Phong Nha – 14th August

Phong Nha – 14th August

I spent most of Sunday 14th August hungover, wishing we didn’t have our own 100th birthday party to attend at 4pm! Captain Caveman had worked out that, because I would be in Dalyan, Turkey, on my actual 50th birthday, and his 50th had been last month, that we should have a joint party in Phong Nha, Vietnam. This would be our first celebration of 100 years but the intention was to have at least one more in Turkey and possibly something in England if we got the chance to go back there this winter. Captain Caveman had arranged for our party today to be at Karst Villas, where Hung (the owner) would have cold beers and nibbles ready for everyone. All our friends in Vietnam had been invited and Captain Caveman had chosen a Sunday so that it gave Oxalis staff the best chance of being able to come. Throughout the day we got various messages from people who were unable to attend and, quite frankly, I fancied declining the invite too! There was no way I could drink after last night’s (and this morning’s) antics.
As we set off, on Trigger, it looked like it might rain. We passed the Elements staff (including Duyet) who said they would see us at the party. We had got a few minutes down the road when a huge storm came and we had to take shelter at a stranger’s house. The lady got out her spare chairs and gave them to us to have a seat, we thought it would pass quickly but I think she knew it would be a while.
We arrived at our 100th birthday party at least half an hour late but luckily there was only Harry and Linh there that I instantly recognised. Captain Caveman’s friend Dat and her family were there and we were presented with the most gorgeous bunch of flowers. Cuong and his family was also there before us and we were introduced. Harry and Linh introduced us to their colleague, Chuc, and we had our first beer, to be sociable. Some of Captain Caveman’s Oxalis colleagues arrived and we had to have more beer to do cheers with. Stu, Max and Jack arrived and Stu was absolutely wasted so he didn’t stay long. René stopped by for a few beers and then had to get home, while Caroline had still not surfaced from her room (at the Karst Villas). Andrew, Trang and their son came and people started to ask what we had done with Caroline. Bom and Quet arrived looking dapper and drinking only water (lucky them) and joined Mr Tu, Minh and his 2 young sons, who were so well behaved and polite. Last, but certainly not least, to arrive was Kat who had come from Hanoi. She came with a gift of the gluten free tiramisu sweet treats, which I love!
Unfortunately Tatas, Chung, Uy, Phuong (all of them), had to work and one friend had the Corona virus so didn’t come. I also think the rain earlier had put a few people off coming.
I’d planned on not drinking but it was proving impossible, Captain Caveman sure was taking the cold beers for the team by the time Benjamin and his caving budding, Carolina, arrived. He updated us that he had left yesterday’s pool party at midnight. He knew he had to be ready this morning for his trip but he’d had to come back this morning to get his shoes! Eventually Caroline surfaced with Vee but was unable to stomach a beer and we were ready to say goodbye by that time.
After a few celebratory shots (thanks to Kat), we got a taxi home with Benjamin and dropped Carolina off on the way. This time we all went home to our own villas – I was desperate for my bed!

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 7th August

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

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

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

Total spent 1,378,866vnd (£50)

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

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

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

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

Phong Nha – 31st July

Phong Nha – 31st July

Of course we were awake extremely early on Sunday 31st July, Captain Caveman was going in to the cave for another 4 days. This time when he got out, he would have 5 days off, which was amazing! I didn’t have breakfast with Captain Caveman as I wasn’t too hungry and went back to sleep for an hour after he said bye.
I had a late breakfast of fruit and toasted teacake loaf and I spent most of the day by the pool, or swimming. I messaged Tony, from the Lake House, to see if we could arrange to go there for dinner and wine with him, Tham, Andrea and family. I was surprised at the response as he and the family were at the airport and were off back to Australia for a bit – we’d not even had chance to say goodbye. For lunch I had chicken with steamed rice, lettuce and gherkins which was healthy and tasty.
Andrea, Nick and Lottie had gone to explore Phong Nha cave and then walked to Victory Road Villas for a cooling swim in the pool. I got a car at 6pm to meet them and it cost 200,000vnd (£7.20)from Elements to The Villas, which is just over 10km away, where the 4 of us would dine this evening. Again, we were too busy chatting for me to remember to take any photos but we all ordered a pizza and shared. I ordered The Showstopper, Andrea the Momma D, Nick chose a Classic and Lottie the Vegetarian – a great mix. Cameron, the consultant chef, was there and I introduced him to my friends. He joined us for a chat and was very welcoming and friendly, he gave us a complimentary new salad to try which was delicious. We had a few margaritas each, then a couple of bottles of red wine between us. The pizzas went down well but I had a couple of slices left which I had to take home. Cameron came to see how we were doing and asked if we would try the new brownie. We didn’t want to let him down and I’m glad we said yes as it was delicious.

Danang – 24th July

Danang – 24th July

Sunday 24th July was the day that Captain Caveman and I had chosen to celebrate his 50th birthday, in style!
We were booked in for the Sunday Champagne Brunch at Citron restaurant, part of the Intercontinental hotel in Danang. For those of you who have not experienced it, or heard about it before, the place is gorgeous and the food exquisite – we love it. For 3 hours it is an all you can eat buffet with free flow champagne, beer, wine, cocktails, water and soft drinks. The package we go for is 2,999,000vnd (£105) each but is totally worth it if you go hungry and don’t waste time talking to each other (you can see why Captain Caveman loves it)! The last time we went, was the day before it was closed down due to a guest at the hotel testing positive for the Corona virus, just as the lockdowns were happening everywhere.
I took a risk and wore one of those baggy outfits which looks like a dress but it’s a trouser suit thing. I accessorised with my blue Hermes purse and red, handmade in Dalyan, sandals and I even had my hair down. I looked tired so I put my lovely Clinique eye cream on which Linda had bought me. Captain Caveman had brought a nice shirt to wear and a pair of trousers (he still had trainers on though). Captain Caveman also discovered that he had not packed enough trousers or shorts for our trip, but there was a washing machine in our kitchen at Camellia Hotel.
We took a Grab taxi across Danang to the venue but we arrived too early. There were some building works so the lift to the beach wasn’t working, we took a 5 minute walk through the grounds and went to sit in the Citron outdoor entrance area. Unfortunately, there was a Vietnamese family who were scared of us foreigners so they put their masks on straight away and moved to all sit together. The mother of the family had the volume of her phone on very loud and proceeded to play a game or watch a repetitive sounding cartoon. This was very annoying and we tried to ask her to turn it down but she ignored us. I couldn’t take it any more and we went to sit in the foyer of the restaurant. It was only 12.15 (the Sunday brunch starts at 12.30) but the staff showed us to our table straight away. We never book one of the fancier outside tables, which are just too far from the buffet. We were pleased to get a good indoor table between the buffet and the band. By 12.20 our waiter was pouring us our Billecart Salmon Brut Champagne and making polite, welcoming chit chat. I instantly warmed to the guy and asked if I could take a photo and a video of him with the champagne.

By 12.30pm, Captain Caveman and I were selecting food from the antipasti and salad section of the buffet. The choice was massive and I wish I had taken more photos but I didn’t want to waste precious time. I also knew I could use ones from the past visits or the Facebook page as the Sunday Champagne Brunch at Citron is reliably consistent.
The prawns were fantastic and the waiter was finding topping up our champagne glasses a full time job. He delegated our topping up to another waiter and we never had to wait for champagne, wine or water again. The meat station was great, I loved the pork, the duck too and we had a lot of steak. Captain Caveman had lots of oysters and some sashimi which he loved. I think we had about 3 servings of the beef fillet, which Captain Caveman had with fois gras and the chef put a face on it.

When we still had over an hour left to go, Captain Caveman went off piste and said yes to a flambéed crêpe. I thought I’d have the charcuterie and cheeses first, with red wine but then I had no room for crêpes. We left it a bit late for desserts but Captain Caveman managed to squeeze in a lemon meringue pie which he forgot to save me a bite of. I loved the macaroons but couldn’t finish the sweet stuff. At 3.25pm we were absolutely stuffed and quite tiddly. I noticed the band had just finished a rocked up version of Leona Lewis’s ‘Keep Bleeding Love’ which was very good. As the band played more tranquil songs we finished the last of our red wine and champagne before it was time to leave.

We got the shuttle to the main reception and then ordered a taxi to go back to the hotel. We always think we will be able to manage to go out on the evening after the Sunday brunch but, of course, we were fit for nothing and had an early night.

Photo credit – some by Captain Caveman, some from Intercontinental and Citron’s Facebook page.

Phong Nha – 26th June

Phong Nha – 26th June

It was another early start on Sunday 26th June as Captain Caveman was off to Son Doong. He made breakfast and I was eating my bacon sandwich by 6.45am. He was excited because he was on tour with Tatas and they hadn’t been on the same one in ages, in fact neither of them could remember when the last one was. I did a few jobs from my To Do list including trying to make sure that Veronika had some sparkling wine in the fridge for when her and her husband, Ross, arrived. I wanted to move my clothes in to the spare room but we didn’t have any coat hangers so that was put on hold a bit longer. While I planned to spend the next few days at home in Phong Nha my sister and her family were on their way to Dalyan. I’d sent her some lists of where I found the best gluten free meals because she’s coeliac and I also recommended some boat trips and bars for them to try. My parents were really looking forward to their first visit and would be spending the first week with them. I was glad I’d come to visit Captain Caveman but I was really missing being in Dalyan with family and friends.
I had passion fruit and pineapple then Frosties for lunch as I was too hot and
couldn’t be bothered to have anything else. In the afternoon I lounged in the shade by the pool with my book, swam a lot and noticed my previously injured leg was back to normal now.
As the sun went down, I had a beer in the pool and completely forgot about making any dinner. Around 9pm I had 2 slices of a new invention in Vietnam, the teacake loaf. Instead of a toasted teacake, which can easily burn in the toaster, this is a sliced loaf but with the fruit of a teacake in it – genius and absolutely cutting edge for this area.

Phong Nha – 12th June

Phong Nha – 12th June

I found Sunday 12th June to be a more positive day. I decided to make some plans to go out, while Captain Caveman was on day 3 of his 4 day tour. Tomorrow, Captain Caveman would come out in the afternoon, have a shower, put the washing in and repack to go back in the cave. He would attend the briefing of the next group instead of the gala dinner of the existing group and be back in Son Doong the day after, for another 4 days. This was disappointing for me but I focused on him having 2 days off on the 18th of this month, so only 6 days to wait until we could do something together, perhaps.
I didn’t bother with any breakfast but I did have a lovely lunch. I’d taken another mystery jar out of the freezer to find that Captain Caveman had made Bolognese with pork mince and bacon. There was further disruption to my exercise schedule this week as the dead bird was still in the pool. By this time I had seen Duyet who had sent another man to remove the dead bird from the pool. He couldn’t find the bird even when I was pointing to it while wrapped in my towel, having just got out of the shower.
I decided to ask Duyet for a lift to the Phong Nha Farmstay, for my first time this year, where I hoped they still had a bar and a happy hour. While I was waiting to get in the jeep I noticed we had a new pet. Unfortunately, Carrot the dog was no longer with us so it looked like we now had a squirrel. In a cage.
The word for squirrel in Vietnamese is sóc so I promptly named it Sox. There was water and banana for it to eat but it was quite shy and looked a bit scared of me.
The drive up to the Farmstay brought back memories as I saw the farmers planting or tending to the rice paddies along the way.
When I arrived and logged in to the free WiFi (I still didn’t have a SIM card yet) I noticed Kat had been trying to call me. She only uses Instagram but I didn’t have notifications turned on for it. Kat and Buu had decided to come join me at the Farmstay for happy hour and a Sunday Roast. I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that there was draft beer and the Sunday dinner had been restarted too. As I was at the bar I noticed there were some pretty good ‘not on the menu’ specials, including the notorious Sam Mackenzie Veggie pie, apparently available every day. The staff were still getting used to having international customers again but there were a few of us about, including a lady I remembered seeing just as the pandemic hit Vietnam. As I had been desperate to eat pork again I ordered my roast dinner with just pork and no lamb, Kat and Buu shared a meal and ordered a Spaghetti Bolognese too. I had the red wine which came with the deal too. It was good to see Kat and Buu again who had remained in Vietnam throughout the pandemic. We chatted with Bich too, who had some funny stories from her recent Australia trip. There was a new book on display at the Phong Nha Farmstay which Veronika and her friend, Sue, had written about the local area of Cu Nam. It was a available for a minimum 100,000vnd (£3.60) donation towards the village museum. I donated 200,000vnd for a copy of it and popped it in my bag to read by the pool one day. Kat and I shared my chocolate fondant cake as it’s very rich and she hadn’t tried it before. She shared her carrot cake with Buu and offered me some but by this time I was too full. The set price of 300,000vnd (£10.80) was the same as last year but I did notice the portions, although a generous portion, weren’t quite as big as the last time I had one. I ended up with lamb and pork despite my ordering specifically without lamb because the staff forgot, there was no crackling and the Yorkshire pudding was small – I suspected the oven was opened during the cooking process. I enjoyed my dinner and I even took half home to pop in the freezer.
After saying our goodbyes and agreeing to meet up for wine drinking at a girls night for us cave widows we all went home. I got a lift back with Duyet after having an extra beer because the happy hour had not included draft beer but I’d had 1 draft and 1 bottle, so now I needed 1 more bottle. Even though the draught beer was so much nicer it was 45,000vnd (£1.62) for a half so I would have to limit them. My total spend for today had been 600,000vnd (£21.60) which was kind of a bit over our usual budget, but did include a book, 4 alcoholic drinks, a dinner and a pudding.

Dalyan – 29th May

Dalyan – 29th May

My parents and I had a very important appointment at 10.30am on Sunday 29th May. Nusret and Gonca had invited us to Retro bar and Smyrna hotel to have breakfast with them and Yaşar. It was a hot day and I noticed that Phong Nha, where I would be in a couple of weeks, was hotter by about 5°C. I’d already cycled to the bakery to buy some baklava to take with us as a small gift. We sat outside under a parasol as Yaşar and Gonca brought so much delicious food to the table. It was really kind of them to invite us, they were very generous with the food and their time. I found myself lacking in Turkish vocabulary somewhat and we had to rely on Yaşar to translate my basic Turkish or Google translate.
The food was phenomenal and plentiful, my parents loved it too and we were made to feel like part of their family. I would miss them when I had to leave and we promised to keep in touch. We also got invited to another event for Gonca’s birthday in a few days.

Back home I had a whole chicken in the slow cooker which smelled lovely and was meant to be for dinner. I’d invited my parents over, they didn’t fancy chicken but would meet me later for a drink. We went to Tez bar for a couple and bumped in to Penny and Phil, which was nice as I’d not been out drinking with them for a while. I invited them to share my chicken dinner too but they had other ideas. I had another drink and then Penny, Phil and I got a taxi to their place where Penny and I got in the pool to cool down.
Penny and Phil were the perfect hosts, we had a couple of gins and a curry. I had a rather tasty chicken korma and they had a delicious jalfrezi. It was so good but they wouldn’t tell me where they got it from as it was top secret. I had a great night and I was going to miss Penny and Phil, they are a really good laugh and have been really kind friends to me. In a few days Bluey2 would be making her way back to their place and I would have to say bye to her too.

Dalyan – 22nd May

Dalyan – 22nd May

Sunday 22nd May should have been a day to stay home and rest up, and it did start out that way!
I got up late, despite not having had much sleep due to the music of the Jazz bar, and then the early call to prayer. For breakfast I made myself beans on toast with 2 of Dick’s sausages. I cooked a whole pack so that I could make a sausage casserole tomorrow too. I was a bit annoyed that my TV, which had not been showing any programme listing information, was still not right so I had to play Russian roulette with what might be on what channels. I wanted to record the Grand Prix but couldn’t work out when it would be on. Instead I listened to music and was pleased I’d made it to the sofa today. For lunch I had a cheese sandwich with the Red Leicester from Dick and the spare breadcake from Ula that was still in my bag.
I realised we had possibly been neglecting Des, who had been busy working and catching up with his new Dalyan friends. We agreed to meet at Backyard No.9 and I invited some of the gang so that he wasn’t bored with just me. My parents and I were the first there, Sarah was going to join us and Des arrived just as we had ordered our drinks. Mark and Kate were already out with a few others at Rehab bar so said they wouldn’t be coming. When Sarah arrived she had brought me a pair of sunglasses which she was recycling. They were slightly broken but I cleaned them on a serviette and popped them on to try them out for size.
I love the pizzas at Backyard No.9; three out of the five of us ordered one. Mom had tuna and onion pizza, I had the Dalyan pizza with feta, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and peppers, Sarah had one with parma ham and rocket, while Dad had a cheeseburger with chips and Des chose a pasty type dish. It isn’t the cheapest place but the ingredients are quality and fresh. Ülkü and her team are really nice and friendly plus the outside space is very tastefully set up. It was a lovely meal and we enjoyed the wine too.
After we had eaten, Mark and Kate were on their way home and popped in for a drink and a chat. They had to get back to feed the cats so only had one beer – they can’t be party animals every night!!
We also went home reasonably early and I promised myself a couple of rest days from tomorrow. I was still waiting to hear if I had been granted a visa for Vietnam yet and hoped that tomorrow would bring good news.

Dalyan – 8th May

Dalyan – 8th May

Sunday 8th May was one of my favourite days and I felt so lucky to be able to have an amazing day with family and friends. I’d arranged for 7 of us to go to Çandır Resort for a Turkish breakfast. Ma, Pa, Vanessa and Matt were picked up by one of Fikri’s taxi drivers and driven to the ferry crossing near to Mark and Kate’s house. I cycled Bluey2 over and met Mark and Kate as they were walking to the meeting point. The ferry crossing was about 8 lira for each passenger, one way, and I had arranged the minivan pick up when we reached the other side. The journey wasn’t for the faint hearted and the venue is not to be confused with Çandır Terrace, which is not as remote. Our table was on the end of the balcony with lovely views of Çandır. The breakfast was massive and only just fit on the table, Mark was in charge of pouring the tea. The Turkish banquet costs 150 lira (£7.80) each, it took us about 2 hours to eat and it was definitely the best one I’ve had in a while.

After our feast we did the reverse journey and my stomach started to have a bit of a problem, despite me avoiding the pastries. Luckily my bicycle was next to the ferry stop and Kate gave me her key so I could cycle back to their’s to go to the toilet. Everyone else had been invited over too, so they took a slow walk back while I ended up waking up Phoebe who was in ‘my room’. Mark was a great host, making sure everyone had a cold beer or glass of wine, he wiped down chairs and arranged them on the shaded terrace, next to the pool. My Mom was excited to try out the sex swing and we also all had a walk down to the jetty to admire the river views. After a few drinks we decided to get taxis in to town, I left Bluey2, and we went for more drinks at Sofra bar. Strangely, and probably because of my stomach, I only had 1 beer at Mark and Kate’s then 2 pints at Sofra. The men seemed to have a thirst on and were racing through the beers, while pretending to be watching the football. Mark, Kate, Daisy and Phoebe had to go to eat at Balıkcim around 8.30pm because it was their last night in Dalyan and the rest of us discussed dinner plans. Vanessa was hungry and Matt fancied River House for Sunday dinner, my parents wanted to join them. I had still got a dodgy tum so was wary but eventually agreed to go join Matt and Vanessa who had already gone over there. When we got to River House Matt and Vanessa were nowhere to be seen and I text her to ask where they were. My parents and I sat down and ordered drinks, Mom and I had a soft drink but Dad went on to red wine and was quite drunk. We didn’t hear back from Vanessa, Matt and her had gone home because Matt was also drunk and had not wanted to leave the bar. Dad said he didn’t want to leave Sofra as he tucked in to his meatballs, mom tried to enjoy her lamb chops but was annoyed with dad and my Sunday dinner wasn’t amazing. It was very potato heavy and they had sprinkled an unnecessary paprika powder over the whole thing. It was cheaper than anywhere else in town though so would be fine if there weren’t other, better, Sunday dinners available in Dalyan. I asked to take my apple pie home as I wasn’t too hungry and then we walked home, with Dad in a bit of a tangle.
It turned out that all of the 3 couples ended up having words that night. Vanessa had gone out for a walk to calm down, Mom had to put up with Dad either snoring or choking in his sleep, and Kate was not happy at Mark staying out with the girls until the morning. I, on the other hand, was blissfully unaware and thought it had been a wonderful day.

Dalyan – 24th April

Dalyan – 24th April

A while ago I had decided that we would have a belated birthday celebration for my Mom on Sunday 24th April.  Kate had suggested Kaan and so I had organised the trip with him on his boat, called Tequila. In the morning Mark, Kate and I had a few things to do before my parents got to the boat so we booked Fikri’s taxi to take us. I dropped Mark and Kate off at the boat where they went to put up the bunting, I then went to pick up the birthday cake from Louize. I asked Fikri to take the cake to Kate while I went across to see a friend off. She was going back home to England today and had bought my Mom a bottle of champagne for her birthday boat trip which was really lovely of her. I got to the boat after everyone else and we set sail for the lake. On board was Vanessa, John & Andrea, Jamie & Drew, Ann, Maddie, Angela & Nick, Nanny Kay, Viv & Paul, Mark & Kate, Ma & Pa and me. By noon Vanessa, Kate and I were swimming in the lake and the BBQ lunch was set for 1.30pm, we all had a few drinks too and it was a lovely sunny day. We changed location to Little Dalyan, which is a sheltered spot at the back of the beach where we had more swimming and my leg was getting much stronger! After a lovely lunch we presented Mom with the cake and we all had a bit of it. Mom was surprised and we even made her cry, I think she was touched to get some cards and presents from people too. In the afternoon she opened the champers and we all had a little glass or two to celebrate a bit more before going back to Dalyan.

Mom, Dad and I called in to Lukka for just a drink then decided to eat dinner. Dad ordered a cheese burger, Mom a chicken curry, and I had the sweet and sour chicken which was the best I’d had in Dalyan. It was 185 lira for my sweet and sour chicken which came with rice, chips and lots of vegetables but somehow I managed to eat almost all of it.
That night I was so glad to get to sleep back in my own bed and was looking forward to an early night, even though I ended up watching the Grand Prix.

Dalyan – 20th & 21st March

Dalyan – 20th & 21st March

As I didn’t go to bed until the early hours of the morning on Sunday 20th March, I was extremely tired and decided a day of doing as little as possible was on the cards. I felt a few tremors of an earthquake but couldn’t work out if I was just feeling hungover and tired. Mark had left to join in the sweeping of the new road, which Alp had organised, from Sofra bar. The intentions were to sweep sand in to the cracks to help the workmen, Sarah had been busy making sandwiches for the volunteers.
I ate strawberries for breakfast and went back to bed for a bit then I watched Netflix, did some Turkish practice and relaxed. For lunch I only just managed some red pesto mushroom pasta then had a nannan nap. When dinner time came round I couldn’t be bothered to cook so I just had cheese on Jacob’s crackers and thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I woke up on Monday 21st March I was really missing Captain Caveman. I saw a photo of his (our) home in Phong Nha on Facebook and wished it was easier to get over there. There were more complications about the visa situation, where people trying to apply via the embassy were in a backlog of processing. In Phong Nha temperatures had reached 33°C and I missed that too.

In Dalyan it was 4°C and news of more earthquakes off Crete which I’d felt yesterday. I had grapefruit and strawberries for breakfast, before opening up the laptop at the kitchen table. For lunch I had some Quinoa crackers with brie and olives but I should have eaten more. Inevitably, it would be one of those Mondays and I should have known. John had messaged me that the Rum bar was having an opening party today, to which we were all invited, so I cracked on with some work in order to finish early and attend. I also sent a message to Sarah, Debbie (Darling) and Ann to ask if they were going and to say I’d see them there from 4.30pm. In the afternoon I had a wander to Migros supermarket and bought the following essentials:

Spinach 9.95
Fabric Softener 18.25
Washing powder 22.75
Beef mince 41.16
Diced beef 44.00

Total spent 136.11 lira (£7)

After dropping my shopping home I went to join Andy, Kaye, Mark, Kate, Chris and Jackie at Okyanus for Kaye’s farewell drinks. The sun was shining and the Efes was cold, after 2 beers the sun was going in so we wandered up to Tez bar to catch the last of the sunshine. It was past 4.30pm when we arrived and Debbie (Darling) had already made her way to Rum bar to meet me. There was no word from Ann but Sarah was running late, as she was still working. Sue was at Tez bar and had recently had her cataract operation so she looked like a pirate. We just had the one beer but had a few laughs while we waited for Sarah to come. I temporarily forgot about Kate’s peanut allergy as I shelled and ate the complimentary ones, then tried to get her to eat some.
Debbie (Darling) returned to Tez, having not found me at Rum bar and she pretended to be cross, Ann had decided not to join us.

Sarah arrived, after a busy working day, and we all went to Rum bar which had some gorgeous cocktails. I started with a Pina Colada then discovered they had a Ron Zacapa rum which is one of my favourites.
I finally got to meet Cameron and Betty who were in Dalyan on holiday after not being able to visit due to the pandemic. Unfortunately they were only here for a short holiday but it was good to get to meet them in person at last. The atmosphere at Rum bar was good and a fire kept the chills off as the temperature dropped.

We all said our farewells to Kaye then Sarah and I walked back along the river towards home. On the way we decided we were hungry so would go for a Chinese at China Town. It was my first visit to ‘eat-in’ since the renovations and reopening – it looked good. I ordered chicken in black bean sauce, egg fried rice and prawn toast while Sarah opted for a half portion of sweet and sour chicken. It was unfortunate for Sarah that she had to have a work related telephone conversation on loud speaker throughout the duration of our meal. Luckily, there were only a couple of other customers in at this late hour on a Monday evening. I took a small amount of left over chicken home and felt exhausted when I got in.

Photo credit – Alp Aslan, street sweeping. Phong Nha Farmstay, Elements Collection.

Dalyan – 11th to 13th March

Dalyan – 11th to 13th March

Friday 11th March started with the obligatory weigh-in and measurement taking. My weight had stayed the same this week, my thighs were now both the same size and were the biggest they had been in almost 2 years but my calves were still 1cm different in size.
I was having buttered toast for breakfast when the workmen turned up, earlier than expected, to continue with the ceilings. I read in the news that China was having a lot of Corona cases again, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220311/china-daily-local-covid-infections-exceed-1000-as-symptomless-cases-spike/66124.html
I decided to go out on a bicycle ride to keep out of the way of the workmen who were making a right old mess. Bluey2 was super whizzy today, I enjoyed a little jaunt around all the back streets and a couple of the more main roads before getting peckish. For a late lunch I had chicken and spinach curry from out of the freezer, with steamed rice before getting ready to go out.
I’d been invited to John’s surprise birthday party, by his wife Andrea. I arrived at Bambi’s around 7.30pm and the place was pretty busy already. I sat with Penny and Phil who were just finishing off their jacket potatoes and I ordered a glass of red wine. There was a lovely buffet on and I wished I’d not already eaten curry but I had a couple of mezes with bread. It was a lovely night with lots of familiar faces in the warmth of the soba. Outside the temperature was very cold and I didn’t relish the walk home so when Penny and Phil were leaving, I felt like getting a lift home would be a good idea. I paid for my 2 wines, which this time were only 40 lira each, instead of 50, and left with Penny. Back home it was very cold as I watched a bit of TV and I had to put the heater on.



On Saturday 12th March I woke up to news that Quang Binh, the province where Captain Caveman lives, had 3271 new positive Corona cases yesterday. This could mean that the proposed resumption of international travel in 3 days time could be in danger of not happening. Obviously, I knew when I left Vietnam in September that it could be a year until I saw Captain Caveman but I hoped it wouldn’t be that long. If Vietnam reopens it could mean I would get a trip to see him, possibly in a couple of months or so. I ate my breakfast of buttered toast before getting ready for something new.
I had organised to attend a Yoga dance event to commemorate international Women’s Day at a place called Spectrum. The location is a stunning retreat almost on the beach road with lovely views. I’d not been before but it’s not far from our friend, Janet’s, house so Vanessa and I arranged to call for her on our way. I called for Vanessa and we cycled about 15 minutes to Janet’s and then on another 5 minutes on to Spectrum. This was the furthest Bluey2 had gone so far and she managed it easily. We were welcomed by Jo, and we waited awhile for everyone else to turn up while admiring the views. Once we got going the yoga dance class was nice, fairly easy to follow, and in Turkish, but the wind was blowing so we all felt cold. We did have some photos taken afterwards as a group and we even asked about some future classes as we were all interested in going along.
On the way back Vanessa and I called in to see Penny and Phil but only Phil was home as we were later than we thought we would be. We dropped our bikes off after that and arranged to meet back up for an afternoon shandy. At home I had some Turkish sausage with cheese rolls for lunch to line my stomach. Captain Caveman was out of the cave and on his way to the Chay Lap gala dinner as I walked round to meet Debbie (Darling), Sarah, Ann, Vanessa, and Rach at Jiks. We had a couple of drinks there, some people had food. I wasn’t going to go to Rehab bar with Vanessa but decided I would, Ann decided to join us and we met Matt, Mark and Kate up there. We had a couple of drinks and I wasn’t really in the mood for stopping out. I’d been chatting to Captain Caveman and his colleague’s wife (Emma) about applying for a visa to go to Vietnam. The idea was to go in the summer but to enter Vietnam you must have had a vaccine within the last 6 months. Emma couldn’t get another booster in England and so asked if I wanted to go earlier. Captain Caveman didn’t have any time off until 20th May so that would be my earliest, which I mentioned to the girls at Rehab.
I decided to leave, Ann came with me as she had only been coming for 1 drink and had her bicycle. She pushed her bike over the rubble and holes of bar street and I suggested we go to the safer path of the river route. I was talking about how a few of us had fallen over recently because of the road works when all of a sudden I tripped over some raised cobbles and hit the floor, really hard. Luckily, I put my hands down but I cut my chin and I was quite shook up. I wasn’t drunk as I’d only had a couple of wine and sodas, we weren’t far from Sofra bar so we went in there to wash my face and get tissues for the blood. While I was in the bathroom Ann ordered more wine. My chin wouldn’t stop bleeding so we got a couple of plasters from a friend of a friend and Ann slapped them on my chin.
Needless to say, we ended up staying out out and consumed too many wines before getting a taxi back to Ann’s.



I didn’t get up until 11.20am on Sunday 13th March and my double plastered chin really hurt. Ann was already up, had brought me some water and seemed surprisingly spritely, considering. It had been a late and messy night – I felt like crap. I walked down to Heybe’s before Ann and waited for her to arrive. We both ordered a fry up (mine without eggs or tomatoes). It seemed to take forever but Roy was already in having a beer so we chatted to him. When the food came I found it hard to eat because my chin and jaw were a bit swollen.
I went home after breakfast and took the plasters off for a look, my chin wasn’t too bad compared to how bloody it had seemed at the time. I did have bruises on my legs and a cut on my hand but I was lucky it wasn’t any worse.
After a nice hot shower, I got back in bed and alternated between watching Netflix and snoozing. China was in the Vietnamese news again, as Corona cases over there were increasing rapidly, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220313/china-daily-local-symptomatic-covid-cases-more-than-triple/66147.html
Later, I got back up for beef stew with potato wedges for my Sunday dinner at home. The light swung and my water cooler sloshed about as I definitely felt a ripple or two from a small earthquake.
I messaged family and found out that there was a weekend away for my mom’s 70th birthday coming up, which I decided to invite myself to and started looking for a flight. As long as the decorations at my parents’ place in Dalyan were finished before I went, I would be able to fit it in. Flights to the UK via Istanbul or Antalya were cheap at the moment. My sister sent me the location and it looked good but it only slept 6 so maybe I’d have to take the couch!

Photo credit – Joanne Sparrow at Spectrum

Dalyan – 18th to 20th February

Dalyan – 18th to 20th February

I had more grapefruit for breakfast on Friday 18th February and I had invited Ann over tonight for curry. I got on with making that and had more Baba Ghanoush with bread for lunch. It was my weekly weigh-in day and I had put on 1kg which was disappointing, but not surprising.
When Ann arrived at about 6pm I already had a beer on the go but she brought round 2 bottles of white wine and I’d already bought 1. She also bought me an ornament for the apartment which was very thoughtful. We decided to go to Lukka bar for just 1 drink and we did just that and came back so that we could eat chicken curry. The food turned out well and we had a good night, listening to music and even dancing. At one point we both managed to do a plank for at least 30 seconds! Ann couldn’t stay over because of the dogs and left about midnight, having had a great night. It made me appreciate not having any neighbours so we could have the music loud and sing.

I finally got round to opening the plum jam I bought in Fethiye before Christmas on Saturday 19th February. I had it on toast for my breakfast and it was really good with massive pieces of plums in. The spinach I had taken out of the freezer, in an attempt to make Saag Aloo yesterday, had finally defrosted so I made it today instead. I had managed to find most of the ingredients that I needed here but because I can’t eat chillies, I left them out. The curry that night was good but I didn’t eat too much of it – there was still some leftover too. I had a couple of glasses of white wine and a relatively early night, despite the noise of the Jazz bar keeping me awake.

I was pleased to speak to Captain Caveman on Sunday 20th February at 9.30am. We used the background changing function on the phones which looks as if you are somewhere else. I showed Captain Caveman that you could do this with a photo or video from your own phone. We were definitely missing each other now and this week would mark 5 months of us living in different countries. It wasn’t the longest we had spent apart in the 10 years together, but it was still hard and there was another 6 months to go, if we stuck to the plan. Captain Caveman had a week off coming up so he had planned to go to Hanoi – the trains had recently recommenced since they stopped due to the pandemic. I had toast with plum jam for breakfast and went shopping to Migros and A101 in the afternoon. Here’s what I bought and the prices in lira:

A101 Supermarket

3 onions 1.64
2 soda waters 3.80
3 red peppers 8.35
Toothpaste 22.90
White cheese 25.20

Total spent 61.89 lira (£3.32)

Migros Supermarket

Cornflakes 9.30
Quark 9.30
Tomato paste 10.24
Turkish salami 13.04
1 litre milk 14.91
500g chicken 20.22
500g minced beef 35.25
Red cheddar 46.71

Total spent 158.97 lira (£8.52)

Although the prices in English seemed cheap because of the current exchange rate, I was still using Turkish money that had been deposited at almost a third of the rate so my shopping today had cost me more like £36!

I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t have lunch but I had yet more chicken curry and Saag Aloo left for my dinner. I even warmed up some lavaş bread to have with it.
I was about to start my 3rd week of being busy so I got on with a couple of tasks to make it easier for time off in the week if I needed it. It was a great weekend, mainly spent at home instead of in the pub, for a change! The rest of the curry went in the freezer as I think I might have eaten enough of it for now.

Dalyan – 11th to 13th February

Dalyan – 11th to 13th February

On Friday 11th February, it was about 9.30am when I opened my eyes and remembered I had gone back to Ann’s house with her and stayed there. Bendy, her dog, was in the bed under the covers and came to give me a Good Morning kiss. As I walked home, the sun was out and I was really hot in all my winter evening layers. King Emlak sent a man round to have another look at the ceiling where the leaks had been and then I had to go to meet someone at my parents’ place for another quote for the decorating. I was quite hungover and hot, I saw Debbie (Darling) and had a chat then I went home for a shower and some cornflakes for lunch.
I was needing a night in but I’d already agreed to meet at Hotel Dalyance for Louise’s birthday drinks and cake. Louise, who makes amazing birthday cakes, had made her own in the design of a turtle and it was amazing. I had just 2 cokes as I couldn’t stomach any booze today. I got chatting to quite a few people but by 10pm I needed to go home to bed. Sonuç was working there and was encouraging me to ‘borrow’ Sarah’s bicycle to get home quicker but I couldn’t even get my leg over to get on it properly. I had a booze-free, early night because tomorrow I had big plans which I didn’t want to cancel.

I didn’t have breakfast on Saturday 12th February as I got up late and needed to get to the weekly market. I met Ann there and I bought mushrooms, carrots, chestnuts, cauliflower and red cabbage for a total of 75 lira (£4). In the afternoon I was meeting a friend for lunch and had already set off to go but she messaged to cancel. I didn’t get it until I’d already walked to the other end of town. I saw Mark’s bicycle outside Rehab and went in to say hello to him and the owner. I had a cup of tea as I was trying to cut down a bit on the booze. Mark was meeting the rest of the pool lads and some of the wives were stopping by later so I had a chat with a few of them. I caved and had 1 beer but then I headed home only to realise there was a planned power outage until 5pm. I sat for a while and chatted to Abi outside Maizie Moo, in the sun, then went home for some much needed food – a cheese and salami toastie.
I was meant to be going out to Sofra bar but I decided I needed a bit of a rest. The toastie had not agreed with my stomach so I cancelled going out, got some lounge wear on, then later I had a spaghetti bolognese for dinner. I stayed up until 1am because of the Jazz bar noise and I even had a midnight snack of chestnuts, which were so good.

The local Dalyan football team were playing at home on Sunday 13th February and I’d been invited by friends to join them. If Captain Caveman was here, he would be going as he loves to support Dalyanspor – I’m not a fan of football. I had arranged to spend my Sunday in a leisurely way, seeing friends and relaxing. After buttered toast for breakfast I had a wander around Dalyan as it was sunny and I needed some exercise. I bumped in to friends along the way and called in to see a couple of other friends as I passed their houses. I was meant to have been going to Sunday dinner at Lukka bar with Sarah but had cancelled when I didn’t feel too well yesterday. I walked to Ann’s and we had a glass of wine outside in her conservatory and fussed the dogs. Ann had cooked a lovely roast chicken Sunday dinner with Yorkshire puddings and my favourite cauliflower cheese.
We were sensible today, limited only to one glass of wine to be healthier, then I walked home before dark. In the evening I watched something on TV, put the washing on and made popcorn, using a small bowl as a replacement for the missing lid.
It was a nice relaxed weekend with a sensible amount of alcohol, less calories consumed and some exercise.

Dalyan – 30th & 31st January

Dalyan – 30th & 31st January

On Sunday 30th January it was raining in the morning, I still had washing out but it started to fine up by the time I had to go out. I thought I had set my alarm so that I could get up at 7am to go over to say bye to Jamie but I never heard it, or I had forgotten. I hate goodbyes anyway but I really was going to miss Jamie and was already looking forward to when he would next be coming back.
In the afternoon I had arranged to have Sunday lunch with Sarah and Katrina at Lukka bar. Sarah messaged me an hour early to say she was waiting for me at Tez bar and when I got there she was sat with Brian, who had suffered a recent pet bereavement. Brian is a lovely bloke who usually has some fascinating travel stories so it was sad to see he was quite upset about his poor old Bruno. Mark then rocked up and came to join us and when he heard Sarah and Brian talking about Brian’s 22 year old cat he made an animal joke which was so inappropriately timed that even I was shocked. I’d already drunk my cup of tea while listening to Brian so I ordered a red wine. I invited Brian to join us at Lukka bar but he had to get back to the rest of his menagerie. The rest of us joined Katrina and we were really looking forward to trying the new chef’s Sunday dinner. The food was good, the Yorkshire pudding was plentiful and the meat as soft as butter. There was a choice of meat, I had beef with Katrina, Sarah and Mark had lamb and Sarah was keen to share a bottle of red wine. I had quite a bit of Sunday dinner left and took some home, as did Mark, Katrina left her’s as she hadn’t been well but Sarah was on a mission to eat it all. At 6pm Katrina and Mark left and I didn’t get home until 9pm, having missed speaking to Captain Caveman. I’d had messages from him to say he’d been to the airport in Dong Hoi with customers and picked up our friend, Andrea, who was going to be in Phong Nha for a few days. They had already had lunch at Karst Villas, where she was staying, and then had a bike ride in the afternoon.

Monday 31st January, was the New Year’s Eve in Vietnam, Captain Caveman had a busy day and when he messaged me he was at Oxalis with members of the BBC and my favourite photographer, Ryan De Boodt.
I’d been keen to know what the electric bills for the apartment in Dalyan would be like, because lots of people were talking about the massive increases. When Captain Caveman sent me ours, it was very low. Granted, I had been away in England for 18 days of the previous month but it was looking ok even if it was triple the price, as others had found it. The next bill was due on the 5th February so we would find out then and, as January is generally the coldest month in Turkey, I was not unduly worried.
I had one of Sara’s Chelsea buns for breakfast and then decided I would make a slow cooker chicken chasseur which I could have with rice later for dinner. After getting most of the washing dry I went to change the bedding only to discover that the duvets on the beds were the summer ones! No wonder I had felt cold, but it looked like the cleaner had got mixed up when she had last changed the bedding and put the lower togged quilts on. The builders were back working on the new villa next door as they had started to put on the roof.
I ate my delicious dinner with a couple of glasses of chilled rosé wine (a gift from my friend, Janet) and was watching old episodes of Below Deck on Netflix when there was an earthquake in the nearby town of Ortaca but it wasn’t a bad one. As Tet approached, Captain Caveman and I had a video call and we both drank wine, he got peckish and snaffled down some reheated bangers and mash. I told him how much I would miss celebrating Tet with him and our friends this year. I’d not been in Turkey this late in to January before and, while I was enjoying it, I would have preferred to be in Phong Nha for Tet holiday – maybe next year! It was also the first call we had in the 4 months apart where he said he loved me and missed me. We still had 7 months to go until our planned reunion so it was going to be a tough year!