Phong Nha – 22nd August

Phong Nha – 22nd August

I made Captain Caveman and I some chicken fried rice for breakfast on the morning of Monday 22nd August. We discussed where I would stay in Saigon and I decided The Common Inn, Thao Dien, because we had stayed before and really like the place. I finished all my packing and we got the cases very full. I was quite concerned that I would not be able to lift the big case and I would definitely struggle to get all my luggage out of a taxi or up any steps, should I need to. The cleaners came to make up the bed in the spare room and they also returned the pillows but we didn’t need them for much longer. They even put a full complement of towels in the spare bathroom too.
Floating in the pool we found a glow in the dark ladybird and we rescued it from drowning. That afternoon Captain Caveman had to go to Oxalis for something important and left me to plan my journey to return Bluey to the Glass House. I was not relishing the 13.5km cycle and, predictably, the sun was now shining. Captain Caveman had advised me to wait until 5pm when the sun might be starting to go in and we deduced that it might take me an hour. He was booked in for a haircut and shave at 5pm so we agreed I would head towards the hairdresser’s for 6pm, as he would have the keys.
I left the house at 5pm and it was almost five past by the time I cycled on to the road beside Elements. I’d drank lots of water and was ready to endure the heat. I cycled past René’s Greenfield Homestay within 7 minutes and by 5.15pm I was as far along as the old Bomb Crater bar. The next section was harder than I remembered and I missed the shortcut turn off to go via Sy’s Homestay. At 5.25pm I had reached Magic Fingers massage place and was feeling very hot and saddle sore. As I turned on to the main Phong Nha road I was tempted to stop for a sugar cane juice on the roadside but decided to go to Coffee Station. I got there at dead on 5.30pm, which was impressive, but they were closing. Bluey was not phased and I got back on after a swig of water, which was now the temperature of how I drink my hot tea. Bluey continued to be super whizzy and I decided, as I was earlier than expected, to stop for a smoothie at The Villas. I must’ve looked a sight for sore eyes because all of the staff, who were eating dinner, stopped and looked at me. Hong came to serve me and I had a mango lassi, which was great and it didn’t touch the sides!
Back on the bicycle I made it to the hairdresser’s, via a quick chat with Phuong at Little Leaf. There was now a huge Catholic church being built next to the hairdresser’s. Captain Caveman was in the chair getting a shave so I sat down and waited. He was impressed that I had got there before 6pm and, quite frankly, I was too! This was definitely a sign that my bad leg was back to normal again, after 2 years and 4 months!
I cycled on to the Glass House, Captain Caveman drove Trigger and we popped Bluey inside. Captain Caveman put her up on the first floor ready for any winter floods which might come while we were gone.
We had hoped to hear from Tatas to possibly meet to go to the Jungle Boss Pub. Captain Caveman had messaged her but she already had plans to go out with her customers instead. We went anyway as it was going to be my last chance before I left Phong Nha in 2 days time. Tatas said she would see us both tomorrow and Captain Caveman suggested we invite Stu and the boys round to say bye too.
We really enjoyed the Jungle Boss Pub, I had 3 beers and we shared some of the stringy cheese and 2 portions of pork scratchings. We didn’t really want to leave but Captain Caveman was driving so we had to go.
We were home before 7.30pm, had a beer and went to bed early. Tomorrow was my last day in Phong Nha and we hoped to make the best of it.

Phong Nha – 20th & 21st August

Phong Nha – 20th & 21st August

On Saturday 20th August I had fruit for breakfast and it was rainy again. I had less than 1 week until I was back in Turkey and I started to think about packing. Tatas was due back from her 2 day trip today and I had expected to hear from her so that we could plan to see each other before I left Vietnam. Unfortunately, she didn’t reply and I knew she had another 2 day trip tomorrow so I may not get chance to see her.
In the afternoon I finished watching Trainwreck on Netflix and made popcorn.
I had a nice shandy with Huda beer and Schweppes Ginger Ale around 6pm and spaghetti bolognese for dinner. It was a quiet day spent at home.

Sunday 21st August was another welcome quiet day at home. I started sorting more of my stuff out for packing and getting ready for 2 days in Saigon before my flight, via Singapore to Istanbul. As the weather in the south of Vietnam was typical for the monsoon season, I was conscious it was a good idea to get there early so that I wouldn’t risk missing my international flights. I organised with Annette, who lives in District 7 of Saigon, to meet up on the 24th for dinner. I messaged other friends in Saigon to check their plans too.
For lunch I had chicken fried rice (again) and waited to hear from Captain Caveman. He was due out of his last Son Doong trip today but, with it being a film trip, I expected he may be later than usual. When he did get back to the Glass House, in Phong Nha, it was late and he had been the bill for a full month’s rent even though he was leaving in a couple of weeks. What we hadn’t realised when he paid rent recently is that we would be charged for a full month regardless. With hindsight, what we should have done is check out 2 weeks ago and then rented daily or weekly, as it would have saved us money! We now had a 2 bedroom villa, paid for (over a Vietnamese national holiday week), which would be empty for over a week when he left. While Captain Caveman went to his gala dinner I had chicken pasta and wasn’t too well. Tomorrow was my last day in Phong Nha and I was hoping to be able to say bye to a few people, including Tatas. I was aware that I still needed to cycle Bluey back to the Glass House too so I hoped it wouldn’t rain but I also hoped for it not to be too sunny either.

Phong Nha – 19th August

Phong Nha – 19th August

My weekly measurements on Friday 19th August were:
Bust -1cm,
Waist +2cm,
Hips -2cm,
Thighs no change
Right calf -0.5cm,
Left calf -1cm. Eating and drinking whatever I liked was definitely not helping the waistline.
I had passion fruit, mango and strawberries for breakfast and pottered about a bit. Caroline had left early for Hoi An and Tatas had gone on a 2 day tour so they were both going to miss out on the fun tonight.
I had the remaining chicken fried rice for lunch and watched the rain as it came down quite heavily. I then got on with organising how I was going to get to Phong Nha later, I certainly wouldn’t be cycling Bluey in the rain, despite it still being warm. The new Jungle Boss Pub was having their grand opening tonight from 6pm and, of course, I was keen to go. Everyone was invited and I hoped to see a few friends there. Trang was in Dong Hoi, from Saigon, but was going to be there with Trinh, the owner of Buffalo Home and Chill bar in Dong Hoi. I was cheeky and asked if I could get a lift with them and Trinh, who was driving, very kindly agreed. The rain stopped but I still decided to wear jeans and my jungle inspired top – I even had my hair down.

After my chaperones got a bit lost in Khuong Ha, we were on our way and we were even bang on time for the party. As we arrived there were masses of flowers to wish Jungle Boss luck for the opening. We were met by Dung, the owner of Jungle Boss, and said hello and congratulations for opening the much needed Phong Nha bar.

When I walked inside, I was impressed – the place looked amazing! It was very modern and different, with some great soft furnishings. The seats were very comfortable and we chose a table next to the stage. We ordered drinks from some familiar faces, it was nice to see Quan and Nga working as bartenders again. Food was ordered from the snack menu and it was great to see a mix of Vietnamese and western style choices. I was particularly excited to see they had pork scratchings on the menu too, Captain Caveman would love them.

We had a few drinks and listened to some amazing live music, there were more and more familiar faces and I got to catch up with lots of old friends, mainly from Jungle Boss. I managed to get up dancing and joined in on some singing, it was a superb opening night and I hoped the Jungle Boss pub would continue to flourish after I’d left Phong Nha. Trinh kindly dropped me back off and when I got in I decided to make myself a hotdog to finish off the night.

Photo credit – some photos from Jungle Boss Pub, Trang & Trinh

Phong Nha – 16th to 18th August

Phong Nha – 16th to 18th August

I still had 10 days left on my Vietnamese visa on Tuesday 16th August but there were certainly signs that my stay was now coming to an end. Captain Caveman went to Oxalis while I had my usual teacake loaf for breakfast, then he went to the Glass House to get me a suitcase and drove it back on his motorbike. I already had the suitcase, which I had borrowed from my parents, but Captain Caveman wanted me to utilise the whole of my 25kg allowance, so I needed a bigger case. He would bring back 2 cases, including my parents’ one as he had a bigger allowance than me. Captain Caveman had picked up the sausages from Viet Ha so he made me a 2nd breakfast. It was lovely too and I was impressed with the sausages. I also ordered some strawberries but they would be available to pick up tomorrow.
Just before lunch time the cleaners came and stripped the spare bed down to everything except for the mattress protector and took all the remaining towels. I thought they were going to replace them but maybe because of the rain, and the Dong Hoi bedding woman saga, they didn’t have enough to cover both rooms. Captain Caveman had invited Stu and the boys round for beers, dinner and a dip in the pool so they arrived at 5pm. Caroline had already drove over and we had some pool beers.
It was a fun evening for us and we carried on drinking and swimming, even after everyone had gone home and the spaghetti bolognese had been eaten.

Wednesday 17th August was super exciting and I was sworn to secrecy about most of it! You will find out more about the secret shenanigans eventually but, for now, I have to keep it under my hat. What I can tell you is that Captain Caveman and I took Trigger, the motorbike, in to Phong Nha to meet Tatas at Coffee Station. She had missed out on enough fun and celebrations already, due to being underground, so she was keen to meet up. While Captain Caveman went to Oxalis, she and I caught up and ate an English style breakfast with smoothies (and coffee for her). She had enjoyed her last Son Doong tour of the season and one of her guests was Turkish, I suggested I could meet him but she didn’t seem keen. In fact, after our meeting, she was off to meet her tour group for lunch and drinks at Len Con Peak but I didn’t get an invite.
Stu and the kids arrived, with friends, as we were eating breakfast and we said hello. They ordered breakfast, then Captain Caveman arrived and he had coconut coffee and a mango smoothie. I made the mistake of ordering a second mango smoothie and then had a terrible stomach, due to too much fibre at once. Caroline arrived shortly after, as we had arranged to meet her for a ‘secret squirrel’ mission. She had failed to realise that the intended plans could not include taking Vee, the dog, so she had to go back to drop her off.
Our secret mission involved Captain Caveman driving us both in to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park on Trigger, who really struggled on the steep hills but we managed it. Captain Caveman, Caroline and I spent the morning in the national park then met Harry, Linh and Chuc for a cold drink at the Botanical Gardens before riding back in to town.
Our strawberry delivery had arrived so we called at Phong Nha Vegan to collect them from Chung. I was peckish and suggested we go to The Pork Shop for a Banh Mi so we met back there for a late lunch.
While eating, Captain Caveman got a call from work saying that he had to go to Dong Hoi for a police check. I, luckily, had Caroline there to give me a ride home on her Royal Enfield motorbike and I had my own helmet with me already. It’s a really nice bike and so comfortable, Caroline rides it well too. Back at mine it seemed really warm as I said bye and arranged to meet for beers at ours later.
It turned out that there was a bit of a to do with Captain Caveman’s paperwork which resulted in him having to go straight to his briefing instead of coming home to join me for a swim. It did work out well for me and my mom though, as he had time to nip to the phone shop to get my mom a new phone. By 4pm it was raining in Phong Nha and I wondered what I might have for dinner. I had a makeshift beans on toast but then had a bad stomach again.
Captain Caveman was late home after his briefing so we cancelled the beers with Caroline. Although Captain Caveman would be in Son Doong tomorrow, Tatas had a rare day off and I was looking forward to doing something with her.

Captain Caveman brought me a pot of Yorkshire tea in bed, before 7am on Thursday 18th August. He left for his last Son Doong trip of the season and would be back on Sunday. I was looking forward to having Tatas and Caroline round for an afternoon in the pool with some beers.
I made myself some chicken fried rice for brunch and got through all my tasks so that I would be free for frivolities later.
Captain Caveman called me from the village on his way to Son Doong to ask me to ride Bluey from Elements to the Glass House. This was a distance of 13.5km and the heat was too much for me to do this, but he said if I didn’t do it, it would only be another job for him to have to do when I left. I decided to wait until a cooler day, or maybe even cycle to an event in Phong Nha tomorrow evening, after the sun had gone down!
Tatas was the first to cancel this afternoon’s plans because she had to go to Dong Hoi at lunch time. At first she said she would come to mine on the way back but then said she wouldn’t have time as she needed to tidy her room and pack for her next trip tomorrow. Caroline was next to cancel when she found out she had to be back in Hoi An earlier than expected. She decided to spend her last night, tonight, at Ho Khanh’s Homestay but did invite both Tatas and I over there instead. I wasn’t fancying getting a taxi there and back so I declined. Tatas didn’t answer any texts to ask if she wanted to go to meet Caroline, which was nearer to her house than mine. My afternoon involved watching Trainwreck on Netflix, a documentary about a Woodstock style festival in 1999 which gets completely out of hand. That evening I chilled out and had French onion soup for dinner.

Phong Nha – 15th August

Phong Nha – 15th August

On Monday 15th August, we were wondering what to do with the massive bunch of flowers that were in our sink.
Captain Caveman went outside to find the housekeeping staff to ask for a vase, they took the flowers and said they would sort them out. What we got back in a small vase was only a portion of the flowers, we don’t know what happened to the rest but I never saw them again. Flowers aren’t treated in the same way they are back home and they probably just got shared in to the other rooms or binned, which was a shame. We had toasted teacake loaf for breakfast which is my new favourite.

Captain Caveman was probably feeling the effects of too much booze for the second night running because he hardly said a word and lolled about all morning on his phone. I think he had wanted to go to Phong Nha (for work, with it being a Monday) but his motorbike was still at Karst Villas. He was hoping for Caroline to be able to ride it to our place, as her motorbike was still at ours, from impromptu pool party night.
When Caroline did come over with his bike and our helmets it was too late for him to bother going to work. Instead, Caroline suggested a trip to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Captain Caveman contacted the reception to ask them to send the jeep to pick us up. The message was lost in translation as he didn’t specify it was for 3 of us plus a dog. Chien turned up razzing the engine of the Ural and tried to say he could get us all on the motorbike and side car. I said not and asked Chien to take Captain Caveman, Caroline and Vee first but come back for me afterwards. It was great to see Cuong for the first time since the start of the pandemic too, he’d been injured and was slowly getting better and could now walk, but with a limp.

When we arrived at the Farmstay there was no way I could have any alcohol after the weekend we’d had! Captain Caveman and Caroline, however, managed several frozen margaritas and food was ordered. I said I’d share Captain Caveman’s salami pizza and Caroline went for one of the Aussie meat pies with chips and gravy. Kat came over from Phong Nha to meet me and it was great to see her and Caroline get on. They are so very different but both have very interesting lives so I was pleased to see them find some common ground to chat about. Our pizza was very good and was proven by me only getting 2 slices and Captain Caveman snaffling the rest in record time!
Kat wasn’t able to stay long because her boyfriend, Buu, was on his way out of the caves and she wanted to see him while she could. I didn’t think we would stay much later anyway but we stayed long enough for a swim in the pool and to see Benjamin off. We’d made another new Phong Nha friend and I felt sure our paths would cross again.

Long, the Phong Nha Farmstay manager, reminded me that I still had Bluey in the car park so, while the others were getting a lift back to Elements, I was about to cycle back home. Long was insistent that he drive us all in the Troopy and he put Bluey in the back. When we got back, Caroline took her bike back to Karst Villas and Captain Caveman got on with making french onion soup for dinner. I found out that Viet Ha, who I know from when we worked at Jungle Boss, was now selling homemade pork sausages so we ordered 500g. I took a photo of our reduced size bouquet and only then realised we had a big vase with dried flowers in which I could have used to place all of the rest of the flowers in!
The French onion soup was very tasty but we were definitely ready for bed early that night!

Phong Nha – 14th August

Phong Nha – 14th August

I spent most of Sunday 14th August hungover, wishing we didn’t have our own 100th birthday party to attend at 4pm! Captain Caveman had worked out that, because I would be in Dalyan, Turkey, on my actual 50th birthday, and his 50th had been last month, that we should have a joint party in Phong Nha, Vietnam. This would be our first celebration of 100 years but the intention was to have at least one more in Turkey and possibly something in England if we got the chance to go back there this winter. Captain Caveman had arranged for our party today to be at Karst Villas, where Hung (the owner) would have cold beers and nibbles ready for everyone. All our friends in Vietnam had been invited and Captain Caveman had chosen a Sunday so that it gave Oxalis staff the best chance of being able to come. Throughout the day we got various messages from people who were unable to attend and, quite frankly, I fancied declining the invite too! There was no way I could drink after last night’s (and this morning’s) antics.
As we set off, on Trigger, it looked like it might rain. We passed the Elements staff (including Duyet) who said they would see us at the party. We had got a few minutes down the road when a huge storm came and we had to take shelter at a stranger’s house. The lady got out her spare chairs and gave them to us to have a seat, we thought it would pass quickly but I think she knew it would be a while.
We arrived at our 100th birthday party at least half an hour late but luckily there was only Harry and Linh there that I instantly recognised. Captain Caveman’s friend Dat and her family were there and we were presented with the most gorgeous bunch of flowers. Cuong and his family was also there before us and we were introduced. Harry and Linh introduced us to their colleague, Chuc, and we had our first beer, to be sociable. Some of Captain Caveman’s Oxalis colleagues arrived and we had to have more beer to do cheers with. Stu, Max and Jack arrived and Stu was absolutely wasted so he didn’t stay long. René stopped by for a few beers and then had to get home, while Caroline had still not surfaced from her room (at the Karst Villas). Andrew, Trang and their son came and people started to ask what we had done with Caroline. Bom and Quet arrived looking dapper and drinking only water (lucky them) and joined Mr Tu, Minh and his 2 young sons, who were so well behaved and polite. Last, but certainly not least, to arrive was Kat who had come from Hanoi. She came with a gift of the gluten free tiramisu sweet treats, which I love!
Unfortunately Tatas, Chung, Uy, Phuong (all of them), had to work and one friend had the Corona virus so didn’t come. I also think the rain earlier had put a few people off coming.
I’d planned on not drinking but it was proving impossible, Captain Caveman sure was taking the cold beers for the team by the time Benjamin and his caving budding, Carolina, arrived. He updated us that he had left yesterday’s pool party at midnight. He knew he had to be ready this morning for his trip but he’d had to come back this morning to get his shoes! Eventually Caroline surfaced with Vee but was unable to stomach a beer and we were ready to say goodbye by that time.
After a few celebratory shots (thanks to Kat), we got a taxi home with Benjamin and dropped Carolina off on the way. This time we all went home to our own villas – I was desperate for my bed!

Phong Nha – 13th August

Phong Nha – 13th August

After a fairly calm few days in Phong Nha, I was about ready for a bit of excitement on Saturday 13th August. The day started calmly but ended in what an onlooker may call wild debauchery!
By 9am I had finished my breakfast of toasted teacake loaf, orange juice and Yorkshire tea. I had taken 3 jars out of the freezer, as per Captain Caveman’s instructions before he went in to Son Doong, and I’d sent messages to friends about tomorrow’s party.
Caroline and Vee came to visit for lunch and we decided to have East Hill BBQ chicken. We had a beer while we waited for the delivery and then we went on to white wine with ice and soda with our lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, having a good old laugh and drinking lots more wine (in plastic cups).

By 5.20pm we decided Caroline should borrow my more modest swimsuit and we should go for happy hour at the Farmstay. We were already pretty happy but Caroline wanted to meet Andrew and Trang there, so off we went in the jeep. We had a swim, several rum and cokes were had and we ordered pizzas. After a few more drinks we decided to go back to Elements as Captain Caveman was on his way back from his gala dinner. He’d got back late from his last tour so we hadn’t seen him this afternoon. We asked for a driver and the jeep to take us home. As we waited there was another guest waiting to go back to Elements so we shared the jeep ride back with him.

Captain Caveman was just going in to the house when Caroline, Vee and I arrived with our new friend, Benjamin. We had invited the young French man in for a gin and tonic and it was only around 8.30pm. The 4 of us had a couple of drinks and then decided to get in the pool, Benjamin popped back for his swimmers and made it clear he was not stopping long as he had a cave trip booked for tomorrow.
It was a great night which turned in to absolute drunkenness and shenanigans; Benjamin dropped his villa keys in the pool which lead to us telling him about the ‘keys in the fruit bowl’ meaning in England, there were competitions of who could tread water the highest out of the pool. We even put on Kate’s boat trip play list on Spotify, drank over a litre of gin and sang a lot – it was lucky that our only neighbour was in the pool with us! The ultimate competition was between a former submariner, Caroline, and a Caveman who finds it impossible to float – who could stay under water for the longest?
We don’t remember when Benjamin left and I’m sure that Captain Caveman and Caroline were still in the pool when the loudspeaker announcement started in the morning. Vee had managed a little snooze and I’d tried to go to bed at one point. By the time the pool party finished it was the next day and the sun seemed to be unsympathetically shining as Caroline had to call the owner of her hotel for a lift home.

Some photos by Caroline

Phong Nha – 11th & 12th August

Phong Nha – 11th & 12th August

By 9am on Thursday 11th August I was eating teacake loaf and drinking orange juice for breakfast.
I caught up with some blogging and other chores, the weather was quite dull and a storm threatened but never came.
I made bruschetta for lunch, using Captain Caveman’s tomato sauce and cheddar cheese, and had it with a beer. I was ill straight after and had to have a lay down on the bed.
Later I ate some crisps but was ill again so I got in bed. I did lots of Turkish Duolingo and our friend, Caroline, had arrived at Karst Villas with her dog, Vee. I couldn’t meet her as I was still so ill with my stomach. I went to bed without any dinner and slept, a lot.

I was feeling much better on Friday 12th August when I got up. It was measurements day and here were my results:
Bust & Waist no change
Hips +4cm
Both thighs +1cm
Right calf +1cm
Left calf +2cm
After having such a bad stomach yesterday I’d hoped for better.
I had toasted teacake loaf and orange juice for breakfast and my stomach was fine. Even my Bolognese lunch and a glass of wine had no reaction. In the afternoon I had some disappointing news from my friend, unfortunately her plans for her forthcoming holiday to Marmaris didn’t match with my plans in Dalyan and we were no longer going to be able to meet up.
In the afternoon, I decided to cycle Bluey to the Farmstay for happy hour to cheer myself up and thought I could leave her there if I didn’t come home before dark. Caroline was also thinking she might meet me there but she had to go to celebrate prayer day. Most of the locals were celebrating the relatives who have died by getting together to pray, eat and drink. When I got to the Farmstay, Michael told me that Caroline had been there looking for me but she must have just missed me. I had a couple of 2 for 1 rum and cokes then ordered the pork clay pot for dinner. The Farmstay was quite empty tonight compared to usual so it was nice to enjoy the peace and quiet. Caroline never reappeared but Cameron did and he joined me for some drinks. I had red wine, he had Pina Colada and we had a good chat. Bich joined us for a little while and Long brought me over some mushroom skewers from his visit to Phong Nha Vegan. It turned in to a pleasant evening, I locked Bluey up in the car park and got a lift home with Long at 10pm, as we had no Duyet.

Phong Nha – 8th to 10th August

Phong Nha – 8th to 10th August

Although we were up by 7.30am, on Monday 8th August, the weather was wet and it looked like a day of staying at home was on the cards. Captain Caveman and I lolled about most of the morning and didn’t even have any breakfast.
We had sandwiches for lunch with the fresh baguette and watched the rain while eating passion fruit. In the afternoon, Captain Caveman made tomato sauce for pasta. The rest of the day was very rainy so Captain Caveman couldn’t go to Phong Nha as he’d planned.
We had wine and pasta for dinner, with the homemade tomato sauce which was lovely.
It was Captain Caveman’s last day off – the last few days had gone so quickly.

On Tuesday 9th August we both had breakfast together then Captain Caveman had to go in to Phong Nha in the rain.
I stayed at home and enjoyed a pot of Yorkshire tea. When he got home I asked about his next trip and he said he wasn’t allowed to talk about it and that he had to sign a 2 year gagging order. I automatically jumped to the assumption that, finally, all those times that Captain Caveman’s boss, had promised David Beckham or Leonardo DiCaprio were going to Son Doong that it might be actually happening. It wasn’t.
I made us a second breakfast of fried rice and we waited for the heavy rain to stop. Once it slowed down, Captain Caveman headed back to Phong Nha to meet his next Son Doong guests who were a film crew, and the photographer Ryan Deboodt.
My day wasn’t quite as exciting but I did meet Sammy the slug, who was walking up our window. In the evening I was supposed to be joining Captain Caveman in Phong Nha but the weather was far too wet. He stayed in Phong Nha and went to his briefing at Oxalis, I had a cider and updated my diary. When Captain Caveman got home we had red wine with cheese, crisps, nuts and gherkins.

Captain Caveman set off early for his special film crew Son Doong trip on Wednesday 10th August and I prepared myself for a few quiet days at home. In the weather news, from the Hanoi Weather Dude who we follow on Facebook because he’s really accurate and interesting, we were in for some stormy weather. The North would suffer the most but that’s why we had been experiencing the rain here.
I had buttered crumpet for breakfast and completed Level 1 of Duolingo Turkish to the end. I had only 2 weeks left in Phong Nha and Captain Caveman only 3 weeks left until he flew to Saigon.
I decided to go on a bicycle ride with Bluey, not far, just to get some fresh air and see the rice paddies nearby. The last time I’d cycled the same route my bad leg had still hurt but now I found it was back to normal and I could cycle faster than the pedals would allow, without gears. I got to the French Road, where I had parked up to take photographs, when a man on his motorbike saw me and pulled over. I was a bit apprehensive as he came over and spoke to me (in Vietnamese, which I didn’t understand) but he just wanted to take a photo of me and then a selfie with me. I didn’t hang about to chat after that though and cycled back home. Bluey was super whizzy and I’d not even been gone 20 minutes in total when I checked the time.
I made a veggie lunch of aubergine, peppers, tomato and garlic with steamed rice and it was quite tasty.
In the afternoon the cleaners were in and I thought they may be bringing the pillows back to the spare room, but they didn’t and even the towels in there seemed to not be being replaced. I sat in the kitchen and did loads more Turkish on Duolingo then ate some passion fruit.
In the evening I finished off the wine with my Bolognese, which was lovely.


Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

I had a woolly head when the alarm went off at 7am on Sunday 7th August and I wasn’t fit for anything! Captain Caveman had to persuade me to get up and get ready as we were off to Dong Hoi on a shopping trip. We haven’t had the shopping trips with the Phong Nha Farmstay this year, which I used to like as they rarely left so early! The weekly trips had stopped running during the pandemic and never restarted, I guess because there were no other monthly renters so it didn’t warrant just taking us. While Captain Caveman had been working so much he didn’t need to go as often and I made do with whatever we had in the freezer.
Captain Caveman had booked an Oxalis car and driver and he was here early. Rain had been forecast so we hoped to get some shopping done, meet a friend and get back before any predicted stormy weather.
We got our usual driver, Dung, who’s always nice and friendly but professional. He also keeps the car clean and has the AC on, so we had a comfortable drive to Dong Hoi. By 9am our Bo Ne from Mr Bull’s was ordered and we were sipping the free tea, I was feeling somewhat delicate. I had my steak breakfast without eggs and it actually sorted me out a bit, until I started with a bad stomach.

We went to the Co-op Mart where we spent about 1.4 million vnd (£50) on groceries, including 4 bargain bottles of Merlot.
Our next stop was the WinMart where we spent 666,000vnd (£24). 
For those wondering how we had managed to spend £74 on shopping (and we weren’t finished yet), here’s what we had bought in the supermarkets;

Co-op Mart
1 white carrot 7,134
1 lemon soda 8,500
Tissues 13,000
Hand sanitizer 14,900
3 carrots 15,667
Pasta 23,000
2 red peppers 26,733
Passion fruit 28,106
2 packets of crisps 36,000
3 mangos 64,326
Mushrooms 64,900
6 soda waters 105,000
3 cartons orange juice 132,900
4 bottles of red wine 612,000

Total spent 1,378,866vnd (£50)

WinMart
3 salted lemon drinks 20,700
2 baguettes 30,000
1 bag of Lay’s crisps 31,000
2 teacake loaves 39,800
1 Tupperware box 43,000
2 Beef steaks 44,200
Spaghetti 49,000
200g Cheddar 74,600
Pasta sauce 78,700
1kg chicken breasts 119,900
200g butter 134,500

Total spent 666,100vnd (£24). Butter seemed to be a similar price to the UK and Turkey and airfryers were now all the rage. There had not been any white wine in either of the supermarkets so I suggested we try the Wine Plaza, at the back of the Vincom centre.

Our next stop at the Wine Plaza was a bit unusual; we walked in to a birthday celebration of the owner. They had us join in the photos in front of the flowers and then gave us both a glass of red to join in. They were lovely people and we ended up in there for much more than the 5 minutes we told the driver. We left having bought 3 bottles of nice white wine, one of which was 900,000vnd (£32.40), the other 2 much cheaper.
This was all before lunch time and we were meeting Thao at 11.30am for Banh khoai, crispy pancakes. Before that we went to QB Casa where Captain Caveman had a juice and I had a peach tea.

It was great to see Thao as we had not seen her for a while, we all ate the same thing and it was a little bit of a wait for the food because it’s so popular. After lunch we went around the corner for fresh coconut, sat opposite the market.
Back home we watched a bit of tree moving from outside of Elements and chilled out by the pool. We finished off a lovely day with crisps, fresh sandwiches and white wine. I got a message from my mate who arrives in Dalaman airport 3 hours after I do to say we could meet up and we pencilled in Ölüdeniz or Fethiye for the 29th.

Phong Nha – 6th August

Phong Nha – 6th August

We had a great day on Saturday 6th August, it was a hot sunny day and ideal for a bicycle ride, according to Captain Caveman. We had been invited to René’s Greenfield Homestay to celebrate his 59th birthday with free cold Huda beers.
We decided to have lunch first because we needed to line our stomachs. I said I would make us a chicken and rice dish but we nearly ended up in a big row as Captain Caveman thinks he knows best on how to cook things in the kitchen. I had put chicken in with the rice, in the rice cooker to steam, with a plan to slice it and make a kind of stir fry with a BBQ sauce. Of course, Captain Caveman took over and we ended up with boiled carrots a piece of chicken with BBQ sauce on and steam rice with corn in. The rice hadn’t come out well because the chicken had been too watery so it didn’t really taste too good.
Bluey was out for the first time in so long that she was super whizzy, she didn’t even stop when my sun hat flew off so I had to catch it and put it in my basket. I thought she might struggle on the up hill after the bridge but she was fine and my legs were doing really well. I even thought that Bluey could do with her seat raising a bit as she felt a bit low for me after riding other bicycles in Dalyan. When we arrived at René’s I was a sweaty mess and very hot, Captain Caveman was dry as a bone and couldn’t understand why I was so hot, he took Bluey and rode her to the parking spot while I walked up the little path to the homestay. It was the first time I’d been here and it was really lovely. René was already drinking beer and chatting with 2 other guests, who I didn’t realise at the time had been invited by Captain Caveman. Harry and Linh work for a charity organisation, Animals Asia, who rescue, care for, rehabilitate and release wild or endangered animals. Captain Caveman had met Harry before so we were all introduced and had a bit of a laugh at the rumour that there had been a sighting of a tiger in the jungle. René gave us cold beers and we chatted about animal rescue related stuff and tourism. Of course, I had so many questions about the animals but I managed to get on to the subject of droppings – did you know wombat poo is cube shaped!? Harry is looking after some tigers at the moment so he told us about them. In the National Park, Harry and Linh are working with lots of other animals too but mainly different species of rescued monkeys.
We were thinking about making our next beer our last when I decided to have a wander around the grounds of the homestay. They have a working farm and it is beautiful, I met Mina, the dog, and she seemed really shy and hot – she loved the fan. A group of customers returned from their day out and we got talking to them. One of them, Max, was from Bristol and worked at a Wetherspoon’s pub which then lead to all of us Brits talking about Wetherspoon’s, possibly for a bit too long for the foreigners’ liking. I think Captain Caveman could have stayed there all day but I was conscious of me having to ride Bluey home drunk and we do have to go along the road where there is some traffic every now and again. I also did not want to be going back in the dark as Bluey has no lights. After 1 last birthday beer, we decided to go home for dinner, we rode home around 5pm and I actually was quite quick. I felt the incline after the bridge but I made it without contemplating getting off. I think it took me less than 10 minutes to get home so I was pleased with that progress.

Seeing as it was Saturday night and Captain Caveman wasn’t working, we decided to go to the Farmstay for dinner. By 7pm we were sharing a bottle of red wine and had ordered some starters to share. This time we ordered things we both liked; chicken quesadillas and pitta bread with artichoke and olives – a couple of our favourites.
For mains, Captain Caveman surprised me by ordering a Vietnamese dish, and one I often choose, the pork clay pot with rice and vegetables. I had something I don’t usually have but Lottie had really loved it on Monday, the tofu curry with steamed rice. I also thought it was really good and is great value for money. Of course we ended up drunk and I don’t even remember getting a lift home from the Farmstay. I’d also completely forgotten that tomorrow we had to get up early, as Captain Caveman had arranged for a car to pick us up at 8am!

Phong Nha – 4th & 5th August

Phong Nha – 4th & 5th August

Captain Caveman had 5 whole days off starting from Thursday 4th August. I was really looking forward to this, probably more than he was, and there were a few things we planned to do. We started the day with a fry up for breakfast and then I was ill, it was as if I was intolerant to Gluten yet again and I thought the sausages could be to blame.
Captain Caveman had to go to Phong Nha because he was booked in to get his 4th Corona vaccine, this time at the clinic in Phong Nha. I had arranged for us to meet Anna and Katie, the 2 Irish girls who I had met on my last visa run, and we decided to meet at the Phong Nha Vegan so I could see Chung too. I was still feeling ill but decided I would order some sweet potato fries and some mushroom skewers. We ordered drinks, the girls had a dish each and we chatted about their trip so far. I was ill again and had to experience the squat toilet in a tin shed situation which did not alleviate my sweatiness one bit!
While Captain Caveman popped off to get jabbed, we chatted to Chung who had bought Captain Caveman and I a gift each. I was so surprised to open a beautiful silk scarf which I loved. Captain Caveman got a really snazzy polo shirt which was very stylish, in just the right size too.
After lunch Anna, Katie and I walked to The Villas in the hot sun. We sat in the AC room and ordered cold drinks while we waited for Captain Caveman to return. We bumped in to Cameron, the consultant chef, who had a chat with the 3 of us. I could have stayed there all day but we had to get back for me to do the martini training with Sau, at the Phong Nha Farmstay at 5pm.

We arrived on time and Sau was waiting for me, eager to want to learn how to do a perfect martini. It took less than 15 minutes and Sau had got it right first time. Captain Caveman and I had the 2 vodka martinis, which we added to our bill before continuing on to have happy hour 2 for 1 drinks. We didn’t stay for dinner but I wish I had because we went home for a sausage pasta and I was quite ill again.

Captain Caveman was on a mission on Friday 5th August; before we had even got out of bed he had booked me a flight to Saigon for the 24th August. This meant that should there be any storms, cancellations, or hiccups I had a bit of wiggle room. It also meant that I would be able to catch up with friends who lived there before I left Vietnam for Turkey. Next, Captain Caveman was booking me a flight from Istanbul to Dalaman but there was a bit of an issue. We had left it too late to book and Turkish Airlines were wanting £200 for the shortest, most convenient, flight on the Saturday morning. I objected to paying that and we decided that I could cope with having to spend 11-12 hours in Istanbul so we could book the 7.25pm, £35, flight.
I did my weekly measurements and the results were:
Bust -1cm,
Waist -1cm,
Hips -1cm,
Right thigh -0.5cm,
Left thigh -1cm,
Right calf -0.5cm,
Left calf -1cm.
Pretty good really!
For lunch Captain Caveman made us pulled pork, hash brown and carrots, which was really tasty. He was on a mission today because he also decided that we would arrange a birthday party to celebrate our 50th birthdays. He had just been 50 but when it was my 50th, Captain Caveman and I would be in different countries so a party would be held at Karst Villas on 14th August. Captain Caveman posted on Facebook to let everyone know they were invited, which caused a bit of confusion for some of my family and friends who weren’t in Vietnam – they thought they had missed my birthday.


In the evening we had another garage party, this time I had organised it for all the staff, Captain Caveman and I to celebrate Duyet’s last day. I had ordered East Hill BBQ chicken, got a cooler bag of cold beers and chopped some passion fruit in half. We had a great time but I had to keep nudging Captain Caveman as the TV was on and he struggles to take his eyes away from a screen whenever there is one. It was a good chance for Captain Caveman to also meet Quoc and socialise with everyone. Duyet brought out even more food including the most delicious pork, which he’d done in the air fryer! Our East Hill order got delayed and only 1 chicken came instead of 2 but then she came back with it later and the staff said we no longer needed it, as we had lots of food. Yet again we had so much to eat and drink and we were so glad to have another goodbye party for Duyet, who we would miss a lot.

Phong Nha – 3rd August

Phong Nha – 3rd August

I woke up with a bang on Wednesday 3rd August and went outside of the bedroom to see what it was. I was rather startled to see a marvellous kingfisher had flown in to the patio doors and then fell in to the pool. The poor thing looked as shocked as I was. I opened the doors and had a good look to work out how I was going to rescue it. I had got on to the first step of the pool and was slowly moving towards the kingfisher, who watched me as I put my arms under the water. The beautiful bird had started to turn to face away from me slightly as I moved through the water. I had not even touched the bird when it opened up its wings and flew in to the nearby tree, looked at me and then was off. It was amazing and so beautiful, luckily it didn’t look injured.
I had Yorkshire tea with my buttered teacake loaf for breakfast and had a slightly fuzzy head from too much beer last night.
When Captain Caveman got back from Son Doong that afternoon it was rainy and he had a sore throat. He didn’t go to Chay Lap for the gala dinner because of feeling unwell but he soon perked up when we were having a Ron Zacapa rum on the balcony, after it stopped raining.
The sky was dramatic that night and we stayed on the balcony until dark. We finished the day off with a bacon and veg pasta and more rum before having an early night. Tomorrow was likely to be a bit more active now that Captain Caveman was back and had time off!

Phong Nha – 2nd August

Phong Nha – 2nd August

My intention was to ride Bluey up to the Farmstay at 7am on Tuesday 2nd August. I’d arranged to have breakfast with Andrea, Nick and Lottie before they left to go to Hue. The rains yesterday had cleared the air and it looked like it was about to be very hot today. Duyet was waiting for me in the jeep and I remembered (drunkenly) saying to him last night “tôi đi Farmstay bảy giờ” which means “I go to Farmstay at seven o’clock”.
I was the first there, closely followed by Andrea, and Nick’s promise of a 6am swim had been forgotten. For breakfast I ordered a Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), Andrea chose omelette which comes with bread and the others had a sausage related breakfast with a big hash brown. It had been great to catch up with them and they were looking forward to a sightseeing trip, by private car, to Hue this morning. I sent recommendations through as well as the reminder of the Nook Eatery where Andrea had eaten with Captain Caveman before. We said our goodbyes and I hoped to see Andrea in Ho Chi Minh on my way back to Turkey, later in the month. I had to wait 30 minutes for Duyet because he was busy so I hung around the Farmstay bar, trying to keep out of the hot sun at 8am. I noticed a glass container which should be used for drinks being used as a fish tank – it was a bit random. I chatted to Bich who was looking forward to joining Ben and their friends on a 5 day motorbike trip up in the north of Vietnam.

Back home, I did a few chores and when it was a little cooler I did a bit of shade-bathing on the lounger by the pool, where I saw lots of dragon flies. For lunch I had fruit and teacake loaf and then had a swim. I got a message from my mate, back in Southampton, who was going to be in the Muğla province of Turkey, the same province as where I would be, at the end of August. I was so excited and we decided we would plan to meet up, as it turned out that we were both arriving at Dalaman airport on the same day which was a great coincidence.

In the evening I had been invited to another party but this time it was a sad occasion; Duyet was leaving on Friday and was having a party in the garage with the staff tonight. He had invited me to join them at 7.30pm and I had assumed it would just be for some beers. I had an early dinner of chicken and veg stir-fry with steamed rice then had a shower and got ready for a few drinks. When I went outside there was an abundance of drinks and food, all the staff were there including Duyet’s replacement, Quoc. The party was great and we had a good old laugh using Google translate, and they said how much they loved having me there. I told Duyet we would miss him and that we were sad that he was leaving. His plan was to go to work in either Hanoi or Saigon but it had not been finalised yet – none of us wanted him to leave but I tried to be understanding. The party turned out to be a good one and I even taught one of the housekeeping staff’s kid to dance to ‘Billy Jean’, by Michael Jackson. I managed 3 beers but Hien managed at least 5 and we all had a joke that she could almost drink as much as Captain Caveman. It was a lovely evening and the Elements Collection team showed so much generosity and kindness.

Phong Nha – 1st August

Phong Nha – 1st August

Monday 1st August was Yorkshire Day and I hoped all my Yorkshire friends and family were having a nice day. My Yorkshire Day was definitely not ‘Yorkshire’ in any way, I didn’t even have my usual Yorkshire tea in the morning. I had fruit for breakfast; pineapple and Dragon fruit which are amongst my favourite fruits, with yellow kiwi fruit. Hien, the owner of Elements Collection had given us 3 yellow kiwi fruits which are a lot sweeter than the green ones and I really enjoyed them.
I heard from Anna and Katie, the Irish girls, who I had met on the Lynn Visa trip to the Lao Bao border last Wednesday. They had arrived in Phong Nha and had checked in to Tuan Garden House, we said we would meet up during their stay and I sent them a few recommendations for while they were in town.
It was extremely hot so I had a pool afternoon and chilled out a little bit. It was just after 3pm when the rain came so I had to get out and shut all the open doors. The rain was great and started to cool the air a lot, it did mean that the plan for Andrea to cycle down to Elements wouldn’t go ahead. As I was going in the spare room to get my clothes, one of the housekeeping staff were in there ‘borrowing’ the remaining 4 pillows. We made each other jump and I think she asked if it was ok to take the pillows. I shrugged and said ‘ok’ as I thought she needed them for some new arrivals. I’d seen a big group of Vietnamese girls arrive earlier. With Bich’s story before of the bedding woman in Dong Hoi and now the rain, they were obviously short on pillows. While Captain Caveman was away I was unlikely to need them and said I had enough in my room for sleeping. The big group’s arrival had also meant that there was a bit of a shortage of someone to take me to the Farmstay for happy hour and there was no jeep. After waiting 15 minutes, Duyet arrived and drove me, in someone’s fancy car, and I got there in time for 2 for 1 rum and cokes for me, gin and tonics for Andrea, Nick and Lottie.

Despite the rain showers, we got to see a bit of a sunset and I even remembered to take some photos this evening. Some mates of Ben and Bich’s were here and the men were all wearing their matching shirts as they talked about motorbike trips at the bar. Tonight was Andrea, Nick and Lottie’s last night so we gave the ball a right old kick, starting with an everlasting game of pool and finishing with great food and wine. I had the chicken and cashew nuts with steamed rice, Andrea ordered the Banh Xeo which is a rice flour pancake with seafood. Nick had Nem Lui which is pork on lemon grass skewers served with rice paper rolls, veggies and rice noodles, Lottie had the veggie curry with steamed rice. There was also some fresh spring rolls as a starter which were shared. All of the food came out hot and tasted delicious, we had a few more drinks but found the martinis were a bit out of kilter on the measures. They were still drinkable (just) but I offered to show Sau, the waitress, how to make a better martini later in the week.
We finished the night with beers and so many funny stories from Nick – they had all been great company. I called Duyet to take me home at just after 10pm, which is late for the Farmstay. I got in the jeep with a beer still in my hand and I finished it when I got home.