Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

On Thursday 3rd June Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha by bicycle and I had my phone on do not disturb until 8am, hoping for an extra bit of sleep. At 7.45am Veronika was knocking on the door to tell me we were getting picked up for the Phong Nha Farmstay shopping trip in 15 minutes and I’d missed calls from her and Bich. I rushed around to be ready and let Captain Caveman know I was going without him because we were having an earlier than usual trip. The shopping trip participants today consisted of me, Veronika, Bich, Ben, Michael, Howie and the Farmstay receptionist, Maya. By 9.40am we were stopping at our first shop, The Red supermarket, I bought just 3 items and was at the checkout first, followed by Mai, then Veronika. The organic shop was next where I grabbed radishes and green beans. At gone 10am we were at the VinMart and by 10.40am I had done all my shopping and had quite a few bags, I did notice that some usual items were out of stock though. We sat in the cool Aircon of the Vinpearl hotel foyer and waited for Ben to finish a meeting while his eldest son walked around reception in a Trump supporter hat. I had an expensive Pepsi at 50,000vnd (£1.55) while we waited and then it was time for lunch at Geminai. I wasn’t very lucky today and although I ordered first and went for a tofu in plum sauce, I was told a while after they had no tofu so I asked for beef fried rice instead. At 12.20 I was still waiting and most people had almost eaten their food, there was also a kitchen next to where we were eating and they were burning some oil and chillies which made me, Veronika and Mai cough and our eyes water. While I was eating my food, which tasted nice but just had beef in, no vegetables, I started to get a bad stomach and was ill as soon as I had finished it. Mai mentioned she thought it could be that they had fried the rice in butter and I’d never thought of that – she could be on to something there! 
On the journey home I read in the news that the UK/India mutant variant wasn’t a new variant as Vietnam had initially thought, it is just another version of the Indian variant, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210603/who-rules-out-new-hybrid-covid-variant-in-vietnam-nikkei/61305.html
Corona cases here were continuing to increase quite quickly in this latest 4th wave now and authorities were planning for a worst case scenario.
After I had put all the shopping away I had a couple of gin and pink grapefruits by the pool. We had chicken sandwiches for dinner and had an early night.

As usual I made a list of all my shopping items and their cost in VND. £1 is about 32,300vnd and I got a few bargains this week;

Red Supermarket
1 can of Ginger Ale 32,000
2 bottles of Grapefruit 110,000

An Nong Organic Shop
1 bag of green beans 32,500
1 box of radishes 38,250

VinMart Supermarket
1 chopped pumpkin 6,090
3 aubergines 6,605
1 baguette 9,000
1 bottle of chilli sauce 11,000
1 packet of rice macaroni 12,000
2 cans of diet Coke 19,000
1 dragon fruit 19,632
6 bananas 24,100
1 packet of rice noodles 26,000
10 eggs 27,700
1 packet of mushrooms 35,500
2 cans of Strongbow dark fruits 37,000
1packet of salami 38,300
500g chicken breast fillets 47,900
1 box of toothpicks 52,900
2 packets of M&Ms 70,000

This week I spent just over 620,000vnd (£20) on the shopping and 250,000vnd (£7.75) on a drink and lunch! I didn’t get any of the expensive fruits or wine this week. What items do you cut out when you have a tight budget?

Phong Nha – 1st & 2nd June

Phong Nha – 1st & 2nd June

On Tuesday 1st June Captain Caveman went over to Phong Nha by bicycle and picked up a gluten free cake for me and bread from the Lake House on the way home. Ly Ly at Funny monkeys had made me the cake with sweet potato, honey and nuts, she’s such a good chef so I was looking forward to trying it. While he was gone I ate some gluten free biscuits and peanut butter for breakfast and read the Corona news.
Unfortunately death number 48 was reported:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/963795/elderly-man-dies-of-covid-19-complications.html
It was sad to read about children being parted from their parents for quarantine, like war evacuees:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210602/over-4000-children-stay-at-coronavirus-quarantine-facilities-without-parents-in-vietnam/61288.html
I did a bit of swimming and when Captain Caveman returned I tried some of the gluten free cake which was delicious.

Des, in Danang, updated me that he had set up an online English teaching business, the link is here; https://www.italki.com/i/reft/GFADfA/GFADfA/english?hl=en
In the afternoon we went in the jeep to the Farmstay for a drink and I arranged to send my passport to immigration in Dong Hoi to request the visa extension. I started looking into flight options more seriously because I could have only 9 days left in this country. I also had to weigh up where I would go and via which country I would choose to transit through, as there were no direct flights to England or Turkey available. We stayed at the Farmstay for sunset and had a couple of happy hour drinks while chatting to Steven and his girlfriend who had returned from Hanoi. We didn’t eat at the Farmstay because we were on a budget and I’d already got the prawns out of the freezer for dinner. When we got home I cooked the prawns with onions, garlic, cashew nuts and rice noodles and we had a bottle of red wine between us.

On Wednesday 2nd June Captain Caveman headed over to Phong Nha, I had gluten free cake and a pot of jasmine tea for breakfast while catching up on the Corona news.
There was an interesting article on the consequences of not wearing a mask in public in Vietnam:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210602/maskless-woman-berates-police-at-ho-chi-minh-city-convenience-store/61275.html
Unfortunately death number 49 was reported and plans were made in Saigon to build a makeshift hospital to house 1000 patients if required:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210602/ho-chi-minh-city-plans-to-build-1000bed-makeshift-hospital-to-treat-covid19-patients/61287.html
While Captain Caveman was having coffee with colleagues at Tree House I took a call from Bich to say there would be a shopping trip to Dong Hoi tomorrow and would keep me posted on the arrangements.
When Captain Caveman got back I was already in the pool and the weather was pretty scorching hot! I had a couple of rum and ginger ales, he had gin and tonics and we swam for a bit, before having some crisps.
For dinner Captain Caveman made a lovely meal of chicken, potatoes, courgettes, green beans and carrots which I really enjoyed. Graeme, the gecko, came out to say hello and Captain Caveman met him for the first time.

Going back to Turkey – the pros & cons for me

Going back to Turkey – the pros & cons for me

There are many reasons that, when I have to leave Vietnam, I would look forward to returning to Turkey. I left in January 2020 and if it wasn’t for the Corona situation I would have been back there by now. I made a ‘Pros and Cons’ list (in no particular order) starting with the cons.

– I would need to travel via Istanbul airport.
– I wouldn’t be allowed to work in Turkey.
– I don’t know when I would get to see Captain Caveman again, but there is a chance he could visit Turkey in the winter.
– I can’t go to the UK from Turkey because of the red status.
– Captain Caveman could lose out on more rental income because I am living in the apartment instead of renting out.


+ I might be able to see my parents if they are allowed to visit Turkey.
+ I will be able to see my friends once I’ve been vaccinated fully or had a test and isolated.
+ I can reapply for Turkish residency which lapsed because of the pandemic and me not being able to visit Turkey until now.
+ I might be able to get a vaccine, possibly quicker than I would in Vietnam.
+ I can see a Doctor to have a second opinion on my leg and stock up on medicine.
+ Unlike the UK, I won’t have to do quarantine at a cost when I arrive in Turkey.
+ Flights are not too expensive to Turkey.
+ I have the funds to support myself in Dalyan.
+ I can sort out my banking
+ I have a Turkish health insurance policy.
+ I have a load of clothes (bras included) already in Turkey which means I will have lots of choice and won’t have to take a big case back.
+ The cost of living in Dalyan is similar to Phong Nha, maybe cheaper.
+ I can treat myself to a haircut with Emrah after 18 months away from him.

Going back to the UK – the pros & cons for me

Going back to the UK – the pros & cons for me

There are many reasons that, when I have to leave Vietnam, I would look forward to returning to the UK. It has been almost 3 years since I left and if it wasn’t for the Corona situation I would have visited in the last 18 months for sure. Unfortunately ‘coming back home’ without any plans in the middle of a pandemic with no end in sight might not be the best option for me at this time. I made a ‘Pros and Cons’ list (in no particular order) starting with the cons.

– I will probably have to do self isolation or quarantine at a cost when I arrive in London.
– I would need to travel on public transport to Sheffield without a vaccine and people not wearing masks.
– Flights are expensive and would possibly need to go via Moscow, Doha, Dubai, or Singapore to London.
– I don’t have the funds to support myself and my bank card is about to expire.
– I would need to find a job, which won’t be easy in the current climate.
– I don’t know when I would get to see Captain Caveman again.
– I can’t go to and from Turkey easily, from the UK, because of the red status.
– I have very few clothes or belongings in the UK so would be another expense to consider.
– I have nowhere to live in the UK and don’t want to risk moving in with parents who have rarely left the house since the pandemic, when I could bring the virus to them.
– the cost of living will be too high for me.
– to get fully vaccinated I would need to stay in the same place in England without resources.

+ I might be able to see my parents after 1 year and 8 months apart.
+ I might be able to see my friends in Sheffield after 3 years away.
+ I might be able to see all my other family and friends around the UK.
+ I can re-register at a Doctor’s and get a vaccine.
+ I can see a Doctor to reassess my ever changing allergy issues, have a second opinion on my leg and stock up on medicine.
+ I can sort out my banking and get new cards.
+ I can get a new Driving Licence.
+ I’d be able to go to Marks & Spencer.
+ Bras!! I would be able to buy bras that fit!

Top 10 things to look forward to in Turkey

Top 10 things to look forward to in Turkey

Trying to decide if I would go back to Turkey, if I have to leave Vietnam, I made a list of 10 things I could look forward to if I went back, to Captain Caveman’s apartment, in Dalyan:

• Boat trips
• Fire Opal Apartment
• Hair appointments
• Having access to money
• Having more choice of clothes
• Reapplying for residency
• Still having a pool
• Seeing friends
• The food
• Volunteering

Top 10 things to look forward to in the UK

Top 10 things to look forward to in the UK

Trying to decide if I would go back to the UK, if I have to leave Vietnam, I made a list of 10 things I could look forward to if I went back home, to Sheffield:

• Seeing Family and friends
• Celebrating missed occasions
• Cooler weather
• Renewing my driver’s license
• Sorting out my pensions
• Fish and chips (it’s been 3 years)!
• Being able to change my bank account and get a new card
• Tap water
• Possibly finding a job
• Cake

Phong Nha – 31st May

Phong Nha – 31st May

It was extremely hot on Monday 31st May so I had a very relaxed day. For breakfast I had gluten free biscuits with peanut butter from Ly Ly of Funny Monkeys which were so delicious. The news I read this morning was unsettling as more info on the UK/India mutated variant of Corona was being reported:
https://vietnamtimes.org.vn/how-dangerous-is-new-hybrid-coronavirus-variant-found-in-vietnam-32332.html
Information from various places on Facebook stated that Vietnam was cracking down on illegal workers on tourist visas and unfortunately this included people we knew. 
Captain Caveman’s Son Doong briefing for that night did not go ahead as planned and the tour tomorrow was cancelled, later there was news that all Oxalis tours would be cancelled for 14 days, aside from any customers who were already in Quang Binh province, due to the increase in cases in other provinces.
I started to get messages from friends in England who were really worried about us in Vietnam from the news they were hearing, which was very interesting because it had been a while since the UK had such low numbers and they didn’t seem to be worried at all, in fact the UK was still getting ready to take the last steps in the reopening and ‘getting back to normal’ while the number of cases were still relatively high. Captain Caveman gave me the previous day’s cases so I could show a bit of perspective;
The cases in the UK for yesterday were 3,240 and the cases in Vietnam were 214 (which was a big number for us), we’d had no deaths in Vietnam for yesterday but the UK had 6. We can’t access the BBC News sites here so we have no idea what drivel and spin the people of the UK are being given.
For lunch Captain Caveman and I shared a bag of crisps and I had 2 gin and ginger ales by the pool. I’d noticed my bikini had shrunk in the wash a little and so I probably needed to shed a few kilogrammes next month. It would be difficult with Chef Captain Caveman back in the kitchen for a couple of weeks though. He made chicken with spaghetti for dinner and we shared a bottle of red wine.

Overall May was still a good month despite some disappointments; we started the month getting to spend time with friends who were visiting Phong Nha, Captain Caveman had less work with only 2 Son Doong tours and a Tu Lan 4 day tour and so we got to spend some time together. My blog (https://joloyolo.com/) was doing well and better than the last few months, which was good. The top countries for where people were reading the blog from were changing again; 1)Vietnam, 2)UK, 3)Australia, 4)USA, 5)Ireland, 6)Singapore, 7)Turkey, 8)Hong Kong, 9)Sweden. I was even surprised to have a reader from Costa Rica for the first time! As the UK opened up more and more friends were able to do much more and where previously people were stuck at home with more time to read about my life, now they actually were getting back their lives and that was no bad thing. My phone had started playing up a bit in May and was unable to give me screenshots which was annoying for keeping data. Thanks to all who are still reading and, although I can’t promise June to be any more exciting, I can tell you that I won’t even know where I will be! Will it be Vietnam still, back to the UK, or off to Turkey? I don’t even know yet!

Phong Nha – 30th May

Phong Nha – 30th May

I decided not to have any breakfast on Sunday 30th May because I had arranged to meet friends at East Hill for lunch. I read in the news that the church related Corona spreaders in Saigon were facing criminal charges, info here:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/hcmc-religious-mission-faces-criminal-charge-for-spreading-covid-19-4286287.html
I cycled with Captain Caveman the 5 minutes to East Hill and on the way I noticed that my bangle had started to bubble and appeared to be struggling to cope in the heat. As we pulled in to the path Hanh was arriving on her motorbike and when we got up the steps to the seated area Tatas was already there and had ordered BBQ chicken, sticky rice and extra cucumber. I was beginning to think Veronika was right to stay at home because it was too hot to go out but at least there was a bit of a breeze where we were. The food was, as always, delicious and we moved seats when the natural breeze stopped, to sit near a fan. Hanh and I had a couple of ciders, Tatas and Captain Caveman had a couple of Tiger Crystal beers and we shared a chicken combo which I’d told Captain Caveman not to be too greedy over, this time. We invited the girls back to our place so we could have a dip in the pool but Hanh had to go to an appointment.

Video of the BBQ chicken arriving at East Hill

Tatas was at Elements before us, the cycle back was brutally hot and I was desperate to get in the pool, the water was so hot though. Captain Caveman got word from a customer on his next Son Doong tour that he had cancelled his trip from Saigon later today because he was an F2 case and was having to self isolate at home. We should have been coming back from our holiday today but I’d managed to forget about it by having a nice day in Phong Nha, instead.

At 5.15pm Captain Caveman and I headed off to the Farmstay in the funky new Elements Collection jeep. We took advantage of the Farmstay Happy Hour with gin and tonics for Captain Caveman and Tatas while I went off piste with a rum and diet coke for a nice change. Captain Caveman and I shared a chicken quesadillas and Tatas had fresh spring rolls which she liked so much that she ordered a second portion of. She didn’t have the Sunday roast but we did and the Farmstay family joined us. The food was fantastic and I had trouble saving some to take home. I even had 2 pieces of crackling this week so I was very pleased with that.
Back home we read the news together in bed; from midnight tonight HCMC was going in to a type of lockdown where some locations would be under directive 15 and others directive 16. This was not good news for Vietnam who have been keeping the virus under control quite well, but it was necessary to protect what medical resources and healthcare workers they did have, as well as doing everything possible to prevent the spread of this new mutated version of the virus.

Tatas took a video of our first trip in the Elements Collection jeep
Captain Caveman’s time lapse video of our first trip in the jeep

Photo & video credit – Captain Caveman and Tatas

Phong Nha – 29th May

Phong Nha – 29th May

On Saturday 29th May, it was all kicking off with the religious group in HCMC who had been spreading the Corona virus expecting that God would save them. The news told everyone who had been in Saigon to check a big list of where they had been, to see if they may be F1, F2, etc. Captain Caveman checked the list and had not ventured anywhere near in the short time he’d been in Saigon, luckily.
There was also the first discovery of what looked like a new hybrid variant, between the UK and Indian viruses, this would later turn out to be very important.
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/vietnam-discovers-new-coronavirus-variant-with-uk-indian-mutations-4285878.html
Captain Caveman headed over to Phong Nha and in to work in the morning, followed by picking up some homemade cookies and gluten free biscuits from Ly Ly at Funny Monkeys. When he returned I sampled them and they were absolutely delicious and a great idea for snacks or a breakfast item with peanut butter, which Ly Ly also sent a cute little jar of. I’d already unpacked my bag but when Captain Caveman unpacked his, he had some treats for us which I was excited about; gerkins, pickled onions, 3 bags of Naturals crisps (no longer available in Phong Nha) and a lovely gift from his customer, Thien. I made rice with egg, courgette, garlic and sweetcorn in for our lunch and Captain Caveman was going to cook a nice dinner. I updated Captain Caveman of how hot it had been in the pool these last few days by demonstrating the elbow test, which had meant the temperature of our pool was too warm to bath a baby in, but I wasn’t complaining because most cities with Corona had insisted on the closing of all swimming pools – we were lucky to have our own private one. I’d had a can of strongbow by the pool (classy, I know) but we decided we would drink the bottle of white wine from Thien with our chicken in a homemade tomato sauce. I had my chicken with rice, Captain Caveman had pasta with his and the chilled white went down a treat. The day was a lot calmer than recent days and, although we weren’t having a great night out in Saigon with some of our favourite people, we made the most of being together – safely in Phong Nha. I was just upset that it meant I wouldn’t see a few people for quite some time as they were leaving Vietnam pretty soon. We decided that our day out tomorrow would have to include a bit of cycling to one of our favourite lunch spots.

Phong Nha – 28th May

Phong Nha – 28th May

I had Tree Hugger takeaway pancakes and fruit salad with honey for breakfast on Friday 28th May and they were delicious. 
Captain Caveman was booked on the second of two flights from Saigon to Dong Hoi and so this morning he was doing nothing, going nowhere and keeping out of the way of any Corona risk. In the news there were reports of the use of market coupon QR codes for shopping without crowding in Danang, read about it here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/958234/residents-of-da-nang-begin-using-coupons-with-qr-codes-for-shopping.html
Unfortunately death 47 was reported, who happened to be the youngest Corona death in Vietnam so far, more here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/958724/health-authorities-reported-youngest-covid-19-related-death-in-viet-nams-fourth-wave.html
I did some crossword type puzzles and watched some Hell’s Kitchen on Netflix to help me not stress about Captain Caveman getting home before any further restrictions. By 11am it was raining a little bit so I messaged a few Phong Nha friends to see if they fancied pizza night at The Villas later. For lunch I had more Tree Hugger takeaway with veggie fried spring rolls and finally Captain Caveman confirmed he was boarding the plane and would be back in time for pizza.
When he landed at Dong Hoi airport he fell lucky and was able to share a car back to Phong Nha with his boss.
Veronika had already gone to The Villas on her motorbike but I got a lift from Bich. When we got to The Villas everyone was sat down already; Hanh, Tatas, Veronika, Shannon, Captain Caveman, Uy, Chung, Mark, and Phuong – it was quite a turn out. Ben, Bich, the kids and I joined the table and started eating pizza. Tatas and I had Margaritas and Captain Caveman stuck to beers as we were on a budget. The pizzas were as delicious as always and my two favourites were the smoked duck and the Showstopper.  It was a good night and a few of us decided we would arrange to do something together on Sunday.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 27th May

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 27th May

I slept until 8.15am on Thursday 27th May, I must have been so tired from all the worrying about my passport, which was now at the agent’s house in Dong Hoi. I had the rest of the blueberries and some crispbreads with peanut butter for breakfast before checking out the Corona news. Unfortunately there were more HCMC cases, by 10am a concerning church group were mentioned for the first (but not the last) time too:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210527/ho-chi-minh-city-announces-3-coronavirus-infections-10-suspected-cases-all-belonging-to-religious-sect/61164.html
Meanwhile in the cities, people were reported to be ignoring the restrictions imposed, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210527/hanoi-residents-visit-parks-recreational-areas-despite-closures-for-covid-19-prevention/61170.html
And here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210527/over-100-ho-chi-minh-city-eateries-found-violating-covid19-restrictions-in-10-days/61169.html
I’d booked the car to Dong Hoi (again) for 2.30pm. I’d messaged a few friends in Saigon to let them know I would be able to meet them and was going to be there later tonight, hoping to catch up on Saturday night for drinks. Strangely my phone stopped being able to save any screenshots which was a bit annoying but I wasn’t too bothered because I was looking forward to a couple of days away.


At 1.30pm I got a call from Captain Caveman saying not to get on the flight to Saigon as they were starting to put parts of the city in to lockdown. He was in a restaurant, with Ania and Mik, and had been told they would be closing in a few hours and they were asked to leave before 6pm today, more info here:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/only-takeaways-allowed-in-hcmc-as-new-coronavirus-cluster-surfaces-4284858.html?fbclid=IwAR23pm89dbsltB98pvt9QCc2vMy6ZQf6IoXyYVRz2Ga4Ki3-eDHhC4rNcp4
Of course I was disappointed not to be able to go on holiday but I was more worried that Captain Caveman would get stuck in Saigon. There was a flight back to Dong Hoi this afternoon which he wouldn’t have time to make, but would try his best to get on a flight tomorrow (there were 2 available).
My car for Dong Hoi came at 2.30pm and I explained to the driver I wanted him to take me to Tree Hugger, wait one hour there and then bring me back which he was ok with.
When I arrived at Tree Hugger I ordered a beef and veg stir fry with rice and a herbal tea, plus I decided to order some takeaway food for later and tomorrow. I was eating my late lunch when the visa agent arrived with my passport. I was so relieved, even though I now wasn’t travelling anywhere.

I took my takeaway bags and Tupperware home and had just had a shower when Captain Caveman called me, in Saigon things had taken a turn for the worse and no one was allowed out unless essential so he was having Baba’s Kitchen takeaway and drinking wine. He told me he would definitely be back tomorrow and not to worry but with a total of 227 cases today (the highest in a day so far), I wasn’t so confident, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/958354/227-local-cases-detected-thursday.html
For dinner I had my delicious Tree Hugger takeaway which was a cheeseburger and chips, then Veronika called me over to her balcony where we shared a bottle of fizz – it was good to celebrate getting my passport back, at least.
By 10pm a District 1 Saigon hospital was under lockdown and an announcement that all international incoming flights would be stopped from coming to Saigon from 30th May (although this decision would be overturned soon after). Before bed I ate more of my takeaway which I was saving for tomorrow which was meant to be a cheese and ham toastie, unfortunately they forgot the cheese. Even though I’d eaten gluten and dairy for dinner I was fine, too, but went to sleep wondering what dramas tomorrow would bring!

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

I was feeling less optimistic on Wednesday 26th May but at least I knew I was no longer going anywhere and could stop feeling in limbo. We went to Mr Bull’s for breakfast again and the Bo Ne really is so tasty – it’s probably the best breakfast in Dong Hoi.

Back at The Nest Hotel we packed and got ready to check out, I double checked that my passport still hadn’t turned up then I decided that going back to Phong Nha was the best option, staying in Dong Hoi was costing too much. We now needed to restock up on provisions as the fridge and cupboards were a lot emptier than usual, due to our planned going away! I messaged Bich to check if there was a shopping trip that we could join that afternoon and if not we were going to go shopping by ourselves. Ben replied to say the Phong Nha Farmstay were on their way to Dong Hoi for lunch and shopping and we arranged to meet them at 7th Heaven, one of my favourite restaurants. Captain Caveman ordered a cheese pide, I ordered pork fried rice, the others ordered pizza, chilli con carne, chicken schnitzel (with mashed potatoes and vegetables), beef salad, chicken wings and chips. There was a new dessert to try which we were given 4 to share for free and it was really good. Tham, the owner was there and we chatted to her and I told her we had stayed at The Nest Hotel to try it out. While we were sat at the table Captain Caveman went on his phone to book a flight to Saigon, he had decided he would leave later today. After paying the bill and grabbing our bags we got in the car to go to our first shop of the day, the An Nong organic shop.

I was so excited to buy more cherries at the Organic shop on Wednesday 26th May and, if I wasn’t able to go on holiday, I was also treating myself to some prawns! Captain Caveman was still with me at this point, as I added cherries to the shopping basket and I would have got more fruit but the whole shop reeked of durian and I had to get out. Our next stop was the VinMart which we had requested because I also needed the Medicare shop. Unfortunately I had a bad stomach, probably because I had a piece of Captain Caveman’s pide and a spoonful of the dessert at lunch, so I left Captain Caveman in the supermarket to go to the toilet. When I came back he hadn’t bought anything from my shopping list because he was off to Saigon tonight and also hoped I would be following him, tomorrow. I did manage to find tampons in the Medicare shop, it’s a really difficult product to get in Dong Hoi and impossible in Phong Nha. At 72,000vnd for a box of the 16 regular sport variety they aren’t cheap but they are essential. I also needed rehydration tablets so got the multivitamin versions which were 44,000vnd for a tube of 20.

Back outside, the Farmstay family were sitting out by the Vinpearl Hotel having coffees so Captain Caveman sat with them and joined in, while I helped the youngest read the shop names on the big sign! I wasn’t too sure about Captain Caveman going to Saigon without me, especially if the Corona case numbers meant more lockdowns but I could understand why he wanted to. Captain Caveman mumbled something about running some work errands while he was in Dong Hoi so he gave me a quick peck on the lips and we said bye.

I was cheesed off, to say the least, at leaving Dong Hoi without my passport, so I tried to have a nap on the way back to Phong Nha. On reflection I don’t know what I was most upset about; the potential losing of my passport, Captain Caveman going on holiday without me or me missing out on the best Indian food in Saigon that night. By 4pm I had unpacked my bag, at 4.02pm I got a message from the visa agent to say that my passport had arrived in Dong Hoi this afternoon. At 4.17pm she had got the passport and I was online trying to book a flight to Saigon. I wouldn’t make it back to Dong Hoi airport in time for the 5.45pm one but there was an 8pm one, although I didn’t know if I could get a taxi organised in time. That flight was unavailable and so Captain Caveman booked me an alternative, 6.55pm tomorrow. I was so excited, at last I would get to meet up with friends, some of who were leaving Vietnam next month, eat some great food and buy another bra (which was lucky as I’d already had to throw 2 away recently).
By 7pm I’d organised to go to get my passport earlier than required tomorrow so I definitely had it in plenty of time for the flight. By 8pm Captain Caveman had reassured me that despite the concerning news of an increase in Corona cases all seemed pretty normal in Saigon, taxis were running and he could go out for dinner – he’d even booked us a nice riverside apartment and told me to bring an umbrella (it is rainy season down South). 

Feeling super happy and relieved I went downstairs to slice the bread that had arrived while we had been in Dong Hoi. I had all of the cherries and half of the blueberries with cashew nuts and walnuts for dinner then went to bed, so much happier. I was disappointed we wouldn’t be able to go to Tam Hai but we would still get a nice city break and would go once we could enjoy more than a couple of nights there. Captain Caveman sent me a message to say he had booked us a table at Baba’s Kitchen for when I arrived off the plane and to go straight there tomorrow night at 9pm.

Dong Hoi – 25th May

Dong Hoi – 25th May

On Tuesday 25th May there was no sleeping in at The Nest Hotel in Dong Hoi because I was waiting from 7.30am to find out what was happening with my ‘missing’ passport. I waited, with no news until 8.35am and could take it no longer so I asked the agent for an update. It transpires that the shipping, which was meant to start on the 22nd, hadn’t until the 24th. Their reasoning being that because flights were also delayed it was going to take 5 days to be delivered from Hanoi and was still in transit. I was mad – it had not even arrived in Dong Hoi at all. I could have cried but of course I just needed to actually get my passport back from wherever ‘in transit’ happened to be. And I was so disappointed that my passport wasn’t going to arrive until the 27th!!! I was going nowhere until then because I needed to make sure I got my hands on it before I had to resubmit it again for June.
We went to breakfast at nearby Mr Bull’s where we both had Bo Ne (me without egg) and it was very nice indeed. We discussed what our new plan was, now that Plan D was my only sensible option but didn’t really come up with anything – I was too upset and there was nothing I could do about it.

Back at The Nest Hotel, after our delicious breakfast at Mr Bull’s, we had to decide what to do next. I was obviously concerned that my passport could be lost and would cause lots of hassle and cost to replace. Captain Caveman was definitely cheesed off that it was now 2 days since he should have been on holiday and we should have been flying from Saigon to Tam Ky tomorrow to go to Le Domaine de Tam Hai if Plan A or B had worked. Plan C was now going to be either cut short or more expensive and still 8 hours in a car (me, without any ID). It was a bit too stressful and we decided to go for lunch at Earth cafe where I had my favourite vegan udon soup while Captain Caveman had a vegan burger. It was incredibly hot but the decisions were made, we would stay another night in Dong Hoi, given that the shipping document (which I now had a copy of) said my passport had left Hanoi on the 22nd (not express as requested) and even at the slowest we thought it must arrive by tomorrow!


After a walk from Earth to Tree Hugger on our way back to the hotel we took some light refreshments inside the cafe with a white russian each. Not having had much luck that day, so far, I was pleased to notice that they had behind the bar a bottle of Frontera Merlot wine, which was a screw top. It was the best news I’d had all day and we took it back to the hotel to drink it out of the bathroom glasses! I was doing quite a bit of walking around the streets of Dong Hoi today and Captain Caveman got a few videos of me which, I think, show improvement.

Captain Caveman’s video of me walking in Dong Hoi

Captain Caveman dealt with the passport/no holiday issue in what I would have considered an odd way; he decided to play a Candy Crush style game on his phone and played it for ages without speaking! I tried to talk to him, insisted he went somewhere for a holiday while he still could, but he wasn’t in the mood for discussing it. He blamed the situation on me because if I had used a different agent then we wouldn’t be in this situation and I should have known that asking for a quicker service wouldn’t work – he questioned why I’d let it be sent to Hanoi to be done anyway and said I was stupid! The icing on the cake was when he told me not to speak about my passport again because he was sick of hearing me go on about it! So that ruined the rest of what was already a fairly rubbish day – it’s not like my passport isn’t the most important and valuable thing I own, is it!?
Eventually we decided to go out for dinner to Geminai, I was hungry so I agreed and off we went. We ordered a few things to share but our bad luck had not ended today, yet. The grilled pork starter was disgusting and tasted like jelly – both of us spat it out. The morning glory had soy and chillies in so I couldn’t eat it and so I had a whole bowl of plain rice. Captain Caveman had 2 warm beers but because my coke was warm I had to wait until after the meal for it to have chilled in the ice bucket – in my opinion there is no reason a restaurant should serve warm drinks. The duck with special sauce was very nice, though, and I managed to eat almost a third of that. I was still hungry so we called at the shop on the way back to the hotel for something to snack on. I eventually decided on cashew nuts but when we got to the till they were £4.55 so I told Captain Caveman to put them back and got a small packet of jellies. While all this had been going on there was a steady increase in the Corona numbers and it looked more likely that the 4th wave was about to get a bit more serious. 
What a day!

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 24th May

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 24th May

Captain Caveman was up early on Monday 24th May, cycling over to Phong Nha and, although disappointed he hadn’t gone to Saigon or Tam Hai, we were optimistic for today. I booked a car with the Farmstay to take us to Dong Hoi so we could collect my passport from my agent, who was very certain that the postman would be dropping it off any time today, and we would be able to leave Dong Hoi for a break.
I read in the news of two more Corona deaths, number 43:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/955633/patient-with-liver-cirrhosis-is-viet-nams-43rd-covid-19-death.html
and number 44, a 38 year old woman with no underlying conditions, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/955851/38-year-old-woman-dies-of-covid-19.html
There was some groundbreaking news for Singapore which would be amazing, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210524/singapore-provisionally-approves-60second-covid19-breathalyser-test/61106.html
I had an apple, some grapes and a pot of jasmine tea for breakfast, then finished off the brown rice crackers and had a couple of gluten free crispbreads for an early lunch. I was all set, the agent had sent me a photo of a document which she translated to say my passport had arrived in Dong Hoi, at the post office, where she went to collect it, but was told the postman still has it and will bring it as soon as possible. When we got to Dong Hoi we had already decided to book a hotel instead of a car or a flight, we really wanted to get my passport back before we left too. Captain Caveman booked us in at The Nest, recommended to us by Momma D and was a cheap but nice place to stay. We paid 500,000vnd for a one way ride to Dong Hoi to collect a passport which seemed to be taking an awfully long time for the postman to deliver, and the hotel was 400,000vnd for the night. We decided to have a second lunch at Tree Hugger where Captain Caveman shovelled his egg salad sandwich down him and I had veggie fried spring rolls. By 4pm my agent had sent me a message to say she still hadn’t received my passport, or seen the postman, and even she admitted she was worried. We had been sat in Tree Hugger waiting for her to bring the passport, while drinking white russians and hadn’t accounted for this. I was not happy and, with a missing passport, we went back to the hotel to get showered, replan and get ready for dinner.

Captain Caveman and I decided that we didn’t want to leave the area without my passport so all plans were on hold for now, instead we would stay in Dong Hoi until my passport showed up! I told Captain Caveman he should go on holiday without me but he said he preferred to spend time with me so he wouldn’t go. At 6pm the visa agent updated me that the post office didn’t know where my passport was but couldn’t check because the staff had gone home so she would call them tomorrow at 7.30am – I was very stressed. I knew my visa had been extended until the 9th June but if I needed to report my passport lost and get a new one sent to me, it would take longer than when I needed to resubmit it.
That night we decided to walk to one of our favourite restaurants, 7th Heaven, to cheer us up with a steak and wine. We had forgotten that it was closed on Mondays but as luck would have it the owner, Tham, and the chef were there and the chef suggested he could make us pizza or steak – we went inside and sat upstairs on the balcony. By this time Captain Caveman was definitely in a mood because he wasn’t going on holiday and we more or less ate the food in silence – I knew he should have gone by himself!