Phong Nha Farmstay 19th- 21st May
We caught yet another night bus from Hanoi to Dong Hoi on the night of the 18th May. Well the bus was not like the ones in Laos they had less room and were shocking! As we were departing at Dong Hoi we were slightly concerned that they wouldn't wake us up and we would end up in Hoi An but it was fine the nice bus driver man and his colleague woke us up ten minutes before we arrived in dong Hoi. The sleeping tablets were even more essential on this route as the setup of the bus was extremely uncomfortable to say the least. They were single bunk beds and with big hips like mine they were a slight squeeze. If any of you know me you know I like to completely spread out when I'm asleep and sleep as if I've just fallen out of a high building and had a white mark drawn around me at an accident scene so I found these buses a nightmare. There was a foot well but that was where your bags went so I had to sleep in the foetal position which I absolutely hate. I think we all managed to get some kind of sleep before arriving in Dong Hoi at around 5am. The buses drive so fast which is pretty scary and like all transport in Vietnam there is a lot of beeping.
We had arranged with the farm stay to pick us up when we arrived in Dong Hoi so we gave them a quick call to pick up but there had been some confusion within the emails and they thought we were arriving the day before. It turns out it was there error so after rudely awakening the owners a driver came to fetch us to the farm stay. This place is run by an Aussie guy and his Vietnamese wife and only been going for around 18months so was all pretty new and not many people had heard of it. The landscape is something else whilst staying on the farm we were surrounded by tranquil scenery, what more could you ask for. We stayed in the only dorm of 10 people with mozzi nets of course. We grabbed some breakfast and freshened up and went straight on the "paradise cave tour" which only runs every other day. They wanted 2 volunteers to go on the back of a motorbike instead of jumping in the mini van so Dai was straight in there lucky w***…yet again I was too slow on the uptake. Dai thoroughly enjoyed the drive and he was buzzing after we arrived at the cave and national park.
The Cave was enormous and was totally something else. They had set the cave up with stairs and easy access. We took some fantastic pictures and it was a top thing to experience. I'm pretty sure it's one of the biggest caves in the world. There was a good climb up to it so I was so glad to be wearing my walking boots as my feet were still in such a terrible state from Ha long bay and Sapa. Thanks to Dan and Jess (our friends from back home) we had a fully-fledged first aid kit so we had enough supplies to cope with all accidental circumstances…thanks guys if you are reading this.
After the cave we went swimming in this small lake and with Dai's obsession with jumping off of things into water him and this other guy called Jesus (I'm not lying ) found a spot to jump off the rocks where it was deep enough. I think this maybe a boy thing as Carol and I were happy floating around in the water. I was concerned about my bandaged feet but I thought the water looked clean so I would be ok. We did get charged to go swimming not much but yet again it was a hidden charge!! We then went to visit another cave which we were told by the tour guy you could kayak into it…ooh how cool we all thought. We got into our kayaks and followed the tour guide who said the cave was 1km kayak away so all paid around £1.80 for a kayak each person to then kayak no joke around the corner. We could've bloody swam there. I know to you guys back at home £1.80 is nothing but to a traveller that is quite a lot. Not only that you couldn't kayak in the cave. We were all really pissed off. We decided to enter the cave by foot (well we might as well see what its about after all). It was a proper cave and very slippery so me, hop a long, went with the rest and then we had to enter water to get further in. The water became very deep and it was scary being in a cave not knowing where we were going with faint head torches with water up to your waist. The boys decided that they would go back and get the kayaks while the girls made it out the cave and kayaked back to shore to have a beer. From what Dai has said they couldn't go much further but we still feel ripped off.
On this tour we met another lot people from all walks of life so we had some interesting chats about culture etc. There was an elderly, well late middle aged British couple who frankly drove Carol and I mad. They just totally got on our nerves and I can't describe them but they reminded me off Roy and Hayley from Coronation Street but not half as fun so we decided to nick name them the Croppers! I totally love Roy and Hayley but these guys just grated on me and the name "the Croppers just suited them and was a good code name… we were not being b****y or ageist. There were another elderly couple from Australia and I could talk to them for hours they were so interesting and generally sweet and both Carol and I totally enjoyed their company. After the tour we all jumped in the swimming pool and played some water volley ball…great fun.
The following day I woke up ridiculously early as my foot had picked up an infection and was throbbing. I knew I shouldn't have gone in the water but my FOBO (fear of missing out) totally got the better of me as it does on several occasions! I decided to get up and catch up on the blog. Dai scared me and went for a run…god knows what got into him. I (honestly) wish I could've gone with him but I could hardly walk and was actually very concerned. I have fat feet anyway but the size of both of my feet was unreal. There was an opportunity to visit other caves etc via a bike ride but I couldn't go so Carol and I did some catching up on the blog by the pool whilst Dai went off with the boys.
Dai said he visited two caves which was used in the Vietnam war as a hospital and as an ammunition supply. These caves were just as amazing if not more impressive than the caves visited the day before. Six of us left on bikes where we had to ride to the be picked up by a boat as the first cave is only accessible by boat. This cave was huge it's the one used as a hospital and ammunition store by the viet con in the war. It was pretty cool going in by boat and the cave was lit up by luminous lights which made for some amazing photos. The second was accessible by climbing what felt like a million stairs, maybe a run in the morning wasn't a good idea after all. This cave was right at the top of the mountain and to get there I had to sing the rocky theme tune in my head as it was a mission especially in the 40 deg heat. The cave was smaller but still as spectacular again it was lit up by luminous lights the photos again where amazing. The ride there and back was very pleasant mixing with the locals watching them harvest their rice. We arrived back at the farm stay just in time for the sunset which was perfect.
It was good to chill out. The farm stay itself is a very cool place to go with tremendous hospitality and fantastic food also. I liked the fact not many people knew about it so was still original. Phil our German friend had told us about it so again we were lucky with another tip-off. We were offered to go on the top gear experience on bikes to Hoi An but it seemed very expensive plus we had already booked our bus tickets for our travel in Vietnam. Perhaps we missed out something we may have to return to Vietnam to do again!
5am the local bus picked us up to go to Hue…more about this bus ride in the next blog entry!