Dalyan – a busy third week

On Monday 23rd September I was awake before 5am and the first thing I read was the news that Thomas Cook had not been able to be saved. It would be a massive knock for a lot of people who’s flights and holidays would be cancelled. It also meant that a lot of people were getting on the internet to rebook before the demand increased and the prices became too high. My friends arriving in October were unaffected but my uncle, who was due to be visiting my parents, wasn’t so lucky.
I just had water for breakfast but had my daily gluten free toast for lunch with a cup of earl grey tea. I decided that the balcony furniture needed replacing as I was missing being able to sit outside and read, write these blogs or have my meals and drinks. I tried rearranging what we did have but it wasn’t good enough and I decided to have a look for new ones tomorrow, as I was off to Fethiye with ma and pa. In the evening we decided to meet for a drink at Amy’s bar and while we were there we booked a day trip with Yusuf, on his boat, for Thursday. We had decided to pay a second visit to Ramazan’s for steak but as we walked towards it there was a power cut. Dad got a face on and we all started heading home but noticed the only place with a light on was Jiks (they have a generator) so we went there. I had meatballs and red wine and it was very good but we had an early night as we needed to be ready for the bus the next day.

I met my parents at the bus stop at 09:30am on Tuesday 24th September armed with 3 bottles of cold water. The bus was full (29 people) and set off at 09:45am to Fethiye, a nearby town with a port. We’d all been before but it had been a while so we were looking forward to having a change of scenery as well as maybe a bit of shopping. I needed to cost up some balcony furniture, as well as new beds and a bigger fridge. When we arrived we had a stroll to the harbour where there were some impressive looking boats, bumped in to 2 of my Dalyan friends (you can’t go anywhere, can you?), we had a hot drink at a local style cafe which was 5 lira for all 3 of us. We had a walk beside the water and settled for a nice looking place for an alcoholic beverage and lunch. I was happy with my cider and chicken stir fry but Dad was less impressed by his tuna salad (to be honest I didn’t even know he liked tuna). Mom was rather ecstatic over her seafood pasta and said it was one of the best she’d had – they did have to put up with draught Tuborg lager, though, as they didn’t have Efes Malt. After lunch we had a treat from the ice-cream stall, where I had cherry sorbet in a pot while ma and pa had cones of ice-cream.
We walked back and took a detour to the Duck Pond where our tour guide was busy having a few ‘liveners’ and we had a drink while watching the scenes around. My parents pointed out a few places they had frequented years ago, including a naked afternoon in the Hamam, as well as some bars. On the way back to the bus I noticed a bed shop and quickly went in to get some info and see how the ottoman style ones opened. I dashed out with a card and caught up, making it in time for the bus back.
On the way back we all sat in the same seats and I had the unfortunate situation of having the drunk tour guide sat next to me while leaning across to chat up the single Dutch lady next to me with ‘blue eyes and big tits’, as he put it. Needless to say, with that chat-up line, he got nowhere (she had green eyes) and when he asked me my marital status I said I married twice but both husband’s were now dead from talking too much. It only shut him up temporarily and the poor woman had to get off in town so that he didn’t find out where she was staying. We decided to stay in that night and I had gluten free toast and leftover aubergine yogurt for dinner.

I had forgotten how good beans on toast is!! On Wednesday 25th September I had it for my breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then, because I had not successfully found replacement balcony furniture, I went to a shop in Dalyan to have a look at their small selection. I found some I liked but went home to measure the balconies to make sure what I ordered would fit. The owner, Doğan Cihan, gave me his number and said I could WhatsApp him an order which he could bring over straight away. Back home I realised I had nothing for lunch except for Bakery No10 chocolate cake, which was so good! I ordered tables only and then decided to take the old one apart to store away. By the time the delivery arrived less than 20 minutes later I had broken a leg of the old table and so I asked the man to help me dispose of it, which he did! I even got free delivery and a discount but needed to find some table cloths so the sun didn’t ruin the new tables.
In the evening we went to Ramazan’s where I had the onion steak which was amazing – definitely the best steaks in town. We shared a bottle of red too and then had a cheeky drink at Bistro Blue before heading home. We had a busy day coming up on Thursday!!

Yusuf at Amy’s bar had booked us on his boat trip on Thursday 26th September and so I met my parents at Jazz bar at 10am. We already had our swimmers on (underneath our clothes) and had took a bag with a towel each and some suncream. We were lucky as we only had 4 more people onboard and so with just 7 guests it looked to be a nice peaceful and relaxing day. We sailed out on to the sea while drinking a cup of strong tea and I forgot to take a sea-sickness tablet. We had the chance to try a spot of fishing, swim in beautiful bays and enjoy the odd beverage.
Lunch was a buffet and BBQ which was really good – I took my own gluten free bread but didn’t have it because I was so full of chicken, meatballs, salad, broccoli, carrot yogurt dip, spinach yogurt dip and rice! After lunch we had more chilling, sunbathing on the top deck of the boat then swimming in Candır lake where there are thermal springs under the water.
While we were there my friends were on another boat in the lake so I got off and we swam to meet each other for a chat (as you do). When I got back on the boat there was a glass of wine and a fruit plate waiting for me. The trip lasted until after 5pm and was a really good price for the day out.
We decided to stay in that night and off we went to get a shower and settle in for the night. Once I’d got showered though, I messaged my parents to see how they were getting on and after a few messages back and forth we decided to go out for dinner. We tried another new place off my list, Meet Meat and it was a bit ‘different’! It’s one of those places where there is no menu but you order meat at a counter and they weigh it and tell you the price. Great idea but the staff have limited English so you don’t really know what is happening and we weren’t sure what we would get with our meat. The starter was bread (not gluten free) with mushrooms in a mystery sauce which none of us tried. Me and mom shared a big rib eye steak, cut in half and was about the right size. Dad had a fillet steak which looked great, we got side dishes of salad and chips – I just had salad and my steak. We shared a bottle of red wine which we took a gamble on one we had never heard of but was nice and only 75 lira (wine is expensive in Turkey). When the bill came we were all pleasantly surprised as it wasn’t expensive for the amount of meat we had. We got a complimentary fruit plate to share afterwards and when one of the flower men came round, Dad bought three.
On the way home we had a nightcap at Bistro Blue before heading home after a hectic day!

Dalyan – my second weekend

I had a pedicure booked in first thing on Saturday, 14th September, at Mimi’s and I was looking forward to getting my feet sorted as I’d not had a pedicure for ages – it was good value for money and took an hour. I had a lovely apple tea and got to watch the world go by and the dog sleep.
After that, I went to see what gluten free stuff they had at No10 Bakery, nearby. I had a Turkish tea and a chocolate orange brownie which was incredible – I had to check it was definitely gluten free as you couldn’t have guessed. I also ordered a gluten free loaf and some cake for 3 of us, I took the carrot, orange and almond cake but had to go back later for the bread. I had a swim and a lounge about at my parents’ place, Dad made us a healthy lunch and on my way home I collected the loaf. I wish I’d known about No10 Bakery before as the bread was fantastic and I had 2 slices with butter on straight away. The baker there is unbelievably talented and I will be going there lots more.
That evening I had decided to help out some friends by looking after their 4 dogs while they went to a party. I’d met their biggest dog before and I think he remembered me with a jump up and a lick of my ear. I’d not met the rescue dog or the new puppies before and they were all very giddy and cute. Once their owners had left they spent time messing about by the pool. One went in a little bit and I had to dry all of them because one got a dry then the rest wanted one. Eventually the dogs calmed down enough for me to watch a bit of Poirot on TV while drinking wine and nibbling cheese with 3 of the 4 dogs being fast asleep when their owners returned.

Sunday 15th September was spent, once again, chilling with the family. I had gluten free toast (the Bakery No10 version) with butter for breakfast before heading out for lunch with ma and pa. They had been cleaning and had worked up a thirst so we had a couple of cheeky beers (cider for me) at Dalyan Lounge, where we also had crisps and Turkish delight as nibbles. Instead of Sunday dinner this week we opted for a local Turkish place, Firat’s, in a square full of eateries. Dad had an omelette, Mom a tuna and onion pide and I tried to go healthy with stuffed peppers. We shared a nice bottle of white wine and all was well until I got a really bad stomach, as if I’d eaten gluten. It was only when I googled a Turkish recipe for stuffed peppers that I realised that my lunch had wheat in – it wasn’t rice inside the peppers, but bulgur wheat! It was my own fault for not checking and they were very tasty. Despite being in pain and feeling terrible I still managed dinner out and we went to Yener’s Place where they are extremely used to gluten free customers. I had an amazing chicken and aubergine dish washed down with 2 glasses of wine. It rounded off the week nicely and we even got to meet Yener’s knitted dolls, given him by a customer!


Dalyan – a relaxing second week

On Monday 16th September I was still suffering with the effects of accidental gluten, I measured myself and found that in a couple of days my waist had increased by 5cm. I didn’t have breakfast and for lunch I had only gluten free bread with cheese spread.
In the evening my parents and I went for a lovely meal by the river, at Yakamoz, where I opted for a gluten free dinner of steak, salad and chips with a couple of glasses of red wine. (Gluten free-ers, the rice here is without pasta in).
On the walk back home we decided to call in to Bistro Blue as we’d not been back since we had made our own dancefloor there with the girls! I had another couple of red wines and we kept it tame this time.

It was time to try something out for the first time this year, on Tuesday 17th September. I was going to cook a meal – living in Vietnam in a shared house with a dirty, ill-equipped kitchen means we never cook at home. I invited my parents over and decided we would have chicken, veg and jacket potatoes. I do miss a jacket potato especially the proper oven cooked ones with crispy skins.
During the day I was awake early as I had a message from Captain Caveman to let me know I could book tickets for next year’s Hanoi Grand Prix but when I tried they have to be delivered by DHL and I didn’t want them delivering to the UK for £26 or to Vietnam for £31!! For the rest of the day we lounged by my parents’ pool and then my parents came over to mine, bringing white wine. I was on the red wine and the food turned out lovely. (I forgot to take a photo of it).

The gluten free bread from No10 Bakery was proving to be a winner!!! On Wednesday 18th September I had more of it plus a meal at Jiks then later some delightful gluten free chocolate cake which had only benefited from being in the fridge.
My parents decided they needed a crate of beer for nights in and so we all went to the 24/7 shop next door to mine to get some. My mom tried to find a photo of where they lived but the owner nipped off on his motorbike, brought the car round and took them home, with the beer. He took it up the stairs to their kitchen, took a half empty crate back and only charged them 205 lira – a bargain.
In the evening I joined my parents for a drink at Amy’s bar followed by dinner at another new (to us) place to try from a list I’d made. From the Facebook posts I’d read, Troy got either great reviews or slagged off so it was a gamble and we were pleasantly surprised. The red wine was nice, my garlic mushrooms great and a massive portion. When my steak came it looked a bit lacklustre but it was perfectly cooked and very tasty – I was grateful it came with just veg, for a change. Dad had a starter of cheese rolls which looked delicious and I wished I could eat one.
On the way home we had to stop by Soul Kitchen for more wine and a complimentary bit of cheese. We didn’t have a massively late night because the next day we had decided to venture out.

I’d been in Turkey for 2 weeks already and was settling in nicely. On Thursday 19th September me and my parents decided to venture out. I had my usual breakfast of gluten free toast and then called a number my mom had got from a sign. I arranged for the man to meet us outside Jazz bar at 1pm and that’s what we did. He arrived with a minibus and we picked up another couple before driving to his place, Gölbaşı, out on the way to the beach.
It was a lovely traditional restaurant and watering hole with lots of wildlife and looked so nice. I got a bit excited at seeing so many terrapins in the water. We had a lovely lunch and shared a reasonably priced bottle of white wine while mom and dad reminisced on past visits with friends.
In the evening we decided we all needed a night in and I had a very healthy chicken wrap with yogurt and sweetcorn while watching more Broadchurch on Netflix.

Dalyan – my third weekend

On Friday 20th September I notice the bad diet habits and started to creep back in, not just booze – there were now an abundance of crisps available in Dalyan and I love crisps! In the meantime I was about to have the most calories I have ever consumed in one day in just an evening, as the three of us had booked a tour.
For breakfast I had gluten free bread with a scraping of cheese spread (no butter) and for lunch a chicken wrap with fat free yogurt and salad. I was being so healthy until it was time to call for my parents and had a rather large whisky on their balcony before our evening’s outing with Volkan’s Adventures.
We had trouble finding the office, which is small but next door to Lukka bar, and met with a group of other customers. I had a diet coke and we waited for everyone to arrive before being lead, by Volkan, to his boat. I had booked us on a wine tasting evening, which runs every Friday in the holiday season. It started all informative and classy with everyone sipping the white wine and listening to the history and tasting notes. It ended in absolute drunken mayhem, but somewhere in between we had made friends with the man shouting at another guest for licking his fingers while picking up pieces of chicken. We tried 10 wines and were then allowed to consume our favourites (all of them) and when the boat pulled back up in town we simply continued drinking. It was a bargain £35 for the boat trip and it was fantastic, from what we remember.
We finished off the night with one of our ‘new friends’ going missing and having to find her, me leaving my phone on the boat and having to be tracked down to the Gin bar for Volkan to return it, my mom having trouble getting my dad home because he could hardly walk and me bumping in to a friend and having 2 Bailey’s at Lukka bar!

On Saturday 21st September I felt like death and there was only one thing to sort me out – a greasy breakfast!
My parents met me at Jiks, by which time it was about 1pm, they had full English breakfasts and I had bacon, beans and mushrooms. We all decided to have a no alcohol day and I couldn’t even look at wine!
I did manage to be quite productive by actually doing some Vietnamese homework, watching more Broadchurch and booking a trip to Cappadocia with our friends from Australia.
In the evening we met a Turkish friend of mine for dinner at Geçit restaurant where I had a lovely beef casserole, which was lovely. For the first time in a long time I drank only orange juice (at breakfast) and water all day. We also needed to be back to normal for the next day because I had arranged for me, mom, dad and a friend to meet up with a random Dalyan dweller for the Singaporean Grand Prix.

In my desperation to watch the Singaporean Grand Prix on Sunday 22nd September without the disruption of rugby or football taking priority in a sports bar, I had roped us in for a Sunday lunch. Earlier in the week I had posted in a Facebook forum to ask where the F1 would be shown as priority and had managed to secure viewing at Central Park with a retired English woman who now lives here.
I’d only had my usual gluten free toast for breakfast and so was going to order something substantial for lunch. I walked to the cafe with my parents, where our friend joined us and we were 1 hour early, hoping to see the preamble of the race. At 2pm I ordered a big bottle of water, a cider and a jacket potato with Bolognese and cheese.
My ‘facebook group friend’ and her husband arrived and were perplexed to find the England v Tonga rugby game on with just one person watching it. By the time the owner put the race on we had missed the first 3 laps and the commentary was in German. The place was full of pensioners, a darts game was going on next to the TV but nevertheless we watched the race and then left with a brief goodbye to my new ‘friends’.
Captain Caveman was in Balikpapan or Melak (I lose track of him) and so I had been relaying the race updates to him. We were thinking of staying in but instead we ate at Pamukkale, a cheap but tasty cafe on the main road. I ordered aubergine and garlic yogurt and got enough to feed 4 so I brought loads of it home. We had a couple of glasses of wine and a fairly early night so I managed to finish watching the last episode of Broadchurch. On the way home I noticed that some blocks had been delivered at the end of our road and it looked like the paving of it was due to begin, the old road had been prepared and the zabıta had blocked it off with ‘crime scene’ tape.

Dalyan – A 40th birthday celebration and holiday

Dalyan – A 40th birthday celebration and holiday

As Captain Caveman travelled from Vietnam to Malaysia, I was having a good sleep and hoping for a lay in on Monday 9th September – it was the start of what would be a full-on week!!! I had the Migros gluten free toast for breakfast again and potted about, getting ready for my guests, until lunch.
It had been 9 months since I had last seen Emrah to experience the amazing skills of this wonderful hairdresser and I was so excited. He welcomed me in and looked at my sun and humidity damaged hair like he couldn’t wait to sort it out. I told him I wanted it cut and colored then sat back and let him work his magic. He always likes to style it with curls and is so professional that it feels like such a treat – he even took my photos afterwards. I took some more while having a cheeky wine at Soul Kitchen to celebrate my new hair do.
It was also the day I should have been flying from Kuala Lumpur to Istanbul but had not taken the flight, I was still glad I hadn’t as it meant I would be home when the girls arrived later that night.
I spent more time with my parents and we had a lovely meal at Çağrı, where the waiter is friendly and has been in Dalyan for years. We had a tipple in Jiks and then went back to mine for more drinks while we waited for the ladies and a bicycle to arrive. In true Captain Caveman style he had managed to get one of my friends to bring out another of his bicycles from the UK – I think she wins the prize this year for bulkiest thing to bring out.
It was around 11pm when they arrived, by which time I was already a bit merry, and I was so happy to see them. It was over a year since I’d seen Claire and Clare and 11 months since Kelly had last been to stay with us in Dalyan. We had a drink, a few nibbles and a cheers while trying not to dwell on the fact that our other friend had not been able to fly out because of the British Airways strikes currently taking place. The girls were only in Dalyan for 4 nights and so we planned to make the most of it!

On the first day of our girls holiday, Tuesday 10th September, I woke up feeling rather fragile and so we went to Kordon restaurant for breakfast. The purpose of this 4 day trip was to celebrate Claire’s 40th birthday and so we had booked her a surprise for Thursday. Before then we intended to relax in the day and go out in the evenings. We spent our day at the pool of BC Spa as it has the option of shade and sun, with comfy sunloungers. Kelly and I tried the cocktails and food there but it wasn’t great and took me three attempts to get a shrimp salad – the margaritas were pricey, with no sign of a salty rim. The pool was nice and refreshing so most of us had a swim and late afternoon Kelly and I had a treatment at the spa – I had a foot massage and she had a back massage, both were excellent.
Back home we got ready to go out and met my parents for a pre-dinner drink at Soul Kitchen. We had dinner at Kordon (same place as breakfast) where Claire and I had pre-ordered gluten free cheesy garlic bread. The food was lovely, especially the fresh seafood and prawns, but the night was made by the owner entertaining us with his card tricks. We’d already had a fair bit of wine but decided Bistro Blue would be our next stop where we created our own dancefloor and had the owner be our personal DJ – it got messy and we got in around 2am.

Wednesday 11th September was day 2 of the girls holiday and we started it with fuzzy heads and a WhatsApp group of drunken photos from the previous night. Claire and Kelly got up and went to the supermarket for provisions while Clare and I sorted ourselves out a bit. We were going to go to the beach but everyone decided they would rather be round the pool but first we decided to have a walk in to the town, given we had not got very far the day before. We walked by the river and settled on Yakamoz restaurant for lunch while trying to spot a turtle – all we saw were plenty of cats and some fish!
We had a cheeky drink at Amy’s bar and then shade-bathed at BC Spa again for the afternoon. In the evening I’d booked us in for a Turkish night at Lukka bar where there was a massive Turkish buffet and traditional dancing – it turned out to be a really good night and the food was fantastic.

It was the girls’ last day on Thursday 12th September and we had a surprise booked for Claire’s 40th birthday. Captain Turgay and his boat which we had to ourselves for the day, was our party venue. We sailed to a few different spots and had a really good laugh with lots of drinks and great music. Turgay cooked us a lovely lunch and we got to swim lots and I even had a nap on a sunbed on the roof of the boat.
For dinner we are at Ramazan Han’s then we went to do karaoke at Tequila Bar and ended up having a full night of fun. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye the next day!

On Friday 13th September the 4 of us got up early and went for breakfast at Chef – I had chips, beans and orange juice.
My parents came over to the apartment to see Claire and Kelly off as they went to the airport at 11am. Clare was on a later flight which gave us time to have a wander along the river for a drink at Ceyhan cafe – we all went for a soft drink but Dad managed a beer (he’s an animal)!
At 12:45pm I said goodbye to Clare and she was looking forward to another holiday straight after this one which meant we didn’t get too upset.
I stayed at home for lunch but in the evening I met my parents for dinner at Jiks. After such a boozey few days I was meant to have an alcohol free day but the waiter automatically sent over a red wine! I also had a chicken shish and a second glass but all three of us were looking forward to an early night.

Dalyan – my first weekend back in Turkey.

I arrived in Turkey on 5th September after a change of flight from Hanoi. I had booked an earlier flight and decided to not use the one I had booked for 4 days later with a lengthy layover in Jeddah. It was a bit sunny on my first morning in Dalyan but not as hot as I was expecting – it was also quiet as I walked along the river. I was planning to stay a while in Captain Caveman’s apartment near the town centre of Dalyan, where he would join me in about 6 weeks time.
The first person I bumped in to was Captain Turgay, who was at his boat getting ready for a day trip on the water. I had already booked him for a surprise birthday celebration for a friend’s 40th the week after and so we chatted about that. I had a mint tea and a vanilla milkshake at Dalyano so that I could use the internet to let people know I had arrived in Dalyan.
Still tired, I found a Turkish breakfast at Lukka bar, where I confused the waiter by ordering it without bread, eggs, cheese rolls, tomato and cucumber and it was pretty good! I stocked up with essentials at the corner shop and went to get unpacked and start the washing. I decided to have a quiet meal at Adilan where I really enjoyed the stuffed mushrooms and a chicken shish. Plans changed quickly when a friend went past on her bicycle and we ended up having quite a few drinks before going to Lukka and Jazz bar!

On Friday 6th September I would finally be seeing my parents again, after quite a long time. I’d last seen my mom in Turkey about 11 months ago but I’d not seen my dad for about 14 months, back in England. We had agreed to meet for breakfast and they would message me when they were up. I was awake from 7am (11am Vietnamese time) with a hangover and no recollection of saying bye to anyone last night.
I waited for the message and drank loads of water, trying to sort myself out as I felt terrible and had a really bad stomach.
We went to Jiks for breakfast around 10:30am where we all went for the English versions, it was great to see them and afterwards we stocked up on provisions and went back home for a rest.
In the afternoon we had a couple of drinks at Amy’s bar, where I managed two ciders and then in the evening we had our first family meal at one of our favourites, Bistro Blue. My chicken casserole was so big that I took some home and we had a good first night together drinking wine too.

In Dalyan there is a weekly market so on Saturday 7th September I went there with my parents while they stocked up on fresh veg, salad, fruit and cheese. I decided not to buy food as I was looking forward to eating out over the next few days/weeks.
It was a fairly relaxed, sunny day and I started reading a new book, which my mom had brought for me. I used to read a lot but had not read a book for about a year and was really looking forward to getting back in to it now that I would have some free time. The cleaners had been to the apartment and it was looking clean and tidy – it was nice to be back in Dalyan.
I received photos and messages from people in Phong Nha, Vietnam, to say it was sunny again and the water levels were down. This was good news as it was Captain Caveman’s last day in Phong Nha before he left for his adventures.
In the evening I joined my parents at Pamukkale restaurant for a lovely meal – I had stuffed mushrooms and a chicken shish, both very tasty.

Sunday 8th September was a very memorable day!!! It was such a good one that I forgot to take any photos, which is unlike me. I had shop bought gluten free bread (toasted) and lurpak butter for my breakfast and it was the first time I’d had it in 10 months. A friend had invited us to Sunday lunch at Lukka bar and despite me not being able to have the Yorkshire pudding, gravy or cauliflower cheese I really enjoyed my chicken version. My parents and fellow diners had the beef, which looked amazing. I also managed 4 glasses of white wine and a trip to Jiks – it was really good to just spend time chatting with the folks for a change (I was even laughing at Dad’s jokes).

Hẹn Gặp Lại Vietnam, Merhaba Turkey!

Monday 1st September was a busy day for learning the Vietnamese language in Hanoi. Before breakfast I did my homework, logged in to a new app for learning words and phrases (which the teacher, Lien, can see my progress on), and recorded myself saying the Vietnamese alphabet. Breakfast was a very healthy bowl of fruit with yoghurt and a mug of earl gray tea at a nearby cafe, Joma.
I had two lessons that afternoon with a gap for a bit more homework and some lunch at a nearby cafe. I had Bun Cha at Friends cafe which was satisfactory but not as good or cheap as the one at D-Arts in Phong Nha.
When I finished at Vietlesson around 6.30pm I got a Grab bike to The Local (again) to watch the Grand Prix. This time I was well prepared for rain with a spare set of clothes and a rain jacket that I didn’t need.
We had a bottle of wine, lots of peanuts and some bar food before a friend finished his lesson and joined us.

Lessons 4 & 5 were on Monday 2nd September with my first one being at 9:30am on Vietnamese Independence Day. After class Lien (my teacher) and I went to Oriberry cafe for a drink with Captain Caveman. He had the great idea to call to a shopping mall to try to find me a swimming costume in M&S, which turned in to a terrible idea. I have never seen a public place so busy, aside from a stadium event.The biggest size was 12 and so I was out of luck, we didn’t even find anywhere to have lunch as it was just rammed so we got a taxi back to town and went to one of my favourite restaurants in Hanoi.
We ate a selection of food at the Fat Pig and it was excellent, as always.
My next lesson was at 5pm and then I arranged to meet Captain Caveman and some friends for a meal at a local BBQ place.

My last two Vietnamese lessons were on Tuesday 3rd September and so we had a great breakfast at Home 38 before I headed off to Vietlesson for 10am.
At lunch time I came back to Himalayan Phoenix to meet Captain Caveman for lunch. We chose Joma as it was close and I had fruit salad with yoghurt followed by a chicken salad. I spent time doing my homework and then left Captain Caveman at a bar while I went for my 5pm lesson (my last one for this year). Captain Caveman and I would be going to different places for a holiday and he was off caving and diving which meant I wouldn’t see him for just over 6 weeks – because of this I was hoping for a nice last evening in Hanoi and possibly a romantic meal. Of course that didn’t happen!
I said goodbye to my teacher and got a Grab bike to The Bottle Shop where I met a very drunk Captain Caveman and an old Phong Nha friend.
We had drinks and everytime I finished one, Captain Caveman still had a full one. We had a laugh but by 9:30pm I was getting a bit tetchy as I still needed to pack as I was leaving Vietnam the next morning.
Eventually, after much faffing about, Captain Caveman and I said our farewells to our friend and headed towards home. As we were walking I mentioned I was disappointed he had not taken me to Cousins (as promised) so we went there at 9:50pm with only 10 minutes until closing. Luckily they still served us starters and mains plus a bottle of nice wine and Captain Caveman was so drunk we had to take the rest of the wine home. While I was packing my stuff he fell asleep fully clothed and I couldn’t wake him up at all.

My original flight from Vietnam to Turkey was with Saudi Air via Jeddah in another 4 days time, however, I didn’t fancy taking it (due to a few reasons) and decided to get a new flight via Istanbul instead. Wednesday 4th September was the new date of the flight which also meant I had my return flight booked back to Vietnam in January 2020. After such a big (and late) dinner the night before we decided against breakfast. Captain Caveman and I went straight to the airport and it was clear he was feeling fragile – he looked extremely peaky too.
After I checked in, my first flight to Moscow with Aeroflot was due to leave just before 11am and so we said our goodbyes. There were no dramas or declarations of feelings as I think Captain Caveman was doing his best to not be sick (again).
In the airport I ordered pho ga and a bottle of water at a small cafe near the gate and it set me back 175,000 vnd which is ridiculous but I was hungry. It was a really good chicken noodle soup actually and I was glad I had it as the Russians are a big fan of wheaty meals and I wasn’t sure when I would next be able to eat.
On the flight I finally got to watch a couple of films that I’d heard good reviews about – Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born (I should have had tissues at the ready for the second film – Jeez). I also watched a documentary on Cappadocia and how it will eventually disappear due to tourists walking round it. It was interesting but I had a trip to visit there coming up in October.
When we landed in Moscow we were 35 minutes early which was very lucky as I only just made the transfer to my flight to Istanbul. One hour is not enough time to catch a connecting flight in Moscow, in my opinion, the airport is extremely busy with numerous shops and difficult to run through.
The next flight ended up being delayed, had no entertainment, or alcohol and so I watched Mindhunter and fell asleep. When I arrived at Istanbul it was just before midnight but we had to sit on the runway for quite a while until we could get off.

10 Things I no longer spend money on

Rather than a helpful ‘how to save money when travelling’ (to be found in abundance on the Internet) this is more a personal recollection of things I’ve not spent money on since being a lady of leisure.
1) handbags – I no longer buy them and use either a cloth bag for the beach and a donated one which was being thrown away. Generally when out together Captain Caveman is in charge of keys and money (He always has pockets).
2) Clothes – I only buy what I absolutely need and tend to wear everything until it gets worn out. I don’t follow fashions and have clothes made in local places.
3) Cosmetics/Products – I don’t own any makeup and I use only hotel miniature toiletries (freebies) or my solid shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush which last for ages. The only thing I do spend money on is suncream.
4) Phone credit – I have relied on free wifi in the places we stayed and visited, I got a SIM card for Vietnam where pay as you go is cheap. For Turkey and UK I have a Vodafone sim which I top up and get the extra bundle deals when I can.
5) Pop – we have given up drinking sugary/fizzy drinks, usually because of when it’s hot and we are thirsty it’s easy to over indulge. We still have fresh juices but without added sugar where possible. I just drink water or alcohol and the odd diet coke, cocktail or smoothie when out. Most places provide free water bottle refills.

6) Snacks – apart from the odd bag of crisps we try not to eat between meals and the snacks we are used to from our home country are often limited, non-existent or expensive abroad.
7) Souvenirs – I’ve bought nothing at all that I don’t need and when people I’m with have shopped, I’ve resisted.
8) Sunglasses – I still haven’t broken the pair I bought in Turkey for $5 about 12 years ago.
9) Books or other reading material – we used book swaps where ever we found good ones so that we read for free, even if they are a bit sticky from other people’s sun lotion.
10) Memberships and subscriptions – since leaving my home country I no longer have any direct debits, am not a member of any clubs and have no regular payments out for anything I don’t need. I don’t buy magazines, I’m no longer in the wine club and I don’t have a gym membership I don’t use.

With hindsight I could have adopted these while I was still working in the UK and could have saved more money for my trip. If you’re thinking of going off on your travels why not try it and see how much money it saves you.

Hello Hanoi – Day 1

I woke a few times on the sleeper bus from Phong Nha to Hanoi which had been surprisingly fine. The journey was fast and noisy but overall not too bad and even the toilet was clean(ish). We did stop about 20 minutes out of Hanoi in a garage and the driver had a 1 hour break from just after 5am.
When we got off the bus I took the bags in a Grab taxi while Captain Caveman cycled to Puku cafe.

It was 6:30am and I was about to have my first of three breakfasts!! The sausage, bacon and (initially chilled) beans at Puku were not as good as the amazing breakfast options in Phong Nha but I ate it and had a very fresh camomile tea with it. We had to wait until after 9:30am so I got sleepy and decided a second breakfast of fruit salad and yogurt might do me good – it did.
We left our luggage at Himalaya Phoenix Apartments, where we would stay for 4 nights, and walked to Home 38, a cafe nearby. They do an amazing all day breakfast so I had that for lunch. In the afternoon, just after check-in Captain Caveman went to the dentist and I had a little rest before my first Vietnamese lesson at 5pm, by which time it was raining pretty heavily and I got soaked.
My first class at Vietlesson went well and was followed by wine and nibbles at a sports bar, called The Local. I took a Grab motorbike there and was saturated by the time I got there and was quite uncomfortable sat in a wet dress in the cold, air-conditioned room. We still managed a dinner at Cugini, a great Italian restaurant near to where we were staying, where the food was excellent.
Back at Himalayan Phoenix a hot shower, my new T-Shirt and bed was all I needed. I set my alarm so that I could finish my homework early before my next class.

Leaving Phong Nha

My last day in Phong Nha this year fell on Friday 30th August. I’d been here the longest of each of the years I’d been coming (more than 32 weeks) and I was definitely looking forward to seeing my family and friends in Turkey next month. This was also the first year that I had chosen not to go back to the UK and that was a bit tough, knowing I wouldn’t catch up with my mates back ‘home’. First, though, I was excited to finally be starting Vietnamese lessons with Lien at Viet Lesson in Hanoi – the same teacher who had taught Captain Caveman, and other westerners living in Phong Nha. On my last day we had breakfast at Coffee Station, lunch at Victory Road Villas, a cheeky cider at Ho Khanh’s and dinner at Chao Vietnam on our last day – all were fantastic as usual. I even got to say bye to Milo and Bomb (dogs) as well as Billy the friendly goat. It was a rainy day and so Khanh Linh arranged a Jungle Boss car for me to town with my massive suitcase (containing a slow cooker, and a selection of freshly made clothes).
It was also my first time going all the way to Hanoi on a sleeper bus which left Easy Tiger at 9:30pm. Most of the other expats and some Vietnamese friends had warned me off getting the bus because it’s uncomfortable and dangerous but Captain Caveman had to take that method due to him taking a bicycle with him!
My good friends Uy and Chung were there to see us off on to the bus and had even got us a gift of a t-shirt, earplugs and an eye mask plus I was travelling with the pillow they made me last year too.
Anetta made it back from her Son Doong trip a day early and came to see us off too and it was good to have time for one last wine together. Aussie Pete, Trevor and Martin also came to see us off but in a much more relaxed manner. I would only be gone for 4 months and Captain Caveman was due back to Phong Nha in 5 days.
When we got on the bus they made Captain Caveman go to the back and I got the second one back, on the bottom left. I had downloaded some Netflix to watch too – Mindhunter and The Fall.
By 9:45pm Phong Nha was behind me and I had already nodded off!!