Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of June

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of June

On Friday 18th June I woke up aching and sweating profusely, my left arm wouldn’t move and my hip and shoulder were a little sore too. I was disappointed as we had arranged to cycle to Karst Villas to meet some friends for lunch but there was no way I could go, I struggled to put knickers on and definitely couldn’t manage a bra. Luckily I had taken advice from family to take paracetamol which was helping with the strange headache I had. Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha while I rested and read the news. In Saigon the Corona case count was getting worse, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210618/ho-chi-minh-city-detects-nearly-150-domestic-coronavirus-cases-its-largestever-daily-count/61600.html
I managed to get myself a banana and some gluten free cake for breakfast but was a bit naughty for lunch and had a ham and cheese sandwich with just a bit of uncooked cheese on – I expected to be ill but was fine.
When Captain Caveman got home he said our friends might join the pizza night later but they were finding it difficult and expensive to get a taxi from Karst Villas to town and so they weren’t sure. I managed to dress myself by the time Ben came to pick us up for pizza night. At The Villas there was a few of us for pizza; Andrew, Trang, Chung Son, Veronika, Bich and Ben. I had a couple of glasses of wine and only managed 6 slices of delicious pizza. I was so tired that we decided to go straight to bed when we got home, before I’d cleaned my teeth and got in bed, Captain Caveman was already snoring away!

We woke up to a muffled noise in the living room on Saturday 19th June so Captain Caveman went out to have a look. We were having new cushions on the sofa in a brown fabric and they looked lovely. I also checked to see if I’d had a response from my message to Minh Thuy asking for a photo of my visa stamp in my passport, there had been a few cases where an extension had been granted but with the XC on it which meant having to leave at the end of this extension and I wanted to check if it had that. Now that I had received one jab I would really like to get the second one before I have to leave, and obviously just wanted to know but I got no reply.
After a month of Danang having no more Corona cases in the community there came a news article to say there was one, reported as coming from Saigon, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210619/da-nang-records-first-local-coronavirus-case-in-one-month-related-to-driver-from-saigon/61603.html
My arm was still aching and the headache was still bad enough for paracetamol, which I had almost ran out of, plus I still felt more tired than usual – it was hard to tell if it was the jab or the heat which caused it though! I didn’t bother with breakfast but I decided to have one of the frozen sausage rolls which Captain Caveman had brought back from Momma D’s. I knew I shouldn’t but it was really tasty and not bad for 40,000vnd (£1.24), still not sure if it was worth the bad stomach though! In the afternoon my day took a turn for the worst when I discovered that my SD card (in my phone) was not working and had corrupted with a huge amount of photos on it as well as the laptop deciding it was not going to work either! I was so mad because it now meant I couldn’t add any photos to my joloyolo blog so was taking longer than usual. Typically, it looked like we needed to get a new laptop, but that was going to cost too much so we would try to buy a memory stick to take stuff off the laptop and free up some space to be able to check my phone’s SD card. For dinner Captain Caveman made prawns with rice noodles (after I had deveined and cleaned them up) and I had no alcohol, which is unusual for a Saturday.

On Sunday 20th June I spent too much stressful, and wasted, time trying to move photos from my phone to the laptop, only for me not to know if it worked as I was unable to view them on either device! I made myself 2 gluten free pancakes which I had with banana and honey and made enough mixture to last a few days. My arm was back to almost normal, unless I touched it, and the headache had gone.
In the Corona news here announcements were made of Danang closing down after 23 cases in a day, more here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/977893/da-nang-closes-off-beaches-and-sit-in-dining-again-as-new-covid-19-outbreak-emerges.html
Overall there were still not too many deaths but  Vietnam were now up to 64 in total as deaths 63 & 64 were reported on, read the details here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-reports-two-more-covid-19-deaths/
For lunch I had peanut butter on toast but didn’t join in on the drinking by the pool with Captain Caveman. I decided I would like to go to the Farmstay Sunday roast this evening and we booked Duyet in for 6.30pm to take us in the jeep.
I had 2 glasses of red wine with my food and I asked for it without Yorkshire pudding (which I love) and the side of cheesy pasta but I did have a bit of gravy. Veronika had already drove her motorbike up to the Farmstay so she could have a swim and then her and Ben came to join our table for their dinner. Captain Caveman had cheesecake for pudding and he took mine home, along with some leftover dinner for me to have. It was a nice treat to go out for dinner but it did mean we would need to keep an eye on the budget for the rest of the month.

Phong Nha – 30th May

Phong Nha – 30th May

I decided not to have any breakfast on Sunday 30th May because I had arranged to meet friends at East Hill for lunch. I read in the news that the church related Corona spreaders in Saigon were facing criminal charges, info here:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/hcmc-religious-mission-faces-criminal-charge-for-spreading-covid-19-4286287.html
I cycled with Captain Caveman the 5 minutes to East Hill and on the way I noticed that my bangle had started to bubble and appeared to be struggling to cope in the heat. As we pulled in to the path Hanh was arriving on her motorbike and when we got up the steps to the seated area Tatas was already there and had ordered BBQ chicken, sticky rice and extra cucumber. I was beginning to think Veronika was right to stay at home because it was too hot to go out but at least there was a bit of a breeze where we were. The food was, as always, delicious and we moved seats when the natural breeze stopped, to sit near a fan. Hanh and I had a couple of ciders, Tatas and Captain Caveman had a couple of Tiger Crystal beers and we shared a chicken combo which I’d told Captain Caveman not to be too greedy over, this time. We invited the girls back to our place so we could have a dip in the pool but Hanh had to go to an appointment.

Video of the BBQ chicken arriving at East Hill

Tatas was at Elements before us, the cycle back was brutally hot and I was desperate to get in the pool, the water was so hot though. Captain Caveman got word from a customer on his next Son Doong tour that he had cancelled his trip from Saigon later today because he was an F2 case and was having to self isolate at home. We should have been coming back from our holiday today but I’d managed to forget about it by having a nice day in Phong Nha, instead.

At 5.15pm Captain Caveman and I headed off to the Farmstay in the funky new Elements Collection jeep. We took advantage of the Farmstay Happy Hour with gin and tonics for Captain Caveman and Tatas while I went off piste with a rum and diet coke for a nice change. Captain Caveman and I shared a chicken quesadillas and Tatas had fresh spring rolls which she liked so much that she ordered a second portion of. She didn’t have the Sunday roast but we did and the Farmstay family joined us. The food was fantastic and I had trouble saving some to take home. I even had 2 pieces of crackling this week so I was very pleased with that.
Back home we read the news together in bed; from midnight tonight HCMC was going in to a type of lockdown where some locations would be under directive 15 and others directive 16. This was not good news for Vietnam who have been keeping the virus under control quite well, but it was necessary to protect what medical resources and healthcare workers they did have, as well as doing everything possible to prevent the spread of this new mutated version of the virus.

Tatas took a video of our first trip in the Elements Collection jeep
Captain Caveman’s time lapse video of our first trip in the jeep

Photo & video credit – Captain Caveman and Tatas

Phong Nha – 23rd May

Phong Nha – 23rd May

It was a funny old day on Sunday 23rd May, full of tricky decision making. I was awake at 6am, reading the news and checking my list of jobs left for me by Captain Caveman; Corona death number 42 had been reported in Vietnam. Unfortunately the first of my tasks, which then lead to all the others, was to arrange to pick up my passport, which had not arrived yet. Our Plan A had consisted of flying to Saigon tonight, staying for a couple of nights, flying to Tam Ky, staying 4 nights at Le Domaine de Tam Hai resort then flying back via Saigon. Without a passport I knew I couldn’t get on the flight so Plan B was for us to either wait until the next day or for Captain Caveman to go ahead of me and then I would go the next day, seeing as my passport was ‘definitely’ going to be back by the 24th! Plan C was looking more likely in that we could take a private car from Phong Nha to Tam Hai, thus not needing my passport, and miss out Saigon, but was fractionally more expensive than flying there, and would take a day of travelling. Plan D, which could happen if the corona cases kept increasing at the rate they were, was to maybe just stay in Phong Nha!
I packed my bag then checked my phone every few seconds, waiting for my visa agent to let me know my passport had arrived – unfortunately she didn’t sound sure it would. I made enquiries about all of Plans A-D in readiness for a discussion with my other half, and holiday buddy, later! I was super organised and left no detail explored while still hoping for my passport to show up. I had a banana and some M&Ms for breakfast, then cheese and brown rice crackers for lunch, I’d hopefully be eating dinner in Thao Dien, Saigon, with friends later tonight. 
Captain Caveman was on his way out of Son Doong just after I’d eaten lunch and all his customers were on a flight that evenin. I got a message to say he was on the bus heading back to Phong Nha and that he’d be at the Glass House in 20 minutes. He needed an update as to what was going on with my passport and Corona restrictions so I sent him my findings.

In conclusion the decision for Captain Caveman now was one of the following:

Plan A: go to SGN 23/5 17.45 alone

Plan B: go to SGN 24/5 with Jo (passport permitting)

Plan C: no SGN, book a car to Tam Hai Mon/Tue, decide later to come back via car or flight

Plan D: stay in Phong Nha for his week off.

If you were Captain Caveman, what would you have done? And what decision do you think he actually made?

In between me sending my updated situation list to Captain Caveman and me speaking to him, Caroline at Le Domaine de Tam Hai had been super busy and helpful. She was an absolute star in getting me more details and attempting to do all she could so that we could go there for a holiday without flying and without my passport, if it didn’t turn up.
I got a message from a freshly showered Captain Caveman to tell me he was cycling back to Elements and to book a lift with Duyet for 4.30pm to take both of us to the Phong Nha Farmstay. He was meeting his customers there for cocktails before their flight, which Captain Caveman had decided not to take with them. 
When it got to 4.30pm Captain Caveman was already downstairs and I went to join him, he said we would get the flight tomorrow, once (if) I had my passport back. At the Farmstay I was introduced to Captain Caveman’s group who were mainly french, very nice and not getting their flight to Saigon until 8pm, so were leaving at 6pm. We had margaritas and chatted about the Son Doong tour. Thien, one of the customers, poured us all a glass of champagne which they had brought with them and I had a glass or two. We shared some brie and iberico meats with the group – what a fantastic treat. Veronika joined us just in time for a bit of brie and we all watched the sunset before they had to leave for the airport – without us!

We stayed at the Farmstay and had more wine and a Sunday Roast which had crackling on this time and was really good. It was a shame we hadn’t been able to set off for our holiday but my agent had reassured me that the passport would be with her tomorrow.

Phong Nha – 16th May

Phong Nha – 16th May

Captain Caveman went missing on Sunday 16th May, he got up early and went to Phong Nha saying he’d be back soon. I had some brown rice crackers for breakfast and checked the news. The corona cases were even more for the previous day, the most cases in a day in Vietnam so far:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210516/vietnam-reports-whopping-daily-climb-of-187-local-covid19-infections/60973.html
I messaged Captain Caveman but got no reply and so I went in the pool for a bit. For lunch I had a dragon fruit which affected my stomach so I couldn’t eat anything else. Later I made some popcorn and wondered where Captain Caveman had got to. By 3.30pm I had established that he was at the Glass House. I decided I was going to Sunday dinner as I’d not had one for a while and Captain Caveman agreed to come along to the Farmstay too. We went in the new Elements Collection van (Phuong’s old vehicle) with Duyet, who was very proud of his new wheels.

On arrival at the Phong Nha Farmstay, we joined Veronika and decided to take her recommendation on a bottle of Chardonnay. There was a nice sunset, freshly picked chillies were spread out, drying, on the ground and it was very calm and relaxing. I’m not usually one to choose a Chardonnay but the wine was very nice and went down rather too well, so much so that by the time we were eating our Sunday dinner we had to order an extra glass each.

The food was good but the Yorkshire puddings had obviously had the oven door open on them while cooking (being from Yorkshire, I am used to perfect yorkshires, though) and there was no crackling this week! Captain Caveman prefers lamb and I prefer pork so we did swaps on the meat, he also had all of my pasta in exchange for broccoli and courgette, which wasn’t really a fair swap! The meal was delicious, I had definitely missed not having it for a while and the portions are very filling. Captain Caveman had cheesecake for afters and he even let me taste some, I took home the rest of my pork, lots of broccoli and a piece of carrot cake, all of which went in the freezer.

Phong Nha – 9th May

Phong Nha – 9th May

I made myself a bacon, mushroom and brown sauce baguette for breakfast on Sunday 9th May as I had been awake before 5am again because of the tannoy noise which was still blaring on at 5.40am. By 9am I was so tired but couldn’t go back to sleep as it was too light. Instead I read the Corona news and lolled about watching The Big Bang Theory on Netflix.
The Corona numbers, although seeming to be contained were the highest cases in a day for a while as the latest wave seemed to be spreading at a faster rate, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210509/vietnam-announces-record-daily-hike-of-92-local-coronavirus-infections/60817.html
I was glad that back home my parents were due to have their second Astra Zeneca jab today and would finally be free to roam by the 23rd May. After being at home for over a year I was pleased about this for them and hoped Vietnam would progress the vaccine a bit quicker. I put on my Mommy Shark leopard print swimming costume and sat by the pool, had a swim and relaxed on a sun-lounger for the rest of the morning.
For lunch I had dragon fruit and some grapes followed by a pot of jasmine tea and decided to try something new for dinner. I had rice noodles with blognese, instead of spaghetti and although it took a bit of getting used to it tasted pretty good. I had a very relaxing Sunday in Phong Nha, just doing nothing much.

Phong Nha – the 1st weekend of May

Phong Nha – the 1st weekend of May

On Saturday 1st May I was unable to get to The Villas and so I delegated seeing Caroline and Vee off to Captain Caveman, who was cycling to Phong Nha anyway. The tyre on her Royal Enfield Himalayan motorbike had been replaced and she was leaving from Ho Khanh’s that morning, heading north for the next month!

Poison_I_Vee video by Captain Caveman

After catching up on the Corona news I cycled over to the Farmstay to meet Andrea and Captain Caveman for a late breakfast and I had a pho bo and an orange juice. Bruno and Rob joined us for lunch and I just shared a bit of Captain Caveman’s chicken quesadillas and then had lots of water and a coconut. I said farewell to Andrea and Bruno who were off to Chay Lap then on the Tu Lan 4 day Oxalis tour with the rest of the group the next day. My total cycling time was faster than expected at 17 minutes 3 seconds via the shortest route and I was getting better at keeping my foot and leg aligned.

Captain Caveman and Rob went cycling around the local area for a couple of hours while I put the chicken masaman in the rice cooker for later and added more potatoes and some carrots to it. When Captain Caveman returned home I had a surprise for him; as you can imagine he loves videoing my leg progress and was almost as excited as I was at my first walk down the stairs where I could step one foot in front of the other, instead of bringing one foot to the other on each step. I still had to hold on to the hand rail and the stepping wasn’t very smooth but my knee didn’t hurt at all, just my ankle was very stiff and a bit sore.
We celebrated with a bottle of fizz and the masaman curry which we had to enjoy in the bedroom as it was such a hot night and there is only Aircon in the bedrooms.

Captain Caveman’s video of me walking down the stairs

Captain Caveman was up at 6am on Sunday 2nd May and really excited to be on the same Tu Lan 4 day Oxalis tour as Andrea, Bruno, Johan, Rob and Anthony, even though he was still working he would enjoy having his friends on this trip. I stayed in bed a bit longer and read the latest Corona news which had started to get a little more concerning than usual. A temporary hospital had been set up in Ha Nam ready to start treating new patients if the 4th wave got worse, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/938430/500-bed-temporary-hospital-set-up-in-ha-nam-to-treat-covid-19-patients.html
Worryingly, it was confirmed that the first of the Indian double mutant strain is in Vietnam – people are worried:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210502/vietnam-detects-double-mutant-indian-variant-of-coronavirus-for-1st-time/60677.html
I cheered myself up by making gluten-free pancakes for breakfast and I made enough mixture to save in the fridge for a few more days. I did more writing and then I noticed that Below Deck had more episodes available on Netflix so I just had to watch it. I had fruit salad for lunch and had planned to go to Sunday dinner at the Farmstay but being on a budget and knowing it would be mega busy for the holiday weekend I decided to have veggie rice, a white russian and some walnuts at home – much cheaper and healthier!

Danang – 25th April

Danang – 25th April

We decided to take Captain Caveman for a breakfast at Pho Thin on Sunday 25th April, even though he rarely eats pho. It was my 3rd time and his first but we all enjoyed our pho bo very much. Captain Caveman was very impressed with the hotel too and loved the industrial feel and bridge artwork at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel.
In the Vietnamese news there were reports of increased risk of Corona outbreaks coming into Vietnam illegally and it was becoming a bit more concerning. Here’s the info:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/933140/health-minister-urges-localities-to-be-vigilant-for-covid-19-amid-regional-outbreaks.html

After a bit of a rest our next stop was to meet Des at Roadhouse for a cheap beer because he felt bad about last night. Roadhouse was a small place and we got there just as the friendly owner was opening up for the day. Captain Caveman had a draft pint of Huda, Des stuck with a bottle of Huda and I had a soft drink, until the next round when I went on to the red wine. We decided to order burgers and Captain Caveman hilariously actually ordered by saying he would have a ‘big black cock’ because he thought that’s what BBC stood for (it was Beef, Bacon, Cheese – OMG)! I ordered a single dad naked which was without the bread and some chips and cheese. All the food was tasty and really good value so it was a great recommendation from Des.

Next we went to meet Steve and June at Dirty Fingers and bumped in to some of the others who were already enjoying a drink. There was a BBQ on and a promise of a live band later but we already had plans for a Sunday dinner. June and I sat chatting while the boys talked about sports and we had some very nice wine before Captain Caveman and I had to go back to the hotel to pack and check out.

I’d arranged for us to have a late check out from Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel on Sunday 25th April but leave our bags in reception from 6pm, we planned to get the 00.35 train to Dong Hoi and so would be back before midnight to collect them. Hamish had arranged a table at The Nomad Kitchen for 14 of us for Sunday dinner and a rather merry Des had decided to join too – he was having a second go at his birthday celebration! Captain Caveman and I were the first to arrive and we took some photos of me outside with the angel wings and all the motorbikes in front of the painting. We ordered the carafes of wine, which were great value, for me, June and Captain Caveman. Steve and Des had beer, Hamish and Ania were next to arrive with wine and join the table. They usually come with their mates on a Sunday for the roast dinner and so they had asked Captain Caveman and I to join them to put it to the test. Unfortunately there was some short staffing issues that night but we didn’t particularly notice it as we put our order in first, most of us going for buffalo meat, June had chicken. The meat was gorgeous, so tender and the veg cooked well except for a couple of us having undercooked potatoes. This was sorted out though and we were given a couple more nicely cooked ones. The Yorkshire puddings were marvellous and I didn’t get a gluten reaction from them which was great. The portion sizes aren’t big but for 130,000vnd (£4) it’s not to be sniffed at. Captain Caveman even ordered a dessert of apple pie with cream which went down a treat! Because we were getting the train just after midnight we also decided to order a takeaway; Captain Caveman enjoyed the buffalo meat so much that he chose to have that in a sandwich, I ordered a falafel salad. The Nomad Kitchen closes at 10.30pm so we ordered the food for then but, unfortunately, Captain Caveman was told too late that there was no buffalo left and so he didn’t get a takeaway. Because he was drunk he wasn’t best pleased that he had not been told earlier and had a bit of a strop, shouting at Daniel the chef – which was a bit embarrassing! We said our goodbyes to June and Steve then left to join Hamish, Ania and Mik, at Oi Bar for one last ‘end of holiday’ drink. I had a vodka and coke to try to keep me awake and then it was time to go get our bags and head off to the station. We said our goodbyes to Hamish, Mik and Des before getting a Grab taxi with Ania back to Bridges for our bags. It had been a fantastic week and I was grateful for all our friends’ hospitality and welcome, as well as very sad to be leaving. What a week, I think I was going to need a few days off to recover!

Phong Nha – 28th March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phong Nha – the 1st weekend of March

Phong Nha – the 1st weekend of March

Knowing that I’m going to snaffle as much pizza down me as I can every Friday night has made me conscious that I need to get more active. Friday 5th March was one of those days, there was no tannoy noise but I was up and doing my writing by 5.30am so that I had enough time to fit everything in I needed to do.
I decided to cycle to the Farmstay for breakfast and chose the long way, taking just 18 minutes 15 seconds to get there, which I was pleased about. I had a soda water, a big bottle of water and a pho bo. There were a couple of new guests arrived, who were friends’ of Matty and I met one of them, Hamish. I chatted to Bich and Ben who were getting ready for a busy group booking at Phong Nha Farmstay and I said bye to Matty who was off to Saigon for the weekend. It started to look like it might rain, thunderstorms were predicted, so I cycled back home the long way again. I managed it in 18 minutes 49 seconds and was delighted with that, although the Elements Collection staff thought I might be dying because of my purple face and sweatiness. It is definitely harder on the way back. I had lunch of masaman curry with leftover rice and was looking forward to pizza night!

I love The Villas’ all you can eat pizza night and so on that evening I had agreed with Matty to look after his friends, Hamish and Mik. When I arrived Colin and Mark were sat together outside but there was a lot of mosquitoes so I went inside. Tatas came to join followed shortly after by Hamish and Mik then we rearranged the indoor table to fit Colin and Mark too. Tatas and I shared a bottle of wine, the new blokes in town were on the G&Ts and before we had each eaten more than 1 slice of pizza I knew it was about to get messy! Hamish is a fan of tequila and so he insisted on us having a shot. Luckily for Tatas after eating her spaghetti and having 3 tequilas and almost half the bottle of wine she got summoned to go deal with something work related and left early. Hamish and Mik turned out to be really good company, very funny and we got on well straight away. I don’t know what it is but when I meet English and Irish people when I’m so far from home it’s refreshing to have that banter that I miss and for us to be able to understand each other so easily when we are speaking. The pizza was great but a surprise anchovy and chilli one caught Hamish off guard and more tequilas had to be consumed. Mik, from Ireland, who also has a wicked sense of humour struggled to keep his last shot down so, alas our taxi was summoned and we all went home followed by the adding of each other on Facebook.

Saturday 6th March began with only a slight hangover, considering how much we all drank and there had been some loud storms in the night. It was Captain Caveman’s final day of his trip and the second day that the tannoy had not been active – hopefully it was broken! I checked my purse to see how much of my budget I’d blown and was pleasantly surprised, thus establishing that Tatas paid for the wine and Hamish had paid for most of the Tequilas, meaning I had easily spent less than £10 on my night out.
I cycled to the Farmstay for my pho bo and soda water breakfast and took the long route which took me 20 minutes and 5 seconds but it was a strong wind. I had not arranged to meet Hamish but when I arrived he was in reception with his luggage. It turned out he was changing rooms as he was off on a trip to Hang En the next day so we had breakfast together. Mik joined us and we decided to take the piss out of him as he is a fussier eater than me, apparently. I left, taking the long route again in 19 minutes 58 seconds – the second day in a row of doing 9km.
I chose some swimwear and a pair of shorts from Mommy Shark in Hoi An, arranged delivery and asked Captain Caveman to pay for them later that afternoon. I had just toast for lunch then some popcorn in the afternoon while I watched more of Amazing Hotels. Veronika had come back from Dong Hoi but was at the Farmstay so I still had the place to myself. I took off my bra, got comfy and settled on the sofa for a quiet night on my own, or so I thought!

As I was watching another episode of Amazing Hotels and having a pre-dinner glass of wine on Saturday 6th March, I heard the door open. I knew it wasn’t Captain Caveman as he had gone straight to his gala dinner at Chay Lap after his tour and was staying at the Glass House tonight. Footsteps came up the stairs and I could smell a faint fishy smell as Duyet’s smiley face appeared. He couldn’t really explain in English and I didn’t understand what he meant but he had brought me a plate of squid and prawns because they were having a party outside with the owners of the place, Hien, Khanh and their guests. Next, I heard Hien shout hello and she came in with a bottle of (sweet) red wine which she had already started. Because Women’s Day was coming up they were celebrating and so she insisted we have a drink together but, as is usual in Vietnam, she was chugging the wine with every cheers. She taught me how to say Happy Women’s Day in Vietnamese (chúc mừng ngày phụ nữ) and she asked if we were still enjoying living here. Next at the door was Hien’s daughter, Han, and more wine was drank, followed by Duyet returning with pizza. We were sozzled and when I asked what date Men’s Day is they thought I was quite the joker – apparently it is every day! By the time they left, the karaoke was booming outside, the party was in full swing and I could barely hear the TV so gave up. It was actually a good night and at least I got to have a small celebration with Hien and Han.
On the budget front I had managed to spend less than £18 on food and drink these last 4 days as well as about £28 for 3 items from Mommy Shark, let’s hope they would fit!!

Without speaking to Captain Caveman I had arranged for us to have lunch with Uy and Chung in Phong Nha on Sunday 7th March. The weather wasn’t great though and in the end it got cancelled as both Uy and Captain Caveman had to get prepared for a tour tomorrow. Chung had bought me a gift of Banh Ep from Hue, which is rice cracker with pork and spring onion and is such a delicious snack – she remembered how much I love it. I didn’t have any breakfast as I was waiting for Captain Caveman to come home so we could go for a cycle to the Farmstay. We went the long way and managed it in under 20 minutes and then we ordered a big lunch each, despite it being Sunday roast tonight. I had a pork clay pot with steamed rice and vegetables, Captain Caveman had a salami pizza and I had a couple of orange juices. While we were sat there my delivery of swimwear arrived and I was astonished that it had took less than a day to travel 350km. I was excited to see if they fit so we cycled back home in 20 minutes and 2 seconds so I could shower and try on.
OMG they fit! I can not describe how excited I was especially as my current swimming costume is over 5 years old and falling a part and my bikini is about 10 years old and a bit too big for me now! Even Captain Caveman was impressed with my 3 purchases for less than £30 including delivery. I now had 4 pair of shorts in total, including a pair of cycling shorts I’d found mixed in with the washing.
Captain Caveman went off to his next Son Doong briefing and I caught up on a few chores before going out.
I joined Veronika and Ben for the Sunday dinner with the kids having Vietnamese food. Later Captain Caveman came for a beer and paid for another month’s rent, as well as the laundry and the food and drink for today. He also gave me some money for while he would be away again. 

Photo credit – Ben & Bich, Phong Nha Farmstay, The Villas, Mommy Shark, Hien, Han.

Phong Nha – 7th February

Phong Nha – 7th February

I was woken up by Captain Caveman’s loud sneeze at 6.45am on Sunday 7th February. I didn’t get back to sleep and only an hour after he had left to go to Phong Nha, the housekeeping knock came for cleaning our room. I ate bread and butter and an apple for breakfast then sipped jasmine tea in the living room.
Captain Caveman picked up our order from Vananh, and he also brought back gluten free biscotti made by LyLy which was amazing! Our hummus order looked great and also contained some mung bean chips a couple of gluten free cookies to try and some chocolate protein balls for when I get peckish.
I had a bad stomach (again!) In the afternoon and so ended up having crisps and diet coke before my evening meal.

When we went up to the Farmstay for Sunday dinner our new motorbike helmets from Saigon had arrived and they were really snazzy. Captain Caveman went in the sauna while I chatted to Veronika and some guests who were staying at The Villas. It was a warm evening, everyone was sitting outside and Phong Nha Farmstay was quite busy – it was nice to see the pool with guests in too. The Sunday dinner of roast pork, lamb, pasta bake, roast potatoes, vegetables and thick gravy was extremely tasty and of course we couldn’t miss the included beverage and cake. We had the house red wine, which is a substantial portion and while the others had chocolate fondant cake I went for the carrot cake this time and it was fantastic – the whole deal cost just 300,000vnd and, as always, definitely worth it!

If you want to buy a safe and snazzy motorbike helmet I can highly recommend Saigon Motorcycles, they are very helpful and were able to deliver to Phong Nha within a week! Here is their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaigonMotorcyclehireandsales/