Danang and Hoi An – 21st April

Danang and Hoi An – 21st April

Wednesday 21st April, as it fell this year, was an important day in Vietnam and is considered a holiday day. However with the risks of another wave of Corona there was likely to be more restrictions being put in place than usual. Read more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/ttnewsstyle/20210420/vietnamese-flock-to-festival-shrug-off-outbreak-risk/60474.html
Our last breakfast together was at Pho Thin again because we all enjoyed the pho there so much and it would be the last meal with Tatas. She had a pick up car coming at 11.30am to shuttle her to the bus to Phong Nha which should get her home for about 6pm that night. We all said how much of a good time we had coming to visit and we hoped to do it again as soon as we could all get dates that would allow it. I also decided I would get a Grab car at the same time as I had plans to go to Hoi An for a couple of days. When the car arrived, Tatas said her goodbyes and got in, only to find it was actually my car – I would have been so annoyed to have been sent back to Phong Nha instead of Tatas! I said farewell until the weekend and off I went to Hoi An to meet a friend for lunch.

I arrived at Veggie Hut in Hoi An at 12.15pm and ordered a pot of jasmine tea while I waited for Melissa and her family to arrive. I decided to have fresh spring rolls and some sweet potatoes, Aaliyah ordered the veggie moussaka with the intention of saving half for dinner and Melissa had the chocolate cherry cake. All the family were looking tanned and healthy and were enjoying living in Hoi An. They were our neighbours back at Elements Collection when they lived in Phong Nha (they even moved in with us during the floods in October 2020 for a couple of days) and they missed the Phong Nha Farmstay and all their friends there. When the food came mine was too spicy as it had something like kimchee in the rolls but Aaliyah ate all of her food because she really enjoyed it. Elijah and Rimaha shared a Snickers ice-cream dessert which looked really good. It was really good to see them and have a good chat about all the stuff they had been doing since moving here. The lunch meet up went quick and, because my Grab app no longer works, I asked for the staff to call me a taxi for my next appointment.

My taxi driver dropped me outside Citrus Spa in Hoi An where I had booked in for some waxing. I’d been to this salon before and knew they were good so had booked in for the works! I also fancied a bit of reflexology which I hoped to fit in at the end. I’d arranged to meet Caroline, who had kindly invited me to stay at her place in An Bang, Hoi An. When I came downstairs from having my waxing done, this time no need to bum shuffle, she was already in having a full body massage, which meant I had time for my foot massage. It was fantastic and I felt so relaxed after it that I could have had a snooze but there was not enough time. Caroline and I had a hug and paid our bills, I was surprised to get a big discount and paid less than 800,000vnd (£25) for everything.

Next we went to Hill Station in Hoi An for a cheeky prosecco and a selection of cheeses with some bread and gluten free crackers – it was delightful! After the Hill Station we decided to go to the wine shop to pick up a few bottles so we could go back to Caroline’s place and have a night in with the pets, who I was also looking forward to seeing, and a good natter. We got the prosecco open and had a really good chat, I was pleased I’d decided to stay at Caroline’s as we did have a good laugh and it was nice to just chill out and eat some gluten free crisps and salsa dip. We also reinvented beer koozies (insulated beer cooler holders) by fashioning them to fit our wine glasses so that we didn’t have to be philistines by putting ice in our wine!
My bedroom was really lovely and comfortable with an ensuite, balcony and a sliding door to the pool so I had a great sleep that night!

Danang & Hoi An – 20th April

Danang & Hoi An – 20th April

As Tatas was only here for a short time, we decided we should make the most of it on Tuesday 20th April and our friends had great recommendations for us. Captain Caveman had returned from Son Doong yesterday but gone back in today and I’d not had chance to speak to him before his next tour. Today the plan was to have a relaxing day at Hoi An Silk Beach Club with Tatas, who was also working while next to the pool. Transport is so much cheaper in Danang than in Phong Nha and was only 200,000vnd (£6.20) from Danang to Hoi An, about 45 minutes away. When we arrived we were the only people there and so we had the pool to ourselves. I was so hungover that I ordered a can of Fanta and some french fries for brunch and I’d forgotten my swimmers. As there was no one around I went swimming in my undies and was able to hoist myself out of the pool relatively ok, but not gracefully.

Once back at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel we had a shower and change before we went off for a full body massage at Herbal Spa which Kendra had also recommended. The 90 minute aromatherapy full body massage was looking like the best deal for what I wanted and I asked them to concentrate more on my shoulders and feet and they also asked about injuries and pressure which was great as usually massages in Vietnam are brutally strong. There was a special offer on of 150,000vnd (£4.65) for 60 minutes or 240,000vnd (£7.44) for 90 minutes including hot stones if you wanted them (I opted for it without). It was very relaxing and so professional, one of the best massages I’ve ever had and we even got a cute outfit to wear to protect modesty – what a lovely treat!
After the massage we were given free soup, herbal tea and coconut crackers, which you could also buy and were gluten free. I was so relaxed that I felt like going back to the hotel to go to bed but we had plans for Tatas’ last night of her mini-break. I made a note to self that I definitely would be staying off the alcohol tonight though!

After the 3rd shower of the day at the hotel, we were off out for dinner. It was Tatas’ last night so she got to choose where she would like to eat. We arrived at The Nomad Kitchen in An Thuong and ordered some drinks while looking at the menu. It was a shame that I’d decided not to drink as they had some decent wine for a good price.
For my dinner I had the fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce for 110,000vnd (£3.40) and it was absolutely amazing. Tatas had a buffalo dinner, while the rest of the table had dishes which included a side order of buffalo, bacon croquettes, and falafel salad. The food was really good and Daniel, the chef, is incredibly skilled. When a couple of us ordered the white chocolate tart for dessert I asked if I could have an extra price of fish for my pudding instead, it was that good and even came with extra vinegar. I could only drink sparkling water as I was honestly begging for mercy, I needed to remember I am much older than all of these party animals! Tonight I remembered that the AC needs to be turned on again after taking out the key card and I settled down for a relatively early night about 11.30pm, while Tatas carried on her night at Oi bar, Emma’s and Shamerock. Tomorrow Tatas and I would be checking out of this lovely hotel but only she was off back to Phong Nha – I had more adventures planned!

Phong Nha to Danang – 19th April

Phong Nha to Danang – 19th April

My alarm went off at 4am on Monday 19th April as I was off on a holiday within a holiday. Tatas was already on the bus, which was delayed a bit and would drop her in Danang at 5.30am but I find bus travel uncomfortable and dangerous so I had opted to get the train. Phuong picked me up at 4.30am and we drove to Dong Hoi train station. We were early for my 5.42am train and as we all waited in the station, masked up, it became delayed by 30 minutes. I was booked in to Coach 2 on a soft seat which was half the price of a bed and surprisingly comfy. I had 2 seats to myself until we got to Hue and managed to nod off to sleep a little bit.

I finally arrived an hour late in to Danang at 12.30 and my driver was waiting for me, carrying a board with my name on. On arrival at Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel, in the Son Tra area of Danang, I was very pleasantly surprised. Even though I had booked a cosy double, it was still really good and not as small as I expected. The room had an industrial look with a picture of a bridge – Captain Caveman would love it.

I’d not eaten anything at all yet so I was starving and luckily Hamish and Ania were ready to take Tatas and I to a really good pho restaurant, a short Grab ride away. Pho Thin has great pho bo and was so tasty and filling, it’s a well known eatery here in Danang and also there is one in Hanoi.
After breakfast/lunch the 4 of us went to a bar called Section 30 in the An Thuong area of Danang to meet Kendra and a few of her friends who were all using the co-working space upstairs. We tried the cherry beer which was a bit too nice but I didn’t want to drink too much of it before my rather important appointment at 3.30pm.

It had been 1 year, 3 months, 1 week and 1 day since my last hairdresser’s visit so I was off to Ly’s Salon for a 3.30pm hair appointment – I was so excited! Kendra had recommended this place and so I had booked for the full cut, colour, head massage and styling. Ania and Kendra were coming at 5pm and Tatas decided to come with me for a bit of pampering. We walked it using Google maps, which neither of us are good with, and ended up having to walk across a building site and then still got the wrong place as they had moved. The place was small but professional looking and they had lots of activity. It felt so good to be finally getting a hair colour and then a good cut, but still keeping it long. The head massage was done in a separate room in the dark and it was absolutely amazing. Kendra and Ania came after work, Kendra treated us to a bottle of bubbles to drink while we were getting our new hairdos and it felt like being in a salon back in the western world, it was that good.

Once we’d finished it was time to go for a cheeky drink with the lads and Hamish had promised Tatas and I that he would take us to one of his favourite spots for a good value steak dinner. There was a group of us for dinner at Vertigo in An Thuong, Danang and, of course, it involved lots of wine, Hamish even got everyone a Jaeger shot before the food! Most of us ordered the steak because Hamish had recommended it and had suggested it could be the best in town so we were very much looking forward to it. A random stranger arrived and apologised for being late as he thought he was going to be joining us but it turned out he was meeting the bloke behind us but we all had a good laugh at that. My steak was perfectly cooked, very tasty and did not disappoint – I was impressed because the bar we were eating was nothing fancy.

After too much red wine we paid up and decided to head to Oi bar where we sat outside and had more drinks and the Tequila shots were on the go! They ran out of salt and lime at one stage and we had to improvise before apparently going to a bar called Emma’s, for some reason I don’t remember being at the bar although I do recall buying some pork and mushroom steamed buns and eating those, plus insisting every one try them. My stomach was fine and I even managed a drunken visit to ‘Shamerock’ where we got to dance the night away to some cool tunes, as Des became the DJ. I even met the owners and tried to get a few of the regulars to have a dance with us. It was such a great night and when we eventually got back to the hotel we had to ring the door bell to be let in – I was so chuffed with this! I wasn’t so pleased when I woke up, fully clothed at 4am, lights on and no Aircon feeling ever so parched! I can definitely say the first day of my holiday within a holiday was a huge success and Tatas had really enjoyed herself too. Hamish and Ania were the perfect hosts and their friends were welcoming and good fun.

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of April

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of April

The tannoy was back up to loud for the weekend at 5.30am on Friday 16th April. Captain Caveman was off to his next Son Doong tour and Tatas had confirmed she was going to be able to go to Danang on Sunday after her Tu Lan trip and was getting the overnight bus, we also agreed to meet up at The Villas for pizza night later, today she was off to lunch and karaoke with her customers.
Bich helped me out by asking Duyet to get me some eye drops for my irritated eye, he came over to check my eye and what kind of eye-drops I needed, which was nice. I ate peanut M&Ms for breakfast, gluten free quinoa crackers and an apple for lunch then started watching Series 2 of Love Island on Netflix. I snacked on dragon fruit and then made mushroom and egg fried rice for dinner because the oven had broken at The Villas so pizza night was cancelled, which also meant I didn’t meet Tatas there either.

I decided to cycle to the Farmstay on Saturday 17th April for breakfast of pho bo, soda water and a green tea. Bluey had to have her tyres pumped up but she made the ride there in 8 minutes 37 seconds, which wasn’t bad. I stayed at the Farmstay for a lunch of fresh spring rolls with pork and prawn and a ginger beer, beside the pool which was nice. My journey back was just 8 minutes 31 seconds and it was very hot and sticky! Later, I opened a bottle of wine and had a couple of glasses then some sourdough with laughing cow cheese-spread, which made me sick again – it was definitely Gluten and/or dairy! I had an early night watching Love Island, hoping the gluten intolerance would go away.

My stomach problem was back with a vengeance at 4am on Sunday 18th April and I felt terrible. By breakfast time I forced dragon fruit, water and jasmine tea in then rested a lot. By lunch time I had been really ill and hoped by eating gluten free quinoa crackers I might recover. I finished off Love Island and did some writing but the furthest I ventured was on the balcony to admire the views.
I saw the Corona stats were not looking good for Turkey as the number of cases rose to just 173,000 less than the UK and the deaths were 92,000 less, but they were catching up fast and with less progress on vaccines so far.
By dinner time I was feeling better so I ate a masaman curry which I added a couple of carrots, a potato and a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter to before packing for my ‘holiday within a holiday’ . Tatas messaged me to say she had already left Phong Nha on the bus, 30 minutes earlier than planned, which would arrive in Danang at around 3am. I would join her tomorrow for a bit of an adventure!

Phong Nha – 15th April

Phong Nha – 15th April

Thursday 15th April had some excitement afoot; my leg was making slow progress but I was conscious that I needed to try to get out more to places I have been struggling to visit for the last year because of my injury. If I was going to make it on a trip away any time soon I needed to get used to walking where it is unpredictable and more difficult than the places I know well. I just had an apple for breakfast because we were off out for lunch as well as meeting Tatas later at The Villas for holiday planning, once she got out of her Tu Lan 4 day tour. On the way downstairs I tried for the first time putting one foot in front of the other to go down each step and I managed it (twice) for the first time since my injury. Captain Caveman and I went by motorbike to East Hill for the BBQ chicken and sticky rice for the first time in over 1 year. We had ordered delivery from there but had not been to visit because of my bad leg and the steep uneven steps they have. I managed the steps up ok, with a bit of help from Captain Caveman and we had a whole chicken to ourselves which was so gorgeous and, as long as I could get back down the steps, we said we would visit again soon. I did need help with the way down, especially where the handrail disappears but I made it – I wouldn’t have made it in the dark though.

Afterwards we went back to the Glass House so that I could collect a few things and Captain Caveman could sort out the allocation of Son Doong tips then get his washing repacked for his next trip tomorrow. Our next stop was at The Villas to wait for Tatas before Captain Caveman went to his briefing at 6pm but by 5.30pm I’d not heard from her and she hadn’t arrived. Captain Caveman ordered a pizza and I had 2 pieces of it and a lemon juice, then some red wine. Tatas finally messaged to say she was at Chay Lap with her customers so wouldn’t be coming out. I sat and caught up on blogging with wine while Captain Caveman went to his briefing then I had a chicken and bacon sandwich which I took most of the bread off and only managed a few chips before I had a bad stomach. Since the gastroenteritis my gluten intolerance was back with a vengeance, it appeared and we even had to do an emergency stop on the way home because of my stomach. Captain Caveman was not impressed and insisted I needed to give up gluten and dairy completely now and made me promise to. In the news there were reports that Asia was suffering from not having enough room for Corona patients in hospitals, after a record amount of cases and new lockdowns imposed, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210415/hospitals-run-short-of-beds-as-asia-s-covid19-cases-surge/60383.html
Before I went to bed I noticed that the bit of dust I had got in my eye on the way home had made it bloodshot and a bit sore, it even made it difficult for me to get to sleep.

Phong Nha – 14th April

Phong Nha – 14th April

Captain Caveman brought me my breakfast in bed on Wednesday 14th April; a banana, some strawberries and some grapes. He had a day off and we had been awake since the 5.30am tannoy which had been a bit quieter today. I’d hoped we might be spending the day doing something different but Captain Caveman had already arranged to go to Phong Nha and then off on a rented motorbike for a reccy of a cycling route for a race coming up this summer. I was hoping for an extra nap when the housekeeping staff knocked on the door to come in to clean. I decided to sit outside and admire the garden while catching up on the To Do List. Mr Ky, the dog, was off his lead and wandering around so he came to say hello when I called him. For lunch I had an apple, a small piece of crust from the fresh bread and the last of my vegan meals which was braised root vegetables. When Captain Caveman returned I made him an omelette, it’s the only thing I’m good at cooking but won’t eat and we decided to open a bottle of Lindemans sparkling white wine. While he ate the sour cream Pringles, I had some cashew nuts which we bought at Funny Monkeys. For dinner Captain Caveman made us a tasty pasta dish with salami, mushrooms and peppers and we had a relaxing evening. Even though I had eaten gluten I was not ill from the pasta, which was good news!

Phong Nha – 13th April

Phong Nha – 13th April

I’d already pre-ordered some fresh bread from the Lake House for Captain Caveman to pick up on Tuesday 13th April. Veronika had also ordered sourdough for all of us via Bich and so we were about to be rather full of bread in our house, just as my gluten intolerance returns! The tannoys this morning were quiet with only a short announcement which was a relief for anyone with a hangover. Captain Caveman went out for the shuttle service but it was late by 15 minutes and he then didn’t even go to The Villas for his breakfast, just to pick up his bicycle and call in to his work. I had a banana, grapes and strawberries for my breakfast at home and then plonked myself on the sun-lounger by the pool for the rest of the day. I had more Earth Cafe food for lunch with a delightful vegan spaghetti which I really enjoyed and could easily have eaten that dish again.

When Captain Caveman returned I suggested we have a walk to the Farmstay as a bit of exercise for my leg and we took my walking poles. The walk took us 32 minutes and 45 seconds which is still slow but Captain Caveman took videos of my walking and it looked to have improved.

Captain Caveman’s video of me walking to Phong Nha Farmstay
Captain Caveman’s video of me walking to Phong Nha Farmstay

We sat with Veronika, Karl and Sue and I had a couple of ciders, Andrew and his 1 year old were in the pool but joined us and then Bich joined us too. For dinner it was shepherd’s pie night with a new deal which is 300,000vnd (£9.30) and includes a drink and a dessert, we decided we would have something different today. Captain Caveman had meat pie, chips, veg and gravy which is 120,000vnd (£3.72) and I had duck a l’orange for 160,000vnd (£4.96) and both are great meals. When we got home, though, I wasn’t too well again and had a bad stomach, I was beginning to wonder if I was just allergic to eating out! It was just typical that I would be ill again when Captain Caveman had the day off tomorrow too.

Phong Nha – 12th April

Phong Nha – 12th April

I was awake at 3.30am on Monday 12th April with terrible indigestion resulting in me having to get out the Maalox. The tannoy was on form at 5.30am for an hour, so by 7am I had done quite a bit of blogging, writing and languages. I had a banana and some strawberries for breakfast and then had another vegan lunch from my Earth Cafe takeaways. This time I tried something which was a first for me; tempeh with green banana and mushrooms. The taste was very different but I really enjoyed it and found it very filling with a piece of fresh baguette. Phuong picked me up at 2.30pm for my ride to The Villas to celebrate a whole week of no alcohol and a couple of days of eating vegan food. Captain Caveman would meet me there after he got out of his Son Doing trip. Even with the shopping trip spending I had been very frugal with the housekeeping this weekend and so I still had 1,000,000vnd (£30) left to splash out on a bottle of wine, even though it was technically Margarita Monday. I decided to have a bottle of white wine with an ice bucket, some soda water and a bowl of peanuts. Captain Caveman arrived, having had an excellent tour group and was drinking the wine a bit too fast. We had a margarita and then the car for Chay Lap arrived. It wasn’t my intention to join Captain Caveman, Dat and Coc for their gala dinner but Nguyen, the head guy of the fertilizer company, invited me and insisted I join for the fish and goat BBQ. Before we sat down for dinner we had a few margaritas at the bar and then we all sat in the garden at a special table. The men from the tour made various speeches about how much they enjoyed their trip and how appreciative of Captain Caveman’s input they were, which was lovely to hear. Captain Caveman did a speech to thank them all and then the lads got even more on the booze than they already were. We ate soup, morning glory with garlic, roast pork, rice crackers with snails, river fish and goat. Coc had made an amazing video of their tour which we watched and applauded at the end. Captain Caveman was drunk and when the group CEO asked for Captain Caveman and I to do a duet love song he desperately needed me to help him out. I’d had 2 margaritas by this time so I told Dat and Coc to load us up Lose Yourself by Eminem and, if I do say so myself, I took one for the team! The group absolutely loved it and then insisted we all sing more, most of the group were great singers and a lot of songs were sang, in the end Captain Caveman had to sing Country Roads, which was then the cue for me to take him home. It had been a great night with the men from Ca Mau, and we now had another place that we wanted to visit when we get chance for a trip down south again. When we got home I set the alarm to make sure Captain Caveman got up in time the next day.

Phong Nha – 11th April

Phong Nha – 11th April

I continued my vegan weekend with the delicious pumpkin soup from Earth Cafe for breakfast on Sunday 11th April, it was raining heavily but at least a bit cooler. Tatas popped over and we started discussing a trip to Danang as Hamish and Ania had invited us both to visit. Hamish had also sent us a few recommendations of where we could stay, including the Bridges Danang Boutique Hotel where they, and Mik, were staying and it looked great value for money. Because my stomach was doing so much better with the vegan diet I decided to pass on the Sunday Dinner at the Phong Nha Farmstay. I did try to book the free shuttle to The Villas to meet Captain Caveman tomorrow afternoon, possibly to enjoy Margarita Monday, but there was only one available at 8.30am which was a bit early for me to start on the booze after a week off it. Instead I booked Phuong at 2.30pm at a cost of 150,000vnd one way so that I could perhaps indulge in a beverage with my man.
I had grapes, a banana and the vegan fried spring rolls from Earth Cafe for lunch and I was feeling really healthy. For dinner I had the pineapple fried rice from Earth Cafe in Dong Hoi and a few strawberries as a treat – they were so good!
After doing a bit of writing and languages I was a bit peckish and decided to try the original flavoured Pringles. I don’t normally eat them because I’m not keen and now I know why. I was so ill after scoffing them, within a few minutes and when I checked how many calories they contain it was ridiculous and I will never eat them again! I lay in bed and finished watching series 4 of Breaking Bad before falling asleep.

Dong Hoi and Phong Nha – 10th April

Dong Hoi and Phong Nha – 10th April

Phuong, of Phuong’s Transfers, picked me up at 7am on Saturday 10th April for our shopping trip in Dong Hoi. I was feeling much better but didn’t eat anything before the drive there (just in case) and our first stop was to buy Captain Caveman 2 new pairs of porter sandals for work. After being ill I desperately needed more basic provisions and some healthy food so I was looking forward to my trip with Phuong by myself. Our first stop was Co-op Mart which was empty and it took me only 20 minutes to get as much as I could from the list before coming out to a heavy rain shower. We loaded in the bags and went to out next shop, Tuan Gourmet Viet, the security guard helped me by sharing his umbrella and walking with me on the wet slippy marble as he could see my compression bandage on my knee. Since the last time I’d been in this shop the amount of western products had reduced so I didn’t buy as many things as I thought I might but I splashed out on a punnet of strawberries! Our final supermarket visit was the Vin Mart and I go here to get the remaining things the other shops don’t stock but it is generally a bit more expensive than the Co-op. Before 9.30am I had got everything except for popcorn from my list and we were on our way to Earth Cafe for breakfast. Phuong had already nipped off for some eel for his breakfast but did come to join me for a coffee. Mo, the owner, was busy making sure my order was completed because I had decided to order a few dishes from her takeaway menu to help me get back to full health, as well as having the udon soup at the cafe. It had been a very successful shopping trip where I had learned I could be quicker than Captain Caveman and that although the Vincom shopping centre didn’t open until 9am the VinMart supermarket opens at 8am and there is a lift to the first floor. The rain continued to be pretty heavy on the drive back to Phong Nha and when we got back Phuong brought a lot of the shopping in for me.

For my lunch I ate the mushroom vegan burger from Earth cafe, still warm, and it was really good. Then I had a rest before doing a few tasks and eating some peanut M&Ms. For dinner I had more of my Earth cafe takeaway meals with the vegan fresh spring rolls and peanut sauce which are one of my favourites. I’d really enjoyed today, I was out of the woods with being sickly and had a fridge full of lovely, healthy food.

As I had been to 3 supermarkets and bought quite a lot of shopping, I decided to compile a list of my items and the costs. I also made a list of all the takeaway vegan meals I bought at Earth Cafe and their prices too. For info 32,000vnd is equal to £1 and all prices are in Vietnamese Dong.

Co-op Mart
• Carrots 8,352
• Washing up liquid 23,000
• Pringles (sour cream) 29,000
• Pringles (original) 32,200
• Laughing Cow cheese triangles 32,600
• Peanut M&Ms 39,600
• Dragon Fruit 39,859
• Sweetcorn 40,200



Tuan Viet Gourmet
• Tissues 15,000
• Diet coke 18,000
• Gluten free stock cubes 22,000
• Coconut cream 26,000
• Pasta 37,000
• Mushroom pasta sauce 65,000
• Butter 73,000
• Gluten free crackers 105,000
• Gluten free crispbread 105,000
• Strawberries 160,000

VinMart
• Notebook 8,900
• Baguette 9,000
• Bananas 21,800
• Crisps 22,000
• Mushrooms 35,500
• Salami 38,300
• Red peppers 45,000
• Mouthwash 58,500
• Grapes 68,000
• Apples 102,900

Earth Cafe
• Vegan tofu rolls 35,000
• Fried spring rolls 40,000
• Pumpkin soup 45,000
• Pineapple fried rice 45,000
• Vegan spaghetti 50,000
• Braised root vegetables 50,000
• Vegan Burger 50,000
• Tempeh and green banana 70,000

There were no dates or alcohol bought this week and so I got quite a few things, including the transport, for around 2.5 million vnd (£80). Except for the apples, grapes and strawberries (always expensive in Vietnam) was there anything which surprised you?

Phong Nha – 9th April

Phong Nha – 9th April

There’s nothing like a bout of stomach flu to make your clothes feel baggy! On Friday 9th April I was already awake early, before the time Captain Caveman would have left for Son Doong and I hadn’t spoken to him yet. He’d been too busy and so he called me from the bus on his way and I didn’t get to chat too much. I was starting to recover from the sickness so I had decided I would book Phuong for a shopping trip tomorrow and arranged for a 9am pick up. My shopping list was quite long because we’d not been on a shopping trip in ages so I was looking forward to getting stocked up. I decided I was feeling well enough to venture to the Phong Nha Farmstay for an early lunch and went to sit outside, to admire the plants, while I waited for Duyet with the van. For lunch I ordered a mushroom soup and some veggie spring rolls which were nice, then went home for a bit of a lay down. In the afternoon I ate some plain crisps and felt a lot better but decided not to go to pizza night in case I was contagious still. There was mention on the Farmstay noticeboard of a free shuttle service between Farmstay and The Villas which I was pleased about, so I messaged to book in for Monday, in case I fancied a Margarita!
I contacted Mo, the owner of Earth cafe in Dong Hoi, to preorder several takeaway dishes for me – after being poorly I fancied getting some healthy food in and wanted to try her new takeaway menu.
For dinner I toasted some sourdough then added a tomato sauce base, salami and cheese to make a very small pizza style meal – I was definitely feeling much better. Phuong messaged to ask could we move the shopping trip to 7am the next day to accommodate an airport pickup so I agreed and set the alarm for 6.15am.

Phong Nha – the 1st week of April

Phong Nha – the 1st week of April

I try to keep focused on the fact that I’m pretty much living an amazing life out here in Phong Nha, Vietnam, but every now and then there are things that crop up to make me a bit sad that I can’t visit England or Turkey. Tuesday 6th April was one of those days where I had a little wobble because, written in my diary on today’s page were my flight details. At 7am I should have been on a flight from Manchester to Dalaman in Turkey for a few weeks holiday in between the two weddings of friends, both of which had obviously been postponed due to the Corona situation. Of course my EasyJet flight had been cancelled and I still needed to choose another date to move it to, so I randomly picked 29th September. There was hope that, because of the vaccines in the UK, the flight could go ahead but, if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure that Vietnam would have vaccinated the 96.5 million people here by then, but we could hope that maybe I would get back to the UK before then!
I had leftover pizza for breakfast (with no ill effects) early when the tannoy went off, did some writing, watched more of The Serpent then went back to sleep. For lunch I just had bread and butter and my stomach was fine still and as it was Tuesday it would normally be Shepherd’s Pie night at the Farmstay but I decided to get some chicken out of the freezer and cook something for dinner instead of going out. I had chicken with steamed rice and sweet corn and with the left over cooked chicken I made masaman curry to eat, refrigerate and freeze, using the paste Quyen had brought us from Saigon. It was a quiet, easy going day which ended with me finishing The Serpent on Netflix which, if you like serial killer documentaries, is pretty good.

On Wednesday 7th April I did not expect to spend my day as I did; at 4.30am I woke up feeling as sick as a dog, was in the bathroom for a whole hour and felt terrible. My previous gluten intolerance reactions usually happened within 10 minutes of consumption but could it have changed to me reacting more than a day later? I doubted it and was convinced I had food poisoning. By 5.30am the tannoy was going and I felt hungry so I decided to have a small amount of the chicken masaman for breakfast. That was a big mistake as it made me worse and I spent the rest of the day mainly in the bathroom, sweating in bed or sleeping. I managed to drink water, sometimes with rehydration tablets, jasmine tea and I forced some gluten free pasta with the tiniest bit of tomato sauce down in small portions for lunch and dinner.
I’d not felt this bad since I had gastroenteritis in Goa years ago – oh no, I had caught the stomach flu which some others in the area had suffered with!

Thursday 8th April wasn’t a good day for me, having hardly had any sleep and being quite ill. The loudness of the tannoy woke me up at 5.30am but I was determined not to get up as I needed some more rest. My temperature was high but I could now keep fluids in a bit better than yesterday. The thought of eating anything, especially meat, made me feel nauseous and I was very weak and exhausted. I thought that having some peanut butter would be good for energy but when I opened it and saw how much peanut oil had settled, that also made me feel sick. I went back to bed with the Aircon and the fan on, checked Facebook, watched some Big Bang Theory and then fell asleep. Captain Caveman was half way through his 8 days in the Big Cave but called with some good news, he would do his briefing tonight then come home to see me, spend the night at home then go back in tomorrow. I really wanted him to come home, of course, but I was sensible and told him he’d be better to stay at the Glass House tonight because if I was contagious and he, or any of his customers, got what I’d had it would ruin the trip for everyone! Despite me having zero appetite I decided to force myself to eat a small portion of masaman curry with steamed rice and sweetcorn for my dinner. It felt fine eating it, the food was tasty and all was good until about 1 hour after I’d eaten it – I was back to feeling horrendous again!

Phong Nha – 5th April

Phong Nha – 5th April

Hamish and Ania had decided to fly to Saigon on Monday 5th April for a few days before continuing their travels to other places in Vietnam. Captain Caveman said his goodbyes and went off to his Son Doong trip which would run consecutively with his next trip and so I wouldn’t see him until the 12th or 13th April – we were glad that he still had plenty of work in the current climate. Last night a suggestion of lunch at the Lake House had been made but in our hungover state we settled for the Farmstay and I got a lift with Duyet at 10am to join Hamish, Ania and Tatas who had already had their breakfast. I had an orange juice and a pho bo then felt loads better so decided to stay for lunch. Tatas had her Son Doong briefing that night so she went home to pack and we ate our last meal together, until we meet again. I had the fresh prawn and pork spring rolls with a can of full fat coke while Hamish had sausage, chips & curry sauce and Ania had the beef in bamboo (one of my favourites). I was meant to have an online meeting which I had already moved and so I went back home to accommodate that, then ended up missing it.
Hamish and Ania’s transport to the airport was coming at 6pm so I went back up to the Farmstay to see them off. I said goodbye to our friends who gave me some Polish vodka to look after until they came back and a yoga mat for Tatas. I had a cider and talk to Karl and Sue and Trang and Andrew. I decided to order a pizza to take home and was pleased to not have any reaction to the gluten or the cheese, when in the past I have reacted more to the pizzas at the Farmstay compared to the ones at The Villas. Margarita Mondays looked to have slowed off lately, so I didn’t attempt to go this week. I had an early night with a lot less alcohol to start this week, I was looking forward to a quiet few days but as you probably know, Phong Nha can be somewhat unpredictable!


Phong Nha – 18th April 2020

There was some good news on Saturday 18th April; the bottle of wine from Phong Nha Underground had made it home with me last night unscathed and I had no idea how. I, on the other hand, had not escaped without injury. Captain Caveman had to help me to the toilet because I couldn’t put my right foot down and my arse was killing me! My knee hurt and my ankle was a bit swollen and I had puffy toes. Captain Caveman strapped me up, gave me ice and a leg rest and went off in search of painkillers and compression sock things. I could hardly remember what had happened until I tried to sit up and the pain in my bum bone was quite bad, I even had to have breakfast in bed, on a tray.
There’s always someone worse off and so I still checked the Corona virus updates and checked in on my app to say I was healthy! Vietnam had 21 more recoveries which was great news and meant 73% had recovered already. The UK recoveries now were showing as ‘no data’ but there had been 14,500 deaths and 108,000 cases with lockdown looking to continue for a few more weeks. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that we had left over Indian food for lunch and then we decided to watch a film. Captain Caveman put on The Outsider but I fell asleep and missed what it was about. It was so quiet in town that a goat had wandered up to the door of Namaste and Raj had filmed it and sent it to us – so funny.
In the evening we ordered our food from Phong Nha Underground and watched another film, Lost Girls, which wasn’t bad. Captain Caveman was back on the beer but for me I think alcohol would have to wait a while!! Well, at least until I could navigate to the toilet (the one which isn’t broken) and get a shower unaided!

Saigon and Phong Nha – 4th April

Saigon and Phong Nha – 4th April

Having had a lovely deep sleep, Captain Caveman was awake before 6am on Sunday 4th April. I was still incredibly tired, having had very little sleep and took a few minutes to understand when Captain Caveman said our flight was delayed. We were booked on the 12.20 from Saigon back to Dong Hoi which was now due to leave at 14.30, giving us an extra 2 hours. We’d already arranged to meet friends at Lubu for breakfast at 8.30am so we stuck with the original plan and it just meant we could take it more leisurely. A couple of friends had to cancel but still on the guest list were Keith from Grimsby (who got back from Phong Nha late last night) and Andrea, who also brought her friend, Anne. We had packed, checked out of the lovely Common Inn and got a Grab taxi to the restaurant, where it turned out we had been before for tapas a few years ago. The food was really great and I had the best pot of earl grey tea and a bacon sandwich I’d had in a long time. At Lubu there is a free Bloody Mary included in the breakfast which the others all had and Captain Caveman even had a second breakfast of a buttered crumpet and I tasted it, I loved it. I’d been eating gluten all weekend without any problem but for some reason both Captain Caveman and I had bad stomachs after breakfast and he had to pop to a chemist for imodium.

We said our goodbyes to everyone after a lovely breakfast and got our Grab taxi to the airport. Just as we were about to board the plane a massive downpour came, I heard it on the roof first but Captain Caveman reckoned it was the sound of the planes! Typically, I hadn’t brought a rain jacket so it was a good job there was a bus to the plane, there was a lot of pushing and shoving up the steps and I eventually got sat down on the back seat.

Captain Caveman’s video of the rain at Saigon airport

Our original flight from Saigon on Sunday 4th April should have been landing in Dong Hoi just before 2pm. I had arranged for Kimmie, my visa agent, to meet me as we landed and so had to reschedule her as well as Captain Caveman having to change our pick up car. Luckily our vehicle was picking up some Oxalis customers who were also on our flight and so we were able to get the same car (for free) and get Captain Caveman back in time for his Son Doong briefing at Oxalis Home. It did mean that I had to get dropped off along the way, instead of going home to shower or change and, as luck would have it, another night out was on the horizon. It was Hamish and Ania’s last night in Phong Nha, they had decided to leave earlier than intended so we had picked the ideal spot for a bit of a leaving do – at the Lake House.
I had thought I’d be late but it turned out I was early and ordered some fried rice to line my stomach with before the shenanigans started. Tham and Tony, the Lake House owners, joined me for a chat and it was reassuring to hear that Captain Caveman and I may have been out of town but we were still being talked about! Tham insisted that we had moved in with Shannon, Stu and the kids and would not have it that we hadn’t – the guy who told her is apparently more reliable than one of the people involved. Tony and I found it funny and were still laughing as Hamish and Ania arrived. They had been on a lively one the previous night and were feeling a bit delicate so we all had to have a soft drink while we waited for Tatas to arrive. She arrived, wearing a really nice dress and ready to party – we were both going to miss Hamish and Ania! They were an entertaining couple that was for sure and we chatted about meeting up again in the not so distant future. Tatas and I got a bottle of the cheapest (but still very good) red wine, the others went for a nice bottle of white wine. Everyone but Tatas decided to have the Australian beef steak and, for 275,000vnd (£8.53), it is fantastic. Tequilas were requested and poor Tham brought 2 in martini glasses thinking that’s how much you get in a shot! In the end Tony took over and just brought the whole bottle out. It was a brilliant night and obviously got a bit messy. We had to wake the security guard up to sort out a taxi home and the waitress took Tatas home, we had had such a laugh and I had limited myself to the small shot glass for my Tequila, in case I’d had to walk home! When we came to pay Tony insisted he pay for the tequilas and would not let us leave until we finished the whole bottle, even though he had an interview tomorrow and his wife had long since gone to bed! Captain Caveman was pleased I was getting a taxi home as it meant he could go straight home after his briefing and have a relatively early night before his next trip to Son Doong tomorrow. Because he had cycled Bluey to the Glass House on the morning of the 1st April, she was still there and so he rode her home that night, thinking I would need her while he was gone for my exercise routine.