It was one week since the current social distancing measures were enforced in Vietnam, on Tuesday 7th April and I didn’t look at the news or data first thing – it was getting a bit predictable now. There was good news in Phong Nha though, Andy (of Andy’s Disco Bar fame) had been innovative and come up with a new meal delivery option. We both ordered the chicken, fried rice and soup for 60,000vnd for lunch. It was really tasty and filling and we didn’t even save any for dinner. I found it went very nicely with an apple cider while Captain Caveman stuck with beer.
In the afternoon I checked in on the NCOVI app and then couldn’t help but look at the virus data. The good news was that the Vietnamese recovery rate had reached 50%, but the bad news was that the UK had reached over 5,000 deaths, which doesn’t sound half as bad if you look at it as a percentage of the whole population – still less than 1% of ‘preventable’ deaths to Corona. Germany had half as many cases as UK but had already recorded 36,000 cases recovered, whereas the UK still had only recorded that 135 people had recovered.
Captain Caveman wanted pizza for dinner so we had the delivery from Le Huyen (again) and I ate my chicken fried rice with a couple of white russians. We also noticed that George the gecko has a friend, Gertie, and a baby, Georgie, all of whom were doing their best to get down the green fly that evening. We also noticed that it had only been a week but Captain Caveman was down to the last of the beer (from a very full fridge).
Although we had not had the storms and rain that had been forecast it had got a bit nippy on Monday 6th April, so much so that when we ventured out we wished we had taken a jacket – the temperature was 22°! The Corona virus data for the UK was pretty depressing and it looked likely that their lockdown, which should be finishing soon, would not be – we would later find out that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, who had been diagnosed with the virus on 27th March, was now in hospital at St Thomas’s in London! Vietnam’s recovery rate was still increasing and was at 39.4% with a mention of more being released in the next day or two, once their third test had come back negative. We needed to go to the market and so we stopped by the Coffee Station for our usual breakfast. In the market we picked up a few more essentials of potatoes and masks, we also looked for one of those things window cleaners use for cleaning windows but was unsuccessful – the windows at home were dusty and the front one still has the White Russian’s hand prints on them. There were a few police around in town checking that everyone was wearing masks and keeping to the social distancing rules. On the way home we stopped at a small shop and found 3 bottles of salted lime drink. Captain Caveman did more tidying of the wardrobes, this time sorting suitcases, bags and caving gear – he also fixed a door with an old shoelace (he’s handy like that)! I washed and sorted all the bedding we have and we even put the blanket back on in the spare room. I rediscovered a Christmas gift from when we were in Australia and popped my koalas on the wine glasses. Today would have been the day I started my Vietnamese lessons in Hanoi with Vietlesson so instead I gave Duolingo a try, I’d forgotten most of it.
That night while Captain Caveman watched Money Heist (or something like that) I continued with the documentary, Rotten, on Netflix. We had a couple of gins, his with tonic and mine with salted lime which went really well with the Rock Rose gin and leftover Namaste curry.
By day 5 of social distancing in Phong Nha we had got in to a morning routine of checking the previous day’s news and Corona virus data. On Sunday 5th April the infected cases in Vietnam were 240 and the number of recoveries got to 90 – maybe there was a glimmer of hope that the curve was starting to flatten. However it turned out that the local Catholic church was abusing their position and flouting the rules. A lot of people in Phong Nha were very annoyed and were under the impression that the catholics and the priest were taking the piss – it was even in the news!
As it was a Sunday we didn’t expect that the virus stats would be updated accurately across the globe until Monday and so we got on with our day, trying to make the most of the bad situation and get some things off the to do list. For breakfast I managed to combine a small noggin of cheese with a rice cracker for a continental option and for lunch I had the leftover chicken fried rice, which I really should have eaten the night before. I brushed up on more Turkish, Captain Caveman did more tidying – he was now tackling electric cables, various wires and gadgets (all of which I had never seen before). When he’d finished he had unearthed a gem of a find; he’d only got a Bluetooth speaker which still worked and we promptly turned the room into a disco. The first song, rather ironically, that we had to Shazam was Barry Maguire’s Eve of Destruction which we got rid of and put on some more upbeat and danceable tunes. While the kids (now in bigger numbers) played hopscotch on our driveway we drank red wine and danced in daylight to the likes of Queen, Credance Clearwater Revival, The Stone Roses, The Doors and even a spot of Erasure. Captain Caveman took videos of me singing and dancing about and we even sent it to my parents and a friend who one of the songs reminded me of. In the evening we ordered a curry from Raj, at Namaste, and we even chanced a chicken pakoda which we shared amicably. The food was great as usual and we ordered enough to keep in the fridge for a day or two! I started watching a series on Netflix called Rotten which is really interesting – Josh had recommended watching episode 2 which focuses on allergies and was very enlightening for someone who’s allergic to 2 out of the 8 common allergens.
I learned something new after breakfast on Saturday 4th April. Before that though I read the news and was upset to see that the UK now had a higher number of deaths than China and had still not recorded any further recoveries (currently only 135) – it was not looking good. There were a few cases appearing in Vietnam which were connected to previous cases which were outside of the 14 day period of potential contagiousness and I read that studies had shown that infected people could still be contagious for 8 days after they had recovered and were showing no signs. Without proper testing, tracing and stricter quarantine measures I could see little change happening in those countries on the increase any time soon. My NCOVI app reminded me to check and submit my health status, as we were both doing daily now.
I’d had a rice cracker and ginger tea for breakfast but was still a bit peckish so decided to give the pomelo ago. Now, I wish I’d taken photos to demonstrate my point here but once I’d committed to eating the said fruit my hands were just too sticky to stop. For those of you who haven’t seen or had one it’s a big, dark green, fruit not dissimilar to a grapefruit. The skin is much thicker and the colour of the fruit is a kind of pale pinkish. By the time I’d peeled it, it was already half the size and the first bite wasn’t good – it was tough, chewy and tasted of pith. I didn’t realise until I offered a piece to Captain Caveman that I was meant to peel the fruit fully out of the white skin. By the time I’d got cleaned up from the pomelo which, in conclusion, is nice but far too much work to be bothered with, it was almost lunchtime. We decided to have a cold can from the fridge and admire the view from the windows. Within 10 minutes of opening my can of dark fruits cider it was lashing down and we were glad we hadn’t nipped out for any exercise. We had leftover curry and more rice crackers for lunch, in the evening we tried a new place for food – Le Huyen had advertised her takeaway on the Phong Nha Visitors Facebook page and we decided to give it a try. Captain Caveman had pizza with beef, onion and pepper on and I had chicken fried rice. It was actually pretty good, cheap, delivered for free and we got free chips too.
The weekend was certainly going to be an interesting challenge as I don’t think in all the time of being with Captain Caveman we have ever had to spend every minute of the day together for a whole weekend, let alone a week or more! On Friday 3rd April (day 3 of social distancing measures) I had the last of my gluten free cornflakes, which I had brought over from Turkey. I even jazzed them up with some raisins and the last of the sugar free milk, they were soggy but did the trick. We cycled to town for essentials; eggs, avocados, pomelo, sugar free milk (the last 2 cartons in the market), and couldn’t find any salted lime drinks. It was a bit damp out but while the rain eased off, and our cleaner did her magic, we called in to Oxalis so that Captain Caveman could check on something work related with the operations manager. While we were at Oxalis Home we ordered and shared lunch of chicken and cashew nuts which was really tasty and I had a mango smoothie. Captain Caveman managed to get down 3 beers as it started to rain so we waited it out.
We had the good news that my passport had been received in Hanoi and would be kept safely until places opened again to be able to carry out the visa extension. On the way back home we picked up our essentials from Momma D (with our masks on) and now had kahlua and rice crackers! In the afternoon Captain Caveman thought we would play a drinking game called Tubthumping. We drank a whisky drink, we drank a vodka drink, he drank a lager drink, I drank a cider drink. We sang songs that reminded us of the good times…. (you get the idea). In the evening we ate the leftover curry from Namaste and then chilled out – Captain Caveman watching Netflix and me starting more language refreshers on Duolingo. During the #STFAH it was good to see that all street lights in Phong Nha were off, saving money and discouraging any meet ups.
We decided to sleep with the front curtains open so that we could see the amazing views when we woke up on Thursday 2nd April. As it turned out there was lots of cloud covering the mountains and it was quite dull, it was still nice to see though. In the news there was a mention that there would be a clemency on tourist visas while we were all in social distancing and unable to travel, this meant that I didn’t need to extend my visa until after the 15th April – I hoped my passport,which I had posted on the 31st March, was still going to arrive safely in Hanoi though. I briefly read the news and the virus data was showing more and more deaths. The highest amount of deaths so far were in Italy, Spain, USA, France, then China. We had nothing in for breakfast so I had pho ga at Oxalis Home and then we went to the supermarket and the Shop & Go for some favourite/essential items (crisps mainly), wearing our masks obviously. The weather forecast had gone crazy, saying there would be thunder storms and rain for the foreseeable future but it wasn’t raining yet. For lunch Captain Caveman had a strange concoction of 2 day old pitta bread with marmite (best before 2017) and peanut butter on – watching him eat it made me feel sick. Luckily I had left over Phong Nha Vegan which was delicious and left over wine. We shared some crisps and I managed to perfect a new skill – crisp packet folding for the bin-space conscious! Momma D got in touch to say she was off to buy essentials in Dong Hoi and so we asked her for rice crackers and Kahlua and she agreed. Captain Caveman got on with sorting, decluttering and tidying the ‘miscellaneous’ cupboard which resulted in him storing similar items together in boxes – he even had a haberdashery box. I put our Le Mitchell loyalty cards in a safe place, hoping when all this virus stuff was over we would still be able to spend our 2 million dong at the Farmstay – or at least exchange it for wine/accommodation when it reopened.
After a bit of work we had a gin (him with tonic, me with orange twister) and decided to watch more Tiger King. Unfortunately my Netflix wouldn’t connect so he watched it and I did some writing. We ordered curry from Raj at Namaste again and this time I went for a chicken tikka masala with onion bhajis which was delicious. Captain Caveman had a paneer chana masala with chapatis and lamb samosas which looked amazing. Captain Caveman finished watching the whole series but I still couldn’t access Netflix and was behind on Tiger King, I finally finished it and definitely recommend watching it – it’s mental!
1. Declutter your home & possessions
2. Finish off the jobs you started around the house
3. Clear your phone photos on to a memory stick/laptop
4. Study – either a language or a free online course to aid your current/future career prospects
5. Take up a new hobby or revisit an old one
6. Read a book (or 10)
7. Watch some classic films you never got round to when you were too tired.
8. Do your research ready for your next few holidays and make your wish list of places to see.
9. Keep a diary.
10. Write a book, some poetry or start a blog.
The first thing I did on the first day of our enforced social distancing stint, on Wednesday 1st April, was to review my wordpress blog stats for March. I’d published 12 blog posts during the month and that equated to one more than in February, however my total views was a bit disappointing as I’d had 53% less in March than February. My readers were still the same top 3 by country; UK, Vietnam, Turkey but both Vietnam and Turkey readers had declined. In 4th, 5th and 6th place were Germany, USA and Australia which was good to see but what really surprised me is that China was now in 7th place.
My next job was done with a cup of ginger tea – I checked my NCOVI app for updates on new cases, deaths and recoveries in Vietnam, as well as updating my health status on the app so that I can be tracked. Vietnam now had 212 people infected with the virus, zero deaths and 58 recovered – a 27% recovery rate at this stage was still better than average.
For breakfast we went to Oxalis Home, who had been allowed to stay open so that staff had somewhere to eat. We wore masks to go there, we sat away from anyone else and the pho ga was a welcome breakfast for me. Next we went to Coffee Station so Captain Caveman could order his breakfast of eggs benedict and I had an early lunch of fruit salad with yoghurt. Johnny, the owner, had arranged a board outside with info to order takeaways and had also spaced the tables out so that everyone was 2m apart.
In the afternoon I messaged my sister a daft picture of me on Snapchat, which now has a jazzy version of the face mask selfie for us to try out. I made a list of things to do while staying at home and even got back in to doing a puzzle from some half started books I had. I was still peckish before it got to dinner time so I had a (slightly passed it’s best) Snickers and a boiled sweet with Himalayan salt in it which was odd, but I’m all for trying new things while I’m staying at home. In the evening I decided to try a healthy meal from Phong Nha Vegan which also coincided well with a reply about getting a bottle of Kahlua. Momma D said we could collect the keys for her rooftop bar and go collect a bottle which she would put on our tab, so Captain Caveman popped for the keys while I waited a few doors away for the takeaway of mushroom Lalot and fresh spring rolls. Captain Caveman didn’t get the keys as Momma D couldn’t find them, we had to open our first bottle of the emergency wine instead. After dinner it was a race to get to our phones, log in to Netflix and watch Tiger King. I was a couple of episodes behind Captain Caveman plus it’s too difficult for two of us to watch the same phone screen anyway so we both put headphones on and watched separately.
On Monday 30th March there was a new rule brought in by the authorities which said that there could be no more than 10 people in any one group/place. This meant that the rest of the Oxalis training plan had to be shelved and when Captain Caveman came out of the cave later that day he was told he wouldn’t be going in April. For lunch we went to Capture and of course Captain Caveman had his usual pizza while I dared to try falafal with greek salad, hoping there wouldn’t be any gluten in it. I gave the pitta bread to Captain Caveman to take away and ate the rest, it was really nice and filling but it must’ve had some wheat in it as my stomach was bad before I even left. While we were there the police arrived and told the staff they must close the cafe in order to prevent any Corona virus cases happening in Phong Nha. In the evening Captain Caveman attended a small party with his training group at a restaurant by the river where they had beers and boiled chicken.
Captain Caveman came home and we had a takeaway from Namaste which was really good – our first in the new home and I forgot to take photos of it. While we were eating we noticed there were thousands of green fly all over the inside of the house and we only had a couple of geckos to feed on them. As Mondays go it wasn’t awfully exciting but little did we know that life would be so much less exciting over the next few days/weeks.
On Tuesday 31st March the news came that there would be strict social distancing measures throughout the whole of Vietnam. The announcement said that from 00:00 on 1st April everyone in the country must stay at home and that if you went outside for essential reasons (food, medicine, emergency) you could only be in a maximum of 2 people together. Everyone was to observe the already in place law of wearing a mask in public and now remain 2 metres away from others. All bars and eateries were to closed or only doing takeaways. All public transport between other towns and cities was severely restricted and it was a social distancing initiative for a minimum of 15 days. I had rice crackers for brunch and several cups of herbal tea before taking photos of each page of my passport prior to sending it to Hanoi by post. I wasn’t keen on this but was assured by Captain Caveman that it would be fine and of course I wouldn’t be able to leave Phong Nha anyway before the 15th, which was the exact date my visa expired! We went to the post office and paid 35,000vnd (£1.23ish) to send it recorded over 3 days.
We popped to the shop for essentials and even though this night was the last night of freedom we decided staying in would be the sensible option. Our only short term worry was ‘do we have enough kahlua left?’ as we fixed ourselves a white russian each and parked ourselves in the deckchairs to call my Dad to wish him Happy Birthday. It was good to talk to Dad and he was in good spirits even though they were still self-isolating too.
We had our left over curry from Namaste for dinner and then we chilled out, doing our own thing and feeling quite lucky to be safe. We also started watching Tiger King on Netflix and life would never be the same again.
The weekend was here and on Friday 27th March Captain Caveman went off to Son Doong for 4 days with a group of Oxalis staff as part of a trial to keep up training while there were no tourist trips – a great idea and he was looking forward to it. The weather was so hot and I realised it would only get hotter over the next few weeks and months.
For lunch I met Tatas at Oxalis Home and I had the most delicious lunch I’ve had there in a while – chicken and cashew nuts with rice. In the afternoon the plumber came to try to fix the toilet and put a waste pipe in the kitchen sink. The cleaner came and gave the place a good going over – cleaning everything in sight. That night I decided to stay in and admire the clean room and I loved the peace and quiet. Unfortunately the toilet was not fixed and so I let the landlady know – the bum gun was fitted but had an incredibly over-enthusiastic spurt to it. I decided to organise a Saturday afternoon drink for the next day, not knowing it would be our last group outing for a while!
I had a good day on Saturday 28th March despite having the bed to myself and the chance of a few hours extra sleep. I woke up about 6am and read the world news. It was also a bit cooler here so I cycled to Little Vietnam for breakfast where I had a delicious pho ga, a can of pepsi and picked up some snacks. At lunch I met Tatas again at Oxalis Home and I had some chips which were really good. Tatas had got me some rice crackers which I had been looking for in the market but couldn’t find and made an ideal snack for when/if we needed to isolate. In the afternoon we met as planned at Capture for drinks, I had a bit too much wine and we ended up having a late dinner after which I felt a bit sleepy. I was happy to finally get my potato wedges with Bolognese sauce that I’d been wanting for weeks and it didn’t disappoint – the Santa Digna wine was pretty good too. Capture looked fantastic with a new bar area outside and lots of space to relax.
Back home I sent some information to a visa agent to start the process of renewing my visa to stay in Vietnam for longer. The plumber had been back to have a second go at fixing the toilet but it appeared there wasn’t much more he could do – It’s a good job we were a 2 toilet family!
I was woken by a notification on my phone at 6.30am on Sunday 29th March to tell me I had a WhatsApp voice message from the rental agent in Dalyan (Turkey). Our apartment was empty due to everyone from UK having to cancel their holiday bookings because of the Corona virus and so the agent had took the opportunity to put a couple from Istanbul in there for a month. By the time I’d replied (because of the time difference) they had already moved in and it was all sorted. I would have been going there in a couple of weeks time but of course that would no longer be possible and so it was good to have some guests there instead. I had breakfast at home and was just planning my day when Des made a welcome suggestion in the group messenger. For lunch I met some of the gang at Coffee Station (aka Phong Nha Eatery) where my duck spring rolls were so tasty and I also tried some of Momma D’s chickpea and beetroot salad. Before Momma D left she invited us all over to her place that night for a home cooked meal which would be gluten free and I said yes (obviously) and was really looking forward to it. When I arrived at Momma D’s house, with a few ciders in my bag, we sat and had a chat while Des went to collect Hanh. We had a lovely chicken cooked in a BBQ sauce in the oven, with green beans and feta, carrots with honey and dil and some steamed broccoli – I even had a glass of wine with it. Once the washing up was done we had a right laugh playing Cards against Humanity until midnight! I’d not played the hilarious game since a night with the landlady and staff at The Queen’s (the pub I used to work in back in Mosborough). A perfect end to the weekend it was too.
On Monday 23rd March Captain Caveman went to Oxalis in the morning and arranged to borrow a car so that we could go to Dong Hoi to change dollars at the gold shop. This money was all the tips so far this year which were given to the Oxalis porters and guides and, given the lack of work in Phong Nha now, it was a good time to give the money out. Tatas also asked to come along as she needed to get something in the market. Our first stop was the wine shop which we were surprised was still open – we bought 4 bottles of red wine and a bottle of vodka. I was getting a bit hangry as there was very little open for breakfast and we went to the Vincom centre for snacks. As we entered, all masked up, the security guard checked our temperatures. Captain Caveman and Tatas were both 36.6° and I was the coolest of us all at 36.2°. We had a drink at the Sherlyn Coffee shop (I had a passion fruit smoothie) and then we drove over to find some lunch. There wasn’t much open but we found Thai Binh Street Food. The food was actually pretty good and I would go there again. I had pork kebabs, Tatas had beef and chips and Captain Caveman had some beef jerky which was delicious.
Back in Phong Nha we visited the market to stock up on socks and soft drinks and I tried to buy contraceptive pills (I only have enough until next month and I usually buy them in Turkey). The old man behind the pharmacy counter looked at the packet, put the big light on, looked again, put his readers on and then he went rummaging in his cupboard. There was one box of 3 month’s worth left and he sold them to me for 70,000vnd (£2.45) – a bargain and still in date.
Back home we had a couple of white russians while I messaged someone reliable in Phong Nha who might be able to extend my visa. In the evening we had an outing to the Vung Hue with just four of us – Captain Caveman and I, Des and Tatas. It was the first time I’d been this year and the food was bloody lovely, especially the ribs and the veggie fried rice (I forgot to take a photo of them). That day I had a message from our housemate who was on his way back from Danang and would be arriving that night. He has the room directly beneath our new one so that would stop us dancing in an evening!
On Tuesday 24th March Captain Caveman and I cycled to Capture for lunch, I ate a chicken salad and Captain Caveman had his usual pizza which of course I was so jealous I couldn’t eat. In the afternoon we went to Oxalis Home so that the tip money could be given out to the guides. I had a green tea and he had a couple of beers and we waited for each of the staff to come get their money. Next stop we popped in to Ho Khanh’s to look for keys and I had a short rest in the hammock. In the evening Captain Caveman and I went to D’Arts for bun cha and Tatas joined us later. We cycled back home so I could call my mom to wish her a happy birthday. My parents were self-isolating and mom had started learning a new skill, well two actually. My dad was supervising her in drainage and block-work on their house – she assured me they were both fine and would have some wine later. It was good to chat to my parents despite the worry that this virus was getting so much worse back in Europe and there was nothing I could do about it.
We started the day with mugs of ginger tea at home on Wednesday 25th March, using the stool for our coffee table. Captain Caveman was a bit curious to see how much booze we had left, for if we went in to lock down – we certainly had no need to worry and were grateful to those who had brought us gifts of whisky and gin.
We went to Funny Monkeys for lunch where I ordered pork fried rice and Captain Caveman asked for pork ribs but when it came I got pork with noodles (which have wheat in) so we did a swap and the food was quite tasty. As we had started eating Tatas arrived and ordered a corn on the cob which looked great. Back home we were loving the views and having the big windows – we sat down and watched as the neighbours moved a house and I worked at my new desk/table with a wine. In the evening it was just me, Captain Caveman and Tatas for Namaste where I went off piste and had a butter chicken while the others had their favourite dishes and I had a lovely couple of glasses of red wine. The food was delicious and we were all stuffed when we finished the meal and the 2 of us went home for a gin nightcap.
It was muggy and hot on Thursday 26th March and the cycle in to town for breakfast was sticky. Captain Caveman had the eggs benedict and espressos while I had fruit and yoghurt with honey on top and a herbal tea at Coffee Station. On the way back we decided to call in to Ho Khanh’s. We had some drinks and eventually we left so that we could go to lunch – at about 5pm!!!
We decided to try You and Me as we hadn’t been in ages, it was open and the owner was welcoming. The food is quick and good value for money and I would have the chicken fried rice again. We decided to have an early night as the next day Captain Caveman was off doing some training work with Oxalis and so the alarm was set.
It was my last yoga class on Friday 20th March and I was going to miss the class and the White Russian. She was extremely good at yoga and a good teacher and I was definitely going to miss going over for the class each day in such beautiful surroundings. It was also the day that 4 of the Phong Nha residents would leave Vietnam to go back to the UK. Watto, Chrissy, Jo and Andrew were all booked on the same flight together (I don’t know who I felt sorry for the most) and were flying from Dong Hoi to Saigon that evening. Already Josh had messaged to say he was in Istanbul and all was calm – as far as he could tell his flight to London was still going. Veronika was keen to meet for lunch before Chrissy left and so Chrissy hadn’t come to yoga so that she could get packed. I arrived at Capture to meet Veronika and Chrissy to find that Watto, Jo & Andrew, Howard & Deb and the ex-lodger were joining for lunch too. After lunch I cycled home and went over to Jo & Andrew’s to collect my new furniture and then saw off the four of them as they left for the airport. It looked like there was a storm brewing and I went home to catch up on some blogging and have a shower.
I went to Momma D’s for a wine before dinner and got chatting to Des and D-Dub, then a group of westerners joined us as well as Hanh (owner of D’Arts). We decided to go to eat as a group for bun cha at D’Arts and we sat on the comfy seats inside. We went back to Momma D’s until closing and then tried to go to Andy’s but he was closed so I invited people back to mine – by this time it was just me, Tatas, the ex-lodger, Des and the White Russian (D-Dub joined later). The ex-lodger brought his speaker over and we took it in turns to play music. There was wine yoga, bhangra dancing (and general dancing) and singing. We still had some Monkey 47 gin left and so we drank a selection of beers, gin and wine until the small hours.
On Saturday 21st March I woke up about 9.30am hungry and incredibly thirsty. There was no yoga to go to as White Russian was supposed to be flying to Saigon that night. I tidied up the house and was particularly disappointed to find one of the guests had opened but left a full can of 333 beer, there were bits of what I hoped was chocolate on the floor and a load of ants having a picnic with it. Captain Caveman was due back that afternoon so I wanted to make sure the house was looking at his best for him as he’d not been in the new room yet.
I got a message from Caroline to say there would be a party at Ho Khanh’s that evening and Captain Caveman messaged to say he was on his way back and there was an end of expedition celebration meal at Namaste that evening! Meanwhile it had become a rule that we had to wear a mask when out in public which was tricky as the only time I was out in public was when I was eating or drinking. Bamboo cafe, Veggie Box and Momma D’s all decided to close up because of the Corona virus and lack of customers, which was not a surprise.
Captain Caveman was happy to be back and was even happier to be eating at one of his favourite restaurants. The food was good and we had a laugh – the rest of the caving group had their flights early the next morning and were probably the last scheduled ones available. White Russian had also had her internal flight cancelled but needed to get to Saigon for her Emirates flight on Monday (if it didn’t cancel). She met us at Ho Khanh’s party where she let D-Dub book her a train from Dong Hoi to Saigon for the next day which would take 24 hours to get there! She also brought everyone a stone/crystal as a gift and she also gave me some nice shampoo and a leaf trinket to make a necklace out of. Me, Des and ex-lodger were struggling to socialise or have any alcohol but D-Dub and White Russian were doing fine. Tatas was soldiering on and managed beer and tequila shots! We didn’t stay long (as I had overdone it the previous evening) and agreed to meet the cavers at 7am the next morning as they were leaving for the airport at 7.30am.
On Sunday 22nd March Captain Caveman and I went to Ho Khanh’s to say bye to the remaining expedition cavers and then cycled to town where we ate breakfast at Capture and it was a nice pleasant morning, no storms as yet! For lunch we were off to A Little Leaf for seafood and so Des, Hanh and Tatas joined us. The BBQ prawns were fantastic and I managed to resist the scallops. D-Dub popped by Little Leaf to see us, having dropped the White Russian off – she would have an unenviable train ride to Saigon. Back home we sat together in our deckchairs, admiring the amazing mountain views, drinking wine and happily resigning ourselves to the fact that we were now part of the Phong Nha remainers – we were going to be here for a while I suspected. Confirmation came back from my Berlin 10 friends’ wedding that it would be postponed to next year which selfishly I was glad I would be able to attend.
In the evening Captain Caveman and I went to Phong Nha Eatery where the food was good and the chef was doing some lovely dishes there, despite only a skeleton staff. It was Mother’s Day back in the UK so when we got home we called my parents and had a good chat. I was pleased that they were keeping themselves indoors until it was safe and we managed to have a bit of a laugh, despite everything going on. Captain Caveman fell asleep in a deckchair and then went to bed before I finished the call – the last 5 days of finding new caves had worn him out!