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!
I woke up before 7am on Thursday 23rd September, expecting it to be almost lunchtime. My watch said 10.45am but that was still on Vietnamese time which is 4 hours ahead of Turkey. I had slept well but was still tired and hungry again. I had more of the provisions from Leanne for my breakfast, adding the şakşuka/baba ganoush that I’d brought from the plane which had leaked a bit, then made a list of all the things I needed to do. One of my first jobs was working out which keys are for what and checking all the stuff I packed away in locked cupboards, just over 20 months ago, surprisingly it was still ok. I also started a shopping list as I would need more stuff and I needed a new battery for the bathroom scales ready to see how much I weighed, I didn’t have any scales in Phong Nha. I was slightly concerned that I had been near to more people last night than I have in months, in Vietnam. Today I would try to have a quiet day, I got busy with unpacking and doing some laundry. I only had some almonds and cashews for lunch (taken from one of my plane journeys). For dinner I decided not to go out to eat, as I was struggling to stay awake past 6pm so I went to the local kebab shop and ordered a chicken kebab and chips. When I got it home I watched more Netflix and ate the delicious chicken wrap, I didn’t really need the chips. It would be interesting to see what the scales said tomorrow as I definitely felt like I was lighter than when I was last here so we would see – being back in Turkey with so many eateries and bars open was going to be hard though, the diet would be almost impossible with so much food choice here.
Here’s my shopping from Leanne which was very kindly popped in the fridge for when I arrived (prices in Turkish Lira and is about 11.8 lira to £1):
From Migros supermarket 1 carrier bag 0.25 1 apple 1.34 3 cucumbers 1.93 1 pear 2.29 1 bottle of water 3.25 1 pack of chicken slices 3.95 Tomatoes 5.02 Bread 5.50 1 pack of gluten free biscuits 5.95 1 pack of cheese spread 6.25 1 pack of salami 6.85 1 pack cheddar slices 8.50 Olives 8.79 6 eggs 9.00
Total spent 68.87 (£5.84)
Some things were cheaper than in Vietnam, but overall a little more expensive so I would need to budget well, given that I was expecting to be here for a while. I congratulated myself on managing to have a fairly tame first full day in Dalyan and wondered how long that would last for.
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!
Tuesday 14th September was a good day, I’d accepted I wasn’t going anywhere (for now), the drama had subsided and we were carrying on with getting to the end of our 3rd week of the #STFAH restrictions. There were 34 new cases in Quang Binh, 8 in our commune but not near to us. The daily case numbers in Saigon were finally starting to show a flattening off on the graph. I had buttered toast for breakfast and read a rather interesting article about foreigners living in Vietnam during the strict lockdowns, it gives you a bit of an insight in to what it’s like living in Vietnam during the strict pandemic restrictions, check it out: https://vietnamnews.vn/society/1030764/expats-face-tough-time-amid-the-covid-19-outbreak-in-viet-nam.html I was trying to think more calmly and rationally about my trying to leave escapade because you know you’re not thinking sensibly when you start to understand this kind of thing: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210914/15-people-flouting-covid19-restrictions-found-in-refrigerated-truck-in-southern-vietnam/63092.html We spent most of the morning in, or next to, the pool, my eczema on my face was bad again (from all the food I shouldn’t eat, beer and stress lately). I needed to relax more so we watched a comedy film while eating fried rice for lunch, The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in – not a bad film and I think I’d seen it before. Duyet had got Captain Caveman some eggs from the market, he was still unable to get some fruit, but 3 dragon fruits appeared in the kitchen and when I checked the price they were a bargain 30,000vnd – less than £1 for 3! Bich had kindly arranged to send us some more provisions, mostly from her own kitchen at the Phong Nha Farmstay and it was like Christmas again when Captain Caveman returned with the bag from the blockade. We had cider, wine, HP sauce, baked beans, avocados, passion fruit and mustard – it was amazing!!!! The heavy rains came early evening, luckily I had managed more afternoon swimming already, so we closed the doors, lit the mosquito coil, and Captain Caveman treated me to what you could probably call a date night. He made one of the most exciting meals in a while; pulled pork Spaghetti Bolognese with home made tomato sauce and it tasted so good. I drank a Magner’s cider which Bich had given me and it was so enjoyable compared to the beers that don’t really agree with me. Captain Caveman also picked the Netflix film, Crazy Rich Asians, which was an odd choice but certainly not the worst film I’ve seen, in fact it was quite amusing. Tomorrow we would find out for certain how our lockdown would proceed, would they lift the restrictions, extend them as they are or extend them but with changes? – anything could happen!
I’d still not unpacked my suitcase, on the off chance that I got the sudden permission to leave any time soon. It was day 16 of #STFAH on Friday 10th September and I was sad that another pizza-less Friday had come around. I ate buttered toast as I caught up on the Corona numbers, the news from the past 2 days and it was interesting to read that the WHO were trying to help poorer countries, like Vietnam, get everyone the 1st jab before boosters in richer countries, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210909/who-urges-covid19-vaccine-booster-moratorium-until-2022/63013.html Quang Binh was told to prepare for storms and flooding because of a typhoon heading towards us, see below: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210909/vietnam-mobilizes-500000-military-officers-to-prepare-for-storm-conson/63020.html And a story of escaped positive cases on the loose down south, caught my eye: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210910/coronavirus-patients-captured-after-fleeing-quarantine-center-in-southern-vietnam/63043.html The most worrying thing I read today was that a woman who worked at Cuba hospital, Dong Hoi, and is connected to PCR tests in some way, had tested positive for Corona yesterday – not very reassuring! Our shopping order to Bich had been sent to our friend in Dong Hoi who was going to get it sent to us later today, which was fantastic. For lunch we had egg fried rice with mushrooms (made from the leftover risotto from last night), tortilla and asparagus, washed down with a lunch time beer. We managed to have a swim before more heavy rains came in the afternoon with the typhoon due to hit on the 12th September. We decided to watch more Somebody Feed Phil, which is a really good show on Netflix, we watched episodes about Marrakech, Chicago, Seoul and Hawaii. It made me realise that I’d like to visit Seoul sometime but Hawaii was no longer near the top of my list. I found we had a lot of ants in the kitchen of late and some were on the salt, but Captain Caveman wasn’t amused and had a bit of a to do because I’d mentioned ants!! I was annoyed because, in my view, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to not have to share our condiments with ants – I don’t want them in our food! It had been 3 weeks since we had last eaten pizza and I was definitely missing it. For dinner tonight we had steamed chicken, rice, aubergines, green beans, tomato, peppers, garlic, peanuts and pickled red cabbage – lovely, healthy, but not pizza! At 7pm a car pulled up with our shopping, the delivery was a wonderful collection of; 2kg chicken breasts 1 huge white cabbage 1 bottle of mayonnaise 1 bottle of ketchup 1 tube of wasabi paste 1 bottle of olive oil 1 bunch of bananas 1 pack of cucumbers 1 bag of onions 2 packets of contraceptive pills Overall, day 16 of #STFAH wasn’t too bad but I wasn’t eating cake at an afternoon tea event, which I’d been invited to, by the river in Dalyan!
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.
Of course the loudspeaker woke us up at 5.30am again on Saturday 28th August but I pulled the sheet over my ear and went back to sleep until 7am. We were on day 3 of lockdown and everyone should be doing the #STFAH thing so why wake everyone up so early? – let people sleep in! I was apprehensive as to how Duyet might have got on at the market and we didn’t receive a message like usual, to say he’d left it on the kitchen table, so I wasn’t optimistic. When I finally went downstairs at 8.30am it was genuinely like the feeling of Christmas day as a kid! There were baguettes, eggs, red cabbage, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, celery and white carrots! I was so grateful to see a fair amount of veg and bread that I hurried upstairs to tell Captain Caveman and I was in such a great mood! We were going to eat like royalty today and we gave our celery to Veronika as I know she uses it in her soups. While Captain Caveman rustled up some more of Stu’s pulled pork for a breakfast baguette with white cabbage I was outside, playing with Carrot, the pup, and watering my mushrooms – he always comes for a little tummy rub and tickles when I’m spraying the water. We hadn’t seen Eric the bee for a while but a nice green beetle came to stay for a sunbathe on our living room door, not as friendly as Eric. We ate a little too well and by lunch I was having a peanut butter lettuce and cucumber sandwich (not my favourite but we are in desperate times here), then we had the brownie disaster for dessert, which had started to grow on us. At the realisation that we can’t actually do anything for now about me leaving we resigned ourselves to just waiting a few more days to see how things turned out. A beer in the pool was had, Veronika sat on her balcony and said she had requested some food from the Farmstay, Bich had found out about her trying to cross the blockade and wasn’t pleased. As I was swimming I noticed Duyet with a cooler bag (celery poking out of the top) and what looked like a takeaway; Bich had sent a curry for Veronika’s dinner plus more vegetables because she had run out. This was a good thing as it meant she had paved the way for the future, maybe we could order some alcohol or food when we run out. Captain Caveman and I had the most amazing lockdown meal yet; hotdogs in soft, fresh, baguette, topped with fried onions, the rest of Stu’s pulled pork and smothered in BBQ sauce! Captain Caveman laughed at me when I’d made mine and then uttered the word ‘filthy’ at this gorgeous creation, until he topped his with chopped tomatoes too and then tasted it! Sod the diet, this was the perfect end to our 3rd day of lockdown.
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.
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!
Captain Caveman had gone to work early on Thursday 12th August and I’d drifted back off to sleep. When I woke up I had a message from Duyet to say he had put my shopping on the kitchen table so I went down to look at what he’d managed to get. I was completely astonished, he had managed everything but 2 things on the list, 1 of which had a replacement for something else instead, with a total spend of only 200,000vnd (£6.40) – I was impressed! The replacement was probably a language barrier as I had requested green beans but here, in Vietnam, the green beans are like a green split pea or lentil, they call them french beans for the long green beans we are familiar with. I had a banana and a croissant for my breakfast and caught up with the Corona news, a little later than usual. It was worrying to read that in Vietnam now, not just the old and vulnerable were dying of Corona and once people had been diagnosed they weren’t surviving too long either, more info here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210812/policeman-dies-after-contracting-covid19-in-southern-vietnam/62541.html Captain Caveman went to Funny Monkeys in his lunch break and had an avocado smoothie. I had mini hot dogs with bread and tomato sauce (we were out of mustard) and another banana for my lunch. I spent the afternoon writing/editing blogs and going in the pool. When Captain Caveman got home from work he informed me of another party invitation which he wasn’t sure of the reason, it was next door to the Glass House and he suggested he hire a motorbike to come get me after work and we could stay at the Glass House that night and come home in the morning – tomorrow night was pizza night and I didn’t have many left so I decided it would be better for me to go to that instead, as I’d already agreed to meet friends. For dinner I reheated a jackfruit seed masaman curry from the freezer and steamed some rice to go with it, usually when I have chicken masaman I am ill so I was wondering if I would be this time but was pleased that I wasn’t and really enjoyed the very filling meal. I’d still not heard about my passport and decided I would message to ask tomorrow, if I still hadn’t had an update, we were now 2 or 3 days after I was told I’d get my passport back.
This was the day that I should have left Vietnam but because of the nice immigration man I was told I could stay for 1 more month. I’d not heard anything further since my request to do the visa extension without the flight booking I had been asked for. I decided not to bother asking as I was at the point now that if the passport got returned without the extension, or less days than I’d been promised, I would just leave – In some ways it would have been better to leave today, in others it would not have been so easy. Today was also Captain Caveman’s first day in his new role at Oxalis as the Safety trainer for the Tour Guides, he’d done some planning over the weekend and was really looking forward to it. I had buttered toast for breakfast and 3 mangosteen while checking the Corona data. Our province, Quang Binh, had 47 positive cases which was a little concerning and I read that Turkey was struggling to reach 70% fully vaccinated as cases reach 25,000 per day, more here: http://sabahdai.ly/_vdg By the time it got to 3pm I was rather peckish; I had steamed chicken, rice and sweetcorn all cooked together in the rice cooker which was a first for me to steam the chicken. I’m glad I did, as it tasted so healthy and fresh – I really enjoyed it and there was nothing to upset my weak stomach! At 3.30pm in our bedroom it was 29°C despite having the Aircon set at 25°C and I was just too warm, even the swimming pool was like bath water! Captain Caveman arrived back at 5pm in readiness for our Monday night out and this time it wasn’t for Curry Night at the Farmstay!!!
Often, in Phong Nha, Mondays have been our Saturdays and Monday 9th August was one of those times! Instead of cycling there, as was Captain Caveman’s preference, we decided to walk to the Lake House. We had made arrangements to have a few drinks and dinner with Tony and Tham who had reopened their hotel and restaurant at the weekend, after being closed for 2 weeks in accordance with the Corona guidelines. We also had an order of freshly baked bread and croissants to pick up so we could do it all at the same time. I forgot to time the walk there but I think it was about 20 minutes and mainly uphill so coming back would be easier. It was still hot and humid after 5.30pm and I arrived a sweaty mess, so much so that I had to have a wash in the toilets, just so that I could see. We had a refreshing iced lemon juice and I felt bad that Tony moved the massive fan on to us from his daughter, who was enjoying being sat in front of it. While Tham was busy doing stuff the 3 of us chatted about the construction industry over a couple of beers and some nicely made bruschetta style snacks. Tony decided to open a bottle of fancy wine which was from an area of Italy we love and it was absolutely amazing! Captain Caveman ordered chilli con carne for dinner and I had beef luk lak, both of which were so good that I completely forgot to take a photo, plus we were busy chatting and enjoying the Primitivo too much. Of course we had no will power to say no to a second bottle of wine, which went down well and we had a good laugh with Tony and Tham. It wasn’t too late when we went home but it was pitch black and I had the head torch in my hand while Captain Caveman carried the paper bags with bread and croissants in. It may be quiet in Phong Nha at the moment but we had really enjoyed an exciting Monday.
Being in Vietnam without access to my own money has meant we have had to cope with living on the one (at times reduced) wage. As a tourist in Vietnam I’m not allowed to work and so things haven’t been as easy as planned due to the Corona situation. I was meant to leave Vietnam in April 2020 so I wasn’t prepared for a prolonged stay, at all. When I get to Turkey I will be able to access my bank account there but, until I get more income I will need to be very careful. These are some of the things I’ve already tried to adopt to cut our cloth and be more frugal with the money we do have.
1. Take advantage of a bargain only when it suits what you need. 2. Stop buying new clothes or cosmetic products. 3. Drink mostly water as much as possible, all those soft drinks or juices can add up. 4. Make a daily, weekly and monthly budget and stick to it – make adjustments if unexpected costs occur. 5. Plan ahead with food shopping. 6. Don’t waste any food. 7. Limit the amount of stuff we buy which isn’t locally produced. 8. Cut out snacks and treats (good for the diet too). 9. Stop going anywhere you need to pay for a taxi to get there, unless essential or urgent. 10. Stop buying gifts for Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Engagements, Baby showers, Anniversaries and other celebrations.