Phong Nha – 10th June

Phong Nha – 10th June

When I woke up on Thursday 10th June I had a bit of a woolly head but was under the impression we had ended the night in a nice, civilised fashion but I’d be wrong!
Captain Caveman had the face on with me but was at least talking to me enough to point out where it had all gone a bit too messy! After the vodka shots I had become a bit of a nightmare and, while Momma D had taken herself off to sleep on a couch in the hotel reception I had refused to walk home! Tony had given us a lift but apparently they had to stop the car on the way back because I was messing about in the back and Tatas wanted to switch seats with Captain Caveman as I was being annoying. When we got home I refused to go in the house and wouldn’t take off my shoes and I layed on the bench wanting a quick snooze. Captain Caveman said he knew I’d get eaten by mozzies and be mad at him if he didn’t get me in the house so he tried to physically get me through the door, I fell off the bench (twice) and was insisting I wanted to sleep outside. When Captain Caveman decided to pick me up I apparently slapped him and started screaming like a child because I didn’t want to go to bed! I didn’t remember people leaving the party, I wondered if I’d eaten all of my steak but apparently I ate some but was making everyone have a bit! I was in the dog house big time and my punishment, as well as thinking I might be sick and feeling like I was on a boat, was that Captain Caveman would do the shopping trip at 9am by himself – how fortuitous!!
I managed to make myself some buttered toast for breakfast and had orange juice, then had a bad stomach. Momma D messaged to say that she too hadn’t been able to remember anything after the vodka shots.
I read the Corona news which had an article about another woman who died:
I reheated some pork, broccoli and potatoes which I’d taken out of the freezer (left over Sunday dinner with a hangover isn’t good) and I had a terrible stomach after so went back to bed. Captain Caveman returned home about 3pm having been to 7th Heaven for lunch and visited 2 shops, 1 of which he didn’t get a receipt for and I was too hungover to remember what he said he had bought.
That afternoon I got a call from Tham at the Lake House and I thought I might need to apologise for my behaviour, she was calling to invite us to Tony’s birthday meal at 6pm and I optimistically said yes. By 5.30pm I was still in bed and feeling very fragile so Captain Caveman took one for the team and went to the Lake House while I ate cashew nuts and crispbreads for dinner and went to bed early. I promised never to drink long island iced tea ever again!

Captain Caveman did the shopping because I was hungover, he only got a receipt in the Organic Shop so here’s what was in his basket in that shop:

1 pack of baby carrots 34,675
1 bundle of asparagus 39,100
800g of mangosteen 104,650
4 beef steaks 142,500
400g prawns 261,450

Total spend 582,375vnd which is about £18.64.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman and Phong Nha Lake House

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th June

Captain Caveman was up at 6.30am on Saturday 5th June and cycling to Phong Nha once again while I did some blogging. I agreed to be ready at 9am, though, with a bag full of Captain Caveman’s clothes to be altered by Thao’s mom, as we were off to Dong Hoi. In the meantime Veronika and the rest of the Farmstay family were on an Oxalis family tour. 
The news reported that Vietnam has now had 53 Corona deaths but the daily new cases seemed to be calming down slightly.

We went to Co-op Mart first and I always find it so frustrating shopping with Captain Caveman because he has the shopping list on his phone but won’t shout anything out for me to help. When I eventually got him to tell me some vegetables or fruit to select I was getting one or two at once, then taking them to the counter, next to the stinky durian, for the assistant to stick the price on. I went there more than 5 separate times because of this and it was a bit ridiculous. In the end I just walked up and down each isle pushing the trolley and letting Captain Caveman look for everything himself. While he was at the checkout I went over to the Minigood shop to look for some easy to get on and off shoes for kicking about in, I found some excellent shower shoes in a strange colour but they would do the job. It was too warm for trainers and I had nothing else that was comfy, even my porter sandals give me blisters these days. Next we went to Toan Viet Gourmet where Captain Caveman again didn’t say what he still had on the list and so I went round asking ‘do we need this?’ to which he didn’t answer so I left him in there and went back to the car. Our next stop was the Vincom shopping centre where I stayed in the car while Captain Caveman went on a mission to get every item I had missed from Thursday’s shopping trip.

We decided to have lunch at Earth Cafe so we could give the sewing to Mo, to pass to Thao, but when we arrived Mo was just closing up for the day because it was quiet. We had a little chat then walked to Tree Hugger where I had one of my favourites, beef with veggies and brown rice, and Captain Caveman had a cheeseburger. I had a cup of my favourite Tree Hugger tea as well as a cup of the complimentary herbal tea and then the delicious free fruit.

We walked back again to get the car from outside Earth Cafe, in the rain, then Captain Caveman went to the sports shop to buy a headband to stop the sweat from going in his eyes when he’s cycling. Next was the wine shop where he bought Vodka and Kahlua which I’d said to leave off the shopping list, seeing as it wasn’t really essential. The last shop was the organic shop where Captain Caveman completed the rest of the shopping except for a few out of stock items.
We drove back, I was dropped off with all the shopping, then Captain Caveman got dropped off at the Glass House so he could cycle back. Duyet helped me carry the shopping in, I stocked up the fridge, freezer and cupboards while looking at what we had. I couldn’t fit everything in the fridge so I ate 2 bananas and an apple then had some of the gluten free biscuits from Ly Ly.
That evening we had steak for dinner with mushrooms, green beans, garlic, onion and potatoes and we washed it down with a cheap bottle of red wine – fantastic!

Here’s our extensive list of shopping items, 32,300vnd is £1.

Co-op Mart
1 white cabbage 9,672
2 green peppers 11,780
1 bag of garlic 12,524
1 lettuce 13,090
Tissues 16,000
1 box of tomatoes 18,250
2 avocados 23,972
Mints 27,200
5 onions 30,536
Tin foil 39,900
Tweezers 41,000
3 toothbrushes 41,400
6 cans of tonic 45,600
1 packet of bacon 55,500
2kg of potatoes 56,713
Deodorant 78,000
1kg of chicken breast fillets 90,000
4 apples 98,000
2 cartons of orange juice 107,000
Olive oil 188,000
24 cans of beer 234,000

Minigood Shop
1 pair of sandals 139,900

Toan Viet Gourmet Shop
250g of salted butter 73,000
2 bottles of red wine 620,000

VinMart Supermarket
1 bag of spinach 12,705
2 baguettes 18,000
4 cans of Strongbow 74,000

Sports shop
1 X sweatband 70,000

Wine shop
1 bottle of vodka 230,000
1 bottle of Kahlua 290,000

An Nong Organic Shop
400g of mangosteen 52,500
2 beef fillet steaks 76,500
200g prawns 129,150

This time Captain Caveman was in charge of the money and receipts and he did well to get most things and spend just less than 2.8m vnd (£88) on shopping and 180,000vnd (£5.60) on lunch. The bargains of the day were cabbage and steaks, what’s missing that you would have added to the trolley?

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 27th May

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 27th May

I slept until 8.15am on Thursday 27th May, I must have been so tired from all the worrying about my passport, which was now at the agent’s house in Dong Hoi. I had the rest of the blueberries and some crispbreads with peanut butter for breakfast before checking out the Corona news. Unfortunately there were more HCMC cases, by 10am a concerning church group were mentioned for the first (but not the last) time too:
Meanwhile in the cities, people were reported to be ignoring the restrictions imposed, more here:
And here:
I’d booked the car to Dong Hoi (again) for 2.30pm. I’d messaged a few friends in Saigon to let them know I would be able to meet them and was going to be there later tonight, hoping to catch up on Saturday night for drinks. Strangely my phone stopped being able to save any screenshots which was a bit annoying but I wasn’t too bothered because I was looking forward to a couple of days away.

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

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

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dong Hoi – 25th May

Dong Hoi – 25th May

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

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

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

Captain Caveman’s video of me walking in Dong Hoi

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

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 24th May

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 24th May

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

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

Phong Nha – 19th May

Phong Nha – 19th May

On Wednesday 19th May Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha and I had agreed to chop potatoes and onion so that he could make a Spanish omelette when he got back. Captain Caveman had a shopping list of provisions to collect on his way back and I had dragon fruit for breakfast. I put all my chopped stuff in the fridge and was about to go upstairs when Veronika asked if I was going on the shopping trip at 11am this morning. I didn’t have any money on me so I messaged Captain Caveman to get back in time to give me more or join the shopping trip.
Captain Caveman got back in time but decided not to come to Dong Hoi, Veronika and I got picked up by Ben and he drove us to the Farmstay where there was a switch of driver and we set off to Dong Hoi, just Bich, Veronika and me. Bich decided we would go to 7th Heaven for lunch and I was happy with that choice as the food is lovely there and the menu has lots of choice. Veronika ordered chicken schnitzel, Bich went for bruschetta and Australian beef steak from the specials menu and I ordered a starter of sweet potato fries (they are so good) and then sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice and raw cabbage for my main course. The food was delicious and I was glad I had a spare tuppaware container in the car for mine as I had half left over for dinner later.

Our first shop was the An Nong organic shop where I couldn’t believe my luck – they had cherries!!! I have not had cherries since I was last in Turkey and I love them so much so, despite the very expensive price, I had to have them (and they were the last ones on the shelf)!
Our next stop was off to the Co-op Mart where I got my main supermarket items and then our final shop was at the red supermarket where I found some great mixers for the gin (as I don’t like tonic). I splashed out a bit really but I would later not regret the choices in this shop.

Below is my shopping list, as I know some of you love a nosey at what’s in my shopping basket and a list! £1 is equal to 32,555vnd and the cheapest items are listed first and per shop;

An Nong
Cherries 186,000

Co-op Mart
1 bottle of orange Twister drink 9,800
1 box of freezer bags 22,000
4 bananas 29,332
1 tub of mints 35,000
1 carton of orange juice 38,600
1 bottle of mouthwash 39,000
1 bag of Peanut M&Ms 39,600
1 box of grapes 45,386
6 cans of tonic water 45,600
100g of Edam cheese 47,000
3 cans of Strongbow cider 55,500

Red Supermarket
1 can of ginger ale 32,000
1 bottle of sparkling pink grapefruit 55,000
1 bottle of sparkling peach 55,000
1 bottle of BBQ sauce 125,000
4 apples 140,000
1 packet of blueberries 140,000

The total spend for this week was 1,179,419vnd which is about £36.50 so quite an expensive shop and quite a few treats.
When I got back home Captain Caveman had made the Spanish omelette and had been in the pool so had enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. He was off to work around 5pm at Oxalis Home for his next Son Doong briefing – there may have been a pandemic going on but so far domestic customers were still coming for tours to the biggest cave in the world.
My evening was just getting started as I got prepared for a farewell party with a difference!

The final part of my day on Wednesday 19th May was a massive first in my life – attending a funeral via the internet! I wasn’t sure what to expect and I had the tissues at the ready for what I knew would be heart breaking. I’d only known Graeme since the end of 2019, when I was introduced to him by his husband, Jamie, in Dalyan. I had become good friends with Jamie when I was living in Turkey and we had some really great nights out. When I met Graeme we got on straight away, mainly because he had such a great sense of humour, loved dogs and was brutally honest – things I love in a person! The funeral started at 7pm (my time) and so I got myself a gin and pink grapefruit to drink as we said goodbye to Graeme at his farewell party. I couldn’t believe it when the first song to be played was the famous Lesley Gore hit ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’ – I laughed and cried at the same time and I even composed myself enough to join in on the second chorus. It was only fitting that even in death, Graeme was still making us laugh and I was so proud of Jamie when he delivered such beautiful words with composure and some humour with his beautiful tribute to Graeme, whom he adored. He told us tales of their life together and it was a touching but, again, funny song which followed; McFly’s ‘It’s all about you’ which I laughed and cried at again! I had a bit of a sing along while thinking of the too few drunken nights out at Lukka Bar with Jamie and Graeme. I liked the hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and the 4th song made me smile; Vera Lynne’s ‘We’ll meet again’. The last song though, had me sobbing and laughing in a bit of a mess; Will Young’s ‘I think I’d better leave right now’. Even at the end of Graeme’s life we would all remember the humour and how he liked to be a little mischievous. One of our geckos, Billie, must’ve been a girl because a new baby gecko appeared – I decided to name him Graeme.

I finished another gin and pink grapefruit, sorted out my face and had a little lay down. I was a bit tipsy after 4 gins and forgetting to eat dinner so I warmed up the leftover sweet and sour chicken with sweet potato fries and ate that. Captain Caveman got back from his briefing and was washing out his flask with boiling water while I was washing up. After shaking up the full flask and trying to pour it in to my washing up water I said no and then it shot out over us and burned the back of my hand. I had to put ice on and go to bed with a proper face on after Captain Caveman tried to say it was my fault for not moving out of the way! He only had to wait for me to wash 1 plate, 1 knife and 1 fork, where are his manners and patience!?

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 12th May

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 12th May

I had a busy and quite exciting day on Wednesday 12th May. Captain Caveman came home in time to join a trip to Dong Hoi with the Phong Nha Farmstay. Ben even brought along a fridge to keep any chilled shopping cold. Our first stop in Dong Hoi was for lunch at Geminai, previously a hotel and restaurant which has now been done up in to a lovely Thai restaurant. Ben and Bich had been before and so had recommended we try it, I had already looked at the extensive menu online so I knew what I could have. When we arrived there were iPads to view the menu on, written in yellow on a purple background. I ordered a prawn Pad Thai, Captain Caveman ordered a beef Pad Thai, everyone else who wanted food ordered and then we moved to an upstairs room to dine in our own private room. The food was excellent and plentiful and I really enjoyed my meal, Veronika said her calamari was very good too. We even tried hibiscus flower juice which was ultra sweet but rather nice. I’d drank my Gastropulgite before I ate, I’d ordered gluten and dairy free food, I’d even left off the chillies or any extra sauces but, nevertheless, I still suffered.

We went to a few different places to shop, it was much easier for me in some ways with Captain Caveman there, but more tricky when I can’t see the shopping list. While Ben and Bich had some other business to attend to in the city the rest of us had a quick visit to Tree Hugger for refreshments. Captain Caveman and I managed a couple of white russians before our fun bus came back to collect us.

Back home, after putting away all our shopping, we had a little swim and it was nice to see Captain Caveman finally being able to relax by the pool with a beer, instead of working. That evening we had a few glasses of red wine, the nice Israeli one given to us by Hung, and Captain Caveman made us bacon and mushroom sandwiches for dinner – we are wild like that sometimes!

For those of you who are wondering what Captain Caveman and I had in our shopping bags, here’s a list:

Prices are in VND, I’ve listed the cheapest thing first in each shop. £1 is around 32,700vnd.

Co-op Mart supermarket
2 onions 9,342
Tomatoes 18,250
1 red dragon fruit 18,564
1 white dragon fruit 21,244
1 packet of sanitary towels 23,700
1 packet of spaghetti 29,200
Mayonnaise 32,200
4 potatoes 36,230
2 packets of bacon 111,000
6 chicken breasts 135,000

10 Antihistamines 34,000
20 Ibuprofen 60,000
30 Gastropulgite 102,000
3 months contraceptive pill 195,000

An Nong Organic shop
1 bunch of asparagus 24,225
1 yellow dragon fruit 53,900
1 box of brown rice crackers 90,000

We spent just over 1,000,000vnd which is about £31, so we spent less this week on shopping but more on lunch and cocktails.

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th May

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th May

I woke up at 6am on Wednesday 5th May feeling like I could drink a dirty puddle and did not welcome the leftover Jameson’s nightcap on the bedside table next to my pillow or the amount of daylight streaming in to the room at Phong Nha Lake House. Tatas was still fast asleep, in the bed next to mine, completely under the cover and grinding her teeth. Luckily there was water in the fridge and I had slept in the robe provided rather than my own dress so I drank water then tried to go back to sleep and couldn’t. Tatas had her overnight bag with her because she had planned to stay at mine but I had nothing but a short backless dress to go to breakfast in! Tatas said she would be ages getting ready so I went without her and had a pho bo and an apple juice trying to sort out my hangover from hell.

I remembered that I had agreed to go to Dong Hoi on a shopping trip with Veronika in less than 2 hours! Tatas said she would give me a lift home on her motorbike and when we arrived at Elements Collection the gardening lady, who had seen me go out last night, saw me arrive in last night’s clothes – I’d be the talk of the village again! I went to get a shower but there was a huge spider in the bathroom so I had to message Duyet to come and get it, with his gloves on! I had just a bit of time for a lay down on the bed until 11am when we went to sit outside to wait for Bich to pick us up.

A firm favourite, Tree Hugger cafe in Dong Hoi was our first stop, for lunch. Veronika was tetchy because she hadn’t had any coffee and was being a bit demanding about having her coffee immediately, but the waiter had to come back upstairs to the table to say they didn’t have my chicken salad, only beef salad and she asked he get her coffee now!  I shared my salad and some spring rolls with Bich who had a mixed smoothie with extra ice-cream in.

The afternoon was a long one as we went to every supermarket and organic shop in Dong Hoi for the next 3 hours. Medicare, VinMart, Toan Viet Gourmet, Thinh Tien, An Nong and Co-op Mart all with a hangover still and a tight budget, but I managed to get most things on my shopping list. Captain Caveman had returned from his 4 day Tu Lan trip and had gone straight to Chay Lap for the after party that night and so he decided to stay at the Glass House. I had some bread and butter with crisps for my dinner, 2 of my favourite foods and didn’t get a bad stomach! I tried to go to bed early but couldn’t sleep and so I finished watching Below Deck on Netflix.

For those of you who like a list and love to know how prices and produce can vary in a different country, here is what I bought, while hungover and not too focused on what I was doing, on Wednesday 5th May:

Prices are in VND I’ve listed the cheapest thing first in each shop. (£1 is around 32,500vnd).

VinMart supermarket
A baguette 9,000 
1kg of carrots 14,504 
10 eggs 26,700
2 cans of Strongbow cider 37,000
M&Ms 75,400
270g mushrooms 75,522
250ml extra virgin olive oil 91,300
700g of green grapes 96,466
400g pasta sauce (Bolognese) 122,000
250g butter 137,000

Tuan Viet Gourmet supermarket
1 pack of plain crisps 11,000
Green beans 14,100
Tissues 15,000
500g Rice noodles 25,000
1 red cabbage 33,000
Spaghetti 59,000
Pasta sauce (tomato) 99,000
GF crispbreads 105,000

Tinh Tien supermarket
Wild berry boiled sweets 65,000
2 jars of popcorn kernels 104,000
1 bar of 85% dark chocolate 105,000

An Nong Organic shop
1 small white cabbage 18,560
1 tin of coconut milk 40,000
6 bananas 40,275
1 chicken thigh fillet 87,500
1 box of brown rice crackers 90,000
1 chicken breast fillet 102,675

Co-op Mart
I spent nothing as the only things on my list that I still had to buy weren’t available – BBQ sauce and pickled onions.

The shopping total came to 1,671,867vnd which is £51.83 in English money. My lunch and a coke cost me around a fiver so quite an expensive day but a fuller cupboard and fridge.
How does this compare with your shopping? Did it surprise you that butter is so expensive here?

Phong Nha – 11th April

Phong Nha – 11th April

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

Dong Hoi and Phong Nha – 10th April

Dong Hoi and Phong Nha – 10th April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – the 3rd weekend of March

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – the 3rd weekend of March

There’s often a change of plan where Captain Caveman’s plans are concerned and so it was no surprise that he had decided to get an overnight train to Dong Hoi on the evening of Saturday 20th March. I decided that I would go to Dong Hoi to get some shopping in and have a nice rest. I asked Mik, Kendra and Bryan if I could get a ride with them when they went to the train station and they agreed and we arranged for me to join them for lunch at Phong Nha Farmstay before our departure. I had soda water and the beef in bamboo with steamed rice and vegetables (a firm favourite), Kendra had the banh xeo, Bryan the pork clay pot and Mik a rather tasty looking cheese and ham toasty which I had food envy over. The men had beers, Kendra had vodka and soda and I had a couple of Magner’s – well, I was almost on a holiday within a holiday.

Our driver arrived at Dong Hoi train station just before 4.30pm on Saturday 20th March and I said farewell to Mik, Kendra and Bryan. I arrived at the Vinpearl Hotel where I had booked for 1 night, the receptionist checked me in while another member of staff gave me a welcome drink and a temperature check. I couldn’t go to the room straight away though as I was waiting for Kimmie, my visa agent, to drop off my passport. It was very humid today and so my face was so sweaty from wearing the mask.
In the room I had my usual fruit plate which I had the apple of while I ran a bath. The room I had been given was on the 7th floor and had ropes hanging outside our window, perhaps for window cleaning – Captain Caveman would be interested in that, being a rope fan! One of the great things about the Vinpearl is they have good weighing scales and so I was able to get weighed. Amazingly, I was now 70kg so had lost 1kg and just needed to lose 3-5kg more to be considered normal weight instead of overweight. I’d brought my own bottle of Lindeman’s sparkling white wine which was now warm and the fridge was not particularly cold. I decided to go healthy(ish) for dinner and had pumpkin soup, vegetables with garlic, spring rolls and steamed rice – a feast! I couldn’t finish all the fizz so I popped a teaspoon in the bottle and left it in the fridge for tomorrow. The room had cost £24 via Agoda, including breakfast and I spent 500,000vnd (£15.50) on room service. I was grateful to be having a break away and to have my passport back so that I could perhaps have a trip to Saigon  with Captain Caveman.
While I was sleeping in a comfy bed, Captain Caveman was on the overnight train from Hanoi which would arrive in Dong Hoi at 5.30am, I’d left him a key at reception so he could get in and would be able to join me for the buffet breakfast.

Captain Caveman arrived just before 6am on Sunday 21st March but the concierge wouldn’t give him a key to the hotel room. Instead, they came with him to escort Captain Caveman and let him in, thus waking me up. As I expected he was excited to see the ropes outside the windows and we wondered if we would see the window cleaners in action. The buffet breakfast awaited us and even the staff remembered me and asked about my leg, which was nice. Captain Caveman started us off with the pho ga each and then I moved on to fruit, then croissants each, an omelette for him, a bacon sandwich, a pancake and a waffle for me but I avoided the cheese and had no dairy, just gluten! I was fine and when we got back to the room the plan was to go shopping but we didn’t have much time before our taxi was arriving. We also had half of the bottle of Lindemans to drink so Captain Caveman knocked up a couple of mimosas at 10am! We also got to see the ropes being used as 2 window cleaners shimmied down to clean outside our room and we watched, waved and took photos while Captain Caveman observed the safety of their equipment – one of the workers dropped his cloth!
While I packed (he hadn’t unpacked) Captain Caveman nipped to the shop to get me coconut cream and mushrooms, he also bought gherkins but they had chillies in. I took the rest of the fruit home and when I came to check out, the food bill was given a 30% off, which was great.

Our next stop was Tree Hugger where Captain Caveman had iced black coffe and a smoothie, I had a Tree Hugger hot tea. We weren’t hungry after such a big breakfast and so we just chilled out for a bit. I read in the news that there was a possibility of Vietnam working with vaccine passports in the future – see below link:
By 1pm we could manage a lunch so Captain Caveman went for his favourite, egg salad sandwich, while I chanced a ham and cheese toastie. The car arrived at 2pm, as arranged, and there was already an Oxalis customer in it who was going to Chay Lap before her tour the next day. I felt absolutely fine until just less than 5 minutes in to the journey when I got the excruciating stomach pain, hot sweats and a desperate need to go! Captain Caveman was not amused as we headed for the train station squat toilets which I had real trouble with because of my injured leg, I still can’t squat! Actually, I got down fine, it was the getting back up which was tricky and painful. We deduced it had to be the cheese that had affected me and, after apologising to the customer and driver, we were on our way back to Phong Nha with no further issues and a pretty ‘cheesed off’ Captain Caveman!

By the time we arrived in Phong Nha on Sunday 21st March, Captain Caveman didn’t have too much time before his next Son Doong briefing. He dropped me off at The Villas so that he could go to the Glass House, unpack and repack his bags for his next tour tomorrow and then cycle back down to meet me. I made the mistake of letting him take my bag too because we had thought we might stay at the Glass House that night.
Captain Caveman came to The Villas before I’d drank my cup of tea and he ordered a beer and he asked if I’d let Tatas know we were there and that maybe she might want to join me for a margarita. Luc, a friend who was leaving to go to work in Malaysia on Friday and who had missed last week’s pizza night had said he might stop by to say farewell when I last spoke to him but he didn’t make it. Tatas came and we had a couple of margaritas while Captain Caveman went to his briefing, then she ordered french fries and I asked for the confit duck leg without chillies but I got it with chillies in the lentils so I just ate the duck, which was very tasty. Captain Caveman came back from Oxalis Home and I told him I had decided I wasn’t staying at the Glass House as it made sense for me to go home with Ben, who had kindly offered a lift back to Elements. Captain Caveman decided to come home too, so after another margarita, we left with Ben late and I completely forgot that my bag was still at the Glass House.

The Shopping basket – 8th February

The Shopping basket – 8th February

Are you the type of person who wonders what is in other people’s shopping trolleys or fridge? If you have a partner who goes shopping without you, do you like to know what they bought and how much things were? I am that person, so on Monday 8th February when Captain Caveman got back from his shopping trip to Dong Hoi, I had a good check at all the stuff he had got and how much it was. If you’re interested in what we bought for the week, read on! Today’s exchange rate makes 50,000vnd equal to £1.55, US$ 2.17, AU$ 2.80 or 1.8 Euro, so you can work out costs of items.
Here’s a list in order of most expensive first in Vietnamese Dong (vnd):
• 1 box of dates 238,500
• 24 cans of Huda beer 238,000
• 1 bag of walnuts 149,000
• 1 jar of cashew nuts 129,000
• 1 jar of tomato based pasta sauce 126,000
• 4 apples 120,000
• 1 tub of hummus 100,000
• 5 chocolate and nut protein balls 100,000
• 1 packet of bacon 98,000
• 1 whole-wheat/sourdough loaf 80,000
• 1 packet of dried dragon fruit 78,000
• 1 packet of unsalted butter 73,000
• 1 jar of pickled garlic 71,000
• 1 big tupperwear box (for rice) 70,500
• 1 big bag of Naturals crisps 70,000
• 1 packet of contraceptive pill 67,000
• 4 red peppers 60,000
• 10 ibuprofen 400mg 60,000
• 24 sanitary towels and 20 liners 60,000
• 1 tube of Sensodyne toothpaste 55,000
• 1 jar of popcorn kernels 52,000
• 4 Snickers bars 48,000
• 1 box of biscuits 47,000
• 2 chicken breasts 45,000
• 1 packet of Haribo cola bottles 45,000
• 1 packet of mushrooms 42,000
• 3 washing up sponges 38,000
• 3 toothbrushes 36,000
• 1 box of raisins 36,500
• 2 dragon fruit 36,000
• 1 bag of cherry tomatoes 33,150
• 1 tube of Pringles 32,000
• 1 big bag of Lays crisps 31,500
• 10 eggs 28,500
• 3 rice crackers 22,000
• 1 packet of radishes 19,500
• 1 packet of watercress 19,600
• 1 baguette stick 9,000
Some of it surprised me as, although I know nuts and dates are expensive here, I wasn’t expecting some of the items to be so highly priced. Also, I only eat apples for convenience of getting fruit in to my diet but I think they are too expensive here. Chicken is cheap and very good quality so we bought a few packets. What surprised you the most? Do any of you analyse your shopping and make changes to help keep in budget?