Dalyan – 31st August

Dalyan – 31st August

At 4.20am on Wednesday 31st August Captain Caveman had landed in Istanbul. At 6.50am he was on the plane to Dalaman and I was already up and about. I was excited for his arrival and had arranged for a taxi driver to pick him up from Dalaman airport around 8am. I’d agreed with Mark to have the borrowed bicycle returned to him by the evening but was conscious I would have a busy day. I decided to cycle over there to drop it off before it got too hot. It was just after 7am when I saw Kate feeding the cats, I had a glass of water and admired their new mobility scooter type vehicles which had arrived yesterday. I even took a photo sat on one and then walked home. It had not crossed my mind, until Kate mentioned it, that I now looked like I was doing the walk of shame back from their house, before my fella got home. Crikey – that would get the Dalyan rumour mill started (again)! Kylie and JC, the cats, followed me almost as far as the water spring and were very vocal. When I got home I did a few chores, then got prepared for my Turkish lesson. Captain Caveman arrived around 10am with lots of luggage and was pleased to be back in Dalyan. After all this time he was also surprised to have to push through the ‘born again’ bougainvillea outside of the gate to get in, with all his luggage. Sausage Dick had requested some tobacco so Captain Caveman had managed to get him 500g of Amber Leaf for €53.90 at Dalaman airport. Unfortunately Captain Caveman couldn’t get too comfy as he wasn’t staying long. In 16 hours we would be on our way back to Dalaman airport.

We both walked to the Casablanca Hotel, where my Turkish class was, then Captain Caveman went to the hardware shop to buy some screws for the door handles. My class was challenging because I’d missed 3 months but I wasn’t as badly behind as I would’ve been if Sioned had not been sending me the lessons. Vanessa and I had also been keeping up with a bit of it while away from Turkey so it seemed to be ok. Sioned told us that our Turkish classes were changing and we would have them on Tuesdays at 10am from next week. We also had a fella from another group join our class and the only other original members there today, were Steve and Janice.
After Turkish class, I walked to meet Captain Caveman at Okyanus for lunch, a tradition Vanessa and I had started. We bumped in to Babs and had a bit of a natter, she said she’d come over to join us shortly. Captain Caveman and I had a cold Efes, said hello to Bakı, who works at Okyanus, and ordered wraps each. My chicken wrap was lovely and Captain Caveman enjoyed his meatball wrap, the chips were home cooked and it came with a good salad selection. At 2.50pm I left Captain Caveman and Babs to finish their drinks and went back home.

I was in the middle of doing something on my laptop when I started getting messages and phone calls asking where I was. It was around 4.30pm and I thought it was a bit strange.
It turned out that an event I had created on Facebook, while still in Vietnam, for 7pm tonight, was showing as 3pm today.
It was meant to be at River Terrace tonight for Captain Caveman’s welcome back drinks but Nanny Kay, Leanne, Katrina, Debbie and Sarah were already there. I didn’t realise that Facebook changes the time to the country where your phone says you are located. Captain Caveman went to find people and explain, then ended up having a drink with Katrina at Lukka bar. He briefly saw Sarah and Jamie but the others had gone home. Poor Nanny Kay was a bit cheesed off, especially as she had paid 40 lira (£2) for a can of diet coke while she waited, then we didn’t arrive.
We had a table booked for 5.30pm at Bistro Blue, for just the 2 of us. It was nice to see Annie and Selahı again and we had a table outside in the sunshine. We shared cheese rolls and liver & onion starters then both had salads for mains. Captain Caveman had Halloumi, I had steak and blue cheese, all the food was delicious and the red wine went down rather well.

At 7pm, as intended, I went over to River Terrace to meet anyone who was still coming to Captain Caveman’s ‘not quite 1 night in Dalyan’ event. He was meant to be following close behind but got chatting and was even later. Katrina, couldn’t stay long but Ann, Jax, Debbie (Darling), Rach, Nuri, Mark, Kate, Maddie, Sam and Sarah made it out out. We had a good night and Captain Caveman was happy to be back.
After lots of drinks, Captain Caveman was hungry again so we went to Kebapçı Yusuf where I had the chicken liver wrap and Captain Caveman had some sort of lamb meal. The food and service was very good, as always, and it was still one of my firm favourites to eat at. Captain Caveman managed to fall asleep a couple of times so we went home, just before midnight, to wait for the taxi.

Dalyan – 30th August

Dalyan – 30th August

I was woken at 4am on Tuesday 30th August by someone calling me from Vietnam. I had forgotten to put my do not disturb on and it would be 8am there, I didn’t answer it but then I couldn’t get back to sleep. As the call to prayer went off I checked emails then had a sandwich which I still had left from the airport lounge.
In the afternoon I went to get my Turkish phone sorted because the SIM card was no longer working. It cost me 300 lira (£15) for a new one with 15GB of data, some texts and minutes. If you’re not a resident then it costs another £5. Next, I went to the pharmacy to get contraceptive pills and antihistamines. This cost about £7.25, much more expensive than when I last bought any. My last stop was to Migros to get toilet roll, noodles, spaghetti and milk at a cost of 86 lira (£4.30) – prices in Turkey were definitely increasing but seemed generally cheaper than the UK. When I got back to the apartment, I noticed that the outside lights were on, which was good but the light at the top of our stairs wasn’t working. The gate proved hard to get in and out of with shopping bags because of the overgrown garden and the broken wire netting on the gate. I had leftovers and a crisp sandwich for dinner then an early night. I decided to wait until Captain Caveman arrived so he could deal with what needed to happen about the pool and garden maintenance which definitely needed some attention. Captain Caveman was on a flight from Saigon at 9.25pm (Vietnamese time) and would be in Istanbul by the time I woke up in the morning.

Dalyan – 29th August

Dalyan – 29th August

When I woke up on Monday 29th August Captain Caveman was already about to start his journey, from Vietnam to Turkey. It had been almost 3 years since he had last been to Dalyan, mainly due to the pandemic, and he was looking forward to returning. He had managed to move all of our belongings from Elements Collection back to the Glass House with just a motorbike and had said his goodbyes to Stu and the boys last night. I got up and headed outside where I was met by Kitler, the cat, and some kittens. Someone had now put the cat who looked like Hitler, hence the Kitler name, a bell round it’s neck. One of the rules of our complex is no pets but, for some reason, someone is encouraging the cats by feeding them, and there were empty cat food containers and cardboard littered about the place. I cycled, on my borrowed bicycle, to the Captainnet office to pay for our internet for the next 3 months. It cost 420 lira (£21) in total so, although it had increased, it still wasn’t too bad and the nice lady said it was working immediately.
Back home I still couldn’t find the padlock key for my important cupboard but luckily I managed to find a friend who had some tools to break it for me. As Chris was leaving, there was a couple outside the gate asking which of the apartments in our block were for sale. I didn’t know for certain, there was no ‘For Sale’ sign anywhere. They had friends who wanted to look at it and had been kept waiting by the agent so they were keen on finding out more info. I was running late to meet friends in Tez bar so I left them, waiting inside the complex, in the hot sun. On my way round the corner to another of my locals I saw Jamie and Drew at Lukka bar. They were off shopping so couldn’t come for drinks, we said we would catch up soon though.
I met Mark, Kate, Adam and Kath (another one of my favourite couples) at Tez bar where it was very nice and sunny. It was also good to see Tez and his wife again after being away for a while. I had a couple of white wine and sodas, Debbie joined us for one too, then Sarah arrived. It was nice to relax and chat with everyone, even though I hadn’t missed too much from being in Vietnam. We were all quite sensible for a Monday afternoon; Mark and Kate left to go home in one direction, Adam and Kath in the opposite one. After a couple of drinks which came to 200 lira (£10), we were all going our separate ways but I realised I had no food in at home. I had to drop off Katrina’s lemongrass oil, at Maisie Moo so I decided to go to Lukka Bar, by myself, where I had a large draft Efes beer for 55 lira (£2.75) and I had a delicious sweet and sour chicken for 195 lira (£9.75). It was very nice and I even took a little bit home with me as the portion size was substantial.

Dalyan – 28th August

Dalyan – 28th August

My first day in Dalyan, on Sunday 28th August, was great! I managed to log in to one of the neighbours WiFi and let people know I had arrived. My eczema was terrible from wearing the facemasks and I had to take antihistamines plus slather the cream on. I spotted a message from Kate to say that her and Mark weren’t still out last night when I arrived but I was invited today for lunch. As I had not had the fridge on, I was appreciative of this kind offer and had also agreed prior, to borrow a bicycle from Mark for 4 days. I checked the apartment and all was well except for I couldn’t find my key for the padlocked cupboard, which had everything I needed in it! Downstairs, I noticed that the garden was pretty overgrown and the attacking bushes last night had been some pretty spiky, overgrown bougainvillea. The electric meter cupboard was difficult to open on account of the bougainvillea growing back in the way of the doors. The pool pump was on but the pool itself looked like it needed a good clean before I’d get in for a swim. There was washing at the bottom of our stairs so it looked like I had next door neighbours. In the living area I noticed what looked like coffee on one of the cushions, which was odd because I was the last one in the apartment except for the cleaner, I don’t drink coffee. I booked a taxi for 2pm with Fikri and took a bottle of wine and some sodas to Mark and Kate’s house. It was great to see them again and there was a welcome back beer to be had. The 2 baby cats had grown and they now had a new kitten who was particularly cute. Kate had excelled herself by making a full-on pork Sunday dinner with all the trimmings – it was so good.
I probably should have planned things slightly better but I managed to cycle back in to town from Mark and Kate’s, after 2 beers and half a bottle of wine, on a borrowed bicycle! I thought I was going home for more sleep but I just had to say hello to Katrina and Mehmet at Lukka bar, my local bar. Katrina bought me a welcome back red wine and then phoned Sarah and Debbie (Darling) to see if they were coming over to meet me. They arrived, we had more wine, and Sarah showed me her broken wrist which she was in a bad way with. I saw İsmail, the flower man, and had a little chat and a photo. Roy joined us for one, then we all went to Debbie’s. I was definitely drunk as I was letting Socks and Brinny, their dogs, give me lots of kisses. I was surprised they remembered me as the cats didn’t give a stuff. Debbie (Darling) ordered a curry from Spice Garden but then her and Roy fell asleep while Sarah nattered on, catching me up with the trials and tribulations of her last 3 months.
I cycled home just after midnight, and was glad to get to bed after my first day in Dalyan.

Singapore to Dalyan – 27th August

Singapore to Dalyan – 27th August

I got to the gate early for my flight from Singapore to Istanbul on Saturday 27th August. I ate the remainder of my ham sandwich from the Microboulangerie and really enjoyed it. I was very happy to have an aisle and bulkhead seat on my next flight, which departed at 2am (Singapore time) and would take about 11 hours. I hoped I might get some sleep because I also had another 11 hours in Istanbul before my next flight to Dalyan.
On the plane I was sat next to a lovely lady who was born in Indonesia but had lived in Turkey for 20 years. We chatted a little and she said I should visit Borum mountain in Indonesia because it was beautiful and where she is from. Her name was Wike (pronounce Vicky) in Indonesia but in Istanbul, where she has lived with her Turkish husband for 20 years, she is called Ayşe. When she fell asleep I watched the rest of the Tom Cruise film but found myself also nodding off. The food on the flight was great and again I was served first because of me requesting gluten free food. I noticed, though, that my eczema was extremely bad and had spread to my eyelids and more of my face and neck. I had to take antihistamines and drink lots of water but it was very uncomfortable with the masks on, which were still compulsory with Singapore Airlines. We landed at 8am (Turkish time) and I helped Wike with one of her several hand luggage bags. She was so sweet that she gave me a handmade bracelet as a thank you but I made sure she had all the bags when she went through immigration.
After saying bye to my new friend, and a promise to keep in touch, I headed to the domestic departures. I had to stand in several queues to recheck my hold luggage in and the case was not wheeling very well. Turkish Airlines will let you check in up to 24 hours before a flight but try telling that to any of their check-in staff. I eventually got rid of my suitcase and went through to departures where I got my 1 hour free wifi.

After catching up with internet based stuff I decided I would head to the lounge – I went for the IG Lounge, using my Priority Pass and it was the best one I’ve been to yet. The food and drink selection were good, it was clean, the staff were efficient and nice, plus I got a free back massage. I ended up staying in there for 6 hours and met a nice chap from Ankara who was moving to London to do his Masters degree.
My flight was boarding at 6.30pm and I only left the lounge at 6.05pm so my time in Istanbul had gone pretty well.
The flight was only an hour and 15 minutes but we did get a sandwich and a drink on board. When I landed at Dalaman airport, my suitcase was of the last to come off and one of the staff was convinced I should be in the international arrivals for my luggage but it came eventually. I was the last to leave and everything was closing as I went to get my taxi, arranged by Fikri in Dalyan. I was so tired and couldn’t wait to get back to Dalyan and to bed!
I arrived home just after 10pm, luckily the taxi driver carried my bag up the stairs after getting attacked by what I could only just make out as being unruly bushes as we came in the gate to the complex. I turned on the electricity and went straight to bed, just as the Jazz Bar cranked up the volume. I had no internet at home so I couldn’t message to say I was ‘home’ but I would do it in the morning.

Saigon to Singapore – 26th August

Saigon to Singapore – 26th August

My Vietnam stay had come to an end on Friday 26th August. I had spent 11.5 weeks in the same country as Captain Caveman and was very happy about that. I was also very much looking forward to us both being in Turkey for the winter. I was hoping to see Captain Caveman reconnect with family and friends, meet my new friends and generally have a well-deserved break from Phong Nha and Oxalis for 4 months!
I did my measurements first thing and these were my results;
Bust +2cm,
Waist -2cm,
Hips -1cm,
Right thigh no change,
Left thigh +0.5cm,
Right calf +0.5cm,
Left calf +1cm.
Looking back over the last 6 weeks my body measurements showed a decrease but my legs had increased. I was going to have to watch my weight once I got back to Turkey as I had no idea what I weighed these days.
I had to repack my big suitcase to fit the whisky in from Mr H, so I removed teabags, flea drops and Vegemite plus a jumper and a coat of Captain Caveman’s. I put them in a bag with some remaining Vietnamese money in an envelope and left it at reception when I checked out. Captain Caveman would check in on Monday and could pick up the bag and the contents.

I met Beth at Lubu for lunch and was a little concerned about the weather. We had not gone ahead with going across town for croissants in case we got stuck but we were sure I could walk in rain from Lubu if the streets flooded. I put my shower shoes in my bag just in case that were to happen and I booked a car to the airport with the hotel for 4.15pm, I was taking no chances this time.
The Lubu lunch special is so good that I had it again, for 295,000vnd (less than £12) it is fantastic. This time we added on a glass of wine to celebrate Beth and I’s reunion, and our leaving. I had the roasted vegetable bruschetta starter and the steak again, Beth had the green salad then the Mahi Mahi skewers followed by the panna cotta but I could only just manage the fruit and yoghurt for my dessert. After lunch the heavens opened and it looked like the afternoon rain might cause me an issue getting to the airport. I tried to get a Grab taxi from Lubu to The Common Inn (where my luggage remained) earlier than planned but struggled. After saying bye to Beth and Jay I only just made it back to the hotel by 4pm.

I picked up my luggage and thanked the staff for looking after me before getting in the car to the airport. The driver had arrived early because of the rain, carried my cases, put them in the boot the right way round and only charged me 215,000vnd on the meter in a huge rain storm. I gave him 250,000vnd and reaffirmed to myself that I was definitely right to have reported the taxi driver who tried to charge me more but took 330,000vnd on Wednesday. I was very lucky because in Hanoi, the other airport I could have been flying from, the roads were flooded and flights were getting cancelled due to stormy weather.
My check-in for my first flight to Singapore opened at 16.40 and I managed to be bang on 25kg with the hold luggage, they didn’t weigh the hand luggage (luckily). I had a bit of cash left and was hoping for a beer at the airport once I was through to departures. They were charging 138,000vnd (£5.11)for a medium sized draft beer (outrageous for Vietnamese prices) but I only had 132,000vnd (£4.88) and asked for a small one. The cashier said they didn’t have small ones so I was about to walk away when she gave me the bigger size for 132,000vnd. That was kind and it tasted even better in the ice cold glass too.
I already had a middle seat on the plane and couldn’t change it but at least it was only 2 hours to Singapore. I started watching the ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ film without realising I would have landed before the film finished. I found it boring, totally predictable and even tedious so when I didn’t get to see the end I wasn’t bothered. I’d had the good idea of ordering a gluten free meal with Singapore Airlines so I got my beef stew with pumpkin, potatoes and spinach first and the gluten free bread roll wasn’t bad. I landed in Singapore just before 11pm, with just 3 hours until my next flight. I decided against a lounge as we would be boarding in 2 hours. Instead, I sat and updated my diary and messaged Captain Caveman to let him know I had successfully left Vietnam.

Saigon – 25th August

Saigon – 25th August

I had kept some of my last full day in Saigon free on Thursday 25th August. There had been no further contact about the taxi driver but I decided to be extra cautious when leaving the hotel, and not to order Grab taxis in case he picked up the job. I asked the receptionist if I could get a photo of the security camera footage with the 3 guys waiting for me in reception, just in case it was needed. I got food from the Microboulangerie next door and the important meeting I had missed yesterday was rescheduled to lunchtime today. One of the places I really like to eat at, in Thao Dien, is Lubu, which just so happens to have Beth’s son, Jay, as the new manager. I chose this to meet Mr H, a friend of Captain Caveman’s, for the first time. There were 3 of us sat at a central table in the light an airy restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious 3 course lunch each; the green salad starter was lovely and the roasted vegetable bruschetta looked good. I loved the steak and chips while Mr H had the healthier option of fish skewers. There was a choice of panna cotta or fruit with yoghurt for dessert. The lunchtime set menu is great and comes with tea or coffee so I still had a pot of green tea when my fellow diners had to leave to get back to work. One of our discussions had lead on to whether Captain Caveman and I liked whisky. We do and I was asked if I would like to try one of 2 bottles. I chose the one I had not had before and it was for me to take back to Turkey – it would be delivered this afternoon which was very kind of Mr H.
I got a taxi back to the hotel and was busy on my laptop all afternoon except for when I got a call from reception to say a gift had arrived for me. I went down to collect the bottle of Craigellachie 17 year old single malt whisky – Captain Caveman and I would look forward to sharing that in Turkey!

In the evening Beth and I shared a taxi to Bandido’s, a Mexican restaurant in District 1. They had amazing Margaritas which we ordered a couple of while we waited for everyone else to come. We were lucky because we had arrived just before the heavy rain but Andrea got caught in it, who was next to arrive and insisted on jugs of margaritas – a great idea. Next to arrive was Quyen, Trang was a little later and Hoai had to message to say she would have to wait for the rain to pass. The rest of us ordered food and it was very tasty, the service was good and I particularly enjoyed the pork tacos.
We weren’t planning on a late night because Andrea, Quyen, Trang and Hoai all had work in the morning but someone (possibly me) suggested we go for one more drink in Thao Dien. Quyen lives near to the Mexican restaurant so we said bye and she walked home. Trang and Hoai set off on their individual motorbikes and the remaining 3 of us got a taxi. We arrived at Soho wine bar and had some very nice wine. Andrea walked home but then Trang took Beth, and Hoai took me home. As we rode through the empty streets of Saigon it started to rain.
Back at the hotel I was a little sad that I was leaving Vietnam tomorrow especially as I didn’t know exactly when I would be back again.

Phong Nha to Saigon – 24th August

Phong Nha to Saigon – 24th August

I really did not want to get up so early on Wednesday 24th August but Captain Caveman had booked the Oxalis car pick up for 6.30am. I didn’t have to check-in for my domestic flight until 8.30am but we had decided that breakfast at Mr Bull’s would be a good way to send me off. Dung, our nice driver, was early and we got in the car. Captain Caveman had to carry my big suitcase as I couldn’t lift it. We had our usual Bo Ne at Mr Bull’s, mine without eggs, and I really enjoyed it. Captain Caveman had time for us to pop to the WinMart for him to pick up some essentials and I got some mints for the journey.
Captain Caveman came with me to Dong Hoi airport and we got checked in straight away for my 9.30am flight to Ho Chi Minh (aka Saigon). I was flying with Vietnam Airlines, I had an aisle seat and was due to land at 11.10am. We said goodbye and I had a few tears, mainly through tiredness I suspect.
I was looking forward to landing as I would have time to check-in to the hotel and get ready to meet friends for dinner tonight. The flight went smoothly but I wasn’t prepared for the absolute fiasco that was about to happen once I arrived in Saigon!

I landed at the domestic terminal of Ho Chi Minh airport, before midday. There were no taxis outside so I decided to walk to the international terminal where I knew there would be. I’d already been forewarned to make sure I only get in to the My Linh or Vina Sun taxis as they are the official ones. I’d read on social media about the potential for scams so I was alert to making sure I didn’t fall foul of this. As I approached the taxi queue there were 2 women who were taking the locations and hailing the cabs for customers, they wore lanyards round there neck and one of them was very efficient in getting me a taxi. I checked the car that had pulled up and asked her how much it was to Thao Dien. She said it was metered but I should check with the driver, which I did and he said he didn’t know but it was metered . They put my 25kg suitcase in the boot as I took my hand luggage from the trolley and pushed it out of the way. What I hadn’t noticed was that the car I was about to get in was not a My Linh or Vina Sun. The car had pulled up alongside the taxi I thought I was getting in and the driver told me to get in the front seat. I declined and I got in the back where I noticed the car wasn’t as neat and tidy as it should have been.
The driver asked me for 10,000vnd (£) for the toll to get out of the airport, this is normal but I said I would pay at the end and took the ticket for 9,000vnd. I didn’t realise it at the time but it had his car registration number on it, which would prove to come in very handy.
The driver asked if he could take me to an ATM to get more money out, that’s when I noticed that the meter was reading higher than it should. As we drove the meter was whizzing round far too quickly so I decided to call Captain Caveman, he didn’t pick up. I called the hotel and asked them how much the fare should be and to advise I was on my way. The receptionist was very helpful and told me that it should be half what it was already and suggested I might want to get out. I couldn’t because I was on a multi lane dual carriageway, I decided to continue the remaining 16 minute journey but asked the receptionist to meet me outside the hotel when I arrived.
When we arrived there was a lot of discussion between the two in Vietnamese and the driver blocked me from getting my suitcases out of the boot. They had been put in very awkwardly with both handles away from the open area so I really had to push to get them out. The receptionist was confused and told the driver it should be a maximum of 250,000vnd but after more discussion he said he would accept 325,000vnd instead of the 2.6 million on the meter. By this point I already knew I would be reporting him to either the police or the airport so I paid with a 500,000vnd note which he only gave me 170,000vnd back because he said he had no 5,000vnd note. We got inside the hotel and I thanked the receptionist for coming to my aid, she was shocked at the driver’s behaviour. I checked in, went to my room and called Captain Caveman. That taxi driver had really cheesed me off by thinking he could take advantage of what looked like an older western woman who had, seemingly, just arrived in Vietnam. Captain Caveman has very good connections so I knew he would have the number of someone who would be able to do something to stop this driver ripping off tourists again!

My taxi incident had taken up so much of my time that I missed an important email inviting me to a meeting.
Instead, I got a snack from the bakery next door for lunch and then tried to have a nap and forget about the taxi fiasco.
That evening I had arranged to meet up with a few Saigon friends at a place called Eddie’s Diner, in District 1. It was a place that Annette had suggested because of her bad knee and it was all on the ground floor. Beth, was staying in Thao Dien, so she got the taxi to me and we were the first to arrive at Eddie’s. Annette came straight after work, Beth and I were already having a cocktail and thinking of sharing a main dish. Keith, from Grimsby, and the 2 Irish girls also joined us and more drinks were had. On a Wednesday Eddie’s has an offer on so 4 of us had the burger which was absolutely delicious. There was lots of chat and laughter but the Irish girls had to leave first because they had their flight home to catch tonight. We all wished them well and it was good to have seen them one last time in Vietnam. After goodbyes to Annette, the remaining 3 of us decided we might go for one more drink on the way home! At this point we were blissfully unaware of the saga that would finish off my evening!

Keith, Beth and I found ourselves in an area of bars somewhere between D1 and Thao Dien. The first bar we went to was Captain Phook, where Keith knew the owners and they had rosé wine on draft. Keith had a beer, Beth and I had the wine and we were chatting when my phone rang. The caller had some news on the taxi driver who had overcharged me earlier. He was being held at the airport and was calling me a liar so I explained my side of the story then went on with my evening. Next, we went to Khoi 89, another recommended one from Keith, where I was pleasantly surprised by their sparkling wine from Moldova. We had a wander down the street, checking out the numerous bars in the area, then walked back to the beginning of the bar street. We passed Truc Mai Music House where a young student was having a lesson on the bamboo xylophone. The 3 of us went closer to listen and ended up in there, having a go ourselves. It was brilliant, however, the highlight was having the teacher play us ‘Jingle Bells’ and she was very talented.
We were thinking about heading home when I got a WhatsApp message from the hotel receptionist to tell me that the taxi driver, and his 2 bosses, were at the hotel demanding to speak to me. Apparently, he had been fined 5 million dong (£185.50) for his greediness earlier and wanted to iron out our misunderstanding. I told Beth and Keith who suggested we go back to Khoi 89 and ponder my next move. I called Captain Caveman to let him know and he suggested I didn’t go back to meet them. Beth was all for coming with me and was even on the brink of asking her son to meet us there. I messaged the hotel and told them to inform the driver and his 2 colleagues that I would not be meeting with them. It was already 9.30pm and they were there to intimidate me and it wasn’t appropriate. They said they would wait until I returned because the driver had insisted he had not tried to overcharge me and couldn’t speak English. He was insisting there must be a misunderstanding and they only wanted to talk to me. I did not believe this and insisted the receptionist get rid of them, even tell them I wasn’t coming back if necessary. It took her a while but messaged me to tell me the coast was clear.
When I arrived at the hotel there was no sign of the taxi company waiting for me. I got to my room slightly relieved, and still sceptical of their motives for coming to see me, late in an evening. I let Captain Caveman know I was safe, as he had waited up to check I got back ok, and he said he would let his contact know. A less confident woman would have been more scared, I’m sure, so I was even more glad I’d reported him. I did notice that the driver who had tried to say I mistook 2,600,000vnd for 260,000vnd had not come to the hotel, with his colleagues to leave the 70,000vnd he overcharged me ‘by mistake’ and a sorry note!
I was very grateful for the support from friends and the hotel in what could have been a bad situation, luckily it all worked out ok in the end.

Phong Nha – 23rd August

Phong Nha – 23rd August

My last day in Phong Nha had finally arrived; Tuesday 23rd August was my 64th day here. Tomorrow I would start my journey back to Dalyan, Turkey, where Captain Caveman would join me 1 week later. Captain Caveman went to Oxalis in the morning and he got a message from Tatas to say she wouldn’t be able to come to see me off because she was still hungover. For lunch I asked Captain Caveman to bring us both a roast pork banh mi from The Pork Shop and gave instructions to make sure no chillies or chilli sauce were on it.
Obviously when they arrived, they had chilli sauce on, despite his explanation in English and Vietnamese, so I was ill after eating it.
We had the last of the fruit salad and we weighed my luggage. I was just under my 25kg hold allowance and over on my hand luggage, which weighed 10kg but would take the risk. In the afternoon we went in the pool, it was a sunny last day and this would be my last time in our own private pool this year.
At 5pm, as planned, Stu and the boys came over to join us in the pool to say farewell. We had a few shandies and it looked like a storm was coming. We chatted about films and I got some recommendations of what I might want to watch on my journey. I had lots of time as I wouldn’t arrive in Dalyan until after 9pm on the 27th. Captain Caveman invited Stu, Max and Jack to stay for dinner but they decided to get back as they had a busy day tomorrow.
Captain Caveman cooked pasta for dinner and we toasted my leaving with some wine – I might come to regret this when the alarm goes off at 5.30am tomorrow!

Phong Nha – 22nd August

Phong Nha – 22nd August

I made Captain Caveman and I some chicken fried rice for breakfast on the morning of Monday 22nd August. We discussed where I would stay in Saigon and I decided The Common Inn, Thao Dien, because we had stayed before and really like the place. I finished all my packing and we got the cases very full. I was quite concerned that I would not be able to lift the big case and I would definitely struggle to get all my luggage out of a taxi or up any steps, should I need to. The cleaners came to make up the bed in the spare room and they also returned the pillows but we didn’t need them for much longer. They even put a full complement of towels in the spare bathroom too.
Floating in the pool we found a glow in the dark ladybird and we rescued it from drowning. That afternoon Captain Caveman had to go to Oxalis for something important and left me to plan my journey to return Bluey to the Glass House. I was not relishing the 13.5km cycle and, predictably, the sun was now shining. Captain Caveman had advised me to wait until 5pm when the sun might be starting to go in and we deduced that it might take me an hour. He was booked in for a haircut and shave at 5pm so we agreed I would head towards the hairdresser’s for 6pm, as he would have the keys.
I left the house at 5pm and it was almost five past by the time I cycled on to the road beside Elements. I’d drank lots of water and was ready to endure the heat. I cycled past René’s Greenfield Homestay within 7 minutes and by 5.15pm I was as far along as the old Bomb Crater bar. The next section was harder than I remembered and I missed the shortcut turn off to go via Sy’s Homestay. At 5.25pm I had reached Magic Fingers massage place and was feeling very hot and saddle sore. As I turned on to the main Phong Nha road I was tempted to stop for a sugar cane juice on the roadside but decided to go to Coffee Station. I got there at dead on 5.30pm, which was impressive, but they were closing. Bluey was not phased and I got back on after a swig of water, which was now the temperature of how I drink my hot tea. Bluey continued to be super whizzy and I decided, as I was earlier than expected, to stop for a smoothie at The Villas. I must’ve looked a sight for sore eyes because all of the staff, who were eating dinner, stopped and looked at me. Hong came to serve me and I had a mango lassi, which was great and it didn’t touch the sides!
Back on the bicycle I made it to the hairdresser’s, via a quick chat with Phuong at Little Leaf. There was now a huge Catholic church being built next to the hairdresser’s. Captain Caveman was in the chair getting a shave so I sat down and waited. He was impressed that I had got there before 6pm and, quite frankly, I was too! This was definitely a sign that my bad leg was back to normal again, after 2 years and 4 months!
I cycled on to the Glass House, Captain Caveman drove Trigger and we popped Bluey inside. Captain Caveman put her up on the first floor ready for any winter floods which might come while we were gone.
We had hoped to hear from Tatas to possibly meet to go to the Jungle Boss Pub. Captain Caveman had messaged her but she already had plans to go out with her customers instead. We went anyway as it was going to be my last chance before I left Phong Nha in 2 days time. Tatas said she would see us both tomorrow and Captain Caveman suggested we invite Stu and the boys round to say bye too.
We really enjoyed the Jungle Boss Pub, I had 3 beers and we shared some of the stringy cheese and 2 portions of pork scratchings. We didn’t really want to leave but Captain Caveman was driving so we had to go.
We were home before 7.30pm, had a beer and went to bed early. Tomorrow was my last day in Phong Nha and we hoped to make the best of it.

Phong Nha – 20th & 21st August

Phong Nha – 20th & 21st August

On Saturday 20th August I had fruit for breakfast and it was rainy again. I had less than 1 week until I was back in Turkey and I started to think about packing. Tatas was due back from her 2 day trip today and I had expected to hear from her so that we could plan to see each other before I left Vietnam. Unfortunately, she didn’t reply and I knew she had another 2 day trip tomorrow so I may not get chance to see her.
In the afternoon I finished watching Trainwreck on Netflix and made popcorn.
I had a nice shandy with Huda beer and Schweppes Ginger Ale around 6pm and spaghetti bolognese for dinner. It was a quiet day spent at home.

Sunday 21st August was another welcome quiet day at home. I started sorting more of my stuff out for packing and getting ready for 2 days in Saigon before my flight, via Singapore to Istanbul. As the weather in the south of Vietnam was typical for the monsoon season, I was conscious it was a good idea to get there early so that I wouldn’t risk missing my international flights. I organised with Annette, who lives in District 7 of Saigon, to meet up on the 24th for dinner. I messaged other friends in Saigon to check their plans too.
For lunch I had chicken fried rice (again) and waited to hear from Captain Caveman. He was due out of his last Son Doong trip today but, with it being a film trip, I expected he may be later than usual. When he did get back to the Glass House, in Phong Nha, it was late and he had been the bill for a full month’s rent even though he was leaving in a couple of weeks. What we hadn’t realised when he paid rent recently is that we would be charged for a full month regardless. With hindsight, what we should have done is check out 2 weeks ago and then rented daily or weekly, as it would have saved us money! We now had a 2 bedroom villa, paid for (over a Vietnamese national holiday week), which would be empty for over a week when he left. While Captain Caveman went to his gala dinner I had chicken pasta and wasn’t too well. Tomorrow was my last day in Phong Nha and I was hoping to be able to say bye to a few people, including Tatas. I was aware that I still needed to cycle Bluey back to the Glass House too so I hoped it wouldn’t rain but I also hoped for it not to be too sunny either.

Phong Nha – 19th August

Phong Nha – 19th August

My weekly measurements on Friday 19th August were:
Bust -1cm,
Waist +2cm,
Hips -2cm,
Thighs no change
Right calf -0.5cm,
Left calf -1cm. Eating and drinking whatever I liked was definitely not helping the waistline.
I had passion fruit, mango and strawberries for breakfast and pottered about a bit. Caroline had left early for Hoi An and Tatas had gone on a 2 day tour so they were both going to miss out on the fun tonight.
I had the remaining chicken fried rice for lunch and watched the rain as it came down quite heavily. I then got on with organising how I was going to get to Phong Nha later, I certainly wouldn’t be cycling Bluey in the rain, despite it still being warm. The new Jungle Boss Pub was having their grand opening tonight from 6pm and, of course, I was keen to go. Everyone was invited and I hoped to see a few friends there. Trang was in Dong Hoi, from Saigon, but was going to be there with Trinh, the owner of Buffalo Home and Chill bar in Dong Hoi. I was cheeky and asked if I could get a lift with them and Trinh, who was driving, very kindly agreed. The rain stopped but I still decided to wear jeans and my jungle inspired top – I even had my hair down.

After my chaperones got a bit lost in Khuong Ha, we were on our way and we were even bang on time for the party. As we arrived there were masses of flowers to wish Jungle Boss luck for the opening. We were met by Dung, the owner of Jungle Boss, and said hello and congratulations for opening the much needed Phong Nha bar.

When I walked inside, I was impressed – the place looked amazing! It was very modern and different, with some great soft furnishings. The seats were very comfortable and we chose a table next to the stage. We ordered drinks from some familiar faces, it was nice to see Quan and Nga working as bartenders again. Food was ordered from the snack menu and it was great to see a mix of Vietnamese and western style choices. I was particularly excited to see they had pork scratchings on the menu too, Captain Caveman would love them.

We had a few drinks and listened to some amazing live music, there were more and more familiar faces and I got to catch up with lots of old friends, mainly from Jungle Boss. I managed to get up dancing and joined in on some singing, it was a superb opening night and I hoped the Jungle Boss pub would continue to flourish after I’d left Phong Nha. Trinh kindly dropped me back off and when I got in I decided to make myself a hotdog to finish off the night.

Photo credit – some photos from Jungle Boss Pub, Trang & Trinh

Phong Nha – 16th to 18th August

Phong Nha – 16th to 18th August

I still had 10 days left on my Vietnamese visa on Tuesday 16th August but there were certainly signs that my stay was now coming to an end. Captain Caveman went to Oxalis while I had my usual teacake loaf for breakfast, then he went to the Glass House to get me a suitcase and drove it back on his motorbike. I already had the suitcase, which I had borrowed from my parents, but Captain Caveman wanted me to utilise the whole of my 25kg allowance, so I needed a bigger case. He would bring back 2 cases, including my parents’ one as he had a bigger allowance than me. Captain Caveman had picked up the sausages from Viet Ha so he made me a 2nd breakfast. It was lovely too and I was impressed with the sausages. I also ordered some strawberries but they would be available to pick up tomorrow.
Just before lunch time the cleaners came and stripped the spare bed down to everything except for the mattress protector and took all the remaining towels. I thought they were going to replace them but maybe because of the rain, and the Dong Hoi bedding woman saga, they didn’t have enough to cover both rooms. Captain Caveman had invited Stu and the boys round for beers, dinner and a dip in the pool so they arrived at 5pm. Caroline had already drove over and we had some pool beers.
It was a fun evening for us and we carried on drinking and swimming, even after everyone had gone home and the spaghetti bolognese had been eaten.

Wednesday 17th August was super exciting and I was sworn to secrecy about most of it! You will find out more about the secret shenanigans eventually but, for now, I have to keep it under my hat. What I can tell you is that Captain Caveman and I took Trigger, the motorbike, in to Phong Nha to meet Tatas at Coffee Station. She had missed out on enough fun and celebrations already, due to being underground, so she was keen to meet up. While Captain Caveman went to Oxalis, she and I caught up and ate an English style breakfast with smoothies (and coffee for her). She had enjoyed her last Son Doong tour of the season and one of her guests was Turkish, I suggested I could meet him but she didn’t seem keen. In fact, after our meeting, she was off to meet her tour group for lunch and drinks at Len Con Peak but I didn’t get an invite.
Stu and the kids arrived, with friends, as we were eating breakfast and we said hello. They ordered breakfast, then Captain Caveman arrived and he had coconut coffee and a mango smoothie. I made the mistake of ordering a second mango smoothie and then had a terrible stomach, due to too much fibre at once. Caroline arrived shortly after, as we had arranged to meet her for a ‘secret squirrel’ mission. She had failed to realise that the intended plans could not include taking Vee, the dog, so she had to go back to drop her off.
Our secret mission involved Captain Caveman driving us both in to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park on Trigger, who really struggled on the steep hills but we managed it. Captain Caveman, Caroline and I spent the morning in the national park then met Harry, Linh and Chuc for a cold drink at the Botanical Gardens before riding back in to town.
Our strawberry delivery had arrived so we called at Phong Nha Vegan to collect them from Chung. I was peckish and suggested we go to The Pork Shop for a Banh Mi so we met back there for a late lunch.
While eating, Captain Caveman got a call from work saying that he had to go to Dong Hoi for a police check. I, luckily, had Caroline there to give me a ride home on her Royal Enfield motorbike and I had my own helmet with me already. It’s a really nice bike and so comfortable, Caroline rides it well too. Back at mine it seemed really warm as I said bye and arranged to meet for beers at ours later.
It turned out that there was a bit of a to do with Captain Caveman’s paperwork which resulted in him having to go straight to his briefing instead of coming home to join me for a swim. It did work out well for me and my mom though, as he had time to nip to the phone shop to get my mom a new phone. By 4pm it was raining in Phong Nha and I wondered what I might have for dinner. I had a makeshift beans on toast but then had a bad stomach again.
Captain Caveman was late home after his briefing so we cancelled the beers with Caroline. Although Captain Caveman would be in Son Doong tomorrow, Tatas had a rare day off and I was looking forward to doing something with her.

Captain Caveman brought me a pot of Yorkshire tea in bed, before 7am on Thursday 18th August. He left for his last Son Doong trip of the season and would be back on Sunday. I was looking forward to having Tatas and Caroline round for an afternoon in the pool with some beers.
I made myself some chicken fried rice for brunch and got through all my tasks so that I would be free for frivolities later.
Captain Caveman called me from the village on his way to Son Doong to ask me to ride Bluey from Elements to the Glass House. This was a distance of 13.5km and the heat was too much for me to do this, but he said if I didn’t do it, it would only be another job for him to have to do when I left. I decided to wait until a cooler day, or maybe even cycle to an event in Phong Nha tomorrow evening, after the sun had gone down!
Tatas was the first to cancel this afternoon’s plans because she had to go to Dong Hoi at lunch time. At first she said she would come to mine on the way back but then said she wouldn’t have time as she needed to tidy her room and pack for her next trip tomorrow. Caroline was next to cancel when she found out she had to be back in Hoi An earlier than expected. She decided to spend her last night, tonight, at Ho Khanh’s Homestay but did invite both Tatas and I over there instead. I wasn’t fancying getting a taxi there and back so I declined. Tatas didn’t answer any texts to ask if she wanted to go to meet Caroline, which was nearer to her house than mine. My afternoon involved watching Trainwreck on Netflix, a documentary about a Woodstock style festival in 1999 which gets completely out of hand. That evening I chilled out and had French onion soup for dinner.

Phong Nha – 15th August

Phong Nha – 15th August

On Monday 15th August, we were wondering what to do with the massive bunch of flowers that were in our sink.
Captain Caveman went outside to find the housekeeping staff to ask for a vase, they took the flowers and said they would sort them out. What we got back in a small vase was only a portion of the flowers, we don’t know what happened to the rest but I never saw them again. Flowers aren’t treated in the same way they are back home and they probably just got shared in to the other rooms or binned, which was a shame. We had toasted teacake loaf for breakfast which is my new favourite.

Captain Caveman was probably feeling the effects of too much booze for the second night running because he hardly said a word and lolled about all morning on his phone. I think he had wanted to go to Phong Nha (for work, with it being a Monday) but his motorbike was still at Karst Villas. He was hoping for Caroline to be able to ride it to our place, as her motorbike was still at ours, from impromptu pool party night.
When Caroline did come over with his bike and our helmets it was too late for him to bother going to work. Instead, Caroline suggested a trip to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Captain Caveman contacted the reception to ask them to send the jeep to pick us up. The message was lost in translation as he didn’t specify it was for 3 of us plus a dog. Chien turned up razzing the engine of the Ural and tried to say he could get us all on the motorbike and side car. I said not and asked Chien to take Captain Caveman, Caroline and Vee first but come back for me afterwards. It was great to see Cuong for the first time since the start of the pandemic too, he’d been injured and was slowly getting better and could now walk, but with a limp.

When we arrived at the Farmstay there was no way I could have any alcohol after the weekend we’d had! Captain Caveman and Caroline, however, managed several frozen margaritas and food was ordered. I said I’d share Captain Caveman’s salami pizza and Caroline went for one of the Aussie meat pies with chips and gravy. Kat came over from Phong Nha to meet me and it was great to see her and Caroline get on. They are so very different but both have very interesting lives so I was pleased to see them find some common ground to chat about. Our pizza was very good and was proven by me only getting 2 slices and Captain Caveman snaffling the rest in record time!
Kat wasn’t able to stay long because her boyfriend, Buu, was on his way out of the caves and she wanted to see him while she could. I didn’t think we would stay much later anyway but we stayed long enough for a swim in the pool and to see Benjamin off. We’d made another new Phong Nha friend and I felt sure our paths would cross again.

Long, the Phong Nha Farmstay manager, reminded me that I still had Bluey in the car park so, while the others were getting a lift back to Elements, I was about to cycle back home. Long was insistent that he drive us all in the Troopy and he put Bluey in the back. When we got back, Caroline took her bike back to Karst Villas and Captain Caveman got on with making french onion soup for dinner. I found out that Viet Ha, who I know from when we worked at Jungle Boss, was now selling homemade pork sausages so we ordered 500g. I took a photo of our reduced size bouquet and only then realised we had a big vase with dried flowers in which I could have used to place all of the rest of the flowers in!
The French onion soup was very tasty but we were definitely ready for bed early that night!

Phong Nha – 14th August

Phong Nha – 14th August

I spent most of Sunday 14th August hungover, wishing we didn’t have our own 100th birthday party to attend at 4pm! Captain Caveman had worked out that, because I would be in Dalyan, Turkey, on my actual 50th birthday, and his 50th had been last month, that we should have a joint party in Phong Nha, Vietnam. This would be our first celebration of 100 years but the intention was to have at least one more in Turkey and possibly something in England if we got the chance to go back there this winter. Captain Caveman had arranged for our party today to be at Karst Villas, where Hung (the owner) would have cold beers and nibbles ready for everyone. All our friends in Vietnam had been invited and Captain Caveman had chosen a Sunday so that it gave Oxalis staff the best chance of being able to come. Throughout the day we got various messages from people who were unable to attend and, quite frankly, I fancied declining the invite too! There was no way I could drink after last night’s (and this morning’s) antics.
As we set off, on Trigger, it looked like it might rain. We passed the Elements staff (including Duyet) who said they would see us at the party. We had got a few minutes down the road when a huge storm came and we had to take shelter at a stranger’s house. The lady got out her spare chairs and gave them to us to have a seat, we thought it would pass quickly but I think she knew it would be a while.
We arrived at our 100th birthday party at least half an hour late but luckily there was only Harry and Linh there that I instantly recognised. Captain Caveman’s friend Dat and her family were there and we were presented with the most gorgeous bunch of flowers. Cuong and his family was also there before us and we were introduced. Harry and Linh introduced us to their colleague, Chuc, and we had our first beer, to be sociable. Some of Captain Caveman’s Oxalis colleagues arrived and we had to have more beer to do cheers with. Stu, Max and Jack arrived and Stu was absolutely wasted so he didn’t stay long. René stopped by for a few beers and then had to get home, while Caroline had still not surfaced from her room (at the Karst Villas). Andrew, Trang and their son came and people started to ask what we had done with Caroline. Bom and Quet arrived looking dapper and drinking only water (lucky them) and joined Mr Tu, Minh and his 2 young sons, who were so well behaved and polite. Last, but certainly not least, to arrive was Kat who had come from Hanoi. She came with a gift of the gluten free tiramisu sweet treats, which I love!
Unfortunately Tatas, Chung, Uy, Phuong (all of them), had to work and one friend had the Corona virus so didn’t come. I also think the rain earlier had put a few people off coming.
I’d planned on not drinking but it was proving impossible, Captain Caveman sure was taking the cold beers for the team by the time Benjamin and his caving budding, Carolina, arrived. He updated us that he had left yesterday’s pool party at midnight. He knew he had to be ready this morning for his trip but he’d had to come back this morning to get his shoes! Eventually Caroline surfaced with Vee but was unable to stomach a beer and we were ready to say goodbye by that time.
After a few celebratory shots (thanks to Kat), we got a taxi home with Benjamin and dropped Carolina off on the way. This time we all went home to our own villas – I was desperate for my bed!