Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 20th September

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 20th September

It was a very long day on Monday 20th September, which started with my alarm going off at 5.30am. My driver, T, was due to pick me up at 6.15am but he arrived at 6am and I wasn’t ready. When I got to the car at 6.15am T had gone to help one of the staff move something heavy and then we had to go to Duyet’s house, around the corner, to collect a pig to take to Khanh’s in Dong Hoi. I watched as the butchered and bagged up pig was transported less than 20 metres by motorbike by Duyet’s dad, in to the back of our van. I knew we were going to be late for my important PCR test as we pulled in to the petrol station to fill up. We arrived at Medlatec in Dong Hoi 12 minutes late and I incorrectly went up the slippy wet steps to the main reception only to have to come back down them, turn left and in to the loading bay area where a PCR testing facility had been set up. There was just 1 other customer there and about 4 staff and I was given a form, this one was in English, to complete all my details. I decided to ask for a rapid test and the RT-PCR test so that if there was any errors with the RT-PCR certificate I would still be able to travel to Hanoi and get another RT-PCR test there. Although 1 nostril hurt more than the other, this time the pain wore off much easier than the previous couple of times I’d been sampled. I was moved to a waiting area and told to wait 20 minutes for the rapid test result. I checked the Corona numbers and the news as well as reading an email from Singapore Airlines, reminding me I could check in for my flight! I didn’t, as I still didn’t know if I would be actually getting on the flight.
The news in Vietnam had an article of some crazy stuff going on now, check this out:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210919/vietnamese-teacher-purposely-receives-two-covid19-vaccine-shots-within-10-minutes/63171.html
The technician came over to say there was a problem with my rapid test and I had to wait a little longer, this was the first hurdle of the day. She showed me that my result was negative on a plastic testing device but said she couldn’t get the computer to send the paper document with this on, someone was trying to fix it. This was worrying because my RT-PCR test result needed to be printed at 5pm today and I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. Less than 10 minutes later it was fixed and I got my certificate in a nice envelope and was told I could collect the RT-PCR test certificate at 5pm. I introduced T and told them he would pick it up, I also advised that they needed to put my full birthdate, not just the year, on the print out, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fly.

The next of the morning’s activities, having got my negative rapid test results from Medlatec, was supermarket shopping. T dropped me off at the Vincom centre which was still closed but the VinMart Supermarket was open. It was a strange feeling doing the ‘essential’ weekly shop not knowing if I would be in Vietnam or Turkey in the next few days but I hoped after all this hassle, that Captain Caveman would have all the provisions to himself.

For all of you who have missed a list of my shopping items, here’s what I bought;

1 baguette 9,500
Baby wipes 10,000
Green beans 15,057
Potatoes 20,417
Sandwich loaf 21,000
Ziplock bags 23,000
Carrots 23,616
Red cabbage 33,085
Mushrooms 33,900
Cherry tomatoes 35,108
Onions 36,476
1 tin of mints 46,100
Sunflower oil 57,000
Mouthwash 58,000
Spaghetti 61,000
1 jar of jam 138,000
1.5kg chicken 143,700
500g of butter 161,400

Total spent: 926,359vnd (£29.68)

I was looking forward to seeing how much a comparable shop would be in Dalyan, I suspected it would be more expensive.

As I was leaving at 8.40am the main escalators were still not on so I decided to take my shopping and trolley down in the lift, it was only 1 floor and I intended to leave from the side exit to go to the car. When the lift got down I found the door was locked and I tried to recall the lift but it would only open from the main shopping centre side. I was wondering how on earth I was going to get out when the security guard came to rescue me – if I couldn’t get out of a building without a hitch, things weren’t looking too promising for my attempt to leave the country!

I was on my way back from Dong Hoi on when I got a message from Danny, the driver, he had to get another PCR test, as his would run out at midnight tonight, and he was 150km away from where he needed to pick me up. He said he couldn’t get his results until 4pm and he would be arriving about 6.45-7pm, later than expected. That was fine by me as my results weren’t getting picked up until 5pm in Dong Hoi so it did mean I might have time to eat and say some goodbyes. When I got home Captain Caveman was once again in the kitchen making me a nice breakfast, this time with baked beans. Stu was on his way over to say bye and I had a shower and packed a few last minute things in to my hand luggage. I just happened to look outside and saw a policeman so I told Captain Caveman that maybe he should delay Stu until he’d gone, as we were still in Directive 15 and shouldn’t be having visitors. Before midday I got a call from Bich to tell us the reason for the police visit; apparently there had been some positive Corona cases 500m from our house and so he was letting us know, and telling everyone in the area, not to leave the house. Bich advised that I couldn’t go anywhere and I was gutted but Captain Caveman said we would still go ahead with the plan for me to leave and if I got stopped then so be it. We spoke to Stu to tell him not to come and that I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we decided against me inviting anyone else over or me going to say bye to friends. Regardless, I made packed lunches and packed frozen bottles of green tea in to a cooler bag, in readiness for a journey that might not happen. We decided to watch Sex Education on Netflix and have some red wine while leftover beef stew was on the cards for my last meal. Because of the cases Bich told us about we were probably going back in to Directive 16 tomorrow and so it was a bit concerning whether I should have permission to leave, if we asked it was likely the People’s Committee could say no, so we didn’t. By 4pm we were almost finishing the wine so we decided to have an early dinner, which we had with rice and it was delicious. Danny had his results and was on his way, the rain had started to become heavy and I was a bit anxious if T would manage to collect my PCR test result as requested – more importantly, would it be correct!?

The final part of the day was pretty stressful! We’d already been told by Bich that the police had informed everyone to stay where they are and that there were positive Corona cases very near to our place which meant we had no idea what would happen when Danny came to pick me up. Captain Caveman and I decided I should still try to leave because tomorrow we would be in no better position and we didn’t know for how long that could remain, plus the forecasted wet weather could also impede my attempts somewhat. There was also the fact that Danny, the driver, was on his way and he would charge another 7 million vnd (£250) regardless of whether I made it to Hanoi airport with him or not – I felt like it was now or never. The evening before, Ben and Bich had mentioned that Danny wanted to pick up 2 bicycles from previous customers that had been left at the Phong Nha Farmstay but I had decided to disregard the details of that, I just needed to get out and not worry about other people’s stuff, plus I’d had 1 too many glasses of fizz.
At 4.30pm I got a couple of messages from T, who was already at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, followed by a phone call to tell me to look at the photo of my PCR test result certificate to check it is ok for him to bring back to me. It didn’t have my nationality on it, which I was concerned about, but it didn’t say I was Vietnamese either, Captain Caveman helped me check it and we thought it would be ok, my full date of birth and the dates all matched – T was on his way and I had sent a copy to Danny.
This was it, I was going! Captain Caveman weighed my suitcase and it was 22kg. My hand luggage was about 8kg, bang on the allowance. When T arrived he had the PCR test paper in his hand, in the rain, no envelope or in a pocket, but at least it was here and I could use it to get on a plane tomorrow.
At 7.15pm in the middle of a rain storm Danny messaged to say he was here, we looked outside and he wasn’t. Danny was at the triangle junction off the main road but near to the Phong Nha Farmstay – not walkable with my ankle, the suitcases and the rain. I called Bich, she explained that she didn’t know what was happening with the pick up location but earlier she had sent T back to deliver a bicycle to Elements (so the bike was at our place too), she asked me to put Duyet on the phone. Duyet would have to drive me, my luggage and 1 random bicycle, to where Danny was, which meant Captain Caveman couldn’t say a private goodbye to me at the car or help with my luggage. Duyet, Cuong and Captain Caveman were all struggling to get the bike in the van while I sat there trying not to cry. It was not quite the farewell I had in mind and I only got to quickly kiss Captain Caveman and have a very brief hug, despite not knowing when I would see him again. The bike had to go in with the wheels on as no one could remove them and when we got to the barrier we had to stop. I didn’t have any permission slip from the People’s Committee, neither did Duyet, and I have no idea what Duyet told the man but they let us through – I was so relieved and had tears running down my face as I waved bye to the man. A few minutes later we got to the next road where Danny was, there was no barrier so we quickly transferred my suitcases in to Danny’s car in the rain. Then Duyet and Danny faffed about for a while trying to get the bicycle apart and in to the car. They managed it eventually but it did mean I didn’t have the whole back seat to spread out on and was sat behind the driver’s seat in a car with mosquitos trying to avoid the rain. I tried not to dwell on the oil and cobwebs on my luggage and near my head as I got back out in the pouring rain to give Duyet a hug, this was not actually allowed but we didn’t care!
I had finally left the village and we were on our way to our first checkpoint, 3 hours later we had successfully made it through the 1st checkpoint without me having to get out of the car and feeling happy I had my documents in a plastic wallet. By 11.10pm we had made it to the first empty services with a squat toilet which I managed fine but, as I was coming out I saw a big momma rat carrying it’s baby. We made each other jump on the wet tiles and she dropped her baby in front of me, it made me think of my mom and how much she would freak out. I kept calm, walked slowly and got back in the car, only 7 or more hours to go until I would get to the airport – it was going to be a long night!

Phong Nha – 3rd September

Phong Nha – 3rd September

We were awake early on Friday 3rd September which happened to be day 9 of the #STFAH Directive 16 lockdown. Before we could have any breakfast, Captain Caveman got a call saying we had to go ‘now’ to the Khuong Ha community clinic for a PCR test. We asked where it was but the caller didn’t know so we asked a friend, Lam, who was working as a volunteer at the school down the road which had been turned in to an isolation centre for Corona cases. We tried to find Duyet to let him know we were leaving the premises (and why) but couldn’t, so we let Cuong know – he just looked confused but didn’t stop us. By 10am we were on our bicycles, masked up and armed with hand sanitizer, to go the 3 minute cycle to the Volley ball courts, with attached clinics. There was probably about 100 people there, all in nicely spaced out rows, there were police, doctors and lots of health staff or volunteers. It was outside and as we took our place at the back of the queue we were picked out and asked to come to the front. We gave my name and phone number to a health worker, who gave his details back and then I went first on the chair. I faced the audience of the queuing people and the next victim was a cute little girl who could not have been older than 10, so I tried to be brave. It was quick and very strange, I really had no idea you could get something so far up my nose. It was over in a minute and then Captain Caveman was next – he was less pained from it but he has always been quite a snotty sort, whereas I felt mine for a while after, because of always having a dry nose. On the way back home we cycled past the school which was rumoured to be full of cases, it looked empty, and Lam shouted “Hello Adam and Jo!” as we passed him on the gate. All in all not too unpleasant an experience and now the idea was that the sample would be sent to Dong Hoi CDC to be tested and I was told I could then get the required certificate to enable me to go to Hanoi and then Turkey! Captain Caveman was pleased that it all seemed very straight forward and organised and that it was all going to work out, I (the sceptic in this duo) had serious doubts that what they had promised and what they could deliver might not be the same thing. In my head I was already worried that they didn’t really get what I needed and that it was bound to go pear-shaped!

We had just walked back through the door at home, took our masks off, washed our hands, and Captain Caveman was updating his colleague that we had been tested, when Bich called. She had been called for her to organise for us to go for the PCR test, but we had already gone. She was a bit confused as she knew nothing about it but I explained that neither did we until 30 minutes ago and we just did what we were told. Captain Caveman hadn’t actually needed to get his done but he had decided it was wise to do so in case he ended up having to drive me anywhere to get me out. After speaking to his contact at work, again, Captain Caveman reassured me that they said all could be arranged and we were able to go ahead and book my flights. I was so relieved and, because we’d not eaten yet, we decided to have lunch first. I’m not saying Captain Caveman was happy that I was finally getting out of here, but he decided we would open his very last bottle of emergency wine, which was a very nice one, bought for him by one of his customers, Thien. I thought we should wait until it was all actually done before we started celebrating but he insisted, and I wasn’t going to turn down wine. He made a chicken and mushroom (using the ones we had grown) spaghetti which we had to make do without a sauce as we hadn’t been able to get any and we didn’t have many tomatoes left. It was very hot out so I had to keep getting in the pool to try to cool off and we had a lovely lockdown lunch, with great wine, on the balcony. We did a cheers to getting out of the house for 30 minutes during a #STFAH stint and we also spoke to a friend in Saigon to check how she was getting on. Things were pretty bad there but she was doing ok and was able to get food and wine pretty well. We called my parents and were full of excitement about our day and the plans all coming together to get me a step nearer to getting to Turkey – it could finally be happening!

After speaking to my parents while I sat next to the pool and Captain Caveman was in it, I had been getting quite hot. We put the phone down saying we would call again next week, once I was about to leave, and I desperately needed to get back in the water, which I did. Things were looking up and although I wouldn’t have had a 2nd vaccine, as hoped, I would at least be able to get one in Turkey and start again from scratch with a different brand, probably Pfizer this time. Captain Caveman made a nice dinner of chicken, onions, peppers, green beans and potatoes with BBQ sauce. I was so glad now that I had got the BBQ sauce as we were starting to run out of any moist ingredients.
After dinner Captain Caveman took the plunge and booked my flights all the way from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Dalaman, Turkey. I confirmed with Danny, the driver, and I booked my pick up from Dalaman airport with Sonuç at King Emlak in Dalyan. We arranged for the apartment at Fire Opal to get a clean before I arrived, and care package of food for when I got there after a very long journey. We started to plan for my 2 long stays in Hanoi and Singapore airports by sending a shopping request to Bich to order fruit, snacks, crisps for me plus beer, eggs and potatoes for Captain Caveman. Bich was being really good at being able to get us food and said she would arrange to send it tomorrow, although she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to leave next week because of lockdown. Captain Caveman contacted Stu to ask if he could get more pulled pork from him and he agreed to drop some at the Phong Nha Farmstay for Bich to put with our delivery. There was a slight problem we had to worry about now, we had hardly any cash and the ATM is in Phong Nha town, where we are not allowed to go to, during lockdown. Our day 9 of the #STFAH had been a good one and we went to bed feeling like something had been accomplished today – tomorrow I would repack my suitcases again!

Phong Nha – 6th to 8th August

Phong Nha – 6th to 8th August

On Friday 6th August, while I ate buttered toast for breakfast and Captain Caveman rested on the bed, I saw that Vietnam had almost 400 deaths in a day yesterday and that we had a warning text from the authorities for us all to observe the rules and be careful. As Captain Caveman was still feeling a bit tired from the effects of his 2nd vaccine I decided to cook a chicken dish for lunch, with a sauce, the last of the cashew nuts and the steamed rice. He said he also felt a little bit unfocused and he couldn’t remember what he came downstairs for, Veronika and I do that a lot but it was unusual for Captain Caveman! After eating our food I was sat at the bedroom table when I heard a cracking noise near my right eye and ear. I put my hand up to try to feel what it was and my glasses fell off in to my hands, having broken at the part where the arm is joined to the frame – maybe I was turning in to Carrie!
It was finally Captain Caveman’s pay day so we sat down and did some budgeting together – it was going to be a tough month. He paid for my visa, a total of 2.3 million vnd (£73.60) and we had requested from the Phong Nha Farmstay receptionist our bill.
Pizza Night, which was at the Farmstay again, was a good one; we were joined by Stu and the kids and we had a good laugh. We also ordered a 3rd pizza to share and Captain Caveman had eaten 4 slices of it by the time I got back from the loo, I took 2 pieces home for the next day.

It was a very relaxed day on Saturday 7th August, and at 7am it was cloudy and less than 30°C (but not for long). Vietnam’s Corona deaths continued at a high rate and now the total deaths, since the pandemic had began, were over 3,000. The mortality rate was 1.53% which was worse than in Turkey and catching the UK up. Only 31.6% of the cases had recovered which was lower than we had been used to, so far. I had my leftover smoked duck pizza for breakfast and Captain Caveman cycled in to Phong Nha. When he returned he had fixed my onyx ring so that you couldn’t even see or feel the join and I was so pleased! Unfortunately the glasses didn’t hold at all and were completely broken. For lunch I ate a dragon fruit and an apple but then needed a snack later because I was still hungry so I ate the last of the gluten and dairy free brownie I had in the freezer, while Captain Caveman swam in the pool.
For dinner we had chicken with steamed rice, carrots, green beans and peanut salt but while I was stirring the chicken my onyx ring broke again and landed in the pan!

Our alarms went off at 6.45am on Sunday 8th August and I was still very sleepy. Bluey didn’t need her front tyre pumping up but her back one had gone down quite a bit so Captain Caveman obliged. I managed to cycle to the Farmstay in 9 minutes 4 seconds which was a minute faster than my last ride there. Captain Caveman ordered Eggs Benedict and I went for Pho Bo for our breakfast while we waited to say our farewell to the lovely Czech family, Lucie and her son, Martan. She was able to get her 2nd vaccine and so they were travelling back home to Hanoi with 2 other Phong Nha Farmstay guests. Because there were still no domestic flights or trains from the nearest town of Dong Hoi to Hanoi they were sharing a private car to travel the 500km North, this was also what the cavers would have to do and probably what I would need to do, when we left. After our delicious breakfast we cycled back in a hot headwind which I found difficult and it took me 10 minutes 3 seconds!
Captain Caveman mentioned that when he had picked up the mangosteens from Mina he had been given the mushrooms that I had ordered but I needed to check because I had accidentally ordered embryos. When I looked in the bag there were 2 fairly substantial mushroom embryos so that we could grow our own. Captain Caveman found it hilarious that I had now accidentally become a mushroom farmer of mushrooms I would probably never get to eat as I would have left! My friend Khanh Linh, Mina’s colleague, sent me the instructions in English on what to do and I set a plan of watering and watching them.
The housekeeping staff had been and done a little spruce up of the bedroom, made the bed and straightened the towels, they didn’t know they may also be helping grow mushrooms this time next week. Later Eric, the bee, stopped by for lunch and while Captain Caveman had a sandwich I made myself vegetable and egg fried rice. It was Watto’s birthday today and so there was a party at Bom’s River House for him. Captain Caveman went there but I didn’t, the return taxi fare is 300,000vnd (£9.60) which, to put it in perspective, is more than a crate of 24 beers, so he went by bicycle and planned to stay over at the Glass House. I made myself some veggie pasta for dinner and had a diet coke while watching a bit of Netflix.

Phong Nha – 22nd July

Phong Nha – 22nd July

I woke up at The Belafonte as hungover as hell on Thursday 22nd July at 6am, immediately understanding what the pegs on the curtains were for. The sun was very strong and streaming in through a gap in the curtains, I’d luckily managed to close the doors and pop the AC on before bed but I’d not fathomed that pegging the gap in the curtains would be a great idea. My head hurt and I felt like death so I got back in the very comfy bed – there really was no need for such a thick duvet on though. I was woken up again a few hours later by a message from Momma D to say her and Shannon were up and about so I reluctantly went to the kitchen. Diem and some of the neighbours were round and there was some box moving activity and too much loudness for my likeness. There was only one thing for it; breakfast at the Phong Nha Farmstay so off we went and ordered pho and juice. Veronika arrived for her morning coffee and came to sit with us, we all had a laugh at last night’s antics – it had been a great send off for Shannon and it had been a good celebration for Momma D getting agreement to remain in Vietnam for another 2 years too.

After breakfast and saying bye I retrieved Bluey, my bicycle, and headed off home with a bad headache and no sunglasses. Luckily it was slightly cloudy with the sun behind me but it took me a long 11 minutes 8 seconds to get back to Elements.
As Captain Caveman made lunch I caught up on the news that yesterday Vietnam had reported the highest daily cases so far, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210722/vietnam-documents-highestever-daily-local-coronavirus-jump/62208.html
I’d only been gone less than 20 hours but I’d missed quite a bit so Captain Caveman filled me on the updates while we ate our bacon, cabbage and tortilla lunch. That morning Captain Caveman had already cycled in to Phong Nha and back, as he usual does, to find that there were road blocks to check where each person was going and what for.
Tatas, who was meant to be in Tu Lan, had her trip cut short because her Landlord was F1 (been in contact with someone who is positive) and her household had to isolate. I didn’t realise the phone shop man owns Tatas’ house so she and her housemates had been isolated and given emergency provisions plus the loan of a cooker and they had to wait to see if the selling of the ice-cream had meant her landlord had caught Corona. Luckily they had not actually been in contact with the landlord at all so they were going to be fine but because they are all registered at the same address that is the rule. Craig Davis had made it back to America, his journey had not been without issues but he had made it. Later I saw that Momma D had posted on Facebook that her rooftop bar was closed until further notice due to the Corona situation, The Villas was now closed too but all the meal specials would continue at Phong Nha Farmstay but only for in-house guests. The Lake House closed their doors as well and in Dong Hoi all of our favourites were just doing delivery only or had closed. Even Funny Monkeys posted to say they would do delivery only – places to eat out were very slim so we were glad of a good kitchen at home. Later Shannon messaged to say she had left for Hoi An already, having been to Dong Hoi for her PCR test, she was doing well with her hangover – I could not have done that car journey.
Captain Caveman made us a nice veggie pasta dish for our dinner and I was in bed extremely early, still feeling a little delicate.

Phong Nha – 18th July

Phong Nha – 18th July

At 5.30am I was up and taking photos of the sunrise (my camera doesn’t do it justice) and I had pineapple pancakes and jasmine tea for my breakfast on Sunday 18th July while reading the news;
An announcement that Hanoi was to go in to lockdown too, more here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/hanoi-tightens-covid-19-restrictions-as-vietnam-reaches-new-height-in-daily-infections/
This was hopefully not going to be a problem for a friend who was heading up there for a few days before his international flight, as well as another mate who was already there and would be stuck in his Hanoi hotel for another 9 days. This would be the airport I would leave from and so I would change my plans to stay less time in Hanoi and I’d take food with me so I didn’t have to go anywhere. The good thing about being British is we know how to queue but in Vietnam it is practically alien to do so, meaning the Corona situation worsens as people don’t understand not to crowd, more here: 
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210718/tens-of-thousands-leave-vietnams-southern-hubs-ahead-of-mass-covid19-social-distancing/62134.html
Captain Caveman had stayed at the Glass House last night and had taken himself off for a birthday breakfast of Eggs Benedict at The Villas on his journey back home. We had organised a birthday lunch for him at one of our favourite places and had invited some of his friends and colleagues.

We had took a chance to book a table at East Hill for BBQ chicken and beers from 11.30am – it gets busy on Sundays so we usually avoid weekends. Captain Caveman pumped up Bluey’s tyres for me and we cycled it there in about 10 minutes, being overtaken by Stu and Jack on the way. On arrival East Hill had very kindly reserved us a table and even had a sign with my name and the time on. We ordered 2 chicken combos when we arrived, we don’t preorder because often the Vietnamese contingent can arrive late and then the chicken has been snaffled already. Next to arrive were Colin, Watto, Howard and Deb who had impressively cycled it from Phong Nha, then Mark arrived and we all ordered cold drinks and waited for others to arrive. The Funny Monkey’s team arrived and brought Captain Caveman a gift of homemade cookies which was so lovely. BBQ chicken arrived, the cavers ordered 2 more and we all started on the first lot of food. Mr Nguyen was last to arrive, looking very smart and carrying 24 cans of beer – what a legend! More beers were had and some photos taken and I had the bright idea to order even more chicken, thinking that any latecomers would show up soon! It was a really good lunchtime treat and it was good to see so many people celebrate Captain Caveman’s birthday.

Having left East Hill after a wonderful lunch we arrived back at Elements Collection about 2pm. Thankfully Tatas had taken the beers on her motorbike as Captain Caveman has no basket and I would have struggled to carry them on Bluey. It was so hot that we got in the pool straight away, Tatas hadn’t brought her swimmers so sat in a deckchair in denim dungarees. We all had a beer and it was at this point that Captain Caveman revealed what had happened to Tatas’ carrot cake on Tuesday; he had taken it, in the seat of the motorbike but had decided to take it to Oxalis and gobble it down for his hungover breakfast then pretend it had been stolen from the bike! He confessed from the pool, Tatas and I were shocked especially as we had lots more cake at home!  Hien popped round and brought Captain Caveman a bottle of red wine, which was really lovely. Tatas and I ‘persuaded’ (it didn’t take much doing) Captain Caveman we should go to the Farmstay for a happy hour drink to finish off his birthday with the Farmstay family. We ended up having chicken quesadillas, pitta bread with dips and wine! A birthday cake was presented and we sang Happy Birthday to Captain Caveman before all having a piece of cake. When we got back home there was a tiny surprise which I had forgotten about until the next day.

Phong Nha – 12th & 13th June

Phong Nha – 12th & 13th June

I’d mentioned to Captain Caveman that the weather forecast had predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms on the morning of Saturday 12th June but he cycled in to Phong Nha regardless, believing it wouldn’t rain. Veronika must have thought the same thing as she also had already decided to cycle to The Villas so she could retrieve her motorbike, left there from yesterday. I had some bread and a banana for breakfast and watched the rain come.
Vietnam had now surpassed 10,000 Corona cases in total since Jan 2020, and people were getting more concerned about this 4th wave causing more potential lockdowns. Info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/972684/covid-caseload-tops-10000.html
I still felt safer here as I read an article showing why Vietnam is doing better than a lot of other countries:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-has-much-lower-levels-of-viral-transmission-due-to-greater-levels-of-government-and-public-vigilance/
I checked again about my passport and it was confirmed it would be collected from Dong Hoi on Monday, so I probably should stop worrying – there’s just something very unnerving about not actually having your passport.
When Captain Caveman arrived home, soaked to the skin, I put a towel and a bathrobe in the downstairs bathroom for him and he tried to find a bucket to fill to wash his bicycle, there was still no signs of Veronika. Captain Caveman and I teamed up to make a chicken salad for lunch which I had with jasmine tea and he had a gin and tonic. The rain stopped and it even started to fine up enough for Veronika to drive home later, having been at The Villas all day. I had a couple of rum and diet cokes and some cashew nuts from Funny Monkey’s (they are much better than the ones in the shops). For dinner Captain Caveman made a kind of gluten free macaroni cheese with bacon and spinach as we embarked on testing my potential dairy/lactose intolerance. The food didn’t look too great because of the macaroni being made from white rice but it tasted amazing. Unfortunately, the conclusion was that I definitely could not tolerate the cheddar cheese. We agreed from now on I would continue eating small amounts of gluten but no lactose and see what happens!

Sunday 13th June started with Captain Caveman making me breakfast in bed. I was pleased to get brought a bacon and mushroom toasted sandwich with brown sauce but when I bit in to it I could taste butter – I never have butter on sandwiches but as I was meant to be cutting out dairy it meant I’d failed at the first meal. Captain Caveman realised he’d cooked the mushrooms in butter by mistake and I suspected this is the kind of thing that is happening to me whenever I eat out as I never thought of people cooking with butter, which they do. I read in the news that reports of fully vaccinated staff at a hospital in Saigon were positive, but mostly asymptomatic (as you might expect), more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210613/coronavirus-hits-employees-at-covid19-treatment-hospital-in-ho-chi-minh-city/61475.html
Captain Caveman decided we were off on a bicycle ride and I had to be ready to go straight away, he had a trip out planned and was off to pump up Bluey’s tyres. It had been a while since I’d taken Bluey out because it had been too hot for me so she needed her cobwebs dusting off and plenty of air. Captain Caveman set off and I pushed Bluey out of the gate only to see she had a flat tyre again. Captain Caveman came back and sorted her out and the sun was starting to come out already. We cycled towards the Phong Nha Farmstay but kept going past until I was in to uncharted territory, we were off to see Andrew and Chung Son at their house, which I’d never been to before. I’d asked Captain Caveman if there were any hills and of course he had said not, but there was a big one which I had to get off and push Bluey up. I was tired and had to walk slowly as I passed a lorry with a brick delivery on. The one way journey took me 20 minutes and 4 seconds for both cycling and walking. When we arrived I was a sweaty mess but luckily Andrew had some iced green tea available, he served it to us in massive glass jars which I thought was a great idea (I might steal that idea). We sat on the front step and admired the views around and they certainly live in a very nice rural area with friendly farmer neighbours. When we cycled back I forgot to start my stopwatch but I think we did it 4 minutes quicker and I even dared to cycle down the steep hill, definitely testing Bluey’s brakes! From the Farmstay back to our place I did time it and we did a leisurely 10 minutes 25 seconds, not including the stopping for a snake. I spotted the cute little snake just slithering along the road and shouted snake (as is the protocol) so that Captain Caveman would stop, I had to stop, otherwise I would have run it over. He followed it to get some photos and it was a bit too quick for a video. He later got it identified as a buff striped keelback which is harmless so I’m glad we watched it go off in to the grass.

Back home I had a fruity lunch of 1 banana, 2 mangosteen and half a dragon fruit with some walnuts before getting in the much cooler pool for a dip. The housekeeping staff came to clean the room while I sipped gin and pink grapefruit on a sun-lounger feeling rather privileged.
As we were trying our best to cut back on spending while Captain Caveman had less/no work, we had to forgo the Farmstay Sunday Roast dinner tonight and instead we made a chicken dinner together at home for less than a sixth of the price. I doubled up on the roasting of the potatoes, onion and garlic, in Veronika’s three-legged oven which I’d recently found out works quite well, so that Captain Caveman could make a Spanish omelette with the spare. It was still a lovely dinner and although I was missing having wine whenever I felt like it, I was definitely having less calories so hopefully I would be seeing the benefits this week! I wouldn’t have been able to have a Farmstay dessert anyway because of the avoiding of dairy so we were happy to make the sacrifice.

Phong Nha – 17th & 18th May

Phong Nha – 17th & 18th May

Today, Monday 17th May, was a big day back in the UK as the next milestone in the relaxing of Corona rules arrived. The main thing I knew about was that 2 households could now mix which meant my parents could go to my sister’s house and would be allowed to see the grandchildren. It was still a week to go until my parents were supposed to be fully covered by their vaccines and my sister and her husband had already had their first jab. With the UK and Indian variants about I still worried for them but was happy they would at last be able to choose to see the family, if they wanted. According to the rules in England hotels, cinemas, restaurants and pubs could all be open and people could now go inside to eat and drink. Sports venues could reopen and international travel was allowed but under a traffic light system of where was permitted.
Vietnam had a lot more cases from yesterday (190) and, unfortunately, death number 37, more information here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/950498/man-with-meningitis-dies-of-covid-19.html
Captain Caveman had gone off to Phong Nha and said he would be back at 10.30am today and then the housekeeping staff were here before 8am so I went to make myself breakfast. It was nice to be sat out in the beautiful garden for 2 hours drinking tea, eating toast and admiring the view but by 10am it was unbearably hot, even in the shade. Captain Caveman came back mid morning and I had a second breakfast; bacon, asparagus and parmesan and it was the best he’d made in ages. By midday it felt like 45°C and I was struggling, even in the pool, so Captain Caveman got on the gin and tonics and I had a white russian. I had rice crackers and 1 Laughing Cow Light cheese triangle but had a bad stomach straight away (they aren’t even real cheese and the milk in the cocktail is UHT)!
At 3.40pm I was laying on the sun-lounger on the balcony when a huge rain shower came down. That evening I cooked us chicken breast with steamed rice and vegetables which was really healthy. Captain Caveman had more G&Ts and I went on to the rum with ice.

We had a bit of an unusual day on Tuesday 18th May. Captain Caveman was up at 6am and woke me up with a sneeze, as he sometimes does. I was crotchety at having been woken up too early so Captain Caveman did us a bacon, potatoes and onion breakfast. He had his with brown sauce and a couple of fried eggs too!
For lunch, because of the heavy breakfast, I made popcorn and had 1 square of 85% dark chocolate. We arranged to meet Tatas for dinner at East Hill, she was taking her motorbike but Captain Caveman and I thought my leg had improved enough for me to have my first stint of cycling on a main road in the dark. We had some lights for the way back but made sure we set off in the daylight so we might see the sunset. Tatas was early and had already ordered a BBQ chicken combo with extra cucumber, those two had Tiger crystal beer to drink and I had Strongbow cider. We had a really relaxing time, the chicken was so good that we ordered another and had another drink while trying to not attract any more frogs (Tatas is scared of frogs and there were loads of them).
After dinner, not too late, we walked down the stairs, which I managed for the first time after dark, with help, to our transport. Bluey was ready to go but I was uneasy about the rough path to the road so I pushed her the 200 metres while Tatas rode slowly alongside me, lighting the way. We joked at how good my leg must be now that I could keep up with a motorbike while pushing a bicycle! I managed the cycle back quite well but had to have Captain Caveman guide me on the left hand turn from the highway. When we got home I had a shower as I was very sweaty but Captain Caveman got in the pool for a splash about!

Photo credit – Bich and Captain Caveman

Phong Nha – 8th May

Phong Nha – 8th May

Our friends from Saigon were booked to leave Phong Nha on Saturday 8th May, Captain Caveman had already left for his next Son Doong tour and I was busy swimming in the pool before 9am. I’d had bread and butter and then bread and jam for breakfast (very continental) because it was too hot to make pancakes. In the news there was more information on how Vietnam’s 4th wave of corona had come about, which was interesting:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/the-gales-that-fuel-vietnam-s-new-coronavirus-storm-4274470.html
Just before lunch Andrea cycled down to Elements and we sat by the pool and had a chat while she had a beer and me a cider. We decided to cycle to the Farmstay taking the longer route so that Andrea could see the rice paddies, the harvesting and take some photos, then we would get some lunch before it was time for her and Rob to go to the airport. When we arrived at the Phong Nha Farmstay we were rather hot and sweaty so decided to have a Jasmine IPA beer with ice and share some lunch. We ordered the fried spring rolls and chicken quesadillas, both excellent dishes, to share and had another jasmine IPA each, none of which had any affect my tum! Rob joined us and he decided to have a drink and a last minute veggie curry, which he had enjoyed at the Phong Nha Farmstay before. I was going to miss these guys and after I’d said my goodbyes I cycled home the short way in 9 minutes 58 seconds and then got in the pool as it was boiling, it was so hot that the pool water was like a warm bath. I always forget how hot the summers are, here in Phong Nha, and the forecast for the week looked hot, hot, hot. I had a shower and a rest, watched something on Netflix and made some popcorn. I was glad of an early night as I was going to be up very early tomorrow morning!

Phong Nha – 7th May

Phong Nha – 7th May

Captain Caveman went off early to Phong Nha on the morning of Friday 7th May having made arrangements to see me at East Hill at 11.30am and he had told Rob the plan too. I messaged Veronika, who had gone walking with Sue, to let them know we would be cycling from Elements Collection at 11am to go to East Hill for lunch, should they still want to come. I also messaged Andrea and she was up for cycling to our place first, with Rob and Anthony and then on to East Hill with us. It was even an added bonus that one of them would ride my bicycle, Bluey, who’d I’d left in the car park at the Farmstay, as Rob’s bike was already at our place.
At 10.50am people were downstairs waiting for me to go to East Hill so I went downstairs, Rob had forgotten the key for his bike which was locked and had cycled back to get it, Sue and Andrea were ready to cycle and Veronika was deciding if she wanted to take her motorbike or cycle with us. We waited for Rob to return, luckily, because he had to borrow Bluey’s pump and then he said he knew the way and he would catch us up because he also needed a mask. By now it was 11.15am and so I lead the way, Veronika had decided to cycle with me, Andrea and Sue but Anthony was going to cycle with Rob.
When we came to the turning off the main road there was no sign, which is normally there, so I cycled past and then realised, so we all had to turn round just as 2 lorries were going each way on the highway. The ladies made it, including the detour, in 5 minutes and 12 seconds where Captain Caveman was already waiting with a shandy. Everyone but me decided they also wanted a shandy but there was no beer, nor would the guy order any and so they shared a beer and two 7ups while I had a coke. We ordered 2 BBQ chicken and rice combos and waited for Rob and Anthony to arrive, which they didn’t. Captain Caveman messaged Rob but no response and Andrea had Anthony’s wallet and phone in her bag. When they eventually arrived they had been to the Pub with Cold Beer (which was closed) and completely misunderstood where we were going! When the chicken arrived Captain Caveman tucked in heartily, as usual, Anthony just had rice as he’s a vegetarian and Rob had a lay down and went to sleep. Andrea found the chicken was too chewy for her, Sue and Veronika didn’t eat much chicken, so it was mainly Captain Caveman and I eating. Rob eventually woke up when there was just a bit of chicken left and had a couple of pieces and the rest of the rice. For the way home Captain Caveman suggested a slightly longer scenic route which Veronika and Sue didn’t want to do and set off the way we came. I also didn’t want to chance Captain Caveman’s ‘better’ way so tried to catch Veronika and Sue up but they were too whizzy. It took me 8 minutes 41 seconds to cycle back in the now blistering heat and when I arrived back Captain Caveman, Andrea, Rob and Anthony were just a couple of minutes behind. All but Rob and Anthony got in our pool and they all had a drink to cool down before cycling back to the Farmstay.

Later that evening Captain Caveman had his briefing while Andrea, Rob and I joined Veronika and Ben for The Villas’ pizza night, which I’d not been to since the 26th March, 5 weeks ago! I managed 6 slices including a ham & mushroom, 2 showstoppers, 1 capture, 1 Momma D’s and 1 veggie – luckily Ben and Rob liked the smoked salmon ones. Andrea and I shared a bottle of red wine and then had an extra glass when Captain Caveman joined us for a drink at the end, once he’d finished work. We got the shuttle bus back with Ben while Captain Caveman cycled his bicycle home.

Phong Nha – 6th May

Phong Nha – 6th May

The loudspeaker was doing it’s thing at 5.09am on Thursday 6th May and so by 6.30am I was on my 2nd gluten-free pancake with banana and honey – it was far too early! It was rice harvesting season in Phong Nha and so when we cycled up to the Farmstay it took me 10 minutes 27 seconds because of having to go over the tarpaulins of drying rice in the road. Bruno had arranged to meet for an early lunch before heading off to the airport for his trip back to Saigon. I was really thirsty after cycling in the heat so I managed to polish off an orange juice and a ginger beer pretty quickly. For lunch I ordered some vegetarian fried spring rolls and a coconut as the group that had been on the Tu Lan 4 day tour spoke about how much they enjoyed it. Captain Caveman had an impressive looking burger for his lunch and there was a discussion about the forthcoming Saigon Children’s Charity cycling event that a few, including Captain Caveman, Andrea and Rob, were going to be doing to raise more money for the charity in July, ending on Captain Caveman’s birthday. After we said bye to Bruno, we cycled back home, it took me 10 minutes 5 seconds and it was so hot that I got a bit of sunburn, even though I had a high factor suncream on. Captain Caveman did his dutiful filming of me riding Bluey and I looked pretty much back to normal apart from still having my seat low so that if I had to stop I can put both feet on the floor.
That evening Captain Caveman and I joined Rob, Andrea, Veronika and Sue (a returning guest from Hanoi) back up at the Farmstay after a 10 minute 28 second cycle, including getting off to walk across one patch of drying harvest. I decided to have mushroom soup for a starter and the duck à l’orange for my main course at dinner, plus a few (4!) glasses of red wine. There was talk at the dinner table of going somewhere nice for lunch tomorrow with our friends and Phong Nha Farmstay guests and I suggested we could maybe see if we could organise a trip to the Pub with Cold Beer, a trip I’ve been on many times. Everyone agreed and would like to go around 11.30am, after Veronika and Sue had completed their walk and the others had finished their morning’s work. It didn’t work out though, as only Sue and I would need transport as the others were happy to make their own way there by bicycle or motorbike. When I checked with Ben he had a trip he could organise which left at 9.30am and returned at the latest by 2pm, by jeep and included a rubber tapping and pig experience as well as lunch at the Pub with Cold Beer for 300,000vnd. Unfortunately the timings and activities didn’t suit our group of 7 on this occasion and we had to decline Ben’s proposal and think of a plan B.
I messaged Duyet for a lift home, leaving Bluey in the car park over night, while Captain Caveman cycled back in the dark. When we got home both Captain Caveman and I decided we would go to East Hill for a BBQ chicken lunch tomorrow at 11.30am, as it was easier for me to get to, and invite people if they wanted to come – a much more simple plan.

Captain Caveman’s video of me cycling from Phong Nha Farmstay to Elements Collection
Captain Caveman’s video of my cycling – my leg much stronger
Captain Caveman’s video of me and Bluey arriving home

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.

Phong Nha – 30th March

Phong Nha – 30th March

I had spent 590,000vnd (£18.30) yesterday I noted, when I got up on Tuesday 30th March and I was conscious that the spending was creeping up again. Wine is just so expensive here and I really didn’t want to have to drink beer or cider instead so maybe I would just need to limit myself a bit more. That was easier said than done as there was another girls night booked in for later. I put on lots of high factor suncream and packed a spare shirt and something to cover my head with, for the cycle to The Villas with Ania. She didn’t have a bicycle yet, or know the way to get to The Villas via our place, so I agreed to meet her for breakfast at the Farmstay so we could cycle together. Tatas had a day off and was keen to meet because she had a new bikini that she wanted to wear at the pool and get me to take photos of her for Instagram, as is the Vietnamese girl way.
When I arrived at the Phong Nha Farmstay I was a hot, sweaty mess and I started to think we might be a bit stupid to cycle almost 20km in a day in this heat. My journey only took me 8 minutes and 3 seconds which I think was my fastest yet but that was because I was desperate for some shade. I had a pho bo for breakfast and lots of water but then had a bad stomach straight after, with pain, even though it contains nothing I’m allergic to. Annette and Veronika had taken motorbikes for a jaunt around the national park for the morning, I said we might meet them at The Villas, along with Tatas for lunch but the more we thought about it the more it seemed a daft idea so we stayed where we were. Sonya joined us and we sat by the pool drinking water and chatting until lunch time.
For those who remember Keith, from Grimsby, he messaged to say he was back in Dong Hoi and would be coming to Phong Nha tomorrow. This settled the going to The Villas by bicycle conundrum as we could go tomorrow to meet Keith and so we had lunch at The Phong Nha Farmstay instead. Already having a dodgy stomach (for no particular reason) I chose a chicken salad without the cucumber which was really tasty but I was ill straight after and had to cycle home. It took me 9 minutes 40 seconds which was very slow but I felt quite unwell while riding Bluey back home. Veronika was already in the pool and after I felt a bit more stable I got my swimmers on and went to sit on the balcony. I noticed the pool had quite a lot of feathers and twigs in it from some sparrows who were building a nest in the eaves. While Veronika had to pop back up to the Farmstay for babysitting duties, I spent half an hour by the pool until it was time to get ready as Tatas was on her way over. She was going to stay at ours tonight and so had brought her overnight bag to drop off, then we got a lift with Duyet to the Farmstay.

Ania was still in an online meeting so we got a bottle of wine and started without her. When she arrived she brought yesterday’s spare wine and then Veronika came over to say she was already sat at a table in the dark with Annette and Sonya but they had already eaten. I decided to have duck a l’orange with rice and vegetables for my dinner, hoping my stomach could handle it and it was so good. Annette came to join us for a bit of wine and some girly chat before going to bed and we ended up drinking until gone 9.30pm again! It was a good night, less wine than usual and no shots this time so we would be ready for a full day tomorrow! My bill came to 610,000vnd (£19) as the duck dish is one of the pricier choices but I felt fine after eating it and I really enjoyed it.
Back in England today was the day that more relaxing of the lockdown rules took place and people were allowed to have 6 people in a garden without masks – it made no sense to me, as I couldn’t understand the rationale or timing, but a lot of my friends back home were going to be taking advantage of this new freedom. I read that the beer gardens in England would be opening next month so that socialising could begin again.

Phong Nha – 27th March

Phong Nha – 27th March

Captain Caveman was up early and off to Phong Nha, by bicycle, on Saturday 27th March while I got busy doing stuff. We had a plan to meet up at the Lake House before 1pm as Captain Caveman had a friend arriving from Saigon, who was staying there. There was also a returning Farmstay customer and friend, Annette, arriving on the same flight for her third stay and we would be meeting her and her friend later. If I didn’t hear from Captain Caveman by noon my instructions were to set off cycling on Bluey, up the hill. I was almost ready to go when Captain Caveman arrived and decided to make himself a peanut butter sandwich before going for lunch. It took me a little over 9 mins to get there, which included about 2 minutes of walking when it got to the steep part and I had to get off and push Bluey.
Captain Caveman tried to order a shandy but they had ran out of beer so he had 7up and I had soda water. We were getting hungry so ended up ordering lunch – a sweet and sour chicken for me and a steak sandwich for him. The food came, and was really tasty, Tony returned and joined us for a chat, then David and his family arrived. It was a nice afternoon until I had to cycle on to the Phong Nha Farmstay, I found it a bit hilly in parts and difficult to navigate the turn off of the main road. The whole journey was just over 18 minutes and I was pleased to have made it there in one piece, so I celebrated with a cider!

Annette and her friend, Sonya, were both happy to be away from work and the hectic pace of their life in Saigon. We sat at a table by the pool and rice paddies at the Farmstay and Veronika joined us briefly while still supervising the grandkids. Matty joined us while Captain Caveman was still there, followed by Hamish and Ania. I decided to leave my bicycle at the Farmstay and ended up drinking lots of white wine and some tequila shots while Captain Caveman was at his briefing. For dinner I ordered chicken with fried rice which was really good, Hamish ordered spring rolls but didn’t eat any of them as he was too busy with the wine. Ania ordered a veggie curry and helped Hamish out as she ate some of the spring rolls still in front of him. All seemed to be going well and everyone was having a good time as we kept on getting more white wine. Annette even got in the pool fully clothed – twice! Captain Caveman rejoined us, he had cycled back from Oxalis and was sober so had a shot and some white wine. The last thing I remember of the evening was me following Captain Caveman home in the rascal with Duyet, as he cycled back. I remembered to put my phone on the Do Not Disturb mode before going to sleep and the alarm was set for early the next morning.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman

Phong Nha – 15th & 16th March

Phong Nha – 15th & 16th March

Things got out of hand on Monday 15th March, and what should have been a boring Monday morning was quite stressful. Hamish was meant to have been going on an Oxalis tour but was taken to Dong Hoi hospital because of a serious asthma attack. I had a couple more issues to deal with which were an unnecessary waste of time, before I’d even had time to eat breakfast of toast, and it was a rather hot day that I was missing out on! I turned my phone off and decided to get the new bikini on and have a dip in the pool – the water was freezing!
I had carrot cake for lunch, which made me have a bad stomach and then I just lay on the sunlounger while learning Vietnamese on Duolingo.
Later that afternoon Hamish discharged himself and came back to The Farmstay, luckily looking like he would live! For dinner I just had hummus and rice crackers as my stomach was still iffy, so no more cake for me!

Tuesday 16th March started early again with the loudspeaker at 5.30am.
In the news today there were reports of a possibility of allowing foreign tourists in to Vietnam in July but still nothing concrete to go on, read it here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/economy/904845/viet-nam-needs-to-open-borders-for-tourism-recovery-experts.html
I took Bluey, my bicycle, to the Farmstay via the French Road and it took me exactly 20 minutes. I sat by the pool where there was a good breeze and ordered pho bo, green tea and a soda water. The cycling was getting easier and I wasn’t as thirsty and out of breath when I arrived. Hamish came to join me, he still really didn’t look too well. Mik came over with Kendra and Bryan, two of their Danang friends, who had just arrived and were heading out on motorbikes for a look around Phong Nha. I liked them both straight away and I knew we would all get on well. Hamish added me to their Facebook chat group so that I could be included in any activities with them all, which was nice.
When I got back home it had only taken me 18 minutes 38 seconds, Veronika and Howie had gone for lunch at The Villas and I had leftover Sunday dinner for my lunch. Later I made popcorn and ate 6 of the expensive dates that I still had. I put in my order for shepherd’s pie at the Farmstay that night and went up a bit earlier so that I could meet Kendra and Bryan properly.
I was out of red wine at home so I bought a bottle and would take what I didn’t drink home, I had also taken tuppaware with me for leftovers but there were none.
Hamish, Mik, Kendra and Bryan were booked in for a trip to the Bong Lai Valley the next day and invited me too. As I was leaving Ben said I should come on the trip tomorrow as we would be going to the Pub with Cold Beer for lunch and I do love it there!

Phong Nha – the 2nd weekend of March

Phong Nha – the 2nd weekend of March

After a busy start to the weekend I planned to have a relaxed and easy going Saturday on 13th March. I had buttered toast for breakfast and had suffered no ill effects of that, or the pizza from the night before. I decided to make pork and sweetcorn fried rice for lunch and made far too much so saved the rest for dinner. Captain Caveman and Quyen had returned to Phong Nha from their Hang Va cave trip but I didn’t meet either of them. Captain Caveman went to The Villas for food and then got on the bus to Hanoi at 7pm, he was off on an exploration holiday for a week with our Sapa friends, Phil and Hoa, in Tuyen Quang. Quyen had still to find herself somewhere to stay so went for Tropical Homestay. We arranged to meet the next day rather than for dinner because of either one of us having to cycle in the dark, which wasn’t a good idea.

On Sunday 14th March it was Mother’s Day and so I tried to make sure I was busy enough to avoid worrying about my mom not being able to have a Mother’s Day celebration, back in Sheffield. My parents were still staying at home and now the celebrations were coming back around again – who would have thought a year later it would be like this!
Captain Caveman had arrived in My Dinh (Hanoi) bus station around 5am and had 3 hours to wait for another bus to Tuyen Quang, while I didn’t wake up until 7am. Quyen and I had arranged for her to borrow a bicycle from Tropical Homestay and cycle to my place so that we could then ride the long way to the Farmstay for lunch.
Quyen arrived, later than expected, after it took her almost an hour to get here and she got lost a bit. The ride to the Farmstay was really nice and we took it easy so that she could admire the country side and rice paddy views. My friend absolutely loved it and I was pleased because I was worried she would find the route too easy. We sat by the pool at the Farmstay and ordered some wine, where I introduced Quyen to Veronika, Bich, Matty & Hamish and their friend from Danang, Richard.
Our food came and it was really good; Quyen had the seafood banh xeo, Matty chicken quesadillas with chilli jam, Hamish a chicken salad and I had nem lui.
Both Richard and Quyen were going to Dong Hoi that afternoon so they arranged to share Quyen’s car which she had already booked and we got ready to leave so she could get back in time. I was going to pay but Quyen wouldn’t have any of it and paid for our wine and lunch which was really kind and unexpected. On the cycle back we took some photos, it was a lovely day and I even caught the sun, despite the factor 50 suncream. I decided I would go to the Farmstay to eat Sunday dinner with Matty, Hamish, Mik and new guest, John.
John had already met Captain Caveman when he came to Phong Nha before and had been cycling with him so we chatted about that. I shared the bottle of white wine which Matty had bought while the others had beer or water. The Sunday roast was lovely, as usual, and I took some home with my carrot cake that I couldn’t manage.
I stayed up late so that I could video call my mom and dad and we had a good chat, luckily they are keeping safe and staying at home but I was definitely missing seeing them a lot. By midnight I realised I might be a bit noisy so we finished the call and I went to sleep.