Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

I had a woolly head when the alarm went off at 7am on Sunday 7th August and I wasn’t fit for anything! Captain Caveman had to persuade me to get up and get ready as we were off to Dong Hoi on a shopping trip. We haven’t had the shopping trips with the Phong Nha Farmstay this year, which I used to like as they rarely left so early! The weekly trips had stopped running during the pandemic and never restarted, I guess because there were no other monthly renters so it didn’t warrant just taking us. While Captain Caveman had been working so much he didn’t need to go as often and I made do with whatever we had in the freezer.
Captain Caveman had booked an Oxalis car and driver and he was here early. Rain had been forecast so we hoped to get some shopping done, meet a friend and get back before any predicted stormy weather.
We got our usual driver, Dung, who’s always nice and friendly but professional. He also keeps the car clean and has the AC on, so we had a comfortable drive to Dong Hoi. By 9am our Bo Ne from Mr Bull’s was ordered and we were sipping the free tea, I was feeling somewhat delicate. I had my steak breakfast without eggs and it actually sorted me out a bit, until I started with a bad stomach.

We went to the Co-op Mart where we spent about 1.4 million vnd (£50) on groceries, including 4 bargain bottles of Merlot.
Our next stop was the WinMart where we spent 666,000vnd (£24). 
For those wondering how we had managed to spend £74 on shopping (and we weren’t finished yet), here’s what we had bought in the supermarkets;

Co-op Mart
1 white carrot 7,134
1 lemon soda 8,500
Tissues 13,000
Hand sanitizer 14,900
3 carrots 15,667
Pasta 23,000
2 red peppers 26,733
Passion fruit 28,106
2 packets of crisps 36,000
3 mangos 64,326
Mushrooms 64,900
6 soda waters 105,000
3 cartons orange juice 132,900
4 bottles of red wine 612,000

Total spent 1,378,866vnd (£50)

3 salted lemon drinks 20,700
2 baguettes 30,000
1 bag of Lay’s crisps 31,000
2 teacake loaves 39,800
1 Tupperware box 43,000
2 Beef steaks 44,200
Spaghetti 49,000
200g Cheddar 74,600
Pasta sauce 78,700
1kg chicken breasts 119,900
200g butter 134,500

Total spent 666,100vnd (£24). Butter seemed to be a similar price to the UK and Turkey and airfryers were now all the rage. There had not been any white wine in either of the supermarkets so I suggested we try the Wine Plaza, at the back of the Vincom centre.

Our next stop at the Wine Plaza was a bit unusual; we walked in to a birthday celebration of the owner. They had us join in the photos in front of the flowers and then gave us both a glass of red to join in. They were lovely people and we ended up in there for much more than the 5 minutes we told the driver. We left having bought 3 bottles of nice white wine, one of which was 900,000vnd (£32.40), the other 2 much cheaper.
This was all before lunch time and we were meeting Thao at 11.30am for Banh khoai, crispy pancakes. Before that we went to QB Casa where Captain Caveman had a juice and I had a peach tea.

It was great to see Thao as we had not seen her for a while, we all ate the same thing and it was a little bit of a wait for the food because it’s so popular. After lunch we went around the corner for fresh coconut, sat opposite the market.
Back home we watched a bit of tree moving from outside of Elements and chilled out by the pool. We finished off a lovely day with crisps, fresh sandwiches and white wine. I got a message from my mate who arrives in Dalaman airport 3 hours after I do to say we could meet up and we pencilled in Ölüdeniz or Fethiye for the 29th.

Hue to Phong Nha – 28th July

Hue to Phong Nha – 28th July

We were awake early, in Hue, on Thursday 28th July and still had a lot to pack in to our morning. The Purple Hue Homestay bed had been super comfy and it had been a nice 1 night stay for us. After packing our bags, ready for check out later, at noon, we went out for breakfast. It was unbearably hot in Hue and the sun and UV were so strong. Captain Caveman had decided on The Nook Eatery, where he’d been before, and it was lovely. The waitress was friendly and really sweet, with good English, she even gave us a card with some key Vietnamese phrases on and asked us to say them with her. Captain Caveman ordered a bacon, egg and tomato muffin and I went for a full fry up. I had a pot of earl grey tea and a juice, Captain Caveman had coffee and also juice. The food was very good and we enjoyed our breakfast. I gave Captain Caveman my sausage as I was full and didn’t want to be having a reaction on the long journey back.

Our next stop was to a coffee shop which Captain Caveman had been to before for salted caramel coffee, called Tan cafe. As soon as we walked in I had an overwhelming urge to get out; it was hot, smokey and stuffy and the smell of coffee was overpowering. I sat down, ordered a lemon juice and Captain Caveman ordered his salted caramel coffee. He messaged friends Vu and Ngoc to meet up and then we had to move tables as I was too hot. On the next table I started coughing, constantly and I felt like I needed to leave. Captain Caveman was disappointed and couldn’t understand what was wrong with me but he called me a taxi and off I went back to the homestay. As soon as I got outside I stopped coughing and felt so much better. I hate cigarette smoke anyway, but because I’m not used to it, I was coughing a lot. The taxi dropped me off somewhere near the homestay but it wasn’t obvious where, so Captain Caveman had to direct me to it over the phone. He had a great time and more salted caramel coffees with Vu, Ngoc and their daughter at Tan cafe and was back to check out, just before noon.

Captain Caveman had decided we would go to a cafe near to the train station where we could have another drink and wait until our train at 1.50pm. We got a taxi from Purple Hue Homestay to Mémoire Café, which was really lovely. It was open air so the heat was still an issue but there were lots of fans and we sat in the shaded area. The staff had been trained to be super polite and professional and kept themselves busy. On display was a violin and a cute canary, who was singing away. I ordered a drink which was one of the most unusual but refreshing cold drinks I’ve ever had and I couldn’t even tell you what was in it while Captain Caveman chose what he thought would be a simple orange juice but it came in a fancy bottle. We also got served and were topped up with complimentary water as we sat there for over an hour.

We walked to the train station which was just a few minutes away and were drenched in sweat by the time we got to the very full waiting room, where there were no seats left. There were 2 massage chairs available but if you sat on them the alarm went off so we stood and waited. The train got delayed but, by 2.30pm, we were on our way to Dong Hoi in our soft seats.

Aside from the guy across from us playing his phone loudly, which is now standard behaviour, the train journey was bearable. I messaged Maya at the Phong Nha Farmstay to let her know we were on our way back and I sent her a copy of my new visa stamp, for my last 30 days in Vietnam.
When we arrived at Dong Hoi train station, it was the busiest I’d seen it for Western tourists, in a while. We even bumped in to Duyet who was herding tourists up the street and seemed very busy. Our Oxalis driver, Dung, was already waiting and I was glad it was him as I like his driving.
When we got home, I unpacked my bag while Captain Caveman got on with making a Carbonara. We didn’t have much in stock but tomorrow Captain Caveman had to go to Dong Hoi for a medical and would call at the supermarket. It was just gone 9pm when we opened our last bottle of Primitivo red wine and ate our delicious dinner. The last 6 days, celebrating Captain Caveman’s birthday and me getting in and out of Vietnam, had been great fun but now it was time to have fun in Phong Nha for a bit.

Phong Nha – 13th July

Phong Nha – 13th July

Having been awake most of the night due to the storm, I woke up to nice weather on Wednesday 13th July.
Our mate, Stu, had invited me over to his place for lunch with Tatas today and I was looking forward to that. Because their house is a bit far for me to walk, and is slightly too far to cycle in hot sun, Stu arranged for me to get picked up. Jack, Stu’s son, came to collect me on his motorbike and I was a bit apprehensive at first. He’s very experienced in riding motorbikes solo, despite only being 16, but I wasn’t sure if he’d taken a (heavy) passenger like me before. I have my own crash helmet so I was ok and he went fairly slowly through the countryside lanes. Tatas didn’t know the way so she followed from my place, which meant I could have had a lift with her if I’d known.
Stu’s home is a fab 4 bedroom house with a large pool and open plan living/dining/kitchen area. It has plenty of space and great bathrooms – they even have sunken baths! It’s in the Cu Nam area which is higher up than where we are, in Khuong Ha, so is a safe place, even in flood season. Did I mention that it is currently up for sale and at a great price too? If anyone is in the market for a property near to Phong Nha and Dong Hoi they could get an amazing property at the Belafonte, as it’s nicknamed.
It was the first time that Tatas had been for a visit as she had been busy with work so it was good to see her on her day off. We were given beers with ice as we sat down at the huge kitchen table to catch up on what the boys had been up to.
We ordered East Hill chicken for lunch, which was fantastic, chatted a bit more and drank a few beers. Stu is not normally a drinker these days but he joined us for a couple of cold ones on this hot day. Tatas had forgotten her swimmers but that didn’t stop her jumping off of the plunge pool edge, in to the big swimming pool below, in denim shorts. I got in to the plunge pool to cool off as it was so hot and humid again. Tatas kindly took some photos of us in the pool as the clouds started to roll in a bit more. When she left, as she had a briefing that night, I had a lift back to mine with her. We had just got back in time when another storm came and we were fortunate to have left when we did. It had been a fun day out, with lots of laughs, and we hoped to meet up again when Captain Caveman and Tatas had days off at the same time.
For dinner I had pasta with Stilton cheese, I watched the rain and had yet another early night.

Pool photos by Tatas

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:
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 – 18th September

Phong Nha – 18th September

We were up and about at 5.30am on Saturday 18th September, I’ve never felt so excited to be having a needle! Captain Caveman dropped me off at the end of the road where it meets the highway and he waited with me. We had to wait a while, as is the norm, and eventually the big bus arrived. The bus was quite full and when we arrived at a school in Dong Hoi, being used for mass vaccination purposes, we were not allowed in the gate and were told to stand outside and space out, by the guard on duty. Once inside the gate there was about an hour of form filling and general waiting about, An (from Mountain Bar/House) became my translator and it was good to see a friendly face who could help make the waiting go more quickly. I caught up on the Corona data and the news while we waited to go inside; the Quang Binh cases were quite high at 49, 4 in Dong Hoi and 19 in Bo Trach, none near us but it did make me wonder if Bo Trạch may stay in lockdown for longer because of this. I was sad to read that dragon fruit imports were stopped due to the virus too, more here:
By 8.40am I had received my 2nd vaccine of Astra Zeneca, 13 weeks and 2 days after my 1st vaccine and I was so grateful to Oxalis for being able to do this for me. I also felt a bit bad that so many people in Vietnam had still not had their 1st one and were so desperately wanting to be able to get it. There was no longer a 30 minute waiting period to check if anyone had adverse reactions and by 8.45am I had my paper certificate in my hand and was on my way to the bus, feeling the most relieved I can remember feeling. I could now really plan my escape to Turkey and would hopefully be there before October! On the bus back a porter was feeling a little queasy so I gave him my last 2 salted lemon sweets and he had a lay down.

By 9.30am I had been dropped back off and was enjoying a sunny walk back home as the blockade man and some locals asked if I had been for another test and was I negative. They cheered when I said I had been for vaccine number 2 and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to let them know so they may be more on my side when I try to leave town.
When I got home Captain Caveman had already started brunch, knowing I’d be hungry, and we sat in the garden to eat bacon, potatoes, cabbage and mushrooms. We decided to break our promise not to eat all the crisps and shared a bag while outside by the pool. A no-masker workman came to fix the water compressor which meant I’d be able to give my hair a good wash at last. My passport had finally been picked up by Bich so I arranged to send Captain Caveman to collect it when he was running his errands later.
That afternoon I felt a bit tired so I had a lay down while Captain Caveman went up to the Lake House to collect bread and a couple of cheeky bottles of wine. He was gone for ages but back at home, Captain Caveman knocked up some pulled pork buns with the fresh bread collected from the Lake House and we opened a bottle of The Accomplice wine. Tomorrow, Operation ‘Get me out of here’ would recommence – only Captain Caveman and I would be involved in the details until we knew it was going to work!

Phong Nha – 31st August

Phong Nha – 31st August

I was awake early with a cough, a sore throat and still feeling tired on Tuesday 31st August but it went after some water and a lemon salt sweet. When I went downstairs there was a bag of our returned washing, which hadn’t been folded because Duyet had done them while the girls were staying at home. If one of the worst things to happen was for us to have our laundry without fabric softener and unfolded for once then we could handle it – it was day 6 of the #STFAH lockdown afterall. Captain Caveman made himself an amazing looking omelette while I used the left over rice to make a tasty chicken and sweetcorn egg fried rice for my breakfast. I checked the news as usual and saw they had officially communicated that there would be no domestic flights in Vietnam for the foreseeable future:
I also read some interesting stories from westerners who were stuck in Saigon during the lockdown conditions and it made me think it could happen here in the not too distant future. 
I recieved messages regarding our shopping order with Bich, from the kind shopper, her English is very good and her shopping skills that day in Dong Hoi were amazing. Of course, it was to be expected that there were lots of things she couldn’t get so she was sending me photos of alternative produce and asking lots of useful questions. At this point I was still unsure how we would get the delivery from Dong Hoi, given that I couldn’t get there to get a PCR test without form completions and permissions from the head man, so this would be a good test. I was told that the shopping was complete, took our helper’s bank details and said it would be arriving this afternoon – we chanced our luck and asked for some paracetamol, imodium and Diclofenac too. The total spend was way over our budget but we might not get another ‘big shop’ for a while so Captain Caveman transferred the 1,230,000vnd (£39.36), happy we were getting most of the things we requested. Knowing I’d ordered more bread we finished off what we had left for lunch with homemade Baba Ganoush and peanut butter and wished we could get to Funny Monkeys to buy more peanut butter, which is so delicious. We were in the pool when we got a message to say she couldn’t get the Diclofenac and to check how many of the others to get, our shopper was so efficient and said the package would arrive in 30 minutes! When the delivery arrived Duyet unloaded it in the kitchen, downstairs, while I waited upstairs (following the social distancing rules) and he shouted up to say he had finished unpacking. It was amazing to see so much nice fresh food, even though I had over ordered on bread. Because we had been getting the little banh my baguettes at the market, I had asked for 6 – we got 6 long french stick baguettes from VinMart which are our favourites. It looked like the Gluten test was really going to be put through its paces over the next week as I’d also ordered 2 sandwich/toastie loaves which went in the freezer. Captain Caveman came down to help put stuff away and he was in charge of portion control on the chicken of which we had 8 chicken breasts, of a sizeable ration too. We couldn’t believe how quick and organised it had all been and we were so happy to have all this nice food. We drank beers and watched Somebody Feed Phil, the Venice episode, and it was a good day 6 of lockdown, which looked to be going from a 7 day stint to 14 days and would more than likely be announced tomorrow.
Captain Caveman had an online conversation with his boss via messenger where it was explained that I would not be getting my 2nd vaccination any time soon, due to the shortage of vaccines and that the priority people were no longer tourism. He was sorry he couldn’t do anything about it and offered help for both of us from one of his staff, for any assistance we might need during lockdown – this was very kind and we welcomed the offer of help!
For dinner we had chicken, white carrot and white cabbage in fresh baguette (we had loads of it) with a beer as we discussed how we would ask for help to get me out of Vietnam, hopefully I would be able to get a vaccine relatively quickly in Turkey!

August was definitely a bit more of a difficult month, starting with the visa/passport/leaving issues and the hope of getting my 2nd vaccine all the way throughout the month. Having no access to any money, bank cards expired and our income versus expenditure being terribly tight was definitely a worry and it meant having to make the tough decisions on how to spend what little money we had, sensibly. Meals and nights out were becoming less, due to low funds and, without any cave tours, Captain Caveman was constantly on his phone, sometimes getting involved with random posters on Facebook who needed advice or correct information – he spoke (wrote) more to them than anyone else! I planned a few times to leave but kept putting it off because of the hope of a 2nd vaccine, which Captain Caveman was extremely lucky to get. We finally ended up in a lockdown situation that we had no idea was coming and this blog was doing well, despite me not having that much to write about that might interest readers, these days. 
One of my plans to leave Vietnam to go to Turkey and then the UK had failed, as all the things I needed to be in place (and out of my control) didn’t happen. By the end of August I knew there would be no 2nd vaccine for me, that I would not get another visa extension and that travel directly from Turkey to England would not be possible without paid quarantine facilities. However, I knew that once I could fly to Turkey, I could reapply for my residency and then request a 2nd (and probably) 3rd vaccine and I could access some money before working out how to get to the UK to see my family and friends. As the last day of August ended I still didn’t actually know what would happen, or where I would be for definite, in September and that was a very strange feeling.

Phong Nha – 18th August

Phong Nha – 18th August

Captain Caveman and Veronika went on the Phong Nha Farmstay weekly shopping trip on Wednesday 18th August, we had just 1 million vnd (£32) budget for all shopping this week but had hardly any meat left – it would be difficult but doable. I had toast with jam for breakfast and was feeling much better than I was last night, I checked the news and it was worrying that, without the vaccine, Corona related deaths in Vietnam were still high each day. Although, in the USA, where a lot of vaccines are available, it was awful to read that Corona deaths had got a lot worse, with more than 1,000 deaths in a day, check out the article here:
I did some writing, learned some Turkish and started watching a new series on Netflix, called Somebody Feed Phil, which is really good. The shoppers returned with full bags and Veronika had trouble getting the frozen stuff she had bought into her full freezer while Captain Caveman had managed to buy 2kg of frozen chicken breasts to put in our freezer. Upstairs Captain Caveman gave me the receipts, not knowing how much he had spent, so when I added it all up I was impressed to see he did it within budget, although there were still a few items we couldn’t get. We rechecked our budget to see if it would last until the next pay day and we would only have 800,000vnd (£25.60) for my last 2 weeks here. Even if I delayed leaving until after the next pay day it wouldn’t make any difference so Captain Caveman said we would manage, somehow.
For all you shopping list lovers here’s what Captain Caveman managed to get on the Dong Hoi shopping trip:

(Prices in Vietnamese Dong and £1 is about 31,300vnd)

Red Supermarket
3 red peppers 41,712
2 cans of grapefruit drink 64,000

VinMart small shop
250ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil 95,300

VinMart Supermarket
1 baguette 9,500
Washing up liquid refill pouch 19,000
3 onions 20,925
Lettuce 22,920
6 aubergines 31,870
2 dragon fruits 39,237
250g Westgold Butter 80,700
8 frozen chicken breasts 177,800

Organic Shop
4 beef fillets 219,000

Grand total spent 821,964vnd (£26.30) on shopping plus he had an espresso coffee at the Farmstay and another at QB Casa, after the shopping, which came to 110,000vnd (£3.52) – to me, a waste of money but he was still within the budget.

For lunch we had the homemade vegetable soup, my stomach was fine and I was back to feeling ok – at least I didn’t have Giardia or anything nasty. In the late afternoon I made popcorn, Captain Caveman cycled over to Phong Nha to see the cavers off, all 4 of them were travelling together, they had all got their negative PCR results and were leaving at 6pm for the overnight drive to Hanoi airport, their flight was tomorrow at 12.30pm, via Singapore and I was keen to know how it would go as I would have to do a similar journey in a few weeks – they would be my guinea pigs! Captain Caveman came back on Trigger, Watto’s motorbike, and then cooked us a carbonara with the bacon we got from Stu for dinner – it was amazing!

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 28th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 28th July

I was awake early on Wednesday 28th July and not because it was my turn to go on the shopping trip today. I was worried about my friend who was still trying to get back to South Africa, he’d had an horrendous night and had ended up walking 5km to find water and food, which he didn’t because all shops are closed for the evening curfew in Saigon. Because this morning shops were open from 6am he found a 7-11 and got an egg and cheese sandwich which he said was disgusting but he loved it.
Captain Caveman went off to Phong Nha for work, he had given me the money for shopping, we had just over a week until pay day so things were pretty tight and I had my shopping list at the ready. We’d already had a message from Ben asking who was going and saying we would only be going to the organic shop and Co-op Mart so Veronika, after her traumatic experience last week, decided not to come along. I was told my pick up was at 8am and so I went outside ready for that, at 8.05am Duyet told me to get in the jeep to go to the Farmstay so I thought Bich may have told him to bring me there.  As I was leaving Ben arrived to pick me up so I switched cars and off we went to pick up 2 customers at the Phong Nha Farmstay. At 8.45am Bich was ready to leave so off we all went to Dong Hoi and on the way she asked if we wanted to go anywhere specific and suggested Tuan Viet Gourmet so I said yes. My South African bound friend managed to get checked in for his flight to Singapore and was happy to be on his way at last. I got a few bits in the shop, including treating us to a bottle of wine for just under a tenner. Our next stop was the organic shop where I managed to get a couple of things from my list. Next, Bich dropped us at Co-op Mart and went to pick up something, I managed to get quite a bit from the list but there were no eggs or chicken and it was surprisingly empty so Veronika would have been fine. When we left the supermarket I mentioned to Bich I still hadn’t been able to get chicken or BBQ sauce so we stopped at Horeca and I got those plus some cheese. I had thought I’d get 2 lots of BBQ sauce but it wasn’t cheap so I put one back, while I waited for them to find me some frozen chicken breasts which they kept in the back of the small shop.

Here’s my list of the shopping I bought, prices in Vietnamese Dong. I bet you can see straight away the things I shouldn’t have been tempted to buy, which exceeded the tight budget rule;

Tuan Viet Supermarket
Green beans 14,500
Gluten free stock cubes 22,000
2 red peppers 26,220
6 Mangosteen 27,000
2 dragon fruit 30,360
1 packet of penne pasta 35,000
1 jar of green olives 45,000
1 bottle of red wine 310,000

Total 510,080vnd (£15.81)

Organic Shop
1 red cabbage 51,150
300g of beef 90,000

Total 141,150vnd (£4.38)

Co-op Mart
Broccoli 9,741
Carrots 11,085
2 packets of crisps 23,000
Pumpkin 27,422
Tomato puree sauce 28,400
Potatoes 36,527
2 Strongbow cider 36,600
2 packs of Mushrooms 64,000

Total 236,775vnd (£7.34)

250g cheddar cheese slices 65,000
200g cream cheese 68,000
125g brie 90,000
2 bottles of BBQ sauce 150,000
2kg chicken breast 180,000

Total 553,000vnd (£17.14)

Is there anything you think I missed or shouldn’t have bought?

Bich had a request from one of the Farmstay guests to bring back some Banh Loc (which smelled of fish sauce so bad) and we made a new rule; whoever doesn’t go on the shopping trip has to order the smelliest food for the others to have to bring back on the 45 minute car journey!

When I got home  Captain Caveman was a bit cheesed off because he had set off this morning to go on the Tu Lan take down trip but when he got to Oxalis it had been postponed until Friday but he hadn’t been told. Luckily Watto, who is going back to the UK next month, had given him a toaster – he was happy about that. So, my other half was in a mood, I was starving hungry and decided that a croissant with a slice of cheddar cheese on would be an amazing brunch – of course this made me terribly ill for about an hour.
I got a message from Tatas to say that her home isolation had ended 9 days early because her landlord had tested negative 3 times and she was already at work, in a meeting. Captain Caveman and I drank wine by the pool in the late afternoon, I snacked on crisps and longans and we discussed Captain Caveman’s plans for the off-season (September to December) this year. Vietnam has been promising that they were going to reduce the quarantine period for experts entering Vietnam to just 7 days followed by 14 days self isolation ‘at home’ but they still had not implemented it and as it stood it would be 14 days quarantine then 14 days self isolation. Given that Captain Caveman would need to be ready to work in November it didn’t leave much time for him to come to Turkey. He decided that it would be too risky to get stuck in either Turkey or Vietnamese quarantine and potentially not be able to work when needed so he would not leave Vietnam this year. We both agreed that while the pandemic was still continuing as it is, it would be sensible for him to stay in Phong Nha. 
For dinner we used the leftover stew from yesterday and added the beef I bought today to have the same delicious meal we had last night. I noticed that at Horeca they had still charged me for 2 bottles of BBQ sauce so I messaged Bich to see if she could let them know so I could rectify it on the next shopping trip.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 21st July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 21st July

There were some changes afoot in Phong Nha and Dong Hoi on Wednesday 21st July, but first Captain Caveman and Veronika got picked up to join the Phong Nha Farmstay shopping trip at 8am, Duyet was driving the bus this week, while I had a Lake House croissant for my breakfast. The housekeeping staff thought we had all gone to Dong Hoi and so came to do a clean, surprised to find me in the room. I went outside, trying to find some breeze and drank some water. The new puppy was playing in the garden and came running over for some belly rubs and tickles. We have a new youth who has recently joined Duyet on the Elements team who cares for the pool, waters the garden and generally looks after the place. He came over so I asked him the puppy’s name – he’s called Cà rốt (which means carrot in English), the youth is called Cuong as I checked at the same time.
I prepared some lunch using left over tortilla, bacon and cabbage to make an interesting meal and saved some for Captain Caveman. He had messaged to say that the supermarket in Dong Hoi was full and people had started to panic buy. An area near to the train station was taped off and no trains were stopping at Dong Hoi.
Unfortunately during the tracking and tracing of people who were in direct contact with the 3 imported positive cases from Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, they had identified 2 people who had also tested positive. These were traced to be people in Dong Hoi; one a taxi driver and the other was a ‘drinking buddy’.

Video of Carrot, the puppy

Captain Caveman and Veronika returned from the shopping trip with very differing accounts of their outing. While nothing phases Captain Caveman, Veronika was still a little out of sorts due to the pushing and shoving at the supermarket. She had shopped, got to the counter and then abandoned her basket because it had just been too much for her. Luckily she had managed to get quite a bit of shopping in the Organic shop and wouldn’t be going hungry but it’s the first time I’ve seen her looking a bit frazzled after a shopping trip! Captain Caveman said it wasn’t as busy as a Morrison’s back in Sheffield on a normal Saturday and if he’d have known he would have got her shopping through for her. We are spoilt here because it’s so quiet generally that we don’t ever see a crowd.

Here is what Captain Caveman bought this week, keeping in mind our budget was still very tight and he went to 3 shops in total during a panic buy. As usual the prices are in Dong and it’s about 32,000vnd to £1.

Organic Shop
Mangosteens 41,200
Asparagus 46,060
Mushrooms 55,000
Onions 60,000
Popcorn kernels 124,000

Co-op Mart
Shallots 7,592
1 can of Coca-Cola 8,500
Lettuce 8,506
Carrots 16,464
Tomatoes 17,561
1 can of Strongbow 18,500
Tissues 18,500
Bananas 20,550
Potatoes 21,212
2 dragon fruit 34,125
6 cans of tonic 45,600
2 packs of butter 62,000
1 jar pasta sauce 106,800
2 packs of bacon 129,600
3 cartons of orange juice 135,900

Red Supermarket
2 red peppers 49,205
2 cans grapefruit juice 64,000
Hot dogs 265,000

I had made one request to Captain Caveman to get me something to take to Shannon’s party that night. We were all taking a dish which they call Potluck in America and Canada and so I wanted to take something easy that everyone would like, I also asked him to get me some wine but he didn’t get any. Captain Caveman didn’t get as many bargains and couldn’t get eggs or chicken anywhere this week.

Our 3rd Phong Nha Ladies Night was arranged for 4pm at the Belafonte and I was about to take the worst potluck dish in the history of potluck parties! Captain Caveman had got me dragon fruit and baby bananas to take, his logic being everyone likes fruit. He assumed Shannon would have shot glasses and so I would also take a bottle of Hanoi vodka as my drink contribution – this was certainly one way to avoid being invited back again, or to any other future parties. Meanwhile Veronika had decided to take rice crackers, grapes and 3 homemade dips (hummus, olive tapenade and red pepper) which she was busy making at home. The Belafonte, where Shannon lives, is about 2.5km from the Farmstay (almost 5km from our place) and I wasn’t too sure how I was getting there. Veronika had decided that she would get a lift with Bich but they weren’t going until later as she was busy with guests. Originally I was going to go with Tatas but she had gone on a 2 day Tu Lan tour this morning, meaning that she couldn’t come to another one of our Ladies Nights. Captain Caveman suggested I cycle there because then I wouldn’t be stuck for being able to get home but I thought it might be a bit too far, plus I’d probably be able to get a lift home. Instead we came up with a better plan; Captain Caveman and I would cycle to the Farmstay for about 4pm and then I would leave Bluey, my bicycle, there and we would walk to Shannon’s house (Captain Caveman would push his bike) and I’d cadge a lift back. It would be about 30 minutes walk so we would be there before 5pm and it had been cloudy all day so felt a bit cooler. Captain Caveman would then cycle back home and have a quiet night in. I was looking forward to the party and this Ladies Night looked set to have 15 attendees plus a couple of local friends of Shannon’s who she had invited too. I sent a message in the Facebook event and group to let everyone know the party was still going ahead and that we were under the general Corona rule of no groups of more than 20 people so all was good to go, then I jumped in the shower to get ready  for Shannon’s send off.
Of course, this is Vietnam so by the time I had got out of the shower there was already some changes and at the time we didn’t realise how serious they could be.

I got out of the shower to several messages of cancellation, which is not unusual for Ladies Night, but the reasons were! The two people who were positive for Corona in Quang Binh (the taxi driver and the drinking man) had been in Phong Nha and so all the people in a section of town around the former Easy Tiger area were checked for F1 and F2 tracing, meaning quite a few people had to stay at home. Four of the girls who live in that area were unable to come due to their potential to be F2s and some were told they needed to stay home for the time being. Another couple of ladies had to stay at home (one in a different town) for the same reason and people in our sleepy town were genuinely worried that Corona had spread this far. What I didn’t know at the time was that the phone shop guy, at the corner of Phong Nha market, had been in direct contact with the positive taxi driver when he sold him and ice-cream and so he was F1 and had been taken away for quarantine and testing.
As we were setting off to the Phong Nha Farmstay on our bicycles, armed with fruit, Saigon beers and rice wine, the sun decided to come out and it was incredibly hot again. It’s only 10 minutes of cycling but it was definitely over 35°C so I needed to stop for a refreshment before walking on to The Belafonte for Shannon’s party. We both had a Huda beer and then one of the guests came over to say she and her family were heading back to Hanoi by car tomorrow but wanted to introduce her friend to us. We sat chatting and ended up having another beer by which time Bich said I could get a lift with her and Veronika. When I finally got to the party it was already in full swing, we’d missed the fizz and everyone was in the pool, including Momma D, Deb, Trang, Shannon and a load of local kids. The party went much better than expected and despite the Vietnamese ladies laughing at my contribution and all the kids swarming around Veronika’s grapes like locusts there was a good spread with plenty of BBQ pork and spring rolls. I was drinking beer when Shannon insisted I go on to white wine then later when Tham arrived, with several bottles of wine and a bottle of Bailey’s, I went on to red. Shannon said for me to stay so I agreed, let Captain Caveman know and then we cranked up the music and got right on it!

As the last 3 standing Momma D and I agreed we needed to make sure Shannon had the best send off and not to get upset or it would make Shannon feel emotional so we were on a mission to make her night! By 2.30pm we were necking frozen Bellinis with extra rum, singing (and dancing) to Teenage Dirtbag at the top of our voices and generally celebrating we had made it to 2.30am – practically unheard of these days in Phong Nha. I vaguely remember going to sleep in a downstairs bedroom where the ceiling was a huge net and there was an actual thick duvet on the bed and I wondered why there were pegs on the curtains.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 14th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 14th July

I had an exciting day on Wednesday 14th July; while Captain Caveman had gone to Son Doong for another 4 days I was booked on the Phong Nha Farmstay’s weekly shopping trip at 8.30am. I had a very small budget to work with this week so I had to be really careful if I wanted to be able to go out for some meals as well as cooking at home. Bich picked up Veronika and I from Elements Collection and already in the car were 2 other passengers. One was a customer who was very nice and friendly and so we had a good chat while we drove to Dong Hoi, I was particularly interested in her home country of Bhutan and why her and her family were moving to Ethiopia. Our first stop was the Organic Shop where I was absolutely delighted to find they had popcorn kernels, unfortunately they were expensive but I decided to get them anyway and popped back the brown rice biscuits I was going to buy. I really wanted to buy the juicy looking cherries but, even though they had come down in price, they were still 400,000vnd (£12.80) per kilo – instead I sensibly bought some carrots. 
Our next shop was the VinMart supermarket where the girl on the reduced veg and fruit weighing machine counter had started to recognise me and pointed out the pumpkin which I got as well as a selection of other cheap produce. I didn’t manage to get everything on the shopping list but I still got quite a few things before putting our stuff in the car then joining Bich at QB Casa cafe.

For those of you who do like a good shopping list and a nosey here’s what I bought and the cost in dong:

Organic Shop
4 carrots 14,310
500g popcorn kernels 124,000

Total spent 138,310vnd (£4.42)

VinMart Supermarket
1 pack of pumpkin 2,778
1 pack of pumpkin 2,999
1 pack of white cabbage 5,472
1 can of soda water 6,500
1 baguette 9,500
1 pack of broccoli 15,232
1 can of coconut milk 16,000
2 cans of diet coke 19,000
2 packs of pineapple 23,000
Washing up liquid 23,000
1 jar of tomato pasta sauce 27,000
500g of penne pasta 30,000

Total spent 180,481vnd (£5.76)

It wasn’t a thorough shopping trip but interestingly I didn’t buy any item that was over £1 in VinMart, do you think you could do that in your local supermarket and get most things for the week? What did I miss?

After shopping, Veronika, who likes a coffee in a morning, had taken herself off to the Vinpearl Hotel reception for a cappuccino, when she saw we were all in QB Casa she came over and ordered another cappuccino and found not only was it cheaper but it was better! Bich had ordered steak and chips for her breakfast so I decided to have the same, and I also ordered a fresh coconut. I was thoroughly impressed with my meal, the service was good even though the staff are a bit shy and not too confident speaking English, but that didn’t matter to me. I paid 200,000vnd (£6.40) for steak, chips, a warm baguette and veg, a fresh coconut, water and included a tip, I was very full and left there thinking I would definitely go again.

When we got in I popped my shopping away and realised I still had a small amount of almond milk left so I made myself a dairy free white russian to have with some gluten and dairy free chocolate brownie. My eczema on my face was still bad so I avoided putting my face in the water as much as possible while swimming and didn’t stay in too long. I watched some Netflix and made some popcorn, I had some of the old kernels left and when I popped the new and old together it was clear to see the organic shop was much better quality so I didn’t feel so bad for spending too much on it – it still works out better than crisps.
After dinner, of a chicken sandwich, I found a cockroach in the bathroom and was a bit anxious about trying to get it as they are usually indestructible (this one was massive and extremely fast) but I sprayed it with Mosfly before bed and hoped it would be dead when I got up.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 7th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 7th July

On Wednesday 7th July it was clear that the number of Corona cases in Saigon were not letting up and there were some issues in trying to keep it under control so an announcement was made that Ho Chi Minh City would go in to Directive 16 lockdown from midnight, more info here:
A lot of our friends in Saigon were feeling the stress of it a bit more now and some were F1 or F2 and having to isolate.
There was a morning shopping trip at 8.30am which both Captain Caveman and I decided to join Veronika and Stu on. Our first stop was the pharmacy where I bought cream for my eczema, paracetamol, contraceptive pills and some Decolgen for Captain Caveman. In all pharmacies now you have to give your name, address and phone number if you are buying any medication which could be for Corona so I had to do that and I didn’t have enough money as the face cream was so expensive that Captain Caveman had to come and bring me more cash in the now heavy rain.
We also shopped at the organic shop and the VinMart before going for a fancy lunch.

We got quite a few things but we’re still meant to be on a strict budget so we were trying to be as careful as possible. Captain Caveman had been paid but after all the outgoings there wasn’t much left. Here’s the shopping we bought, for all you list lovers, prices in Dong;

Decolgen (16 tablets) 19,200
Panadol (24 tablets) 22,000
Marvelon (63 tablets) 195,000
Eucerin cream (1 tube) 434,700

Total spent 670,900 (£20.80)

Booze Shop
2 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin 460,000

Total spent (£14.26)

Organic Shop
1 red cabbage 13,330
4 carrots 20,670
2 red peppers 47,530
1 pack of vegetable stock granules 75,000
4 potatoes 75,600
1 pomelo 157,500

Total spent 389,630 (£12.08)

VinMart Supermarket
Tissues 8,500
1 baguette 9,500
1 packet of Fox’s glacier mints 15,100
6 bananas 23,880
Mushrooms 35,500
1 bag of frozen sweetcorn 41,000
10 eggs 43,900
3 180ml cartons of almond milk 69,500
1kg of chicken 88,900
1 jar of jam 138,000

Total spent 473,780 (£14.69)

The bargain of the day was the gin being only £7 per bottle which Captain Caveman was thrilled with it being cheaper for 2 bottles than my small face cream. The items we probably could have left off the list was the pomelo (which was huge) and the jam, but we got a nice free tote bag with it this time and that would come in handy for me to use in Turkey.
We still didn’t buy any wine which is usually around 400,000vnd for 1 bottle and at least it was keeping me healthier! Once I got to Turkey I would drink a lot more wine as a cheap (but good) bottle there is about a third of the cost of that in Vietnam. The 2 items I would love to be able to buy are popcorn kernels and mince beef but nowhere has any in stock.

What would you have left out or added this week?

Bich had chosen the Vinpearl hotel for lunch, we were the only guests and the staff had to put the lights on as we sat at a huge table with a lazy susan! Captain Caveman and Stu ordered Caesar salads, Bich ordered prawns, Veronika chicken breast and I went completely off the diet and ordered the chicken burger (I’d taken stomach medicine in case of any issues). My food was absolutely fantastic, it came with French fries, cheese, bacon and gherkins and was only 180,000vnd (£5.58). Everyone else said their food was nice too and we had a good laugh before heading back to Phong Nha.

Captain Caveman and I had BBQ ‘pulled pork’ jackfruit on a baguette with shredded cabbage, carrot and gherkins for an early dinner. It was nice, if not a bit unusual, but it definitely wouldn’t fool a meat lover. I would have it again though, which was a good job as we now had BBQ jackfruit left, which we popped in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch. I’d organised another Ladies Night for tomorrow but was having a few problems getting people to commit to whether they were coming or not.

Phong Nha – 30th June

Phong Nha – 30th June

By the time I woke up on Wednesday 30th June it looked like immigration had made a mistake and tourist visas could be extended in various cities in Vietnam now so I didn’t book the flights or book a PCR test or sort anything else out. I had my usual gluten free pancakes and an orange juice while Captain Caveman went on the shopping trip with Bich, her kids, and a couple of Phong Nha Farmstay customers. 
In the news in Vietnam there was a  supermarket employee with Corona in Saigon, more here:
A friend, who also had to leave at the end of July, had confirmed he was leaving on the 27th and his 2 options to go to were Turkey or Bali, Indonesia, but the news in Indonesia wasn’t looking too clever, more here:
Captain Caveman was back fairly early from Dong Hoi this week, having just picked up some essentials but couldn’t find anything to alleviate my phone and laptop situation.

In his shopping basket at the Co-op Mart were the following items (costs in vnd):
Onions 16,598
Bananas 16,900
Potatoes 20,956
Eggs 29,500
Mangosteens 43,089
Chicken breasts 135,000
There was still almost a week until pay day but Captain Caveman was frivolous and also went to the booze shop where he bought a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and a bottle of Vodka Smirnoff Red for a total of 510,000vnd.

I’d been busy at home making a masaman curry, some for later and some for the freezer.
For lunch we had Baba Ganoush with toast and in the afternoon we went in the pool with cocktails. I had a White Russian made with walnut milk which was a terrible idea so it followed with 2 vodka and diet cokes.
We heard nothing more about my visa situation and it looked like I was still leaving Vietnam. I made some chapatti type things to go with the masaman curry and we didn’t eat until 8pm because Captain Caveman wasn’t hungry. I was, I always am, but as soon as I had eaten it I was ill and I don’t know why but this is probably the third time I remember being ill with masaman curry. We went to sleep that night still not knowing if I was going to be in Phong Nha this time next week, or not.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 23rd June

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 23rd June

On Wednesday 23rd June Captain Caveman had planned to cycle to Phong Nha in the morning but he wanted to go on the shopping trip with me at 8.30am. We were up early and although we were speaking there was still no apology and I couldn’t help but feel a bit shit about the fact that Captain Caveman isn’t happy with me not getting out and about.
In the news there was finally some vaccination praise in Vietnam, who have been very slow to start vaccinating in large numbers, unlike the UK and Turkey, more info here:
Bich picked me, Captain Caveman and Veronika up from Elements Collection about 8.40am and already had 2 Phong Nha Farmstay customers in the car. Tree Hugger was already quite busy, when we arrived, we sat downstairs and bumped in to a Phong Nha friend or two.  Captain Caveman ordered his usual egg sandwich, I had veggie fried spring rolls with peach tea then we wished our friends good luck as they headed to immigration and we got ready for a shopping bonanza!

Our shopping trip this week was full on, starting at the Co-op Mart, where our bargain of the day was a whole pumpkin for less than £1 (prices below are in VND).

Co-op Mart
1 notebook 18,000
Lettuce 18,180
Tomatoes 18,250
10 eggs 25,500
Onions 29,738
1 (huge) pumpkin 32,084
5 bananas 33,717
Washing up sponges 39,000
6 aubergines 41,832
Potatoes 56,713
3 walnut milk 81,000
Sensodyne toothpaste 84,600
2 packs of chicken 90,000
2 bottles of mouthwash 92,000
250g butter 107,500
10 mangosteens 114,856
3 packs of bacon 194,400
24 cans of Huda beer 234,000
Dates 256,000

We love the Organic shop and it’s always a surprise as to what they might have in stock, that shop was next.

An Nong Organic Shop
Asparagus 48,510
1 bag of limes 54,725
2 trays of mushrooms 92,000
2 red dragon fruit 61,100

Our next shop was another supermarket, the VinMart, where our bargain of the day was some ready chopped aubergine.

1 tray of chopped aubergine 6,994
1 baguette 9,000
2 peppers 27,050
3 cans of diet coke 28,500
200g mushrooms 35,500
2 tubes of Pringles 65,000
3 almond milk 69,500
4 Strongbow ciders 70,000
2 orange juice 88,000

There was still another supermarket we hadn’t been to and our Hanoi guest was keen to buy Tequila (I liked this guy already) but even the wine and spirits shop didn’t have any. Because Captain Caveman had no tours at the moment money was tighter than usual so we decided to forego the booze shop, which was difficult, while our new friend bought 3 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin at a very reasonable price. 

We did go in to the Red Supermarket for a few more items, we were still hoping to get popcorn kernels, which they were out of at the moment. I was thrilled to find that they had started stocking Orgran gluten free plain flour and, despite its expense, we bought 2 boxes so that I could make proper pancakes! Captain Caveman even found Jiff lemon!

Red Supermarket
1 Jiff lemon 46,000
2 grapefruit drinks 110,000
Walnuts 159,000
2 boxes of gluten free flour 258,000

All in all it was a very productive shopping day where we didn’t buy any wine, but still managed to spend 2.8m vnd (£87). Unfortunately we couldn’t get any suitable memory stick or SD card either so my blog posting was being delayed and was sat queuing to be published.
What’s missing from the shopping, what would you have put back on the shelf and what do you think is missing from our basket or trolley this week?

On returning home from the shopping trip Captain Caveman and Veronika both jostled for space to fill the fridges with the shopping while I took the non-kitchen items upstairs then got in to my swimmers to cool down.
I took the ready chopped aubergine and put it in a bowl with oil and pepper then popped it in the oven to roast so that Captain Caveman could make Baba Ganoush later. For lunch I had a ham sandwich (no butter) and then I went for a White Russian (or 2) with the almond milk and they are a real winner – tastes a bit like Bailey’s. Unfortunately that was the last of the vodka and Captain Caveman finished off the rest of the gin. Even though we both were in or around the pool I made an effort to not speak much and Captain Caveman was happy to be on his phone in a deckchair. The moon was a day away from being a full moon and I managed to get a photo of it. Captain Caveman decided he would cook us a breakfast for dinner so I had bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onion with brown sauce and it was tasty. We got a message from a mate, back in England, who’d managed to get himself in to one of his ‘world’s stupidest man’ situations which made us both laugh so much and really cheered me up. Finally, Captain Caveman explained why he had started the argument on Monday and that he hadn’t meant to. He wants me to be happier and is concerned I’m not (I was fine) but the main thing that had cheesed him off was that I had tried to railroad him in to organising something. He said he was sorry that he upset me but I shouldn’t tell him what to do (I thought I was helping but obviously wasn’t) and he wanted to make friends with me again. He didn’t want me to leave but just wished I was happier which was rather ironic as I thought I was happy before all this came about!
In other news, after 24 days of having my passport, had finally got a photo of my visa stamp; there was no ‘XC’ meaning I might have to leave on the 9th July so I was good to stay until then and I planned on applying for another visa extension from the 1st July. We agreed to pick up my passport at Victory Road Villas the next morning.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman

Dong Hoi – 17th June

Dong Hoi – 17th June

Captain Caveman woke up early on Thursday 17th June and was off to Phong Nha early because he’d been told he would be getting his second Corona vaccine today. I was also excited because Captain Caveman’s boss, Chau, had kindly added me to the list for my first jab. I made sure my phone was on, that I’d had a banana for breakfast, got my mask, hand sanitizer, water, emergency Fox’s glacier mints and was ready to walk the 10 minutes to the pick up point to join the Oxalis bus.
While I waited for the call I read an interesting article about the concern over visa extensions and the recent issues expats were facing:
It was also good news to read an article about the encouraging of tourist businesses to register for the Corona vaccine:
At 8am Captain Caveman tried to call me on Messenger but he forgot that while he was walking away from the office to get on the bus that he was going away from the WiFi and so it wouldn’t connect. I got my stuff together and tried to set off but then he rang again, it still wouldn’t connect, I tried to call back. When he called me on the normal phone number it was to tell me he had set off and now I was wasting valuable minutes in setting off to meet the Oxalis staff bus. It was hot already and the walk felt hard work, after just over 10 minutes I was nearing the road, I saw the bus approaching and flagged it down. I was glad of the Aircon and a comfy seat, having only just made it. We went to a hospital in Dong Hoi, but not the main Kuba hospital and we had to get a form to complete. This involved a lot of pushing, shoving and fighting over pens which were attached to the kiosk or small table, I wish I’d took my own to make it easier. Captain Caveman completed both of our forms, which I then had to push in to sign and get a read stamp on my arm from the no-nonsense lady at the kiosk. Next we went to the main entrance of the hospital, it was very busy and we had to wait for staff who spoke better English so that they could go in with me. When Thin, the vice director, arrived we went through to the next section which was undercover but outside and I had to fill in more forms which I was helped with. Captain Caveman was told that his name wasn’t down for his second jab so he couldn’t get it and he was disappointed. I gave him my bag, which was a mistake, and went in to what I thought was a small vaccination room. There was about 6 vaccinators at tables then about 30 people sat waiting. I had to be asked some questions about my health and medication, had my heart listened to and my blood pressure taken then moved to the next table where I sat on a small (not very robust) plastic stool. I chose to give my left arm as I knew it might feel painful the next day and I faced the wall, didn’t look and willed myself not to faint.
There was no time or room for fainters and I later translated the list of observations the medical staff were waiting to see, one of the adverse reactions was fainting. I didn’t want to end up on a ward and on a drip because of being a fainter so I sat on a crowded bench opposite a rotating ceiling fan and messed with my shoe laces so that the blood could rush back to my head. I desperately wanted the water and a glacier mint but they were outside and we had to keep our masks on, anyway. By 9.20am I had experienced my first Astra Zeneca vaccination and it was good to see a lot of people wanting to get the jab, including the Vietnamese army who stood patiently waiting to roll up their uniform sleeve. We ended up waiting 40 minutes in the observation section and I realised that, as the only westerner, I had been prioritised ahead of others, including the boss. He asked me if I was ok and I said I was fine, I thanked him for letting me get the jab too as I was extremely grateful. We could expect to have the second vaccine by the end of July, which was great news. One of the staff had a high temperature and so she was sent to sit with us to cool down but they checked her a few more times, with different machines, then told her she couldn’t be vaccinated. I got my certificate and went outside to Captain Caveman, water and mints at last, then told him to see if he could take the girl’s place for his jab – they wouldn’t let him. Back on the bus I felt fine and was super pleased with myself for not fainting. I was dropped back off at the road and the walk home in the hot sun was a relentless one which I felt took way beyond the almost 12 minutes to walk home

Photo credit – Thin, Oxalis.

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 16th June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 16th June

I was looking forward to this week’s shopping trip, at 8am on Wednesday 16th June, Veronika and I were waiting outside when Bich pulled up in the car with the 2 kids. On the drive to Dong Hoi I checked the Corona news and read that a health worker who had the job of collecting Corona test samples from people, had tested positive, more info here:
There was news of vaccine progress in Vietnam:
Meanwhile the vaccine program speeds up in Turkey as they get to over 40s:
I overheard a phonecall Bich had which meant that the member of staff dealing with my passport had some bad news, there had been a death in her close family, the funeral was this afternoon, this also meant that my passport would be delayed and that holiday was looking unlikely (again)!
We arrived at Tree Hugger and we went upstairs to eat, I ordered peach tea with my pancakes, fruit and honey. It was really busy today and so we were there for about 2 hours in total and I took half of my breakfast away. As we left Tree Hugger the boys were moaning that they didn’t want to go shopping and they were bored but luckily for them, we only had time for a trip to the organic shop and the VinMart. When I got back home I took out the last piece of chicken from the freezer, not realising it had bones in, and I’d not been able to get any more chicken breasts in Dong Hoi. I ate my leftover Tree Hugger breakfast for lunch and then chilled out by the pool. Later, Captain Caveman made us a chicken salad baguette, a bit like being at Subway, but the chicken wasn’t ideal for this kind of meal and would have been better in a stew or curry. We shared a bottle of red wine as I tried to finalise the plans for tomorrow’s Ladies Night!

The Shopping Trolley:

As is usual I made a list of my shopping so you can have a nosey as to what was in my basket or trolley. £1 is about 32,200vnd for ease of working it out and I listed the cheapest items first. As we are on a stricter budget while we wait to find out when Captain Caveman will resume work, I didn’t buy anything too frivolous.

Organic Shop
130g baby carrots 12,350
1 pack of natural peanuts 22,000
Coconut rice crackers 25,000
1 dragon fruit 30,940
6 mangosteen 67,650

Dove deodorant 63,000

3 pack Alpenleibe sweets 15,000
1 pack Fox’s Glacier mints 15,100
2 baguettes 18,000
2 cans diet coke 19,000
6 bananas 21,911
Washing up liquid 23,000
2 red peppers 27,373
10 eggs 27,700
2 yellow peppers 28,974
Mushrooms 31,000
Pringles 32,500
Garlic 34,540
1 pack Ham 38,800
3 X 180ml almond milk 69,500

Are there any items that surprised you this week? Did anyone notice the absence of alcohol?