This is the Phong Nha Farmstay, run by gregarious Aussie Ben Mitchell and his lovely vietnamese wife Bich. I was to stay here for five days, going on a variety of their tours, and enjoying it so much that I almost took a job with them as a guide.
*The big news around here is the re/discovery and exploration of the world's biggest cave - Son Doong. It's so staggeringly vast that you could fit a New York City block inside it. The main chamber is 200m wide, 150m and continues at that size for more than 7km! You can see the extraordinary photos here: http://www.sondoongcave.org/ Small tours open to the public in February next year for $3000 for a six night excursion into the cave, guided by Howard Limbert, the chap who uncovered it. Ben went on one of the preliminary expeditions and called it life changing. I was well prepared to sign up had the tours been running. I'll get down there one day.
Howard & Deb came up to the farmstay on Wednesday night to give a presentation on the caves in the area and Son Doong specifically. It was fascinating and awe inspiring.
The farm overlooks rice fields near the river, which makes it susceptible to flooding, fortunately there's a rooftop terrace onwhich to have a beer if the swimming pool gets swamped by rising mud.
'Someday son, all this will be yours.' These chickens and their brethren will be the first thing you hear every morning at the farmstay. The cocks start crowing anytime from 4.30am onwards.
On the Wednesday, Ben, myself and a few of the staff and guests made a trip to The Pub with Cold Beer. We drove in the pickup truck down muddy tracks before parking it by the river, removing our shoes and wading across to a house the far bank. The 'pub' is actually a family's house, with some tables outside and a refrigerator stocked with the eponymous bottles of lager. Ben gave the house its new name when he was thrilled to be offered not just a beer, but a chilled one whilst exploring the area several years ago. The home-cooked food is also apparently good, though I can only vouch for the roasted peanuts. Ben's funded a western toilet and I'm told the plan is to open up a couple of guest rooms.