There were some changes afoot in Phong Nha and Dong Hoi on Wednesday 21st July, but first Captain Caveman and Veronika got picked up to join the Phong Nha Farmstay shopping trip at 8am, Duyet was driving the bus this week, while I had a Lake House croissant for my breakfast. The housekeeping staff thought we had all gone to Dong Hoi and so came to do a clean, surprised to find me in the room. I went outside, trying to find some breeze and drank some water. The new puppy was playing in the garden and came running over for some belly rubs and tickles. We have a new youth who has recently joined Duyet on the Elements team who cares for the pool, waters the garden and generally looks after the place. He came over so I asked him the puppy’s name – he’s called Cà rốt (which means carrot in English), the youth is called Cuong as I checked at the same time.
I prepared some lunch using left over tortilla, bacon and cabbage to make an interesting meal and saved some for Captain Caveman. He had messaged to say that the supermarket in Dong Hoi was full and people had started to panic buy. An area near to the train station was taped off and no trains were stopping at Dong Hoi.
Unfortunately during the tracking and tracing of people who were in direct contact with the 3 imported positive cases from Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, they had identified 2 people who had also tested positive. These were traced to be people in Dong Hoi; one a taxi driver and the other was a ‘drinking buddy’.

Video of Carrot, the puppy

Captain Caveman and Veronika returned from the shopping trip with very differing accounts of their outing. While nothing phases Captain Caveman, Veronika was still a little out of sorts due to the pushing and shoving at the supermarket. She had shopped, got to the counter and then abandoned her basket because it had just been too much for her. Luckily she had managed to get quite a bit of shopping in the Organic shop and wouldn’t be going hungry but it’s the first time I’ve seen her looking a bit frazzled after a shopping trip! Captain Caveman said it wasn’t as busy as a Morrison’s back in Sheffield on a normal Saturday and if he’d have known he would have got her shopping through for her. We are spoilt here because it’s so quiet generally that we don’t ever see a crowd.

Here is what Captain Caveman bought this week, keeping in mind our budget was still very tight and he went to 3 shops in total during a panic buy. As usual the prices are in Dong and it’s about 32,000vnd to £1.

Organic Shop
Mangosteens 41,200
Asparagus 46,060
Mushrooms 55,000
Onions 60,000
Popcorn kernels 124,000

Co-op Mart
Shallots 7,592
1 can of Coca-Cola 8,500
Lettuce 8,506
Carrots 16,464
Tomatoes 17,561
1 can of Strongbow 18,500
Tissues 18,500
Bananas 20,550
Potatoes 21,212
2 dragon fruit 34,125
6 cans of tonic 45,600
2 packs of butter 62,000
1 jar pasta sauce 106,800
2 packs of bacon 129,600
3 cartons of orange juice 135,900

Red Supermarket
2 red peppers 49,205
2 cans grapefruit juice 64,000
Hot dogs 265,000

I had made one request to Captain Caveman to get me something to take to Shannon’s party that night. We were all taking a dish which they call Potluck in America and Canada and so I wanted to take something easy that everyone would like, I also asked him to get me some wine but he didn’t get any. Captain Caveman didn’t get as many bargains and couldn’t get eggs or chicken anywhere this week.

Our 3rd Phong Nha Ladies Night was arranged for 4pm at the Belafonte and I was about to take the worst potluck dish in the history of potluck parties! Captain Caveman had got me dragon fruit and baby bananas to take, his logic being everyone likes fruit. He assumed Shannon would have shot glasses and so I would also take a bottle of Hanoi vodka as my drink contribution – this was certainly one way to avoid being invited back again, or to any other future parties. Meanwhile Veronika had decided to take rice crackers, grapes and 3 homemade dips (hummus, olive tapenade and red pepper) which she was busy making at home. The Belafonte, where Shannon lives, is about 2.5km from the Farmstay (almost 5km from our place) and I wasn’t too sure how I was getting there. Veronika had decided that she would get a lift with Bich but they weren’t going until later as she was busy with guests. Originally I was going to go with Tatas but she had gone on a 2 day Tu Lan tour this morning, meaning that she couldn’t come to another one of our Ladies Nights. Captain Caveman suggested I cycle there because then I wouldn’t be stuck for being able to get home but I thought it might be a bit too far, plus I’d probably be able to get a lift home. Instead we came up with a better plan; Captain Caveman and I would cycle to the Farmstay for about 4pm and then I would leave Bluey, my bicycle, there and we would walk to Shannon’s house (Captain Caveman would push his bike) and I’d cadge a lift back. It would be about 30 minutes walk so we would be there before 5pm and it had been cloudy all day so felt a bit cooler. Captain Caveman would then cycle back home and have a quiet night in. I was looking forward to the party and this Ladies Night looked set to have 15 attendees plus a couple of local friends of Shannon’s who she had invited too. I sent a message in the Facebook event and group to let everyone know the party was still going ahead and that we were under the general Corona rule of no groups of more than 20 people so all was good to go, then I jumped in the shower to get ready  for Shannon’s send off.
Of course, this is Vietnam so by the time I had got out of the shower there was already some changes and at the time we didn’t realise how serious they could be.

I got out of the shower to several messages of cancellation, which is not unusual for Ladies Night, but the reasons were! The two people who were positive for Corona in Quang Binh (the taxi driver and the drinking man) had been in Phong Nha and so all the people in a section of town around the former Easy Tiger area were checked for F1 and F2 tracing, meaning quite a few people had to stay at home. Four of the girls who live in that area were unable to come due to their potential to be F2s and some were told they needed to stay home for the time being. Another couple of ladies had to stay at home (one in a different town) for the same reason and people in our sleepy town were genuinely worried that Corona had spread this far. What I didn’t know at the time was that the phone shop guy, at the corner of Phong Nha market, had been in direct contact with the positive taxi driver when he sold him and ice-cream and so he was F1 and had been taken away for quarantine and testing.
As we were setting off to the Phong Nha Farmstay on our bicycles, armed with fruit, Saigon beers and rice wine, the sun decided to come out and it was incredibly hot again. It’s only 10 minutes of cycling but it was definitely over 35°C so I needed to stop for a refreshment before walking on to The Belafonte for Shannon’s party. We both had a Huda beer and then one of the guests came over to say she and her family were heading back to Hanoi by car tomorrow but wanted to introduce her friend to us. We sat chatting and ended up having another beer by which time Bich said I could get a lift with her and Veronika. When I finally got to the party it was already in full swing, we’d missed the fizz and everyone was in the pool, including Momma D, Deb, Trang, Shannon and a load of local kids. The party went much better than expected and despite the Vietnamese ladies laughing at my contribution and all the kids swarming around Veronika’s grapes like locusts there was a good spread with plenty of BBQ pork and spring rolls. I was drinking beer when Shannon insisted I go on to white wine then later when Tham arrived, with several bottles of wine and a bottle of Bailey’s, I went on to red. Shannon said for me to stay so I agreed, let Captain Caveman know and then we cranked up the music and got right on it!

As the last 3 standing Momma D and I agreed we needed to make sure Shannon had the best send off and not to get upset or it would make Shannon feel emotional so we were on a mission to make her night! By 2.30pm we were necking frozen Bellinis with extra rum, singing (and dancing) to Teenage Dirtbag at the top of our voices and generally celebrating we had made it to 2.30am – practically unheard of these days in Phong Nha. I vaguely remember going to sleep in a downstairs bedroom where the ceiling was a huge net and there was an actual thick duvet on the bed and I wondered why there were pegs on the curtains.

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