Phong Nha – 3rd July

Phong Nha – 3rd July

Sunday 3rd July was going to be my last day in Phong Nha for a little while. I was off to Singapore and back because of the visa situation and I wish I’d had more sleep last night! I had Frosties for breakfast and packed my rucksack, I only had hand luggage allowance so I had to be careful what I took. I knew I might be sleeping in the airport so a pillow and a travel towel were the essentials taking room up in my bag. I also had a book, which Ben had given me to read, Burmese Days by George Orwell. For lunchtime I made myself a strawberry soda, just chicken and gerkins to eat and planned for a big meal tonight. Captain Caveman was due out of the cave this afternoon so I got out of the freezer what I thought was butter chicken curry from Baba’s Kitchen in Saigon. We had transported it 1,100km so it had better be good!
When Captain Caveman got home we had White Russians by the pool, he booked me a return flight from Singapore to Hanoi, which I didn’t check thoroughly enough. I would fly back in to Hanoi and Captain Caveman would come to join me 3 days later, taking the overnight train after he got out of the cave. This meant that, if all went according to plan, I would have 15 hours in Singapore and Captain Caveman had given me some screenshots of where to stay, how to get there and some spare dollars for any difficulties or emergencies.
After Captain Caveman had left for his next Oxalis briefing, he called to ask me to get his bank card out of the safe as something was the matter with the booking he had made. I think it was a sign that I should have rechecked my ticket but I didn’t, as Captain Caveman is usually perfectly capable of sorting these things out. Instead, I got busy completing my online form to enter Singapore and saving all my vaccine proof which was still needed. Captain Caveman returned and he got busy booking accommodation in Hanoi, and our flights back to Dong Hoi for the 10th July. I went to cook the butter chicken only to find it was Captain Caveman’s masaman chicken curry without any vegetables in it. There was nothing we could do about that now and I needed to eat something before my trip so we proceeded. Obviously he had put far too much chilli in it for me so I had to have 70:30 rice to curry ratio and stock up on imodium. We opened wine and decided we would plough on through until my car pick up at 2am tomorrow morning even though Captain Caveman had to be on tour. We opened a nice bottle of red which we’d bought for a bargain 154,000vnd (£5.55) in Dong Hoi and I popped on my ‘travelling in’ clothes.

Phong Nha – 2nd July

Phong Nha – 2nd July

My weekends are quiet when Captain Caveman is in the cave, Saturday 2nd July was a typical example of this. It was a lot cooler in the morning because there had been a blustery but short storm in the early hours of the morning.
I didn’t have breakfast as I was helping my family with some bookings and recommendations in Dalyan and then I had cheese on toasted baguette for lunch. The weather got warmer and I swam a lot while my family went to the Dalyan market.
I took advantage of having a second balcony and sat outside the spare room, reading and having a dark fruits cider in the afternoon. I took a few photos of the pool from the other side of the villa and just relaxed. I booked my taxi to Dong Hoi train station for 2am on the 4th July and I contacted Kat to arrange to meet up in Hanoi, assuming all worked out fine with my Plan B or C.
For dinner I went with a very healthy option of steamed chicken breast, mushrooms and rice and didn’t even have any more alcohol.

Phong Nha – 1st July

Phong Nha – 1st July

Captain Caveman was on day 2 of his tour and I was expecting rain, the skies were cloudy and it felt a bit cooler on Friday 1st July. I decided I’d been a bit slack with not taking my measurements or getting weighed each week and would reintroduce it. In Phong Nha we don’t have any scales but Captain Caveman had previously brought over a tape measure. The last time I had taken measurements was the 6th May, so almost 2 months ago and I was shocked by the results. I’d had a good month of going out in Dalyan and then a quieter month with less drinking in Phong Nha.
These were my results this morning;
Bust -3cm,
Waist -5cm,
Hips -6cm,
Right thigh -0.5cm,
Left thigh -2cm,
Right calf -2.5cm,
Left calf -3.5cm.
Wow, I wish I knew my weight. My calves had lost a lot, probably from not cycling, walking or dancing like I was in Turkey. Both calves measured the same but my thighs had a 1cm difference still and I was sure the swimming was helping my overall measurements.
I treated myself to a breakfast of buttered teacake toast and then got to moving Captain Caveman’s winter clothes in to the spare room. I also noted while tidying up his stuff that he had in excess of 10 pairs of sunglasses including 1 pair of mine that I had given him last year when he said he didn’t have any to wear – they were my only spare pair.
For lunch I took a Snickers out of the freezer and it defrosted naturally within minutes. In the afternoon the cleaners came, so I chopped fruit in the kitchen. I put mango and passion fruit in the fridge and freezer and ate an orange. The rain didn’t come and the humidity level was very high, I heard thunder nearby.
At 6.30pm I got picked up for pizza night with the Le Mitchell family at The Villas. When we arrived it was very busy so Veronika wanted to sit by the river, I find that it’s easier to get served nearer the bar so I joined René who was sat at a table outside but near to the door. I ordered a beer and said yes to the all you can eat pizza for 180,000vnd (£6.30). Veronika, Ross and the grandchildren came to sit next to us and went for the same deal. We chatted on about the visa extension debacle and the pizzas were great, as always. The company was lovely and I had a really good evening. René and I exchanged phone numbers and told me he was happy to come pick me up on his motorbike to go to his, while Captain Caveman was away which was really kind. Veronika and Ross also said they fancied a trip out to see his homestay and we could perhaps cycle there together. It wasn’t too far and I quite fancied doing that.

Phong Nha – 30th June

Phong Nha – 30th June

When Captain Caveman goes in to the cave I’m not usually one for being down about it, I always have a list of things to do to keep me entertained. On Thursday 30th June, though, I did feel a bit out of sorts and I wasn’t entirely sure why. It could have been that I had only 5 days left in Vietnam, potentially. It could have been that my family and friends in Dalyan were having a DBL (Deep Blue Leg-Ends) reunion today and I really wished I was able to be there. The day started super early, obviously, as Captain Caveman was awake about 5.30am and we were going to have ‘McMuffins’ for breakfast. Before 7am I was tucking in to a bacon and brown sauce muffin, Captain Caveman was devouring his bacon, fried egg and cheese (with mayonnaise) muffin. I said goodbye and decided I would go to pump up Bluey’s tyres. It was hot but a little cloudy so today just might be a good day to cycle to the Phong Nha Farmstay. I’d already said I would meet Veronika and Ross, Tatas was hoping to join us later too, as she had a day off. My Vietnamese was never brilliant but I’d noticed, since learning Turkish, that I had forgotten a lot of the Vietnamese I had learned so I ended up causing a bit of a misunderstanding with Duyet. Bluey’s tyres were completely flat and the small bike pump, which Captain Caveman had at home, was next to useless, mainly as the valve wouldn’t fit properly. I tried to tell Duyet this but I wasn’t sure if he understood and he gave me a lift in the jeep instead.

Veronika and Ross had already had breakfast so I didn’t bother ordering anything and we got reacquainted. They had spent the last 9 months back home in Australia and were staying at the Farmstay in the Jungalo Collection, on holiday for just 2 weeks. Stu and Jack came to join us and when I told them all my bike pump translation issue they were laughing at me for inadvertently propositioning Duyet. We decided that when I got back I should go check the bicycle first and if Bluey’s tyres were still flat, I should be concerned I’d said the wrong thing!
Tatas arrived and we had a draught beer each while chatting to everyone, she concurred that I had probably given Duyet the wrong impression. After Stu and Jack left, the rest of us ordered lunch. Both Tatas and I had the Nem Lui which is one of my favourite Vietnamese pork dishes and it was very tasty. Tatas bought a bottle of wine and we managed a swim in the Farmstay pool. We’d got out and we were getting down the wine when there was a sudden downpour. There was only one thing for it, more wine! I spent 950,000vnd (£34.20) on food and (mostly) drink but it was a brilliant day, ending with a pint of draught beer.
I got home late and forgot to check Bluey, but there were no surprises from Duyet so I think all was well. The coming weekend would be my last one in Phong Nha before I left for Singapore, I really hoped it wouldn’t be the last time I saw Captain Caveman for a while.

Phong Nha – 29th June

Phong Nha – 29th June

Wednesday 29th June was a better day, it was also very hot and most of the morning was spent in the pool. Captain Caveman was due out of Son Doong this afternoon and had another Oxalis briefing tonight, ready to go back in tomorrow morning. I forgot to eat for most of the day because at lunch time I had notification that my next e-Visa had been granted. This would allow me to fly in to Hanoi International airport on 5th July and leave again on the 4th August. I was excited and emailed it to Captain Caveman so that he could print it out when he got back to Oxalis later.
When he did get back home he had no time to get in the pool because he was booking me a train ticket for me to go to DaNang next week. We also discussed that he was definitely working too much after he had agreed to do another tour, meaning he was doing 4 tours back to back. He loves his job that much that he was happy to do the extra tours and wants to work as much as possible but obviously I haven’t come all this way to not spend any time with him. I was a bit cheesed off that I also would be going out of Vietnam, into Singapore, and hopefully back in, while he was in the cave. This meant that if there were any problems he wouldn’t be contactable and he wouldn’t even know if I had got back in to Vietnam until 2 days after I was meant to be.
While Captain Caveman went to his next briefing, I thought I was meeting Veronika and Ross but they had the grandchildren so we rescheduled for tomorrow. I had bacon, tortilla and pickled cabbage for dinner and in the evening I had a beauty treatment. I noticed I was looking tired so I put the eye mask ‘things’ on, which my sister had bought me for Christmas. They felt good and I could really see a difference afterwards.

Phong Nha – 27th & 28th June

Phong Nha – 27th & 28th June

My week started very quietly, on Monday 27th June, and I was trying my best to save money. We still didn’t really know how much my going in and out of the country would cost us but it was an amount we hadn’t budgeted for.
I had teacake loaf and Frosties, with my Yorkshire tea, for breakfast then did some Turkish practice. I was still way behind on my lessons and thought I should check with Vanessa where she was with her’s this week.
I had a late lunch of chicken, rice, sweetcorn, carrots and mushrooms which I steamed in the rice cooker, with a gluten free stock cube, and was super healthy. That evening I had a chicken sandwich and a couple of Strongbow ciders for dinner as I had decided to forego curry night this week. For dessert I had Red Leicester with the last of Kate’s fruitcake then I had an early night.

My day started a little after 4.30am on Tuesday 28th June. I had got up for a pee and decided to check my phone, which was on do not disturb mode. I don’t normally check my phone like that but I had a strange feeling. I’d heard some tragic news from a friend and work colleague yesterday which I think had been playing on my mind. A former colleague had died unexpectedly and some of my friends were still in the same team. It was hard not to think about everyone who would be affected and I’d not slept too well.
I had a message from a friend, in England who was upset and so we messaged for a bit. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours but then it was too hot, today would turn out to be a warm one. I didn’t have any breakfast as I didn’t feel hungry but for lunch I had more chicken and veggie rice. In the afternoon I started helping someone in Dalyan.
I was in the pool when I noticed a visitor, one I used to see a lot last year. It was Eric the bee, he was back and he stayed on the door to the pool for hours. After lots of swimming it was time for a pool beer at 6pm and I took some selfies of me doing that. My hair was curly from the humidity and the pool salt which made it look nice but meant I wouldn’t get a hairbrush through it. I also wore my red swimmers, which Captain Caveman doesn’t like, because I like them.
I didn’t eat dinner until gone 9pm when I decided to have pesto pasta. When I opened the pesto it already had mould on it so I had to throw it away and find something else. We didn’t have any other sauces so I melted some Stilton cheese on to it, that was nice!
The mosquitoes were rife tonight, a few were in the house so I wore a band which is meant to ward them off. I had noticed that Dengue fever was on the rise in Vietnam and I definitely didn’t want to catch that.
At 10.30pm, which was 6.30pm Turkish time, Vanessa and I had a video call to discuss our Turkish lessons and homework. We were on the phone a while and it was good to chat and see a friendly face. It wasn’t quite the same as being in Okyanus with a glass of wine and a nice lunch but it was still good. I was meant to go to bed after we came off the phone but, instead, I stayed up until 2am doing my Turkish homework.

Phong Nha – 26th June

Phong Nha – 26th June

It was another early start on Sunday 26th June as Captain Caveman was off to Son Doong. He made breakfast and I was eating my bacon sandwich by 6.45am. He was excited because he was on tour with Tatas and they hadn’t been on the same one in ages, in fact neither of them could remember when the last one was. I did a few jobs from my To Do list including trying to make sure that Veronika had some sparkling wine in the fridge for when her and her husband, Ross, arrived. I wanted to move my clothes in to the spare room but we didn’t have any coat hangers so that was put on hold a bit longer. While I planned to spend the next few days at home in Phong Nha my sister and her family were on their way to Dalyan. I’d sent her some lists of where I found the best gluten free meals because she’s coeliac and I also recommended some boat trips and bars for them to try. My parents were really looking forward to their first visit and would be spending the first week with them. I was glad I’d come to visit Captain Caveman but I was really missing being in Dalyan with family and friends.
I had passion fruit and pineapple then Frosties for lunch as I was too hot and
couldn’t be bothered to have anything else. In the afternoon I lounged in the shade by the pool with my book, swam a lot and noticed my previously injured leg was back to normal now.
As the sun went down, I had a beer in the pool and completely forgot about making any dinner. Around 9pm I had 2 slices of a new invention in Vietnam, the teacake loaf. Instead of a toasted teacake, which can easily burn in the toaster, this is a sliced loaf but with the fruit of a teacake in it – genius and absolutely cutting edge for this area.

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 25th June

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 25th June

Captain Caveman had booked a car to take us on a shopping trip on Saturday 25th June. It wasn’t my idea of something good to do with a day off but Captain Caveman does enjoy shopping much more than I do. We were in the car and I was about to discuss my declined visa extension situation when Captain Caveman noticed a missed call from his boss. It’s not uncommon for this to happen on a day off early in the morning, so I wasn’t surprised. Captain Caveman was asked if he could be ready to go to do day 2 of a Hang Va tour, to cover for the Vietnamese tour guide who was on his way out. I thought we would have to turn the car around and go back but Captain Caveman pointed out that he couldn’t do it. This was the first time I’d ever witnessed Captain Caveman say no to one of his bosses asking him to do extra but, of course, I was pleased.
In Dong Hoi we got the driver to drop us off at Mr Bull’s for breakfast where we ordered Bo Ne, I had mine without eggs. It was delicious but I sensed Captain Caveman’s mind was still on the Hang Va issue. The operations manager, called him to say it had been sorted but they had sent in Tatas to cover, so now could Captain Caveman cover for Tatas on her pre-briefing duties. He agreed as they were both on the same Son Doong tour tomorrow. This meant he had to be at work an hour earlier this evening, at Son Doong Bungalows. I was definitely getting an idea of how busy Captain Caveman had been these last few months and I knew he was going to be very disappointed that I wasn’t able to get a visa extension without having to leave Vietnam.

Our first shop on the shopping trip was the Co-op Mart, the biggest of the supermarkets in Dong Hoi, and it was busy. We spent a lot of money, I had forgotten to bring the shopping list but I think we remembered most things between us. The next place was VinMart, which is now called WinMart, and has new products in. I was so excited that they had small rice cookers for less than £20 so we bought one to take back to Turkey. Next stop was for tampons, also tricky to find in Vietnam, which they sell in the Medicare shop but were 174,000vnd (£6.26) for 2 boxes. Our last stop was the wine shop where Captain Caveman came back to the car with a box containing 3 bottles of white wine and 2 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin for a bargain total of £50.
We were meant to be spending some time in Dong Hoi and had planned to go to Tree Hugger for lunch and White Russian cocktails. Captain Caveman wasn’t in the mood now and suggested we just go straight back home.

It’s been a while since Ive done a big shop so here’s what we spent in the 2 supermarkets.
£1 = 27,768 Vietnamese Dong (VDH)

Co-op Mart supermarket:
1 can of ginger ale 9,500
Baby wipes 12,300
2 onions 15,774
Bamboo Cotton buds 20,500
3 carrots 21,886
1 packet of pasta 22,500
Washing up liquid 22,500
1 packet of Grape haribos 25,200
Sugar free Milk 27,200
Passion fruit 30,751
4 cans of tonic 31,200
2 red peppers 32,347
3 mangos 39,063
Frozen sweetcorn 43,600
Mushrooms 50,500
2 chicken breasts 50,580
1 Tupperware 53,000
1 Tupperware 59,000
1 pomelo 59,988
Frozen strawberries 63,800
Tin foil 69,900
1 bottle of olive oil 130,000
3 cartons of orange juice 132,900
2 bottles of red wine 306,000

Total spent 1,355,189vnd (£48.79)

WinMart supermarket:
2 small cans of coke 15,800
2 baguettes 19,000
3 salted lemon drinks 20,700
1 teacake loaf 22,900
Pineapple 29,80
1 plastic bottle 33,500
Pork mince 54,264
Pork mince 56,662
Frosties cereal 54,700
6 Strongbow ciders 108,600
1 rice cooker 544,000

Total spent 959,926vnd (£34.56)

I was surprised at how cheap the bottles of Strongbow were as in Dalyan it was getting difficult to get even Turkish cider for less than £3 per bottle.

On the way back to Elements we came up with a Plan B and C for me and we decided I would apply for another e-Visa. I already had a flight booked from DaNang to Singapore, used as proof of leaving Vietnam after 1 month, so it made sense to take that. If another 30 day e-Visa was granted I would come back to Vietnam the next day and carry on as we were. If I didn’t get another visa then I would still come back in on the free 15 day visa exemption, get my stuff and go back to Turkey, or England perhaps.
While I applied for my e-Visa, Captain Caveman unpacked the shopping and put it away. I got confirmation of my visa application, paid $25, and was told I would have notification by Wednesday. In the afternoon we didn’t really have much leisure time as we were busy with ‘Operation get me back in to Vietnam’ and Captain Caveman had to unpack, pack and prepare for work. I was lucky that Captain Caveman is so organised and calm in a crisis because I had been ready to have a mini meltdown.
For dinner I had a bit of a concoction; yesterday I’d made tortilla but the frying pan was a bit iffy and it had stuck so it was more of a ‘deconstructed Spanish omelette’, I’d only made it to use up the potatoes, onions and eggs and had ended up with 2 in the fridge. I fried some of it up like a posh hash brown with some bacon and pickled white cabbage. It definitely wouldn’t win any awards for how it looked but it tasted great. For afters, I had fresh pineapple and passion fruit which was so good. I also noticed that the WinMart had charged us for 2 lots of pineapple but we only had one.
When Captain Caveman returned from his briefing, having had to deal with a late joiner and more issues than he’s used to because that would’ve been Tatas’ job, he brought booze! His last group were disappointed that he was unable to do the gala dinner with them and had saved him some of their bottle of whisky – he said they were a really nice bunch of people. He kindly shared it with me and we listened to Kate’s Ultimate Boat Trip Playlist which she had shared on Facebook. There were some brilliant songs on there and it was about 24 hours long, I wondered if we could do a boat trip to celebrate when we returned to Dalyan and do the entire playlist.

Phong Nha – 24th June

Phong Nha – 24th June

The highlight of my day on Friday 24th June was Captain Caveman being able to come out for pizza night once again. I put a dress on and had asked Lan, The Villas manager, to reserve a big table for us tonight. I’d messaged to ask if we could also have a lift with the Phong Nha Farmstay transport. Ben said the transport would be late so we agreed to ask Duyet to take us up to the Farmstay so we could be having a happy hour beer there, before going to The Villas. When we tried to get Duyet it turned out he was already on another job and so I had to get changed out of my nice dress (the one I wore for Des’s leaving do) and put jeans, a t-shirt and volleys on so I could go on the back of the motorbike with Captain Caveman. It was a bit of an inconvenience and I had a slight face on as I had wanted to go out in a nice outfit for a change. Captain Caveman only had 24 hours free until he had to be back at work and I needed to get his attention somehow. When we got to the Farmstay we got happy hour beers and I was trying to tell him about the visa extension being denied. Of course I didn’t get to do that as he got talking to a Farmstay customer about caves and Son Doong.
We were late for pizza night but Lucie and her family waited for us. They had not even started to eat without us, which was so polite. Also joining us were Giang and Aaron (freshly back from England), Luc (on a quick trip from Malaysia), Mark and Darren. This was the first time I’d seen Darren, Captain Caveman’s colleague, for a few years, he didn’t know about pizza night so he was about as excited as us and couldn’t believe his luck. As we didn’t have to drive back we were knocking back the half priced margaritas like someone was going to steal them. It was such a great night, the 10 of us had a lot of fun and I was really pleased to have got to see everyone again. Unfortunately, we had to leave about 9.30pm to get our lift back but we were grateful for staying later than usual! Our total bill came to 900,000vnd (£32.40) for the 2 of us, not bad as we don’t both go out together too often. Back home, Captain Caveman and I decided to have one more drink before bed as he wasn’t working until 6pm tomorrow – and what a day we had planned!

Phong Nha – 23rd June

Phong Nha – 23rd June

Lucie, her mom and her son were in Phong Nha until Sunday so I had hoped to meet them for lunch. On Thursday 23rd June they had arranged to take a trip to the Pub with Cold Beer, which I’d recommended for trying the BBQ chicken. The place has a pool too but it is a bit tricky to get to without a motorbike or car. Lucie messaged late morning to say to meet there at noon but it was too hot and far, for me to cycle to. I was conscious of spending any money too because I may have to go back to Turkey or do a visa run. I decided spending money on a car, plus lunch and drinks, would not be justifiable given my situation right now. It was super hot and we had a fridge and freezer full of stuff so I was happy to stay home.
I went to lay on the sunbed by the pool and got a bit of a surprise; my new friend Kermit, jumped out at me and we made each other jump. A storm had been predicted, it didn’t look like rain to me, but maybe a frog on the 1st floor is a sign the water levels were going to be high. In the Vietnamese news there were photos of floods in Hanoi, which were pretty bad.
I still wasn’t in the best of moods given my visa extension situation but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I decided to organise some good things to look forward to, I invited a few people to pizza night at The Villas tomorrow, friends I’d not seen in ages. It had been almost 3 weeks since I spoke to my parents in Dalyan as it had never been a convenient time for them to have a video chat. We are only 4 hours ahead of Turkey but it still isn’t ideal and they were busy enjoying what was left of their holiday.
It was great to talk to them, even if my news wasn’t too positive today, and they cheered me up. I missed them and Dalyan but we joked that if my Plan B or Plan C failed, there was always the Plan D – go back to Dalyan. If it wasn’t for Captain Caveman I would have changed my flight and gone back – I knew he was going to be peeved when he got out of the cave tomorrow and heard about my predicament. My dinner was spaghetti bolognese and I had a Snickers for dessert, I’m not a massive fan of chocolate but I was starting to crave sweet things more than usual.

Kermit the frog

Phong Nha – 22nd June

Phong Nha – 22nd June

Wednesday 22nd June turned out to be a bit of a rubbish day! I woke up to a reply from my visa contact to say she needed me to bring my passport to the Phong Nha Farmstay straight away because she would take it to Dong Hoi, earlier than planned. She could tell I was concerned so she asked me to leave my passport at the Phong Nha reception and she would pick it up on her way to Dong Hoi. I rushed to get ready and, after only a few hours sleep, I was tired. Bluey’s tyres were flat and Duyet wasn’t around for me to get a lift.
I eventually got to the Farmstay with Duyet at just after midday and left my passport at the reception desk. I decided to have a bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) and got chatting to a friend on messenger who was thinking of coming to Vietnam to visit.
I spoke to Bich, Ben and Howie for a bit, Bich seemed shocked when we heard that I couldn’t extend my visa because it’s a tourist e-Visa! This is the only legitimate tourist visa there is in Vietnam, currently, and has been the case since mid-March. I was fuming!
This was probably the most expensive trip I’d taken and I was regretting us spending the money for me not to see much of Captain Caveman. I had to leave Vietnam by the 5th July!
I went back home in the jeep feeling very deflated and disappointed, even though I knew this would happen.
I had a swim and a sleep but had headaches for the rest of the day. I had a coke to try to help with my headache and dehydration but it didn’t work. I had Stilton and French baguette for dinner with a glass of red wine, still left from last night. I had 12 days left of my visa so I should probably make the most of my time in Vietnam while I was still here so tomorrow I planned to meet up with friends who were visiting Phong Nha.
I would discuss with Captain Caveman a Plan B when he got back on Friday.

Phong Nha – 21st June

Phong Nha – 21st June

When Captain Caveman and I woke up just before 6am on Tuesday 21st June, the electricity was off and it was hot! For some reason I also sneezed a lot, I’m not much of a sneezer but it was easily 20 times consecutively. We had croissants for breakfast, Captain Caveman had extra butter and jam on his, I had mine plain.
After I’d said goodbye to Captain Caveman, who would be back from Son Doong on Friday afternoon, I did a few things from my To Do list. I was definitely behind on my Turkish lessons, despite doing a bit on Duolingo here and there, and it was hard not to be speaking any Turkish for practice.
Captain Caveman had been given the keys for the ‘spare’ room so I went in to check it out. This meant that I could finally unpack after 11 days of living out of my suitcase in my own home! It took me a long time as the temperature in the room was 34.5°C and it didn’t seem to get any cooler with AC or the fan on, once the electric was fully back on. I had leftover curry for lunch and then ate some defrosted mango.
I was looking forward to having a girls afternoon/night with Kat and Tatas but that didn’t quite go to plan. Tatas decided she didn’t want to come and was going to catch up with one of her friends instead. Kat messaged to say she was busy until 9pm but would come over after that. In the evening I finally got the temperature in the bedroom down to 27.3°C and the bathroom 29°C with the AC back on and trying to reach 24°C.
Kat arrived and I was impressed that she had been able to find the place easily enough. She had kindly brought fruit and I was pleased to have my first red dragon fruit since being back in Vietnam. I really enjoyed her company, we drank wine and chatted about all sorts – we had some interesting conversation until about 3.30am! I found out that she knew the chef I had a fall out with in Dalyan, and had lived on the same island as him in Cambodia – it’s a small world! During our chatting we got on to the topic of visas, Kat mentioned that she thought I should recheck with my contacts about their promise to renew my visa. She thought the same as me, that it was impossible to renew a tourist e-Visa in the country and I told her my contacts had all confirmed to me it could be done. I’d even sent photos of my visa, passport and the relevant stamps to double check and I had been told I could submit my passport to process this on the 25th July. Both Kat and I were dubious of this so I messaged my contact, who’d been super helpful thus far, and hoped to get an answer in the morning.

Phong Nha – 20th June

Phong Nha – 20th June

Monday 20th June obviously started with me having a hangover. I had Tham message at 7am to say her physio could see me at 9am and then Bich called to tell me to get to the Lake House for my massage. There was no way I could function so I cancelled and blamed Tony, who had also cancelled his session. I finally got up for a bacon and brown sauce muffin, made by Captain Caveman about 10.15am. He had bacon, egg and cheese on his but I couldn’t look at it.

After spending a few hours in or next to the pool Captain Caveman made lunch; sausage and pesto spaghetti which was nice. It was a very hot day so I was impressed when Captain Caveman walked to the Lake House to retrieve Trigger, the motorbike. We arranged to meet Tatas in Phong Nha at 3.30pm at Coffee Station where Captain Caveman had a smoothie and a coconut coffee, I had 2 lemon juices. I noticed there was a hotel opposite where 2 goats were trying to go in to reception and it made me laugh.

Our next stop was Phong Nha Vegan to see our good friend, Chung. I invited Tatas but she needed to go home to exercise and shower before meeting me later. The Phong Nha Vegan restaurant had moved since I’d last been here and it was about 250m from Victory Road Villas, situated on the riverside, in what was Google House. We bumped in to Dung and Leo from Jungle Boss, who were just leaving and we sat down on some tyre seats in a sunny spot overlooking the river. We both had a juice which was very refreshing and chatted to Chung for a while. As we were fragile from last night and had already eaten we didn’t eat but we really needed to come back another time as the menu looked fantastic. Chung was now working full time at the vegan restaurant and was really enjoying it.

Captain Caveman had to leave at 5pm as he had a briefing for his next Oxalis tour tomorrow. I walked, in my plastic porter sandals, past Song Doong Bungalow, to The Villas to meet Tatas and Kat for curry night. By the time I got there I was desperate for the AC and my sandals, which I’d not worn for 9 months, had rubbed my feet. I was the first one there, I had a cold Huda beer and waited for the others to arrive. Kat was next to arrive and had decided she wouldn’t have curry but would order off the regular menu. When Tatas arrived she ordered gin and tonic and we both ordered the butter chicken special, Kat ordered the Caeser salad (I was pleased to see it didn’t have a poached or boiled egg in it) and we had a good chat. At 8pm Captain Caveman arrived just as our food was being served so he got a beer and waited for us to eat. I invited Kat and Tatas over for a pool afternoon and wine evening at Elements Collection tomorrow, as Captain Caveman would be back in the cave. They both said yes and I got a lift back with Captain Caveman. We all said our goodbyes in the car park and went off on the motorbikes, me with half of my leftover curry in my hand.

Phong Nha – 19th June

Phong Nha – 19th June

Captain Caveman had his second day off on Sunday 19th June and it would turn out to be rather a good one.
We started the day with a Lake House croissant for breakfast and they were probably the best croissants I’ve had – they were massive too.
I updated Captain Caveman on various events we had been invited to and ran down my list of things to ask him. I always make a list when he’s in the cave so that I don’t forget. He was pleased to be going to a couple of weddings in Dalyan and a 40th birthday celebration in Rhodes during September and October. He had told me that he’d asked his company to book his flight back to Turkey at the end of August and then he would take a flight to Belgium on the first weekend of September for the Belgian beer festival. He would fly back to Rhodes ready for the celebrations. We would stay there for a few days before returning to Dalyan, just in time to see our friends and neighbours, Amanda and Greg.
We went to the Phong Nha Farmstay to have a meeting with Bich but she was busy so I had a soda water. We saw Tham, from the Lake House, who said she would try to book me in for a massage with a new physiotherapist which was going to be helpful for my trapped nerve. Our next stop was to visit Stu, Max and Jack at their house. Their house is so lovely and I really should have taken my swimmers for the pool but I forgot. It was good to catch up but we didn’t stay too long as we still had lots of stuff to do while Captain Caveman had a day off. By the time we left it was boiling hot, even sitting on the motorbike seat in heat was unbearable.
We went back to the Farmstay hoping to see Bich but she was still busy – it was good to see a few international tourists back, relaxing by the pool. We decided to order some lunch and have a shandy, Captain Caveman suggested fried spring rolls so I suggested fresh spring rolls as well and we could share both. When the food came Captain Caveman polished off 5 of the fried spring rolls and said he didn’t want the fresh ones, he thought they were mine – it was going to take a while to get back to ‘normal’.
As we were almost ready to leave, and the heat was getting to me, Bich joined us and we had a good chat about the villa situation. It was agreed we could have the whole villa to ourselves so Captain Caveman confirmed he would rent it from July. I was a bit concerned that we were potentially paying more money for something I wouldn’t get to stay in after my visa expired in July but Captain Caveman didn’t seem too concerned.

Back home I popped on my swimmers and was just about to get in the pool when Captain Caveman came in to the bedroom and said to get my clothes on because we were going back out. Tony, from the Lake House, had called to say he was having a small party and to come up right away. I had to get a shower as I was just so hot. Knowing how difficult it is for me to get out of the house when Captain Caveman isn’t here, I agreed to go. I knew it would end up in carnage, it always does whenever Tony is involved. At the ‘party’ which was already in full swing were only 2 inebriated participants; Tony and Dave (aka Drifter).
We started with a few cans of Saigon beer with ice in an attempt to catch up, I insisted Captain Caveman agree to leave his motorbike and us get a taxi home. It was only 3.30pm so we thought we might even walk home while it was still light! More beers and ice came, some french fries got put in front of us and Drifter started to look like he’d had enough. By 4.35pm he’d been renamed Dangerous Dave and had to be taken home by one of the staff while the rest of us started on the white wine. An hour later we were doing shots, at least the Lake House call them shots but they were large measures of spirits. Captain Caveman and Tony had large Jameson’s with ice while I had a large Tequila with salt and lemon. I had to do it in 2 goes as it was too big to do in one. At 6.20pm we were on the first of an expensive bottle of Riesling white wine, Tony had managed to get 2 of his waitresses, who were meant to be working, tiddly and cheesed off his wife. We managed to order lots of food, including beef, chicken strips and a pizza which we snaffled, along with 2 more bottles of Riesling. Tony was in charge of the music and made quite a good DJ, he and I even got up for a dance next to the bar.
We were all shit-faced and have no idea what time we got home but it was dark and we had to get a taxi. I made Captain Caveman pay for 2 bottles of the more expensive wine on our bill so we didn’t do bad for a small party on a Saturday afternoon/night. Tony’s soirées are often messy but such good fun and I hoped he’d get to meet my Dalyan mates when they came out to visit.

Phong Nha – 18th June

Phong Nha – 18th June

By 10am on Saturday 18th June, Captain Caveman had made a bit of room for my clothes in the wardrobe/shelving area. He’d also decided that he wanted to rent the both rooms in our villa because it made sense to have the whole place to ourselves. As there hadn’t been any tourists about, until very recently, there had been no need for Captain Caveman to have shared the communal kitchen, living area and swimming pool with anyone who rented the other double bedroom. If we rented the entire villa we would have more space, including ample room for my small amount of belongings, and a room for guests to stay, or me to do my writing in.
We had a cooked breakfast, which I started but Captain Caveman took over cooking as he wanted to add black pudding and eggs to his. The sausages and bacon were from Stu and were really tasty, Captain Caveman’s plate was very full.
We lolled about round the pool, I wore one of my new swimsuits, from a friend in Dalyan, which I really love. Captain Caveman wasn’t a fan of it and said it made me look old fashioned and older. My cut foot was now almost heeled and the skin had grown quite a lot where the cut had been – I was walking normally again.
At 3.30pm Captain Caveman was getting ready to set off to Phong Nha as he had more errands to run before Bien’s wedding. I put a dress on but wore cycling shorts beneath it for riding on the back of the motorbike. We went to Funny Monkeys to collect peanut butter, Captain Caveman wears a full face helmet so it was no problem for him to drive straight in to a large overhanging tree with thorns and flowers on. I wasn’t best pleased to get scratched but he just argued the plant wasn’t spikey, I shoved a thorny branch in front of his face! We picked up the home made peanut butter and was on to our next stop. A small stall outside a local’s house where he’d tried to buy onions and eggs yesterday but could see no one at home to pay. Captain Caveman had took a photo of the items on the scales yesterday so he could pay today but they were closed. Our next stop was Oxalis Home, where I’d not been since before the pandemic. Captain Caveman had a soft drink and I had a beer. It was very busy with guests returning from tours.

We carried on to the wedding and were seated with a few other familiar faces. Chung and Uy were so pleased to see us and gave us beer with ice straight away.
The wedding lasted all of 35 minutes before the mass exodus started and, as it was extremely hot, we were not too far behind. We managed a full 55 minutes though.
On the way back, the grocery stall in the house was open again so I watched while Captain Caveman tried to explain he’d already taken items yesterday and had just come back to pay. He nearly got the items again and the husband was in trouble with his wife, possibly for leaving the stall unattended yesterday. I needed a pee, after all that beer, so we stopped off at Tree House cafe on our way to pick up some croissants. Captain Caveman had a coffee and I had a passion fruit smoothie, which was brilliant. Mao, who had been at the wedding too, was there and managed to scare off some backpackers with how drunk he was. Our next stop was the Lake House to pick up some pre-ordered croissants but they weren’t there yet. This lead to us having a bottle of white wine at a cost of 660,000vnd (£23.76), as the cheaper one wasn’t available, while we waited for them to come from Dong Hoi. We got to see Snowy, the dog, who loves Captain Caveman and finally got the croissants but didn’t pay at the time on account that the bill said there were 10 breadrolls instead of 6 croissants.