We had planned to take it easy on our first day in Phong Nha after a long overnight train from Hanoi. A light cycle through the rice paddies to find the famous Pub With Cold Beer was the perfect idea, we thought.
In retrospect, we probably should have realised it wouldn’t be quite that simple. Phong Nha had experienced terrible flooding in the months before we arrived and, although it was mostly clear of water now, the mud was astonishing. Up almost to our knees in some places, it’s made life pretty difficult for the locals recently and the only people who can get through it are those who own large cars or hefty motorbikes.
Although I can’t really describe what we were doing as ‘cycling’ – more like pushing bikes up hills through thick mud – it was still a hell of a lot of fun and fascinating to see more of rural Vietnam along the way. Lots of people cheered us on as we passed – I’m still not sure if they thought we were brave or stupid?!
In need of some refreshment after our hefty trek with the bikes, we settled down with two Saigons and ordered the famous chicken in peanut sauce.
I say ‘famous’ because the Pub with Cold Beer only serves one thing. Chicken. And they serve it fresh – meaning that the chicken is running around in the yard twenty minutes before it appears on your plate.
A slightly different experience and I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of eating the chicken once it arrived, but the peanut sauce was delicious and we settled in for the afternoon, making our way through several of the ‘cold beers’ before tackling the mud mounds on the way home.