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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shopping basket – 8th February

The Shopping basket – 8th February

Are you the type of person who wonders what is in other people’s shopping trolleys or fridge? If you have a partner who goes shopping without you, do you like to know what they bought and how much things were? I am that person, so on Monday 8th February when Captain Caveman got back from his shopping trip to Dong Hoi, I had a good check at all the stuff he had got and how much it was. If you’re interested in what we bought for the week, read on! Today’s exchange rate makes 50,000vnd equal to £1.55, US$ 2.17, AU$ 2.80 or 1.8 Euro, so you can work out costs of items.
Here’s a list in order of most expensive first in Vietnamese Dong (vnd):
• 1 box of dates 238,500
• 24 cans of Huda beer 238,000
• 1 bag of walnuts 149,000
• 1 jar of cashew nuts 129,000
• 1 jar of tomato based pasta sauce 126,000
• 4 apples 120,000
• 1 tub of hummus 100,000
• 5 chocolate and nut protein balls 100,000
• 1 packet of bacon 98,000
• 1 whole-wheat/sourdough loaf 80,000
• 1 packet of dried dragon fruit 78,000
• 1 packet of unsalted butter 73,000
• 1 jar of pickled garlic 71,000
• 1 big tupperwear box (for rice) 70,500
• 1 big bag of Naturals crisps 70,000
• 1 packet of contraceptive pill 67,000
• 4 red peppers 60,000
• 10 ibuprofen 400mg 60,000
• 24 sanitary towels and 20 liners 60,000
• 1 tube of Sensodyne toothpaste 55,000
• 1 jar of popcorn kernels 52,000
• 4 Snickers bars 48,000
• 1 box of biscuits 47,000
• 2 chicken breasts 45,000
• 1 packet of Haribo cola bottles 45,000
• 1 packet of mushrooms 42,000
• 3 washing up sponges 38,000
• 3 toothbrushes 36,000
• 1 box of raisins 36,500
• 2 dragon fruit 36,000
• 1 bag of cherry tomatoes 33,150
• 1 tube of Pringles 32,000
• 1 big bag of Lays crisps 31,500
• 10 eggs 28,500
• 3 rice crackers 22,000
• 1 packet of radishes 19,500
• 1 packet of watercress 19,600
• 1 baguette stick 9,000
Some of it surprised me as, although I know nuts and dates are expensive here, I wasn’t expecting some of the items to be so highly priced. Also, I only eat apples for convenience of getting fruit in to my diet but I think they are too expensive here. Chicken is cheap and very good quality so we bought a few packets. What surprised you the most? Do any of you analyse your shopping and make changes to help keep in budget?