I finally got to sleep for as long as I wanted on Thursday 12th November and it felt good! For breakfast I had toasted, buttered, sourdough with no ill effects and I was really enjoying eating bread again. I later had some homemade rice pudding (with jam) and it made me ill straight away. Building work had started that morning on building a carport outside and Ky, the dog, was hoping to get an upgrade to a proper kennel.
Captain Caveman collected some freshly made bread from the Lake House which he divided in to three batches; eat now, put in the fridge and freeze the rest. While I was at my desk he made tortilla so we enjoyed a picnic dinner with the fresh bread and it was so good. The weather forecast wasn’t too bad for tomorrow here in Phong Nha but the warnings of the forthcoming Vamco typhoon were coming thick and fast – it was already in the East sea. I knew we had a solid roof over our heads and we would be safe in the storm but it was concerning for all those who were still not recovered from the last lot of flooding.
I managed to cause a bit of a stir in the online world by posting a blog, on a Facebook group, which I wrote a year ago about what I was up to in Dalyan, Turkey. I mentioned some activities which had some of the dirty minded readers in a bit of a tizzy – even the administrator received complaints! (Here it is if you want to read it: https://joloyolo.com/2019/12/17/dalyan-the-2nd-week-in-november/).
Our alarm went off at 6am on Wednesday 11th November and Phuong (of Phuong’s Transfers) picked both Captain Caveman and I up at 6.45am. This meant we had just about enough time for breakfast at Mr Bull’s where all three of us ordered the Bo Ne (beef and eggs) and Captain Caveman had my egg, Phuong my bread and I just ate the beef and onion. It tasted amazing and I’m now a big fan of Mr Bull’s. We left Captain Caveman there with his coffee while Phuong drove me to physio, which I was now late for.
While I had 2 men working on my leg Captain Caveman went off shopping for provisions. I saw photos on Facebook of Hoi An showing more floods so we were lucky this time to be spared. After physio I decided I needed a second breakfast/early lunch so we went to Tree Hugger. They have brown rice new on the menu so I had the beef rice plate with brown rice and a peppermint tea. Captain Caveman had an egg sandwich (obviously) and Phuong just had a coffee. I was missing eating most of my meals at Tree Hugger and I really enjoyed our visit.
Back home I had a busy afternoon as I decided to apply for more online jobs, it was getting a bit tricky not knowing what would happen in 2021 and I needed to replenish funds. I came across an online company doing artificial intelligence tasks which I registered for, took the training course and started working on – the tasks are online and it would do as a part-time job until I find something more substantial. I finished the afternoon off with some Vietnamese language lessons. For dinner Captain Caveman made a nice chicken dish which we had with rice and green beans – we shared a bottle of red wine too. Tomorrow I was hoping for a lay in!
Captain Caveman decided that we wouldn’t have breakfast together on Tuesday 10th November and instead he went for coffee at Tree House cafe (formerly Capture cafe) and petted a nice puppy. As I was left at home I treated myself to another crisp sandwich, this time with balsamic vinegar flavour, for breakfast. I was looking a bit rough and tired so I decided to have a bit of a pamper after my hot shower and put on some moisturiser – I left it on as a facemask to soak in and it felt really nice. I put lavender moisturiser and socks on my feet and some nice hand cream I bought in Dong Hoi on my hands and elbows. By the time Captain Caveman got back for lunch I was looking loads better and feeling good. He made us asparagus with salami and parmesan for lunch which was really tasty and then I made some rice pudding for a mid afternoon treat, I even had jam in mine. Duyet and Co came and moved our fridge back in to the kitchen (now that the floods had gone)so now we had 2 fridges, which made it easier for the weekly shop. After a bit of work on the laptop, which I had finally got out so that I could brush up my CV, and register on some online job sites, it was already wine o’clock. Captain Caveman and I shared a bottle of red and he cooked pasta with salami and peppers. We didn’t manage a walk today because of the rain but I did my exercises and then accidentally noticed I could almost bend my bad leg enough to cross my legs!
Phuong was busy on Monday 9th November so he arranged for another driver, Le, to pick me up at 6.45am to go to my physio session in Dong Hoi. Captain Caveman came with me as he needed to go to the bank and then planned to do some shopping. Today was no ordinary Monday in my little world; my current visa had expired, Oxalis Adventure had restarted their tours and (shockingly) D-Dub was leaving Phong Nha and not just in a normal way. He had decided to walk to his next home town of Danang which is almost 300km away. He was doing Movember and donating the money to charity which we hadn’t yet donated to because we had missed his party at Momma D’s on Saturday. He was leaving Phong Nha early so we decided to keep a look out for him in either direction so we could say bye. We also decided we would go to Danang to see D-Dub, he’s such a nice bloke and easily in the top 3 of eligible blokes in town. After physio I was hungry, thirsty and needing a pee so we decided to go to Tree Hugger for breakfast. I had a delicious peach tea and ordered fried veggie spring rolls while, of course, Captain Caveman devoured an egg sandwich. Le, the driver, came back to pick us up and I took 3 leftover spring rolls home.
On the way back I had almost forgotten to look for D-Dub when Captain Caveman reminded me, I looked out the window and we had just zoomed past him. We shouted stop, Le did, and Captain Caveman ran back to donate money from us and Veronika and say bye. It was too far for me to walk so I waited by the car and asked for a photo – I should have given him my remaining spring rolls in case he was peckish. Instead I had them for lunch and then bugged Captain Caveman to come for a walk round the block with me.
Veronika walked with us to the end of the road and then she walked to the Farmstay and we went the same route as last time, round the block. I did ok and just had one set back when my knee needed a bit of a rub to keep it going but, overall, I was pleased with the slow progress. I took 20 minutes to walk on dry ground for 500 metres.
I was also peckish when we got back so I decided to have a crisp sandwich for a snack. We shared a bottle of fizz and Captain Caveman made a beef stew with peppers and potatoes for dinner. He was off to Phong Nha village the next morning so we planned to have breakfast at The Villas because I hadn’t had pho for breakfast for a whole month and it’s one of my favourites.
On Friday 6th November, after getting up at 6.15am, going to physio for a couple of hours and then coming back to a late breakfast of fruit and yoghurt I had a mini health scare. I had a really bad stomach and, to spare you the details, thought I may have signs of bowel cancer but it turns out too much red dragon fruit can give you the impression you are passing blood in a dimly lit bathroom! An hour later I was fine, feeling hungry again and had drawn the conclusion that yoghurt just isn’t for me! I made a tub of popcorn and I watched some house programme with Captain Caveman before my zoom call with Ruth. My second online session with Ruth went well apart from me needing the toilet half way through and not being able to walk on my tip toes at all. Following our call she went away and followed it up with an exercise plan which I received while I was out. Ben, Bich, the kids and all the Farmstay guests picked up the 3 of us and the 5 neighbours and we had a full sunshine bus to The Villas for all you can eat pizza. When we arrived a large table was set up ready for us all and it was pouring with rain. The staff came out with umbrellas and I was helped up the wet steps. Captain Caveman and I shared a bottle of wine and the pizzas were excellent. The night went well and we all had a great time. I checked my exercise plan from Ruth which looked impressive and I decided to start it tomorrow, not after a wine or two!
Captain Caveman had to work on Saturday 7th November and so he was up and about early. Corona stats in Europe were becoming even more worrying as the UK was now ranked 8th for cases and still in 5th place for deaths. Turkey was in 26th for cases and 21st for deaths but Turkey was not in lockdown and bars were all still open until 10pm. In Vietnam we rarely get news about Europe but today there were concerns about the increase in deaths there. In Vietnam the news of the floodings continued and Hoi An was affected again quite badly. Here we were lucky again and things were back to normal for a bit longer. I was eager to start my new exercise plan which would cover the next 2 weeks and I got straight in to it. I found the exercises all very challenging except for the one where I had to lay on my side and lift up my leg, but she did say I would. Because the day was racing on, and the cleaners were in the kitchen, I had orange juice, snickers and jasmine tea for a very late breakfast and Captain Caveman was back in time for lunch. We had fresh sourdough bread – one piece with raspberry jam on and the other with peanut butter for me and I suspect he had marmite involved with his. While I got on and did some ‘work’ in the afternoon Captain Caveman watched house programmes then russelled up a mushroom risotto for dinner. We had company in the evening when Hien and Bich came round with wine and nibbles. It was a lovely evening with lots of laughs and some nice wine.
I woke on Sunday 8th November to news that Trump had lost the American election and was now contesting the votes! Captain Caveman was off early to work as he was off on a set up trip in Tu Lan, ready for the start of the Oxalis Adventure tours the next day. I got up early and decided to make a beef stew – frying beef before I’d eaten breakfast was a bit odd but I got it done and then went to the Farmstay. Melissa and the family were already there and were occupying a rather lovely and massive sofa in front of the fire so I joined them for breakfast. I decided I would really put the apparent cure of gluten intolerance to the test by having American pancakes with honey. Aaliyah was already eating her’s and they did look good so I ordered them with a juice and a green tea. I really enjoyed them and I was ok for maybe 30 minutes after eating them but then I had the usual gluten effects. When Captain Caveman got back from work we opened a bottle of red wine and ate some of the beef stew with sourdough bread, it tasted nice but the Vietnamese don’t do great beef and I found it had too much sinew in to be able to eat it. It did have carrot, potato, onion and mushrooms in so I mainly ate that. I did my exercises before bed and was pleased to manage 36 seconds of standing on my bad leg (with my eyes open) – that was more progress.
Photo credit – The Villas for the pizza night photos
I woke up at 7am on Monday 2nd November and decided it was too early for me to get up yet so I went back to sleep. I had incredibly odd dreams and eventually woke again at a lazy 9.30am (in Vietnam it is like getting up in the afternoon if you get up at that time). I was still in the shower when the cleaners arrived and as I came out, luckily in my robe, they were already stripping the bed and dusting. Captain Caveman and Veronika were already at the Farmstay and I was meant to follow as soon as I was ready but I couldn’t get changed while the cleaners were busy in my room with the curtains open so I took the opportunity to learn some Vietnamese. When I eventually joined the others I impressed myself by being able to get up the steps and in to the restaurant area, it was busy; the neighbours were all there, Bich, Ben, the kids, staff and deliveries were happening. Building work had started to continue and Ben had got help from Remy, Howie and Thi. Captain Caveman had been waiting for me to arrive to order breakfast and so he went for sausages and scrambled eggs, I had toast and an orange juice. It was quite sunny and I didn’t need my hoodie on, it was hard to believe that last month it had been so deep underwater. It was getting to lunch time and Howie was having a cheesecake which looked amazing so I ordered one – it was definitely impressive. When it was time to leave I managed to get down the 4 steps by myself, even though Bich and Captain Caveman were on standby to help. That was the first time I’d done that many bigger steps in a row, without a handrail and going down them – I was really pleased with more progress! In the afternoon I learned more Vietnamese, watched more of, the now extremely odd, The Haunting of Bly Manor. Instead of cooking, Captain Caveman and I decided to have a chicken combo delivery from East Hill. The food was great and I really enjoyed my dinner, I didn’t even leave any!! Captain Caveman had a couple of beers and I had a cider with mine. Because the food comes wrapped in banana leaf and in a paper bag there is no washing up to be done and is very good for the environment!! We did save the chicken bones so that Captain Caveman could make a stock for another day. Before bed I did the rest of my exercises and found that I could do most of them except for squats, which hurt my good leg and standing on one leg – I only managed 20 seconds this time.
There wasn’t much happening on Tuesday 3rd November for me. I had toast with butter for breakfast and for lunch Captain Caveman made hot dogs (no bread) with mustard and ketchup and we had a bit of a treat with some orange juice – we only usually drink water (or alcohol). The weather wasn’t good, it was grey and rainy and so I attempted more languages, blogging and The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix (I was now on the penultimate episode). In the afternoon I ended up eating sweets and crisps but for dinner I did us some fried rice and then was ever so adventurous by springing a dessert on Captain Caveman. He doesn’t like sweet things (unless it’s cheesecake or carrot cake once in a while) so he didn’t look too impressed. However, what I had managed to do was make an amazing rice pudding with the wrong ingredients, the condensed milk I had mistook for evaporated milk and thought I would use it in the rice pudding. I cooked the rice in the cooker as normal and then added some condensed milk and normal milk and cooked it for a few minutes. It was fantastic and reminded me of ambrosia rice pudding from back home and we had it with raisins in. Captain Caveman actually ate all of his and enjoyed it. I messaged Mom to tell her, as it reminded me of Dad who had just got back from an appointment. He now wanted her to make him some rice pudding!!
Wednesday 4th November should have been the day I renewed my residency in Turkey. Unfortunately it can’t be done when not in the country and so it meant I had to lose it, go back as a tourist and hopefully reapply next time I am there. I had toast for breakfast, Captain Caveman had a feast with his toast! I did some Vietnamese and renewed my Turkish health insurance so that it didn’t lapse and I would still be covered for my leg if I needed to claim. Friends in Turkey were on messenger helping me sort it out which was reassuring. We had a picnic lunch and then I finished The Haunting of Bly Manor and although it was quite annoying I did quite like it. Captain Caveman was in charge of dinner and made me gluten free pasta with veg and salami and parmesan cheese – it was very good. I had an apple and we shared a bottle of red wine, I did my exercises before bed but couldn’t stand on one leg or do the squats at all!!
It was an early start on Thursday 5th November! My alarm went off at 6am and Phuong, from the very punctual Phuong’s Transfers, was picking me up to go to Dong Hoi at 6.45am. I was very lucky to get an early physio appointment at 7.30am and I went in to the hot treatment room for the first time in over 2 weeks. Because of the bad weather and me having had a skin infection, then a cold, I had not been able to make the physio sessions. I was glad to get back but was nervous that it might be more painful. I managed just 90 minutes of being pummelled while Captain Caveman and Phuong went for breakfast at Mr Bull’s and the therapy was less painful in parts but more in others – I confirmed for another session the next day. The weather was ok in Dong Hoi and Phong Nha at the moment but further south tropical storm Goni was on it’s way, ‘at risk’ people were being evacuated in large numbers and it didn’t look good for Hue, Danang and Hoi An. Back home I had tortilla and picnic stuff for my late breakfast, while Captain Caveman headed over to Phong Nha and the Glass House. For lunch I had toast with butter and still had suffered no gluten issues. When Captain Caveman returned he decided it was warm enough for a dip in the pool, it was sunny but still too cold for me to join him. I had started to do some research in to trading currencies and Blockchain because Melissa had started a new investment about a month ago and was raving on about it, I wanted to know more of what it was all about. We decided it was my turn to cook so when I asked Captain Caveman what he would like he said ‘do something different!’ so I did. I made an Arabic dish, Mujaddara, which I felt he would have tried before on his extensive travels. It’s a simple dish made with rice, lentils, onions and yoghurt and it turns out that you don’t really need a lot of it to feel full – it’s also very budget friendly and easy to do in the rice cooker. I thought it tasted nice and Captain Caveman, who had never tried it before, would have preferred it as a side dish rather than a main meal. We also had quite a bit spare, even though I adapted the recipe to a smaller quantity and a couple of gins were had to wash it down with. While we watched some house programme on Netflix we shared some dark chocolate for dessert.
It had been my first October spent in Phong Nha, the last 3 years I had been in Turkey during the winter time and I have never stayed in Vietnam during the wet season. Last month went pretty quickly for me, and I was about to spend my first November in Vietnam, which I guess is mainly out of choice but partly because to go back to the UK would then mean I would not be let back in to Vietnam, or other safe countries, for an unknown amount of time. My parents have being staying at home in England since January so I even if I could get back I wouldn’t want to risk catching the virus on my way back and passing it to them. There is not really an option to go to Turkey either as the flights are not available and any indirect flight I could maybe get would probably cancel or cost far too much. So, I had resigned myself to a winter in Phong Nha but was managing to keep busy. While the world reached 46.3m Corona cases and 1.2m Corona related deaths on Sunday 1st November, we had woke up to news updates that the UK prime minister had implemented a lockdown to take effect from the 5th November in England. This would not include going to work, school and essential shops – the duration would be for 1 month. This made sense to me as the UK was now 9th in the world for number of cases and 5th for deaths. People from England were still welcome in Turkey but the UK insisted on a 14 day self managed isolation upon returning back home. Turkey was in a better position than the UK, though, so it was surprising that no restrictions had been imposed by Turkey yet. Turkey was 23rd in the world and 21st for deaths but, although people were asked to wear masks and some curfews were in place, they were not in a lockdown position. In Phong Nha it was sunny and a good breezy day for towel drying while I had bread and butter for breakfast in bed. I spent the morning learning Turkish and pondering over some information on global Forex investments (as you do). For lunch we had tortilla with picnic food. I made a pork, lentil and cider stew in the rice steamer and ended up making quite a big batch of which we had half for dinner and the rest we would freeze. I also managed all my exercises including 31 seconds of standing on my bad foot, the longest I had managed so far.
More Google searches of mine revealed in this cheeky alphabetical list – I always Google less when Captain Caveman is away as there is no need to argue or fact check conversations!
1. Amoxicillin dosage 2. Books by Malala Yousafzai 3. Can spiders see in the dark 4. Can you recover from gluten intolerance 5. Dermovate cream 6. English to Turkish 7. English to Vietnamese 8. Everything tastes sweet 9. Gluten free sausage rolls 10. Harry Potter 11. Hurricane, London 1987 12. Infected Eczema 13. Jade face roller 14. Jasmine tea benefits 15. Kids who can’t sit still 16. Molave storm 17. Orgran gluten free products 18. Palm off 19. Quang Ngai 20. Rice pudding 21. Storm tracker 22. UK antibiotics for skin infections 23. Vinpearl hotel, Dong Hoi 24. World Life Expectancy 25. Weather
Friday 30th October was one of those days where we did practically nothing. It was raining all day, Corona cases globally had exceeded 45 million and we didn’t even eat a proper meal. When Captain Caveman had been in Uniqlo in Hanoi he had found bras that he thought might fit me but I was reluctant for him to buy them as I thought they wouldn’t, but now the bras I have are really needing replacing. I found that although I had only reduced 1 cup size my bust measurement was down 4 inches!!! The next time we went to Hanoi I might be able to get some bras to fit me – this was highly exciting news. Unfortunately in Turkey there was bad news of a big earthquake in Izmir which had resulted in buildings collapsing and people being trapped and some killed or injured. Dalyan is 300km south of İzmir so there was no damage there but they did feel the tremors. My gluten intolerance issue was a mystery because I seemed to be able to eat bread and not be affected which was weird – I’d not eaten bread for about 2 years and now I had started to eat it more often. For breakfast I had 2 slices of buttered toast which was great and didn’t make me sick. Captain Caveman had started watching house renovation TV shows on Netflix and so I had lost my chef to the TV. For lunch we shared some M&Ms and I carried on doing Duolingo languages and blogging. In the afternoon I made popcorn, this time with butter and salt and we ate a whole tub between us while watching some terrible house programme with a very annoying Caroline Quentin as one of the presenters. I got some news from my mom that PayPal were going to start charging if you had not used your account in the last 12 months, from December. I looked into it and they would charge whichever was the less of £12 or your balance if it had been inactive for a year. The problem was that neither me nor Captain Caveman could log in to PayPal as our phone numbers had changed and it wanted to send a code to our registered numbers from way back. For dinner we simply had 2 white russians each, my cold had almost gone and I just felt a bit tired so had an early night. Ruth, the gecko, had decided she liked to hide in the bathroom door and so we didn’t close the door at all for risk of her getting squashed. Tomorrow we had a very busy day planned and there was also another typhoon on the way to the Philippines which was likely to affect us a week later!
On Saturday 31st October Captain Caveman made us some beans on toast for breakfast, always a favourite of mine, but it did mean we were now out of baked beans and they aren’t too easy to get here. We didn’t bother with any lunch but I wish I had later. At 2pm we were picked up by Phuong (of Phuong’s Transfers) and Remy, our neighbour, came to Dong Hoi with us. Our first stop was Co-op Mart where, because I didn’t have access to the list (on Captain Caveman’s phone), I got the job of pushing the trolley up and down the aisles instead of going on the massage chair. Captain Caveman bought groceries including snacks, fruit, veg, ketchup and spaghetti. I spotted what I thought was Carnation evaporated milk and insisted we buy that at a bargain 19,000 vnd. At the next stop, Tuan Viet Gourmet, I pushed the trolley again and we still couldn’t get everything on our list. We got red wine, crisps, dark chocolate, gluten free chocolate cookies, pasta sauce (in a jar), orange juice, (expensive but impressive) walnuts and some meat. We don’t normally buy much meat to cook except for bacon and salami but this week we got pork and beef to make casseroles in the rice steamer! Next we went to the Vinmart and I was getting a bit tired but we still managed a decent shop on exciting treats like salami, Strongbow cider, and salted lemon to go in my gin! Back at the van I thought we might be calling it a day and Remy looked like he had done too but he still needed a couple of things. Alas, Captain Caveman pointed out we still needed multiple items off the list so our next stop was the organic shop where I completely lost track of the purchasing and stayed in the van chatting to Phuong about how hungry we both were. Captain Caveman definitely got asparagus at this shop and I think some chicken from the freshly stocked freezer section before heading to another small shop to buy beer. When we got to the last supermarket I didn’t bother going in and left Captain Caveman to pick up dates and grapes from the list, unfortunately they were out of stock and we had to leave without any! Earlier that day I had arranged to drop off my passport with an agent so that I could, once again, have my visa extended. For those of you who have more to think about than the Vietnamese visa rules, it has changed that immigration will now only extend visas in UK passports by 1 month (it was previously 3 months) and so now this is a bit of a costly inconvenience. Not only does the agent end up having my passport in their possession for between 14 and 19 days, the cost is an astonishing $120. This is only for people, like me, who arrived before 1st March. Anyone after 1st March gets free visa waivers as they are deemed to be stuck here because of Corona. I did have the opportunity still to leave before 1st March but I chose to stay in Vietnam and therefore I am at the mercy of whatever the price is – last month it was $85. There is also no guarantee of how many times I will be able to extend it so if the boarders open, even to a country I don’t want to go to, it may be possible that I will have to get out (Thailand did something similar in September). So here we were in Phuong’s minibus heading towards Kimmie’s (the agent) house after 5pm on a Saturday to give her my passport. Captain Caveman gave my passport to her and that was it until I pick it up on the 19th November. On the way back to Phong Nha we made one last stop at the Lake House where Captain Caveman had ordered 5 loaves of bread, 3 for us and 2 for Veronika!!
When we got back Veronika was already on the bubbly and so we joined her for a drink, then we all had fresh bread and butter for dinner – we know how to live it up on a Saturday night! I noticed that it was Halloween and quite a lot of my UK Facebook friends seemed to be really into it, including my sister who had decorated her house and the family had dressed up for a party at home. Here in Vietnam it’s not a thing and I don’t remember it being as popular as it is now when I was living in England. The best I could do was a couple of photos with Snapchat filters to ‘join in’!! I also saw a friend’s post on Facebook, a memory from 5 years ago; I’d said ‘yes’ to a request to go to see Iron Maiden in Berlin and that was the start of the Berlin 10 and what would be a great trip with some great new, and old, friends. It made me both happy and sad – I hoped I would be lucky enough to be able to join more trips with the Berlin 10 in the not too distant future.
The last week of October started on Monday 26th with me having an actual cold – great!!! Captain Caveman made me the best ever breakfast of beans on toast with jasmine tea and I wolfed it down then went back to bed to keep warm. Even though it wasn’t too cold I felt really chilly and so I tried to rest up a bit and keep away from everyone. I did manage to do some Vietnamese and some blogging but I couldn’t really concentrate on it. I started watching The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix which was kind of strange but I downloaded the second episode for another day. I wasn’t sick from the gluten at breakfast so I decided to really put the gluten to the test again and I had cheese on toast for lunch. I did well and wasn’t affected for at least an hour and even then it was different to gluten belly and I think the cheese was at fault. Captain Caveman had already watched Harry Potter 7 when Michael and Howie arrived with Ben asking if they could watch it. Ben and Veronika were having a coffee so Captain Caveman sat and watched the film again, Howie gave up after less than 10 minutes and all the neighbours were sick with sore throats so didn’t come over. I stayed in my room and had a bit of a siesta. I only managed to do the first set of exercises for my bad leg and had thought I had a second zoom call with Ruth but she was on holiday for a week. I booked in to go to physio in Dong Hoi but was too sick to go and had to cancel – I also didn’t want anyone to catch my cold. My skin infection on my good leg was definitely getting better and the antibiotics had done their job. By dinner time my cold was worse and I had been relying on the lemon salt sweets to sooth my throat quite a bit. I managed to carry all the ingredients to make fried rice down the stairs in a box, with a pepper in my pocket! This time we had salami in it but I think I had put too much water in the rice. I abstained from any alcohol and went back to bed. I hadn’t actually ventured outside but the massive forecast storm had still not arrived so we were very lucky.
Typhoon Molave had caused quite a bit of damage in the Philippines and it was on course to hit central Vietnam this week! On Tuesday 27th October people were genuinely worried that the storm to next hit could be a big one and were doing all they could to prepare for the worst. Meanwhile, in our ‘ivory tower’ and privileged position we were doing ok. Except for the fact that I was now definitely sick with this incredibly snotty cold, sore throat and a bad head everything at our home was pretty tickety boo. Captain Caveman made breakfast and I had bacon, mushrooms and 2 slices of buttered sourdough with a pot of jasmine tea while Captain Caveman made himself a huge omelette in a sandwich!!! The people of Danang had been warned to prepare for the onslaught of storm number 9 and a curfew was implemented from 8pm! I watched more of The Haunting of Bly Manor and still thought it was a bit strange, Captain Caveman brought me dragon fruit for lunch, to keep up the vitamins, and I downloaded episode 3. It was rainy out and we were just deciding what to have for dinner when Veronika said she was off to The Villas and did we want to order any food for her to bring back. We both decided on a pizza; mine was the showstopper which has blue cheese and prosciutto on while Captain Caveman had a One Upper, no bacon but with extra salami and chillies. I was hungry when I got it but, despite it being the most delicious pizza, I only managed just over half and then saved the rest. I went to bed early, still feeling unwell and cold so I slept in all my clothes and told Captain Caveman he needed to get my scarves and hat from the Glass House next time he went.
Wednesday’s proposed shopping trip on 28th October was cancelled on account of storm Molave coming. There was a text message from the authorities at 9am in Vietnamese, which we translated to English, warning everyone of the situation and what to do. The cleaners were here and were doing a full fettle of the whole place, including making sure we had spare towels for any leaks. Captain Caveman warmed up my leftover showstopper pizza for my brunch as I was still taking it easy because I wasn’t feeling too good – hopefully I think I might have been coming through the other side now. Captain Caveman was laughing at me wearing a pair of lounge wear trousers (they aren’t pyjamas, honest) that used to fit me. He took a photo and I looked like one of those slimming photos with the extra big trousers. I decided it was time to throw them away as they no longer stay up. The rain and wind was steadily increasing each hour and Captain Caveman had to rescue the deckchairs on the balcony as they were blowing about but it didn’t seem too bad where we were. Tonight was meant to be when the worst of the storm would happen so we would see but we were quietly confident we would be fine. We had some fizz that night and had just opened it when Ben popped round to see Veronika, he showed us his premier amateur film of his experience of this last flood and it was pretty good. Captain Caveman asked me if I wanted him to make me carbonara, which is one of the best things he cooks but I said it was too late to mess about. He shocked me by saying he would do anything for me, including cooking a carbonara later at night! How sweet, so that’s what he did and it was delicious!!!
Before 8am on Thursday 29th October the tropical storm Molave had passed and, once again, we were extremely lucky. There was some damage in Phong Nha and flood water had come in at certain places but it was not the devastating results that had been predicted. Obviously our place was absolutely fine except for Ky, the dog, now had nothing left of his shelter and the odd plant pot had blown off and broken. The Farmstay water levels were high but the building had not flooded and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Elsewhere in Phong Nha town, where the market usually is, it was flooded again and some of the people who had vulnerable properties had some damage but on the whole people had been evacuated and considered themselves very lucky. In Danang and Hoi An they had been battered by Molave with significant damage, trees blown over and wind damage to property. In Quang Nam a whole roof had blown off the central hospital and there had been an horrendous landslide burying 53 people of which 15 bodies had already been recovered and a dangerous search continued. Captain Caveman made me a bacon sandwich with mushrooms for breakfast and he had his with eggs and brown sauce. I had 2 pots of jasmine tea and, feeling lucky to have missed the typhoon (now only a tropical storm), I had crisps for lunch while watching another episode of The Haunting of Bly Manor which I couldn’t decide if it was extremely badly cast or just odd. I suggested to Captain Caveman, who was now doing nothing but scrolling on his phone all day, that he might like to make us a Spanish omelette for dinner and he rose to the challenge – it’s another one of his signature dishes which he cooks really well. We had some for dinner with cheese and pickles and I saved a small slice for my breakfast the next day. I abstained from alcohol hoping to completely be rid of my cold by the weekend.
On Saturday 24th October it was another lovely sunny day here in Phong Nha but the next storm was forecast! I had jasmine tea in bed and did a puzzle – Captain Caveman had kindly brought me up a pot before he made breakfast. I ended up having fresh bread with butter and I noticed Captain Caveman had started with a cold. For lunch Captain Caveman did us cheese on toast which was fantastic even if I did have a bad stomach after, but that meant I missed Harry Potter 5. I had made the popcorn beforehand but less people came for the film today. I started watching Interior Design Masters on Netflix in the bedroom while Harry Potter was on and I got quite in to it. After the film finished I asked Captain Caveman if he wanted to go for a walk with me but he said I couldn’t walk anywhere. This annoyed me because I hadn’t really tried and I wanted to, only to the bottom of the road and back. When he realised I was serious he agreed and I got all wrapped up because I thought it was a bit chilly out.
The walk to the bottom of the road would be 162m so I had planned to try to complete both ways, a total of 324m. I was very slow but a lot more confident and I could walk better than I had before. Ky, the dog, tried to warn us about some pesky puppies but we ignored him and then they tried to scare us off! Captain Caveman suggested I could try walking around the block as it wasn’t much further than walking the same way back and I decided to have a go, I could see he was concerned he’d have to carry me back if I didn’t make it. Towards the end of the walk I saw that my favourite flower was back and that it had not been destroyed in the flood as I’d thought, it had just been hiding. I tried and I was so happy that I made it, almost 500m of walking. When we got back home we chilled out with a bit of wine and the last of the beef and lentil soup. Before bed I saw on Facebook that there had been lots of posts of photos where the locals were getting help after the flood damage – some cleaning up, others supplies of food packages. People were trying their best to get back to normal.
I woke up feeling like I had a sore throat coming on Sunday 25th October and I had a bit of a headache. During the night my ankle had hurt a little and had kept me awake but now the pain had gone. The storm we had been expecting, which had started as a typhoon and caused damage in the Philippines, had not hit Phong Nha. It was raining but it was nowhere near the heaviness of the last lot of weather – we were very lucky this time. Captain Caveman brought me a pot of tea in bed and then went down to cook breakfast. I had just started drinking my jasmine tea when I was called to come down for my bacon and mushroom breakfast. Trying to be healthy I also had a banana after breakfast and then went to write some blogs while eating gluten free and sugar free chocolate cookies. I spent most of the morning resting up and I finished Interior Design Masters on Netflix which I really enjoyed, even though I didn’t think the winner was that good. By lunch time I was coming round a bit and my throat was much better so Captain Caveman made one of his specialities, carbonara (with gluten free pasta for me, spaghetti for him) and we opened a bottle of red wine from Puglia. It was ok but I wouldn’t buy it again, just as we were tucking in Ben and Bich arrived bringing provisions for the kids and they laughed at our indulgence – well it was Sunday!!! Michael was giddy because he was ready to watch more films and went over to invite Melissa and her family. While Captain Caveman got involved with Harry Potter 6 I went to do my Vietnamese on Duolingo but fell asleep. At 5pm the Ministry of Health sent everyone a text (in Vietnamese but it could be translated easily via Google translate) giving some useful post flood advice. Captain Caveman borrowed Veronika’s motorbike and went to the Lake House to collect some sourdough bread and when he got back we had it for dinner. Strangely, I wasn’t ill after it and I started to wonder if my intolerance to gluten was being replaced by an intolerance to dairy – could this even happen!?
Although I still had no driver or physio session booked for Friday 23rd October we decided we probably needed to get some essentials as we were running low. Captain Caveman booked a car through Thang who he hires his motorbikes with and our alarm was set for 7am. I’d been awake since 4am because of the dog barking again and had trouble getting out of bed! There would be no Harry Potter today as one of the kids had to go to school but it had been promised for over the weekend so we needed more popcorn! The next storm was on its way and was meant to be likely to cause more wind and rain in our area. Our first stop was at Co-op Mart where I headed straight for the massage chair while Captain Caveman did the shopping. It was a fairly warm, dry day and so I decided not to take my crutches at all, for the first time. The supermarket was so quiet, I had 12 minutes for 20,000 vnd (66p) on the chair and loved it – this time I was better prepared and took jewelry off. I was quite proud of myself at getting on and off the escalator without a crutch too. Our next stop was the new supermarket, Tuan Viet Gourmet, so I could restock the gluten free sugar free chocolate cookies. The organic shop was next and they were still stocking the shop, they apologised that they were out of beef because they had been flooded. Captain Caveman, never to be beaten on top trumps, showed the assistant a video of the Phong Nha floods and she was completely stunned in to silence – we still didn’t get any meat! At the Red supermarket they had some late 90’s pop music in the form of the Venga Boys blaring out to an almost empty street and a very quiet shop. I had a little dance on the way in, had to be helped up and down the steps where they had a safety carpet. We found sweet corn and tuna (requested by the neighbours) and on the way back to the car I had to have a dance and a sing to Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!! At the pharmacy near the hospital there was a bit of a queue so I waited in the car listening to dance music while Captain Caveman stocked up on all the essentials. I thought we were going to grab breakfast at Tree Hugger but unfortunately Captain Caveman got a call to pick up a tool from the place near to the physio instead.
On our return to Phong Nha Captain Caveman took the tuna and seaweed to Melissa and asked if he could borrow her motorbike to head to Phong Nha to deliver the tool and a couple of brooms while I caught up with some tasks. On the way back he called at the Lake House to buy another couple of loaves of fresh bread. In the evening we had White Russians all round and agreed that we were probably the luckiest 3 people in town. For dinner we all had soup and was pretty grateful for homemade food and fresh bread. We had added potatoes, red cabbage and good old Henderson’s relish to the remaining beef and lentil soup – that sorted it out!
On Thursday 22nd October we got up to lovely sunshine and it looked as if the bad weather had disappeared. The dog in the house opposite our bathroom had been barking all through the night and I think it was because it had been left alone, when the owner returned it was quiet again. Captain Caveman went over to Phong Nha with Ben to help out at Victory Road Villas and then checked on our home at the Glass House.
I had egg fried rice and jasmine tea for breakfast then tried making something new – beef and lentil soup in the rice cooker! I made loads of popcorn and Harry Potter 4 commenced. The beef and lentil soup for dinner was a bit disappointing, it lacked flavour and was a bit fatty in parts so I picked out most of my meat and gave it to Captain Caveman. Veronika had made a point of not drinking while in charge of the grandchildren but had an evening to herself, so the three of us shared 2 bottles of fizz. Captain Caveman and I also had a glass or two of red wine to go with the beef and Veronika shared some cheesecake with us. When I got to bed I realised I had forgotten to do my leg exercises for the first time since I started my plan and resolved to do an extra set tomorrow. I messaged Thuy to book a physio appointment in for the next day, we were hoping to go to Dong Hoi and to also stock up on provisions in readiness for the next forecast storm.
Ben had made 2 more short films which showed the clean up efforts and the mess the flood waters had caused. It was unbelievable how hard the staff worked to clean up all the mud, all with a smile on their faces – inspiring.
The Phong Nha clean up was well underway on Wednesday 21st October and I saw loads of Facebook photos which showed just how bad the muddy flood waters had been in people’s homes, and businesses. Yesterday Captain Caveman had been to help Ben and Bich with some clear up jobs and he headed off again to see if there was anything else he could help with. He sent me photos back and I was so amazed at the progress the staff and other helpers had made. Ben was like a Phong Nha reporter with his paddle cam style filming and it really let us, in our fortunate position, see how things were in the villages and town around Phong Nha.
Check out Ben’s two clips (episodes 3 & 4 out of 6) on Facebook to give you a really good glimpse of how high the flood water had been and imagine the cleaning up:
While I sat safely indoors imagining the clean up catastrophe out in various locations in Phong Nha and feeling slightly guilty that I wasn’t even helping, Veronika and I had managed to get invited on a lunch date. Co had invited us, via translating with Michael, to join him for some fried rice at the staff house and, because we had already turned down the offer of a beer the day before, we thought we should accept. We speculated that it may be a thank you for putting the neighbours up during the floods so we took some snacks and a bottle of sparkling wine. Captain Caveman made it back just in time and we all sat and watched Co cook, it smelled lovely and even though I’d had a significant amount of breakfast I knew I could always eat fried rice. Mr Ky, the dog, was there and Captain Caveman was able to pet him but because of being unsteady on my leg still, I didn’t. We had some really tasty pork with fried rice, we used Google translate to chat a bit with Co and Duyet. The food was really good and we left believing the reason we were invited was because they were worried we weren’t getting enough food! So now, not only were we the most privileged people in Phong Nha we had the staff feeling sorry for us and making us a meal – how embarrassing! We would find out much later that this was not the case but it was no less embarrassing.
When we got back next door the cleaners were in and I looked up how to apologise in Vietnamese for the mess of the place. When they had cleaned, Veronika was eager to take everything back downstairs, Captain Caveman moved some things but we were reluctant because another storm was due at the weekend so it seemed premature to move everything back just yet. In Phong Nha town the electric came back on after 4 days of no power and we got word from friends that they were ok but just busy with tackling the clean ups. Of course we had been so fortunate to have the generator most of the time. Harry Potter 3 commenced, popcorn was made, 2 minute noodles were prepared and 4 of the 5 neighbours came to watch the film with us. Remy was out helping Ben and Bich with clean up stuff. When Harry Potter finished everyone left; the neighbours went back home, Veronika and the boys went to have dinner with Ben and Bich at the Farmstay and Captain Caveman decided to cook the last of the veggies we had with some beef that had been thawing out. We shared a bottle of wine and sat at the kitchen table to enjoy the wine, smell the delicious food cooking and appreciate a bit of quiet! We decided to eat 2 pieces each and chop the rest up for a stew – because the fridge freezer was on and off we didn’t want to risk keeping it any longer. The meal was lovely and the best meal we had eaten since Friday’s pizza night. We drank the rest of the wine and went to bed.
We were all up very early on Tuesday 20th October, having not really slept much during the night. The sound of the heavy rain, even in a well-built villa like this, was disturbing enough but I can only imagine how worried the locals, with less robust properties, would have been. We also slept with the curtains open so that the bottoms of them didn’t get wet with the rain water coming under the slight gap in the bottom of the door! Captain Caveman was out on the balcony with a powerful head-torch at 5am and reported that the water in the garden had gone. I didn’t believe him as it had not stopped raining and there was at least half a metre worth right across the front of the properties. By 7am when I looked out in the daylight, he was right, it had completely gone and our ground floor flood water had also drained away. There was still no electricity and the generator wasn’t on yet so I had a couple of walnuts and some cheese with a slice of focaccia bread for breakfast, Captain Caveman had peanut butter and marmite on bread. Everyone was hungry but not enough to eat the boiled eggs and only 1 was consumed. The kids got bread with a choice of butter, peanut butter, marmite, cheese spread (or a combo of any of those) or dried noodles. When the generator started up I had the remains of my Phong Nha Underground oolong tea which I shared with Remy, Veronika and Melissa had green tea on the go and the kids got their 2 minute noodles. By this time Remy started packing up everything so that they could all go back home, since the water had gone, but not everyone in the family was as enthusiastic to leave. Aaliyah helped me make the popcorn, later joined by the 3 youngest boys who all wanted to have a go! Harry Potter 2 commenced, I had a hangover so it was good to just watch the film. Afterwards the neighbours went home but not before agreeing that they would come back to watch the rest of the Harry Potter movies each day. Ben and Bich came over later and had a shower at the house up the hill because our water was off, they were cold and had been sorting through the damage at the Farmstay and then going to The Villas to check out the result of the flood there. They, and their helpers, had a big job on their hands to get cleaned up again and it was hard to even imagine how much mud and damage there was.
While Veronika had sausages for dinner with the kids I did us a fried rice with some of the leftover rice we had and we shared a bottle of red wine. Melissa and her family decided to order a takeaway from the Lake House who were lucky to be high up and open for business, so she asked us if any of us would like to order anything, including freshly baked bread. Veronika declined but Captain Caveman jumped straight in with an order for 2 loaves of their bread! When Melissa came round with the bread I sliced it up and offered some out. I saw on Facebook just how lucky and privileged we were to be in a safe and now mostly dry house – it really did make me feel extremely lucky to be here right now.
I didn’t even leave the house, and had no plans to, until it was safe but in the meantime this was what Ben and the gang had been up to at the Farmstay and his new lakeside resort!