time when another storm came and we were fortunate to have left when we did. It had been a fun day out, with lots of laughs, and we hoped to meet up again when Captain Caveman and Tatas had days off at the same time.
For dinner I had pasta with Stilton cheese, I watched the rain and had yet another early night.

Pool photos by Tatas

Phong Nha – 11th & 12th July

Phong Nha – 11th & 12th July

There was quite a bit of rain on Monday 11th July. Captain Caveman had left for his Son Doong trip and this time he was doing 3 tours in a row, working for the next 12 days. He’d given me some spending money so that I could go for a drink with Veronika or Tatas if the opportunity arose.
I had cornflakes for breakfast and caught up on some admin tasks. I’d attempted to get out another mystery freezer meal for dinner and made myself a cheese sandwich for lunch.
It wasn’t quite the Monday I’d been used to but I did indulge in a vodka, lime and soda with my evening meal. It turned out to be a satay sauce which I had with chicken, vegetables and steamed rice.
After the hectic Hanoi trip it was nice to have a day of not doing too much, just staying at Elements again.

More bad weather was predicted and storms were due on Tuesday 12th July. I saw on Facebook that the newly finished villa next to where we stay in Dalyan was up for holiday rental and it looked very nice. I had a buttered crumpet for breakfast which Captain Caveman had brought back from Hanoi. My lunch was leftover satay chicken with rice and I did some Turkish lessons in the afternoon.
Veronika had invited me over to share some fizz so I got a lift up to the Phong Nha Farmstay with Dung, a new driver. Veronika and Ross were staying in one of the Jungalo private pool villas so I went over to their place. We had a lovely glass or two of sparkling white wine, before walking to the Farmstay poolside bar for dinner. Veronika ordered a Shepherd’s pie (the Tuesday special), I had the chicken and cashew nuts which was really tasty. I’d eaten mine by the time Ross got his food and was sat talking to Bich under a fan. It got incredibly warm as her cook showed her the prawns she had bought. Ten minutes later we had a downpour of rain so we opened another bottle of fizz, the Lindeman’s which is a firm favourite. Bich was telling me they have changed the pricing at the Farmstay now, with immediate effect everything would be subject to 8% tax and 5% service charge. They were also reviewing the prices of items on the menu which had not seen an increase in some time. It reminded me of Turkey in that prices were increasing to allow for the new tourist season. When I got my bill it came to 1,000,000vnd (£35 for dinner and mainly wine) which wasn’t bad when you compared it to Western prices. I tried to wait for the rain to stop to leave but in the end we just had to go for it. I was easily home and in bed by 10pm but I didn’t sleep much, as the thunder and lightening was right overhead and kept me awake.

Hanoi to Phong Nha – 10th July

Hanoi to Phong Nha – 10th July

Our stay in Hanoi was almost over but on Sunday 10th July we had one last friend to see. Lien used to be our Vietnamese teacher and we arranged to meet her at Oriberry cafe. I’d mentioned we should probably get something for breakfast first but Captain Caveman said we could eat later. It was nice to see Lien and she looked really well as we chatted about work related topics. Captain Caveman ordered himself a chicken and pesto salad sandwich but I really didn’t want to eat lunch at 10am and they didn’t have breakfast items.

On our way back to check out we bought a croissant for me from the supermarket. We had a car booked for the airport at 11.15am and we were off. Hanoi airport was very busy and the self check-in counters were broken so Captain Caveman had a bit of a to do. He went to complain at the staff member behind the new ticket sales counter. We were likely to miss our flight because the check-in queues were horrendous so she helped us by pushing us in to the front and getting us our tickets printed. The airport was noisy and stressful, we didn’t even get an alcoholic beverage. The flight was on time and, before we had even took off, Captain Caveman was working, the holiday was over! When we landed it was Captain Caveman’s job to meet and greet his customers which he did. When we went to get in the organised transport there were 2 cars which we were allocated the one with the Vietnamese customers in, while the English speakers were in the other car. They dropped me off, with both bags, at Elements and Captain Caveman went straight to Phong Nha to drop off customers then to his briefing for the tour tomorrow.

Shannon, was in town and we’d organised a soirée at the Phong Nha Farmstay. I snaffled down a toasted teacake and passion fruit snack, then got ready. I met up with Shannon, Veronika, Ross, Trang and Andrew for some dinner and a drink. I had a couple of beers and ordered a pork clay pot while the others had pizza or snack food. Mine took a bit longer to be served but it was really good and I had some rosé wine with Shannon. It was a pleasant evening and good to see Shannon passing through Phong Nha after a year away. Captain Caveman was back home before me and the rain had started to get heavy when I got my lift back home.

Hanoi – 9th July

Hanoi – 9th July

We had breakfast on Saturday 9th July at a place in Hanoi which Captain Caveman had told me about. I’d been looking forward to trying 7Frydays for its fish and chips, which are meant to be ‘the business’, but a good English fry up would do me. The rain in Hanoi was pretty heavy so we had borrowed an umbrella and taken the shortcut through the alleyways to get there. I think Captain Caveman was hoping to prove where I went wrong on getting lost yesterday, but we got lost again and it made me laugh.
At 7Frydays the staff/owners were friendly and hard working and they dried off a table for us to sit at. As soon as I saw the breakfast menu I was happy and went for the build your own, while Captain Caveman ordered a Full Monty, of course. I had a lovely pot of tea with cold milk and a proper mug too. Something I have noticed that seems to be increasing is using chillies as garnish, as I’m allergic I find it unnecessary, but Captain Caveman had the bit that was on top of my hash brown. The food was absolutely wonderful and I would definitely eat there again when I’m in Hanoi. I was very full and wouldn’t need any lunch.

In the afternoon we went to meet Gary in a Bia Hoi, the weather had fined up so we walked. To be honest I’m not a fan of the Bia Hoi places because, although now I can drink the beer, the ones we usually go to are aimed at Vietnamese men. The toilets are always basic at best, no one has heard of soap and there’s lots of smoking (cigarettes and weed) on most occasions. Nevertheless, I do love Gary and his wife, Hanh, their friends are often good company too, so I put up with it. I usually end up having a great time and just get drunk so I worry less about having to use the piss drenched, stinky toilet. Joining the group today were Matt and Darren, both of who were also fun and we talked about a load of random topics. Captain Caveman got his beer served in a wonky glass which I wanted to see if we could buy but Captain Caveman wasn’t interested in doing that. I enjoyed the humour and having such a good laugh, which we always do whenever we meet up with Gary and his crew. The time went too quickly, I was very merry but it was time to say farewell. We had a dinner booked for our final evening in Hanoi together, tonight.

On the way back to Euphoria apartments Captain Caveman pointed out that the Bia Hoi next to where we were had a small Frydays within it. We stopped off and I tried the fish and chips, Captain Caveman had a fish sandwich. Unfortunately they didn’t have the Atlantic Cod, probably as they had been busy last night, so we settled for the red snapper. Our bill came to just 255,000vnd (£9), the portions were good and that included 3 beers. It was very tasty and hopefully helped soak up some of the alcohol before I had to go back to get ready for our last night out in Hanoi.

I decided to wear my orange dress with a bit of cleavage on show and had my hair down despite it being a bit warm still. Captain Caveman booked us a Grab taxi and texted his friend, Mr B, to let him know we were on our way! It would be a romantic table for three at the Drunken Duck. When the car dropped us off it was a bit of a walk down some alleys to find the place, it is on the canal by the Intercontinental hotel. As we walked in to the Drunken Duck it definitely looked like the type of place you’d go on a date. I noted it would definitely not be a place my Dad would like, though, on account of it being very dark and there were absolutely no menus whatsoever, not even for cocktails or wine!
We sat at the bar, where the extremely young bartender was making cocktails and we chose ours. I wasn’t expecting to be that impressed with my Old Fashioned but it was spot on. My next cocktail was a dry martini with olives, by which time Mr B had arrived and we sat at our ‘table pour trois’. I think I preferred a menu rather than the waiter telling us we could have ‘chicken, pork, beef or fish’ and then Captain Caveman and Mr B asking for lamb. I ordered chicken in a rush and regretted it instantly. My food was good and came with 5 spice sauce on half a chicken, served with salad and pickled white carrot.
The guys got what I thought was one portion of lamb to share but the waiter assured us it was two portions but on the same plate. We asked if they had wine and he directed us to the wall where I asked the price of a Primitivo. It was a reasonable cost at under £30 so we went for that and enjoyed it.

The night was delightful, we saw Mr B off in to a taxi before walking back to our accommodation. On the way back we inadvertently ended up in 7 Bridges Taproom bar, again! It had been great to see Captain Caveman as well as him be able to have some time off to see friends. Tomorrow we would be back in Phong Nha, we were both looking forward to it.

Photo credit – some at the Drunken Duck taken by Captain Caveman

Hanoi – 8th July

Hanoi – 8th July

My first job on Friday 8th July was to book myself on a trip to Laos for my next visa run. I had found an agent who did organised van/bus trips to the Vietnam-Laos border to be able to go out and in again with a new e-Visa. They were based in Danang and were doing at least one trip per week so I made enquiries, leading to a provisional booking for the end of the month. Captain Caveman’s train was running a bit late but he was on his way. I took a walk to Republic in the West Lake area of Hanoi and had a pot of earl grey tea. When I asked for some milk for it they brought me hot frothy milk which was a bit strange but I used it. Captain Caveman arrived and we had to leave straight away because he had arranged a lunch appointment with a friend.
I’d particularly wanted to visit Con Heo Beo (The Fat Pig) as I hadn’t been for so long. It’s primarily a pork restaurant, a short walk down the hill from Republic, and where we went when my parents were visiting a few years ago. When we arrived the place had been done up a tad and looked very nice, Captain Caveman’s friend was already sat at an upstairs table, we ordered beers and pork scratchings for starters. We listened intently to Mr B sharing tales of his life since he and Captain Caveman last met up, 15 years ago. We ordered a sharing platter over more interesting updates. I was just getting to find this guy entertaining when it was informed to me that Mr B and Captain Caveman had to leave as they had arranged to be somewhere else at 2pm. Captain Caveman gave me his rucksack, put a shortcut on my phone of how to get back to Euphoria apartments, through some back alleys, and sent me off. It was not quite the romantic ‘welcome back to Vietnam’ reunion I’d imagined but, honestly, it was not unexpected – Captain Caveman has form for this sort of thing.

Google maps told me it was a 3 minute walk through some alleys back to Euphoria apartments. I followed the map for about a minute then my map told me I was stood in the middle of a lake and stopped directing me. It was hot, humid, I was lost but I was definitely not in a lake. I decided to go right and when I saw some building works, which Captain Caveman had mentioned, I turned left thus ending up in a school playground. It was 2pm as Google directed me to walk through the school, which I did and was back on track.
I did some Turkish practice and lolled about back at the apartment for a bit. Captain Caveman had said he would meet me at the Moose and Roo at 5pm where I’d also rearranged to meet friends from our cancelled plans yesterday. I walked the 10 minutes to the pub and arrived at 5pm, just as Captain Caveman had got off a Grab motorbike. He hadn’t brought his friend so just the 2 of us went inside the Moose and Roo. Leonard made it and was doing well, I’d not seen him since before the pandemic, when he lived at Funny Monkeys, Phong Nha. We ordered some beers and the service wasn’t super quick so we weren’t going to be getting drunk. Leonard is a pensioner, and not too steady on his feet, so he just had the one beer. We happened to notice a guy we knew from a few years back, Declan, and he joined us for a drink too. We got talking to him about mates we had in common and had a bit of a laugh. Once Declan left, we decided to have some food and checked out the extensive menu. Leonard ordered the topped nachos, Captain Caveman and I shared a cheese board, both were nice but not the best ever.
We had another beer (or 2) then said our goodbyes to Leonard and stopped traffic to get him in to a taxi, back to his hotel, in the old quarter. As we were leaving I started petting a customer’s dog and we got talking to the owner, they knew Mark and Lesley from Phong Nha and were coming to Phong Nha soon, so we exchanged details on Facebook. They needed information on what to do in Phong Nha and would message us with questions. We set off walking home and decided to call for one at the 7 Bridges bar. We ended up staying a little longer than expected and even had more food. Captain Caveman had a slice of pizza and some onion rings, I had the most amazing mac and cheese with bacon in. We left when a big group got too noisy – they just happened to be British!
Captain Caveman and I had just one more full day in Hanoi tomorrow so he was going to make the most of it!

Hanoi – 7th July

Hanoi – 7th July

Thursday 7th July was particularly rainy in Hanoi so I stayed in the apartment. Kat was up early and had stuff to do so we said our goodbyes, it had been a really great couple of days and I was going to miss her company. She’d already had a croissant for breakfast, I had mine a little later. By lunch time I was eating left overs and doing a spot of Duolingo Turkish. Captain Caveman was due out of Son Doong today and would be going to his gala dinner tonight. His train was leaving Dong Hoi in the late evening but would arrive at 10am (approximately) tomorrow morning. We had arranged to meet up at a place I could walk to for lunch. I helped my sister, in Dalyan, organise a private boat trip with Kaan and breakfast at Çandır Resort for this coming weekend and then I did some blog editing. I couldn’t be bothered to go out in the rain as I didn’t have the clothes for it so I stayed in.
I was meant to be meeting some friends at 5pm but, because of the rain, we postponed to when Captain Caveman was here. I drank the peach cider and finished off what was left of the picnic. It was all very nice and the peach cider is definitely worth a try.
It was a lovely relaxing day, one I should have appreciated more because our weekend was going to be busy!


Hanoi – 6th July

Hanoi – 6th July


I had a bit of a funny turn at about 2am on Wednesday 6th July. Kat turned the light out for us to go to sleep and I lay down. I got an overwhelming feeling of not being able to breathe properly and my chest was very hot to the touch. I scared her as she wondered if I was going to need medical attention and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. When I sat up I seemed to feel better but when I lay down I got worse, I turned my head toward the Aircon and we left the torch, on Kat’s phone, on until I calmed down a bit and eventually fell asleep. Thinking about it, it was the same thing I had when I got on the plane in Singapore so I wondered if it was just from lack of sleep and a bit of stress.
When I woke up, Kat had already been out to buy us some local food for breakfast. She had got me xoi ngo (or xoi bap), which is sticky corn rice with mung bean and fried onion. It’s very filling and tastes great. Kat had xoi xeo for herself, which was similar to mine but without the corn. We ate it with kombucha, which I didn’t particularly enjoy but it did cut through the stodge of the breakfast well.
After breakfast I got ready and we decided to go over to West Lake so we could grab a drink at a cafe. Our first stop was at Mystic cafe where they put up a parasol for us to sit by the lake. It was hazy but hot and I borrowed a sun hat from Kat. I had a fresh iced tea and the menu looked good so we ordered lunch there. I had a chicken taco and Kat had chicken salad, both were great value for money. Next we stopped off at Huy Long cafe on a nice corner spot, Kat had a coffee and I had a fresh lemon juice.
Kat had stuff to do in the afternoon so she kindly dropped me off at the accommodation which Captain Caveman had booked from tonight. We loosely said we would meet up later and off I went, to the Euphoria reception desk to check in.

I was excited to find we had been upgraded to a snazzy 2 bedroom apartment at Euphoria. I roughly knew the area too so, after unpacking and taking some photos, I had a walk to the shopping centre next to Fraser Suites. I was surprised to see that the Annam Gourmet shop sold Yorkshire tea bags but 80 were 450,000vnd (£16.20). I found that wine was cheaper and bought 2 bottles of screw top red and some croissants for breakfast tomorrow. I wasn’t sure if I would be eating out tonight but noticed the pizza place had 2 for 1 offers on Wednesdays which was good.

Back at Euphoria, I chilled out a bit and worked out how to operate the TV so that I could put my Youtube playlist on. Kat was coming over later but I got peckish and thirsty so I ordered pizza and started the wine. Kat arrived with treats of cheese, olives, Korean chocolate nibbles, some pastry things and peach cider. We had a bit of a picnic for our dinner, with wine and some great tunes. At first I was reluctant to try the Ricco Tiramisu gluten free sweets, but Kat insisted. I’m glad that she did because they are life changing and I need to have more if them in my life. We went to bed late and it was pretty luxurious to have a bedroom each tonight.

Singapore to Hanoi – 5th July

Singapore to Hanoi – 5th July

It was only just Tuesday 5th July, as I stood at a phone charging station in Changi airport, Singapore, at 12.05am. I’d found a currency exchange shop where the woman was finishing her shift and she swapped me five $20 notes for one of my $100s. She also told me that all the places to get food and drink will close and not open until morning so to stock up on anything I needed. She was helpful and it was nice. There is so much to do in Changi airport, but not after 10pm at night.
I was eating plain crisps and dairy milk chocolate while trying to ignore the ignoramus next to me. He was watching very loud and violent clips on his phone while laughing. I’d not been able to have any sleep yet so I’d decided to come to make sure my phone battery was at 100% before my attempt to check-in. Given that my ticket had my surname spelled incorrectly, and I couldn’t change it, I was genuinely worried. All helpful posts on the internet gave the same answer that I wouldn’t be allowed to travel with it. I was situated right next to the Scoot automatic check-in machines which were open for flights to Australia, South Korea and Indonesia but there seemed to be a bottle neck of customers. This proved to be very useful as I overheard a member of staff who had come to help people get through quicker. It seemed that the Australians had more discrepancies than the South Koreans, who still needed PCR tests to enter their country. I decided I would try my luck and wandered slowly towards the queue. On the way there, I bumped in to a lovely older Australian lady, heading for Sydney, and we got chatting in the queue. She couldn’t work the machine and I noticed her passport was upside down and I copied her. Because we were causing a jam, the Scoot staff member sent both of us over to the in-person check-in, giving us both a slip of paper to say we required manual check-in due to a fault! That was the first hurdle. I let the Aussie lady go first and I waited behind a large South Korean family who were half way through repacking their bags and arguing at being denied check-in. This Scoot staff member looked stressed so when it was my turn I smiled and tried a bit of sympathy. As she was checking my passport and printing the ticket I asked if she needed to weigh my hand luggage (I knew it was under) then proceeded to pop it on the scales. I was through to departures just before 1am!!! I had just 8 hours to kill before boarding my flight so I was heading straight to do some damage in a lounge for 3 of them!

Once through security at Changi airport, I  trotted off to the SATS Premier Lounge, Terminal 1, and I was so excited. It had 24hr food and booze and should have been even better than the one I was in last month, at Terminal 3. The guy on the reception desk was super friendly and informative and told me that he would remind me when my 3 hours was up but if I wanted to do another 3 hours after that, I could! This would mean paying on my Priority Pass for an extra visit but if the food and drink selection was good and it was a nice place to relax I would do that.    I didn’t even sit down first, I went straight to the booze selection and poured myself a prosecco in a wine glass, who cares if they had no flutes!
I took a couple of selfies so I could ‘brag off’ to Kate and Mark, who also have a Priority Pass, that I was in a lounge and then I went to check out the food options. There were some delicious looking curries with hardly any left but the staff seemed to be replenishing the containers. I grabbed a pumpkin and spinach sandwich, some cheese and turkey ham and another prosecco. I told one of the staff that I would need another bottle of prosecco and handed him the empty bottle. Despite the sandwich selection being the only choice available I had 2, they weren’t too bad and I poured myself a third glass of fizz. There was still no hot food left so I asked the bloke who was in the kitchen area if I could get some chicken curry and rice, he said yes. It never appeared and so I asked the reception staff why there was still no hot food. They said they would find out what was happening but after twice of me checking nothing appeared. By now, all that was left of the cold food was a bowl of cucumber and tomatoes (which I don’t eat) and I was very hungry. I got some nuts but they had wasabi peas in them and I didn’t chance eating any more than the first mouthful. I got out my own crisps at one point and told the staff this was not acceptable. I was now quite tiddly but soldiered on with more prosecco and kept asking how long the food would be. After another 2 hours of waiting and asking I was told my time in the lounge was up and there was still no food, I was flabbergasted. I complained, asked the reception guy for a solution and he told me they were changing from dinner to breakfast food hence the delay. I could not believe my ears when he suggested I go to find the 7-Eleven shop to buy some food in the airport. Outrageous! Incidentally, it was closed.
I spent the next 3 hours just wandering around the airport, drunk, looking for snacks/food (in shops, not in bins) but had to eat the rest of my crisps. I found an empty seating area and made a bed from my travel pillow and towel, took my Volleys off and tried for a nap. It was still only 5am!

By the time I was boarding my flight from Singapore to Hanoi, I was exhausted and pretty hungry. Although not hungry enough to have eaten the Bounty and a Dairy Milk fruit and nut bar, which I was saving as a treat for Kat. Between us, we had completely got the details of when I was staying at her place, in Hanoi, confused. She had thought it was yesterday and I’d obviously known it was today but may have not corrected her on our messages. This meant she was busy when I intended on arriving but was still happy for me to stay over and sent me a video of where she lived in Hanoi. The least I could do is take her some chocolate!
I was nervous because I still had to show my boarding pass and passport to the staff at the gate – what if they noticed the name error? I got to the front of the queue to board and, as the staff checked my documents, I asked if the plane was full. She looked up and told me it was, but if I needed to request a seat change I should ask once I got on the plane. And, just like that, I was through! We waited on the air bridge for quite a while and when I got on I was feeling hot and a bit jittery. I put it down to having been wearing a mask and my eczema flaring up, a lot.
I sat down in row 7, in the window seat allocated to me, but I really wanted an aisle seat. I started to feel unwell so I asked the guy in my row to swap. As luck would have it his wife was in an aisle seat 5 rows back so I then swapped with her and I was very grateful of their help. I was lucky to not have anyone sitting next to me and we took off on time.
On Scoot airlines they have free WiFi and you have to order any food or drinks online. At first it didn’t work but eventually I ordered a red wine and some fried rice! It cost 19 Singaporean dollars, which was good as I had 20 left, about £11.50. I was so hungry I would have eaten anything, despite any allergy warnings and I expected the worst!
The mixed fried rice was great (I left the crab claw) and I enjoyed the appropriately named wine before we landed at Hanoi. It was not long after midday when I got into the lengthy immigration queue to re-enter Vietnam.

I was very tired as I waited, then got moved to another queue. After what seemed like too long I was allowed back in to Vietnam! It was 24 hours since I’d taken off in Danang, but 35 hours since I had left Phong Nha. I felt it was a bit of a chore for a visa run and wouldn’t choose to do this journey again in a hurry.
I was meant to get the number 86 bus to Hanoi train station, where Kat would send a taxi for me. Considering I was knackered, and I’d not spent hotel or extra lounge money, I splashed out on a taxi to Ba Dinh. It cost 400,000vnd (£14.40) and took less than an hour to get there. I got out of the taxi at the WinMart, Kat came to meet me and I bought a couple of cold beers to celebrate being back in Vietnam. Kat was very welcoming and her studio apartment was a delight – I loved it. She told me to help myself to anything I wanted as she had an appointment she needed to get to. I unpacked, had a shower and then tried to sleep. I woke up a few hours later to a horrendous noise. It was a monsoon style storm and the thunder and lightening was right above me. It went on for several hours and when Kat eventually got home, she’d had to push her broken down motorbike through thigh deep water to get to her place. I was so lucky to not have had to leave the room and we planned to get a takeaway for a late dinner. It was around 10pm and we struggled to get a delivery with the flooded streets. Our burgers arrived at 11.30pm and we were so hungry that mine was snaffled quickly. I was so excited to be safely back in Hanoi and was grateful to have a safe, dry, friendly place to relax after a very long day.

Phong Nha to Singapore – 4th July

Phong Nha to Singapore – 4th July

Our best intentions to stay awake until my car came at 2am on 4th July fell flat! We had both fallen asleep but, luckily, I had set an alarm. I said my goodbyes to a very snoozy Captain Caveman who offered no words of ‘good luck’ or ‘hope to see you soon’ as I kissed him, and he barely woke up.
The driver, who I booked with the receptionist at the Phong Nha Farmstay, was early and the car was nice and comfortable. On the way to Dong Hoi train station, the driver had the windows open and was doing a strange tapping on the side of the car with his left hand – probably to try to stay awake. The journey cost 500,000vnd (£18) which is standard for the 50km distance and I was very early for my 3.15am train. The trains are very busy at this time of year so the booking had shown I had the last seat available, there were no sleeping berths left but I didn’t mind too much. When I got on the SE11 train it was dark inside the carriage and I could not see to get to my seat, which was in the middle somewhere. It was very busy with people sleeping, some were even on the floor with blankets over them. I found an empty couple of seats with a broken back which was reclined to almost horizontal – ideal! We left on time and were scheduled to arrive in Danang at 09.08am. By my calculations I probably had 2-3 hours of sleep before passengers started to get up and make a noise as the Vietnamese like to wake up early and eat breakfast. I got my trusty neck pillow and travel towel/blanket out and managed to nod off. By 5.25am the carriage was practically a party with the amount of toing and froing for ablutions, nose/throat clearance and smoking in the vestibule. I could see that my booked seat had people in it so I stayed where I was and was lucky enough to not get kicked out, unlike the old woman in front of me did, the conductor was pretty shouty at her too. When Captain Caveman woke up he checked on my progress and we worked out I was running about half an hour late. I still had time as my flight wasn’t until 1.15pm. I declined a banh mi breakfast baguette from the trolley, having seen them sneezed on at least twice. Masks were no longer compulsory on trains, most passengers wore them but pulled them down to sneeze! I didn’t bother wearing my mask, mainly because I knew I would probably have to wear one for a long time once I got to the airport and it makes my eczema worse.
When I got off the train I was planning on going to the noodle shop opposite the station. It was now a Korean BBQ place and next door was a craft beer place so I decided to walk towards the supermarket, Big C. I had the directions which Captain Caveman had given me and I followed them. After 11 minutes I realised I was lost so I flagged down a taxi and went straight to the airport. I couldn’t check in until 11.15am so I found a Big Bowl cafe and ordered a bowl of overpriced Pho Bo and a beer. The lady serving me kept saying I should have the more expensive wagyu beef version because it is better for foreigners. I stuck with the cheaper version which was still expensive. Even the drinks were twice the usual price for a can of beer, which definitely confused the server and the waitress that I was having beer for breakfast. So far, Plan B was going well and Captain Caveman was walking his group through the jungle towards Hang En right about now.

When I got to check-in, it was just starting to get busy but I was at the front of the queue. I’m not sure why I didn’t expect the check-in staff to be as thorough, but she did ask for proof of everything;
• vaccines and booster evidence,
• registration on Singapore site and email confirmation of that,
• onward/return flight within 30 days,
• a hotel booking in case of quarantine if testing positive on arrival
I almost forgot to ask for an aisle seat in all the paperwork checking. I had nothing printed out and all on my phone because we don’t have a printer. She didn’t notice that my hotel booking was just a photo of the link to the place Captain Caveman had sent me and she didn’t spot the mistake on my ticket back in to Vietnam for tomorrow.
I was through security relatively quickly but then the airport was pretty busy at the gates with not much seating. I wasn’t sure what time I would eat again today so I decided to go to Burger King which was fairly empty. I’d just placed my order and sat down when I noticed my ticket from Singapore to Hanoi tomorrow had an error on it, one that meant I couldn’t travel without amending it or buying a new flight.
Captain Caveman had spelled my surname wrong on my ticket back to Vietnam, and it was with one of those low cost airlines where the check-in is done by a machine, meaning my passport and ticket with booking reference wouldn’t match up.
Obviously, I could still leave Vietnam as the ticket to Singapore was fine but now I was stressed over what to do about this cock up! I decided I might be able to log in as Captain Caveman and try to amend my booking. I got all the way to where it wanted another $40 from his existing card and that’s where I failed, I didn’t know his 3 digit number on the back of his card. I let the transaction time out and it gave me a picture error message which I took a screenshot of. I’d just started eating a cheeseburger and fries when Captain Caveman rang from the little village on day 1 of his tour. He neither had his card nor knew the numbers I needed. He wasn’t as upset, or apologetic, as I thought he’d be and just said he was sure I would figure something out because I used to be a travel agent! That was about 25 years ago, it’s not like I had connections in Singapore and they were pretty strict. Now, not only was I worried about getting back in because of a potential visa issue, I was very concerned I would be stuck in Changi airport with no solution.
I had $300 cash on me but I didn’t want to buy a new ticket and have no money left. I decided I would chance it and see how things were once I got to Singapore, after all, I had 15 hours or more to work it out.

My Danang to Singapore flight was delayed very slightly so we landed about 5.15pm at Changi airport. My flight tomorrow was at 09.55am, that’s if I could even get on it because of the name mistake on my ticket. I was tired but prepared to have a mini adventure in Singapore. I was wearing my volleys, some loose trousers and a vest top but I had not thought of bringing any clothing for if there was a storm. I looked outside of the airport and there was monsoon type rain. I’d intended to get the MRT (subway) but then walk to some accommodation, which I hadn’t booked yet. I would be soaked. Instead, I decided I would go to the terminal I was flying from tomorrow and investigate the automated check-in machines at Scoot. I walked around the airport for an hour and established that the Scoot check-in was a bit chaotic so I kept on walking. I found the Jewel which is a massive mall type area with amazing gardens, fountains and lots of designer shops over several floors – it was massive. Changi is one of the best airports for this kind of thing so I decided I would just stay in the airport. I had spent longer in airports overnight and I was sure I’d be fine, plus I would try my luck at check-in in the early hours of the morning and hope to get through to one of the lounges on my Priority Pass – the one landside didn’t include alcohol. I walked for 2 hours non-stop then watched the fountain and light show. I walked some more and tried my best to change my three 100 dollar notes which most of the exchange shops couldn’t do. I got myself $25 worth of Singaporean dollars with the intention of getting an alcoholic beverage, or two. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that by 10.30pm the airport had already closed most of the shops and alcohol was not able to be purchased until I was airside – it was going to be a long night. I asked a member of the Scoot staff if there was any way I could check in early to go through to a lounge and she said there was no chance. She said I couldn’t check in until 6.55am but I wondered how the automatic machines could tell that. I bought some chocolate and almost thought seaweed crisps were salt and vinegar flavoured. I found a quiet area upstairs near the prayer room and tried to have a bit of a rest, I’d started to have a sea-sickness feeling which I get when I’ve had no sleep. I would wait until after midnight then try to check-in again when the staff changed.