When the social media issue was fixed on Tuesday 5th October it was a relief and I had a message from Melissa to say she had some ice-cream left to give me, as I was sending her a message to say I had a dress which was too big for me and perhaps it would be suitable as a maternity dress for her. I went over to her place and we said goodbyes again as they headed off to see more of Turkey, it felt a little strange that almost a year ago we had spent a few days together during the floods of Phong Nha 2020, watching Harry Potter together at Elements Collection, it was also pretty cool that the first people to come to visit me in Dalyan were friends we had met in Vietnam! My next stop was the bank where I transferred quite a bit of money to Captain Caveman’s Turkish bank account to be able to pay for the bills here, I did this a bit prematurely it would turn out, as I didn’t realise there was a limit to how much I could get my hands on before my account maturity in about 3 weeks time. I finally got my internet banking set up for my Turkish accounts, which felt good and I decided to treat myself to an English breakfast at Lukka bar, I’d been here almost 2 weeks and not had one yet – I do miss a good breakfast and wouldn’t be able to resist or wait until I got to England again, after just over 3 years of being away. The breakfast consisted of bacon, sausage, beans, toast, butter, and mushrooms for me, as I don’t eat egg or tomato on my breakfast, I had 2 orange juices and 2 teas and it was really good. I met a friend of Katrina’s, who was hilarious and he gave me some good physiotherapist recommendations, he also was a fan of shockwave therapy which had cured his leg after a bad accident. Sonuç arrived for more paperwork and preparation for the forthcoming residency application and he made a phone call to Hüseyin, the translator, and the notary office. Before I knew it, we were booked to go to Ortaca notary tomorrow, which would be another step closer to the process of being able to stay here longer than 90 days, if they agree. My lunch with Leanne and my neighbours got cancelled as Leanne wasn’t well and I decided to get some much needed products from Katrina’s shop, Maizie Moo, instead. The shop is really lovely and the products are all made with natural ingredients where I picked out whipped body butter, a hair mask, a sponge which is like magic, mosquito spray and I also got a few more free samples of foot balm, face scrub and a shower/bath bomb type of product. All of it smells like you could eat it and the products I had already tried had really done wonders for my eczema, so much so that I had now stopped using the steroid cream from the pharmacy and was using only the Maizie Moo butter. I spent a total of 300 lira (£25) and got a handmade bag which looked like someone had bought me a gift, it felt wonderful being able to get something nice for myself as a treat.
At 2pm I went for my 60 minute full body massage at BC Spa which was so lovely, the guy who did my massage, Ramazan, was very careful around my injuries too, which I was pleased about. Interestingly, when he touched the left shoulder where the scar from my cyst was it felt sore and it was obvious that there was a bit more of a problem with the cyst regrowing than I realised. Back home I felt very sleepy after the massage and I watched more Line of Duty, then made my leftover Sunday roast dinner and had some of the rather lovely red wine with it. I polished off the ice-cream from the Wiringi family and as I was washing up I realised that the origami bird, which Aaliyah had made for me in Hoi An, Vietnam, was on the shelf next to me. I’d had it in my purse all this time and taken it out to put on display, then forgot to let Aaliyah know it had travelled with me to Turkey. Before bed I got an invite for tomorrow night which I would find difficult to turn down and it was, quite literally, right up my street.
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: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210919/vietnamese-teacher-purposely-receives-two-covid19-vaccine-shots-within-10-minutes/63171.html 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!
Sunday 19th September was one of those remarkably good days, it was my 25th day of #STFAH during the lockdowns and Captain Caveman made me the best breakfast ever! Beans on (Lake House sourdough) toast with Stu’s smoked bacon, it was so delicious and I had missed baked beans more than I ever thought I would. The number of Corona cases in our district were none and there were none in Dong Hoi. This was good news because tomorrow I was attempting to leave Quang Binh again; I had booked to have my PCR test at Medlatec in Dong Hoi, which I had booked on their Facebook page, I’d booked a taxi there and back with the Phong Nha Farmstay receptionist and I had also decided to combine it with an ‘essential’ shopping trip. Captain Caveman got on with writing a shopping list while I got the suitcases back out and had a repack. We knew, in order to leave Vietnam for Turkey, that I needed to have a flight out of Turkey before my free 3 months visa was expired there. Even though I fully intended to renew my expired residency in Turkey, the rules don’t allow for me to not have an onward flight out of Turkey booked, so Captain Caveman had a look for a cheap flight for me while I had a dip in the pool. Before we knew it we had found a flight, booked and even managed to get it within the dates of me having my 3rd and 4th vaccines in Turkey, assuming I will need them to get back in to Turkey and possibly to get in to the UK without quarantine, by then. So, I now had a flight booked from Istanbul to Heathrow which would land on Saturday 11th December at 4pm, how exciting that I would probably get to use it too. It was only £35 so a bit of a bargain and I could now go back to my home town for Christmas, even if I had to self isolate for 10 days down south first!
In the afternoon I still didn’t know if I was leaving or not, we would find out tomorrow, but we did decide to do something a bit naughty. Veronika had invited us over to say bye and drink some sparkling Lindeman’s white wine at her Jungalo Collection private pool villa, next to the Phong Nha Farmstay. Captain Caveman had already gone to Stu’s to pick up some ‘essential’ pork products while I took Veronika’s remaining box of kitchen stuff, in the jeep with Duyet. There was no longer a blockade between Elements and the Farmstay so it worked out ok, Captain Caveman was there to meet me and carry the box when I arrived. Veronika had hummus, roasted peppers, olives and rice crackers too for us to have with the chilled bubbly. We thought, if my plan comes off, it would be the last time I would see her for a while, so we ended up having 3 bottles of the fizz, Bich and Ben came over and they gave us pizza and calamari. It was the end of an era as I said my goodbyes and I was sad that we didn’t know when I would see them all again. I was also pretty tiddly and it probably wasn’t the best thing to do when I would perhaps be having the longest day in quite a while, tomorrow! In my head I was expecting that I would be still in Phong Nha for Christmas so it was all a bit unknown right now.
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!
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!
On Thursday 16th September, while the rest of our buddies were allowed to swan about in their Directive 19, we were on day 1 of #STFAH (unless it’s essential or to go to work) Directive 15. Of course I had no excuses to go anywhere so it was my day 22 of not going out unless it was to a hospital or clinic. I didn’t bother with the news as it was bad enough seeing that we didn’t have any recent cases in our village but we were still lumped in with the wider area for the new rules, which were to last ‘until further notice’. Captain Caveman decided to interpret the directive that he could go to work and go to do essential chores; go to the ATM, pick up his whisky from an empty house, pick up tablets from the pharmacy and buy some coffee and peanut butter, because we had ran out. I didn’t think he should really be doing any of this but it was within the rules. First I made us some bacon sandwiches, Captain Caveman made himself an egg to go on his too, for breakfast. When I watered the mushrooms there were quite a few new shoots on them so they were having a second wind. Captain Caveman did his errands but couldn’t buy any vegetables as they had run short in Phong Nha, and while he was picking up the ‘essentials’ he had lunch at Funny Monkeys and a coffee, while waiting for ground coffee, at Tree House. It was hotdogs for my lunch as a bit of a make do meal because, surprisingly, we had no more leftovers in the fridge. I had an update to say I was able to get my passport back tomorrow afternoon, my visa had been extended until 9th October and it was being sent with a driver to Duyet to pass it me tomorrow – all seemed straight forward there, then! I was tending to my mushrooms again with Carrot, he’s started bopping me on the back of the legs with his nose to try to get attention, or a nibble of a mushroom. Captain Caveman arrived back in a chirpy mood, despite not having bought any fruit or veg but I think he was just glad to have been out cycling, he reported that the blockades and checkpoints had been removed. He’d also brought me back my decent red shoes, that I’d forgotten about, a notebook and my TEFL workbooks. Captain Caveman had spoken to Oxalis and he had confirmed my 2nd vaccine would be on the morning of the 19th September. If this came off it meant I could potentially get a PCR test on the 20th and fly on the 21st, I sent my idea of the schedule to Danny, the driver, to see if he could be on standby and he could. Ben messaged me to ask if we fancied a pizza delivering because the Phong Nha Farmstay kitchen was open again and it made my night, it wasn’t even a Friday! Captain Caveman took this as a reason for another ‘essential’ journey and went to pay our 9 day overdue Elements bill, while collecting the pizza. While I was waiting for the pizza and Captain Caveman to return I had a good video chat with my parents and it was looking likely that I would get to see them this year and that made me very happy! The Netflix film that night was State of Play which wasn’t bad and had some famous people in it who can act. The pizza was good, we even had wine with it, after not having any for almost 2 weeks, I wore a dress so I could pretend I was going out, and as lockdown days go, it was a pretty good one.
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.
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!
Monday 13th September, due to me not sleeping because of the storm I was very tired but I did some writing between 6.30 & 8.30am then went back to sleep for a couple of hours. When I surfaced Captain Caveman was already outside and had eaten his breakfast. I had buttered toast and read about another Corona outbreak in China, here is the article: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210913/chinese-city-imposes-travel-curbs-closes-public-venues-in-new-covid19-outbreak/63081.html By lunchtime it was raining heavily again so we stayed indoors and I started to toy with the idea of forming another escape plan. A friend messaged to say he had been for his scheduled PCR testing in Cu Lac only to find it was like a bun fight organised by chimpanzees and referred to it as a super-spreading event. I realised it was 1 month since I had last seen Bich and it was also already 2 weeks since Veronika had left Elements Collection, to go to the Phong Nha Farmstay, time was passing quickly. We ate egg fried leftover rice with peppers and sweetcorn for lunch while watching the rest of the film we started last night, Devil’s Advocate – it’s probably one of the weirdest films I’ve seen! While we ate chicken, potatoes and green vegetables for dinner we decided to watch another film. Yesterday, which is a really good Danny Boyle film, made me laugh and I really enjoyed singing along – definitely worth a watch if you like The Beatles. Before bed Tatas sent me a message to say that there was a proposal to move from Directive 16 to Directive 15 but our commune of Hung Trạch would stay in Directive 16. This meant that people in Phong Nha and the Farmstay would be in a less strict lockdown to us – so not fair! She sent a document with it on but couldn’t say where it was from or give me the first few pages. It also said that Hoan Lao and Dong Hoi would all remain in Directive 16 too – this could be a problem for me going to get the PCR test I needed to leave with and didn’t make for a very reassuring day 19 of #STFAH.
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.
We ate very well on Saturday 11th September, day 17 of our #STFAH Lockdown. I didn’t wake up until 8.30am which was nice and I made more pickled red cabbage for later on. We still had some baguette left which we had put in the fridge so we warmed it in the microwave and shared the piece with butter on, then had a banana and a tangerine each. In the news there was talk of plans for Saigon to be fully open before Tet holiday next year, read about it here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210911/ho-chi-minh-city-plans-to-pilot-vaccine-travel-passes-in-three-stages-of-economic-reopening/63049.html For lunch things were getting a bit samey and my stomach really didn’t like the egg but I continued to eat tortilla, egg fried rice, asparagus, cabbage and carrots. We had 2 apples, donated by Bich, so we went mad and had 1 each – it was the best tasting apple I’ve had in a long time! In the afternoon there were more warnings of the typhoon coming and Duyet was outside with Cuong preparing the trees for a storm. There was a post shared on Facebook saying that there would be compulsory PCR tests done in Son Trạch, the commune where Phong Nha is; it started this afternoon and would finish on the 14th September, testing 1 person per household. I hoped plenty of people would be ready for it, thinking that the more people that were tested negative the better chance of us coming out of a lockdown. Captain Caveman cooked chicken, potatoes and cabbage for dinner and I had half a beer. The rain came and then there was a power cut so we went to bed very early. I’m so grateful for the emergency light a friend brought us from Germany as my phone wasn’t charged.
I’d still not unpacked my suitcase, on the off chance that I got the sudden permission to leave any time soon. It was day 16 of #STFAH on Friday 10th September and I was sad that another pizza-less Friday had come around. I ate buttered toast as I caught up on the Corona numbers, the news from the past 2 days and it was interesting to read that the WHO were trying to help poorer countries, like Vietnam, get everyone the 1st jab before boosters in richer countries, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210909/who-urges-covid19-vaccine-booster-moratorium-until-2022/63013.html Quang Binh was told to prepare for storms and flooding because of a typhoon heading towards us, see below: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210909/vietnam-mobilizes-500000-military-officers-to-prepare-for-storm-conson/63020.html And a story of escaped positive cases on the loose down south, caught my eye: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210910/coronavirus-patients-captured-after-fleeing-quarantine-center-in-southern-vietnam/63043.html The most worrying thing I read today was that a woman who worked at Cuba hospital, Dong Hoi, and is connected to PCR tests in some way, had tested positive for Corona yesterday – not very reassuring! Our shopping order to Bich had been sent to our friend in Dong Hoi who was going to get it sent to us later today, which was fantastic. For lunch we had egg fried rice with mushrooms (made from the leftover risotto from last night), tortilla and asparagus, washed down with a lunch time beer. We managed to have a swim before more heavy rains came in the afternoon with the typhoon due to hit on the 12th September. We decided to watch more Somebody Feed Phil, which is a really good show on Netflix, we watched episodes about Marrakech, Chicago, Seoul and Hawaii. It made me realise that I’d like to visit Seoul sometime but Hawaii was no longer near the top of my list. I found we had a lot of ants in the kitchen of late and some were on the salt, but Captain Caveman wasn’t amused and had a bit of a to do because I’d mentioned ants!! I was annoyed because, in my view, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to not have to share our condiments with ants – I don’t want them in our food! It had been 3 weeks since we had last eaten pizza and I was definitely missing it. For dinner tonight we had steamed chicken, rice, aubergines, green beans, tomato, peppers, garlic, peanuts and pickled red cabbage – lovely, healthy, but not pizza! At 7pm a car pulled up with our shopping, the delivery was a wonderful collection of; 2kg chicken breasts 1 huge white cabbage 1 bottle of mayonnaise 1 bottle of ketchup 1 tube of wasabi paste 1 bottle of olive oil 1 bunch of bananas 1 pack of cucumbers 1 bag of onions 2 packets of contraceptive pills Overall, day 16 of #STFAH wasn’t too bad but I wasn’t eating cake at an afternoon tea event, which I’d been invited to, by the river in Dalyan!
Instead of it being the last day of #STFAH on Thursday 9th September there was (at least) another week of Directive 16 Lockdown to come. To cheer ourselves up we had more of the pulled pork baguettes that we had yesterday, but for breakfast, followed by passion fruit. I would have been landing in Istanbul at 11.45am (Vietnamese time) and I was a bit sad that it hadn’t happened, especially as today was the 12 week anniversary of my 1st vaccine. It rained all day, at times heavily, flood and storm warnings were issued in our area, ironically we had no water again and the guys had to pump it from the other building, which looked like hard work in the rain. I made a kind of leftover vegetable medley (aubergine, peppers, tomatoes and garlic) to have with a slice of tortilla and my home made pickled red cabbage for lunch. It was now day 15 of our lockdown, gone were the days when we could frivolously eat 2 slices of tortilla at lunch, we had to make things last. I had a beer but I didn’t really enjoy it as I know it makes my eczema worse. We treated ourselves to some of the brownie disaster I made weeks ago, back when we had the luxury of an oven, even that tasted like a real treat! I’m not much of a chocolate eater but I’d started to long for a bit of decent chocolate or even a proper brownie. Today was also the day my visa expired and now immigration had my passport to extend it once again. That night, we had more of Stu’s amazing pulled pork with potatoes, asparagus and pickled cabbage and we were so grateful for a nice place to be living in and the food we had managed to get. Some friends had started to struggle to get the foods they needed or wanted, so we were in a much more fortunate position than most and it was good to remind myself that, especially when I thought of me being at our other home in Dalyan, had things worked out. As Captain Caveman and I had been eating the same for lunches and dinners he had been losing quite a bit of weight and I think he missed being able to ride his bike, but we were doing well compared to most. The bad weather was set to continue and although I was still fine with the temperature, grateful even, Captain Caveman had to put a hoody on!
On Wednesday 8th September we woke to the news of how many new cases were reported in Quang Binh yesterday; 53 but none of them were in our area. Also in the Vietnamese news there was an article about the 2nd vaccine dose being Pfizer after a Moderna shortage, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20210908/ho-chi-minh-city-mixes-pfizerbiontech-moderna-covid19-vaccines-as-supplies-run-low/63002.html By 8am the housekeeping staff were here to give the room a good clean so we sat downstairs for breakfast. Captain Caveman was making himself some egg containing monstrosity while I had decided to have peanut butter on a baguette. The lockdown food supply was getting us through but I have to admit, anything really nice was like our crack-cocaine equivalent or something, eyeing each other to make sure that no one took too much of an ingredient. Captain Caveman had let it go that I’d had the last of the jam but neither of us wanted to run out of Ly Ly’s peanut butter, hence why he shared his potatoes with me, so I wouldn’t be tempted to have more. I checked on my mushrooms but there were no further crops and when we went back up to the room all the water had run out. Once again Duyet and Cuong had to pump water in to the tank in the roof while I drank my earl grey tea, which we’d had for over a year. We had an amazing lunch of pulled pork (from Stu) with onions, garlic, BBQ sauce, white cabbage and both colours of carrot, on a baguette with a can of Huda beer. For afters we had mango, grapes and dragon fruit and I still thought myself lucky despite the fact that I should have been on the flight to Singapore round about now. We’d hoped we might hear something about the lockdown being lifted or extended before tomorrow’s deadline but we didn’t hear from anyone all afternoon. This made us unnecessarily optimistic so that when we did get the update we were very disappointed. Our entire district of Bo Trach and all of Dong Hoi were being kept in Lockdown under Directive 16 for another week, until Wednesday 15th September at 7pm – I wasn’t leaving next week, then! Before dinner we had a video call with my parents, I was a bit apprehensive at first because I thought I’d get upset after the recent trauma of not being able to leave here, but we had a good laugh and they really cheered me up. I even got a tour of their home to see all the DIY and building projects they had been up to during the pandemic. It looked fantastic and I hoped I’d still get to see it sometime soon. Captain Caveman made us a risotto for tea, which was nice but without wine or cheese in it, it’s not as good. Overall, day 14 of the #STFAH restrictions had been ok, with the highlight of the day being able to moan on to my parents and them reassure me that I’d be ok and to trust my instincts next time.
After yesterday’s fiasco I was exhausted and still pretty cheesed off with the whole debacle when I woke up on Tuesday 7th September. I should have been leaving here today to go to Hanoi airport for my flight to Singapore tomorrow. It was raining still and continued to do so most of the day, Captain Caveman was more mad today than he had shown yesterday but there was nothing either of us could do about the entire situation. Before I had even got out of bed I was looking at ways to try to recoup some money as we had spent so much on something that didn’t go to plan and were already pretty skint to start with. I looked in to any possibility of getting money transferred from Turkey via email or letter and, having let our Turkish agent (and friend) know I wouldn’t be arriving on Thursday, as hoped, I was given some help to try to get the money transferred. Still from my bed, I was on the phone to Singapore Airlines customer services to sort out my flight, we knew we couldn’t get a refund but they were able to move the flights to another date, fortunately without having to pay any more. Singapore Airlines had made my day, they were so good and easy to deal with, very thorough and efficient and said I could move my flight to later in September, or even in to October. I didn’t unpack as we thought there may be a chance that, if lockdown is lifted in the next couple of days, I might make it out earlier. We had leftover dinner made in to chicken and pepper egg fried rice for a late breakfast, which was delicious. I got a message confirming the safe delivery of my passport to immigration, which we had to pay 500,000vnd (£16) for and I managed to get the visa extension price for the same price as previously. I found the green beetle had fallen in to our pool and was struggling to get out because of the rain so I rescued him with the arm of my sunglasses and he looked as tired and fed up as me. I was late checking the news today as Captain Caveman and I were looking into the number of reported cases in Quang Binh, strangely they reported 91 cases for the 2nd day running which seemed a bit of a coincidence. Also in the Vietnamese news a man was given 5 years in jail for spreading Corona virus to 8 people, 1 died. You can read about it here: https://bbc.in/3n94uGX I messaged the Elements owner to let her know I hadn’t left and that I planned to stay a little longer, luckily she was happy with that. She even arranged to send us some treats in the form of baguettes, tangerines and potatoes which got to us, from Dong Hoi, in hardly any time at all – it was so kind of her! We had chicken and napa cabbage baguettes for lunch and then the water went off. In the scheme of things having no water was a minor inconvenience so we weren’t too bothered as Duyet and Cuong had to drag a hose across the pool and into the tank in the roof from the property opposite, using a ladder that didn’t look too robust. We shared passion fruit as a snack, had a beer and it was strangely not a stressful day at all. For dinner we had chicken, peppers, napa cabbage and BBQ sauce in fresh baguettes and went to bed early. Unfortunately, my leaving situation had come to a dead end and we had to accept that I definitely would not be able to leave during a lockdown and I’d have to just wait until restrictions were lifted. The next announcement was due on the 9th September but we hoped that tomorrow we would find out that lockdown would end on Thursday, then I could leave without any drama!