I was awake before 7am on Sunday 3rd October but I went back to sleep for an hour before getting up to do a few chores. I did most of the unpacking of my stuff that I left here in boxes, laundry, washing stuff in the cupboards and getting ready to welcome Melissa and her family to Dalyan later. I had fresh bread and butter for breakfast and then I decided to rearrange the furniture so that the kitchen table is up against the wall near the stairs and not so cramped in the kitchen – it would give me a better space to write from too. For lunch I had hummus with bread and olives and I decided to try something new by doing baked potatoes in the slow cooker, to see how they turned out and they were pretty good.
There was some excitement that afternoon as I had booked in to Lukka bar to have one of their Sunday dinners. I joined a table with Katrina and her friend, Tunc, and enjoyed a glass of red wine before the meal came. This was my first Sunday dinner in Dalyan, having not been in the UK for 3 years and not in Dalyan for 1 year 8 months I had missed eating proper Yorkshire puddings so I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. I’d previously rather enjoyed the Phong Nha Farmstay Sunday dinners but due to money and then lockdown, I’d not had one of them for ages, either. When the plate was placed in front of me I was amazed at how good it looked, especially as the photos on the Lukka Facebook page didn’t show how big the portion was and a photo can never describe how good the gravy is, which there was lashings of! The cauliflower cheese was great, the beef just melted in my mouth and I had to save some of it to take home so that I could fit in my pudding, which is included in the price. The apple crumble was made to perfection with just the right ratio of apple to crumble for my liking, topped off with a blob of ice-cream. To enable me to fit in the dessert I had to have a good hour or so gap, with a couple of extra wines before I tackled it. Because I’m no longer having gluten free meals I got to enjoy the whole thing without any special dietary amendments and it was so good. The cost of it was 110 lira (£9.32) which isn’t the cheapest Sunday dinner in Dalyan but you certainly get what you pay for, the meat quality was top notch and I had enough left for a 2nd meal. I went home very full and, as I sat down to watch some more Line of Duty, I got some good news; my friends who I met in Phong Nha (Mik, Kendra & Bryan, Hamish & Ania) were coming to Dalyan later in the year for a bit of a reunion holiday – how exciting.
On Saturday 2nd October I woke up at 7.30am to photos of mushrooms from Captain Caveman in Phong Nha, he had continued to tend to the embryos and more had grown so he was looking forward to his breakfast tomorrow. He’d been to the Phong Nha Farmstay to buy eggs from Sau today but unfortunately her ducks had stopped laying so he couldn’t get any. I had cornflakes for breakfast and started watching Line of Duty on Netflix before I set off for my appointment. I had booked in at Mimi’s for my eyebrows threading, a pedicure and reflexology because my good foot had terribly dry cracked skin and my bad foot could really do with being massaged in the hope that the swelling and aching in my ankle would be better. I had the reflexology first and it was really good, just 20 minutes but it felt so much better and all my toes popped, not bad for £15. My eyebrow threading was quick and only £5 then I had a very thorough pedicure where they now use power tools to sand off the hard skin, finishing with a moisturising massage and some nice nail varnish for a total of £15.
In the square next to Mimi’s there had been some changes since I was last there and my favourite gluten free No 10 Bakery was no longer. The shop next door was now a restaurant, called 2 Charlies, that I had seen discussed on Dalyan Facebook pages and I had wanted to try their fish and chips so I decided to go there for lunch. As I didn’t get to have fish and chips last night I thought I’d splash out for lunch and I ordered a fish and chips with a large beer. The beer was 25 lira (£2.12) for 50cl, the fish and chips was 75 lira (£6.36) so on the expensive side but it was a big piece of fish. It came served on a big white plate with a fancy brush stroke of what I hoped was balsamic glaze and a portion of mushy peas which looked like the ones you would get in England (I don’t like them but they came in a separate dish and were easy to take off). The fish was cooked very nicely although the batter was a thin sort with herbs in that I didn’t think were needed as it made the fish a bit scenty. I wasn’t sure what the fish was but probably not cod or haddock, possibly Hake or even a Vietnamese Basa as it tasted more fishy. I suspect I was the first customer of the day to have something in the fryer as the batter was a bit moist on the inside and didn’t stick to the fish very well in some places. The fish comes with wedges rather than actual chips but there was a good portion of them and they soaked up the vinegar well, I’d have preferred not to have the seasoning already on them but they were still cooked really nicely and the tartar sauce was a good touch. It wasn’t a bad meal and I couldn’t manage it all as I was too full, there was a cat under my table hoping to get the leftovers. On the way home I called at the bakery to buy bread and saw a fresh tray of baklava which I just had to buy a couple of pieces of for later.
I realised that today was 14 days since I had my 2nd vaccine and so I could officially go out and about with confidence that I was fully protected and might not die should I get Corona. It said in the news that people coming to Turkey from the UK could now enter using their proof of vaccines instead of a PCR test so it looked like lots more tourists would be on their way, probably some of them unaware they were bringing the virus, which did worry me. That afternoon I spoke to Captain Caveman who was doing ok back in Phong Nha and we had a good chat before I had to go out.
Jax was flying home tonight so I’d arranged to meet her, and her mom, Ann, at Heybe’s for an early dinner and to say bye. I’d been keen to try a Turkish dish called işkender and to my delight they had it on the menu for 85 lira (£7.20) so I ordered it. I just had a couple of soda waters at first as we ate the complimentary lavaş, often described as balloon bread, olives and a yoghurt dip. We decided to pig out and order starters; Ann and I both had the stuffed mushrooms which were great, Jax had a Turkish version of a meat pastry which looked good. For mains Ann and Jax had the chicken casserole, I had my first işkender kebab and it was absolutely fantastic – not greasy and plenty of it! I ordered a red wine, Jax had a half measure of wine just to say cheers but the pair of them were still jaded after being out until 3am. I asked the waiter to box up my leftovers and we said our goodbyes, but would look forward to her next visit. Back home it was still early so I had a marathon session of watching Line of Duty on Netflix. I got peckish after a couple of episodes and ate the left over işkender kebab. I got confirmation from Melissa, who lived with her family in Vietnam until moving to Kaş in Turkey a couple of months ago, that they were going to come to visit me on their way to Pammukale. It was a bit strange that I’d come all this way from Vietnam to Turkey, hoping to meet up with people from the UK, only for my first visitors to be from friends who, this time last year, were living in Phong Nha.
At just after midnight, so very early on Friday 1st October, having fell asleep on the sofa watching the TV, I could smell cheese again and had a pain in my left shoulder. I went to the mirror to look at my back and, where I had a cyst removed over 10 years ago, there was another small lump underneath my old scar. Incredibly I could smell that it was probably infected or another cyst had grown. I put a plaster on it, went to bed and when I woke up I had a photo of Carrot, the dog, from Captain Caveman, who was in pain again with his foot and knee. I had beans on toast for lunch and arranged to meet Maddie, Angela and Nick at Tez bar for a drink at 6pm, Angela had organised for a group of us (the usual suspects) to go to Wonky’s for fish and chips tonight.
I wasn’t really feeling like going out due to feeling tired and having some issues about applying for residency but I went anyway and I’m glad that I did. Tez bar used to be Soul Kitchen and it looks very similar, they now sell proper ales which looked great but they were 38 lira (£3.22) for a small bottle and I’m on a budget so I had a glass of white wine which was cheaper. Jax was going back home to England tomorrow so had got her PCR test done at Tez Bar where they were printing off and trying to WhatsApp a copy of it to her. When we arrived at Wonky’s Onur was already playing live music as we found a table outside, Angela had booked for 6 of us so we could try the fish and chips, which I was looking forward to. The place was packed and there were a lot of familiar faces in there too, it seemed to be one of the new places to be. When we came to order food they only had enough fish and chips left for half of us (it is very popular), Jax offered to have a burger so that Nick could have fish and chips, and I ordered a pizza. The food was very nice and I noticed that Jax’s burger looked really good and didn’t have any random chillies in, maybe I ordered the wrong one on my last visit, my pizza was excellent. By the time Sarah joined us we had eaten, Onur was in full swing with his live music and people were really enjoying it, he does all the tunes to sing a long too. On our table there was only me, Ann and Jax not smoking and I was finding it difficult to deal with the cigarette smoke so I decided to leave earlier than the others. I found out the next day that most of the gang stayed out until 3am and were singing and dancing – I could not have managed that! When I got home I noticed my shoulder looked a bit sore where my bra strap had been digging in to the scar so I put a blister plaster on to sleep in, it was strange that the exact same place where I had the cyst removed before, years ago, looked like it had another one and I hoped I didn’t have to have surgery again.
I had a simit, cheese spread and olives for breakfast on Thursday 30th September and had messages from Captain Caveman who had been for a hair cut and shave this morning. I booked my hair appointment in with Emrah as I was so desperately needing it cut and dyed, it had not been done since the Danang holiday with Tatas about 5 months ago. I also booked in for a massage as my back and leg needed attention, I wasn’t used to so much walking about and my ankle wasn’t too clever most of the time. Sadly, it was Jamie’s last day here in Dalyan and he’d arranged to meet at Aşkin’s for a farewell drink later. I still had an EasyJet flight for this year that had been cancelled which I needed to change, I’d not been able to do it in Vietnam as the EasyJet website is blocked there. I moved it to a random date in the future, just to keep the flight and went for September 2022, not really knowing what my plans were. For lunch I made some of the Bolognese into a pasta bake, using the vegan cheese but that wasn’t good for cooking. That night I had a wander in to town and was undecided where to eat, when I saw Ann and Jax in Aşkin’s having a glass of wine and they invited me to join them, I had a draught Efes beer, Jamie and his neighbours arrived, we had a drink then went next door to Spice Garden. It had been just over a year since the only Indian restaurant in Phong Nha had closed down so I was looking forward to being able to choose to eat Indian food again, while I’m in Turkey. I used to go to Spice Garden on occasion when I was here before but I’d never tried the special meal deals before. Jamie and I decided we would order a meal deal and share the starter and side dishes, he was also conscious of flying early tomorrow morning so didn’t want anything too risky. We had samosas and onion bhajis to start, I had chicken masala and Jamie had chicken dhansak, we shared pilau rice and a garlic naan bread and it was definitely the best meal I’ve had at Spice Garden. The portions were a good size and if I’d been less greedy I could easily have taken half home but I was enjoying it so much that I ate almost all of it and then could hardly move. Jax even said she thought she had a food baby and had to walk around to feel less stuffed. Not all of us at the table had the special deal but everything we did have was good, the food came out together and the service was excellent. Unfortunately it meant I was too full for drinking more and so when Sarah joined us for farewell drinks at Aşkin’s I had to have an Amaretto with ice. I had started to be able to smell a cheesy smell as we were paying the bill in Spice Garden but it was stronger in Aşkin’s so I asked if others could smell it. Sarah reckoned it was the cheesy crisps they give out with the drinks but I didn’t think it was that. After 1 drink I decided to leave, Jamie and Sarah were stopping by Sofra bar for more goodbyes but I couldn’t stop, I already needed the loo. I bumped in to Andrea, John and Adem who were sat having a drink outside Dalyan Lounge but I seriously could not stop, by this time Jamie had caught me up and he also needed to get home to the bathroom as soon as possible. We said our very quick goodbyes and promised to meet at the Radisson, Manchester airport in December, as we were flying back to Dalyan together for New Year. It was going to be weird being in Dalyan without Jamie, he’s such a lovely bloke and he’d introduced me to such nice people who had become my friends too. I only just made it home in time and I wasn’t sure whether it was a reaction to one of my food allergies or the amount I had eaten (probably both).
September had been an usual month; the first 3 weeks had been spent in lockdown at Elements Collection with Captain Caveman. It would turn out to be a very expensive month but there was finally some progress as I got my 2nd Astra Zeneca vaccine, thanks to Oxalis. I got lucky and managed to escape to Turkey where, despite the high Corona rates, everything is as normal (pretty much). There were more tears than a usual month over failed escape attempts, missing celebrations back in England, not being able to say bye to most people and having to say goodbye to Captain Caveman without knowing when we would see each other again.
My blogging continued to be a good way for me to vent my frustrations at not being able to leave Vietnam and I got some great support from people reading, as I moaned on, sometimes forgetting how lucky I was to be in Vietnam in the first place. As for the Corona data, I was so used to getting the daily updates when I was in Vietnam that I missed not knowing how the country I am in reports local cases, so far everyone was telling me it was ‘safer than the UK’ but that wasn’t a benchmark I was too happy with and I continued to be concerned I would catch the virus. Here’s a Corona summary for September of the 3 countries that have an affect on me, it was very strange going from such a strict lockdown with comparatively fewer cases, but Vietnam still had a lot more deaths.
Vietnam: September Cases 328,659 September Deaths 8,237 September Recoveries 369,971 September mortality rate 2.51% Total Cases 790,755 Total Deaths 19,301 Total Recoveries 608,831 Total mortality rate 2.44% Population 98 million
Turkey: September Cases 750,000 September Deaths 7,334 September Recoveries 780,000 September mortality rate 0.98% Total Cases 7,150,000 Total Deaths 64,054 Total Recoveries 6,620,000 Total mortality rate 0.9% Population 85 million
UK: September Cases 1,000,000 September Deaths 4,127 September Recoveries 850,000 September mortality rate 0.4% Total Cases 7,800,000 Total Deaths 136,662 Total Recoveries 6,320,000 Total mortality rate 1.75% Population 68 million
In September Vietnam’s number of cases were not much higher than August, but the deaths were lower and the recoveries higher then the previous month. The cases in Vietnam, for September, were still around half the amount of Turkey and a third of the UK, the deaths were twice as many as the UK and 1,000 more than Turkey. Vietnam was still in lockdown in most places, until the 30th September, but they were making some progress with the vaccines. In September Turkey’s cases had gone up by 50,000 compared to August but Recoveries had more than doubled those of August, the deaths had increased too. The UK for September had the most cases out of the 3 countries, the cases this month were 1 million, recoveries had increased but deaths had doubled again for the 2nd month in a row, which was concerning. In the World data September had 16.3 million cases and 16.19 million recoveries for September, both figures trending in the right way, even the number of deaths this month was less than August.
October was going to be an interesting month for me, the most exciting thing was that I would get to see my parents after almost 2 years apart and I couldn’t wait! I was also going to embark on getting my 2 year Turkish residency and hopefully start to get my next set of (Pfizer) vaccines. Once that was out of the way I think the inevitable would have to happen, towards the end of the year – I needed to get a job! Having been a Lady of Leisure for just over 2 years it was time to look for online/remote work that I could do in Turkey or the UK, there were no guarantees I’d be able to go back to Vietnam in 2022 so it was time to make some money while I was on a more suitable time zone.
I woke up at 7.30am on Wednesday 29th September and had cornflakes for breakfast. Captain Caveman sent me messages saying I am confirmed fully vaccinated on the Vietnamese app now, but of course the app doesn’t work in Turkey so no matter what I tried I can’t access the details, which will include a QR code and a batch number for each jab. The good news was that Vietnam will recognise vaccinations from Turkey and UK now so if I could get 2 more vaccines that would be good. Captain Caveman also informed me that in the week since I had left Vietnam there still hadn’t been any positive cases in our village, Khuong Ha. Captain Caveman and I discussed making some alterations to the kitchen in the Dalyan apartment so I sent him some photos so he could give it some thought for ideas. I also sent him photos of the pergola that I think we need to get replaced, another thing I added to my list to find out more about. I did lots more washing up, lots of things in cupboards were still dirty and I decided to make a chicken curry in the slow cooker. At 11am I went over to my parents’ place to meet the gardener for the key, and to check the apartment. I checked the place out which, apart from being a bit dusty, was fine and took loads of photos to send to my mom. Next I walked home the long way round so I could call at the bakery. I walked past a house where Jimmy, the dog, used to be in the garden but he wasn’t there and neither was the kennel or fence. I bought a loaf and 2 simits at the bakery which came to 7 lira (70p) and went home to add cheese and olives to my purchases for lunch.
In the afternoon I had been invited to Casablanca hotel by Maddie for food, drinks and live music from Onur. In attendance were the usual suspects; Jamie, Ann, Jax, Sarah, Süleyman, Annie, Peter, Maddie, Angela and Nick plus there were a few other people including Hannah and a bloke called Adam wearing a Vietnam T-Shirt! I had a few beers, 2 plates of food, listened to some great tunes and had a full tour of the lovely hotel. It was a really civilised afternoon, the staff are great, the food was a delicious Turkish spread which we helped ourselves to – I even ran out of plate by the time I got to the home made chips. Jamie ‘insisted’ on us all having a Mr G cocktail, which I must admit are somewhat moreish and that’s when normality kicked back in.
A few of us decided to go in to town for more drinks at Aşkin’s bar, so I nipped home to turn off my curry, Annie and Jamie went to get a shower but me, Ann and Jax went as we were, thinking we were just going for one! Of course it turned in to one of those nights, drinking until 10.30pm, even having a glass of wine and some terrible cheese at Sofra bar with Rebecca, her mom and Jamie’s neighbours. We couldn’t work out if Peter was wearing a pink or orange shirt but we did a test at the clothes shops on the main shopping street, we decided he was wearing coral! It was a good night and I slept well!
The sunrise was at 7.20am on Tuesday 28th September and I took a photo out of my bedroom window to send to Captain Caveman, he sent one back and told me he was off round to Stu’s house today. I decided to scrub more of the kitchen stuff and ended up throwing away one of the pans that had the old oil in it, it was like jelly and glue mixed together and it was taking ages to even loosen up, it must have been in the oven, wedged in to a baking tray with 2 oven gloves, since the last customer stayed here in 2020. For breakfast I had hummus, salad and olives and by 10.30am some of my draining board Jenga had collapsed on account of us having a very small earthquake, a couple of pieces of the worktop fell off!
I got the slow cooker out and made bolognese, which made good use of some of the 2 year old Dikmen wine and smelled so good. Our Aussie friends, and owners of the apartment downstairs, who are still locked down in Australia, asked me to take photos of their plants to see if they had survived, they were missing Dalyan and couldn’t wait to be able to visit again. I went to get more shopping and had seen a new shop advertising Vegan cheese on Facebook so decided to have a look in there too.
Here’s what I bought in each of the 3 shops I went to, and the prices:
Şevikoğlu supermarket Potatoes 2.88 Aubergines 4.96 Red cabbage 5.27 1 tin of tomatoes 7.90
Total 21.01lira (£1.78)
Dalyan şarküteri 1 tub of black olives 1 tin of coconut milk 1 Lurpak butter 1 vegan cheese 1 cheddar cheese 1 Sharwood’s sauce
I’m not sure of the individual prices but the total was 267 lira (£22.63), it was so expensive because I was buying imported products, but it’s a very nice shop.
I had finally got a Turkish phone number now and I arranged to pick up the keys for my parents place, later in the week so I could check on it for them. We were still hoping they would be able to come out to Turkey to visit this year so I was keeping my fingers crossed. My mom had said she might be able to bring me some bras and my UK bank card if they came out and I hoped she had room for my popcorn maker too – you can buy ready made popcorn here but it’s made with oil so it is fattening. For dinner I had some of the Bolognese with pasta and it was so good, some went in the fridge and the rest in the freezer, I watched more of The Fall on Netflix before bed as I needed another early night – tomorrow it would be 1 week since I arrived in Dalyan and I had exciting plans.
I woke up early on Monday 27th September but went back to sleep, it had been 1 week since I had woken up in bed with Captain Caveman, but it already felt longer and we had hardly spoken in that time. Having eaten loads of things that I probably shouldn’t, on the boat trip yesterday, my stomach was playing up and so I didn’t dare leave the house to do some of the things on my to do list. I had cornflakes and milk for breakfast then crisps and cherry juice for lunch and I was putting off having the allergy test in case I found out I was allergic to something worse than gluten or dairy – what if it was wine!? I did some laundry, washed some pots that had been left in the oven by some guests, for a long time, with oil in (nice!) and I unpacked more of my stuff. I took photos of our pergola and overgrown bougainvillea plant which was desperately ready for a cut and I was glad that King Emlak were sending the gardener round. It looked like some residents in grounds and shops near to our gate were using the space as a dumping ground for their rubbish instead of walking it to the nearby bin – why are people so thoughtless when it comes to litter!?
In the afternoon I managed a trip to the supermarket, the phone shop and the bank. Here’s what was in my shopping basket and the prices:
Migros Supermarket Onions 1.21 Garlic 4.74 Quark 5.50 Toast loaf 6.45 Pasta 6.75 Hummus 7.95 Tomato paste 9.95 Mushrooms 10.90 1 tin of baked beans 14.44 3 chicken breasts 23.73 500g beef mince 25.60 Toilet paper 42.75
Total spent 159.89 lira (£13.55)
My Turkcell SIM card cost just 190 lira (£16) and came with data and minutes, not quite as cheap as in Vietnam but it would do the trick for me to be able to use internet banking again. When I got back the gardener was still working on the garden, even the rosemary and orange trees had been growing a lot more than I had anticipated and it was clear we would need to do something about the pergola which was in a state of disrepair and had a cat sleeping in it. I finally got to speak to Captain Caveman who was doing well and wasn’t missing me yet. By the evening I was feeling a bit better so I went to Pammukale restaurant and picked up a takeaway pide and side salad. It is one of my old favourites and the quality is consistently good, my parents have been visiting this restaurant for years and we all love it. My pide was really tasty and I was going to save half, but (obviously) I didn’t.
I had an amazing day on Sunday 26th September; on the first night I had arrived I’d been invited to join friends on a day out. The boat trip was with Captain Boris Boats and they are really good, my last trip with them was a boxing day one which I thoroughly enjoyed and their food is always outstanding. The owners are such a good laugh as well as being extremely accommodating. Sarah came to call for me on her new tricycle with 2 giddy dogs and I checked if she realised we were going on a boat. She was going to leave her bike by the river and the dogs would make their way home, apparently. There was quite a party of us, the organiser wasn’t feeling too well but was determined to soldier on, another lady doesn’t like boats and was a bit unsure about going but was there, most of the rest were people I’d already met up with in the few days I’d been in Dalyan. Jamie was hungover as he’d been up drinking until 6.30am but he was still the first to get an alcoholic drink. There was an issue with the white wine so I had a rosé with Jax and Captain Boris made arrangements for a prompt restock of the white for our lunch. Once we stopped at Köyceğiz lake Nick and Annie bravely had a dip in the cold water, but I didn’t go for a swim – it felt a bit too chilly compared to the Vietnamese temperatures, even though it was a hot, sunny day. After the lake Captain Boris was having a quick wine pick up in Dalyan and then on to the area at the back of the beach for our lunch and an optional dip. More white wine was delivered but we lost one of the party as the lady who didn’t have her sea legs on got off, the rest of us stayed on and went to the beach. I enjoyed a white with soda water while I caught a bit of sun on the comfy seats at the front of the boat and admired the gorgeous scenery along the river. The buffet lunch was fantastic, there was lots of different dishes including chicken, köfte, prawns, salads and mezzes that were so delicious that I had to have more than one helping! More booze flowed for most of us, I’d moved on to the red wine, followed by some music from Onur, who had brought his guitar and is a great singer. In memory of Graeme, Jamie’s husband, we all were treated to a cocktail called Mr G and it went down well on the front of the boat with the sun shining. The day had gone so fast and had been such a relaxing trip, my first on a Dalyan boat in 1 year and 9 months. When we got back a few of us decided to have a nice cocktail in the Rum Bar, where I bumped into my next door neighbours, who’d just arrived in Dalyan. That night I didn’t need any dinner that evening, I started watching Series 3 of The Fall on Netflix but I was having trouble staying awake.
Saturday 25th September was meant to be a quiet day and trying to get back on track with healthy eating again, but that didn’t pan out. For breakfast I had Turkish cornflakes with fresh milk (wasn’t ill) and really enjoyed them. I read the Vietnamese news out of habit, did some blogging and relaxed a bit, time seemed to be going by so quickly already. Back in Saigon, Vietnam, they had decided to make the gap between 1st and 2nd Astra Zeneca vaccines, only 6 weeks, here’s the article: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210924/ho-chi-minh-city-cuts-astrazeneca-vaccine-dose-gap-to-six-weeks/63261.html For lunch I had the leftover chicken kebab and flat bread, from yesterday’s lunch at Lukka bar, and added a few olives, I also had some cherry juice which is one of my favourites. In our booze cupboard we still had 2 bottles of wine so I decided to open the one called Dikmen to have with a bag of crisps (I still had them from Vietnam), salami and cheese. The wine was probably best kept for cooking, it must have been bad as I could only manage a small glass of it. I went to the bank as I needed to get more cash out and have my bank books updated and, this was the only place I have noticed it so far, you have to show your HES code to enter the building. Masks must be worn and they are quite strict about the lay out and social distancing. Jamie had been in touch about his 15 minutes of fame, he’d been part of a TV show where he’d had to speak about British tourists coming to Turkey, it was going to be on TV tonight so he’d invited us to Lukka bar to watch it. When I arrived Jamie, Sarah and Jax were already having a drink, I ordered a red wine and we all ordered food; Sarah had a nicoise salad, Jax and Jamie had pasta arrabiata, while I had a rather delicious garlic mushroom and salami pizza. I really enjoyed my pizza, I forgot to save half and ate the whole thing but then I was flagging and couldn’t even manage another red wine. Jamie’s bit of filming never appeared and so I left those 3 having another drink because my body clock thought it was already past midnight and tomorrow we had a bit of excitement to look forward to.
When I was in Phong Nha, Friday night was all you can eat pizza night, now that I’m in Dalyan, Friday is fish and chip night. On Friday 24th September I had pre-ordered my fish and chips at Lukka Bar, local restaurant/bars not far away from our apartment. I was very excited to be having fish and chips, having not been to the UK for 3 years, it would probably be one of the English meals I do miss from back home, even though I had eaten it a few times in Vietnam. When I woke up Captain Caveman had sent me a video of the rain where he was and it didn’t look good, potential flooding was still possible and he wasn’t going anywhere. I also kept checking the Vietnamese Corona data to see if there was any increase in cases in our village, as Bich had been told by the policeman. Interestingly, there were still no cases reported in Khuong Ha, like last time and they never increased the lockdown the day after I left, as Captain Caveman and I had suspected. This was not the first time we had been told there were positive cases near us and then it turned out not to be the case. Captain Caveman and I think that when a person is suspected of being positive and goes for testing they are assumed positive regardless and the gossip goes round that they are, when they come back negative nobody is shouting about it – very misleading and causes unnecessary panic. In Dalyan it was sunny as I headed off to the Millennium Shop to buy a battery for my scales, on the way I noticed the new pergola at the entrance to Block A on our complex, it looked nice. There were 2 new places behind Jiks Bar; a coffee roasting cafe and a pet shop, I got 2 batteries for 15 lira (£1.27) and then walked to Migros, one of the main high street supermarkets, where I bought quite a bit of stuff.
For those of you who want to know what was in my shopping basket that morning and the costs of the items, here it is:
Migros Supermarket 2 simits 2.25 Washing up sponges 4.95 1 packet of salami 6.85 1 litre of cherry juice 7.95 Cornflakes 7.95 2 packets of biscuits 8.00 1 packet of cheese slices 8.50 200g of butter 8.50 1 litre of milk 9.25 2 croissants 9.80 Bin bags 9.90 Mouthwash 15.21 Ziplock bags 15.50 Toothpaste 17.95 3 liquid soaps 39.36
Total spent 204.92 lira (£17.37)
I noticed that people were wearing masks in the shop but not social distancing at all. At the check out I was surprised to see my loyalty card still worked and I was pleased as I got a 3 for 2 deal on soap. It wasn’t an average weekly shop though as there were quite a few things that I would only shop for every now and again and I couldn’t carry all that I needed to in one go. Back home I noticed the pergola to Block B (our’s) was leaning under the weight of the extremely overgrown bougainvillea plant and I had a little sit down as my ankle was hurting, I was definitely finding the walking about slow and a bit painful, but I was doing ok with the 2 sets of marble stairs at home. I was excited to have a battery in my weighing scales and was looking forward to seeing how much weight I had lost. I checked it 3 times, just to be sure, but I wasn’t happy – I was the same weight as when I left Turkey 20 months ago! I could tell it was from eating so much bread recently, which was not good at all. I still had a huge breakfast of 2 croissants, 1 simit, and a bowl of Turkish brand cornflakes with normal milk as I was feeling hungry, none of this made me ill.
For lunch I met Jamie at Lukka Bar where he had 2 starters, nachos and chicken strips, which were huge portions and I had my first Turkish restaurant meal, a chicken shish, which was also massive and I took half home for tomorrow. There’s a new shop next door to Lukka Bar, it’s Katrina’s shop and has some really nice items in there – it also smells divine! Maizie Moo has quite an upmarket, luxurious feel to it and looks really nice, I even got some free samples to try as well as having a good old sniff at all the scents. My eczema on my face had been made worse by the wearing of a mask for 48 hours and so Katrina recommended a skin treatment which I started straight away (here’s the Facebook page for her new shop: https://www.facebook.com/maiziemoohomescents/). After having lunch and a mooch round Maizie Moo’s we were sensible and went home, 2 years ago we would have been on an all day and night session but we needed to take it easy as we had booked for tonight not fully realising what we had let ourselves in for!
Not only was it fish and chips night but it was also Lukka’s Bingo night, this week was a 90s theme. Sarah had organised it and had booked a table for 8 of us. Jamie ordered Hunters chicken and chips, while the rest of us had fish and chips, mine with plenty of vinegar. It was good but took a while to be served as the place was full and so we were all a bit tiddly by the time the 90s bingo started. My fish and chips plus the red wines came to a total of 127 lira (£10.76) and I definitely got a large portion. Süleyman arrived later and sat on the end of the table, next to me and Jamie, ordered a burger and we ended up having a right old laugh. There was lots of photo and video taking (by other people) and so we gave it our all on the singing, mainly because it had been such a long time since we’d all got together and we were having a great time. I’m not a massive bingo fan but the games were well planned and Mehmet was so amusing as he was reading out the songs! Here’s a video of bingo at Lukka bar: https://www.facebook.com/338112536849107/posts/857332751593747/ One thing I had noticed about being back in Turkey was the amount of people still smoking and I found it hard to deal with, especially as I’d not encountered many smokers together in Vietnam, so when the bingo finished I went home, reeking of fags – I was definitely going to get through more hair products in Dalyan if I had to wash my hair more often!
I woke up before 7am on Thursday 23rd September, expecting it to be almost lunchtime. My watch said 10.45am but that was still on Vietnamese time which is 4 hours ahead of Turkey. I had slept well but was still tired and hungry again. I had more of the provisions from Leanne for my breakfast, adding the şakşuka/baba ganoush that I’d brought from the plane which had leaked a bit, then made a list of all the things I needed to do. One of my first jobs was working out which keys are for what and checking all the stuff I packed away in locked cupboards, just over 20 months ago, surprisingly it was still ok. I also started a shopping list as I would need more stuff and I needed a new battery for the bathroom scales ready to see how much I weighed, I didn’t have any scales in Phong Nha. I was slightly concerned that I had been near to more people last night than I have in months, in Vietnam. Today I would try to have a quiet day, I got busy with unpacking and doing some laundry. I only had some almonds and cashews for lunch (taken from one of my plane journeys). For dinner I decided not to go out to eat, as I was struggling to stay awake past 6pm so I went to the local kebab shop and ordered a chicken kebab and chips. When I got it home I watched more Netflix and ate the delicious chicken wrap, I didn’t really need the chips. It would be interesting to see what the scales said tomorrow as I definitely felt like I was lighter than when I was last here so we would see – being back in Turkey with so many eateries and bars open was going to be hard though, the diet would be almost impossible with so much food choice here.
Here’s my shopping from Leanne which was very kindly popped in the fridge for when I arrived (prices in Turkish Lira and is about 11.8 lira to £1):
From Migros supermarket 1 carrier bag 0.25 1 apple 1.34 3 cucumbers 1.93 1 pear 2.29 1 bottle of water 3.25 1 pack of chicken slices 3.95 Tomatoes 5.02 Bread 5.50 1 pack of gluten free biscuits 5.95 1 pack of cheese spread 6.25 1 pack of salami 6.85 1 pack cheddar slices 8.50 Olives 8.79 6 eggs 9.00
Total spent 68.87 (£5.84)
Some things were cheaper than in Vietnam, but overall a little more expensive so I would need to budget well, given that I was expecting to be here for a while. I congratulated myself on managing to have a fairly tame first full day in Dalyan and wondered how long that would last for.
My 2nd flight, from Singapore to Istanbul on Wednesday 22nd September, was at 1.45am, had no more than 30 people on and only 1 person, that I saw, in business class. I had last slept in a bed on Sunday night and even though I’d had a couple of nodding offs, I still was so tired. We all got a row of 3 seats to ourselves, on the Singapore Airlines flight, with pillow, blankets and plenty of food, drink and snacks. Service was excellent and the 2 red wines I had were very pleasant. I used to look forward to watching a film on a flight but I didn’t find any that looked worth watching or any I had heard of so I had a little nap, at last! Before we landed I checked with staff on the flight from Singapore about my luggage and they also said I had to clear immigration and pick up the luggage at Istanbul, before getting the domestic flight. We landed 30 minutes late because of a dead carcass on the runway and couldn’t disembark for another 15 minutes after we stopped, luckily I had booked on the later flight to Dalaman anyway so I wasn’t rushing. Once in Istanbul airport everything was busy and like Covid didn’t exist and it felt quite overwhelming. It seems most people, if they do wear a mask, only cover their mouth and there is no adherence to social distancing whatsoever. There was even a train that had that annoying Baby Shark song on a loop while transporting families up and down the terminal, which I really could have done without. As advised by check-in back in Hanoi I tried to collect my luggage but was told it had been booked all the way through, which is what Captain Caveman and I had thought would happen. It was a long walk to the domestic transfer, I was slow, my ankle was giving me some gyp and when I got there they asked me if I had collected my luggage and rechecked in. I left not knowing whether my suitcase would be there or not. I decided to book the Turkish Airlines lounge for $18 and had snacks and soft drinks, water, tea/coffee. I tried to get a wine, not realising it was only the morning and that they didn’t even do alcohol but got directed to the tea and coffee facilities by a kind member of staff. The social distancing was better, signs saying if you touch it you take it on the food, toilets good and you get straight to the gate without any hassle. My last flight, Istanbul to Dalaman, was very full and, although when the flight attendants gave a meal and drink out they asked people to not take masks off everyone at once, they did. I didn’t eat or drink and took my picnic in my bag to have later. When I landed at my final destination, Dalaman, there was no luggage but a helpful member of staff came to find me and asked me to follow him through a door to international arrivals to check if this was my case, and it was – that was fortuitous! I walked outside and my driver was waiting for me with a sign with my name on, the air was hot, sunny and dry as we walked to Sonuç’s car. I was looking forward to getting ‘home’, after 48 hours in my mask, letting everyone know I had arrived and getting some much needed sleep!
The driver helped me with my luggage up the stairs to Captain Caveman’s apartment in Dalyan and the fare cost me 240 Turkish Lira (approx £20), apparently it’s cheaper to get a taxi at the airport but I knew if I didn’t have enough cash on me I could pay later. I was looking forward to getting in, letting Captain Caveman know I’d arrived, having a shower and bed, even though it was only the afternoon! Unfortunately, none of those things were about to happen in the short term. My friend, Leanne, had got me a welcome pack of provisions in and popped on the AC so it was a pleasant welcome back and I had some cold water to drink. Of course, my Vietnamese phone stopped working as soon I left Vietnam and I didn’t yet have a Turkish SIM card to replace it, I’ve not been in the UK for 3 years and so I no longer have my other phone number either. I was hoping the internet would be on but unfortunately it wasn’t working and I promised I would let Captain Caveman know when I arrived ‘home’. If I went to bed I would probably sleep for a long time and so I chose to rectify the internet situation first. I decided to go to a nearby empty bar where I could use their internet to contact Leanne to find out more about the internet, I walked to Heybe which is a short distance from our apartment and as I approached I noticed a couple of people I recognised, Angela and Nick, who saw me as I spotted them. I was masked up but of course no one else was and it turns out masks aren’t compulsory in Dalyan. I told them my issue and we got the WiFi password, Leanne had already been trying to get in touch to tell me she couldn’t connect the internet without my phone number and a physical look at my passport and that I needed to go to Captainnet office before 6pm. I messaged Captain Caveman to tell him I arrived and to confess that I was accidentally already in a bar, now with a cold Efes beer in front of me, courtesy of Nick. Before I had drank 1 beer I had also met the owner of the bar, Donny, a singer called Onur, the owner of a new restaurant and had the pleasure to witness a gang of shirtless lads from Dublin who had just arrived for a holiday! I went back home to get some money and my passport, then walked all the way to the other side of Dalyan town to update the internet. While in there the staff wore masks but the Turkish customers sat drinking coffee so had their masks down under their chin. On the walk back my ankle was feeling sore and was very swelled up, I also noticed the local police all had their masks under their chin or worn as an armband on their elbow – maybe it was a new fashion! As I got back to Heybe’s Maddie had finished work and had come to join everyone, surprised to see me, so I had another beer and agreed to go get a burger for dinner with everyone, from a new (to me) place called Wonky’s. I went for a bacon burger but it came without the bacon and I forgot to ask for it without the sauce, which had chillies in. Even after avoiding the sauce, we all discovered the burgers had chillies in, they were good but I’m allergic to chillies so I didn’t eat it all. Onur had chosen a really good mixed pizza and I had a slice of that too, I enjoyed it. While in there, a few people I knew came over to me asking why I had my mask on and telling me they can’t catch it because they have been double jabbed. Another friend said there was no need for me to have my mask on as it’s safe here! I was in shock to meet some people who think they can’t catch the virus and spread it if they’ve had the vaccine. I was genuinely worried that I should be trying to keep away from people until but it was a bit difficult to do, the town felt very busy to me, compared with Phong Nha, Vietnam. My friend Jamie arrived and we had a glass of wine before heading off to Lukka for a quiet wine there where we started planning stuff, it felt so good to see him after all this time and to actually be able to plan ahead a bit. I finally got back home, the internet was working, I had a 2nd dinner and watched an episode of Sex Education before bed. It had been a very long day and I was ready to have an extra long lay in tomorrow!
Having managed to escape from Khuong Ha last night on the cusp of what we were lead to believe was going to be another severe lockdown, my 12 hour car journey to Hanoi airport wasn’t as bad as I expected. Tuesday 21st September started with us getting through another checkpoint, Danny was great, friendly but professional and any fears about being a woman on her own in a car with a driver I’d never met were short-lived. He’d been recommended by Ben at Phong Nha Farmstay so I was happy he would be trustworthy and he drove very safely. I was glad to have my neck pillow from Uy and Chung but it made me feel sad that I’d not been able to say goodbye to my friends, I managed to drift off to sleep for an hour but woke up needing a pee, our next toilet stop was a western style toilet and even had water and soap. Colin, who had left last month, had told me that they weren’t allowed to stop at services to use the toilets on the journey north to Hanoi. Of course you are, I think I used 3 or 4 services facilities on the way and I never saw anyone else and all were useable. The rest of the checkpoints went smoothly and I didn’t need an Embassy letter or any documents that supported letting foreigners leave the country. There was only one occasion where the checkpoint staff came to the car to look at me, but didn’t ask me anything. The most difficult checkpoint was the last one, nearest to the airport and, because we were coming from a potential locked down province to a less strict one, they scrutinised all our paperwork. Danny was a bit cheesed off when he could have used his expired PCR test as they only went by dates at this checkpoint, not the number of hours like everyone else had. I arrived at Noi Bai airport just as Hanoi had gone to a less restrictive Directive 15, just after 7.30am, Danny and I had a photo before saying our goodbyes. The airport wasn’t busy, less than 50 people there at any one time, I had already been given some advice for the airport so I went straight to Desk D where there is a charging station for phones and I logged in to the free WiFi which was working quite well. I ate some of my packed lunch (jam sandwiches and green tea had never tasted so good), the AC was on, the suitcase wrapping man had a small queue and there were girls coming round to ask if you needed money changing. These girls also had a chat and told me to keep my food and drink when going through security as there is nothing once you are airside – this was invaluable advice, and I gave them both one of my Fox’s Glacier mints. At the check-in desk it got a bit stressful; I was the first to check in for my Singapore Airlines flight to Turkey, which only opened 2hrs 15 mins before the flight. I had all my documents at the ready, including on my phone the Turkish entry form and onward flight out of Turkey. They checked all documents very thoroughly and asked me why I was going to Turkey. They only weighed my hold luggage, which was under weight, allowed me to take a carry on case and a bag for under the seat but didn’t check the weight. They did ask what I had in the second bag (mainly food, drinks, a towel and a pillow) they told me I would not be allowed to take the 4 drinks through security but sandwiches were ok. He also told me my luggage would not go to my final destination and that I had to collect it in Istanbul and recheck it in. Just as I thought all was completed, he asked for my proof of quarantine hotel on arrival in Turkey – this was not expected and totally threw me off guard. Turkey permits entry, whether vaccinated or not, to all with a negative PCR test except for a small number of countries (not applicable in my situation). I knew I had the proof of requirements on a screen shot or link somewhere and as I was taking too long to find it, he had got the manager and their huge rule book out and was insistent paid hotel quarantine was required and gave me the list of hotels (none where I was going), to book one, presumably!? I stayed calm and asked the manager to double check, an English man in the business class queue was also having issues and had started to shout at the staff a bit so I knew that wouldn’t help. I asked the check-in staff what are their rules if vaccinated and he said you don’t need to quarantine if double vaccinated more than 14 days ago. At that point I stalled him with a paper copy of my vaccinations but my 2nd vaccination was only 2 days ago so he didn’t know what the rules were. That helped me find the link to the Turkish entry rules and I was allowed to proceed, I have no idea why they have the wrong information but if you weren’t certain that they were wrong, they were convincing and I could have been denied the flight or forced to pay for a quarantine hotel I didn’t need. Due to the Covid restrictions the check-in staff are not from the airlines, they are limited Vietnamese staff who are doing the check-in for all international flights and they are finding it hard to keep up with the new information, they get confused and don’t want to be challenged but I found out if you can calmly ask why the information on the official sites say differently and can they check again, they will do. Luckily, I am used to flying, knew all the rules, had all my documents in order and was the first in the queue but it definitely caught me off guard a bit!
Going through security at Hanoi airport on Tuesday 21st September, there was just me and they allowed all drinks and food. It was quick and easy, I didn’t even need to take jewellery or shoes off or take liquids out of my bag. My first job was to find the tax refund and cash exchange office to change my emergency Dong in to Dollars so that I could buy my Corona Insurance at Istanbul airport, I’d not changed it earlier in case I got denied and had to get a taxi to do another PCR test for a flight another day. The AC was much cooler at the gate and there was lots of space to spread out and have my 2nd breakfast of a crisp sandwich and more iced green tea. Just before midday I boarded the plane from Hanoi to Singapore, the plane was massive but only had about 12 people on, in fact there were more staff than passengers. I got a nice row to myself with space in front of me to stretch out and before they had even shut the doors I had been asked if I’d like an alcoholic beverage! On arrival at Singapore the ‘ushers’ organised us according to our connecting flights and marched us single file to the transit holding area. We got a green wrist band and were shown to a small area, some passengers didn’t know about this, were annoyed and the staff got a bit shitty. I approached one member of staff and asked about WiFi, food, where we could sit and when we would get picked back up etc. She was polite and informative, the staff seem generally stressed, though. I had a 8.5hr lay over in the transit area, which was obviously boring, the lounges were for business class only and you can get a hotel for a minimum of 6 hours, I wish I had the spare money to do that but I coped well without sleep. I watched Netflix, I finished reading my book and left it for someone else to read and I ate some peanut butter sandwiches and crisps. The walk to the next terminal was hard work and the usher went without me as I couldn’t keep up, luckily I had the Singapore Airlines app to tell me which gate to go to so I didn’t mind and just took it steady as it was a long way. Security at the gate in Singapore is lengthy, absolutely no drinks to be taken through but food is ok. Also you could only go to the toilet in the transit area, a child on our plane wanted to go at the gate but there were no toilets, they had to wait until on the plane, which would be after midnight.
It was a very long day on Monday 20th September, which started with my alarm going off at 5.30am. My driver, T, was due to pick me up at 6.15am but he arrived at 6am and I wasn’t ready. When I got to the car at 6.15am T had gone to help one of the staff move something heavy and then we had to go to Duyet’s house, around the corner, to collect a pig to take to Khanh’s in Dong Hoi. I watched as the butchered and bagged up pig was transported less than 20 metres by motorbike by Duyet’s dad, in to the back of our van. I knew we were going to be late for my important PCR test as we pulled in to the petrol station to fill up. We arrived at Medlatec in Dong Hoi 12 minutes late and I incorrectly went up the slippy wet steps to the main reception only to have to come back down them, turn left and in to the loading bay area where a PCR testing facility had been set up. There was just 1 other customer there and about 4 staff and I was given a form, this one was in English, to complete all my details. I decided to ask for a rapid test and the RT-PCR test so that if there was any errors with the RT-PCR certificate I would still be able to travel to Hanoi and get another RT-PCR test there. Although 1 nostril hurt more than the other, this time the pain wore off much easier than the previous couple of times I’d been sampled. I was moved to a waiting area and told to wait 20 minutes for the rapid test result. I checked the Corona numbers and the news as well as reading an email from Singapore Airlines, reminding me I could check in for my flight! I didn’t, as I still didn’t know if I would be actually getting on the flight. The news in Vietnam had an article of some crazy stuff going on now, check this out: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210919/vietnamese-teacher-purposely-receives-two-covid19-vaccine-shots-within-10-minutes/63171.html The technician came over to say there was a problem with my rapid test and I had to wait a little longer, this was the first hurdle of the day. She showed me that my result was negative on a plastic testing device but said she couldn’t get the computer to send the paper document with this on, someone was trying to fix it. This was worrying because my RT-PCR test result needed to be printed at 5pm today and I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. Less than 10 minutes later it was fixed and I got my certificate in a nice envelope and was told I could collect the RT-PCR test certificate at 5pm. I introduced T and told them he would pick it up, I also advised that they needed to put my full birthdate, not just the year, on the print out, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fly.
The next of the morning’s activities, having got my negative rapid test results from Medlatec, was supermarket shopping. T dropped me off at the Vincom centre which was still closed but the VinMart Supermarket was open. It was a strange feeling doing the ‘essential’ weekly shop not knowing if I would be in Vietnam or Turkey in the next few days but I hoped after all this hassle, that Captain Caveman would have all the provisions to himself.
For all of you who have missed a list of my shopping items, here’s what I bought;
1 baguette 9,500 Baby wipes 10,000 Green beans 15,057 Potatoes 20,417 Sandwich loaf 21,000 Ziplock bags 23,000 Carrots 23,616 Red cabbage 33,085 Mushrooms 33,900 Cherry tomatoes 35,108 Onions 36,476 1 tin of mints 46,100 Sunflower oil 57,000 Mouthwash 58,000 Spaghetti 61,000 1 jar of jam 138,000 1.5kg chicken 143,700 500g of butter 161,400
Total spent: 926,359vnd (£29.68)
I was looking forward to seeing how much a comparable shop would be in Dalyan, I suspected it would be more expensive.
As I was leaving at 8.40am the main escalators were still not on so I decided to take my shopping and trolley down in the lift, it was only 1 floor and I intended to leave from the side exit to go to the car. When the lift got down I found the door was locked and I tried to recall the lift but it would only open from the main shopping centre side. I was wondering how on earth I was going to get out when the security guard came to rescue me – if I couldn’t get out of a building without a hitch, things weren’t looking too promising for my attempt to leave the country!
I was on my way back from Dong Hoi on when I got a message from Danny, the driver, he had to get another PCR test, as his would run out at midnight tonight, and he was 150km away from where he needed to pick me up. He said he couldn’t get his results until 4pm and he would be arriving about 6.45-7pm, later than expected. That was fine by me as my results weren’t getting picked up until 5pm in Dong Hoi so it did mean I might have time to eat and say some goodbyes. When I got home Captain Caveman was once again in the kitchen making me a nice breakfast, this time with baked beans. Stu was on his way over to say bye and I had a shower and packed a few last minute things in to my hand luggage. I just happened to look outside and saw a policeman so I told Captain Caveman that maybe he should delay Stu until he’d gone, as we were still in Directive 15 and shouldn’t be having visitors. Before midday I got a call from Bich to tell us the reason for the police visit; apparently there had been some positive Corona cases 500m from our house and so he was letting us know, and telling everyone in the area, not to leave the house. Bich advised that I couldn’t go anywhere and I was gutted but Captain Caveman said we would still go ahead with the plan for me to leave and if I got stopped then so be it. We spoke to Stu to tell him not to come and that I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we decided against me inviting anyone else over or me going to say bye to friends. Regardless, I made packed lunches and packed frozen bottles of green tea in to a cooler bag, in readiness for a journey that might not happen. We decided to watch Sex Education on Netflix and have some red wine while leftover beef stew was on the cards for my last meal. Because of the cases Bich told us about we were probably going back in to Directive 16 tomorrow and so it was a bit concerning whether I should have permission to leave, if we asked it was likely the People’s Committee could say no, so we didn’t. By 4pm we were almost finishing the wine so we decided to have an early dinner, which we had with rice and it was delicious. Danny had his results and was on his way, the rain had started to become heavy and I was a bit anxious if T would manage to collect my PCR test result as requested – more importantly, would it be correct!?
The final part of the day was pretty stressful! We’d already been told by Bich that the police had informed everyone to stay where they are and that there were positive Corona cases very near to our place which meant we had no idea what would happen when Danny came to pick me up. Captain Caveman and I decided I should still try to leave because tomorrow we would be in no better position and we didn’t know for how long that could remain, plus the forecasted wet weather could also impede my attempts somewhat. There was also the fact that Danny, the driver, was on his way and he would charge another 7 million vnd (£250) regardless of whether I made it to Hanoi airport with him or not – I felt like it was now or never. The evening before, Ben and Bich had mentioned that Danny wanted to pick up 2 bicycles from previous customers that had been left at the Phong Nha Farmstay but I had decided to disregard the details of that, I just needed to get out and not worry about other people’s stuff, plus I’d had 1 too many glasses of fizz. At 4.30pm I got a couple of messages from T, who was already at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, followed by a phone call to tell me to look at the photo of my PCR test result certificate to check it is ok for him to bring back to me. It didn’t have my nationality on it, which I was concerned about, but it didn’t say I was Vietnamese either, Captain Caveman helped me check it and we thought it would be ok, my full date of birth and the dates all matched – T was on his way and I had sent a copy to Danny. This was it, I was going! Captain Caveman weighed my suitcase and it was 22kg. My hand luggage was about 8kg, bang on the allowance. When T arrived he had the PCR test paper in his hand, in the rain, no envelope or in a pocket, but at least it was here and I could use it to get on a plane tomorrow. At 7.15pm in the middle of a rain storm Danny messaged to say he was here, we looked outside and he wasn’t. Danny was at the triangle junction off the main road but near to the Phong Nha Farmstay – not walkable with my ankle, the suitcases and the rain. I called Bich, she explained that she didn’t know what was happening with the pick up location but earlier she had sent T back to deliver a bicycle to Elements (so the bike was at our place too), she asked me to put Duyet on the phone. Duyet would have to drive me, my luggage and 1 random bicycle, to where Danny was, which meant Captain Caveman couldn’t say a private goodbye to me at the car or help with my luggage. Duyet, Cuong and Captain Caveman were all struggling to get the bike in the van while I sat there trying not to cry. It was not quite the farewell I had in mind and I only got to quickly kiss Captain Caveman and have a very brief hug, despite not knowing when I would see him again. The bike had to go in with the wheels on as no one could remove them and when we got to the barrier we had to stop. I didn’t have any permission slip from the People’s Committee, neither did Duyet, and I have no idea what Duyet told the man but they let us through – I was so relieved and had tears running down my face as I waved bye to the man. A few minutes later we got to the next road where Danny was, there was no barrier so we quickly transferred my suitcases in to Danny’s car in the rain. Then Duyet and Danny faffed about for a while trying to get the bicycle apart and in to the car. They managed it eventually but it did mean I didn’t have the whole back seat to spread out on and was sat behind the driver’s seat in a car with mosquitos trying to avoid the rain. I tried not to dwell on the oil and cobwebs on my luggage and near my head as I got back out in the pouring rain to give Duyet a hug, this was not actually allowed but we didn’t care! I had finally left the village and we were on our way to our first checkpoint, 3 hours later we had successfully made it through the 1st checkpoint without me having to get out of the car and feeling happy I had my documents in a plastic wallet. By 11.10pm we had made it to the first empty services with a squat toilet which I managed fine but, as I was coming out I saw a big momma rat carrying it’s baby. We made each other jump on the wet tiles and she dropped her baby in front of me, it made me think of my mom and how much she would freak out. I kept calm, walked slowly and got back in the car, only 7 or more hours to go until I would get to the airport – it was going to be a long night!