With Captain Caveman at home a lot more in June I didn’t need Google as much, but I still managed a short list. Here is the 16 things I googled in June in alphabetical order: • baolau.vn • banana cake gluten free recipe • Dong Hoi flight departures • English to Vietnamese • gluten free Yorkshire pudding recipe • Home Hotel, Hanoi • Imagine Dragons • Israel Corona virus vaccine • Orgran recipes • Oppo phones • renewing UK driving licence • Uniqlo Vietnam • UK Red list • Vietnamese funerals • weather • worldlifeexpectancycoronavirus
In his shopping basket at the Co-op Mart were the following items (costs in vnd): Onions 16,598 Bananas 16,900 Potatoes 20,956 Eggs 29,500 Mangosteens 43,089 Chicken breasts 135,000 There was still almost a week until pay day but Captain Caveman was frivolous and also went to the booze shop where he bought a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and a bottle of Vodka Smirnoff Red for a total of 510,000vnd.
I’d been busy at home making a masaman curry, some for later and some for the freezer. For lunch we had Baba Ganoush with toast and in the afternoon we went in the pool with cocktails. I had a White Russian made with walnut milk which was a terrible idea so it followed with 2 vodka and diet cokes. We heard nothing more about my visa situation and it looked like I was still leaving Vietnam. I made some chapatti type things to go with the masaman curry and we didn’t eat until 8pm because Captain Caveman wasn’t hungry. I was, I always am, but as soon as I had eaten it I was ill and I don’t know why but this is probably the third time I remember being ill with masaman curry. We went to sleep that night still not knowing if I was going to be in Phong Nha this time next week, or not.
Tuesday 29th June was going to turn out to be an extremely disappointing day! Firstly I checked the news while eating gluten free pancakes with the dodgy mixture that, because of the walnut milk, I couldn’t work out how to remedy it. There were 4 more Corona related deaths in Vietnam, all were old or had underlying illnesses, but it was still sad. Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha and it was a warm day for my choice of activity that morning. I had the fan on (we don’t have AC in the kitchen) as I decided it would be a lovely day for making pumpkin and carrot soup. Once I’d combined all the ingredients it went in to the rice cooker and I looked at my phone. We had some bad news from immigration; I was not able to apply for another visa extension and I must leave Vietnam before the 9th July. It was a bit of a shock really because we thought there would at least be one more month or even an extra few days in which to leave, but no – my time in Vietnam was up! With less than 10 days left to leave I decided to make a list of all the things I needed to do, including the different train and flight combos and costs. When Captain Caveman returned he was a bit cheesed off because immigration had told other people who were not paying for visas that they could stay until the end of July, I didn’t even get the chance of a 2 week notice to exit. I found a flight which meant leaving Phong Nha on the morning of Tuesday 6th July. We made some plans including getting a PCR test, then realised we had no wiggle room if anything went wrong at all. I got a lot of messages from people who were trying to help but were telling me conflicting information about whether I could still get a visa elsewhere as the decision for agents working via Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and Saigon had all reversed the decision and were now able to give 1 more month extensions, some with a proof of flight and some without. I didn’t have time for lunch so snacked on dragon fruit and cashew nuts. Before sunset I suggested we go for a walk round the block and even that didn’t go too well as my ankle started to hurt more than usual half way along. I complained about this to Captain Caveman who suggested we turn back but I wanted to carry on a bit further, we turned round and did a different route, which took longer and was on a small grassy path rather than the road we came on, so I ended up walking for longer anyway. I had my last remaining cider before dinner which was pumpkin soup with sourdough toast and it was bloody delicious. I sent a message to my mom to tell her I had to leave Vietnam within 10 days and had found a flight to Istanbul via Singapore – what a day!!!
On Monday 28th June I got up early, half expecting the housekeeping staff to want to clean but they were busy with the villa opposite, Captain Caveman was in Phong Nha. I made pancakes as usual and I ate my breakfast while catching up on the news – I was so sad to read about a Vietnamese woman who died 1 day after her Corona diagnosis, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210628/woman-dies-one-day-after-being-diagnosed-with-covid19-in-ho-chi-minh-city/61754.html Ho Chi Minh City was still getting worse with cases and I was surprised to read some of the measures being implemented, it was like reading about the plague, which I guess it is, more here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/981983/close-covid-19-contacts-in-hcm-city-allowed-to-isolate-at-home.html This story was a little more light-hearted and if it wasn’t so serious this would have been funny: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210628/coronaviruspositive-woman-hides-in-sugarcane-field-to-evade-quarantine-treatment-in-vietnam/61758.html I got messages from people who were all sharing information posted on Facebook by a visa agent stating that tourist visas were no longer going to be extended next month and that tourists should all book their flights home as soon as possible – we didn’t know if this was true or not. By the time Captain Caveman returned from Phong Nha it was time for lunch so we just had Baba Ganoush – those aubergines had been a bargain buy! That evening The Villas had their curry night on but even though they were doing one of my favourites, butter chicken, we decided not to go because I’d been doing well to not eat any dairy, plus we were watching the pennies and would rather go to one of the other nights, instead. We decided Thursday’s fish and chip night would be a good one, then I could hand in my passport again for the next visa extension, if they were still doing them. For dinner Captain Caveman cooked us a pasta dish with bacon and I had a Strongbow cider to go with it and him a beer. By the time we went to bed the visa extension debate was in full swing and other agents were saying that in order to extend in July you must have a flight out of Vietnam booked so that immigration can stamp up to your flight date and that it should be before the end of July. I decided to wait until tomorrow and see what the updates brought then, before rushing to book a flight out.
Captain Caveman was off to do some Oxalis work at a resort called Blue Diamond on Friday 25th June, while I had a lay in! I’d been up at 3am with a bad stomach and so I felt terrible and was extra tired. When I woke up again I had a lazy morning at home, reading the news and watching Netflix. In the Vietnamese news there were 2 more deaths, people with diabetes seemed to be a common thing, info here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/980341/two-more-people-die-of-covid-related-complications.html In Saigon the Corona situation was not getting any better and now health declarations were needed for more locations in the city, more here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/979868/hcm-city-makes-online-health-declaration-mandatory-at-public-sites.html Meanwhile Turkey was looking good on their vaccine progress, info here: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/turkey-exceeds-30-million-in-first-doses-of-covid-19-jabs/news I finished series 1 of Hinterland and started to watch Too Hot to Handle, Emily looked really familiar but I couldn’t work out why. For brunch I had a ham salad baguette with pickled onions and gerkins, some cashew nuts from Funny Monkey’s and 3 mangosteen. Captain Caveman and I had decided that I wouldn’t come to tonight’s pizza night at The Villas because I would find it too difficult to resist the pizza (I was still trying to not have any cheese) so I was going to get an East Hill delivery instead. Unfortunately Captain Caveman had forgotten to leave me any money so that plan was thwarted. While Captain Caveman went straight for the all you can eat pizza night I made prawns and steamed rice with a tomato based sauce. It was very nice and would have gone well with a glass of wine but we didn’t have any. I lucked out for dessert when I tried walnut milk rice pudding for the first time, only to find it tastes pretty terrible, even a spoonful of jam couldn’t save it! Captain Caveman returned with a tummy full of delicious pizza and I was very envious as we discussed what we should do about a holiday, now that I had my passport back. We were both hoping for a visit to Le Domaine de Tam Hai, which we could now travel to, but when we looked at how much time we had until my next visa extension submission, our money situation and the increasing amounts of Corona in other areas of Vietnam, we had to make the painful decision not to go anywhere. This would probably have been our last holiday together while we are both in Vietnam, as once the tours to Son Doong start again, Captain Caveman would be very busy.
Captain Caveman was awake very early on Saturday 26th June with a bad stomach, which he rarely gets. He got a lift over to The Villas to retrieve his bicycle from last night and treated himself to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast there. I do miss The Villas for breakfast and can’t even remember the last time I had some baked beans or a pho. I had a couple of gluten free pancakes, 2 bananas and some honey for my breakfast, which were very nice but I do miss being able to eat normal food. While I ate, I read an interesting blog post from a westerner about Corona in Vietnam, check this out for a bit of perspective as to how it is in Vietnam: https://vietnamweekly.substack.com/p/vietnams-outbreak-splits-in-two When Captain Caveman returned he had 3 pieces of information to update me on; 1) Oxalis had received confirmation of the Son Doong tours from the 6th July and he would be very busy, hopefully for the rest of the season (July and August tour dates), 2) We only have 1.5 million vnd (£48) left to last us until pay day in 10 days time, and 3) Captain Caveman had brought me some crisps from The Villas, the Naturals ones, which I love. He had also tried to get me a memory stick or a SD card and couldn’t, so I was still struggling to get my phone to work properly and, with the money situation, Captain Caveman said he would rather spend the money on gin. I didn’t agree but, of course, it’s his money so I didn’t get to make the decision. Captain Caveman had a crisp sandwich and beer for lunch I had crisps with a small piece of bread, no butter, and a Strongbow by the pool. I roasted 6 aubergines and what felt like hundreds of cloves of garlic until I was a hot, purple, sweaty mess, in the heat of the kitchen. Captain Caveman made Baba Ganoush with the cooked aubergines once I had shoved it all in a jar with the peeled garlic (I can see why people buy the Lazy Garlic jars)! He made a lovely dinner of chicken, potatoes, onions and peppers with BBQ sauce which (again) would have gone well with a nice glass of wine. Wine is expensive here so I was trying my best to go without but a life without cheese and wine is not a good one and I missed it, a lot!
On Sunday 27th June Captain Caveman didn’t go to Oxalis but he did get a message to confirm his next Son Doong tour would be on the 9th July, with the briefing on the 8th, so he was very happy about that. I completed a few blogs in bed but couldn’t post them because of the phone issues and so lined them up in drafts for when I can. I finally got up to make pancakes at 11.45am and when I started making the mixture Captain Caveman appeared and started making a cooked breakfast without any consultation. He made us both bacon, mushrooms, peppers, potatoes and onion (him with added egg) and so mine was ready while I was still stirring the pancake mix. I ended up making a mess of it because I couldn’t remember how much milk and water I had added and put it in a jar in the fridge. After breakfast I caught up with more writing and apart from a break for a Baba Ganoush lunch I kept myself busy. I finally got in the pool after 5pm, Captain Caveman was already in there and, while Veronika and Howie went up to Phong Nha Farmstay for Sunday Roast dinner, we had decided that spending 600,000vnd (£19.20) from our remaining funds was not a sensible action and we made a chicken dinner at home instead. I roasted a whole pumpkin, in batches, so that we could have some with dinner and the rest I could make a soup with tomorrow. I even attempted Yorkshire pudding with the batter mix from earlier but it was not very successful, I thought it was the almond milk that ruined it but Captain Caveman thought that 230°C wasn’t hot enough! Before bed I found an app to track everything I eat and drink as well as my reactions and any symptoms for allergies, I added a week’s worth of data and it told me dragon fruit is my allergy of the week so far! It obviously needs more information so I will continue for a month and see what it comes up with.
On Thursday 24th June Captain Caveman left early for Phong Nha and I made myself gluten free pancakes with banana and honey for breakfast. I washed them down with a pot of jasmine tea while watching more of Hinterland on Netflix, I was really enjoying it. As arranged Captain Caveman went to Victory Road Villas to pick up my passport but it wasn’t there. The passport had been forgotten about and the lady who had it was already in nearby Thanh Hoa so she couldn’t get it until later – it was becoming a bit of a joke now that we had reached 24 days of me not having my passport! Captain Caveman came home and we had Baba Ganoush on toast for lunch which was really tasty. That night we did something new, for a change, and I was so excited to be eating something I miss from back home. We had decided to try the new fish and chips special at The Villas, also giving us another opportunity to perhaps retrieve my passport. Ben and Bich picked us up in the Phong Nha Farmstay minibus with their group of customers from Hanoi, it was great to have some tourists around again! We sat outside and I enquired about my passport with the manager, but it had not been left for me yet. There were quite a few out tonight, all the Oxalis cavers and Momma D had come to sample the fish and chips and were sat in the bar area with Shannon too. We shared an outside table with a lovely old chap called Leonard, who’s really funny. He and I had a white wine and Captain Caveman had a beer. Veronika finally sat down at our table, probably waiting to see if anyone would want to mover her out of her seat first. I was quite prepared to have my fish and chips as it comes and take the batter off to eat just the fish but to my delight they make the batter with corn, rice and tapioca flours and soda water. Just as I was about to order a second glass of wine my passport arrived, finally!!! Obviously it was now too late to use it to go anywhere for a holiday as I had to give it back in 6 days but I was really pleased just to see it again. I was so impressed with the meal as it even came with white vinegar (I’m not keen on the malt vinegar you can find in restaurants here sometimes) and the tartare sauce was spot on too. On the plate was 2 substantial pieces of crispy battered basa fish, 3 battered onion rings (which I gave to Captain Caveman), a portion of chips and a bowl of tartare sauce. One of the cavers mentioned it needed a cup of Yorkshire tea and a suggestion was made by Captain Caveman to add on mushy peas, which Veronika seconded, given she had just fish and salad for her meal but thought salad didn’t really go. We got a lift back home with Bich in the car while Ben waited for the other guests to take them back on the fun bus. All in all a successful evening and I’ll definitely look forward to eating the fish and chips again at The Villas.
On Wednesday 23rd June Captain Caveman had planned to cycle to Phong Nha in the morning but he wanted to go on the shopping trip with me at 8.30am. We were up early and although we were speaking there was still no apology and I couldn’t help but feel a bit shit about the fact that Captain Caveman isn’t happy with me not getting out and about. In the news there was finally some vaccination praise in Vietnam, who have been very slow to start vaccinating in large numbers, unlike the UK and Turkey, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210623/ho-chi-minh-city-citizens-eagerly-participate-in-its-largestever-covid19-inoculation-campaign/61689.html Bich picked me, Captain Caveman and Veronika up from Elements Collection about 8.40am and already had 2 Phong Nha Farmstay customers in the car. Tree Hugger was already quite busy, when we arrived, we sat downstairs and bumped in to a Phong Nha friend or two. Captain Caveman ordered his usual egg sandwich, I had veggie fried spring rolls with peach tea then we wished our friends good luck as they headed to immigration and we got ready for a shopping bonanza!
Our shopping trip this week was full on, starting at the Co-op Mart, where our bargain of the day was a whole pumpkin for less than £1 (prices below are in VND).
We love the Organic shop and it’s always a surprise as to what they might have in stock, that shop was next.
An Nong Organic Shop Asparagus 48,510 1 bag of limes 54,725 2 trays of mushrooms 92,000 2 red dragon fruit 61,100
Our next shop was another supermarket, the VinMart, where our bargain of the day was some ready chopped aubergine.
VinMart 1 tray of chopped aubergine 6,994 1 baguette 9,000 2 peppers 27,050 3 cans of diet coke 28,500 200g mushrooms 35,500 2 tubes of Pringles 65,000 3 almond milk 69,500 4 Strongbow ciders 70,000 2 orange juice 88,000
There was still another supermarket we hadn’t been to and our Hanoi guest was keen to buy Tequila (I liked this guy already) but even the wine and spirits shop didn’t have any. Because Captain Caveman had no tours at the moment money was tighter than usual so we decided to forego the booze shop, which was difficult, while our new friend bought 3 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin at a very reasonable price.
We did go in to the Red Supermarket for a few more items, we were still hoping to get popcorn kernels, which they were out of at the moment. I was thrilled to find that they had started stocking Orgran gluten free plain flour and, despite its expense, we bought 2 boxes so that I could make proper pancakes! Captain Caveman even found Jiff lemon!
Red Supermarket 1 Jiff lemon 46,000 2 grapefruit drinks 110,000 Walnuts 159,000 2 boxes of gluten free flour 258,000
All in all it was a very productive shopping day where we didn’t buy any wine, but still managed to spend 2.8m vnd (£87). Unfortunately we couldn’t get any suitable memory stick or SD card either so my blog posting was being delayed and was sat queuing to be published. What’s missing from the shopping, what would you have put back on the shelf and what do you think is missing from our basket or trolley this week?
On returning home from the shopping trip Captain Caveman and Veronika both jostled for space to fill the fridges with the shopping while I took the non-kitchen items upstairs then got in to my swimmers to cool down. I took the ready chopped aubergine and put it in a bowl with oil and pepper then popped it in the oven to roast so that Captain Caveman could make Baba Ganoush later. For lunch I had a ham sandwich (no butter) and then I went for a White Russian (or 2) with the almond milk and they are a real winner – tastes a bit like Bailey’s. Unfortunately that was the last of the vodka and Captain Caveman finished off the rest of the gin. Even though we both were in or around the pool I made an effort to not speak much and Captain Caveman was happy to be on his phone in a deckchair. The moon was a day away from being a full moon and I managed to get a photo of it. Captain Caveman decided he would cook us a breakfast for dinner so I had bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onion with brown sauce and it was tasty. We got a message from a mate, back in England, who’d managed to get himself in to one of his ‘world’s stupidest man’ situations which made us both laugh so much and really cheered me up. Finally, Captain Caveman explained why he had started the argument on Monday and that he hadn’t meant to. He wants me to be happier and is concerned I’m not (I was fine) but the main thing that had cheesed him off was that I had tried to railroad him in to organising something. He said he was sorry that he upset me but I shouldn’t tell him what to do (I thought I was helping but obviously wasn’t) and he wanted to make friends with me again. He didn’t want me to leave but just wished I was happier which was rather ironic as I thought I was happy before all this came about! In other news, after 24 days of having my passport, had finally got a photo of my visa stamp; there was no ‘XC’ meaning I might have to leave on the 9th July so I was good to stay until then and I planned on applying for another visa extension from the 1st July. We agreed to pick up my passport at Victory Road Villas the next morning.
I didn’t get much sleep so when Captain Caveman went to Phong Nha on Monday 21st June I had an extra hour in bed. I made my pancakes with banana and honey for breakfast and was getting used to the buckwheat texture combined with the almond milk flavour. I noticed we had some new kitchen utensils on the worktop next to the oven and they looked really good. I decided to do more Turkish language learning on the Duolingo app as I’d not been making time to do it recently. I got a reply from the lady with my passport who apologised for still not returning it yet but I could get it back at Victory Road Villas. When Captain Caveman returned he had some updates, including that there were potentially some Son Doong tour dates for the beginning of July, with customers who would be coming from Hanoi. He also wasn’t going to Phong Nha tomorrow so wouldn’t be able to get my passport. I contemplated taking Bluey (my bicycle) and would endure the heat, sweat and probably tears to get my passport back. Captain Caveman was less confident on whether we would still be able to go on a holiday as he thought he might need to do some work and now waiting for the passport had taken longer than anticipated. I had leftover Sunday dinner for lunch, a diet coke and shared some mangosteens with Captain Caveman. In the afternoon Captain Caveman was busy on his phone, as he is most of the time when he’s at home, so when I interrupted him to ask about anything he seemed more pissed off than normal but I just put it down to him hating questions and being taken away from his phone. He had already said he wanted to make a mushroom risotto for dinner but it was getting later and there was no sign of this happening so I had some peanuts which then gave me a bad stomach. By 7pm I was fed up of waiting and hungry so I had a slice of dry bread and tried to suggest I would make dinner instead, but Captain Caveman was having none of it. I was not expecting the evening to end as it did but when Captain Caveman brought a lovely looking bowl of risotto each to the table, and before I’d had 2 mouthfuls of it, started a particularly horrible argument where he told me he’s sick of me not going anywhere and staying in all the time, I’m too needy and I should get some friends and go out more. I was more upset that he was spoiling me eating what would have been a great meal for me, so I got upset and asked him to stop talking until I’d eaten my meal. He ignored me and went on to suggest I should cycle more often!! That I have changed too much in the last year and that I used to be the life and soul of the party. I was absolutely fuming, especially given that when he’s at home he is so lazy and never off his phone, even in the pool. My thoughts on the situation differed a lot from his opinions; I’ve never liked cycling and I’m certainly not going to cycle just for fun in over 40°C heat, especially if there is nowhere to go to at the end of the route. Even if I did go out more, I would need some money, which at the moment we don’t have spare and I’m doing my best to be frugal by not going to happy hour, eating and drinking out or buying wine and spending unnecessarily. But what really cheesed me off is that I’m not here to entertain other people, it’s not my job! I left the rest of my dinner, which takes a lot to have gone cold in this weather, and decided to say nothing and revisit my plans to stay here. Perhaps giving Captain Caveman more space away from me would suit him better – leaving Vietnam might be the best option if he wants me to ‘get a life’, that’s for sure! He didn’t speak to me for the rest of the night, nor did he apologise so I went to bed so mad with him but determined not to back down or speak to him either.
I hardly slept and woke up still in a mood on Tuesday 22nd June, with Captain Caveman at the side of me on his phone and not saying a word. I’d been thinking about the argument, it was evident that while it was fine for Captain Caveman to be as anti-social and lazy as he liked, he didn’t want me to do that and wanted me to be out and about being everyone’s best friend, an entertainment and sportswoman of the year, perhaps! It was definitely something I didn’t want and the more I thought about it the more I knew I was right. I used to do quite a lot of organising and inviting people places but it’s not a priority to spend money doing things at the moment. As for the going out cycling, well I think Captain Caveman had lost his marbles there; I have never enjoyed cycling and probably never will and to suddenly want to turn me in to some outdoors sort after almost 10 years of knowing that I’m totally an indoors type is ludicrous. Granted if I was bored, had nothing to do and it was a cool temperature then I might enjoy a cycle to the nearest bar or eatery for some light refreshments. I used to go almost every day to the Farmstay and have juice, tea, pho or spring rolls but those costs soon add up and it’s cheaper to eat at home now. As I saw it, I could humour Captain Caveman and go out in the heat, get dehydrated, and spend more time with Phong Nha friends and spend more money, or do what I thought was sensible. Usually, I am the first to chat and try to resolve a situation but today I was not in the mood to placate Captain Caveman so I decided I would try my best to ignore him as much as possible, I’d not speak, nor ask any questions and see how he reacted. I made gluten free pancakes with dragon fruit (we were out of bananas) and honey and had some jasmine tea for breakfast. I checked the news and the latest Corona death was very sad, dying only 1 week after diagnosis, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210622/vietnamese-woman-dies-one-week-after-being-diagnosed-with-covid19/61667.html Captain Caveman’s approach was to pretend he’d not said anything and act as normal but it was too late, he’d said it now. After he’d got back from his cycle to Phong Nha and an Eggs Benedict pizza for breakfast at The Villas, he went in the pool for the rest of the day. I stayed in the AC, the room temperature was at 30°C as the Aircon struggled to cope with the sun on our side of the villa, outdoors it was a ‘feels like’ 43°C. For lunch I had the other half of the dragon fruit and a small carton of almond milk and then had a bad stomach (for no reason). I felt tired so I had a sleep then watched the second episode of Hinterland – I was quite enjoying seeing the Welsh scenery and wet, cold weather. Eventually Captain Caveman, who had probably been really enjoying the silent treatment came in and said he was going to cook Beef Luk Lak for dinner (one of my favourites), I asked if it would be served with an argument and he said not. Seeing as Captain Caveman is an excellent problem solver I asked what he thinks the solution should be but he didn’t have one. The beef dish for dinner was lovely and although the beef was a little tougher than the one we had last time, it was still a bargain and I enjoyed my dinner, even though I had a bad stomach half way through eating it and there was no gluten or dairy in it. Before bed I was hoping for a ‘sorry’ from Captain Caveman but, obviously, I knew better than to expect one.
On Friday 18th June I woke up aching and sweating profusely, my left arm wouldn’t move and my hip and shoulder were a little sore too. I was disappointed as we had arranged to cycle to Karst Villas to meet some friends for lunch but there was no way I could go, I struggled to put knickers on and definitely couldn’t manage a bra. Luckily I had taken advice from family to take paracetamol which was helping with the strange headache I had. Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha while I rested and read the news. In Saigon the Corona case count was getting worse, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210618/ho-chi-minh-city-detects-nearly-150-domestic-coronavirus-cases-its-largestever-daily-count/61600.html I managed to get myself a banana and some gluten free cake for breakfast but was a bit naughty for lunch and had a ham and cheese sandwich with just a bit of uncooked cheese on – I expected to be ill but was fine. When Captain Caveman got home he said our friends might join the pizza night later but they were finding it difficult and expensive to get a taxi from Karst Villas to town and so they weren’t sure. I managed to dress myself by the time Ben came to pick us up for pizza night. At The Villas there was a few of us for pizza; Andrew, Trang, Chung Son, Veronika, Bich and Ben. I had a couple of glasses of wine and only managed 6 slices of delicious pizza. I was so tired that we decided to go straight to bed when we got home, before I’d cleaned my teeth and got in bed, Captain Caveman was already snoring away!
We woke up to a muffled noise in the living room on Saturday 19th June so Captain Caveman went out to have a look. We were having new cushions on the sofa in a brown fabric and they looked lovely. I also checked to see if I’d had a response from my message to Minh Thuy asking for a photo of my visa stamp in my passport, there had been a few cases where an extension had been granted but with the XC on it which meant having to leave at the end of this extension and I wanted to check if it had that. Now that I had received one jab I would really like to get the second one before I have to leave, and obviously just wanted to know but I got no reply. After a month of Danang having no more Corona cases in the community there came a news article to say there was one, reported as coming from Saigon, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210619/da-nang-records-first-local-coronavirus-case-in-one-month-related-to-driver-from-saigon/61603.html My arm was still aching and the headache was still bad enough for paracetamol, which I had almost ran out of, plus I still felt more tired than usual – it was hard to tell if it was the jab or the heat which caused it though! I didn’t bother with breakfast but I decided to have one of the frozen sausage rolls which Captain Caveman had brought back from Momma D’s. I knew I shouldn’t but it was really tasty and not bad for 40,000vnd (£1.24), still not sure if it was worth the bad stomach though! In the afternoon my day took a turn for the worst when I discovered that my SD card (in my phone) was not working and had corrupted with a huge amount of photos on it as well as the laptop deciding it was not going to work either! I was so mad because it now meant I couldn’t add any photos to my joloyolo blog so was taking longer than usual. Typically, it looked like we needed to get a new laptop, but that was going to cost too much so we would try to buy a memory stick to take stuff off the laptop and free up some space to be able to check my phone’s SD card. For dinner Captain Caveman made prawns with rice noodles (after I had deveined and cleaned them up) and I had no alcohol, which is unusual for a Saturday.
On Sunday 20th June I spent too much stressful, and wasted, time trying to move photos from my phone to the laptop, only for me not to know if it worked as I was unable to view them on either device! I made myself 2 gluten free pancakes which I had with banana and honey and made enough mixture to last a few days. My arm was back to almost normal, unless I touched it, and the headache had gone. In the Corona news here announcements were made of Danang closing down after 23 cases in a day, more here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/977893/da-nang-closes-off-beaches-and-sit-in-dining-again-as-new-covid-19-outbreak-emerges.html Overall there were still not too many deaths but Vietnam were now up to 64 in total as deaths 63 & 64 were reported on, read the details here: https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-reports-two-more-covid-19-deaths/ For lunch I had peanut butter on toast but didn’t join in on the drinking by the pool with Captain Caveman. I decided I would like to go to the Farmstay Sunday roast this evening and we booked Duyet in for 6.30pm to take us in the jeep. I had 2 glasses of red wine with my food and I asked for it without Yorkshire pudding (which I love) and the side of cheesy pasta but I did have a bit of gravy. Veronika had already drove her motorbike up to the Farmstay so she could have a swim and then her and Ben came to join our table for their dinner. Captain Caveman had cheesecake for pudding and he took mine home, along with some leftover dinner for me to have. It was a nice treat to go out for dinner but it did mean we would need to keep an eye on the budget for the rest of the month.
Back home, on the afternoon of Thursday 17th June, having had my first vaccination, I made myself a ham sandwich and some tea. I had organised Ladies Night for later so I decided to rest up as I didn’t want to feel unwell for my night out. Captain Caveman was in Phong Nha for a bit longer and by the time he got home I had various messages from some of the ladies to ask questions, change arrangements or to cancel. I got a message from one lady to say that 3 people wouldn’t be able to make it because they had been vaccinated and weren’t feeling well. With 15 minutes before we were due to leave I was asked if we could move the event to next week instead, but Tatas was already on her second cocktail and wondered where we were. Momma D, had been the first to arrive and was sat next to Tatas. I sat next to Tatas, opposite Bich, who was next to Shannon, Veronika sat next to Shannon and Momma D. On the other side of me was Hong and Hạnh, then Ngày and Moon. Hien and Trang joined later so we had a full table and only 3 people unable to come. I decided to try the sangria and a burger but I was conscious that having the jab I might feel a bit fragile so I took it steady on the alcohol. The food was great and I couldn’t finish the burger, it was so big! I had one glass of wine which Tatas shared with me, as she bought a bottle to share with some of the others. It was a good night and everyone said they really enjoyed it and agreed to arranging another Ladies Night, the next one would be at Momma D’s and I created a Ladies in Phong Nha group on Facebook to pick a date and add the event. I think Captain Caveman was as surprised as I was that I was home by 9pm after a Ladies night out and even more shocked that I was sober. I did feel incredibly tired though and my vaccinated arm had started to feel a bit heavy. By 10.30pm I was so cold that I was shivering and had to layer up with clothes and a scarf in bed, the room was at least 26°C but I felt like it was freezing. Captain Caveman snuggled up to me and held me tight to keep me warm, until I fell asleep.
Captain Caveman woke up early on Thursday 17th June and was off to Phong Nha early because he’d been told he would be getting his second Corona vaccine today. I was also excited because Captain Caveman’s boss, Chau, had kindly added me to the list for my first jab. I made sure my phone was on, that I’d had a banana for breakfast, got my mask, hand sanitizer, water, emergency Fox’s glacier mints and was ready to walk the 10 minutes to the pick up point to join the Oxalis bus. While I waited for the call I read an interesting article about the concern over visa extensions and the recent issues expats were facing: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/expats-fret-as-vietnam-tightens-visa-policies-4290502.html It was also good news to read an article about the encouraging of tourist businesses to register for the Corona vaccine: https://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/975444/travel-enterprises-support-governments-vaccine-efforts.html At 8am Captain Caveman tried to call me on Messenger but he forgot that while he was walking away from the office to get on the bus that he was going away from the WiFi and so it wouldn’t connect. I got my stuff together and tried to set off but then he rang again, it still wouldn’t connect, I tried to call back. When he called me on the normal phone number it was to tell me he had set off and now I was wasting valuable minutes in setting off to meet the Oxalis staff bus. It was hot already and the walk felt hard work, after just over 10 minutes I was nearing the road, I saw the bus approaching and flagged it down. I was glad of the Aircon and a comfy seat, having only just made it. We went to a hospital in Dong Hoi, but not the main Kuba hospital and we had to get a form to complete. This involved a lot of pushing, shoving and fighting over pens which were attached to the kiosk or small table, I wish I’d took my own to make it easier. Captain Caveman completed both of our forms, which I then had to push in to sign and get a read stamp on my arm from the no-nonsense lady at the kiosk. Next we went to the main entrance of the hospital, it was very busy and we had to wait for staff who spoke better English so that they could go in with me. When Thin, the vice director, arrived we went through to the next section which was undercover but outside and I had to fill in more forms which I was helped with. Captain Caveman was told that his name wasn’t down for his second jab so he couldn’t get it and he was disappointed. I gave him my bag, which was a mistake, and went in to what I thought was a small vaccination room. There was about 6 vaccinators at tables then about 30 people sat waiting. I had to be asked some questions about my health and medication, had my heart listened to and my blood pressure taken then moved to the next table where I sat on a small (not very robust) plastic stool. I chose to give my left arm as I knew it might feel painful the next day and I faced the wall, didn’t look and willed myself not to faint. There was no time or room for fainters and I later translated the list of observations the medical staff were waiting to see, one of the adverse reactions was fainting. I didn’t want to end up on a ward and on a drip because of being a fainter so I sat on a crowded bench opposite a rotating ceiling fan and messed with my shoe laces so that the blood could rush back to my head. I desperately wanted the water and a glacier mint but they were outside and we had to keep our masks on, anyway. By 9.20am I had experienced my first Astra Zeneca vaccination and it was good to see a lot of people wanting to get the jab, including the Vietnamese army who stood patiently waiting to roll up their uniform sleeve. We ended up waiting 40 minutes in the observation section and I realised that, as the only westerner, I had been prioritised ahead of others, including the boss. He asked me if I was ok and I said I was fine, I thanked him for letting me get the jab too as I was extremely grateful. We could expect to have the second vaccine by the end of July, which was great news. One of the staff had a high temperature and so she was sent to sit with us to cool down but they checked her a few more times, with different machines, then told her she couldn’t be vaccinated. I got my certificate and went outside to Captain Caveman, water and mints at last, then told him to see if he could take the girl’s place for his jab – they wouldn’t let him. Back on the bus I felt fine and was super pleased with myself for not fainting. I was dropped back off at the road and the walk home in the hot sun was a relentless one which I felt took way beyond the almost 12 minutes to walk home
I was looking forward to this week’s shopping trip, at 8am on Wednesday 16th June, Veronika and I were waiting outside when Bich pulled up in the car with the 2 kids. On the drive to Dong Hoi I checked the Corona news and read that a health worker who had the job of collecting Corona test samples from people, had tested positive, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210616/health-worker-in-charge-of-collecting-samples-tests-positive-for-coronavirus-in-ho-chi-minh-city/61552.html There was news of vaccine progress in Vietnam: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/976011/viet-nam-to-conduct-largest-ever-vaccination-campaign-with-all-data-to-go-online.html Meanwhile the vaccine program speeds up in Turkey as they get to over 40s: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/turkeys-covid-19-jab-drive-speeds-up-with-new-groups-mobile-units/news I overheard a phonecall Bich had which meant that the member of staff dealing with my passport had some bad news, there had been a death in her close family, the funeral was this afternoon, this also meant that my passport would be delayed and that holiday was looking unlikely (again)! We arrived at Tree Hugger and we went upstairs to eat, I ordered peach tea with my pancakes, fruit and honey. It was really busy today and so we were there for about 2 hours in total and I took half of my breakfast away. As we left Tree Hugger the boys were moaning that they didn’t want to go shopping and they were bored but luckily for them, we only had time for a trip to the organic shop and the VinMart. When I got back home I took out the last piece of chicken from the freezer, not realising it had bones in, and I’d not been able to get any more chicken breasts in Dong Hoi. I ate my leftover Tree Hugger breakfast for lunch and then chilled out by the pool. Later, Captain Caveman made us a chicken salad baguette, a bit like being at Subway, but the chicken wasn’t ideal for this kind of meal and would have been better in a stew or curry. We shared a bottle of red wine as I tried to finalise the plans for tomorrow’s Ladies Night!
The Shopping Trolley:
As is usual I made a list of my shopping so you can have a nosey as to what was in my basket or trolley. £1 is about 32,200vnd for ease of working it out and I listed the cheapest items first. As we are on a stricter budget while we wait to find out when Captain Caveman will resume work, I didn’t buy anything too frivolous.
Monday 14th June was a nice quiet day, gone were the days of Margarita Monday with the last one I went to being 3 months ago now. It was helping my ‘so called’ diet though, which was a good change. Captain Caveman went to Phong Nha and I decided to attempt to make a gluten and dairy free mushroom and rice noodle soup for breakfast (a kind of vegan pho). Of course it wasn’t that nice but I managed to eat most of it and was just finishing it as Captain Caveman returned, a sweaty mess as it was hot again. He was off to Hang Va tomorrow with Watto and Colin to do some safety/inspection work so he was happy to have something interesting and cave related to do. In the news Corona was now in all districts of Saigon as it was spreading quite rapidly, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210614/coronavirus-spreads-to-thu-duc-every-district-of-ho-chi-minh-city/61488.html It was unfortunate that only 0.05% of the Vietnamese population had been vaccinated so far too, but plans to ramp up the vaccination program were in place. We had leftover chicken, potatoes, onion and carrots with extra asparagus and BBQ sauce for lunch and in the afternoon I had plain bread, no butter and a Strongbow. Captain Caveman cooked a gorgeous gluten free, dairy free and booze free mushroom risotto for dinner and for afters we had more of our favourite fruit, mangosteen. Captain Caveman also cooked the tortilla for tomorrow and popped it in the fridge. I hadn’t heard if my passport had returned safely from Dong Hoi but I didn’t check again, hopefully I would hear tomorrow.
On my quest to work out what is effecting my stomach I’d been trying to avoid dairy to see if it made any difference however I had read that some people with gluten intolerance could start to develop intolerance to dairy and egg. On Tuesday 15th June I had 2 pieces of tortilla (made with egg, potatoes, onion, garlic and pepper) with a few gherkins and was ill straight after. I’ve never really eaten eggs because I don’t like them but if they are an ingredient in something I have not avoided them. Looking back, I have had a reaction to them from time to time so this was another thing to watch. Captain Caveman had gone to Hang Va for work, although it wasn’t with customers, just colleagues. He said he would be back late and so not to plan to have dinner together as he would go out in Phong Nha tonight. In the Corona news Ha Tinh had another 12 cases while Quang Tri remained at 3, we were still so lucky, in Quang Binh, to have no cases at all. For lunch I had bread and jam (no butter) but had a bad stomach still with that. I asked if I had got my passport back and if I could possibly get a photo of the visa but it was still in Dong Hoi and would maybe return tomorrow. I was ok with tomorrow and I would still have it back to go on a short holiday before we had to hand it in again, hopefully. After a rest I got in the pool and did some exercises, the sky was very pretty tonight and I enjoyed just chilling on the balcony for a bit. Captain Caveman went to Momma D’s for dinner and had a sausage roll for his dinner and ordered 3 frozen ones to bring home – I love those sausage rolls so much. I made chicken with rice and sweetcorn for my dinner and my stomach was fine after that. I had a Strongbow and relaxed until Captain Caveman returned having had an unproductive and disappointing day.
I’d mentioned to Captain Caveman that the weather forecast had predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms on the morning of Saturday 12th June but he cycled in to Phong Nha regardless, believing it wouldn’t rain. Veronika must have thought the same thing as she also had already decided to cycle to The Villas so she could retrieve her motorbike, left there from yesterday. I had some bread and a banana for breakfast and watched the rain come. Vietnam had now surpassed 10,000 Corona cases in total since Jan 2020, and people were getting more concerned about this 4th wave causing more potential lockdowns. Info here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/972684/covid-caseload-tops-10000.html I still felt safer here as I read an article showing why Vietnam is doing better than a lot of other countries: https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-has-much-lower-levels-of-viral-transmission-due-to-greater-levels-of-government-and-public-vigilance/ I checked again about my passport and it was confirmed it would be collected from Dong Hoi on Monday, so I probably should stop worrying – there’s just something very unnerving about not actually having your passport. When Captain Caveman arrived home, soaked to the skin, I put a towel and a bathrobe in the downstairs bathroom for him and he tried to find a bucket to fill to wash his bicycle, there was still no signs of Veronika. Captain Caveman and I teamed up to make a chicken salad for lunch which I had with jasmine tea and he had a gin and tonic. The rain stopped and it even started to fine up enough for Veronika to drive home later, having been at The Villas all day. I had a couple of rum and diet cokes and some cashew nuts from Funny Monkey’s (they are much better than the ones in the shops). For dinner Captain Caveman made a kind of gluten free macaroni cheese with bacon and spinach as we embarked on testing my potential dairy/lactose intolerance. The food didn’t look too great because of the macaroni being made from white rice but it tasted amazing. Unfortunately, the conclusion was that I definitely could not tolerate the cheddar cheese. We agreed from now on I would continue eating small amounts of gluten but no lactose and see what happens!
Sunday 13th June started with Captain Caveman making me breakfast in bed. I was pleased to get brought a bacon and mushroom toasted sandwich with brown sauce but when I bit in to it I could taste butter – I never have butter on sandwiches but as I was meant to be cutting out dairy it meant I’d failed at the first meal. Captain Caveman realised he’d cooked the mushrooms in butter by mistake and I suspected this is the kind of thing that is happening to me whenever I eat out as I never thought of people cooking with butter, which they do. I read in the news that reports of fully vaccinated staff at a hospital in Saigon were positive, but mostly asymptomatic (as you might expect), more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210613/coronavirus-hits-employees-at-covid19-treatment-hospital-in-ho-chi-minh-city/61475.html Captain Caveman decided we were off on a bicycle ride and I had to be ready to go straight away, he had a trip out planned and was off to pump up Bluey’s tyres. It had been a while since I’d taken Bluey out because it had been too hot for me so she needed her cobwebs dusting off and plenty of air. Captain Caveman set off and I pushed Bluey out of the gate only to see she had a flat tyre again. Captain Caveman came back and sorted her out and the sun was starting to come out already. We cycled towards the Phong Nha Farmstay but kept going past until I was in to uncharted territory, we were off to see Andrew and Chung Son at their house, which I’d never been to before. I’d asked Captain Caveman if there were any hills and of course he had said not, but there was a big one which I had to get off and push Bluey up. I was tired and had to walk slowly as I passed a lorry with a brick delivery on. The one way journey took me 20 minutes and 4 seconds for both cycling and walking. When we arrived I was a sweaty mess but luckily Andrew had some iced green tea available, he served it to us in massive glass jars which I thought was a great idea (I might steal that idea). We sat on the front step and admired the views around and they certainly live in a very nice rural area with friendly farmer neighbours. When we cycled back I forgot to start my stopwatch but I think we did it 4 minutes quicker and I even dared to cycle down the steep hill, definitely testing Bluey’s brakes! From the Farmstay back to our place I did time it and we did a leisurely 10 minutes 25 seconds, not including the stopping for a snake. I spotted the cute little snake just slithering along the road and shouted snake (as is the protocol) so that Captain Caveman would stop, I had to stop, otherwise I would have run it over. He followed it to get some photos and it was a bit too quick for a video. He later got it identified as a buff striped keelback which is harmless so I’m glad we watched it go off in to the grass.
Back home I had a fruity lunch of 1 banana, 2 mangosteen and half a dragon fruit with some walnuts before getting in the much cooler pool for a dip. The housekeeping staff came to clean the room while I sipped gin and pink grapefruit on a sun-lounger feeling rather privileged. As we were trying our best to cut back on spending while Captain Caveman had less/no work, we had to forgo the Farmstay Sunday Roast dinner tonight and instead we made a chicken dinner together at home for less than a sixth of the price. I doubled up on the roasting of the potatoes, onion and garlic, in Veronika’s three-legged oven which I’d recently found out works quite well, so that Captain Caveman could make a Spanish omelette with the spare. It was still a lovely dinner and although I was missing having wine whenever I felt like it, I was definitely having less calories so hopefully I would be seeing the benefits this week! I wouldn’t have been able to have a Farmstay dessert anyway because of the avoiding of dairy so we were happy to make the sacrifice.
While Captain Caveman went off to Phong Nha on Friday 11th June, I did some blog writing and watched Hell’s Kitchen on Netflix. I also checked the news then had a banana and a mangosteen for breakfast. In Vietnam there were more deaths, and the count in total was now at 57, the majority of deaths were with people who also had other illnesses: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/972250/two-cancer-patients-die-of-covid-related-complications.html Captain Caveman came back and said it had been officially communicated that Oxalis had said there will be no Son Doong tours with any guests coming from outside of the Quang Binh province, for a few weeks due to the pandemic affecting travel from other provinces. This was disappointing as it meant there would probably be no work for Captain Caveman and money would be very tight. I did ask if we would be able to go on a holiday during this time if we wanted and the answer had been yes, so at least we might get away when I get my passport back. For lunch I had already set the rice cooker going and Captain Caveman made chicken, green peppers and cashew nuts to go with it, for afters I had some dragon fruit. That evening we got picked up for our usual weekly treat of pizza night at The Villas and there was quite a few of us out tonight; Andrew, Trang (and their kid), Tatas, Hanh and Hien (plus her daughter) and of course the Phong Nha Farmstay family. We sat outside but there were quite a few people inside, all ready to enjoy the all you can eat pizza (with a beer or soft drink) for a bargain 150,000vnd. I had 2 glasses of wine as that was all I was allowed, not just because of the tightening of the budget belt but because of my drunkenness on Wednesday. Bich mentioned we should start a ladies night out for all the women we are friends with in Phong Nha so I volunteered to rustle something up. We would do the first one on 17th June and I would create an event on Facebook.