Saturday, 22 February 2014

They spoke just enough English at the Anh Linh and were expecting me through my Agoda booking, it makes things so much easier when you get to a new town, send the details to your phone, show the taxi driver the address and you’re away.

  No running around town comparing prices and rooms, that’s what the internet is for.  They also cooked me some dinner even though it was getting late, it wasn’t that good but it filled the gap.  The breakfast was much better, though it’s pretty hard to stuff up fried eggs and a baguette now isn’t it?!
I think the readers will know by now that first order of the day (and don’t say ‘have a beer’) was to commandeer a scooter and explore this place.  Too easy, the Anh Linh can help you there also and soon I was off into the unknown, well the town of Dong Hoi anyway.  It is a cool relaxed town, set where the river meets the ocean, I instantly mellowed and the craziness off Hanoi was soon forgotten.  Now I was enjoying Vietnam.
I had read about Phong Nha and the caves there so decided I would do the trip by bike for a couple of days to have a look.  I left my luggage at Anh Linh and set off with just my backpack and my computer bag strapped to the bike.  I took the coast road up which was the long way round but worth the extra time.  Nothing special but it was great to be seeing Vietnam proper, the rural settings and small towns.
A couple of hours later, after a few detours and some sightseeing I was in the quaint little town of Son Trac, aka, Phong Nha.  Once again I had used Agoda to full effect and ended up in the possibly the best place in town, they are all similar and the same price but what you get at one place is vastly different from what you might get next door (as I would find out later)  The place is Thien Thanh and you won’t find anywhere better in the town for that price.
At $10 a night including breakfast, this place was a winner, the owners are extremely friendly and helpful and I was regularly invited in for beers and dinner.  They speak pretty good English and the whole place is just really well run, unlike many other guesthouses in town.  You can rent a bike there and they will point you in the right direction for anything you may need, I arrived a guest and left as a friend. 

When I returned a week and a half later I was greeted like an old mate of theirs.  My number 1 choice in Phong Nha.  It’s not that the other places deliberately do a bad job, they are simply still learning the industry and some are clearly keener than others to secure the tourist dollars.