Dalyan – 3rd October

Dalyan – 3rd October

I was awake before 7am on Sunday 3rd October but I went back to sleep for an hour before getting up to do a few chores. I did most of the unpacking of my stuff that I left here in boxes, laundry, washing stuff in the cupboards and getting ready to welcome Melissa and her family to Dalyan later. I had fresh bread and butter for breakfast and then I decided to rearrange the furniture so that the kitchen table is up against the wall near the stairs and not so cramped in the kitchen – it would give me a better space to write from too. For lunch I had hummus with bread and olives and I decided to try something new by doing baked potatoes in the slow cooker, to see how they turned out and they were pretty good.

There was some excitement that afternoon as I had booked in to Lukka bar to have one of their Sunday dinners. I joined a table with Katrina and her friend, Tunc, and enjoyed a glass of red wine before the meal came. This was my first Sunday dinner in Dalyan, having not been in the UK for 3 years and not in Dalyan for 1 year 8 months I had missed eating proper Yorkshire puddings so I was looking forward to a nice roast dinner. I’d previously rather enjoyed the Phong Nha Farmstay Sunday dinners but due to money and then lockdown, I’d not had one of them for ages, either. When the plate was placed in front of me I was amazed at how good it looked, especially as the photos on the Lukka Facebook page didn’t show how big the portion was and a photo can never describe how good the gravy is, which there was lashings of! The cauliflower cheese was great, the beef just melted in my mouth and I had to save some of it to take home so that I could fit in my pudding, which is included in the price. The apple crumble was made to perfection with just the right ratio of apple to crumble for my liking, topped off with a blob of ice-cream. To enable me to fit in the dessert I had to have a good hour or so gap, with a couple of extra wines before I tackled it. Because I’m no longer having gluten free meals I got to enjoy the whole thing without any special dietary amendments and it was so good. The cost of it was 110 lira (£9.32) which isn’t the cheapest Sunday dinner in Dalyan but you certainly get what you pay for, the meat quality was top notch and I had enough left for a 2nd meal. I went home very full and, as I sat down to watch some more Line of Duty, I got some good news; my friends who I met in Phong Nha (Mik, Kendra & Bryan, Hamish & Ania) were coming to Dalyan later in the year for a bit of a reunion holiday – how exciting.

Dalyan – 26th September

Dalyan – 26th September

I had an amazing day on Sunday 26th September; on the first night I had arrived I’d been invited to join friends on a day out. The boat trip was with Captain Boris Boats and they are really good, my last trip with them was a boxing day one which I thoroughly enjoyed and their food is always outstanding. The owners are such a good laugh as well as being extremely accommodating. Sarah came to call for me on her new tricycle with 2 giddy dogs and I checked if she realised we were going on a boat. She was going to leave her bike by the river and the dogs would make their way home, apparently. There was quite a party of us, the organiser wasn’t feeling too well but was determined to soldier on, another lady doesn’t like boats and was a bit unsure about going but was there, most of the rest were people I’d already met up with in the few days I’d been in Dalyan. Jamie was hungover as he’d been up drinking until 6.30am but he was still the first to get an alcoholic drink. There was an issue with the white wine so I had a rosé with Jax and Captain Boris made arrangements for a prompt restock of the white for our lunch. Once we stopped at Köyceğiz lake Nick and Annie bravely had a dip in the cold water, but I didn’t go for a swim – it felt a bit too chilly compared to the Vietnamese temperatures, even though it was a hot, sunny day. After the lake Captain Boris was having a quick wine pick up in Dalyan and then on to the area at the back of the beach for our lunch and an optional dip. More white wine was delivered but we lost one of the party as the lady who didn’t have her sea legs on got off, the rest of us stayed on and went to the beach. I enjoyed a white with soda water while I caught a bit of sun on the comfy seats at the front of the boat and admired the gorgeous scenery along the river. The buffet lunch was fantastic, there was lots of different dishes including chicken, köfte, prawns, salads and mezzes that were so delicious that I had to have more than one helping! More booze flowed for most of us, I’d moved on to the red wine, followed by some music from Onur, who had brought his guitar and is a great singer. In memory of Graeme, Jamie’s husband, we all were treated to a cocktail called Mr G and it went down well on the front of the boat with the sun shining. The day had gone so fast and had been such a relaxing trip, my first on a Dalyan boat in 1 year and 9 months. When we got back a few of us decided to have a nice cocktail in the Rum Bar, where I bumped into my next door neighbours, who’d just arrived in Dalyan.
That night I didn’t need any dinner that evening, I started watching Series 3 of The Fall on Netflix but I was having trouble staying awake.

If you want to read more about Captain Boris Boat trips, they have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Captain-Boris-Boat-Trips-222487618557269/

Photo credit – Captain Boris staff and guests

Phong Nha – 19th September

Phong Nha – 19th September

Sunday 19th September was one of those remarkably good days, it was my 25th day of #STFAH during the lockdowns and Captain Caveman made me the best breakfast ever! Beans on (Lake House sourdough) toast with Stu’s smoked bacon, it was so delicious and I had missed baked beans more than I ever thought I would. The number of Corona cases in our district were none and there were none in Dong Hoi. This was good news because tomorrow I was attempting to leave Quang Binh again; I had booked to have my PCR test at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, which I had booked on their Facebook page, I’d booked a taxi there and back with the Phong Nha Farmstay receptionist and I had also decided to combine it with an ‘essential’ shopping trip. Captain Caveman got on with writing a shopping list while I got the suitcases back out and had a repack. We knew, in order to leave Vietnam for Turkey, that I needed to have a flight out of Turkey before my free 3 months visa was expired there. Even though I fully intended to renew my expired residency in Turkey, the rules don’t allow for me to not have an onward flight out of Turkey booked, so Captain Caveman had a look for a cheap flight for me while I had a dip in the pool. Before we knew it we had found a flight, booked and even managed to get it within the dates of me having my 3rd and 4th vaccines in Turkey, assuming I will need them to get back in to Turkey and possibly to get in to the UK without quarantine, by then. So, I now had a flight booked from Istanbul to Heathrow which would land on Saturday 11th December at 4pm, how exciting that I would probably get to use it too. It was only £35 so a bit of a bargain and I could now go back to my home town for Christmas, even if I had to self isolate for 10 days down south first!

In the afternoon I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we would find out tomorrow, but we did decide to do something a bit naughty. Veronika had invited us over to say bye and drink some sparkling Lindeman’s white wine at her Jungalo Collection private pool villa, next to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Captain Caveman had already gone to Stu’s to pick up some ‘essential’ pork products while I took Veronika’s remaining box of kitchen stuff, in the jeep with Duyet. There was no longer a blockade between Elements and the Farmstay so it worked out ok, Captain Caveman was there to meet me and carry the box when I arrived. Veronika had hummus, roasted peppers, olives and rice crackers too for us to have with the chilled bubbly. We thought, if my plan comes off, it would be the last time I would see her for a while, so we ended up having 3 bottles of the fizz, Bich and Ben came over and they gave us pizza and calamari. It was the end of an era as I said my goodbyes and I was sad that we didn’t know when I would see them all again. I was also pretty tiddly and it probably wasn’t the best thing to do when I would perhaps be having the longest day in quite a while, tomorrow! In my head I was expecting that I would be still in Phong Nha for Christmas so it was all a bit unknown right now.

Phong Nha – 22nd August

Phong Nha – 22nd August

I read the news while eating dragon fruit and a small slice of peanut butter on toast for breakfast on Sunday 22nd August.
A Vietnamese woman had been caught selling vaccination appointments to people in Saigon, people are desperate so were paying to get them when they will be given them for free, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210822/woman-nabbed-for-selling-covid19-vaccination-slots-in-ho-chi-minh-city/62713.html
My finger, the one I burnt on the oven door a couple of days ago, was now sporting a blister, my phone wouldn’t recognise the fingerprint unlock function and it was really quite sore. I’d tried putting a plaster on but we only had the really basic ones which as soon as they got wet, were useless. I ended up having to cover it in Sudocrem and put a bandage on it.
Captain Caveman had arranged for us to go over to Stu’s house, The Belafonte, to have lunch with him and the boys. We packed our swimmers and Captain Caveman bought some beers to take round to drink. We left the Elements Collection at around 11.15am on Trigger, the motorbike, which I was so grateful of due to it being so hot and we were in for a pleasant afternoon. Stu had prepared some chicken and salad which we had with fresh baguettes – it was delicious and I managed 2, Captain Caveman had 3 when Stu insisted he had another sandwich and politeness didn’t stop him. We only had a couple of beers as it can effect my tummy and Captain Caveman was driving so we spent quite a bit of time in the swimming pool. It was my first time in the big pool which is quite deep and has no steps to get out so I was concerned I might be in there a while. I think we were in the pool almost 2 hours just chatting shit and enjoying swimming in a bigger, deeper pool. When it came to get out I managed it with just a bit of help from Captain Caveman and was absolutely fine. Unfortunately my stomach was still a bit temperamental and so we said our farewells and headed back home for a siesta. Later that day we decided to seriously look at my leaving plans, after all I legally only had 18 days left in Vietnam. We came up with this itinerary, initially for in a week’s time:

Monday 8am PCR test, pick up results at 2pm. Leave at 7pm and drive to Hanoi,
Tuesday arrive at Hanoi airport at 5am,
Check-in 9.30am,
Fly at 12.30pm via Singapore with 8.5 hrs in transit at the airport,
then fly on to Istanbul,
then fly to Dalaman,
Car pick up to Dalyan.

It would be possible to do it earlier than I needed to leave but we both agreed sooner would be better now that we had decided. The good thing about booking this flight was if it cancelled there was another one at 18.50 the same day or 12.30 the next day so less room for problems (hopefully). Captain Caveman said he would book it when he got back from his 3 day work trip on Wednesday, as by then we were both expecting I would have had my 2nd vaccine.
I was feeling fine again by dinner time so Captain Caveman made us a spaghetti dish to finish off a lovely weekend.

Phong Nha – 15th August

Phong Nha – 15th August

I was still in bed asleep on Sunday 15th August when Stu popped over to drop us the bacon and pulled pork off, Captain Caveman was already up and about in the kitchen making coffee and warming a croissant. He brought me up a cup of jasmine tea and then for breakfast I had a croissant, a banana and a mangosteen. I caught up on the news of various cities of Vietnam who were now facing longer lockdowns and stricter checkpoints to go in or out, locals had to provide documentation just to go to work and the hospitals in the major cities were at breaking point – makeshift ones were being built or disused buildings were being turned in to medical or quarantine facilities. I read about a terrible situation that occured with a sick man (not with Corona) who needed emergency care but didn’t get it (from 5 different hospitals) because they were dealing with more Corona cases, here’s the article:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210815/man-dies-at-home-after-being-rejected-by-five-healthcare-facilities-in-southern-vietnam/62591.html
When I went to get my towel for the pool it wasn’t there and Captain Caveman had decided to use mine, it was already wet through and round his waist. He already had one in the bathroom and one next to his bedside lamp – honestly! I went back in the bedroom with a face on and watched Sexy Beasts on Netflix which made me laugh. For lunch Captain Caveman tried to make amends for the using of all pool towels unnecessarily and went to make us some bruschetta. I’d already chopped the cucumber, tomato and onion for the salsa style topping but Captain Caveman had to toast the bread and add mango and olives to it – he forgot the olives.
In the afternoon I was hungry (as is usual) so we had a mid afternoon snack of tortilla with the last of the pickled onions. While Veronika went to the Farmstay for Sunday roast, I made us a cheap dinner at home; BBQ jackfruit with potato wedges, red cabbage and carrot which was also pretty healthy too.

Phong Nha – 6th to 8th August

Phong Nha – 6th to 8th August

On Friday 6th August, while I ate buttered toast for breakfast and Captain Caveman rested on the bed, I saw that Vietnam had almost 400 deaths in a day yesterday and that we had a warning text from the authorities for us all to observe the rules and be careful. As Captain Caveman was still feeling a bit tired from the effects of his 2nd vaccine I decided to cook a chicken dish for lunch, with a sauce, the last of the cashew nuts and the steamed rice. He said he also felt a little bit unfocused and he couldn’t remember what he came downstairs for, Veronika and I do that a lot but it was unusual for Captain Caveman! After eating our food I was sat at the bedroom table when I heard a cracking noise near my right eye and ear. I put my hand up to try to feel what it was and my glasses fell off in to my hands, having broken at the part where the arm is joined to the frame – maybe I was turning in to Carrie!
It was finally Captain Caveman’s pay day so we sat down and did some budgeting together – it was going to be a tough month. He paid for my visa, a total of 2.3 million vnd (£73.60) and we had requested from the Phong Nha Farmstay receptionist our bill.
Pizza Night, which was at the Farmstay again, was a good one; we were joined by Stu and the kids and we had a good laugh. We also ordered a 3rd pizza to share and Captain Caveman had eaten 4 slices of it by the time I got back from the loo, I took 2 pieces home for the next day.

It was a very relaxed day on Saturday 7th August, and at 7am it was cloudy and less than 30°C (but not for long). Vietnam’s Corona deaths continued at a high rate and now the total deaths, since the pandemic had began, were over 3,000. The mortality rate was 1.53% which was worse than in Turkey and catching the UK up. Only 31.6% of the cases had recovered which was lower than we had been used to, so far. I had my leftover smoked duck pizza for breakfast and Captain Caveman cycled in to Phong Nha. When he returned he had fixed my onyx ring so that you couldn’t even see or feel the join and I was so pleased! Unfortunately the glasses didn’t hold at all and were completely broken. For lunch I ate a dragon fruit and an apple but then needed a snack later because I was still hungry so I ate the last of the gluten and dairy free brownie I had in the freezer, while Captain Caveman swam in the pool.
For dinner we had chicken with steamed rice, carrots, green beans and peanut salt but while I was stirring the chicken my onyx ring broke again and landed in the pan!

Our alarms went off at 6.45am on Sunday 8th August and I was still very sleepy. Bluey didn’t need her front tyre pumping up but her back one had gone down quite a bit so Captain Caveman obliged. I managed to cycle to the Farmstay in 9 minutes 4 seconds which was a minute faster than my last ride there. Captain Caveman ordered Eggs Benedict and I went for Pho Bo for our breakfast while we waited to say our farewell to the lovely Czech family, Lucie and her son, Martan. She was able to get her 2nd vaccine and so they were travelling back home to Hanoi with 2 other Phong Nha Farmstay guests. Because there were still no domestic flights or trains from the nearest town of Dong Hoi to Hanoi they were sharing a private car to travel the 500km North, this was also what the cavers would have to do and probably what I would need to do, when we left. After our delicious breakfast we cycled back in a hot headwind which I found difficult and it took me 10 minutes 3 seconds!
Captain Caveman mentioned that when he had picked up the mangosteens from Mina he had been given the mushrooms that I had ordered but I needed to check because I had accidentally ordered embryos. When I looked in the bag there were 2 fairly substantial mushroom embryos so that we could grow our own. Captain Caveman found it hilarious that I had now accidentally become a mushroom farmer of mushrooms I would probably never get to eat as I would have left! My friend Khanh Linh, Mina’s colleague, sent me the instructions in English on what to do and I set a plan of watering and watching them.
The housekeeping staff had been and done a little spruce up of the bedroom, made the bed and straightened the towels, they didn’t know they may also be helping grow mushrooms this time next week. Later Eric, the bee, stopped by for lunch and while Captain Caveman had a sandwich I made myself vegetable and egg fried rice. It was Watto’s birthday today and so there was a party at Bom’s River House for him. Captain Caveman went there but I didn’t, the return taxi fare is 300,000vnd (£9.60) which, to put it in perspective, is more than a crate of 24 beers, so he went by bicycle and planned to stay over at the Glass House. I made myself some veggie pasta for dinner and had a diet coke while watching a bit of Netflix.

Phong Nha – 1st August

Phong Nha – 1st August

It was a weird one on Sunday 1st August, it was rainy first thing and Captain Caveman didn’t need to go to Oxalis so we had a lazy morning. I had jam on toast and a mangosteen for breakfast and then saw an unexpected message about my visa extension. Immigration said that they could only do my visa extension if I had proof of a flight booked within the next 30 days. Once they had that they would then do the extension but it would be dated to my flight date. As there were no flights from Dong Hoi to Saigon or Hanoi at this time I didn’t want to be forced to book a flight that I may have to cancel as it may mean I wouldn’t get the refund in time to book a different flight or airline. Captain Caveman had found a flight from Saigon to Singapore on 9th September for £31 which I wouldn’t use, but could book it, as a last resort just to get the extension. I replied to say I would book a flight when I got my passport stamped and we would see what would happen with that but, as it was a Sunday, I got no further messages about it. I also decided not to worry about it and if they wouldn’t agree then I would look for a flight – it would perhaps be cheaper to pay an overstay fee for up to 10 days than the visa extension fee anyway.
We had a healthy salad for lunch and a couple of gin cocktails in the afternoon, I’d already prepped the vegetables for a Sunday dinner at home, pay day was not far off but we had barely any money left to go out so we had chosen to use what we had left for tomorrow night. We inadvertently decided to take a sourdough loaf off Veronika’s hands, which she gets from Dong Hoi and are pretty big, not realising it costs 200,000vnd (£6.40), when we came to pay for it later. We needed to make better choices on spending until I leave and agreed that once pay day arrived we would plan a budget together and stick to it.
We had a lovely homemade dinner of chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and green beans that evening and it was even pretty healthy.

Phong Nha – 24th & 25th July

Phong Nha – 24th & 25th July

I’d not been feeling too well when I got in bed the previous night and had a headache at the back of my head on the left side. I woke up extremely early on the morning of Saturday 24th July extra sweaty, a worse headache and feeling hot or cold intermittently. There had been rain during the night, it was a bit cloudy and I had to force myself to eat my gluten and dairy free pancakes with banana and honey for breakfast, hoping I’d feel better. I took some paracetamol and ibuprofen and read the news, this time there was some good news. Apparently, Vietnam was going to mix first and second vaccine providers, so those of us vaccinated with Astra Zeneca, may get Pfizer as their 2nd vaccine, read more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210724/vietnam-to-prioritize-pfizer-as-followup-jab-for-people-who-received-first-dose-of-astrazeneca/62222.html
Reports came of chaos in Hanoi as the stricter social distancing measures were to commence, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210724/people-rush-in-out-of-hanoi-before-strict-social-distancing-implementation/62228.html
Captain Caveman stayed in bed all morning on his phone and eventually got out of bed at 12.30pm, made his own lunch and then sat on the balcony in the rain with a beer. I had a red dragon fruit and popcorn for my lunch and, feeling hot then cold most of the day, I watched a cooking show on Netflix and rested up.
For dinner Captain Caveman cooked chicken and veg while I got the job of peeling chopping and roasting potatoes, garlic, onion and pumpkin which took so much time to cook that we had dinner in two sittings. I still felt unwell so I went to bed early, during the night there was a massive storm and I was even a bit scared as the thunder and lightening sounded like they were hitting the roof.

On Sunday 25th July I still felt unwell and was awake really early taking some painkillers for my headache which still hadn’t gone and I also had a touch of indigestion. It was cloudy so there was no sunrise to see and Captain Caveman didn’t cycle in to work, with it being a Sunday. I had another nap to try to shake off the head and neck pains.
Captain Caveman made us bacon sandwiches for breakfast, we’d ran out of brown sauce so I had to have Vietnamese tomato sauce which is ultra sweet, and I had orange juice, jasmine tea and lots of cold water to keep hydrated too. I took over the oven and did a mass roasting of potatoes, shallots, pumpkin and onion ready to make our Sunday dinner. We do love the Phong Nha Farmstay dinner but 600,000vnd (£18.60) for the 2 of us is out of our price range at the moment. Instead we would prepare a healthier version at home, no wine and no cake for a start. I was a hot sweaty mess after being on roasting (literally) duty and so Captain Caveman made us lunch and in the afternoon I had 2 dairy free White Russians as I thought I’d started to feel better.
By the time it came to dinner time I was feeling much better, the headache had almost gone, I was a bit less sweaty and I managed to tuck in to a lovely dinner of chicken, potatoes, onion, pumpkin, carrot and broccoli with a dash of BBQ sauce on the side for dipping.

Phong Nha – 18th July

Phong Nha – 18th July

At 5.30am I was up and taking photos of the sunrise (my camera doesn’t do it justice) and I had pineapple pancakes and jasmine tea for my breakfast on Sunday 18th July while reading the news;
An announcement that Hanoi was to go in to lockdown too, more here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/hanoi-tightens-covid-19-restrictions-as-vietnam-reaches-new-height-in-daily-infections/
This was hopefully not going to be a problem for a friend who was heading up there for a few days before his international flight, as well as another mate who was already there and would be stuck in his Hanoi hotel for another 9 days. This would be the airport I would leave from and so I would change my plans to stay less time in Hanoi and I’d take food with me so I didn’t have to go anywhere. The good thing about being British is we know how to queue but in Vietnam it is practically alien to do so, meaning the Corona situation worsens as people don’t understand not to crowd, more here: 
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210718/tens-of-thousands-leave-vietnams-southern-hubs-ahead-of-mass-covid19-social-distancing/62134.html
Captain Caveman had stayed at the Glass House last night and had taken himself off for a birthday breakfast of Eggs Benedict at The Villas on his journey back home. We had organised a birthday lunch for him at one of our favourite places and had invited some of his friends and colleagues.

We had took a chance to book a table at East Hill for BBQ chicken and beers from 11.30am – it gets busy on Sundays so we usually avoid weekends. Captain Caveman pumped up Bluey’s tyres for me and we cycled it there in about 10 minutes, being overtaken by Stu and Jack on the way. On arrival East Hill had very kindly reserved us a table and even had a sign with my name and the time on. We ordered 2 chicken combos when we arrived, we don’t preorder because often the Vietnamese contingent can arrive late and then the chicken has been snaffled already. Next to arrive were Colin, Watto, Howard and Deb who had impressively cycled it from Phong Nha, then Mark arrived and we all ordered cold drinks and waited for others to arrive. The Funny Monkey’s team arrived and brought Captain Caveman a gift of homemade cookies which was so lovely. BBQ chicken arrived, the cavers ordered 2 more and we all started on the first lot of food. Mr Nguyen was last to arrive, looking very smart and carrying 24 cans of beer – what a legend! More beers were had and some photos taken and I had the bright idea to order even more chicken, thinking that any latecomers would show up soon! It was a really good lunchtime treat and it was good to see so many people celebrate Captain Caveman’s birthday.

Having left East Hill after a wonderful lunch we arrived back at Elements Collection about 2pm. Thankfully Tatas had taken the beers on her motorbike as Captain Caveman has no basket and I would have struggled to carry them on Bluey. It was so hot that we got in the pool straight away, Tatas hadn’t brought her swimmers so sat in a deckchair in denim dungarees. We all had a beer and it was at this point that Captain Caveman revealed what had happened to Tatas’ carrot cake on Tuesday; he had taken it, in the seat of the motorbike but had decided to take it to Oxalis and gobble it down for his hungover breakfast then pretend it had been stolen from the bike! He confessed from the pool, Tatas and I were shocked especially as we had lots more cake at home!  Hien popped round and brought Captain Caveman a bottle of red wine, which was really lovely. Tatas and I ‘persuaded’ (it didn’t take much doing) Captain Caveman we should go to the Farmstay for a happy hour drink to finish off his birthday with the Farmstay family. We ended up having chicken quesadillas, pitta bread with dips and wine! A birthday cake was presented and we sang Happy Birthday to Captain Caveman before all having a piece of cake. When we got back home there was a tiny surprise which I had forgotten about until the next day.

Phong Nha – 10th & 11th July

Phong Nha – 10th & 11th July

On Saturday 10th July I had 2 gluten free, dairy free pancakes with banana and honey for breakfast and read the daily Corona stats. Unfortunately in Vietnam there had been 2 more deaths, one of them didn’t have long between diagnosis and dying, which was concerning. More info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/989833/two-more-covid-related-deaths-reported-in-viet-nam.html
There was an updated list of categories for people receiving the vaccine in Vietnam and I would have been at the very bottom had it not been for Oxalis and Captain Caveman. Unfortunately the vaccine progress was still slow here and therefore cases were going to keep coming and deaths were inevitable, especially for those with underlying health issues already.
For lunch I had the left over buffet from last night’s party and in the afternoon I decided to tackle the rather expensive pomelo for a snack and realised it would last me for days. Around 5pm, I was swimming in the pool when Veronika asked if I’d like to share some wine with her, it was very hot weather again, after some storms in the night, so of course I agreed. She even got some crackers from Momma D’s out and an avocado for nibbles. Veronika kept topping up my glass and by the time it came for me to reheat my jackfruit seed curry for dinner I was rather merry. The curry with steamed rice was absolutely delicious and very filling but, as is usual with masaman curry, it made me ill as soon as I’d eaten it.




I started what was about to be a mammoth task on Sunday 11th July; transferring all my photos and videos from the laptop to one of the SD cards. I had a slice of buttered toast and a slice of toast with jam for breakfast (with no issues) and read the news. Because the number of daily cases was getting bigger each day they were proposing even tighter measures in Saigon, more info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/989958/hcm-city-sets-up-mobile-teams-for-covid-19-testing-at-home-tightens-travel-from-nearby-provinces.html
Reports of bringing in a quick PCR tests at Hanoi airport meant this could be better for when I leave so I wouldn’t have to travel or wait long for my result to enable me to fly to Turkey, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210711/hanoi-airport-offers-covid19-testing-service-to-passengers/62001.html
For lunch I ate some pomelo and was expecting Tatas to come over for a swim in the afternoon. She arrived later than I expected which meant I had totally cleared everything of mine from the laptop and it was starting to function again, I could now view photos and videos, so started looking at old memory sticks. Tatas and I sat on the balcony with a cold beer but she hadn’t brought her swimmers. I had a bit of a swim and we arranged to go to the Happy Hour and Farmstay Sunday dinner with Veronika at 5.30pm ish. The Elements Collection staff brought us a plate each of warm jackfruit and peanut salt. I love it and was keen to tuck in to ours with another beer.

After pool time (for me) and showers for both of us all 3 of us got a lift with Duyet to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Tatas and Veronika were on the gin and tonics and I had rum and diet cokes (2 for 1 as we love a bargain) and we ordered our roast dinners. We met the first person I have ever met from Bhutan, a lovely customer from Tatas’ last Son Doong tour. Tatas had my pasta, I had her crackling, pumpkin and Yorkshire pudding and the food was excellent – I do enjoy a roast dinner almost as much as wine. Tatas decided to try a Pina Colada which she was now getting in to. She insisted on buying a bottle of red wine for us to share and we also got a glass of wine included and a carrot cake each – we took the carrot cake home as we were too full after such a substantial portion!

Phong Nha – 3rd & 4th July

Phong Nha – 3rd & 4th July

While Captain Caveman went to Phong Nha on Saturday 3rd July I packed my suitcases, one of which was a hand luggage case I’d borrowed from Vanessa in Dalyan, thinking I’d be giving it back 3 months later. I’d hoped for a message first thing about my visa extension decision but didn’t get one and so I had my usual pancake breakfast and read the news.
In Vietnam yesterday we had the biggest amount of cases in one day so far and this 4th wave was certainly continuing to be a worry:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/985492/viet-nam-sees-record-high-daily-increase-of-covid-19-cases-on-saturday.html
At 11.48 a text confirmed there had been no response from immigration as promised so we could perhaps assume I was still leaving, although it would still be double checked on Monday when they were back at work. This would mean that option 1 of leaving on Tuesday was definitely cutting it fine so when Captain Caveman returned we decided to go with option 2 of me going to Hanoi next Friday, but we would book the flight on Monday, which was Captain Caveman’s payday. This would also give me time to still attend my own leaving celebrations on Monday too. I researched new phones and found the one I needed which I would also be better off getting in Hanoi because of availability. I got a message from Funny Monkey’s to say that a friend from Dong Hoi had sent Captain Caveman and I a gift, what a lovely surprise. That night Captain Caveman made a massive mushroom risotto and we didn’t argue, he was looking forward to getting back to work and had even managed to be working on Monday, meaning he couldn’t come to celebrate me leaving Phong Nha.

There was some excitement on Sunday 4th July when we used our new gifts. Mo, from Earth cafe in Dong Hoi, had sent us each a cup for our morning drinks and it was such a lovely thing to do. I had jasmine tea in mine, Captain Caveman had Vietnamese coffee and I made more pancake mixture for my breakfast. For some reason neither of us had any lunch but we decided after some time in the pool that we would go to the Farmstay for sunset drinks. It was happy hour so to keep it cheap we both just had 2 for 1 Huda beer, which I hadn’t drank in quite some time. We watched the buffalo get fed and washed in the fields, we chatted about expats getting kicked out of Vietnam and cycling in hot sun with 2 of the Phong Nha Farmstay guests. The two of them were going to Son Doong next week and they were really looking forward to it. 
Back home, while Captain Caveman cooked our dinner, I checked with East Hill that they could accommodate us tomorrow at 11.30am for my leaving lunch and started to get a bit concerned about fitting everything in that I needed to do!

Video of a farmer feeding his buffalo

Photo credit – Captain Caveman

Phong Nha – the last weekend of June

Phong Nha – the last weekend of June

Captain Caveman was off to do some Oxalis work at a resort called Blue Diamond on Friday 25th June, while I had a lay in! I’d been up at 3am with a bad stomach and so I felt terrible and was extra tired. When I woke up again I had a lazy morning at home, reading the news and watching Netflix. In the Vietnamese news there were 2 more deaths, people with diabetes seemed to be a common thing, info here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/980341/two-more-people-die-of-covid-related-complications.html
In Saigon the Corona situation was not getting any better and now health declarations were needed for more locations in the city, more here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/979868/hcm-city-makes-online-health-declaration-mandatory-at-public-sites.html
Meanwhile Turkey was looking good on their vaccine progress, info here:
https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/turkey-exceeds-30-million-in-first-doses-of-covid-19-jabs/news
I finished series 1 of Hinterland and started to watch Too Hot to Handle, Emily looked really familiar but I couldn’t work out why.
For brunch I had a ham salad baguette with pickled onions and gerkins, some cashew nuts from Funny Monkey’s and 3 mangosteen.
Captain Caveman and I had decided that I wouldn’t come to tonight’s pizza night at The Villas because I would find it too difficult to resist the pizza (I was still trying to not have any cheese) so I was going to get an East Hill delivery instead. Unfortunately Captain Caveman had forgotten to leave me any money so that plan was thwarted. While Captain Caveman went straight for the all you can eat pizza night I made prawns and steamed rice with a tomato based sauce. It was very nice and would have gone well with a glass of wine but we didn’t have any. I lucked out for dessert when I tried walnut milk rice pudding for the first time, only to find it tastes pretty terrible, even a spoonful of jam couldn’t save it!
Captain Caveman returned with a tummy full of delicious pizza and I was very envious as we discussed what we should do about a holiday, now that I had my passport back. We were both hoping for a visit to Le Domaine de Tam Hai, which we could now travel to, but when we looked at how much time we had until my next visa extension submission, our money situation and the increasing amounts of Corona in other areas of Vietnam, we had to make the painful decision not to go anywhere. This would probably have been our last holiday together while we are both in Vietnam, as once the tours to Son Doong start again, Captain Caveman would be very busy.

Captain Caveman was awake very early on Saturday 26th June with a bad stomach, which he rarely gets. He got a lift over to The Villas to retrieve his bicycle from last night and treated himself to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast there. I do miss The Villas for breakfast and can’t even remember the last time I had some baked beans or a pho. I had a couple of gluten free pancakes, 2 bananas and some honey for my breakfast, which were very nice but I do miss being able to eat normal food.
While I ate, I read an interesting blog post from a westerner about Corona in Vietnam, check this out for a bit of perspective as to how it is in Vietnam:
https://vietnamweekly.substack.com/p/vietnams-outbreak-splits-in-two
When Captain Caveman returned he had 3 pieces of information to update me on;
1) Oxalis had received confirmation of the Son Doong tours from the 6th July and he would be very busy, hopefully for the rest of the season (July and August tour dates),
2) We only have 1.5 million vnd (£48) left to last us until pay day in 10 days time, and
3) Captain Caveman had brought me some crisps from The Villas, the Naturals ones, which I love. He had also tried to get me a memory stick or a SD card and couldn’t, so I was still struggling to get my phone to work properly and, with the money situation, Captain Caveman said he would rather spend the money on gin. I didn’t agree but, of course, it’s his money so I didn’t get to make the decision.
Captain Caveman had a crisp sandwich and beer for lunch I had crisps with a small piece of bread, no butter, and a Strongbow by the pool. I roasted 6 aubergines and what felt like hundreds of cloves of garlic until I was a hot, purple, sweaty mess, in the heat of the kitchen. Captain Caveman made Baba Ganoush with the cooked aubergines once I had shoved it all in a jar with the peeled garlic (I can see why people buy the Lazy Garlic jars)! He made a lovely dinner of chicken, potatoes, onions and peppers with BBQ sauce which (again) would have gone well with a nice glass of wine. Wine is expensive here so I was trying my best to go without but a life without cheese and wine is not a good one and I missed it, a lot!

On Sunday 27th June Captain Caveman didn’t go to Oxalis but he did get a message to confirm his next Son Doong tour would be on the 9th July, with the briefing on the 8th, so he was very happy about that. I completed a few blogs in bed but couldn’t post them because of the phone issues and so lined them up in drafts for when I can. I finally got up to make pancakes at 11.45am and when I started making the mixture Captain Caveman appeared and started making a cooked breakfast without any consultation. He made us both bacon, mushrooms, peppers, potatoes and onion (him with added egg) and so mine was ready while I was still stirring the pancake mix. I ended up making a mess of it because I couldn’t remember how much milk and water I had added and put it in a jar in the fridge. After breakfast I caught up with more writing and apart from a break for a Baba Ganoush lunch I kept myself busy. I finally got in the pool after 5pm, Captain Caveman was already in there and, while Veronika and Howie went up to Phong Nha Farmstay for Sunday Roast dinner, we had decided that spending 600,000vnd (£19.20) from our remaining funds was not a sensible action and we made a chicken dinner at home instead. I roasted a whole pumpkin, in batches, so that we could have some with dinner and the rest I could make a soup with tomorrow. I even attempted Yorkshire pudding with the batter mix from earlier but it was not very successful, I thought it was the almond milk that ruined it but Captain Caveman thought that 230°C wasn’t hot enough! Before bed I found an app to track everything I eat and drink as well as my reactions and any symptoms for allergies, I added a week’s worth of data and it told me dragon fruit is my allergy of the week so far! It obviously needs more information so I will continue for a month and see what it comes up with.

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of June

Phong Nha – the 3rd weekend of June

On Friday 18th June I woke up aching and sweating profusely, my left arm wouldn’t move and my hip and shoulder were a little sore too. I was disappointed as we had arranged to cycle to Karst Villas to meet some friends for lunch but there was no way I could go, I struggled to put knickers on and definitely couldn’t manage a bra. Luckily I had taken advice from family to take paracetamol which was helping with the strange headache I had. Captain Caveman had gone to Phong Nha while I rested and read the news. In Saigon the Corona case count was getting worse, more info here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210618/ho-chi-minh-city-detects-nearly-150-domestic-coronavirus-cases-its-largestever-daily-count/61600.html
I managed to get myself a banana and some gluten free cake for breakfast but was a bit naughty for lunch and had a ham and cheese sandwich with just a bit of uncooked cheese on – I expected to be ill but was fine.
When Captain Caveman got home he said our friends might join the pizza night later but they were finding it difficult and expensive to get a taxi from Karst Villas to town and so they weren’t sure. I managed to dress myself by the time Ben came to pick us up for pizza night. At The Villas there was a few of us for pizza; Andrew, Trang, Chung Son, Veronika, Bich and Ben. I had a couple of glasses of wine and only managed 6 slices of delicious pizza. I was so tired that we decided to go straight to bed when we got home, before I’d cleaned my teeth and got in bed, Captain Caveman was already snoring away!

We woke up to a muffled noise in the living room on Saturday 19th June so Captain Caveman went out to have a look. We were having new cushions on the sofa in a brown fabric and they looked lovely. I also checked to see if I’d had a response from my message to Minh Thuy asking for a photo of my visa stamp in my passport, there had been a few cases where an extension had been granted but with the XC on it which meant having to leave at the end of this extension and I wanted to check if it had that. Now that I had received one jab I would really like to get the second one before I have to leave, and obviously just wanted to know but I got no reply.
After a month of Danang having no more Corona cases in the community there came a news article to say there was one, reported as coming from Saigon, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210619/da-nang-records-first-local-coronavirus-case-in-one-month-related-to-driver-from-saigon/61603.html
My arm was still aching and the headache was still bad enough for paracetamol, which I had almost ran out of, plus I still felt more tired than usual – it was hard to tell if it was the jab or the heat which caused it though! I didn’t bother with breakfast but I decided to have one of the frozen sausage rolls which Captain Caveman had brought back from Momma D’s. I knew I shouldn’t but it was really tasty and not bad for 40,000vnd (£1.24), still not sure if it was worth the bad stomach though! In the afternoon my day took a turn for the worst when I discovered that my SD card (in my phone) was not working and had corrupted with a huge amount of photos on it as well as the laptop deciding it was not going to work either! I was so mad because it now meant I couldn’t add any photos to my joloyolo blog so was taking longer than usual. Typically, it looked like we needed to get a new laptop, but that was going to cost too much so we would try to buy a memory stick to take stuff off the laptop and free up some space to be able to check my phone’s SD card. For dinner Captain Caveman made prawns with rice noodles (after I had deveined and cleaned them up) and I had no alcohol, which is unusual for a Saturday.

On Sunday 20th June I spent too much stressful, and wasted, time trying to move photos from my phone to the laptop, only for me not to know if it worked as I was unable to view them on either device! I made myself 2 gluten free pancakes which I had with banana and honey and made enough mixture to last a few days. My arm was back to almost normal, unless I touched it, and the headache had gone.
In the Corona news here announcements were made of Danang closing down after 23 cases in a day, more here:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/977893/da-nang-closes-off-beaches-and-sit-in-dining-again-as-new-covid-19-outbreak-emerges.html
Overall there were still not too many deaths but  Vietnam were now up to 64 in total as deaths 63 & 64 were reported on, read the details here:
https://vietnaminsider.vn/vietnam-reports-two-more-covid-19-deaths/
For lunch I had peanut butter on toast but didn’t join in on the drinking by the pool with Captain Caveman. I decided I would like to go to the Farmstay Sunday roast this evening and we booked Duyet in for 6.30pm to take us in the jeep.
I had 2 glasses of red wine with my food and I asked for it without Yorkshire pudding (which I love) and the side of cheesy pasta but I did have a bit of gravy. Veronika had already drove her motorbike up to the Farmstay so she could have a swim and then her and Ben came to join our table for their dinner. Captain Caveman had cheesecake for pudding and he took mine home, along with some leftover dinner for me to have. It was a nice treat to go out for dinner but it did mean we would need to keep an eye on the budget for the rest of the month.

Phong Nha – 30th May

Phong Nha – 30th May

I decided not to have any breakfast on Sunday 30th May because I had arranged to meet friends at East Hill for lunch. I read in the news that the church related Corona spreaders in Saigon were facing criminal charges, info here:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/hcmc-religious-mission-faces-criminal-charge-for-spreading-covid-19-4286287.html
I cycled with Captain Caveman the 5 minutes to East Hill and on the way I noticed that my bangle had started to bubble and appeared to be struggling to cope in the heat. As we pulled in to the path Hanh was arriving on her motorbike and when we got up the steps to the seated area Tatas was already there and had ordered BBQ chicken, sticky rice and extra cucumber. I was beginning to think Veronika was right to stay at home because it was too hot to go out but at least there was a bit of a breeze where we were. The food was, as always, delicious and we moved seats when the natural breeze stopped, to sit near a fan. Hanh and I had a couple of ciders, Tatas and Captain Caveman had a couple of Tiger Crystal beers and we shared a chicken combo which I’d told Captain Caveman not to be too greedy over, this time. We invited the girls back to our place so we could have a dip in the pool but Hanh had to go to an appointment.

Video of the BBQ chicken arriving at East Hill

Tatas was at Elements before us, the cycle back was brutally hot and I was desperate to get in the pool, the water was so hot though. Captain Caveman got word from a customer on his next Son Doong tour that he had cancelled his trip from Saigon later today because he was an F2 case and was having to self isolate at home. We should have been coming back from our holiday today but I’d managed to forget about it by having a nice day in Phong Nha, instead.

At 5.15pm Captain Caveman and I headed off to the Farmstay in the funky new Elements Collection jeep. We took advantage of the Farmstay Happy Hour with gin and tonics for Captain Caveman and Tatas while I went off piste with a rum and diet coke for a nice change. Captain Caveman and I shared a chicken quesadillas and Tatas had fresh spring rolls which she liked so much that she ordered a second portion of. She didn’t have the Sunday roast but we did and the Farmstay family joined us. The food was fantastic and I had trouble saving some to take home. I even had 2 pieces of crackling this week so I was very pleased with that.
Back home we read the news together in bed; from midnight tonight HCMC was going in to a type of lockdown where some locations would be under directive 15 and others directive 16. This was not good news for Vietnam who have been keeping the virus under control quite well, but it was necessary to protect what medical resources and healthcare workers they did have, as well as doing everything possible to prevent the spread of this new mutated version of the virus.

Tatas took a video of our first trip in the Elements Collection jeep
Captain Caveman’s time lapse video of our first trip in the jeep

Photo & video credit – Captain Caveman and Tatas

Phong Nha – 23rd May

Phong Nha – 23rd May

It was a funny old day on Sunday 23rd May, full of tricky decision making. I was awake at 6am, reading the news and checking my list of jobs left for me by Captain Caveman; Corona death number 42 had been reported in Vietnam. Unfortunately the first of my tasks, which then lead to all the others, was to arrange to pick up my passport, which had not arrived yet. Our Plan A had consisted of flying to Saigon tonight, staying for a couple of nights, flying to Tam Ky, staying 4 nights at Le Domaine de Tam Hai resort then flying back via Saigon. Without a passport I knew I couldn’t get on the flight so Plan B was for us to either wait until the next day or for Captain Caveman to go ahead of me and then I would go the next day, seeing as my passport was ‘definitely’ going to be back by the 24th! Plan C was looking more likely in that we could take a private car from Phong Nha to Tam Hai, thus not needing my passport, and miss out Saigon, but was fractionally more expensive than flying there, and would take a day of travelling. Plan D, which could happen if the corona cases kept increasing at the rate they were, was to maybe just stay in Phong Nha!
I packed my bag then checked my phone every few seconds, waiting for my visa agent to let me know my passport had arrived – unfortunately she didn’t sound sure it would. I made enquiries about all of Plans A-D in readiness for a discussion with my other half, and holiday buddy, later! I was super organised and left no detail explored while still hoping for my passport to show up. I had a banana and some M&Ms for breakfast, then cheese and brown rice crackers for lunch, I’d hopefully be eating dinner in Thao Dien, Saigon, with friends later tonight. 
Captain Caveman was on his way out of Son Doong just after I’d eaten lunch and all his customers were on a flight that evenin. I got a message to say he was on the bus heading back to Phong Nha and that he’d be at the Glass House in 20 minutes. He needed an update as to what was going on with my passport and Corona restrictions so I sent him my findings.

In conclusion the decision for Captain Caveman now was one of the following:

Plan A: go to SGN 23/5 17.45 alone

Plan B: go to SGN 24/5 with Jo (passport permitting)

Plan C: no SGN, book a car to Tam Hai Mon/Tue, decide later to come back via car or flight

Plan D: stay in Phong Nha for his week off.

If you were Captain Caveman, what would you have done? And what decision do you think he actually made?

In between me sending my updated situation list to Captain Caveman and me speaking to him, Caroline at Le Domaine de Tam Hai had been super busy and helpful. She was an absolute star in getting me more details and attempting to do all she could so that we could go there for a holiday without flying and without my passport, if it didn’t turn up.
I got a message from a freshly showered Captain Caveman to tell me he was cycling back to Elements and to book a lift with Duyet for 4.30pm to take both of us to the Phong Nha Farmstay. He was meeting his customers there for cocktails before their flight, which Captain Caveman had decided not to take with them. 
When it got to 4.30pm Captain Caveman was already downstairs and I went to join him, he said we would get the flight tomorrow, once (if) I had my passport back. At the Farmstay I was introduced to Captain Caveman’s group who were mainly french, very nice and not getting their flight to Saigon until 8pm, so were leaving at 6pm. We had margaritas and chatted about the Son Doong tour. Thien, one of the customers, poured us all a glass of champagne which they had brought with them and I had a glass or two. We shared some brie and iberico meats with the group – what a fantastic treat. Veronika joined us just in time for a bit of brie and we all watched the sunset before they had to leave for the airport – without us!

We stayed at the Farmstay and had more wine and a Sunday Roast which had crackling on this time and was really good. It was a shame we hadn’t been able to set off for our holiday but my agent had reassured me that the passport would be with her tomorrow.