I was awake before 7am on Sunday 3rd October but I went back to sleep for an hour before getting up to do a few chores. I did most of the unpacking of my stuff that I left here in boxes, laundry, washing stuff in the cupboards and getting ready to welcome Melissa and her family to Dalyan later. I had fresh bread and butter for breakfast and then I decided to rearrange the furniture so that the kitchen table is up against the wall near the stairs and not so cramped in the kitchen – it would give me a better space to write from too. For lunch I had hummus with bread and olives and I decided to try something new by doing baked potatoes in the slow cooker, to see how they turned out and they were pretty good.
There was some excitement that afternoon as I had booked in to Lukka bar to have one of their Sunday dinners. I joined a table with Katrina and her friend, Tunc, and enjoyed a glass of red wine before the meal came. This was my first Sunday dinner in Dalyan, having not been in the UK for 3 years and not in Dalyan for 1 year 8 months I had missed eating proper Yorkshire puddings so I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. I’d previously rather enjoyed the Phong Nha Farmstay Sunday dinners but due to money and then lockdown, I’d not had one of them for ages, either. When the plate was placed in front of me I was amazed at how good it looked, especially as the photos on the Lukka Facebook page didn’t show how big the portion was and a photo can never describe how good the gravy is, which there was lashings of! The cauliflower cheese was great, the beef just melted in my mouth and I had to save some of it to take home so that I could fit in my pudding, which is included in the price. The apple crumble was made to perfection with just the right ratio of apple to crumble for my liking, topped off with a blob of ice-cream. To enable me to fit in the dessert I had to have a good hour or so gap, with a couple of extra wines before I tackled it. Because I’m no longer having gluten free meals I got to enjoy the whole thing without any special dietary amendments and it was so good. The cost of it was 110 lira (£9.32) which isn’t the cheapest Sunday dinner in Dalyan but you certainly get what you pay for, the meat quality was top notch and I had enough left for a 2nd meal. I went home very full and, as I sat down to watch some more Line of Duty, I got some good news; my friends who I met in Phong Nha (Mik, Kendra & Bryan, Hamish & Ania) were coming to Dalyan later in the year for a bit of a reunion holiday – how exciting.
On Saturday 2nd October I woke up at 7.30am to photos of mushrooms from Captain Caveman in Phong Nha, he had continued to tend to the embryos and more had grown so he was looking forward to his breakfast tomorrow. He’d been to the Phong Nha Farmstay to buy eggs from Sau today but unfortunately her ducks had stopped laying so he couldn’t get any. I had cornflakes for breakfast and started watching Line of Duty on Netflix before I set off for my appointment. I had booked in at Mimi’s for my eyebrows threading, a pedicure and reflexology because my good foot had terribly dry cracked skin and my bad foot could really do with being massaged in the hope that the swelling and aching in my ankle would be better. I had the reflexology first and it was really good, just 20 minutes but it felt so much better and all my toes popped, not bad for £15. My eyebrow threading was quick and only £5 then I had a very thorough pedicure where they now use power tools to sand off the hard skin, finishing with a moisturising massage and some nice nail varnish for a total of £15.
In the square next to Mimi’s there had been some changes since I was last there and my favourite gluten free No 10 Bakery was no longer. The shop next door was now a restaurant, called 2 Charlies, that I had seen discussed on Dalyan Facebook pages and I had wanted to try their fish and chips so I decided to go there for lunch. As I didn’t get to have fish and chips last night I thought I’d splash out for lunch and I ordered a fish and chips with a large beer. The beer was 25 lira (£2.12) for 50cl, the fish and chips was 75 lira (£6.36) so on the expensive side but it was a big piece of fish. It came served on a big white plate with a fancy brush stroke of what I hoped was balsamic glaze and a portion of mushy peas which looked like the ones you would get in England (I don’t like them but they came in a separate dish and were easy to take off). The fish was cooked very nicely although the batter was a thin sort with herbs in that I didn’t think were needed as it made the fish a bit scenty. I wasn’t sure what the fish was but probably not cod or haddock, possibly Hake or even a Vietnamese Basa as it tasted more fishy. I suspect I was the first customer of the day to have something in the fryer as the batter was a bit moist on the inside and didn’t stick to the fish very well in some places. The fish comes with wedges rather than actual chips but there was a good portion of them and they soaked up the vinegar well, I’d have preferred not to have the seasoning already on them but they were still cooked really nicely and the tartar sauce was a good touch. It wasn’t a bad meal and I couldn’t manage it all as I was too full, there was a cat under my table hoping to get the leftovers. On the way home I called at the bakery to buy bread and saw a fresh tray of baklava which I just had to buy a couple of pieces of for later.
I realised that today was 14 days since I had my 2nd vaccine and so I could officially go out and about with confidence that I was fully protected and might not die should I get Corona. It said in the news that people coming to Turkey from the UK could now enter using their proof of vaccines instead of a PCR test so it looked like lots more tourists would be on their way, probably some of them unaware they were bringing the virus, which did worry me. That afternoon I spoke to Captain Caveman who was doing ok back in Phong Nha and we had a good chat before I had to go out.
Jax was flying home tonight so I’d arranged to meet her, and her mom, Ann, at Heybe’s for an early dinner and to say bye. I’d been keen to try a Turkish dish called işkender and to my delight they had it on the menu for 85 lira (£7.20) so I ordered it. I just had a couple of soda waters at first as we ate the complimentary lavaş, often described as balloon bread, olives and a yoghurt dip. We decided to pig out and order starters; Ann and I both had the stuffed mushrooms which were great, Jax had a Turkish version of a meat pastry which looked good. For mains Ann and Jax had the chicken casserole, I had my first işkender kebab and it was absolutely fantastic – not greasy and plenty of it! I ordered a red wine, Jax had a half measure of wine just to say cheers but the pair of them were still jaded after being out until 3am. I asked the waiter to box up my leftovers and we said our goodbyes, but would look forward to her next visit. Back home it was still early so I had a marathon session of watching Line of Duty on Netflix. I got peckish after a couple of episodes and ate the left over işkender kebab. I got confirmation from Melissa, who lived with her family in Vietnam until moving to Kaş in Turkey a couple of months ago, that they were going to come to visit me on their way to Pammukale. It was a bit strange that I’d come all this way from Vietnam to Turkey, hoping to meet up with people from the UK, only for my first visitors to be from friends who, this time last year, were living in Phong Nha.
The sunrise was at 7.20am on Tuesday 28th September and I took a photo out of my bedroom window to send to Captain Caveman, he sent one back and told me he was off round to Stu’s house today. I decided to scrub more of the kitchen stuff and ended up throwing away one of the pans that had the old oil in it, it was like jelly and glue mixed together and it was taking ages to even loosen up, it must have been in the oven, wedged in to a baking tray with 2 oven gloves, since the last customer stayed here in 2020. For breakfast I had hummus, salad and olives and by 10.30am some of my draining board Jenga had collapsed on account of us having a very small earthquake, a couple of pieces of the worktop fell off!
I got the slow cooker out and made bolognese, which made good use of some of the 2 year old Dikmen wine and smelled so good. Our Aussie friends, and owners of the apartment downstairs, who are still locked down in Australia, asked me to take photos of their plants to see if they had survived, they were missing Dalyan and couldn’t wait to be able to visit again. I went to get more shopping and had seen a new shop advertising Vegan cheese on Facebook so decided to have a look in there too.
Here’s what I bought in each of the 3 shops I went to, and the prices:
Şevikoğlu supermarket Potatoes 2.88 Aubergines 4.96 Red cabbage 5.27 1 tin of tomatoes 7.90
Total 21.01lira (£1.78)
Dalyan şarküteri 1 tub of black olives 1 tin of coconut milk 1 Lurpak butter 1 vegan cheese 1 cheddar cheese 1 Sharwood’s sauce
I’m not sure of the individual prices but the total was 267 lira (£22.63), it was so expensive because I was buying imported products, but it’s a very nice shop.
I had finally got a Turkish phone number now and I arranged to pick up the keys for my parents place, later in the week so I could check on it for them. We were still hoping they would be able to come out to Turkey to visit this year so I was keeping my fingers crossed. My mom had said she might be able to bring me some bras and my UK bank card if they came out and I hoped she had room for my popcorn maker too – you can buy ready made popcorn here but it’s made with oil so it is fattening. For dinner I had some of the Bolognese with pasta and it was so good, some went in the fridge and the rest in the freezer, I watched more of The Fall on Netflix before bed as I needed another early night – tomorrow it would be 1 week since I arrived in Dalyan and I had exciting plans.
When I was in Phong Nha, Friday night was all you can eat pizza night, now that I’m in Dalyan, Friday is fish and chip night. On Friday 24th September I had pre-ordered my fish and chips at Lukka Bar, local restaurant/bars not far away from our apartment. I was very excited to be having fish and chips, having not been to the UK for 3 years, it would probably be one of the English meals I do miss from back home, even though I had eaten it a few times in Vietnam. When I woke up Captain Caveman had sent me a video of the rain where he was and it didn’t look good, potential flooding was still possible and he wasn’t going anywhere. I also kept checking the Vietnamese Corona data to see if there was any increase in cases in our village, as Bich had been told by the policeman. Interestingly, there were still no cases reported in Khuong Ha, like last time and they never increased the lockdown the day after I left, as Captain Caveman and I had suspected. This was not the first time we had been told there were positive cases near us and then it turned out not to be the case. Captain Caveman and I think that when a person is suspected of being positive and goes for testing they are assumed positive regardless and the gossip goes round that they are, when they come back negative nobody is shouting about it – very misleading and causes unnecessary panic. In Dalyan it was sunny as I headed off to the Millennium Shop to buy a battery for my scales, on the way I noticed the new pergola at the entrance to Block A on our complex, it looked nice. There were 2 new places behind Jiks Bar; a coffee roasting cafe and a pet shop, I got 2 batteries for 15 lira (£1.27) and then walked to Migros, one of the main high street supermarkets, where I bought quite a bit of stuff.
For those of you who want to know what was in my shopping basket that morning and the costs of the items, here it is:
Migros Supermarket 2 simits 2.25 Washing up sponges 4.95 1 packet of salami 6.85 1 litre of cherry juice 7.95 Cornflakes 7.95 2 packets of biscuits 8.00 1 packet of cheese slices 8.50 200g of butter 8.50 1 litre of milk 9.25 2 croissants 9.80 Bin bags 9.90 Mouthwash 15.21 Ziplock bags 15.50 Toothpaste 17.95 3 liquid soaps 39.36
Total spent 204.92 lira (£17.37)
I noticed that people were wearing masks in the shop but not social distancing at all. At the check out I was surprised to see my loyalty card still worked and I was pleased as I got a 3 for 2 deal on soap. It wasn’t an average weekly shop though as there were quite a few things that I would only shop for every now and again and I couldn’t carry all that I needed to in one go. Back home I noticed the pergola to Block B (our’s) was leaning under the weight of the extremely overgrown bougainvillea plant and I had a little sit down as my ankle was hurting, I was definitely finding the walking about slow and a bit painful, but I was doing ok with the 2 sets of marble stairs at home. I was excited to have a battery in my weighing scales and was looking forward to seeing how much weight I had lost. I checked it 3 times, just to be sure, but I wasn’t happy – I was the same weight as when I left Turkey 20 months ago! I could tell it was from eating so much bread recently, which was not good at all. I still had a huge breakfast of 2 croissants, 1 simit, and a bowl of Turkish brand cornflakes with normal milk as I was feeling hungry, none of this made me ill.
For lunch I met Jamie at Lukka Bar where he had 2 starters, nachos and chicken strips, which were huge portions and I had my first Turkish restaurant meal, a chicken shish, which was also massive and I took half home for tomorrow. There’s a new shop next door to Lukka Bar, it’s Katrina’s shop and has some really nice items in there – it also smells divine! Maizie Moo has quite an upmarket, luxurious feel to it and looks really nice, I even got some free samples to try as well as having a good old sniff at all the scents. My eczema on my face had been made worse by the wearing of a mask for 48 hours and so Katrina recommended a skin treatment which I started straight away (here’s the Facebook page for her new shop: https://www.facebook.com/maiziemoohomescents/). After having lunch and a mooch round Maizie Moo’s we were sensible and went home, 2 years ago we would have been on an all day and night session but we needed to take it easy as we had booked for tonight not fully realising what we had let ourselves in for!
Not only was it fish and chips night but it was also Lukka’s Bingo night, this week was a 90s theme. Sarah had organised it and had booked a table for 8 of us. Jamie ordered Hunters chicken and chips, while the rest of us had fish and chips, mine with plenty of vinegar. It was good but took a while to be served as the place was full and so we were all a bit tiddly by the time the 90s bingo started. My fish and chips plus the red wines came to a total of 127 lira (£10.76) and I definitely got a large portion. Süleyman arrived later and sat on the end of the table, next to me and Jamie, ordered a burger and we ended up having a right old laugh. There was lots of photo and video taking (by other people) and so we gave it our all on the singing, mainly because it had been such a long time since we’d all got together and we were having a great time. I’m not a massive bingo fan but the games were well planned and Mehmet was so amusing as he was reading out the songs! Here’s a video of bingo at Lukka bar: https://www.facebook.com/338112536849107/posts/857332751593747/ One thing I had noticed about being back in Turkey was the amount of people still smoking and I found it hard to deal with, especially as I’d not encountered many smokers together in Vietnam, so when the bingo finished I went home, reeking of fags – I was definitely going to get through more hair products in Dalyan if I had to wash my hair more often!
It was a very long day on Monday 20th September, which started with my alarm going off at 5.30am. My driver, T, was due to pick me up at 6.15am but he arrived at 6am and I wasn’t ready. When I got to the car at 6.15am T had gone to help one of the staff move something heavy and then we had to go to Duyet’s house, around the corner, to collect a pig to take to Khanh’s in Dong Hoi. I watched as the butchered and bagged up pig was transported less than 20 metres by motorbike by Duyet’s dad, in to the back of our van. I knew we were going to be late for my important PCR test as we pulled in to the petrol station to fill up. We arrived at Medlatec in Dong Hoi 12 minutes late and I incorrectly went up the slippy wet steps to the main reception only to have to come back down them, turn left and in to the loading bay area where a PCR testing facility had been set up. There was just 1 other customer there and about 4 staff and I was given a form, this one was in English, to complete all my details. I decided to ask for a rapid test and the RT-PCR test so that if there was any errors with the RT-PCR certificate I would still be able to travel to Hanoi and get another RT-PCR test there. Although 1 nostril hurt more than the other, this time the pain wore off much easier than the previous couple of times I’d been sampled. I was moved to a waiting area and told to wait 20 minutes for the rapid test result. I checked the Corona numbers and the news as well as reading an email from Singapore Airlines, reminding me I could check in for my flight! I didn’t, as I still didn’t know if I would be actually getting on the flight. The news in Vietnam had an article of some crazy stuff going on now, check this out: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210919/vietnamese-teacher-purposely-receives-two-covid19-vaccine-shots-within-10-minutes/63171.html The technician came over to say there was a problem with my rapid test and I had to wait a little longer, this was the first hurdle of the day. She showed me that my result was negative on a plastic testing device but said she couldn’t get the computer to send the paper document with this on, someone was trying to fix it. This was worrying because my RT-PCR test result needed to be printed at 5pm today and I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. Less than 10 minutes later it was fixed and I got my certificate in a nice envelope and was told I could collect the RT-PCR test certificate at 5pm. I introduced T and told them he would pick it up, I also advised that they needed to put my full birthdate, not just the year, on the print out, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fly.
The next of the morning’s activities, having got my negative rapid test results from Medlatec, was supermarket shopping. T dropped me off at the Vincom centre which was still closed but the VinMart Supermarket was open. It was a strange feeling doing the ‘essential’ weekly shop not knowing if I would be in Vietnam or Turkey in the next few days but I hoped after all this hassle, that Captain Caveman would have all the provisions to himself.
For all of you who have missed a list of my shopping items, here’s what I bought;
1 baguette 9,500 Baby wipes 10,000 Green beans 15,057 Potatoes 20,417 Sandwich loaf 21,000 Ziplock bags 23,000 Carrots 23,616 Red cabbage 33,085 Mushrooms 33,900 Cherry tomatoes 35,108 Onions 36,476 1 tin of mints 46,100 Sunflower oil 57,000 Mouthwash 58,000 Spaghetti 61,000 1 jar of jam 138,000 1.5kg chicken 143,700 500g of butter 161,400
Total spent: 926,359vnd (£29.68)
I was looking forward to seeing how much a comparable shop would be in Dalyan, I suspected it would be more expensive.
As I was leaving at 8.40am the main escalators were still not on so I decided to take my shopping and trolley down in the lift, it was only 1 floor and I intended to leave from the side exit to go to the car. When the lift got down I found the door was locked and I tried to recall the lift but it would only open from the main shopping centre side. I was wondering how on earth I was going to get out when the security guard came to rescue me – if I couldn’t get out of a building without a hitch, things weren’t looking too promising for my attempt to leave the country!
I was on my way back from Dong Hoi on when I got a message from Danny, the driver, he had to get another PCR test, as his would run out at midnight tonight, and he was 150km away from where he needed to pick me up. He said he couldn’t get his results until 4pm and he would be arriving about 6.45-7pm, later than expected. That was fine by me as my results weren’t getting picked up until 5pm in Dong Hoi so it did mean I might have time to eat and say some goodbyes. When I got home Captain Caveman was once again in the kitchen making me a nice breakfast, this time with baked beans. Stu was on his way over to say bye and I had a shower and packed a few last minute things in to my hand luggage. I just happened to look outside and saw a policeman so I told Captain Caveman that maybe he should delay Stu until he’d gone, as we were still in Directive 15 and shouldn’t be having visitors. Before midday I got a call from Bich to tell us the reason for the police visit; apparently there had been some positive Corona cases 500m from our house and so he was letting us know, and telling everyone in the area, not to leave the house. Bich advised that I couldn’t go anywhere and I was gutted but Captain Caveman said we would still go ahead with the plan for me to leave and if I got stopped then so be it. We spoke to Stu to tell him not to come and that I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we decided against me inviting anyone else over or me going to say bye to friends. Regardless, I made packed lunches and packed frozen bottles of green tea in to a cooler bag, in readiness for a journey that might not happen. We decided to watch Sex Education on Netflix and have some red wine while leftover beef stew was on the cards for my last meal. Because of the cases Bich told us about we were probably going back in to Directive 16 tomorrow and so it was a bit concerning whether I should have permission to leave, if we asked it was likely the People’s Committee could say no, so we didn’t. By 4pm we were almost finishing the wine so we decided to have an early dinner, which we had with rice and it was delicious. Danny had his results and was on his way, the rain had started to become heavy and I was a bit anxious if T would manage to collect my PCR test result as requested – more importantly, would it be correct!?
The final part of the day was pretty stressful! We’d already been told by Bich that the police had informed everyone to stay where they are and that there were positive Corona cases very near to our place which meant we had no idea what would happen when Danny came to pick me up. Captain Caveman and I decided I should still try to leave because tomorrow we would be in no better position and we didn’t know for how long that could remain, plus the forecasted wet weather could also impede my attempts somewhat. There was also the fact that Danny, the driver, was on his way and he would charge another 7 million vnd (£250) regardless of whether I made it to Hanoi airport with him or not – I felt like it was now or never. The evening before, Ben and Bich had mentioned that Danny wanted to pick up 2 bicycles from previous customers that had been left at the Phong Nha Farmstay but I had decided to disregard the details of that, I just needed to get out and not worry about other people’s stuff, plus I’d had 1 too many glasses of fizz. At 4.30pm I got a couple of messages from T, who was already at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, followed by a phone call to tell me to look at the photo of my PCR test result certificate to check it is ok for him to bring back to me. It didn’t have my nationality on it, which I was concerned about, but it didn’t say I was Vietnamese either, Captain Caveman helped me check it and we thought it would be ok, my full date of birth and the dates all matched – T was on his way and I had sent a copy to Danny. This was it, I was going! Captain Caveman weighed my suitcase and it was 22kg. My hand luggage was about 8kg, bang on the allowance. When T arrived he had the PCR test paper in his hand, in the rain, no envelope or in a pocket, but at least it was here and I could use it to get on a plane tomorrow. At 7.15pm in the middle of a rain storm Danny messaged to say he was here, we looked outside and he wasn’t. Danny was at the triangle junction off the main road but near to the Phong Nha Farmstay – not walkable with my ankle, the suitcases and the rain. I called Bich, she explained that she didn’t know what was happening with the pick up location but earlier she had sent T back to deliver a bicycle to Elements (so the bike was at our place too), she asked me to put Duyet on the phone. Duyet would have to drive me, my luggage and 1 random bicycle, to where Danny was, which meant Captain Caveman couldn’t say a private goodbye to me at the car or help with my luggage. Duyet, Cuong and Captain Caveman were all struggling to get the bike in the van while I sat there trying not to cry. It was not quite the farewell I had in mind and I only got to quickly kiss Captain Caveman and have a very brief hug, despite not knowing when I would see him again. The bike had to go in with the wheels on as no one could remove them and when we got to the barrier we had to stop. I didn’t have any permission slip from the People’s Committee, neither did Duyet, and I have no idea what Duyet told the man but they let us through – I was so relieved and had tears running down my face as I waved bye to the man. A few minutes later we got to the next road where Danny was, there was no barrier so we quickly transferred my suitcases in to Danny’s car in the rain. Then Duyet and Danny faffed about for a while trying to get the bicycle apart and in to the car. They managed it eventually but it did mean I didn’t have the whole back seat to spread out on and was sat behind the driver’s seat in a car with mosquitos trying to avoid the rain. I tried not to dwell on the oil and cobwebs on my luggage and near my head as I got back out in the pouring rain to give Duyet a hug, this was not actually allowed but we didn’t care! I had finally left the village and we were on our way to our first checkpoint, 3 hours later we had successfully made it through the 1st checkpoint without me having to get out of the car and feeling happy I had my documents in a plastic wallet. By 11.10pm we had made it to the first empty services with a squat toilet which I managed fine but, as I was coming out I saw a big momma rat carrying it’s baby. We made each other jump on the wet tiles and she dropped her baby in front of me, it made me think of my mom and how much she would freak out. I kept calm, walked slowly and got back in the car, only 7 or more hours to go until I would get to the airport – it was going to be a long night!
After yesterday’s fiasco I was exhausted and still pretty cheesed off with the whole debacle when I woke up on Tuesday 7th September. I should have been leaving here today to go to Hanoi airport for my flight to Singapore tomorrow. It was raining still and continued to do so most of the day, Captain Caveman was more mad today than he had shown yesterday but there was nothing either of us could do about the entire situation. Before I had even got out of bed I was looking at ways to try to recoup some money as we had spent so much on something that didn’t go to plan and were already pretty skint to start with. I looked in to any possibility of getting money transferred from Turkey via email or letter and, having let our Turkish agent (and friend) know I wouldn’t be arriving on Thursday, as hoped, I was given some help to try to get the money transferred. Still from my bed, I was on the phone to Singapore Airlines customer services to sort out my flight, we knew we couldn’t get a refund but they were able to move the flights to another date, fortunately without having to pay any more. Singapore Airlines had made my day, they were so good and easy to deal with, very thorough and efficient and said I could move my flight to later in September, or even in to October. I didn’t unpack as we thought there may be a chance that, if lockdown is lifted in the next couple of days, I might make it out earlier. We had leftover dinner made in to chicken and pepper egg fried rice for a late breakfast, which was delicious. I got a message confirming the safe delivery of my passport to immigration, which we had to pay 500,000vnd (£16) for and I managed to get the visa extension price for the same price as previously. I found the green beetle had fallen in to our pool and was struggling to get out because of the rain so I rescued him with the arm of my sunglasses and he looked as tired and fed up as me. I was late checking the news today as Captain Caveman and I were looking into the number of reported cases in Quang Binh, strangely they reported 91 cases for the 2nd day running which seemed a bit of a coincidence. Also in the Vietnamese news a man was given 5 years in jail for spreading Corona virus to 8 people, 1 died. You can read about it here: https://bbc.in/3n94uGX I messaged the Elements owner to let her know I hadn’t left and that I planned to stay a little longer, luckily she was happy with that. She even arranged to send us some treats in the form of baguettes, tangerines and potatoes which got to us, from Dong Hoi, in hardly any time at all – it was so kind of her! We had chicken and napa cabbage baguettes for lunch and then the water went off. In the scheme of things having no water was a minor inconvenience so we weren’t too bothered as Duyet and Cuong had to drag a hose across the pool and into the tank in the roof from the property opposite, using a ladder that didn’t look too robust. We shared passion fruit as a snack, had a beer and it was strangely not a stressful day at all. For dinner we had chicken, peppers, napa cabbage and BBQ sauce in fresh baguettes and went to bed early. Unfortunately, my leaving situation had come to a dead end and we had to accept that I definitely would not be able to leave during a lockdown and I’d have to just wait until restrictions were lifted. The next announcement was due on the 9th September but we hoped that tomorrow we would find out that lockdown would end on Thursday, then I could leave without any drama!
I set my alarm for 6am on Monday 6th September as I was getting picked up by the Oxalis vehicle at 7am at the junction of the small road to our place and the highway. It was day 12 of the #STFAH Directive 16 Lockdown but I was off to Hoan Lao hospital, which is about 30 minutes away and still in the same district of Bo Trach. I had my permission slip, my passport and my vaccine stamp in a waterproof bag, I was wearing Captain Caveman’s waterproof jacket and I took one of the Elements Collection umbrellas for the 10 minute walk to the roadblock and main road, in heavy rain. As I approached the house on the left before the barrier, a man shouted in Vietnamese to ask where I was going. I replied Hoan Lao and tried to show him my permission slip but he wasn’t letting me near him and just waved me away. My trainers were squelching and my feet were cold but I made it to the pick up point for 7am, everywhere was closed and there was nowhere dry to sit or stand so I just waited at the side of the empty main road. I checked with Captain Caveman a couple of times over the next half an hour if he had heard if they had set off as no vehicles had passed me at all, I didn’t want to be forgotten. Captain Caveman had heard nothing but eventually at 7.30am I heard two mini buses driving towards me, I assumed they would be the Oxalis ones and stood in the middle of the first lane of the highway to wave them down. The 1st bus told me to get on the 2nd one, so I did and there was already 6 people on, none of whom I recognised and all seated, nicely spaced out and wearing masks, some of them were double masked! When we got to Hoan Lao hospital it had almost stopped raining and we had to queue up with social distancing measures that were actually strictly enforced. We had to sanitize our hands and then stamp ourselves with the stamp on the table. I watched and copied everyone else as there didn’t seem to be anyone who spoke much English and then we all went to a designated outdoor area with a roof over and lots of plastic chairs, I was still confused as to why I needed a quick test to go to pick up my negative PCR results but if this is what it took to get out of here, then so be it. There was a small queue where we sat on red plastic chairs 2 metres apart until we got to the first desk which had 4 attached pens and lots of copies of forms to complete. I asked a girl from our bus if this was a form for the quick test, using Google translate, she said yes. I started to fill one of the forms in, having sent a copy to Captain Caveman to help me translate both of the pages, at the next desk were 6 fully covered, masked and shielded nurses so I asked them if I had the correct form and they said yes. It was at that point that I realised I was not in the queue for a quick test, this was the queue for vaccinations!
I had been waiting to get my 2nd vaccine, which would be 12 weeks since the 1st one in 2 days time and that had been one of the reasons I still hadn’t left Vietnam yet, hoping to be fully vaccinated before taking a flight or travelling through any major cities. I was so excited to find out that I was in the ‘wrong’ queue at Hoan Lao hospital and I hoped that there was perhaps some confusion over me being told that I needed a quick test and me getting a 2nd vaccine. I continued with the form and handed it to the nurse at desk 2, desk 3 was in clear sight and that consisted of doctors taking blood pressure and completing some details on a form, up the steps from there were 2 tables but I could only just see one and it had health workers waiting to jab people – they didn’t even have anyone waiting so I was even more giddy. At that point Captain Caveman had managed to get in touch with his colleague who had located the Marketing guy from Oxalis, Trung, to come and help translate for me. This was fortuitous as the nurse was asking me questions, which of course I didn’t understand, and he’d just had his 2nd vaccine. It was at this point that I wish I’d acted differently but I didn’t realise what was happening; Trung asked if I had already had my 1st vaccine and so I said yes and got out my receipt paper from that jab. I was next in line to get the jab, I’d even taken my coat off. That’s when the first bit of bad news came; they could not give me the vaccine because they were injecting Moderna today and my first vaccine was Astra Zeneca, which is not considered compatible in some countries, including Vietnam. No!!!! Captain Caveman then let me know I was in the wrong queue and I should be getting a quick test so off we went to another part of the hospital. It took 45 minutes from getting there, paying the 238,000vnd (£7.62), having the more brutal test than last time and then waiting for the result (so not that quick really). While waiting for the results we walked to the pharmacy to buy Captain Caveman some Diclofenac pills because he had a bad foot, I had to walk through a massive puddle in the rain and they were really cheap so I bought 4 strips at 6,000vnd a strip (£0.19) and then we went back to wait for my results. We walked past the bus and apologised for the wait and then got chatting; Trung lives in Dong Hoi but had come by motorbike today, he had had to have a quick test this morning to come to Hoan Lao, which he had at the CDC and took less than 5 minutes – that was useful to know. Eventually I got my negative quick test result, stamped on the back of my payment receipt, and headed back to the bus where everyone was waiting, there was one more passenger to come and that had been the guy I sat next to on the way there – he got the vaccine and the quick test and was really excited about it! The drive back was quicker as the checkpoints didn’t seem to be as lengthy on the return, a couple of them just waved us through. When I got off the bus on the highway, just past the Lake House, the weather was sunny and very humid, as I approached the checkpoint to our road home there was a few people about and shouting. The guy I saw this morning was there and stood up to ask how I was, I shouted over in Vietnamese ‘I’m negative’ and they all got really excited and let me through. On the way some builders (who weren’t wearing masks and shouldn’t be building) told me to go back and asked where I was going, I told them home and that I was negative and all was good. I was very hot, thirsty, sweaty and hungry when I got in the house! It had been a busy 3 hours out of the house, not observing the #STFAH rules and now all we needed to do was to ask Oxalis to book us the car to get my negative PCR test results (for flying) in Dong Hoi after 2pm this afternoon.
Captain Caveman offered to make me some mushrooms on toast when I got back home after my exciting outing to Hoan Lao hospital but I just had some buttered toast and water, while he got ready for an online meeting with 2 of the managers at work. I had a shower and tried to relax but my nose was hurting after this sample, the nurse was brutal and my nose felt very sore – how the delivery drivers and health staff were coping having it done every few days, I didn’t know. Captain Caveman’s meeting finished and we decided to have a swim in the pool because we were still waiting until after 2pm to be told we could go to get my ‘proper’ PCR test results. I also had a friend waiting on standby to do me a massive favour, Oxalis had told us that my certificate would be organised for pick up at the CDC in Dong Hoi after 2pm and that all the required details for Singapore Airlines, we had listed to them, would be on the paper. I had also organised for my friend to pick up my certificate, send me a photo of it and get any details that were wrong changed. There was no point me trying to get to Dong Hoi, in a lockdown, if the certificate wasn’t acceptable for my flight and my friend has a shipping company so was confident she could send me the paperwork, even if we had to send it in a food delivery. At this point we were one step ahead but I was still nervous as I had a feeling it was going to go wrong, despite everyone trying to do their best to help me. The first thing to go wrong was that we didn’t receive communication to let us know the document was ready, it was my friend who found this out for me as she was already on standby and at the CDC. She had got there earlier than expected, got a hold of both mine and Captain Caveman’s negative certificates and sent photos to me. They were wrong, so I sent the correct info to her and Captain Caveman called Oxalis to let them know. The 3rd thing to go wrong was a biggy and it turned out that nobody could rectify the situation. My document was incorrectly dated therefore they needed me to go there immediately to get another PCR test this afternoon and I would get the results tomorrow. I was almost in tears and we asked Oxalis to sort me out transport to go immediately – after all, I had my negative quick test from this morning. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be arranged for me to do this as there were no cars available and I was told I could drive myself (I don’t have a motorbike, or a licence, I have a bad leg and probably wouldn’t make it as a passenger either)! Once again we asked Bich if she could help and if she could find any way to get me to Dong Hoi, it felt like complete pandemonium over the next hour or so as I went in to a bit of a melt down and Captain Caveman calmly took charge of the situation. I decided to warm up some beef stew from last night as it was 4pm and I was so hungry and upset that things were going wrong. We tried every avenue we could think of for a driver and car, Captain Caveman still had a negative PCR result and could drive me, in a car. Bich submitted another permission request to the People’s Committee for Captain Caveman to drive me in Tham & Tony’s car (from the Lake House) to the CDC in Dong Hoi first thing tomorrow morning, as it was too late tonight, to have another PCR test, then come back here and then tomorrow afternoon get the results and correct paperwork needed to fly, shipped to me by my friend in Dong Hoi. This would just be in time (hopefully) for me to get my car to Hanoi, as long as everything went according to this new plan – I started eating my beef stew and we waited for agreement from the People’s Committee. Day 12 of the #STFAH lockdown was certainly becoming the most stressful day I’ve had here!
I had hardly touched my beef stew when Bich called with more bad news, permission for us to leave the district had been denied. We needed to leave Bo Trach to enter Dong Hoi, get the test and then reenter Bo Trach, none of these stages were acceptable to the People’s Committee and we were refused. Bich had an alternative suggestion but she needed to look into it and it would have to be tomorrow, just me and I probably wouldn’t be able to come back from Dong Hoi either. Once in Dong Hoi I could get the test and then just sit and wait all day for the results, when I had them I would have to get me and my luggage to the border to meet Danny, the driver, and then I’d be on my way to Hanoi airport, 500km away. Danny, the driver, was already on his way to pick me up tomorrow but because he had to drive 10 hours here then 10 hours back, was planning to sleep for 8 hours between journeys. Unfortunately this last resort didn’t work out and so there was no other options – I couldn’t leave! Bich had already called immigration, who’s solution was to extend my visa for 1 more month in the hope that lockdown would be lifted within that time and I would be allowed to leave the district. By this point I was in tears and couldn’t speak to Bich, even though she was doing everything she could to help me, so Captain Caveman had to take over the phonecalls. I ate my beef stew with tears rolling down my cheeks, utterly pissed off with the whole situation. It was arranged for my passport to get sent tomorrow morning and I would stay here a bit longer, until I was allowed to leave. I messaged Danny, the driver, who couldn’t believe the mess of the situation, he only had permission for me and him to go directly to the airport and I had to have the PCR test to get in the car with him. So now we had to pay him the full amount for a journey I wasn’t taking. Day 12 of the #STFAH had certainly been one I wouldn’t forget easily, both Captain Caveman and I were not happy about the whole situation. Captain Caveman made dinner of chicken, peppers and rice which he ate most of as he was very hungry, I had lost my appetite. Today had been expensive beyond belief and the biggest waste of a day.
Everything was calm as I ate my buttered toast for breakfast on Saturday 4th September. It was day 10 of the lockdown and everyone around us were still adhering to the #STFAH rules. I went to check on my mushrooms and there was a small crop which were ready for harvesting so I managed to half fill a pocket – not quite enough for a soup but we would have them for dinner tonight. Duyet had surprised us by being able to get us 10 eggs and 2 (orange) carrots from the market, which was great news. I was going to save one of the carrots to be able to take some carrot sticks with me to Hanoi next week. As we didn’t have any cash, Bich was going to give us 2 million vnd (£64) and send it with Ben on the food delivery at the blockade, we would then transfer her the shopping amount plus the 2m. Ben set off with the goods, Captain Caveman left by motorbike from here and then the exchange took place in the no man’s land. Ben captured the pitiful process on video, when Captain Caveman got back he realised there was no money in the bag and when I asked Bich she said Ben had got nervous at the barrier and forgot to put it in the bag. Bich would arrange to send it later on via Duyet which Captain Caveman was glad about as he was low on beers (already). We were once again lucky enough to have got some great essentials, some of which Bich had given us for free from her own kitchen, which was so lovely of her. I was just glad that they still had the big bags of crisps in stock at the Phong Nha Farmstay so that we could stock up on snacks for my forthcoming journey, she gave us loads of fruit and veg too as well as some peanuts so I knew I’d not starve on my trip.
By lunchtime we figured we must both be negative for the Corona virus as we hadn’t been carted off to a quarantine facility yet so that was good news. We had lunch of Baba Ganoush on toast, followed by jam on toast and then a few of the grapes which Bich had sent! The day kept getting better; I got a message from Danny, the driver, to say he can set off a bit later, drive through the night, so that I don’t have to spend a night in the empty airport by myself. I was very pleased and we confirmed he would pick me up on a road just outside of our district at 9pm on Tuesday 7th September, we’d arrive at Hanoi airport at 7am the next day, 3 hours before my check-in – very helpful! I still hadn’t started packing my suitcases, despite Captain Caveman having brought them down from the upstairs mezzanine immediately after booking the flight! He said I should get on with it so that everything was ready to leave, I was putting it off for some reason. I saw photos of Captain Caveman’s colleagues on Facebook as they did their volunteering at the roadblocks and check points in the fight against the pandemic – I felt sorry for them as rain was forecast and they were sleeping in Oxalis tents on the side of the road! For dinner we had steamed chicken and rice with green beans, mushrooms, peppers, red cabbage, white carrots and the last of the peanut salt.
We were awake early on Friday 3rd September which happened to be day 9 of the #STFAH Directive 16 lockdown. Before we could have any breakfast, Captain Caveman got a call saying we had to go ‘now’ to the Khuong Ha community clinic for a PCR test. We asked where it was but the caller didn’t know so we asked a friend, Lam, who was working as a volunteer at the school down the road which had been turned in to an isolation centre for Corona cases. We tried to find Duyet to let him know we were leaving the premises (and why) but couldn’t, so we let Cuong know – he just looked confused but didn’t stop us. By 10am we were on our bicycles, masked up and armed with hand sanitizer, to go the 3 minute cycle to the Volley ball courts, with attached clinics. There was probably about 100 people there, all in nicely spaced out rows, there were police, doctors and lots of health staff or volunteers. It was outside and as we took our place at the back of the queue we were picked out and asked to come to the front. We gave my name and phone number to a health worker, who gave his details back and then I went first on the chair. I faced the audience of the queuing people and the next victim was a cute little girl who could not have been older than 10, so I tried to be brave. It was quick and very strange, I really had no idea you could get something so far up my nose. It was over in a minute and then Captain Caveman was next – he was less pained from it but he has always been quite a snotty sort, whereas I felt mine for a while after, because of always having a dry nose. On the way back home we cycled past the school which was rumoured to be full of cases, it looked empty, and Lam shouted “Hello Adam and Jo!” as we passed him on the gate. All in all not too unpleasant an experience and now the idea was that the sample would be sent to Dong Hoi CDC to be tested and I was told I could then get the required certificate to enable me to go to Hanoi and then Turkey! Captain Caveman was pleased that it all seemed very straight forward and organised and that it was all going to work out, I (the sceptic in this duo) had serious doubts that what they had promised and what they could deliver might not be the same thing. In my head I was already worried that they didn’t really get what I needed and that it was bound to go pear-shaped!
We had just walked back through the door at home, took our masks off, washed our hands, and Captain Caveman was updating his colleague that we had been tested, when Bich called. She had been called for her to organise for us to go for the PCR test, but we had already gone. She was a bit confused as she knew nothing about it but I explained that neither did we until 30 minutes ago and we just did what we were told. Captain Caveman hadn’t actually needed to get his done but he had decided it was wise to do so in case he ended up having to drive me anywhere to get me out. After speaking to his contact at work, again, Captain Caveman reassured me that they said all could be arranged and we were able to go ahead and book my flights. I was so relieved and, because we’d not eaten yet, we decided to have lunch first. I’m not saying Captain Caveman was happy that I was finally getting out of here, but he decided we would open his very last bottle of emergency wine, which was a very nice one, bought for him by one of his customers, Thien. I thought we should wait until it was all actually done before we started celebrating but he insisted, and I wasn’t going to turn down wine. He made a chicken and mushroom (using the ones we had grown) spaghetti which we had to make do without a sauce as we hadn’t been able to get any and we didn’t have many tomatoes left. It was very hot out so I had to keep getting in the pool to try to cool off and we had a lovely lockdown lunch, with great wine, on the balcony. We did a cheers to getting out of the house for 30 minutes during a #STFAH stint and we also spoke to a friend in Saigon to check how she was getting on. Things were pretty bad there but she was doing ok and was able to get food and wine pretty well. We called my parents and were full of excitement about our day and the plans all coming together to get me a step nearer to getting to Turkey – it could finally be happening!
After speaking to my parents while I sat next to the pool and Captain Caveman was in it, I had been getting quite hot. We put the phone down saying we would call again next week, once I was about to leave, and I desperately needed to get back in the water, which I did. Things were looking up and although I wouldn’t have had a 2nd vaccine, as hoped, I would at least be able to get one in Turkey and start again from scratch with a different brand, probably Pfizer this time. Captain Caveman made a nice dinner of chicken, onions, peppers, green beans and potatoes with BBQ sauce. I was so glad now that I had got the BBQ sauce as we were starting to run out of any moist ingredients. After dinner Captain Caveman took the plunge and booked my flights all the way from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Dalaman, Turkey. I confirmed with Danny, the driver, and I booked my pick up from Dalaman airport with Sonuç at King Emlak in Dalyan. We arranged for the apartment at Fire Opal to get a clean before I arrived, and care package of food for when I got there after a very long journey. We started to plan for my 2 long stays in Hanoi and Singapore airports by sending a shopping request to Bich to order fruit, snacks, crisps for me plus beer, eggs and potatoes for Captain Caveman. Bich was being really good at being able to get us food and said she would arrange to send it tomorrow, although she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to leave next week because of lockdown. Captain Caveman contacted Stu to ask if he could get more pulled pork from him and he agreed to drop some at the Phong Nha Farmstay for Bich to put with our delivery. There was a slight problem we had to worry about now, we had hardly any cash and the ATM is in Phong Nha town, where we are not allowed to go to, during lockdown. Our day 9 of the #STFAH had been a good one and we went to bed feeling like something had been accomplished today – tomorrow I would repack my suitcases again!
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: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/vietnam-stops-selling-domestic-flight-tickets-4348980.html 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.
On Friday 27th August, at 5.30am the loudspeaker was really going for it this morning with a man speaking for an hour first and then a woman for over half an hour, we hadn’t got a clue what they were saying and it was still darkish outside. We’d been promised a week’s worth of storms and cooler weather for our 7 days of lockdown and #STFAH, typical when we have a pool to be in and some shadebathing to do. I didn’t go back to sleep as we were both checking our phones for updates on the Corona crisis and whether any cases were actually near to us – there were certainly plenty of rumours that there was, but no evidence to support it. The housekeeping staff were here by 8am and we all congregated in the kitchen where I found Duyet’s delivery. Thankfully, he was able to get us bananas, dragon fruit, bread and 2kg of rice, but there were no vegetables being brought to sell at the market because of the lockdown. He’d done well and I was still pleased he had managed to get us what he had, we were very lucky, I was glad that I had doubled my bread amount at the last minute to 4 baguettes instead of 2. Veronika was surprised as she didn’t think the market would be open at all and she said she may have to ask him to get her some things, as she was running low on food, she was also making a pot of soup! We had bacon sandwiches and used Stu’s bacon sparingly now that we were only in day 2 of lockdown but had bread.
Even though we were in lockdown and my leaving Vietnam plans were being a bit scuppered we continued trying to sort stuff out. Captain Caveman communicated with Vinh, his colleague who got the other 4 cavers to Hanoi airport only 9 days ago, I communicated with Bich and Danny, the driver. We spent most of the day ‘on it’ only to end up with the following outcomes: The driver couldn’t go any earlier than 6th September, Bich said it was a no go to be able to get my PCR test as all the people doing them were busy and Vinh also said we must wait until the end of lockdown. Saigon had been in lockdown for almost 3 months so we didn’t accept those answers and pushed on to try alternative ways!! Independence Day was coming up so it also meant that some people wouldn’t be working from 2nd to 5th September so I was conscious that any paperwork we needed should be sought before then. For lunch we had hot dog sausages with ketchup but we didn’t use the baguettes because we needed to be careful with the bread we had – make it last. We had bananas for a snack and I had 2 frivolous beers in the pool while Veronika pulled up a chair on her balcony and told us how she had tried to escape, again! She had taken her motorbike 1km towards the Farmstay, where the blockade is and was told “No!” (again) and then had to come back. We broke off the planning my escape for one of the best dinners ever; Stu’s pulled pork with white cabbage in our remaining baguettes – pure bliss!!! All in all, a tiring and unproductive day but if I couldn’t leave any earlier I now had a provisional booking with Danny the driver from Hanoi, who would pick me up on 7th September, I’d spend the night in Hanoi airport, get the lunchtime flight the next day, do 8 hours in Singapore transit, fly to Istanbul and arrive in Dalyan on the 9th! The day my visa expires and my 2nd vaccine should have been due by. Before bed I saw a friend on Facebook had posted that the Phong Nha market would be closed tomorrow but that our market, in Khuong Ha, was open. Duyet confirmed he would be able to try his luck at getting the vegetables he couldn’t get today so I resent him a list with more ‘essentials’ added, I even tried my luck for green beans and more bread and Captain Caveman popped over with the money for him – we would see tomorrow when we woke up what the situation was.
I don’t always sleep well when Captain Caveman is away and on Tuesday 24th August I woke up at 4.30am, I’m not really sure why but I couldn’t get back to sleep so I did some Turkish lessons. By 5am I was checking the Corona situation in Turkey and noticed that where friends were staying, in Kaş, there was a virus hotspot while Dalyan, near our apartment had a couple more cases – this was slightly concerning. By 8am, just as I fancied going back to sleep, the housekeeping staff were here to clean our room so I went downstairs for breakfast. I was going to have my leftover curry but I decided to save it for lunch and just have dragon fruit. Veronika had gone up to the Farmstay to teach Howie and so I had an aubergine roasting mission, so that we could have Baba Ganoush later in the week. I spent a long time doing this sweaty task because I had to use the frying pan as a tray as we were out of tinfoil almost. I’d been checking my phone all the time in case I got a message or a call to go for the vaccine but there was still nothing, I was really hoping that Ben was wrong and that they still had some vaccines left, or a new delivery had arrived. For lunch I popped on a new batch of rice and had it with last night’s curry and reheated nan bread – even better the second day! I snacked on pomelo by the pool and had an early dinner of leftover chicken and veg spaghetti which didn’t look too appetising when I opened it but actually tasted great. I decided that I would finally try a bit of the disastrous deconstructed gluten and dairy free brownie as a dessert. It was certainly not something I would choose in a restaurant but it would do! It made me think that my Dad would probably love it as he is a fan of all the ingredients, especially the condensed milk! As I slept in the big comfy bed Captain Caveman was under a tarp, in a hammock, sheltering from the rain in Hang Ba.
Captain Caveman was back off into the wilderness for 3 days on Monday 23rd August. He was excited to be going to one of the new Oxalis cave tours, Hang Ba, and was glad to be doing something work and cave related. I did a few of my usual daily chores and had fruit for breakfast, including some of the pomelo from Funny Monkeys and a bit of dragon fruit. I also wrestled to get out the brownie concoction, that we had now got frozen to the frying pan, so I could put it in a tuppaware box – it still fell apart so it was now a deconstructed brownie. In the news in Vietnam it was mainly about the even stricter lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City, from today the military were in Saigon to enforce the ‘everyone stay where they are’ lockdown, here’s the info: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210823/military-troops-deployed-to-assist-in-ho-chi-minh-citys-fight-against-covid19/62724.html There were some reassuring reports of China having no new cases for the first time in a while, if this lasts it would be a promising sign, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210823/china-reports-no-new-local-covid19-cases-for-first-time-since-july/62725.html In Turkey there would be new rules coming in for use of transport across the country (http://sabahdai.ly/_w57) which I thought was a good thing but might also affect me if it takes me much longer to get a 2nd jab, either here or in Turkey. For lunch I had leftovers from Saturday night – chicken, rice and vegetables and as we were on such a tight budget we were wasting nothing, I’d even got last night’s unfinished dinner in the fridge for another meal. Veronika all rested and had enjoyed staying at The Villas for the weekend, she was going back there tonight though for curry night and I decided I would go to curry night too, it could be my last one, and I let Ben know I needed a pick up. I messaged Colin to ask him a couple of details about his journey from Vietnam to the UK and he called me for a chat. His main piece of advice was that we are more likely to catch Corona in the UK than Vietnam, I was shocked when he told me that no airport staff at Manchester airport were wearing masks, nor did they check any paperwork except for his passport, and everything seemed completely as normal – he was a bit cheesed off that his taxi driver was an anti-vaxer who thought the pandemic was just a conspiracy! Colin said the transit area at Singapore airport was boring and not really much available unless you had a bank card to order food or drink, so to take stuff with me, they did have comfy seats, though. He tried to tell me not to listen to anyone who said that our Vietnamese vaccine certificate would be accepted in the UK and that they didn’t need to isolate at home, because that wasn’t true. He had booked his tests and the other 3 hadn’t but then Singapore Airlines were trying to refuse check-in to everyone but Colin – he was forgetting that I wasn’t going back to the UK first, so this didn’t apply to me. There were a few reasons I wouldn’t be going back to England from Vietnam and those were: 1. I have no English bank card or money, having not been there for 3 years. 2. I no longer have a home in the UK to self isolate at. 3. Some people have asked why I can’t isolate at a family or friend’s house, but I am likely to be not fully vaccinated and although I would be with people who are, they can still catch the virus from me, or give it to me. I didn’t want to put my parents at risk. 4. The cost – it’s cheaper to go to Turkey first. 5. Everything I own that isn’t in Vietnam with me, is in Turkey.
Duyet drove Veronika and I to The Villas for curry night on Monday 23rd August. Ben and his kids were already there, with the family who were still staying at the Farmstay, and were on the river. Ben was driving a speedboat up and down while towing a surf board which the kids were taking it in turns to have a go on – they were loving it! I went inside and asked for some water for my stomach medicine, I didn’t want to ruin my night with stomach issues so I had decided to take Gastropulgite before my meal. I also ordered a beer and while I was drinking it I thought I’d have a look at the drinks menu, even though I know it well. I’m glad that I did because all the prices had gone up!! A can of Huda beer was now 40,000vnd (£1.28), so that was probably my last beer at The Villas and I even had ice in it to make it go further. Veronika and I both ordered the curry and I made myself save half of my nan bread and half of the curry for tomorrow, even though I could easily have polished it off. That way paying 225,000vnd (£7.20) for my night out and an extra meal was justified from the rather tight budget. Ben had a good idea to have his bowl of curry covered with the nan bread and baked in the oven (what he called a Guiness pie) and it looked great. Veronika and I sat chatting and we were talking about how practical Captain Caveman can be, her example made us both laugh; when she had told Captain Caveman she was moving out of Elements next month, he had asked her if she would be taking her hot plate with her! This piece of kitchen apparatus had been so useful during the flood season but the microwave did have all the functions so he would get by, maybe I would leave him the BBQ hotplate destined for Turkey. On the drive home with Ben, he mentioned that Quang Binh had run short of vaccines and so it was unlikely I would be able to get my 2nd dose, either before I leave or before my 12 week anniversary of the 1st one was up. If this was true I was very disappointed, but not at all surprised.
We were fast asleep when the 4 cavers arrived safely at Hanoi airport at 4am on Thursday 19th August. It was in the Vietnam news about the ‘no sharing a car to the airport unless from same home or workplace’, see below: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210819/ho-chi-minh-city-helps-intl-air-passengers-make-trips-to-airport/62672.html Captain Caveman was awake at 6am and made himself a bacon, mushroom and egg sandwich for breakfast before taking Trigger, the motorbike, to work for his 8am training session. I came down to a kitchen sink of Captain Caveman’s pots and, by the time I’d washed and dried everything, I couldn’t be bothered with breakfast so I just had a few pieces of dragon fruit. By 10am I was regretting turning down a bacon sandwich from Captain Caveman early this morning, so I had a 2nd breakfast of a bacon and mushroom baguette (no butter or sauce) and a piece of carrot. I’d already chopped all the veg, prepared the stock (using Captain Caveman’s special recipe) and seared a couple of the beef fillets. I love using the rice cooker as a slow cooker and off I went back to the Aircon in the bedroom. At lunchtime I made myself an iced chocolate drink, which was a waste of calories because it wasn’t good, finished off the tortilla and had a couple of pieces of dragon fruit. It took a bit of willpower not to start eating the beef stew which smelled so lovely. Duyet found me a spray bottle for me to use on my mushrooms and the laborious task of spraying them several times a day began, a bit sad that I wouldn’t get to eat them as I’d have left! Captain Caveman got home from work about 5.30pm and had spoken to Ben on the phone. He’d been able to speak to the owners of Elements Collection to see if they would consider allowing Captain Caveman to stay here after Veronika and I leave next month. They had all agreed which meant everyone was happy and I was relieved that Captain Caveman would have somewhere nice to stay, especially during the flood season. That evening we dined like royalty, we shared the bottle of wine that Tony had given Captain Caveman for his birthday (we have had it in the house almost a month and I’ve not drank it)! The beef stew was absolutely lovely and we had half of it left to pop in the freezer for another time.
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: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210818/us-reports-more-than-1000-covid-deaths-in-single-day/62643.html 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
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!