Dalyan – 28th September

Dalyan – 28th September

The sunrise was at 7.20am on Tuesday 28th September and I took a photo out of my bedroom window to send to Captain Caveman, he sent one back and told me he was off round to Stu’s house today. I decided to scrub more of the kitchen stuff and ended up throwing away one of the pans that had the old oil in it, it was like jelly and glue mixed together and it was taking ages to even loosen up, it must have been in the oven, wedged in to a baking tray with 2 oven gloves, since the last customer stayed here in 2020. For breakfast I had hummus, salad and olives and by 10.30am some of my draining board Jenga had collapsed on account of us having a very small earthquake, a couple of pieces of the worktop fell off!

I got the slow cooker out and made bolognese, which made good use of some of the 2 year old Dikmen wine and smelled so good. Our Aussie friends, and owners of the apartment downstairs, who are still locked down in Australia, asked me to take photos of their plants to see if they had survived, they were missing Dalyan and couldn’t wait to be able to visit again.
I went to get more shopping and had seen a new shop advertising Vegan cheese on Facebook so decided to have a look in there too.

Here’s what I bought in each of the 3 shops I went to, and the prices:

Şok supermarket
Popcorn 2.60
Rice 5.90
Fairy liquid 10.25
Lentils 12.50
Parmesan cheese 17.50

Total 48.75 lira (£4.13)

Şevikoğlu supermarket
Potatoes 2.88
Aubergines 4.96
Red cabbage 5.27
1 tin of tomatoes 7.90

Total 21.01lira (£1.78)

Dalyan şarküteri
1 tub of black olives
1 tin of coconut milk
1 Lurpak butter
1 vegan cheese
1 cheddar cheese
1 Sharwood’s sauce

I’m not sure of the individual prices but the total was 267 lira (£22.63), it was so expensive because I was buying imported products, but it’s a very nice shop.

I had finally got a Turkish phone number now and I arranged to pick up the keys for my parents place, later in the week so I could check on it for them. We were still hoping they would be able to come out to Turkey to visit this year so I was keeping my fingers crossed. My mom had said she might be able to bring me some bras and my UK bank card if they came out and I hoped she had room for my popcorn maker too – you can buy ready made popcorn here but it’s made with oil so it is fattening.
For dinner I had some of the Bolognese with pasta and it was so good, some went in the fridge and the rest in the freezer, I watched more of The Fall on Netflix before bed as I needed another early night – tomorrow it would be 1 week since I arrived in Dalyan and I had exciting plans.

Dalyan – 27th September

Dalyan – 27th September

I woke up early on Monday 27th September but went back to sleep, it had been 1 week since I had woken up in bed with Captain Caveman, but it already felt longer and we had hardly spoken in that time. Having eaten loads of things that I probably shouldn’t, on the boat trip yesterday, my stomach was playing up and so I didn’t dare leave the house to do some of the things on my to do list. I had cornflakes and milk for breakfast then crisps and cherry juice for lunch and I was putting off having the allergy test in case I found out I was allergic to something worse than gluten or dairy – what if it was wine!? I did some laundry, washed some pots that had been left in the oven by some guests, for a long time, with oil in (nice!) and I unpacked more of my stuff. I took photos of our pergola and overgrown bougainvillea plant which was desperately ready for a cut and I was glad that King Emlak were sending the gardener round. It looked like some residents in grounds and shops near to our gate were using the space as a dumping ground for their rubbish instead of walking it to the nearby bin – why are people so thoughtless when it comes to litter!?

In the afternoon I managed a trip to the supermarket, the phone shop and the bank.
Here’s what was in my shopping basket and the prices:

Migros Supermarket
Onions 1.21
Garlic 4.74
Quark 5.50
Toast loaf 6.45
Pasta 6.75
Hummus 7.95
Tomato paste 9.95
Mushrooms 10.90
1 tin of baked beans 14.44
3 chicken breasts 23.73
500g beef mince 25.60
Toilet paper 42.75

Total spent 159.89 lira (£13.55)

My Turkcell SIM card cost just 190 lira (£16) and came with data and minutes, not quite as cheap as in Vietnam but it would do the trick for me to be able to use internet banking again. When I got back the gardener was still working on the garden, even the rosemary and orange trees had been growing a lot more than I had anticipated and it was clear we would need to do something about the pergola which was in a state of disrepair and had a cat sleeping in it. I finally got to speak to Captain Caveman who was doing well and wasn’t missing me yet. By the evening I was feeling a bit better so I went to Pammukale restaurant and picked up a takeaway pide and side salad. It is one of my old favourites and the quality is consistently good, my parents have been visiting this restaurant for years and we all love it. My pide was really tasty and I was going to save half, but (obviously) I didn’t.

Dalyan – 24th September

Dalyan – 24th September

When I was in Phong Nha, Friday night was all you can eat pizza night, now that I’m in Dalyan, Friday is fish and chip night. On Friday 24th September I had pre-ordered my fish and chips at Lukka Bar, local restaurant/bars not far away from our apartment. I was very excited to be having fish and chips, having not been to the UK for 3 years, it would probably be one of the English meals I do miss from back home, even though I had eaten it a few times in Vietnam.
When I woke up Captain Caveman had sent me a video of the rain where he was and it didn’t look good, potential flooding was still possible and he wasn’t going anywhere. I also kept checking the Vietnamese Corona data to see if there was any increase in cases in our village, as Bich had been told by the policeman. Interestingly, there were still no cases reported in Khuong Ha, like last time and they never increased the lockdown the day after I left, as Captain Caveman and I had suspected. This was not the first time we had been told there were positive cases near us and then it turned out not to be the case. Captain Caveman and I think that when a person is suspected of being positive and goes for testing they are assumed positive regardless and the gossip goes round that they are, when they come back negative nobody is shouting about it – very misleading and causes unnecessary panic.
In Dalyan it was sunny as I headed off to the Millennium Shop to buy a battery for my scales, on the way I noticed the new pergola at the entrance to Block A on our complex, it looked nice. There were 2 new places behind Jiks Bar; a coffee roasting cafe and a pet shop, I got 2 batteries for 15 lira (£1.27) and then walked to Migros, one of the main high street supermarkets, where I bought quite a bit of stuff.

For those of you who want to know what was in my shopping basket that morning and the costs of the items, here it is:

Migros Supermarket
2 simits 2.25
Washing up sponges 4.95
1 packet of salami 6.85
1 litre of cherry juice 7.95
Cornflakes 7.95
2 packets of biscuits 8.00
1 packet of cheese slices 8.50 200g of butter 8.50
1 litre of milk 9.25
2 croissants 9.80
Bin bags 9.90
Mouthwash 15.21
Ziplock bags 15.50
Toothpaste 17.95
3 liquid soaps 39.36

Total spent 204.92 lira (£17.37)

I noticed that people were wearing masks in the shop but not social distancing at all. At the check out I was surprised to see my loyalty card still worked and I was pleased as I got a 3 for 2 deal on soap.
It wasn’t an average weekly shop though as there were quite a few things that I would only shop for every now and again and I couldn’t carry all that I needed to in one go.
Back home I noticed the pergola to Block B (our’s) was leaning under the weight of the extremely overgrown bougainvillea plant and I had a little sit down as my ankle was hurting, I was definitely finding the walking about slow and a bit painful, but I was doing ok with the 2 sets of marble stairs at home. I was excited to have a battery in my weighing scales and was looking forward to seeing how much weight I had lost. I checked it 3 times, just to be sure, but I wasn’t happy – I was the same weight as when I left Turkey 20 months ago! I could tell it was from eating so much bread recently, which was not good at all. I still had a huge breakfast of 2 croissants, 1 simit, and a bowl of Turkish brand cornflakes with normal milk as I was feeling hungry, none of this made me ill.

Video from Captain Caveman in a rainy Phong Nha, Vietnam

For lunch I met Jamie at Lukka Bar where he had 2 starters, nachos and chicken strips, which were huge portions and I had my first Turkish restaurant meal, a chicken shish, which was also massive and I took half home for tomorrow. There’s a new shop next door to Lukka Bar, it’s Katrina’s shop and has some really nice items in there – it also smells divine! Maizie Moo has quite an upmarket, luxurious feel to it and looks really nice, I even got some free samples to try as well as having a good old sniff at all the scents. My eczema on my face had been made worse by the wearing of a mask for 48 hours and so Katrina recommended a skin treatment which I started straight away (here’s the Facebook page for her new shop: https://www.facebook.com/maiziemoohomescents/).
After having lunch and a mooch round Maizie Moo’s we were sensible and went home, 2 years ago we would have been on an all day and night session but we needed to take it easy as we had booked for tonight not fully realising what we had let ourselves in for!

Not only was it fish and chips night but it was also Lukka’s Bingo night, this week was a 90s theme. Sarah had organised it and had booked a table for 8 of us. Jamie ordered Hunters chicken and chips, while the rest of us had fish and chips, mine with plenty of vinegar. It was good but took a while to be served as the place was full and so we were all a bit tiddly by the time the 90s bingo started. My fish and chips plus the red wines came to a total of 127 lira (£10.76) and I definitely got a large portion. Süleyman arrived later and sat on the end of the table, next to me and Jamie, ordered a burger and we ended up having a right old laugh. There was lots of photo and video taking (by other people) and so we gave it our all on the singing, mainly because it had been such a long time since we’d all got together and we were having a great time. I’m not a massive bingo fan but the games were well planned and Mehmet was so amusing as he was reading out the songs! Here’s a video of bingo at Lukka bar:
One thing I had noticed about being back in Turkey was the amount of people still smoking and I found it hard to deal with, especially as I’d not encountered many smokers together in Vietnam, so when the bingo finished I went home, reeking of fags – I was definitely going to get through more hair products in Dalyan if I had to wash my hair more often!

Photo credit Lukka Bar, Jamie & Sarah

Dalyan – 23rd September

Dalyan – 23rd September

I woke up before 7am on Thursday 23rd September, expecting it to be almost lunchtime. My watch said 10.45am but that was still on Vietnamese time which is 4 hours ahead of Turkey. I had slept well but was still tired and hungry again. I had more of the provisions from Leanne for my breakfast, adding the şakşuka/baba ganoush that I’d brought from the plane which had leaked a bit, then made a list of all the things I needed to do. One of my first jobs was working out which keys are for what and checking all the stuff I packed away in locked cupboards, just over 20 months ago, surprisingly it was still ok. I also started a shopping list as I would need more stuff and I needed a new battery for the bathroom scales ready to see how much I weighed, I didn’t have any scales in Phong Nha. I was slightly concerned that I had been near to more people last night than I have in months, in Vietnam. Today I would try to have a quiet day, I got busy with unpacking and doing some laundry. I only had some almonds and cashews for lunch (taken from one of my plane journeys). For dinner I decided not to go out to eat, as I was struggling to stay awake past 6pm so I went to the local kebab shop and ordered a chicken kebab and chips. When I got it home I watched more Netflix and ate the delicious chicken wrap, I didn’t really need the chips. It would be interesting to see what the scales said tomorrow as I definitely felt like I was lighter than when I was last here so we would see – being back in Turkey with so many eateries and bars open was going to be hard though, the diet would be almost impossible with so much food choice here.

Here’s my shopping from Leanne which was very kindly popped in the fridge for when I arrived (prices in Turkish Lira and is about 11.8 lira to £1):

From Migros supermarket
1 carrier bag 0.25
1 apple 1.34
3 cucumbers 1.93
1 pear 2.29
1 bottle of water 3.25
1 pack of chicken slices 3.95
Tomatoes 5.02
Bread 5.50
1 pack of gluten free biscuits 5.95
1 pack of cheese spread 6.25
1 pack of salami 6.85
1 pack cheddar slices 8.50
Olives 8.79
6 eggs 9.00

Total spent 68.87 (£5.84)

Some things were cheaper than in Vietnam, but overall a little more expensive so I would need to budget well, given that I was expecting to be here for a while. I congratulated myself on managing to have a fairly tame first full day in Dalyan and wondered how long that would last for.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 20th September

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 20th September

It was a very long day on Monday 20th September, which started with my alarm going off at 5.30am. My driver, T, was due to pick me up at 6.15am but he arrived at 6am and I wasn’t ready. When I got to the car at 6.15am T had gone to help one of the staff move something heavy and then we had to go to Duyet’s house, around the corner, to collect a pig to take to Khanh’s in Dong Hoi. I watched as the butchered and bagged up pig was transported less than 20 metres by motorbike by Duyet’s dad, in to the back of our van. I knew we were going to be late for my important PCR test as we pulled in to the petrol station to fill up. We arrived at Medlatec in Dong Hoi 12 minutes late and I incorrectly went up the slippy wet steps to the main reception only to have to come back down them, turn left and in to the loading bay area where a PCR testing facility had been set up. There was just 1 other customer there and about 4 staff and I was given a form, this one was in English, to complete all my details. I decided to ask for a rapid test and the RT-PCR test so that if there was any errors with the RT-PCR certificate I would still be able to travel to Hanoi and get another RT-PCR test there. Although 1 nostril hurt more than the other, this time the pain wore off much easier than the previous couple of times I’d been sampled. I was moved to a waiting area and told to wait 20 minutes for the rapid test result. I checked the Corona numbers and the news as well as reading an email from Singapore Airlines, reminding me I could check in for my flight! I didn’t, as I still didn’t know if I would be actually getting on the flight.
The news in Vietnam had an article of some crazy stuff going on now, check this out:
The technician came over to say there was a problem with my rapid test and I had to wait a little longer, this was the first hurdle of the day. She showed me that my result was negative on a plastic testing device but said she couldn’t get the computer to send the paper document with this on, someone was trying to fix it. This was worrying because my RT-PCR test result needed to be printed at 5pm today and I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. Less than 10 minutes later it was fixed and I got my certificate in a nice envelope and was told I could collect the RT-PCR test certificate at 5pm. I introduced T and told them he would pick it up, I also advised that they needed to put my full birthdate, not just the year, on the print out, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fly.

The next of the morning’s activities, having got my negative rapid test results from Medlatec, was supermarket shopping. T dropped me off at the Vincom centre which was still closed but the VinMart Supermarket was open. It was a strange feeling doing the ‘essential’ weekly shop not knowing if I would be in Vietnam or Turkey in the next few days but I hoped after all this hassle, that Captain Caveman would have all the provisions to himself.

For all of you who have missed a list of my shopping items, here’s what I bought;

1 baguette 9,500
Baby wipes 10,000
Green beans 15,057
Potatoes 20,417
Sandwich loaf 21,000
Ziplock bags 23,000
Carrots 23,616
Red cabbage 33,085
Mushrooms 33,900
Cherry tomatoes 35,108
Onions 36,476
1 tin of mints 46,100
Sunflower oil 57,000
Mouthwash 58,000
Spaghetti 61,000
1 jar of jam 138,000
1.5kg chicken 143,700
500g of butter 161,400

Total spent: 926,359vnd (£29.68)

I was looking forward to seeing how much a comparable shop would be in Dalyan, I suspected it would be more expensive.

As I was leaving at 8.40am the main escalators were still not on so I decided to take my shopping and trolley down in the lift, it was only 1 floor and I intended to leave from the side exit to go to the car. When the lift got down I found the door was locked and I tried to recall the lift but it would only open from the main shopping centre side. I was wondering how on earth I was going to get out when the security guard came to rescue me – if I couldn’t get out of a building without a hitch, things weren’t looking too promising for my attempt to leave the country!

I was on my way back from Dong Hoi on when I got a message from Danny, the driver, he had to get another PCR test, as his would run out at midnight tonight, and he was 150km away from where he needed to pick me up. He said he couldn’t get his results until 4pm and he would be arriving about 6.45-7pm, later than expected. That was fine by me as my results weren’t getting picked up until 5pm in Dong Hoi so it did mean I might have time to eat and say some goodbyes. When I got home Captain Caveman was once again in the kitchen making me a nice breakfast, this time with baked beans. Stu was on his way over to say bye and I had a shower and packed a few last minute things in to my hand luggage. I just happened to look outside and saw a policeman so I told Captain Caveman that maybe he should delay Stu until he’d gone, as we were still in Directive 15 and shouldn’t be having visitors. Before midday I got a call from Bich to tell us the reason for the police visit; apparently there had been some positive Corona cases 500m from our house and so he was letting us know, and telling everyone in the area, not to leave the house. Bich advised that I couldn’t go anywhere and I was gutted but Captain Caveman said we would still go ahead with the plan for me to leave and if I got stopped then so be it. We spoke to Stu to tell him not to come and that I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we decided against me inviting anyone else over or me going to say bye to friends. Regardless, I made packed lunches and packed frozen bottles of green tea in to a cooler bag, in readiness for a journey that might not happen. We decided to watch Sex Education on Netflix and have some red wine while leftover beef stew was on the cards for my last meal. Because of the cases Bich told us about we were probably going back in to Directive 16 tomorrow and so it was a bit concerning whether I should have permission to leave, if we asked it was likely the People’s Committee could say no, so we didn’t. By 4pm we were almost finishing the wine so we decided to have an early dinner, which we had with rice and it was delicious. Danny had his results and was on his way, the rain had started to become heavy and I was a bit anxious if T would manage to collect my PCR test result as requested – more importantly, would it be correct!?

The final part of the day was pretty stressful! We’d already been told by Bich that the police had informed everyone to stay where they are and that there were positive Corona cases very near to our place which meant we had no idea what would happen when Danny came to pick me up. Captain Caveman and I decided I should still try to leave because tomorrow we would be in no better position and we didn’t know for how long that could remain, plus the forecasted wet weather could also impede my attempts somewhat. There was also the fact that Danny, the driver, was on his way and he would charge another 7 million vnd (£250) regardless of whether I made it to Hanoi airport with him or not – I felt like it was now or never. The evening before, Ben and Bich had mentioned that Danny wanted to pick up 2 bicycles from previous customers that had been left at the Phong Nha Farmstay but I had decided to disregard the details of that, I just needed to get out and not worry about other people’s stuff, plus I’d had 1 too many glasses of fizz.
At 4.30pm I got a couple of messages from T, who was already at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, followed by a phone call to tell me to look at the photo of my PCR test result certificate to check it is ok for him to bring back to me. It didn’t have my nationality on it, which I was concerned about, but it didn’t say I was Vietnamese either, Captain Caveman helped me check it and we thought it would be ok, my full date of birth and the dates all matched – T was on his way and I had sent a copy to Danny.
This was it, I was going! Captain Caveman weighed my suitcase and it was 22kg. My hand luggage was about 8kg, bang on the allowance. When T arrived he had the PCR test paper in his hand, in the rain, no envelope or in a pocket, but at least it was here and I could use it to get on a plane tomorrow.
At 7.15pm in the middle of a rain storm Danny messaged to say he was here, we looked outside and he wasn’t. Danny was at the triangle junction off the main road but near to the Phong Nha Farmstay – not walkable with my ankle, the suitcases and the rain. I called Bich, she explained that she didn’t know what was happening with the pick up location but earlier she had sent T back to deliver a bicycle to Elements (so the bike was at our place too), she asked me to put Duyet on the phone. Duyet would have to drive me, my luggage and 1 random bicycle, to where Danny was, which meant Captain Caveman couldn’t say a private goodbye to me at the car or help with my luggage. Duyet, Cuong and Captain Caveman were all struggling to get the bike in the van while I sat there trying not to cry. It was not quite the farewell I had in mind and I only got to quickly kiss Captain Caveman and have a very brief hug, despite not knowing when I would see him again. The bike had to go in with the wheels on as no one could remove them and when we got to the barrier we had to stop. I didn’t have any permission slip from the People’s Committee, neither did Duyet, and I have no idea what Duyet told the man but they let us through – I was so relieved and had tears running down my face as I waved bye to the man. A few minutes later we got to the next road where Danny was, there was no barrier so we quickly transferred my suitcases in to Danny’s car in the rain. Then Duyet and Danny faffed about for a while trying to get the bicycle apart and in to the car. They managed it eventually but it did mean I didn’t have the whole back seat to spread out on and was sat behind the driver’s seat in a car with mosquitos trying to avoid the rain. I tried not to dwell on the oil and cobwebs on my luggage and near my head as I got back out in the pouring rain to give Duyet a hug, this was not actually allowed but we didn’t care!
I had finally left the village and we were on our way to our first checkpoint, 3 hours later we had successfully made it through the 1st checkpoint without me having to get out of the car and feeling happy I had my documents in a plastic wallet. By 11.10pm we had made it to the first empty services with a squat toilet which I managed fine but, as I was coming out I saw a big momma rat carrying it’s baby. We made each other jump on the wet tiles and she dropped her baby in front of me, it made me think of my mom and how much she would freak out. I kept calm, walked slowly and got back in the car, only 7 or more hours to go until I would get to the airport – it was going to be a long night!

Phong Nha – 18th August

Phong Nha – 18th August

Captain Caveman and Veronika went on the Phong Nha Farmstay weekly shopping trip on Wednesday 18th August, we had just 1 million vnd (£32) budget for all shopping this week but had hardly any meat left – it would be difficult but doable. I had toast with jam for breakfast and was feeling much better than I was last night, I checked the news and it was worrying that, without the vaccine, Corona related deaths in Vietnam were still high each day. Although, in the USA, where a lot of vaccines are available, it was awful to read that Corona deaths had got a lot worse, with more than 1,000 deaths in a day, check out the article here:
I did some writing, learned some Turkish and started watching a new series on Netflix, called Somebody Feed Phil, which is really good. The shoppers returned with full bags and Veronika had trouble getting the frozen stuff she had bought into her full freezer while Captain Caveman had managed to buy 2kg of frozen chicken breasts to put in our freezer. Upstairs Captain Caveman gave me the receipts, not knowing how much he had spent, so when I added it all up I was impressed to see he did it within budget, although there were still a few items we couldn’t get. We rechecked our budget to see if it would last until the next pay day and we would only have 800,000vnd (£25.60) for my last 2 weeks here. Even if I delayed leaving until after the next pay day it wouldn’t make any difference so Captain Caveman said we would manage, somehow.
For all you shopping list lovers here’s what Captain Caveman managed to get on the Dong Hoi shopping trip:

(Prices in Vietnamese Dong and £1 is about 31,300vnd)

Red Supermarket
3 red peppers 41,712
2 cans of grapefruit drink 64,000

VinMart small shop
250ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil 95,300

VinMart Supermarket
1 baguette 9,500
Washing up liquid refill pouch 19,000
3 onions 20,925
Lettuce 22,920
6 aubergines 31,870
2 dragon fruits 39,237
250g Westgold Butter 80,700
8 frozen chicken breasts 177,800

Organic Shop
4 beef fillets 219,000

Grand total spent 821,964vnd (£26.30) on shopping plus he had an espresso coffee at the Farmstay and another at QB Casa, after the shopping, which came to 110,000vnd (£3.52) – to me, a waste of money but he was still within the budget.

For lunch we had the homemade vegetable soup, my stomach was fine and I was back to feeling ok – at least I didn’t have Giardia or anything nasty. In the late afternoon I made popcorn, Captain Caveman cycled over to Phong Nha to see the cavers off, all 4 of them were travelling together, they had all got their negative PCR results and were leaving at 6pm for the overnight drive to Hanoi airport, their flight was tomorrow at 12.30pm, via Singapore and I was keen to know how it would go as I would have to do a similar journey in a few weeks – they would be my guinea pigs! Captain Caveman came back on Trigger, Watto’s motorbike, and then cooked us a carbonara with the bacon we got from Stu for dinner – it was amazing!

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 28th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 28th July

I was awake early on Wednesday 28th July and not because it was my turn to go on the shopping trip today. I was worried about my friend who was still trying to get back to South Africa, he’d had an horrendous night and had ended up walking 5km to find water and food, which he didn’t because all shops are closed for the evening curfew in Saigon. Because this morning shops were open from 6am he found a 7-11 and got an egg and cheese sandwich which he said was disgusting but he loved it.
Captain Caveman went off to Phong Nha for work, he had given me the money for shopping, we had just over a week until pay day so things were pretty tight and I had my shopping list at the ready. We’d already had a message from Ben asking who was going and saying we would only be going to the organic shop and Co-op Mart so Veronika, after her traumatic experience last week, decided not to come along. I was told my pick up was at 8am and so I went outside ready for that, at 8.05am Duyet told me to get in the jeep to go to the Farmstay so I thought Bich may have told him to bring me there.  As I was leaving Ben arrived to pick me up so I switched cars and off we went to pick up 2 customers at the Phong Nha Farmstay. At 8.45am Bich was ready to leave so off we all went to Dong Hoi and on the way she asked if we wanted to go anywhere specific and suggested Tuan Viet Gourmet so I said yes. My South African bound friend managed to get checked in for his flight to Singapore and was happy to be on his way at last. I got a few bits in the shop, including treating us to a bottle of wine for just under a tenner. Our next stop was the organic shop where I managed to get a couple of things from my list. Next, Bich dropped us at Co-op Mart and went to pick up something, I managed to get quite a bit from the list but there were no eggs or chicken and it was surprisingly empty so Veronika would have been fine. When we left the supermarket I mentioned to Bich I still hadn’t been able to get chicken or BBQ sauce so we stopped at Horeca and I got those plus some cheese. I had thought I’d get 2 lots of BBQ sauce but it wasn’t cheap so I put one back, while I waited for them to find me some frozen chicken breasts which they kept in the back of the small shop.

Here’s my list of the shopping I bought, prices in Vietnamese Dong. I bet you can see straight away the things I shouldn’t have been tempted to buy, which exceeded the tight budget rule;

Tuan Viet Supermarket
Green beans 14,500
Gluten free stock cubes 22,000
2 red peppers 26,220
6 Mangosteen 27,000
2 dragon fruit 30,360
1 packet of penne pasta 35,000
1 jar of green olives 45,000
1 bottle of red wine 310,000

Total 510,080vnd (£15.81)

Organic Shop
1 red cabbage 51,150
300g of beef 90,000

Total 141,150vnd (£4.38)

Co-op Mart
Broccoli 9,741
Carrots 11,085
2 packets of crisps 23,000
Pumpkin 27,422
Tomato puree sauce 28,400
Potatoes 36,527
2 Strongbow cider 36,600
2 packs of Mushrooms 64,000

Total 236,775vnd (£7.34)

250g cheddar cheese slices 65,000
200g cream cheese 68,000
125g brie 90,000
2 bottles of BBQ sauce 150,000
2kg chicken breast 180,000

Total 553,000vnd (£17.14)

Is there anything you think I missed or shouldn’t have bought?

Bich had a request from one of the Farmstay guests to bring back some Banh Loc (which smelled of fish sauce so bad) and we made a new rule; whoever doesn’t go on the shopping trip has to order the smelliest food for the others to have to bring back on the 45 minute car journey!

When I got home  Captain Caveman was a bit cheesed off because he had set off this morning to go on the Tu Lan take down trip but when he got to Oxalis it had been postponed until Friday but he hadn’t been told. Luckily Watto, who is going back to the UK next month, had given him a toaster – he was happy about that. So, my other half was in a mood, I was starving hungry and decided that a croissant with a slice of cheddar cheese on would be an amazing brunch – of course this made me terribly ill for about an hour.
I got a message from Tatas to say that her home isolation had ended 9 days early because her landlord had tested negative 3 times and she was already at work, in a meeting. Captain Caveman and I drank wine by the pool in the late afternoon, I snacked on crisps and longans and we discussed Captain Caveman’s plans for the off-season (September to December) this year. Vietnam has been promising that they were going to reduce the quarantine period for experts entering Vietnam to just 7 days followed by 14 days self isolation ‘at home’ but they still had not implemented it and as it stood it would be 14 days quarantine then 14 days self isolation. Given that Captain Caveman would need to be ready to work in November it didn’t leave much time for him to come to Turkey. He decided that it would be too risky to get stuck in either Turkey or Vietnamese quarantine and potentially not be able to work when needed so he would not leave Vietnam this year. We both agreed that while the pandemic was still continuing as it is, it would be sensible for him to stay in Phong Nha. 
For dinner we used the leftover stew from yesterday and added the beef I bought today to have the same delicious meal we had last night. I noticed that at Horeca they had still charged me for 2 bottles of BBQ sauce so I messaged Bich to see if she could let them know so I could rectify it on the next shopping trip.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 21st July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 21st July

There were some changes afoot in Phong Nha and Dong Hoi on Wednesday 21st July, but first Captain Caveman and Veronika got picked up to join the Phong Nha Farmstay shopping trip at 8am, Duyet was driving the bus this week, while I had a Lake House croissant for my breakfast. The housekeeping staff thought we had all gone to Dong Hoi and so came to do a clean, surprised to find me in the room. I went outside, trying to find some breeze and drank some water. The new puppy was playing in the garden and came running over for some belly rubs and tickles. We have a new youth who has recently joined Duyet on the Elements team who cares for the pool, waters the garden and generally looks after the place. He came over so I asked him the puppy’s name – he’s called Cà rốt (which means carrot in English), the youth is called Cuong as I checked at the same time.
I prepared some lunch using left over tortilla, bacon and cabbage to make an interesting meal and saved some for Captain Caveman. He had messaged to say that the supermarket in Dong Hoi was full and people had started to panic buy. An area near to the train station was taped off and no trains were stopping at Dong Hoi.
Unfortunately during the tracking and tracing of people who were in direct contact with the 3 imported positive cases from Minh Hoa, Quang Binh, they had identified 2 people who had also tested positive. These were traced to be people in Dong Hoi; one a taxi driver and the other was a ‘drinking buddy’.

Video of Carrot, the puppy

Captain Caveman and Veronika returned from the shopping trip with very differing accounts of their outing. While nothing phases Captain Caveman, Veronika was still a little out of sorts due to the pushing and shoving at the supermarket. She had shopped, got to the counter and then abandoned her basket because it had just been too much for her. Luckily she had managed to get quite a bit of shopping in the Organic shop and wouldn’t be going hungry but it’s the first time I’ve seen her looking a bit frazzled after a shopping trip! Captain Caveman said it wasn’t as busy as a Morrison’s back in Sheffield on a normal Saturday and if he’d have known he would have got her shopping through for her. We are spoilt here because it’s so quiet generally that we don’t ever see a crowd.

Here is what Captain Caveman bought this week, keeping in mind our budget was still very tight and he went to 3 shops in total during a panic buy. As usual the prices are in Dong and it’s about 32,000vnd to £1.

Organic Shop
Mangosteens 41,200
Asparagus 46,060
Mushrooms 55,000
Onions 60,000
Popcorn kernels 124,000

Co-op Mart
Shallots 7,592
1 can of Coca-Cola 8,500
Lettuce 8,506
Carrots 16,464
Tomatoes 17,561
1 can of Strongbow 18,500
Tissues 18,500
Bananas 20,550
Potatoes 21,212
2 dragon fruit 34,125
6 cans of tonic 45,600
2 packs of butter 62,000
1 jar pasta sauce 106,800
2 packs of bacon 129,600
3 cartons of orange juice 135,900

Red Supermarket
2 red peppers 49,205
2 cans grapefruit juice 64,000
Hot dogs 265,000

I had made one request to Captain Caveman to get me something to take to Shannon’s party that night. We were all taking a dish which they call Potluck in America and Canada and so I wanted to take something easy that everyone would like, I also asked him to get me some wine but he didn’t get any. Captain Caveman didn’t get as many bargains and couldn’t get eggs or chicken anywhere this week.

Our 3rd Phong Nha Ladies Night was arranged for 4pm at the Belafonte and I was about to take the worst potluck dish in the history of potluck parties! Captain Caveman had got me dragon fruit and baby bananas to take, his logic being everyone likes fruit. He assumed Shannon would have shot glasses and so I would also take a bottle of Hanoi vodka as my drink contribution – this was certainly one way to avoid being invited back again, or to any other future parties. Meanwhile Veronika had decided to take rice crackers, grapes and 3 homemade dips (hummus, olive tapenade and red pepper) which she was busy making at home. The Belafonte, where Shannon lives, is about 2.5km from the Farmstay (almost 5km from our place) and I wasn’t too sure how I was getting there. Veronika had decided that she would get a lift with Bich but they weren’t going until later as she was busy with guests. Originally I was going to go with Tatas but she had gone on a 2 day Tu Lan tour this morning, meaning that she couldn’t come to another one of our Ladies Nights. Captain Caveman suggested I cycle there because then I wouldn’t be stuck for being able to get home but I thought it might be a bit too far, plus I’d probably be able to get a lift home. Instead we came up with a better plan; Captain Caveman and I would cycle to the Farmstay for about 4pm and then I would leave Bluey, my bicycle, there and we would walk to Shannon’s house (Captain Caveman would push his bike) and I’d cadge a lift back. It would be about 30 minutes walk so we would be there before 5pm and it had been cloudy all day so felt a bit cooler. Captain Caveman would then cycle back home and have a quiet night in. I was looking forward to the party and this Ladies Night looked set to have 15 attendees plus a couple of local friends of Shannon’s who she had invited too. I sent a message in the Facebook event and group to let everyone know the party was still going ahead and that we were under the general Corona rule of no groups of more than 20 people so all was good to go, then I jumped in the shower to get ready  for Shannon’s send off.
Of course, this is Vietnam so by the time I had got out of the shower there was already some changes and at the time we didn’t realise how serious they could be.

I got out of the shower to several messages of cancellation, which is not unusual for Ladies Night, but the reasons were! The two people who were positive for Corona in Quang Binh (the taxi driver and the drinking man) had been in Phong Nha and so all the people in a section of town around the former Easy Tiger area were checked for F1 and F2 tracing, meaning quite a few people had to stay at home. Four of the girls who live in that area were unable to come due to their potential to be F2s and some were told they needed to stay home for the time being. Another couple of ladies had to stay at home (one in a different town) for the same reason and people in our sleepy town were genuinely worried that Corona had spread this far. What I didn’t know at the time was that the phone shop guy, at the corner of Phong Nha market, had been in direct contact with the positive taxi driver when he sold him and ice-cream and so he was F1 and had been taken away for quarantine and testing.
As we were setting off to the Phong Nha Farmstay on our bicycles, armed with fruit, Saigon beers and rice wine, the sun decided to come out and it was incredibly hot again. It’s only 10 minutes of cycling but it was definitely over 35°C so I needed to stop for a refreshment before walking on to The Belafonte for Shannon’s party. We both had a Huda beer and then one of the guests came over to say she and her family were heading back to Hanoi by car tomorrow but wanted to introduce her friend to us. We sat chatting and ended up having another beer by which time Bich said I could get a lift with her and Veronika. When I finally got to the party it was already in full swing, we’d missed the fizz and everyone was in the pool, including Momma D, Deb, Trang, Shannon and a load of local kids. The party went much better than expected and despite the Vietnamese ladies laughing at my contribution and all the kids swarming around Veronika’s grapes like locusts there was a good spread with plenty of BBQ pork and spring rolls. I was drinking beer when Shannon insisted I go on to white wine then later when Tham arrived, with several bottles of wine and a bottle of Bailey’s, I went on to red. Shannon said for me to stay so I agreed, let Captain Caveman know and then we cranked up the music and got right on it!

As the last 3 standing Momma D and I agreed we needed to make sure Shannon had the best send off and not to get upset or it would make Shannon feel emotional so we were on a mission to make her night! By 2.30pm we were necking frozen Bellinis with extra rum, singing (and dancing) to Teenage Dirtbag at the top of our voices and generally celebrating we had made it to 2.30am – practically unheard of these days in Phong Nha. I vaguely remember going to sleep in a downstairs bedroom where the ceiling was a huge net and there was an actual thick duvet on the bed and I wondered why there were pegs on the curtains.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 14th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 14th July

I had an exciting day on Wednesday 14th July; while Captain Caveman had gone to Son Doong for another 4 days I was booked on the Phong Nha Farmstay’s weekly shopping trip at 8.30am. I had a very small budget to work with this week so I had to be really careful if I wanted to be able to go out for some meals as well as cooking at home. Bich picked up Veronika and I from Elements Collection and already in the car were 2 other passengers. One was a customer who was very nice and friendly and so we had a good chat while we drove to Dong Hoi, I was particularly interested in her home country of Bhutan and why her and her family were moving to Ethiopia. Our first stop was the Organic Shop where I was absolutely delighted to find they had popcorn kernels, unfortunately they were expensive but I decided to get them anyway and popped back the brown rice biscuits I was going to buy. I really wanted to buy the juicy looking cherries but, even though they had come down in price, they were still 400,000vnd (£12.80) per kilo – instead I sensibly bought some carrots. 
Our next shop was the VinMart supermarket where the girl on the reduced veg and fruit weighing machine counter had started to recognise me and pointed out the pumpkin which I got as well as a selection of other cheap produce. I didn’t manage to get everything on the shopping list but I still got quite a few things before putting our stuff in the car then joining Bich at QB Casa cafe.

For those of you who do like a good shopping list and a nosey here’s what I bought and the cost in dong:

Organic Shop
4 carrots 14,310
500g popcorn kernels 124,000

Total spent 138,310vnd (£4.42)

VinMart Supermarket
1 pack of pumpkin 2,778
1 pack of pumpkin 2,999
1 pack of white cabbage 5,472
1 can of soda water 6,500
1 baguette 9,500
1 pack of broccoli 15,232
1 can of coconut milk 16,000
2 cans of diet coke 19,000
2 packs of pineapple 23,000
Washing up liquid 23,000
1 jar of tomato pasta sauce 27,000
500g of penne pasta 30,000

Total spent 180,481vnd (£5.76)

It wasn’t a thorough shopping trip but interestingly I didn’t buy any item that was over £1 in VinMart, do you think you could do that in your local supermarket and get most things for the week? What did I miss?

After shopping, Veronika, who likes a coffee in a morning, had taken herself off to the Vinpearl Hotel reception for a cappuccino, when she saw we were all in QB Casa she came over and ordered another cappuccino and found not only was it cheaper but it was better! Bich had ordered steak and chips for her breakfast so I decided to have the same, and I also ordered a fresh coconut. I was thoroughly impressed with my meal, the service was good even though the staff are a bit shy and not too confident speaking English, but that didn’t matter to me. I paid 200,000vnd (£6.40) for steak, chips, a warm baguette and veg, a fresh coconut, water and included a tip, I was very full and left there thinking I would definitely go again.

When we got in I popped my shopping away and realised I still had a small amount of almond milk left so I made myself a dairy free white russian to have with some gluten and dairy free chocolate brownie. My eczema on my face was still bad so I avoided putting my face in the water as much as possible while swimming and didn’t stay in too long. I watched some Netflix and made some popcorn, I had some of the old kernels left and when I popped the new and old together it was clear to see the organic shop was much better quality so I didn’t feel so bad for spending too much on it – it still works out better than crisps.
After dinner, of a chicken sandwich, I found a cockroach in the bathroom and was a bit anxious about trying to get it as they are usually indestructible (this one was massive and extremely fast) but I sprayed it with Mosfly before bed and hoped it would be dead when I got up.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 7th July

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 7th July

On Wednesday 7th July it was clear that the number of Corona cases in Saigon were not letting up and there were some issues in trying to keep it under control so an announcement was made that Ho Chi Minh City would go in to Directive 16 lockdown from midnight, more info here:
A lot of our friends in Saigon were feeling the stress of it a bit more now and some were F1 or F2 and having to isolate.
There was a morning shopping trip at 8.30am which both Captain Caveman and I decided to join Veronika and Stu on. Our first stop was the pharmacy where I bought cream for my eczema, paracetamol, contraceptive pills and some Decolgen for Captain Caveman. In all pharmacies now you have to give your name, address and phone number if you are buying any medication which could be for Corona so I had to do that and I didn’t have enough money as the face cream was so expensive that Captain Caveman had to come and bring me more cash in the now heavy rain.
We also shopped at the organic shop and the VinMart before going for a fancy lunch.

We got quite a few things but we’re still meant to be on a strict budget so we were trying to be as careful as possible. Captain Caveman had been paid but after all the outgoings there wasn’t much left. Here’s the shopping we bought, for all you list lovers, prices in Dong;

Decolgen (16 tablets) 19,200
Panadol (24 tablets) 22,000
Marvelon (63 tablets) 195,000
Eucerin cream (1 tube) 434,700

Total spent 670,900 (£20.80)

Booze Shop
2 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin 460,000

Total spent (£14.26)

Organic Shop
1 red cabbage 13,330
4 carrots 20,670
2 red peppers 47,530
1 pack of vegetable stock granules 75,000
4 potatoes 75,600
1 pomelo 157,500

Total spent 389,630 (£12.08)

VinMart Supermarket
Tissues 8,500
1 baguette 9,500
1 packet of Fox’s glacier mints 15,100
6 bananas 23,880
Mushrooms 35,500
1 bag of frozen sweetcorn 41,000
10 eggs 43,900
3 180ml cartons of almond milk 69,500
1kg of chicken 88,900
1 jar of jam 138,000

Total spent 473,780 (£14.69)

The bargain of the day was the gin being only £7 per bottle which Captain Caveman was thrilled with it being cheaper for 2 bottles than my small face cream. The items we probably could have left off the list was the pomelo (which was huge) and the jam, but we got a nice free tote bag with it this time and that would come in handy for me to use in Turkey.
We still didn’t buy any wine which is usually around 400,000vnd for 1 bottle and at least it was keeping me healthier! Once I got to Turkey I would drink a lot more wine as a cheap (but good) bottle there is about a third of the cost of that in Vietnam. The 2 items I would love to be able to buy are popcorn kernels and mince beef but nowhere has any in stock.

What would you have left out or added this week?

Bich had chosen the Vinpearl hotel for lunch, we were the only guests and the staff had to put the lights on as we sat at a huge table with a lazy susan! Captain Caveman and Stu ordered Caesar salads, Bich ordered prawns, Veronika chicken breast and I went completely off the diet and ordered the chicken burger (I’d taken stomach medicine in case of any issues). My food was absolutely fantastic, it came with French fries, cheese, bacon and gherkins and was only 180,000vnd (£5.58). Everyone else said their food was nice too and we had a good laugh before heading back to Phong Nha.

Captain Caveman and I had BBQ ‘pulled pork’ jackfruit on a baguette with shredded cabbage, carrot and gherkins for an early dinner. It was nice, if not a bit unusual, but it definitely wouldn’t fool a meat lover. I would have it again though, which was a good job as we now had BBQ jackfruit left, which we popped in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch. I’d organised another Ladies Night for tomorrow but was having a few problems getting people to commit to whether they were coming or not.

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 23rd June

Phong Nha & Dong Hoi – 23rd June

On Wednesday 23rd June Captain Caveman had planned to cycle to Phong Nha in the morning but he wanted to go on the shopping trip with me at 8.30am. We were up early and although we were speaking there was still no apology and I couldn’t help but feel a bit shit about the fact that Captain Caveman isn’t happy with me not getting out and about.
In the news there was finally some vaccination praise in Vietnam, who have been very slow to start vaccinating in large numbers, unlike the UK and Turkey, more info here:
Bich picked me, Captain Caveman and Veronika up from Elements Collection about 8.40am and already had 2 Phong Nha Farmstay customers in the car. Tree Hugger was already quite busy, when we arrived, we sat downstairs and bumped in to a Phong Nha friend or two.  Captain Caveman ordered his usual egg sandwich, I had veggie fried spring rolls with peach tea then we wished our friends good luck as they headed to immigration and we got ready for a shopping bonanza!

Our shopping trip this week was full on, starting at the Co-op Mart, where our bargain of the day was a whole pumpkin for less than £1 (prices below are in VND).

Co-op Mart
1 notebook 18,000
Lettuce 18,180
Tomatoes 18,250
10 eggs 25,500
Onions 29,738
1 (huge) pumpkin 32,084
5 bananas 33,717
Washing up sponges 39,000
6 aubergines 41,832
Potatoes 56,713
3 walnut milk 81,000
Sensodyne toothpaste 84,600
2 packs of chicken 90,000
2 bottles of mouthwash 92,000
250g butter 107,500
10 mangosteens 114,856
3 packs of bacon 194,400
24 cans of Huda beer 234,000
Dates 256,000

We love the Organic shop and it’s always a surprise as to what they might have in stock, that shop was next.

An Nong Organic Shop
Asparagus 48,510
1 bag of limes 54,725
2 trays of mushrooms 92,000
2 red dragon fruit 61,100

Our next shop was another supermarket, the VinMart, where our bargain of the day was some ready chopped aubergine.

1 tray of chopped aubergine 6,994
1 baguette 9,000
2 peppers 27,050
3 cans of diet coke 28,500
200g mushrooms 35,500
2 tubes of Pringles 65,000
3 almond milk 69,500
4 Strongbow ciders 70,000
2 orange juice 88,000

There was still another supermarket we hadn’t been to and our Hanoi guest was keen to buy Tequila (I liked this guy already) but even the wine and spirits shop didn’t have any. Because Captain Caveman had no tours at the moment money was tighter than usual so we decided to forego the booze shop, which was difficult, while our new friend bought 3 bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin at a very reasonable price. 

We did go in to the Red Supermarket for a few more items, we were still hoping to get popcorn kernels, which they were out of at the moment. I was thrilled to find that they had started stocking Orgran gluten free plain flour and, despite its expense, we bought 2 boxes so that I could make proper pancakes! Captain Caveman even found Jiff lemon!

Red Supermarket
1 Jiff lemon 46,000
2 grapefruit drinks 110,000
Walnuts 159,000
2 boxes of gluten free flour 258,000

All in all it was a very productive shopping day where we didn’t buy any wine, but still managed to spend 2.8m vnd (£87). Unfortunately we couldn’t get any suitable memory stick or SD card either so my blog posting was being delayed and was sat queuing to be published.
What’s missing from the shopping, what would you have put back on the shelf and what do you think is missing from our basket or trolley this week?

On returning home from the shopping trip Captain Caveman and Veronika both jostled for space to fill the fridges with the shopping while I took the non-kitchen items upstairs then got in to my swimmers to cool down.
I took the ready chopped aubergine and put it in a bowl with oil and pepper then popped it in the oven to roast so that Captain Caveman could make Baba Ganoush later. For lunch I had a ham sandwich (no butter) and then I went for a White Russian (or 2) with the almond milk and they are a real winner – tastes a bit like Bailey’s. Unfortunately that was the last of the vodka and Captain Caveman finished off the rest of the gin. Even though we both were in or around the pool I made an effort to not speak much and Captain Caveman was happy to be on his phone in a deckchair. The moon was a day away from being a full moon and I managed to get a photo of it. Captain Caveman decided he would cook us a breakfast for dinner so I had bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onion with brown sauce and it was tasty. We got a message from a mate, back in England, who’d managed to get himself in to one of his ‘world’s stupidest man’ situations which made us both laugh so much and really cheered me up. Finally, Captain Caveman explained why he had started the argument on Monday and that he hadn’t meant to. He wants me to be happier and is concerned I’m not (I was fine) but the main thing that had cheesed him off was that I had tried to railroad him in to organising something. He said he was sorry that he upset me but I shouldn’t tell him what to do (I thought I was helping but obviously wasn’t) and he wanted to make friends with me again. He didn’t want me to leave but just wished I was happier which was rather ironic as I thought I was happy before all this came about!
In other news, after 24 days of having my passport, had finally got a photo of my visa stamp; there was no ‘XC’ meaning I might have to leave on the 9th July so I was good to stay until then and I planned on applying for another visa extension from the 1st July. We agreed to pick up my passport at Victory Road Villas the next morning.

Photo credit – Captain Caveman

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 16th June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 16th June

I was looking forward to this week’s shopping trip, at 8am on Wednesday 16th June, Veronika and I were waiting outside when Bich pulled up in the car with the 2 kids. On the drive to Dong Hoi I checked the Corona news and read that a health worker who had the job of collecting Corona test samples from people, had tested positive, more info here:
There was news of vaccine progress in Vietnam:
Meanwhile the vaccine program speeds up in Turkey as they get to over 40s:
I overheard a phonecall Bich had which meant that the member of staff dealing with my passport had some bad news, there had been a death in her close family, the funeral was this afternoon, this also meant that my passport would be delayed and that holiday was looking unlikely (again)!
We arrived at Tree Hugger and we went upstairs to eat, I ordered peach tea with my pancakes, fruit and honey. It was really busy today and so we were there for about 2 hours in total and I took half of my breakfast away. As we left Tree Hugger the boys were moaning that they didn’t want to go shopping and they were bored but luckily for them, we only had time for a trip to the organic shop and the VinMart. When I got back home I took out the last piece of chicken from the freezer, not realising it had bones in, and I’d not been able to get any more chicken breasts in Dong Hoi. I ate my leftover Tree Hugger breakfast for lunch and then chilled out by the pool. Later, Captain Caveman made us a chicken salad baguette, a bit like being at Subway, but the chicken wasn’t ideal for this kind of meal and would have been better in a stew or curry. We shared a bottle of red wine as I tried to finalise the plans for tomorrow’s Ladies Night!

The Shopping Trolley:

As is usual I made a list of my shopping so you can have a nosey as to what was in my basket or trolley. £1 is about 32,200vnd for ease of working it out and I listed the cheapest items first. As we are on a stricter budget while we wait to find out when Captain Caveman will resume work, I didn’t buy anything too frivolous.

Organic Shop
130g baby carrots 12,350
1 pack of natural peanuts 22,000
Coconut rice crackers 25,000
1 dragon fruit 30,940
6 mangosteen 67,650

Dove deodorant 63,000

3 pack Alpenleibe sweets 15,000
1 pack Fox’s Glacier mints 15,100
2 baguettes 18,000
2 cans diet coke 19,000
6 bananas 21,911
Washing up liquid 23,000
2 red peppers 27,373
10 eggs 27,700
2 yellow peppers 28,974
Mushrooms 31,000
Pringles 32,500
Garlic 34,540
1 pack Ham 38,800
3 X 180ml almond milk 69,500

Are there any items that surprised you this week? Did anyone notice the absence of alcohol?

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 5th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minigood Shop
1 pair of sandals 139,900

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

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

Sports shop
1 X sweatband 70,000

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

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

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

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

Phong Nha and Dong Hoi – 3rd June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

Dong Hoi & Phong Nha – 26th May

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

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

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

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

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

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