Dalyan – 24th April

Dalyan – 24th April

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

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

Dalyan – 18th April

Dalyan – 18th April

Kate had arranged a boat trip on Monday 18th April with Mehmet Özalp. Mark, Kate, their 2 friends and I got picked up from the jetty after Mehmet had already picked the others up in Dalyan. We had a hot drink and met both familiar and new faces as we sailed out to sea on what was a warm, but fairly cloudy, morning. The sea was not as choppy as recent trips had been and I was getting used to not getting seasick by looking at the horizon. By noon the sun was out, we were anchored up so Vanessa, Kate and I got in the sea. It was chilly but bearable and fine once we were in. I quite enjoyed swimming and was finding my bad leg was working much better than it had been. when I got out of the sea I noticed one of my bracelets had worn out and was broken. I was rather upset by this as it had been a gift from friends Hoa and Phil, in Sapa, who I had not been able to see for a while now – unfortunately it had to go in the bin. Mehmet provided a delicious lunch which even included prawns and there was enough for seconds for those who wanted it. We changed location and we had more swimming after lunch and more wine. After a glorious day I got off at the jetty with Mark, Kate, their 2 friends and a bag of crabs! That night we had a chilled evening and I was glad of a relatively early night.

Dalyan – 8th April

Dalyan – 8th April

We had another lovely day planned on Friday 8th April. Vanessa and Matt had arranged a boat trip with their family and asked if I would like to join them. Because my friends were visiting I had added all 4 of us on and it would be a Sheffield boat trip with Turgay. I didn’t bother with breakfast but the cats had all been fed and Casha was having morning snuggles by 8am. Vanessa and family had arranged to pick up Louisa and family on the way, but I would get picked up from Mark and Kate’s jetty. I couldn’t find my sunglasses so I borrowed a pair of Kate’s (after checking it was ok to do so). All the cats were out for the day for the last time as Mark and Kate would be returning later, and I went to wait for Turgay’s boat.
I managed to get some video and photos of the boat arriving before I got on board to greet everyone. It was a sunny day and I hoped the sea would be warm enough for a swim. Not only did we go to Ekincik Bay and the beach but, later in the afternoon, we went to the mud baths where we all got in the thermal swimming pool. Jason let me have a go at twirling his stick which he can do all sorts of tricks with and it took me back to my youth, when I was in the majorettes. The boat trip was a great success, the food was lovely and everyone enjoyed themselves. There’s always someone who has to overdo things and, of course, that would be me.

When we got back I fed the cats but Casha didn’t come to eat her food. I popped the dish in the microwave so that the others didn’t eat it. I waited for Mark and Kate to arrive, they had landed but were not home by the time Louisa, Linda and Alex were in Lukka, ready for the music bingo night. When they got home I was already quite sloshed, Mark had been drinking on the plane but Kate categorically stated that she did not want to go out. With their massive amount of luggage strewn all over the house, we got a taxi and went to Lukka bar. I completely forgot to eat, Louisa and her family had already had their meals, Turgay was there and the bingo had started. The music bingo was a good laugh and Linda even won a prize from Maizie Moo. We preceded to drink too much and, instead of me going home, Kate insisted I go back to their’s for more drinking. She did try to invite Louisa too but she was having none of it.

Dalyan – 25th February

Dalyan – 25th February

Friday 25th February has got to have been one of my favourite days this year, so far!
I was up very early so that I could speak to Captain Caveman and get the sausage casserole in the slow cooker before my day trip. I did my weekly weigh-in and wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I’d be. I had lost just 0.5kg and my leg measurements had increased a little bit. Zumba was definitely helping with my legs and today I would arrange with Penny when I could pick up my new bicycle. I went to the bank and the shop before coming back to pack a bag with the drinks, plus some popcorn and biscuits – I took my own Earl Grey tea bags too. I saw that Kitler, the cat who looks like Hitler, had returned to the Fire Opal complex and was following me about begging for attention. In the news there was a mention of bootleg booze in our province of Muğla, more here:
https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/investigations/antiaircraft-bullet-seized-in-bootleg-alcohol-op-in-turkeys-mugla
Just before I left for my day trip I got a message from Captain Caveman to say he couldn’t video call as he was out with Tatas at my favourite Phong Nha eatery, East Hill. They were already on lunch time and having BBQ chicken with sticky rice – my favourite! He sent me photos and told me that Tatas was joining him on a holiday to Hanoi next week. Then I had to go to get on the boat and I wouldn’t have WiFi so I would speak to him tomorrow perhaps.
As I walked to the boat I met with Penny and Phil who were fussing some street dogs along the way and had their stash of booze with them. As we got to the boat outside Okyanus, they were resurfacing the terrace there and concreting it. It was windy and sunny but looking like we had picked a good day for the boat trip.

At 11am we were ready to start our boat trip. Penny and Phil had brought pastries and croissants for everyone’s breakfast, I just had a cup of Earl Grey tea because I didn’t want to risk a bad stomach and ruin the day. Ann had arrived and brought sparkling wine for her tipple, unfortunately Debbie (Darling) had already rocked the boat by deciding she wasn’t coming and a couple of others were unable to make it. After picking up Mark on the way we went out to sea, the water was fairly choppy and the sun was shining as we headed for Ekincik Bay. We were the only boat out that we saw and the water looked so clear and inviting. Ann and I didn’t have an alcoholic drink until after midday (we were pacing ourselves) and I started on the white wine.
We sat at the front of the boat in the sun, chatting and drinking, while Turgay cooked up a delicious lunch. I’d taken a bottle of red wine which I’d be given by my aunty and uncle in England. It was a lovely Primitivo which Mark and I shared with our meal. The food was fantastic, as always, but after eating Turgay was keen to have a swim. He said he’d been swimming a few days ago and that the water temperature was cold but not too cold to swim. No one had brought their swimmers except for Turgay so he jumped in off the top of the boat. I managed to get up the ladder on to the top of the boat for the first time since my leg injury and was pleased with that. In the 5 months I’ve been here I’ve not yet been in the sea because of the cyst on my shoulder and my leg so I was keen to get in. I had suitable enough underwear on to pass for a bikini (if anything it covered more than my bikini did) so I decided to go for it. I should have realised, when only Turgay thought this was a good idea, that it was going to be freezing! I went down the steps and my legs were cold but once I was half way in I just had to go for it – there was definitely an expletive! If I had to guess I would say the water temperature was around 16°C and my legs were pretty numb. It was definitely fresh and I was pleased to find I could do the steps a lot better than I had been able to before. Ann, who looked like she was feeling the cold for me, wrapped me in the towels and I made my way to the front of the boat where there was sun and a wine waiting for me.

Before sunset I was back in my leggings as we headed to the beach to get ready to watch the sun go down. I wanted to walk on the beach to take photos and have a paddle so I dragged Ann and Mark with me. While Mark and I headed straight for the sea, Ann took herself off along the beach to sit on a wooden post and admire the view. The sea was actually quite warm and we paddled and drank our drinks while watching the sunset. We went back to the boat and topped up with more drinks as we returned to Dalyan.

It was almost 7pm when we returned to Dalyan. We discovered when we docked that we still had almost a bottle of wine left between us so we stayed on the boat to finish it off. We drank, danced and sang until gone 8pm then made our way off the boat. Ann was being sensible and decided to go straight home, Penny and Phil got a taxi home, Mark was intent on going to Sofra bar and I decided I needed a shower and bed! I remembered to turn off my sausage casserole in the slow cooker which was looking rather well cooked. I’d forgotten it was Friday night bingo at Lukka bar so I decided to go to that with Mark and Turgay. There was dancing and I threw myself in to that with Mehmet, Annie and Sara. As far as I recall we left there about 1am and I had the bright idea that a sausage casserole supper would be a good idea!

Dalyan – 8th November

Dalyan – 8th November

We had an amazing day on Monday 8th November; my parents, Vanessa and I met at mine and walked to our meeting point for a boat trip with Captain Boris. Today we were joining Basrı and Rebecca with their guests Nanny Kay, Viv and Paul for a trip to Köyceğiz as Monday is their market day. Also on board were the owners of the Caretta Caretta restaurant in the square which was closed now so they were going to be helping out on the boat, which was great. To be honest I didn’t need to go to the market but I love a boat trip and Captain Boris is one of the best boat trips for food and service so I was in!

I didn’t check the Corona heat map which is an app that tells you how risky an area is but I later found out it had some red (high risk) areas where the market is – great! My Dad needed a pair of socks so, luckily for him, he had Mom, me and Vanessa all ‘helping’ him choose some. Then the parents went off and we said we would find them for a drink later after a look around the market and shops. I bought 3 things and spent just 100 lira (£7.50); a cheap ring to replace the one from Marble Mountain, 6 wine glasses and a pair of trousers for lounging in. We were masked up the whole time, even when we bumped in to Sabine and Ray, Dalyan friends who were at one of the restaurants at the water’s edge. We couldn’t find my parents so we had a glass of wine each at a place not far from the boat and then went back to show off the purchases.

We set back off once we were all back on the boat and went to a stunning place on the lake for our plentiful lunch. The food was so tasty and there was so much choice as well as a good selection of wines, I even went on to a blush which was surprisingly good. There was lots of time for swimming in the lake, taking in the amazing views, sharing stories with each other and drinking a little wine – Nanny Kay tried pomegranate wine! We also sent messages to Jamie to gloat that we (his friends) were all together having fun without him, we were also looking forward to seeing him again for more boat trips in the new year.

After the beautiful boat trip, I went to Jiks for one with Vanessa and my parents and I put my purchases on a chair behind me. Obviously, I forgot them and had to go and collect them later when I realised and then I decided to go to Pizza 48 to let them know about the missing chicken nuggets the last time we ordered from there. I accidentally got chatting to a couple who lived not far from Birmingham, they were eating at one of the tables outside and the lady was drinking a glass of red wine. I had not known we could’ve had wine there so I decided to have one, plus a takeaway pizza and we had a nice chat while it cooked.
Back home I ate half of the pizza, watched something on Netflix and then went to bed not realising how much of a shocker tomorrow was going to be!

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 – 28th October

Dalyan – 28th October

Debbie (Darling) had arranged a private boat trip for a few friends, including us, on Thursday 28th October with Captain Turgay. His boat is certainly one of the livelier ones and is renowned for having more of a party atmosphere, than a relaxing scenic day out.
My arm really ached this morning from the jab but I had no other side effects at all and my parents arrived at mine early and excited for the boat trip. We were very lucky to have gorgeous weather and it looked to be a lovely day out with friends.
The attendees were Debbie (Darling), Ann, me, Mom, Dad, Sue, Pamela and Mark, 2 of them had been drinking until the small hours this morning and were either still drunk or hungover. Debbie (Darling) had called for a beer on the way and had one as soon as she got on the boat – she’s hardcore!

We went down the river to the back of the beach where my parents and I got off the boat and went for a short walk to the sea. Dad had a bit of a dip but we didn’t and we saw friends Ray and Phil who were with the Riverbums, clearing litter from the area. I missed joining them this year but my leg still wasn’t good enough to be able to walk far or get on and off the boat for litter collecting, I’d even needed help to get off of Turgay’s boat to go on to the beach. We spotted 2 pairs of children’s shoes and wondered what had happened to the owners, had they forgotten the shoes or was there a more sinister reason for the shoes being left?

I hadn’t bothered with breakfast and my first drink of the day was bang on midday – a glass of white wine and soda back on the boat. Mark and Turgay had a crab which looked like it was smiling, there was a big turtle in the water and I struggled to get a good photo of it but it was swimming really near to the boat and my Mom once she got in, luckily it didn’t try to bite her bum. We had a boozy day, a great lunch and some good tunes to dance to. The buffet lunch consisted of meatballs, chicken, cornbread, broccoli, amazing garlic mushrooms, salads and great chips – it was as delicious as always. Turgay even caught fish with his bare hands but he let them go by throwing them at Debbie (Darling). Pamela was getting a flight back that night (and wasn’t drinking) so when we returned to Dalyan for us to get off there was an option to stay on the boat to go to the lake. We had already agreed to leave to meet friends that night for dinner and my mom was worried that my dad would be too drunk and injure himself so we left all the rest of them heading up to the lake to get right on it.

We decided to stop off for 1 more drink at Tez bar where people were coming out for a pre-dinner drink and it was pretty clear we were already sozzled and would be going nowhere later. We saw Penny and Phil who were with friends and arranged to join them tomorrow for music bingo at Lukka which was now a regular hobby! Having realised we were too drunk to do anything else with the evening we ended up changing our plans and getting a pizza at Pizza 48 instead. The pizzas were great and I took some of mine home so I could have the rest for breakfast tomorrow.

Dalyan – 20th October

Dalyan – 20th October

Wednesday 20th October was a wonderful day, spent with my parents and some friends. The first exciting thing that happened that morning was that I got a message from our friend, the filmmaker, who came to Vietnam to make a documentary about Phong Nha. He gave me some tentative dates for the film festivals where his film would hopefully be screened in 2022 and I made a note of them – how amazing it would be to go to see something like this! It might also be a chance for me to meet up with Captain Caveman and watch him, his colleagues and our friends in what I was sure would be a work of art.
I didnt bother with any breakfast as I was faffing about with the left over hotpot mixture and more layering of potatoes, this time with butter on, so I could pop it on while we were out. The suitcase lady had asked to meet me to have a look at it so I took it round to Lukka bar and ordered myself a tea. The nice lady turned up on a bicycle, with a dog and was unsure if she wanted to buy the case, even though she needed one to go back to England with, in the end I managed to sell it to her but it was quite funny watching her try to figure out how to get it back to her hotel, with a bicycle and a dog, but I couldn’t help as I was cutting it fine for my next adventure. I’d arranged for us to go on an afternoon boat trip with Captain Boris (aka Basrı) and his wife, Rebecca. Sarah had also taken the afternoon off work, at the last minute, so that she could come too and my parents came round to mine dead on time as they were looking forward to our boat trip. We arrived at the boat early, Sarah was already there and we were joined by a really nice bunch of people, who were friends of the boat owners and Sarah. The order of the day was to eat, drink and relax and the Captain Boris trips sure know how to treat their customers well. I wasn’t even too upset that I wouldn’t be able to swim because of not being able to get my cyst wet (apart from showering, obviously). We went to Çandır lake first and the sun was out as we nibbled on snacks and sipped an alcoholic beverage.

Quite a few people got in the water for a swim, including ma & pa who were larking about like a couple of teenagers. Next, Basrı took the boat to the sheltered side of the beach where Andrea got a few of us dancing on the sand at the waters edge.

I had started on white wine with my parents and later went on to red as Rebecca filled the table with the most amazing spread I’d seen on a boat – I was in cheese heaven! There was so many different cheeses, fruit, including fresh figs and dates, crackers and bread and I my stomach handled it all absolutely fine. Quite a few boats had got themselves stuck on a sandbank and Basrı had to help out, we even rescued a damsel in distress who had been left stranded on the beach. On the way back we had such a laugh, Andrea even taught me the meringue and it was such a lovely afternoon with plenty of wine.

When we got dropped off we should have gone home and stayed in however it was Open Mic night with Onur at Heybe’s which we had missed last week so we decided to meet back there after getting our warm clothing on. As it turned out one of the couples from the boat trip was having a drink at Heybe’s so I joined them while waiting for ma & pa to join us. After another couple of glasses of wine, on top of the 6 I’d already had with Captain Boris, I wasn’t shy at getting up for a singsong with Onur. This reminded the couple that they were meant to be somewhere else and they left. Debbie (Darling) did a quick cameo appearance singing ‘I’m leaving on a jet plane’, Sarah joined us and even she got up to sing with Debbie (Darling) or me. In the end Dad and I nailed House of the Rising Sun together, it was just a pity that all of the other customers had left! Onur even sat and did an acoustic version of Losing my Religion at our table and we ended up leaving Sarah there.
We’d had so much fun and when I got in, my hotpot was still warm in the slow cooker so I had some before bed.

Phong Nha – 18th September

Phong Nha – 18th September

We were up and about at 5.30am on Saturday 18th September, I’ve never felt so excited to be having a needle! Captain Caveman dropped me off at the end of the road where it meets the highway and he waited with me. We had to wait a while, as is the norm, and eventually the big bus arrived. The bus was quite full and when we arrived at a school in Dong Hoi, being used for mass vaccination purposes, we were not allowed in the gate and were told to stand outside and space out, by the guard on duty. Once inside the gate there was about an hour of form filling and general waiting about, An (from Mountain Bar/House) became my translator and it was good to see a friendly face who could help make the waiting go more quickly. I caught up on the Corona data and the news while we waited to go inside; the Quang Binh cases were quite high at 49, 4 in Dong Hoi and 19 in Bo Trach, none near us but it did make me wonder if Bo Trạch may stay in lockdown for longer because of this. I was sad to read that dragon fruit imports were stopped due to the virus too, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20210917/china-suspends-dragon-fruit-imports-through-vietnams-northern-border-gate-after-discovering-coronavirus-on-shipment/63147.html
By 8.40am I had received my 2nd vaccine of Astra Zeneca, 13 weeks and 2 days after my 1st vaccine and I was so grateful to Oxalis for being able to do this for me. I also felt a bit bad that so many people in Vietnam had still not had their 1st one and were so desperately wanting to be able to get it. There was no longer a 30 minute waiting period to check if anyone had adverse reactions and by 8.45am I had my paper certificate in my hand and was on my way to the bus, feeling the most relieved I can remember feeling. I could now really plan my escape to Turkey and would hopefully be there before October! On the bus back a porter was feeling a little queasy so I gave him my last 2 salted lemon sweets and he had a lay down.

By 9.30am I had been dropped back off and was enjoying a sunny walk back home as the blockade man and some locals asked if I had been for another test and was I negative. They cheered when I said I had been for vaccine number 2 and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to let them know so they may be more on my side when I try to leave town.
When I got home Captain Caveman had already started brunch, knowing I’d be hungry, and we sat in the garden to eat bacon, potatoes, cabbage and mushrooms. We decided to break our promise not to eat all the crisps and shared a bag while outside by the pool. A no-masker workman came to fix the water compressor which meant I’d be able to give my hair a good wash at last. My passport had finally been picked up by Bich so I arranged to send Captain Caveman to collect it when he was running his errands later.
That afternoon I felt a bit tired so I had a lay down while Captain Caveman went up to the Lake House to collect bread and a couple of cheeky bottles of wine. He was gone for ages but back at home, Captain Caveman knocked up some pulled pork buns with the fresh bread collected from the Lake House and we opened a bottle of The Accomplice wine. Tomorrow, Operation ‘Get me out of here’ would recommence – only Captain Caveman and I would be involved in the details until we knew it was going to work!

Phong Nha – 17th September

Phong Nha – 17th September

On Friday 17th September, day 23 of my #STFAH but day 2 of Directive 15 we had fruit for breakfast, there was more mushroom growth, Carrot cuddles and the sun was shining. There were 29 more cases in Quang Binh and there were only 1 in Dong Hoi and 1 in Bo Trach, things were improving. Because we now had more peanut butter we had some on toast for lunch and I had a cider. The pool was nice and I was in there until 4pm when it looked like another storm was heading our way. By 4.20pm it was raining hard, at 5.30pm I still hadn’t had my passport back so I sent a message to check progress. There is always a drama where my passport is concerned and today didn’t let us down because it had been forgotten to organise the picking up of it.
By 7.30pm we had devoured our delicious carbonara dinner, made with Stu’s bacon and duck eggs from the market.
It was a fairly ordinary day until a message from Oxalis came via Captain Caveman; I would be on the 6.30am bus to Dong Hoi tomorrow for my 2nd vaccine, a day earlier than already informed. This was great news because if things did work out it meant I could perhaps be in Turkey next week!

Video of the rain

Phong Nha – 15th September

Phong Nha – 15th September

We had a load of fruit for breakfast on Wednesday 15th September, the last day of week 3 of the Directive 16 lockdown, which was due to end at 7pm tonight. There were 26 cases in our province, none in Dong Hoi, 8 in Bo Trach but none near us so it was looking hopeful that we would be approaching some freedom perhaps. Captain Caveman, as usual, was more optimistic than I about this and he felt pretty sure that at least the part of our commune of Hung Trach, where we live, would be given a reprieve. Finally Vietnam daily Corona cases had started to decrease and in our local area there was some outside activity. Khuong Ha had been allowed to harvest the (half ruined by rain) rice and were given help to do so, there were lots of flowers blooming and the Elements staff were power washing the vans. Captain Caveman did us both peanut butter on toasted baguette and we ate it on the balcony, with a passion fruit treat for afters. We spent the afternoon in the pool and I had 2 ciders while Captain Caveman had beers.
Finally we got the confirmation of the Directives for our area; all of Phong Nha and Cu Nam would move from Directive 16 to Directive 19 which meant people there could go out and about again. Unfortunately, because our village of Khuong Ha is in Hung Trạch (not Phong Nha) we would move from Directive 16 to Directive 15, which meant we could only leave the house for essential reasons, like going to work, to get food, etc. This was definitely bad news for us and Captain Caveman didn’t take it well, I had a feeling this would happen and just needed to know if the restrictions for leaving to go for a PCR test would be any easier. I let Danny, the driver, know the news that it may still be difficult for me to attempt an escape any time soon and he responded with news that Hanoi would be lifting their lockdown from the 21st September, which meant if I could get there I could get a PCR test to fly with, in Hanoi. We mulled over lots of different options and thought there could be a chance that I might be able to leave but it was also risky as it could still all go wrong and waste more money. We decided I would call Singapore Airlines tomorrow and move my flight to the end of September and hope our village was out of lockdown by then.
At 6pm Captain Caveman got a message from his colleague at Oxalis to say that I would be getting my 2nd Astra Zeneca vaccination on Sunday and we were so happy! It actually made a pretty shit day so much better!
We had one of our favourites for dinner; pulled pork with cabbage and pickled cucumber on baguettes and watched another film, All the Money in the World. It is definitely worth watching as I didn’t know the story about J P Getty, and it’s a pretty terrible one.
That night, as we went to bed, there was one of the worst storms I’ve ever tried to sleep through and I was actually scared the roof might come in, although Captain Caveman had explained that it was structurally unlikely. We realised too late that we had also left the pool towels out but I didn’t want to risk going out to get them. The thunder and lightening were right above us and, of course, the power went out again. I lay awake for ages wondering if Duyet and Carrot would be ok and if we were getting the floods they had predicted.

Phong Nha – 14th September

Phong Nha – 14th September

Tuesday 14th September was a good day, I’d accepted I wasn’t going anywhere (for now), the drama had subsided and we were carrying on with getting to the end of our 3rd week of the #STFAH restrictions. There were 34 new cases in Quang Binh, 8 in our commune but not near to us. The daily case numbers in Saigon were finally starting to show a flattening off on the graph. I had buttered toast for breakfast and read a rather interesting article about foreigners living in Vietnam during the strict lockdowns, it gives you a bit of an insight in to what it’s like living in Vietnam during the strict pandemic restrictions, check it out:
https://vietnamnews.vn/society/1030764/expats-face-tough-time-amid-the-covid-19-outbreak-in-viet-nam.html
I was trying to think more calmly and rationally about my trying to leave escapade because you know you’re not thinking sensibly when you start to understand this kind of thing:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210914/15-people-flouting-covid19-restrictions-found-in-refrigerated-truck-in-southern-vietnam/63092.html
We spent most of the morning in, or next to, the pool, my eczema on my face was bad again (from all the food I shouldn’t eat, beer and stress lately). I needed to relax more so we watched a comedy film while eating fried rice for lunch, The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in – not a bad film and I think I’d seen it before.
Duyet had got Captain Caveman some eggs from the market, he was still unable to get some fruit, but 3 dragon fruits appeared in the kitchen and when I checked the price they were a bargain 30,000vnd – less than £1 for 3! Bich had kindly arranged to send us some more provisions, mostly from her own kitchen at the Phong Nha Farmstay and it was like Christmas again when Captain Caveman returned with the bag from the blockade. We had cider, wine, HP sauce, baked beans, avocados, passion fruit and mustard – it was amazing!!!! The heavy rains came early evening, luckily I had managed more afternoon swimming already, so we closed the doors, lit the mosquito coil, and Captain Caveman treated me to what you could probably call a date night. He made one of the most exciting meals in a while; pulled pork Spaghetti Bolognese with home made tomato sauce and it tasted so good. I drank a Magner’s cider which Bich had given me and it was so enjoyable compared to the beers that don’t really agree with me. Captain Caveman also picked the Netflix film, Crazy Rich Asians, which was an odd choice but certainly not the worst film I’ve seen, in fact it was quite amusing. Tomorrow we would find out for certain how our lockdown would proceed, would they lift the restrictions, extend them as they are or extend them but with changes? – anything could happen!

Phong Nha – 12th September

Phong Nha – 12th September

The housekeeping staff were looking lively on the morning of Sunday 12th September so we went in to the garden for our breakfast, it was day 18 of our #STFAH Directive 16 lockdown. Carrot was there and was really cute but a bit snoozy, he lay under the table as we ate our breakfast. I had a couple of bananas and peanut butter on toast while Captain Caveman did himself a menemen.
The weather was hot again and we had not experienced any flooding as predicted yet, it was only 33°C with a ‘feels like 38°C’ but it was very humid.
Here in Phong Nha we were lucky but in Danang, Hoi An and Tam Ky they weren’t so lucky, check this out:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210912/storm-conson-unleashes-torrential-rains-triggers-flooding-in-central-vietnam/63060.html
Our favourite place for a holiday, Le Domaine de Tam Hai, near Tam Ky had significant damage which looked pretty expensive.
In more Vietnam news the Saigon lockdown, which was meant to end on 15th September after months, will be extended until 30th September, more here:
https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210912/ho-chi-minh-city-needs-more-time-to-control-covid19-party-chief/63064.html
For lunch we had the last of the tortilla with raw veg and pickled red cabbage, we both said we felt like we were eating rabbit food but we had the last of the brownie for pud. Captain Caveman had a few beers, I just had a half of one. In the afternoon we were lucky enough to have some pool time and then I fell asleep on the sunlounger.
That evening, while I had a shower, Captain Caveman watched the Bangkok episode of Somebody Feed Phil (which I’d already seen). Then, while he prepared dinner, I watched the Copenhagen episode which he had already seen – Copenhagen is now on my list of places to go. We ate steamed chicken, rice, peppers, aubergine and cabbage and decided to watch a random film. We started watching Devil’s Advocate but before we got too far in to it there was a storm and a power cut so we went to bed. Captain Caveman was fast asleep through the thunder and lightening but I didn’t sleep, without a fan it was just too hot and sticky and I was still awake when the power came back on around 4am.

Phong Nha – 5th September

Phong Nha – 5th September

We were woken up early by the loudspeaker announcements at 5.30am on Sunday 5th September, reminding us (as if we could have forgot) that we were to #STFAH. It was day 11 of the lockdown and we were doing quite well, all things considered, maybe it was the excitement of me leaving next week that kept us going. More mushrooms had grown overnight and Captain Caveman made us mushrooms on toast, a new first for me. Duyet had managed to get us some potatoes and tomatoes from the local market, which was good. I also got to play with Carrot, the pup, who was getting bigger now, but wasn’t good at posing for selfies.
The rest of the day was spent trying to sort out my actual leaving and putting my escape plan in to place. Captain Caveman got a phonecall to say that, in order for me to pick up my negative PCR certificate tomorrow, (which must be done in person) I needed to have a negative quick test to go to Dong Hoi. Even though this seemed rather odd to me, Captain Caveman could see the Vietnamese logic and agreed that I would go tomorrow with some other people, to get one done. Unfortunately Oxalis couldn’t get permission for me to leave our village to go to the hospital in Hoan Lao to get the quick test so he asked us if we could ask Bich to help us get that. We asked and gave my passport to Duyet who then had to go to the People’s Committee to get the completed permission form, which we had to give the full name of the Oxalis driver and licence plate of the vehicle that I would be going there and back on. We didn’t have much time to make lunch in between all the phonecalls and faffing about so we had hot dogs and onions on sliced bread which I didn’t realise we had almost no tomato ketchup or mustard left so they were a bit rubbish – we ate them though! We hoped that all was still on track for me to get my paperwork tomorrow, then leave for Hanoi on Tuesday so I packed my suitcases, including my hand luggage as tomorrow would be a very busy day. I was a bit peeved that with all the toing and froing today we hadn’t even had chance to go in the pool and as everything seemed to have come to a point where we couldn’t do any more but wait, the rains came! We drank beers and watched the storm and had a marvellous dinner of beef stew with potatoes, using the 3 carrots which Bich had given us from her fridge – the dish would have gone nicely with a red wine. Oh well, this time next week I’d probably be drinking a whole bottle of Tılsım (Turkish wine) to myself!

Phong Nha – 4th September

Phong Nha – 4th September

Everything was calm as I ate my buttered toast for breakfast on Saturday 4th September. It was day 10 of the lockdown and everyone around us were still adhering to the #STFAH rules. I went to check on my mushrooms and there was a small crop which were ready for harvesting so I managed to half fill a pocket – not quite enough for a soup but we would have them for dinner tonight. Duyet had surprised us by being able to get us 10 eggs and 2 (orange) carrots from the market, which was great news. I was going to save one of the carrots to be able to take some carrot sticks with me to Hanoi next week. As we didn’t have any cash, Bich was going to give us 2 million vnd (£64) and send it with Ben on the food delivery at the blockade, we would then transfer her the shopping amount plus the 2m. Ben set off with the goods, Captain Caveman left by motorbike from here and then the exchange took place in the no man’s land. Ben captured the pitiful process on video, when Captain Caveman got back he realised there was no money in the bag and when I asked Bich she said Ben had got nervous at the barrier and forgot to put it in the bag. Bich would arrange to send it later on via Duyet which Captain Caveman was glad about as he was low on beers (already). We were once again lucky enough to have got some great essentials, some of which Bich had given us for free from her own kitchen, which was so lovely of her. I was just glad that they still had the big bags of crisps in stock at the Phong Nha Farmstay so that we could stock up on snacks for my forthcoming journey, she gave us loads of fruit and veg too as well as some peanuts so I knew I’d not starve on my trip.

Ben’s video of the food pick up at the blockade between Elements Collection, Khuong Ha and Phong Nha Farmstay, Cu Nam

By lunchtime we figured we must both be negative for the Corona virus as we hadn’t been carted off to a quarantine facility yet so that was good news. We had lunch of Baba Ganoush on toast, followed by jam on toast and then a few of the grapes which Bich had sent!
The day kept getting better; I got a message from Danny, the driver, to say he can set off a bit later, drive through the night, so that I don’t have to spend a night in the empty airport by myself. I was very pleased and we confirmed he would pick me up on a road just outside of our district at 9pm on Tuesday 7th September, we’d arrive at Hanoi airport at 7am the next day, 3 hours before my check-in – very helpful!
I still hadn’t started packing my suitcases, despite Captain Caveman having brought them down from the upstairs mezzanine immediately after booking the flight! He said I should get on with it so that everything was ready to leave, I was putting it off for some reason.
I saw photos of Captain Caveman’s colleagues on Facebook as they did their volunteering at the roadblocks and check points in the fight against the pandemic – I felt sorry for them as rain was forecast and they were sleeping in Oxalis tents on the side of the road! For dinner we had steamed chicken and rice with green beans, mushrooms, peppers, red cabbage, white carrots and the last of the peanut salt.