Dalyan – 4th November

Dalyan – 4th November

I had a day trip planned on Thursday 4th November with Vanessa, Matt and my parents so I had my probiotic drink and then some cornflakes with milk for breakfast. I made sure I had some chicken stroganoff at the ready for when I got back from today’s boat trip out to sea with Yusuf from Amy’s Bar. Yusuf was busy renovating a 6 bedroom villa which he would rent out from next year but he still had time for boat trips while the weather was nice. We all met near Tez bar just before 10am, we were the first on to Yusuf’s boat where Yusuf, Hakan and Murat were preparing for the day ahead. A Turkish mom and her son joined, followed by a well-dressed Polish couple, so 9 customers in total. As we set off down the river and towards the beach there was Turkish tea and homemade cake for everyone, I was conscious that the cake might not suit my stomach so I didn’t have any but I did have 2 cups of Turkish tea. Before we could get to the sea we had to navigate the shallow sandbanks where lots of boats get stuck every day so we were all asked to go to the very front of the boat and sit on the floor. That was easier said than done for quite a few of us and once down I wondered if I would be able to get back up. Hakan is a good boat captain so he got us through without too much fuss and we were on our way along the coastline towards Devil’s Bay. Vanessa and I noticed that there were border patrol boats at sea and these were because of the trouble between Greece and Turkey with migrants trying to get to Europe via Turkey, this was the first time we had seen these and there were quite a few massive boats on the horizon. When we got to our spot at the little Devil’s Bay it was time for swimming. Everyone but me and the Polish couple went in, they were disappointed as they didn’t know the itinerary for the day and thought they were just going on a river trip for an hour or two, so didn’t bring swimwear. I still couldn’t get my healed wound wet so I decided to take photos and then test the beer out, it certainly passed the test for coldness! There was a gorgeous BBQ lunch and we all had a drink before heading back towards Dalyan, where we almost got stuck on a sandbank on the way past the beach. I was sunbathing on the front of the boat and chatting to Vanessa thinking we were finished for the day but then we went to Çandır lake for another stop, we were definitely getting our money’s worth on this trip.

When we got back to land Dad was sad that the day had ended and wanted to be out out, even though we had said we weren’t going out tonight, I’d got a stroganoff to eat and mom was doing tea for them at home tonight. I called at Şok supermarket for some essentials;

1 plastic bag 0.25 (I had forgotten my bag)
Bread 2.00
3 carrots 2.38
1 packet of crisps 4.50
1 pack of ‘lady’ items 14.50
4 probiotic drinks 17.00
1 box of mini magnums 27.50

Total spent 68.58 (£5)

I’d just took my bra off and got comfy when I got a message from Mom to say that Dad had left his swimming shorts tied to the back of the boat, she didn’t want to give Dad an excuse to go back out for more drinking so asked me if I would be able to get them back for him. I messaged Yusuf and Hakan but there was no reply as they were probably settling down for dinner with their families. After eating an ice-cream after dinner, I had a stomach ache and then was ill, this was a good test as I needed to eat more of what I might be allergic to before my testing, although it could be due to the 2 beers I had drank on the boat.

Dalyan – 2nd November

Dalyan – 2nd November

The building work next door woke me up earlier than I would have liked on Tuesday 2nd November, the lovely sound of hardcore being dumped. My hangover was pretty bad as I’d drank 6 large glasses of wine last night, which is the most I’ve drunk in a long while. It was now officially the winter season here in Dalyan so our pool and garden man had drained the pool, he still hadn’t tidied any of the debris and litter left in the garden borders I noticed, when I went out for lunch with my parents. Dad had decided we would go to Yener’s Place who might be closing soon and the sun was shining again so we could sit out with a river view. We sat outside even though the leaves were falling from the trees quite a lot now but we were catching the sunshine while we still could. My parents went for one of their favourite lunchtime meals, tuna sandwiches and I decided to see how an İskender kebab would go down with this hangover I had, especially as quite a few people had recommended I try the one at Yener’s. It was good but gave me a bad stomach after eating only half so I took the rest home then ate the rest of it once I felt better in the afternoon.

Mom and I went to Migros supermarket for some essentials while Dad had already gone home. At the shop I bought the following items, priced in lira:

1 tub of quark 6.90
2 bottles of Activia probiotic drinks 7.50
1 pack of sanitary towels 10.00
24 toilet rolls 29.92
1 box or washing capsules 47.50

Total spent 101.82 lira (£7.60)

Vanessa had mentioned that she has probiotics every morning to try to help with her dodgy tum so I thought I’d have a go too. That evening Vanessa came over with a bottle of wine and we decided to get a Pizza 48 takeaway. We ordered a salami and mushroom one and a beef, onion, and peppers one on the deal that comes with chips and a can of pop. I also decided to try the chicken nuggets and we paid half each for the takeaway. When we got home they hadn’t given us the chicken nuggets we ordered and paid for but I didn’t have any credit on my phone to message them to let them know. The pizza was good but we couldn’t manage it all and I couldn’t manage much wine either as I’d had too much the previous night. Vanessa and I did have a good laugh putting the world to rights and planning to have some fun while both her and her husband, Matt, are in Dalyan.

Dalyan – 21st October

Dalyan – 21st October

Thankfully, Thursday 21st October turned out to be a lot calmer and I was starting to feel better from the cyst, even though I still couldn’t wear a bra. I didn’t bother with breakfast because I’d eaten so late last night and was still full. The building work next door was now at the stage where the shuttering was going up and I noticed that the remaining bougainvillea was sprouting some leaves on one of the trees. I decided to take a few books round for my dad because they don’t have a TV or internet at their place and he spends his free time reading, he was already getting through the books he had. I made a list for shopping as I planned to go on the way back to grab something to go with lunch. Tonight I had arranged for us to go out with Maddie and her family but my parents had organised a night out with their friends and Maddie’s parents were still in Kaş, so we weren’t sure if it might end up being just me and Maddie.
When I arrived at my parents’ apartment my Dad had decided he was going to go for a shave and a hair cut at the barbers and my Mom gave him some spending money to go with. She and I went to Migros supermarket together to get some shopping and then went back home.

My shopping, for all of you who love a nosey at my shopping trolley. Prices in lira, as usual;

Bread 2.00
Tomato puree 3.95
Small bin bags 6.50
Quark 6.90
Mushroom soup 7.95
Crisps 8.00
Big bin bags 8.95
2 tins of sweetcorn 10.52
1 bottle of white wine 56.90

Total spent 111.57 lira (£9.46)

I didnt realise sweetcorn can be pricey in Turkey, especially compared to Vietnam, and there was even 25% discount! On the other hand, can you believe that’s including a bottle of nice wine, too!?

I ate a very late picnic style lunch then managed to squeeze in a bit of blogging and another episode of You on Netflix. By the time I was leaving to meet Sarah for a drink at Tez bar the building work next door was in full swing with the metal grid work already being laid ready for the concrete pour. Sarah was already there when I arrived, a little late, she ordered an Efes and a cheese toastie while I treated myself to a blonde ale at 38 lira (£3.22) but it was really nice and I enjoyed it as Sarah chatted on and then Süleyman turned up and joined us. I didn’t stay long as the sun had gone in, I was cold in my shorts and I needed to get ready for tonight. In the end we decided we would postpone going to Egehan until the parents could join us, I’ve been wanting to try it for a while so it was a good idea to wait until we could all enjoy it together. I was also quite happy to have a dinner at home – a good portion of Lancashire hotpot, done in the oven with a sprinkling of cheese. Ma & pa chose to eat at Kebapçı Yusuf for a second time and stayed out having a lovely time with their friends for a lot longer than I could’ve managed – I dont know how they do it! Before bed I read some rather concerning news that the UK daily Corona cases were 52,000 (this time last week they were 45,000) and this started to worry me about it impacting my visit in 2 month’s time. I could not afford to catch it or be stuck in a lockdown in England and I hoped they would be able to get it back under control before it got too risky again.

Dalyan – 13th October

Dalyan – 13th October

Wednesday 13th October was my parents’ first full day in Dalyan and my second day of taking antibiotics. We’d all stayed at Captain Caveman’s apartment last night, ma and pa wanted to nip over to their apartment to drop their bags off and get changed this morning, so we agreed to meet at Jiks for breakfast at 10am. I went to the bank and got some cash out in readiness for whatever activities we would do today, with it being my parents’ holiday I wanted them to be able to choose want they wanted to do, I know they will have missed Dalyan as they hadn’t been for nearly 2 years. When I got to Jiks pub at 10am it was still closed so I decided to pop in to Migros to pick up a bit of shopping that I couldn’t get yesterday (they had ran out of milk).

I bought the following from Migros:
Milk 5.90
Cherry juice 7.95
Cherry jam 8.76
Cornflakes 9.90
Turkey ham 12.90
Cheese 24.95

Total spent 70.61 lira (£6)

By 10.25am I was tottering on the very wet floor at Jiks as Adem, the bar man, was watering down the gardens and floors. I waited for my parents for a bit and they arrived about 11am, they were probably still on English time but I was getting peckish. Mom had a huge bacon and mushroom sandwich, Dad had a full English breakfast, and I had a full English without eggs or tomatoes. The portions at Jiks are good value and the food there was really good, as we scoffed we decided what we would do for the rest of the day and tonight. My parents would spend the day sorting stuff at their apartment, getting some shopping in and I was going to try to make myself feel better, I was in pain and the tablets made me feel so drowsy and a bit seasick. The cyst had started to get bigger and definitely more painful so I spent most of the day putting hot towels on it to try to ease it a bit. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, Captain Caveman was going to get a typhoon and everyone was prepared for floods in Phong Nha, here’s more info:

Because we ate breakfast late I didn’t bother with lunch, Ma & Pa came to mine for 6pm, as agreed earlier, and we took a walk in to town to go for a drink. Before going out I decided to put a blister plaster on my infected cyst, hoping it would draw out the badness or help it to heal quicker. We had drinks (no alcohol for me) at Aşkin’s bar and Işmail, the flower seller, came by, as he does every evening to say hello, my Dad bought 2 roses, one each for us. We bumped in to a friend, Gültekin, at his barbers and he had got married and was expecting a baby, since we last saw him. For dinner Dad suggested we go to one of our favourite restaurants in Dalyan, Bistro Blue, which we were lucky enough to get the last table at. It was great to see the owners, Annie and Selahı, and the 2 waiters were still there, it was a shame I couldn’t join in on drinking wine but my parents had a bottle of red, even though mom had wanted white. I had courgette fritters to start which were more like a courgette bhaji and came with a mango chutney, mom ordered garlic prawns and dad had cheese rolls but they shared. They opted for liver mains and I ordered a pepper steak which was so delicious that I forgot to take a photo of it, which means I will have to go again.
The food was gorgeous and my water very refreshing but I didn’t feel well because of the cyst and just wanted to take my top off as it was irritating the soreness. After the food we sat out in the bar area, me with a Turkish tea, mom with a coffee and dad with a rather large brandy and Sprite – we even got posh after dinner chocolates too. We reminisced about the last time we had all been together with friends (Claire, Clare and Kelly) and had danced the night away here. Bistro Blue had made some improvements to the toilets and furniture since we were last here and, as always, it was still one of the best places to go in Dalyan – we love it there!

Dalyan – 12th October

Dalyan – 12th October

Tuesday 12th October was the day I would get to see my parents again, after almost 2 years. The last time I had seen them was when Captain Caveman and I had said bye to them from Jiks pub, in Dalyan, on the 25th October 2019 when we thought we would see each other again in May 2020. Of course the pandemic destroyed those plans and when my parents knew I had escaped from Vietnam they were keen to be able to come to Turkey to see me. I was awake before 8am with quite a hangover (which I blamed David for), needing to have a substantial breakfast and to start the medication for the growing and infected cyst on my left shoulder. I had turkey ham, cheese and a simit and then I did some tidying for my parents’ arrival. I was a bit peeved that I wouldn’t be able to drink but we could make up for it once my cyst was removed.

By 9.30am I had been to Migros, the supermarket, for a bit of a shop but I can’t carry too much at once even though it’s not too far to walk. Here is what was in my shopping bag, with the prices in lira:

1 fresh bread 2.00
1 simit 2.25
1 pack of spaghetti 2 95
2 packs of biscuits 4.50
1 pack of razors 5.50
1 tin of chopped tomatoes 6.81
1 tub of quark 6.90
1 toast loaf 8.95
1 tin of baked beans 17.95
2 Tupperware boxes 19.90
1 jar of tahini 20.75
500g mince beef 25.90
1 box washing capsules 34.90

Total spent 159.16 lira (£13.50)

As you can see carbs and tomatoes are cheap here, tahini and meat not so much.

For lunch I had my leftover Sunday dinner, seeing as I had forgotten about it yesterday and I had one of Emma’s apple pies for afters, which I warmed in the oven. My meal was delicious and I enjoyed having a hearty lunch as I had a bit of a sickly feeling, which I thought might be the tablets. By the time my parents were due to land at Dalaman airport there was a full blown rain storm here, I quickly removed my cotton tablecloths from the tables on the balcony and replaced them with the old plastic ones.

When ma & pa arrived at just after 5.30pm, the rain had died down a bit, they had just 2 small bags of hand luggage and their masks on, of course. Once they had taken their masks off we had a big hug and I nearly cried, even though I was so happy to see them. I got ma & pa a welcome beer, they told me about their journey and I told them about my hospital visit and the bad news that I wasn’t drinking for a week. For our first night we had decided to go to one of our favourite places to eat, Pammukale restaurant. They have been going there for years and the owner is really nice, I’ve also loved it there ever since they introduced me to it. Dad ordered a special pizza, mom ordered a tuna and onion pide and I had a mixed pide. Dad had white wine, Mom an Efes beer and I had a cherry juice, we shared a side salad and some chips and everything was so delicious (I didn’t try any of the tuna and onion pide, for obvious reasons). As we were walking home we saw Sarah and Debbie (Darling) having a wine in Jiks so we sat with them for a drink.

As we were chatting we saw a regular friendly face, Işmail the flower seller, who gave my Dad a big hug! He’s such a lovely guy and from time to time my Dad has been known to purchase one or two of his fresh red roses, which keep for ages. After taking my evening tablets I was so zonked out that I could hardly keep awake and I think the dosage was quite high for me, the good news was that my ankle had stopped hurting as much as it had been. We got back home, went to bed and arranged that we would go out for breakfast in the morning.
In the Vietnam news I saw a photo of one of the cities which had been hit hard with Corona and were now offering Sinopharm vaccines, people were crowding to get a jab!

Dalyan – 7th October

Dalyan – 7th October

It was a mix of a day on Thursday 7th October; news that Vietnam planned to open again in June 2022 were posted on the internet, the number of Corona cases in Vietnam had dropped considerably, the weather forecast for next week was looking cold and wet here in Turkey, and a few fully vaccinated friends in the UK were positive for the Corona virus. Before breakfast I went over to my parents’ place where I had arranged for my cleaner at Fire Opal to give their place a once over before their arrival next week. I did a small shopping trip too then Sonuç messaged to say he needed a copy of some paper work for my residency, again.

Here’s my shopping list and costs in lira:

Şok supermarket

1 plastic bag 0.25
2 lemons 0.77
Bread 2.00
3 carrots 3.28
1 packet of Turkey ham 3.50
1 packet of plain crisps 4.50
2 packet of biscuits 5.00
1 bottle of pomegranate sauce 5.50
Honey 5.90
Rock salt 12.45

Total 43.15 lira (£3.82).

I had arranged to meet Annie and Anne at Alegria for lunch, the owner of Yummy’s had taken over the old Safran restaurant and made Alegria her new eatery, right on the river, opposite the tombs. The place is lovely and they have a very large menu to choose from, which I’d not been used to having so much choice and it took me ages to decide. Eventually Annie and I ordered the steak salad, Ann had the crispy chicken and the food was absolutely lovely. I even had a pineapple and watermelon juice as I was conscious of not having eaten enough fruit of late and, although it’s not the cheapest place in town, it really is good value and the portions are large (I took home leftovers) and the location is gorgeous. In the afternoon I met Sonuç at the insurance company to ask about renewing my health insurance policy because I needed a 2 year policy for my residency application.
That night I decided to have a night in and, because I’d had a big lunch, I just had leftover steak salad and nibbles for dinner while watching a bit of Netflix. I’d had a productive and enjoyable day and I was ready for a relaxing weekend.

Photo credit – Annie

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.