Monday, Feb. 1st (Phong Nha Day 2)

  • I woke up early to do a workout on the balcony then went downstairs for another big mug of instant Western coffee and to do some writing.
  • Cory joined shortly after for breakfast.
  • At 10am we set out to explore the Dark Cave, an adventure cave along the same Phong Nha-Ke Bang loop that we explored yesterday.
  • We spent a few minutes waiting for another group to show up (to meet the 5 person minimum) then started the tour with a 400m zipline, the longest in Vietnam, across the Song Con river to the entrance of the cave.
  • We walked into the cave wearing nothing but a bathing suit, life jacket, and helmet with attached headlamp.
  • Before long we were wading through knee deep water while trying to take in every angle of the beautiful, enormous cavern, lit only by our group’s headlamps.
  • A couple hundred meters later we took a sharp right through a crack in the cave wall. The path quickly became muddy and our feet were squelching loudly as we trudged on.
  • At the end of the pathway was a small mud pool big enough for 20 people to swim in comfortably.
  • Our whole group jumped in and had fun playing around with the bizarre buoyancy. The feeling is hard to describe but I imagine it is similar to how it feels being in outer space. Your mind’s concept of gravity doesn’t quite sync up with the mud’s density; you float when your mind tells you that you should be sinking. Also, it is difficult to find enough resistance to roll over or stand up, which made for some very funny scenes.
  • After we finished playing in the mud the whole group got on kayaks and paddled back to the zipline area where we took turns on a shorter zipline that dropped into the river.
  • Finally we showered and headed back to Easy Tiger hostel on our motorbikes, feeling significantly colder than when we arrived.
  • We quickly changed into warmer clothes then left again to meet up with our group from yesterday at “The Pub With Cold Beer.”
  • There are two draws to “The Pub With Cold Beer:” First, the ice cold beer that is refrigerated (a rarity in the countryside), and second, the freshest chicken you’ll ever eat, meaning you pick a chicken, kill it, pluck it, and prepare it, before throwing it on the grill (the staff will take care of everything if you just want to eat).
  • For a long time I have been claiming that it is hypocritical to eat meat without being fully comfortable and aware of the death that is involved in the process. Here was my chance to test my own comfort level.
  • The owner grabbed my chicken by the feet and asked if I wanted to kill it. I said yes and he handed me the chicken and a butcher knife covered in blood then pointed to a small piece of wood that served as a butcher block and walked away.
  • It took me several minutes to calm my nerves and convince my chicken to stretch out her neck.  
  • I picked up the knife, took aim, then brought the knife down as quickly as I could without sacrificing accuracy.
  • I made contact closer to the head than where I was aiming, but the effect was the same; the knife went through the skull and into the back of the brain cleanly.
  • Several twitches, flaps, and kicks later the chicken was dead in my hands.
  • Needless to say, it was indeed one of the best chicken meals I have ever had, accompanied by rice, morning glory vegetables, and the best peanut sauce I have ever tasted.
  • Back at the hostel we spent the rest of the night fireside with some tall mugs of Tiger beer, recapping our day along with all of the other guests.

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