Being in Vietnam without access to my own money has meant we have had to cope with living on the one (at times reduced) wage. As a tourist in Vietnam I’m not allowed to work and so things haven’t been as easy as planned due to the Corona situation. I was meant to leave Vietnam in April 2020 so I wasn’t prepared for a prolonged stay, at all. When I get to Turkey I will be able to access my bank account there but, until I get more income I will need to be very careful. These are some of the things I’ve already tried to adopt to cut our cloth and be more frugal with the money we do have.
1. Take advantage of a bargain only when it suits what you need. 2. Stop buying new clothes or cosmetic products. 3. Drink mostly water as much as possible, all those soft drinks or juices can add up. 4. Make a daily, weekly and monthly budget and stick to it – make adjustments if unexpected costs occur. 5. Plan ahead with food shopping. 6. Don’t waste any food. 7. Limit the amount of stuff we buy which isn’t locally produced. 8. Cut out snacks and treats (good for the diet too). 9. Stop going anywhere you need to pay for a taxi to get there, unless essential or urgent. 10. Stop buying gifts for Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Engagements, Baby showers, Anniversaries and other celebrations.
After 1 year and 8 months I will be leaving Vietnam. I arrived from Turkey in January 2020, intending to leave after 3 months, and have been paying to extend my tourist visa ever since (the cheapest worked out at $60 per month and the most expensive $120 per month). My intention now is to leave Phong Nha, Vietnam, in September and head back to Dalyan, Turkey, and hope that I will be able to get back to the UK to see family and friends too. Below is a list of my top 10 reasons why I am leaving;
1. Immigration will no longer extend my tourist visa and I have to leave Vietnam by the 9th September. 2. I have no access to money in Vietnam, my UK bank cards have expired (and I’ve spent all my UK money), plus I can no longer access my Turkish bank account here. 3. It wouldn’t be ideal for Captain Caveman to have to continue to support both of us through the winter. 4. I’m running out of good underwear. 5. I need to renew my Turkish residency but can only do it when there. 6. My UK driving licence expired 2 years ago and I can only renew it from a country where I can post back the old license. 7. None of my family or friends can enter Vietnam to visit me but there’s a chance I will get to see a few of them sooner, in Europe somewhere. 8. I no longer have any insurance in Vietnam but I do in Turkey. 9. If I don’t leave in September I could be stuck here illegally for a while and may have to pay overstay fees or be denied access when I do leave. 10. My 10 year passport is going to need renewing (after only 4 years) because it’s getting full.
The realisation that I might actually be leaving Vietnam soon made me think of all the things I’m going to have to get used to again, once I leave the sleepy town of Phong Nha, where I rarely see more than 20 people in any one day (sometimes a week). I’m not sure if I’m ready to be let back in to society or not, yet!
1. No maskers I’ve recently seen the first couple of people who refused to wear a mask and I was so shocked. In bigger cities it’s going to happen as well as countries where masks are no longer required! I’m not fully vaccinated yet so of course it concerns me.
2. Crowds I hate being in a claustrophobic situation anyway but I don’t think I will quickly adjust to public transport and busy buildings in a hurry.
3. More Choice I’ve spent the last 18 months having a fairly limited choice of food, drinks, venues, friends, clothes to wear and activities but still not been bored so it makes me wonder if I’m ready to fit in more choice and how I will be able to decide.
4. Coins, a purse and a handbag After not using any of these for 18 months, it’s just going to be really strange.
5. Staying awake later I am often in bed by 9pm so it’s going to take some adjusting to, if I go out out I might have to have a nap beforehand to prepare myself.
6. Walking about In my next destination I won’t have transport or a bicycle and need to walk everywhere so I will have to get used to a simple trip of walking to and from the shops. I rarely walk far now unless it involves going for food or drink so that might be a shocking change for me.
7. Kitchen appliances I will have to remember that the oven will be hotter than the one I’ve been using in Phong Nha but I’m looking forward to being reacquainted with the slow cooker. I will have to buy a rice cooker as I can’t live without one now.
8. Doing laundry For 10 months we have used the laundry services of the housekeeping staff who do such a good job of our laundry, I’m going to have to fit it in to my hectic schedule again.
9. Physical appearance Being back in society will probably mean I have the chance to sort out my appearance again. For the last 18 months I’ve had my hair done once so it will be great to be reacquainted with my Turkish hairdresser as well as having my eyebrows shaped and generally looking like I don’t live in a field.
10. No Captain Caveman I don’t know when it will be possible to see Captain Caveman again and, while we hope Vietnam opens to tourists in 2022, it could be a while.
Photo credit – various internet sources and Captain Caveman
I had leftover pizza and 3 mangosteens for breakfast on Saturday 31st July, it was raining and so we had a lazy morning. Our friends Melissa, Rimaha and their 3 children who used to live at Elements Collection, in the villa opposite us, before moving to Hoi An had decided they were going to leave Vietnam and go to Turkey. The free visa extensions were still covering them as they arrived after March 2020 but they were getting worried it might stop and, understandably, didn’t want the visa worry every month. Going back home to New Zealand wasn’t an option for them as the Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ), although free of charge, could not accommodate the 5 of them for months yet – it is thought that there were approximately 100,000 Kiwis trying to get home and some were spending up to 16 hours per day trying to book their place in New Zealand’s compulsory hotel quarantine facility. Melissa and her family were planning to fly to Istanbul in August but unfortunately as of tonight they were stopping all domestic flights from Danang (their nearest airport). They also had a bit of an ordeal leaving; PCR tests to fly from Danang to Hanoi for all of them, they had 35 minutes to pack to make the last flight to Hanoi, and they had to use 2 private cars and change vehicles at the checkpoint with lots of bags. When they got to Danang airport Melissa recorded a live video which told of the struggles to leave Vietnam at this time and we watched feeling sorry for them, until the part where the family find that the airport Burger King was still open – and there wasn’t even a queue! Check out their Instagram stories here: https://instagram.com/worldtravelambitions?utm_medium=copy_link Captain Caveman was out but came back with some eggs so he made tortilla, I had one piece of it, with salad, for lunch and then I was ill – it could have been a delayed reaction from gluten or dairy but I’m convinced my stomach can’t handle egg. We had more of Mina’s mangosteen which were certainly better than the supermarket ones and cost 110,000vnd (£3.52)for 3kg. In the afternoon I was peckish so Captain Caveman served me cashew nuts with a vodka and orange by the pool. For our evening meal I chopped mushrooms and red peppers and Captain Caveman made us a vegetarian pasta meal, which was tasty and I had no reaction to the normal pasta.
July had started with a few struggles in Phong Nha, proving that it’s certainly true that it’s not always perfect in paradise. My visa extension and passport issues had improved last and I actually got the passport back in the quickest time ever. All my plans to leave had been postponed for a bit longer as we tried to work out what was going to be our plan(s) for the rest of the year. I missed a few more celebrations in the UK as my home country returned to ‘normal’ for a lot of people, as did Turkey. Towards the end of the month Phong Nha saw the closing of more places and the stopping of transport links to other provinces. We even had to sacrifice yet more holidays and Captain Caveman was sad to see his cycling event moved to later in the year, due to Corona. August was going to be my last month in Vietnam as the tourist visa extensions were definitely going to be denied soon, so I was preparing to go back to Turkey. I was also a little nervous of what the rest of the year would have in store and whether I’d be able to get back to the UK for a friend’s wedding – I couldn’t afford the hotel quarantine in the UK, nor would I have the time to do it, so it would be dependent on restrictions being lifted.
On Friday 30th July I had bread and cheese for breakfast again but this time had no reaction and I looked for the positives in the news today. In Vietnam the amount of recoveries was looking promising as more patients in Saigon were discharged, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210729/ho-chi-minh-city-has-discharged-over-25000-covid19-patients/62318.html I got a bit of perspective reading this one, and if you thought working from home in the UK, during the pandemic was bad, read this for what it could be like for many workers in Vietnam: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/1000196/hundreds-of-covid-19-cases-detected-in-binh-duong-companies.html Plans in Saigon to vaccinate 70% of its 9 million residents by end of August were ambitious but could be doable if they got on it, info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210730/vietnam-accelerates-vaccinations-in-covid19-epicentre/62328.html As you had probably noticed it was getting to the end of the month which meant it was time to start preparing for the next visa extension request. I checked and was told that I could have 1 more month’s extension and to submit my passport after the weekend. Captain Caveman had gone early to Phong Nha and was picking up a load of mangosteens from my Jungle Boss friend, Mina. When he came home we had a chicken salad for lunch and a couple of drinks by the pool before getting ready for our predictable Friday night out. We’d budgeted enough for us to have a treat for dinner and we went for Happy Hour and Pizza Night at the Farmstay. It’s only 50,000vnd (£1.55) for 2 rum and diet cokes or gin and tonics so we ended up having 4 of those each and Captain Caveman had realised you could order more than 1 pizza each! We ordered 3 between the 2 of us; a salami one each (his with extra chillies and garlic) then a ham and pineapple to share. It was delicious and the ham and pineapple was my new favourite (plus I took 2 slices home) and we had a great night out for 400,000vnd (£12.40). Back home we got to give cuddles to Carrot, the puppy, who had been sleeping beneath Cuong’s hammock – he really is so cute.
I decided to test something out on Thursday 29th July for breakfast, given that I’ve been able to eat pizza once per week now, I had toast with a melted cheddar slice on it and, of course, I was ill – I just don’t get it!!! Captain Caveman had already gone to Phong Nha to catch up with what was going on at Oxalis. I read in the news that there had been a lag in Corona deaths in Vietnam, probably due to the large amount and there were another 350 deaths added on retrospectively, see the 2 reports below: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/999477/106-new-covid-19-deaths-announced.html https://vietnamnews.vn/society/999828/233-more-covid-deaths-7594-new-infections-recorded.html This meant that as of the previous day the death rate for Corona was at 0.5% already in Vietnam. Once my stomach was a bit better I prepared some BBQ jackfruit which we had with chopped veg and salad for lunch. While we were serving up our lunch Veronika returned after having been razzing around the National Park on the back of a Harley Davidson with Ben, she was not impressed and said she was aching because it was so uncomfortable. In the evening Captain Caveman cooked some chicken with veg and steamed rice which we sprinkled with peanut salt. It was nearing the end of the month again and I’d managed to not worry about my visa extension for a couple of weeks but now we were back in the same situation as last month – would I get it extended or would I have to leave next week? Tomorrow I would ask the questions and see what happens!
The theme of my Google searches in July seemed to be fruit and travel related in the main, here’s my list: • Astra Zeneca and Moderna mix • baolau.vn • canitravel.net • Czech language basics • Dong Hoi flight departures • English to Vietnamese • French to English • Hungary • Jackfruit • Kirazlı • Longan fruit seed soap • Manavgat • Magner’s cider • Nationwide Bank • online check-in, Singapore airlines • Turkish university for international students • UK Red list • Vietnam free visa extensions • weather • worldlifeexpectancycoronavirus
This really is the most useful website for anyone wanting to work out where they can travel to right now: https://canitravel.net/
I was awake early on Wednesday 28th July and not because it was my turn to go on the shopping trip today. I was worried about my friend who was still trying to get back to South Africa, he’d had an horrendous night and had ended up walking 5km to find water and food, which he didn’t because all shops are closed for the evening curfew in Saigon. Because this morning shops were open from 6am he found a 7-11 and got an egg and cheese sandwich which he said was disgusting but he loved it. Captain Caveman went off to Phong Nha for work, he had given me the money for shopping, we had just over a week until pay day so things were pretty tight and I had my shopping list at the ready. We’d already had a message from Ben asking who was going and saying we would only be going to the organic shop and Co-op Mart so Veronika, after her traumatic experience last week, decided not to come along. I was told my pick up was at 8am and so I went outside ready for that, at 8.05am Duyet told me to get in the jeep to go to the Farmstay so I thought Bich may have told him to bring me there. As I was leaving Ben arrived to pick me up so I switched cars and off we went to pick up 2 customers at the Phong Nha Farmstay. At 8.45am Bich was ready to leave so off we all went to Dong Hoi and on the way she asked if we wanted to go anywhere specific and suggested Tuan Viet Gourmet so I said yes. My South African bound friend managed to get checked in for his flight to Singapore and was happy to be on his way at last. I got a few bits in the shop, including treating us to a bottle of wine for just under a tenner. Our next stop was the organic shop where I managed to get a couple of things from my list. Next, Bich dropped us at Co-op Mart and went to pick up something, I managed to get quite a bit from the list but there were no eggs or chicken and it was surprisingly empty so Veronika would have been fine. When we left the supermarket I mentioned to Bich I still hadn’t been able to get chicken or BBQ sauce so we stopped at Horeca and I got those plus some cheese. I had thought I’d get 2 lots of BBQ sauce but it wasn’t cheap so I put one back, while I waited for them to find me some frozen chicken breasts which they kept in the back of the small shop.
Here’s my list of the shopping I bought, prices in Vietnamese Dong. I bet you can see straight away the things I shouldn’t have been tempted to buy, which exceeded the tight budget rule;
Tuan Viet Supermarket Green beans 14,500 Gluten free stock cubes 22,000 2 red peppers 26,220 6 Mangosteen 27,000 2 dragon fruit 30,360 1 packet of penne pasta 35,000 1 jar of green olives 45,000 1 bottle of red wine 310,000
Total 510,080vnd (£15.81)
Organic Shop 1 red cabbage 51,150 300g of beef 90,000
Total 141,150vnd (£4.38)
Co-op Mart Broccoli 9,741 Carrots 11,085 2 packets of crisps 23,000 Pumpkin 27,422 Tomato puree sauce 28,400 Potatoes 36,527 2 Strongbow cider 36,600 2 packs of Mushrooms 64,000
Is there anything you think I missed or shouldn’t have bought?
Bich had a request from one of the Farmstay guests to bring back some Banh Loc (which smelled of fish sauce so bad) and we made a new rule; whoever doesn’t go on the shopping trip has to order the smelliest food for the others to have to bring back on the 45 minute car journey!
When I got home Captain Caveman was a bit cheesed off because he had set off this morning to go on the Tu Lan take down trip but when he got to Oxalis it had been postponed until Friday but he hadn’t been told. Luckily Watto, who is going back to the UK next month, had given him a toaster – he was happy about that. So, my other half was in a mood, I was starving hungry and decided that a croissant with a slice of cheddar cheese on would be an amazing brunch – of course this made me terribly ill for about an hour. I got a message from Tatas to say that her home isolation had ended 9 days early because her landlord had tested negative 3 times and she was already at work, in a meeting. Captain Caveman and I drank wine by the pool in the late afternoon, I snacked on crisps and longans and we discussed Captain Caveman’s plans for the off-season (September to December) this year. Vietnam has been promising that they were going to reduce the quarantine period for experts entering Vietnam to just 7 days followed by 14 days self isolation ‘at home’ but they still had not implemented it and as it stood it would be 14 days quarantine then 14 days self isolation. Given that Captain Caveman would need to be ready to work in November it didn’t leave much time for him to come to Turkey. He decided that it would be too risky to get stuck in either Turkey or Vietnamese quarantine and potentially not be able to work when needed so he would not leave Vietnam this year. We both agreed that while the pandemic was still continuing as it is, it would be sensible for him to stay in Phong Nha. For dinner we used the leftover stew from yesterday and added the beef I bought today to have the same delicious meal we had last night. I noticed that at Horeca they had still charged me for 2 bottles of BBQ sauce so I messaged Bich to see if she could let them know so I could rectify it on the next shopping trip.
I was a bit worried for my friend on Tuesday 27th July who was due to leave Vietnam for South Africa today. He’d had quite a lot of issues up to now and they didn’t get any better as he tried to get from Hanoi to Saigon to make his international flight via Singapore. While I was tucking in to 2 fresh croissants for breakfast, Captain Caveman was in Phong Nha and my friend was a stressy mess. My morning kitchen activity was the slicing of the bread and popping in the tuppaware boxes for fridge or freezer, while the housekeeping came to do our room. They’d also mended Captain Caveman’s swimming shorts after he ripped a hole in the bum getting out of the pool a few days ago, they did a wonderful job and wouldn’t take any money for it, either. They kindly brought us a load of longan fruit for us all which they left on the kitchen table. By the time Captain Caveman had returned my friend in Hanoi was having a meltdown because his flight to Saigon from Hanoi had been cancelled, I told him to get to the airport regardless and demand they put him on whatever plane is available for that day. I read in the news that a month after Turkey had opened up again, there was a big spike in cases, hardly surprising but concerning if I have to leave Vietnam without being fully vaccinated, read more here: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/turkey-may-face-difficult-autumn-as-covid-19-cases-climb/news Captain Caveman made us bacon and asparagus with gin cocktails for lunch and we swam in the pool. I’d took to slathering my face eczema in sudocrem overnight and so it seemed to be clearing up a bit. While Captain Caveman prepared a beef stew for dinner I tried to calm a very stressed South African friend down after he was refused his flight from Saigon to Singapore. Nothing in Saigon is open, he is not meant to leave the airport where there is no food, drink or Aircon and now he had to stay there overnight. The beef stew was the best I’d ever had and we really enjoyed it even though we felt very sorry for our mate who was now hoping to get on the flight tomorrow. He sent me voice clips and he sounded like he really was at the end of his tether with everything – he didn’t even want to go back to South Africa but with only a South African passport he had little choice – not many countries will take a South African in these days! While he tried to find a comfy bit of airport floor to sleep on and not get robbed, we grazed through a bunch of longan berries.
Monday 26th July was a very good day! I had the last of my gluten and dairy free pancakes (to be honest I was getting a bit fed up of pancakes for breakfast now) but we had run out of fruit so I put jam on. The news in Vietnam read that we now had more than 100,000 cases and going on for 500 deaths since the pandemic began, read here: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/997795/covid-19-case-tally-tops-100000.html I read the following article which didn’t half give a bit of perspective – wouldn’t you just hate working in a factory in Saigon? Check this out: https://vietnamnews.vn/economy/997569/hcm-city-factories-seek-to-remain-open-by-complying-with-covid-prevention-regime.html There was also a curfew announced in Saigon which means supermarkets close at 5pm, I started to feel really sorry for our friends in Saigon: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20210726/saigon-supermarkets-to-close-by-5-00-pm-in-adaptation-to-new-covid19-restrictions/62263.html Captain Caveman went to Phong Nha and I chopped peppers and onions ready for lunch. I still had a headache but was at a normal temperature and my stomach was also bad despite not having eaten anything that could have set me off. I’d managed to remove all of my photos and videos (up to the end of June this year) from my phone on to the SD card and was pleased to see I could now do a screenshot again – unfortunately my phone still said it was full and I had issues with loading photos on to my WordPress now! When Captain Caveman returned he had some good news, he had been told by his work that we will both get our second vaccines, him within 2 weeks and me within 4 weeks. We had a healthy salad for lunch followed by a piece of carrot cake, which we had in the freezer still since the last time we had Sunday dinner at the Phong Nha Farmstay. It was fresh bread day so Captain Caveman went up to the Lake House to collect it, he came back with bread, croissants and a bottle of wine from Tham and Tony for his birthday, which was really nice and we said we would go there as soon as they could open again. We were meant to be cycling to the Phong Nha Farmstay the long way round but it was already dusk and I didn’t fancy being stuck on the French Road in the dark so we went the short way. We sat with Lucie and Martan (the lovely Czech family) and the 3 adults at the table all enjoyed a cider/beer and the curry special. Martan had a massive burger which looked pretty good and he had trouble eating it all. This week was the first Buttered Chicken meal at the Farmstay, with The Villas being closed, and it was definitely one of the best ones yet. The curry was not too spicy, plenty of it, the steamed rice perfect and the nan bread really good too. The Magner’s cider was on offer so me and Lucie took advantage of that and it was a lovely chilled evening. Unfortunately the cavers had to miss out on curry night because under the rules here we still weren’t to be going out out and the Farmstay could only serve their registered residents (which we were lucky to be). Being conscious of money we just had a couple of drinks with our curries and our meal for 2 came to around 500,000vnd (£15.50) and we were very full!
I’d not been feeling too well when I got in bed the previous night and had a headache at the back of my head on the left side. I woke up extremely early on the morning of Saturday 24th July extra sweaty, a worse headache and feeling hot or cold intermittently. There had been rain during the night, it was a bit cloudy and I had to force myself to eat my gluten and dairy free pancakes with banana and honey for breakfast, hoping I’d feel better. I took some paracetamol and ibuprofen and read the news, this time there was some good news. Apparently, Vietnam was going to mix first and second vaccine providers, so those of us vaccinated with Astra Zeneca, may get Pfizer as their 2nd vaccine, read more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210724/vietnam-to-prioritize-pfizer-as-followup-jab-for-people-who-received-first-dose-of-astrazeneca/62222.html Reports came of chaos in Hanoi as the stricter social distancing measures were to commence, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210724/people-rush-in-out-of-hanoi-before-strict-social-distancing-implementation/62228.html Captain Caveman stayed in bed all morning on his phone and eventually got out of bed at 12.30pm, made his own lunch and then sat on the balcony in the rain with a beer. I had a red dragon fruit and popcorn for my lunch and, feeling hot then cold most of the day, I watched a cooking show on Netflix and rested up. For dinner Captain Caveman cooked chicken and veg while I got the job of peeling chopping and roasting potatoes, garlic, onion and pumpkin which took so much time to cook that we had dinner in two sittings. I still felt unwell so I went to bed early, during the night there was a massive storm and I was even a bit scared as the thunder and lightening sounded like they were hitting the roof.
On Sunday 25th July I still felt unwell and was awake really early taking some painkillers for my headache which still hadn’t gone and I also had a touch of indigestion. It was cloudy so there was no sunrise to see and Captain Caveman didn’t cycle in to work, with it being a Sunday. I had another nap to try to shake off the head and neck pains. Captain Caveman made us bacon sandwiches for breakfast, we’d ran out of brown sauce so I had to have Vietnamese tomato sauce which is ultra sweet, and I had orange juice, jasmine tea and lots of cold water to keep hydrated too. I took over the oven and did a mass roasting of potatoes, shallots, pumpkin and onion ready to make our Sunday dinner. We do love the Phong Nha Farmstay dinner but 600,000vnd (£18.60) for the 2 of us is out of our price range at the moment. Instead we would prepare a healthier version at home, no wine and no cake for a start. I was a hot sweaty mess after being on roasting (literally) duty and so Captain Caveman made us lunch and in the afternoon I had 2 dairy free White Russians as I thought I’d started to feel better. By the time it came to dinner time I was feeling much better, the headache had almost gone, I was a bit less sweaty and I managed to tuck in to a lovely dinner of chicken, potatoes, onion, pumpkin, carrot and broccoli with a dash of BBQ sauce on the side for dipping.
I was a bit despondent as I had thought that, with The Villas being closed, we wouldn’t be having a pizza night but Captain Caveman had already checked and there most certainly was. We just had popcorn for lunch so that I’d have room for pizza night and I wasn’t really expecting much, given that it would be done with a different oven and staff at the Phong Nha Farmstay, who might not be used to the same style of pizza. Ben and Bich at the Farmstay had about 25 guests, mostly families who were staying longer term due to the Corona situation and restrictions in their home cities, so they were doing their absolute best to keep things running as normal as possible. We arrived at the Phong Nha Farmstay for Happy Hour, sat at the big table, I had a couple of the 2 for 1 rum and cokes, Captain Caveman had beers then we ordered our pizzas, he had a salami one with extra chillies on (so I couldn’t try his pizza) and I decided on ham and mushroom (a new pizza on this week’s menu). There was a big screen and the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics was being shown which, at first, all the kids were interested in, it soon wore off though and they were definitely enjoying their pizzas more, as were the adults. Our pizzas were excellent and the service very slick so I was very impressed and happy. I was pleased that the pizza night was a success and it was a bargain at 275,000vnd (£8.50) for the two of us, even though I’d hoped to take a slice or 2 home (Captain Caveman snaffled the last of mine, obviously). Back home I felt very full but I didn’t have a dodgy tum so I was pleased about that – it seemed I was fine with gluten and cooked cheese now!
I woke up at The Belafonte as hungover as hell on Thursday 22nd July at 6am, immediately understanding what the pegs on the curtains were for. The sun was very strong and streaming in through a gap in the curtains, I’d luckily managed to close the doors and pop the AC on before bed but I’d not fathomed that pegging the gap in the curtains would be a great idea. My head hurt and I felt like death so I got back in the very comfy bed – there really was no need for such a thick duvet on though. I was woken up again a few hours later by a message from Momma D to say her and Shannon were up and about so I reluctantly went to the kitchen. Diem and some of the neighbours were round and there was some box moving activity and too much loudness for my likeness. There was only one thing for it; breakfast at the Phong Nha Farmstay so off we went and ordered pho and juice. Veronika arrived for her morning coffee and came to sit with us, we all had a laugh at last night’s antics – it had been a great send off for Shannon and it had been a good celebration for Momma D getting agreement to remain in Vietnam for another 2 years too.
After breakfast and saying bye I retrieved Bluey, my bicycle, and headed off home with a bad headache and no sunglasses. Luckily it was slightly cloudy with the sun behind me but it took me a long 11 minutes 8 seconds to get back to Elements. As Captain Caveman made lunch I caught up on the news that yesterday Vietnam had reported the highest daily cases so far, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210722/vietnam-documents-highestever-daily-local-coronavirus-jump/62208.html I’d only been gone less than 20 hours but I’d missed quite a bit so Captain Caveman filled me on the updates while we ate our bacon, cabbage and tortilla lunch. That morning Captain Caveman had already cycled in to Phong Nha and back, as he usual does, to find that there were road blocks to check where each person was going and what for. Tatas, who was meant to be in Tu Lan, had her trip cut short because her Landlord was F1 (been in contact with someone who is positive) and her household had to isolate. I didn’t realise the phone shop man owns Tatas’ house so she and her housemates had been isolated and given emergency provisions plus the loan of a cooker and they had to wait to see if the selling of the ice-cream had meant her landlord had caught Corona. Luckily they had not actually been in contact with the landlord at all so they were going to be fine but because they are all registered at the same address that is the rule. Craig Davis had made it back to America, his journey had not been without issues but he had made it. Later I saw that Momma D had posted on Facebook that her rooftop bar was closed until further notice due to the Corona situation, The Villas was now closed too but all the meal specials would continue at Phong Nha Farmstay but only for in-house guests. The Lake House closed their doors as well and in Dong Hoi all of our favourites were just doing delivery only or had closed. Even Funny Monkeys posted to say they would do delivery only – places to eat out were very slim so we were glad of a good kitchen at home. Later Shannon messaged to say she had left for Hoi An already, having been to Dong Hoi for her PCR test, she was doing well with her hangover – I could not have done that car journey. Captain Caveman made us a nice veggie pasta dish for our dinner and I was in bed extremely early, still feeling a little delicate.
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’.
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.
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.
I’d been up in the night with indigestion and not having slept well so, when Captain Caveman went to Phong Nha on the morning of Tuesday 20th July, I stayed in bed a bit longer and had a nice lay in. When I got peckish I had one of the Lake House croissants for breakfast, it was bloody gorgeous and worth it that it made my tummy hurt a bit. Captain Caveman got back and had bought a jar of cashew nuts back from Funny Monkeys which I always prefer to the shop bought ones. While Captain Caveman had a shower I got him 2 croissants with butter and jam (he’s an animal) and he was so happy while eating them. We couldn’t resist, while the Lake House bread was still fresh, just having a peanut butter sandwich for lunch – the breadcakes were a little like a brioche bun but incredibly good. Information came from the Phong Nha Farmstay to say there would be a shopping trip tomorrow but there were some new rules; from now on only 1 person per household/villa/family was allowed to go. We decided that Captain Caveman would go for us as he holds the money, so he’s in charge. Our dinner that night wasn’t amazing as we just had a bit of a picnic meal with leftover jackfruit, Spanish omelette and pickles, but by the time we ate at 8.30pm I was kind of past it. Then the news we had all been worried about came; our province of Quang Binh had 3 Corona cases for the first time! They were young Vietnamese returners from Russia who had spent 21 days in compulsory quarantine on arrival in Saigon, Vietnam, and had all had several negative tests prior to being allowed to leave to continue a 7 day isolation at home. Unfortunately their home is in Minh Hoa (over an hour’s drive from us) so they had travelled north to get there, one part of that journey was from Saigon to Dong Hoi via bus. Contact tracing and tracking had commenced but it was difficult to know how this would pan out for our province and whether Dong Hoi and Phong Nha would be affected. Either way, we knew that Quang Binh would be very worried given that the province had been doing so well up until now, compared to almost everywhere else.