On Sunday 6th September the data showed that the world had now reached over 27 million cases of Corona. Vietnam still had no cases or deaths for the 5th day running but had 19 more recoveries. Captain Caveman was feeling better and we had a Snickers each for breakfast. I did some language learning, blogging then we had a picnic lunch at home, admiring the views of the mountains. There was no physio on Sunday and so we had a relaxing day at home, which was nice. We decided that for our dinner we would have East Hill chicken and it was as delicious as always!! They are always on time and I love that it’s the only place in town that serves their takeaways in plastic free packaging. The food itself is wrapped in the banana leaf and then put in a paper bag for transportation – simple but ideal.
Captain Caveman was off to Son Doong on the morning of Friday 4th September, this trip was a group from the National Park and would be his last trip of the year, it was also going to be a shorter trip as they were planning on going in and out of the exit. His managers would be following him in a day later to do the derigging of the cave ready for it closing for the wet season. Storms and heavy rain are much more likely in October and November but can come in September too so Son Doong is the first to close down for winter, shortly followed by the other cave tours that Oxalis do. I was feeling a bit better and was convinced it was just dehydration or heat stroke so drank as much water as I possibly could. I started watching a cringeworthy show on Netflix called Below Deck which was hilarious and decided not to eat lunch before heading to Dong Hoi for physio. This time I had arranged to stay at the Nam Long Plus Hotel, again in my usual room (201) where I had to choose the luxury of a bath over working internet. I managed to download more of Below Deck on my phone before departing but I did run out of things to watch. Instead I did more Turkish, French and Vietnamese lessons to keep me entertained. At physio they checked on my ankle and I found that the pressure points the therapist touched seemed to make my sciatic nerve worse and could also feel pain in my knee, which was strange.
For dinner I had the amazing pork ribs with sweet potato fries from 7th Heaven, delivered directly to my room and then had an early night.
I woke up early on Saturday 5th September and went for breakfast of pho bo and orange juice at the hotel and downloaded another episode of Below Deck while near reception which usually has good internet. After a large portion of pork fried rice from 7th Heaven for lunch and checking out I went to physio for a couple of hours and then Phuong picked me up to go back to Phong Nha. Captain Caveman was back home from Son Doong already but was sick and had similar symptoms to those I had on Thursday evening. I went straight home and just had crisps and cheese for dinner while Captain Caveman had nothing and stayed in bed.
On Thursday 3rd September Captain Caveman went to Oxalis Home for breakfast and brought me back some fruit and yoghurt and I did my usual tasks in the morning. For lunch we had a slice of leftover pizza each and then I got ready for more physio in Dong Hoi. I had decided to book the return trip with Phuong rather than stay in Dong Hoi and arranged to meet Captain Caveman and Tatas at Namaste on my way back to Phong Nha at 6pm. Both Captain Caveman and Tatas couldn’t make it until 6.30pm so I got to speak to Raj, the manager for a bit. He was planning on returning to India and had started to put plans in place to leave. It was sad and we didn’t know if that would mean that the restaurant would close or not but I suspected it would. We had our favourite lamb samosas and then I had a couple of diet cokes, a red wine and a chicken lababdar (my first time trying this dish) with garlic rice, the others had vegetarian dishes. Before I could finish my dinner I got incredibly hot and started to feel really unwell. While Captain Caveman and Raj chatted about leaving logistics, getting a Corona virus test and going back to New Delhi I was in the toilet trying to sort myself out a bit – my face was purple and I was sweating profusely. I sat under the AC unit, drank water and couldn’t even finish my dinner or wine! I got home and went straight to bed, feeling weak. I knew it wasn’t the food and wondered if I had heat stroke or dehydration and took oresol which didn’t really do the trick.
On Wednesday (2nd September) morning we went to The Villas for breakfast where I had a lovely pho and a mint tea. We were joined by Momma D who was meeting a friend for lunch and she was going to come join us for a swim after. While the girls lunched in the aircon Captain Caveman and I went by the pool for a chilled bottle of white wine and shared some spring rolls. Today was Independence day and so most people had the day off. I didn’t have any physio today so I did some walking and stretching in the pool – my knee was definitely much better but my ankle still a little bit stiff and ached. I had checked with Thuy at physio and I still wasn’t allowed to actually swim (or attempt to ride my bicycle) but I was getting a little better at being a passenger on the motorbike for short journeys.
Later we had peanuts, popcorn and a couple of margaritas after our dips in the pool and chat with Momma D. She had to leave for work at her rooftop bar and we made friends with the only other pool visitors. Ha, one of our favourite waitresses looked after us, bringing us margaritas when it reached Happy Hour and a Half. Once it got dark we moved inside and, because I was still taking the Gastropulgite, I was able to have pizza and a ginger beer for my dinner, which I loved.
On Tuesday 1st September the authorities announced that any tourists that had arrived in to Vietnam before the 1st March would no longer be able to get 3 month visa extensions from now on and could only apply for monthly ones. Mine was due to expire in October and so I would be able to extend until November, after that we would see what my options were. There was also confirmation that Vietnam would open up flights with 6 countries from the 15th September, they were; Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Laos and Cambodia. This would be on the proviso that 14 day quarantine at people’s own cost would be done on arrival in to that country and then again upon return to Vietnam.
I skipped breakfast on the first day of the month but ended up having an extremely late lunch of peanuts, popcorn and a margarita at The Villas before our planned night out. Captain Caveman had a Huda beer which came in a can with Hang Son Doong on it!
Due to the success of the previous curry night we had decided to do it again, inviting everyone in Phong Nha who might fancy it.
Captain Caveman and I had pre-ordered the tandoori mixed platter and it was amazing – we wondered why we had never had it before. We also had the impressive lamb samosas again and I had some red wine. One of the diners had a lamb biryani which looked super impressive and Raj, as always, looked after us well. The curry night at Namaste was another successful evening and we all enjoyed it.
The last day of August (Monday 31st) seemed to have appeared quickly despite the routine of my Phong Nha and Dong Hoi lives of late. Vietnam reported 18 recoveries and no deaths or cases, Captain Caveman had a day off and got up early to go to Oxalis Home to meet cavers for breakfast and have a meeting about end of season plans (day off but not day off as it’s known in Phong Nha). Captain Caveman returned home with some fruit salad for my breakfast and Tatas, who had come to visit me. We decided to have East Hill chicken for lunch and invited her to stay and eat with us but she declined because she’s not eating chicken at the moment. We enjoyed the chicken combo by ourselves and then I went off to Dong Hoi for my physio session. I was hoping to reduce the amount of sessions in September as it was costing a fair bit and I didn’t have much money left, plus Captain Caveman wouldn’t be working on any tours from next month. After physio I was really tired but Phuong (of Phuong’s Transfers) dropped me off at The Villas to meet Captain Caveman and Tatas for Happy Hour and a Half cocktails. Usually we all have margaritas but tonight I decided a sangria was more appealing and went much better with the confit duck leg I always enjoy. Captain Caveman stuck to a couple of margaritas (he was driving later) but Tatas decided to have Sangria as well! I ended up having 3 of them and was a bit tipsy by the time we got home!
September was about to start and August had been a fairly good month for me, here in Phong Nha. We couldn’t grumble at Captain Caveman having lots of work, me not having gained any weight all month despite all the food and drink I’d had and me completing a whole month of physiotherapy with some progress. I was about to start the 8th month of being in Vietnam and was currently up to 111.5 hours of physio at a cost of just under 17 million VND (less than £600) plus more than that in transport and hotels. It had been 4.5 months since my injury, it was 2.5 months since I started physio and, according to the news on the 1st September, I was on my last 3 month tourist visa. This blog had done well in August, even though I’d not done anything too exciting to write about, due to being the only remaining member of the Triple Cripple Club. I’d had 30% more views than in July with the top 5 readers being from UK, Vietnam, Turkey, Australia & Netherlands.
September should have been the month which Captain Caveman goes back to England to do a course which he needs to do and we still didn’t know if/when he would be going. I knew if I left Vietnam I wouldn’t be allowed back in the country and there still were no ‘normal’ flights to be able to go to Turkey. Instead of me going anywhere I was looking forward to my first winter in Phong Nha.
Photo credit – The Villas
On Friday 28th August I had a half bowl of pho bo (beef noodle soup), orange juice and tea for breakfast at the Nam Long Plus Hotel, but by lunchtime I was rather hungry and had crisps and some pork fried rice from 7th Heaven. Vietnam had reported 1 more death, 2 cases and 5 recoveries as the lockdown in Danang continued. There was also an update in the news that some Vietnamese hospitals were failing safety checks and a hospital in Hanoi had been closed because of this. In the afternoon I became ill with a headache and feeling sick, I couldn’t stand the sunlight and had to close the curtains and cancel physio. I took a Gastropulgite sachet and had a rest at the hotel. When I woke up later that evening I felt hungry and decided to try a chicken, pineapple, mushroom and olive pizza from 7th Heaven which I ate while watching Million Dollar Beach House on Netflix.
I was awake very early on Saturday 29th August and saw that in Vietnam the Corona data reported 26 recoveries, 0 deaths and 2 more cases in the last day. I just had a banana and water for breakfast and I also took more Gastropulgite medication even though I had not suffered any effects of having eaten gluten last night.
For lunch I ordered from Tree Hugger a fruit salad with yoghurt, veggie spring rolls, herbal tea and peach tea – all were delicious. I was back at physio in the afternoon, I was feeling much better and Thuy was even able to offer me an appointment for the next day which was Sunday. I booked to stay another night at the Nam Long Plus Hotel and I started learning Vietnamese again on Duolingo as well as brushing up on French. I walked up the hotel stairs but only got as far as the missing handrail section and reversed back, but still it was a little bit of practice. I ordered pork ribs for dinner which I always state ‘no chillies’ on the order but when it came I could smell chillies on it. I messaged to check and they said it didn’t have chillies in but I was convinced and checked again. They confirmed it was a new chef and because I had said ‘no chillies’ they hadn’t put fresh chillies in just chilli sauce! They offered to bring me more but it was already 9pm so I rinsed them in water and ate what I could of them, with a burning mouth. I did point out that when people have allergies to peanuts or fish that peanut sauce and fish sauce are still not ok to have, just like chillies and chilli sauce are the same thing! I was still awake at 1am not feeling too clever!
The world had exceeded 25 million Corona virus cases when I got up on Sunday 30th August. Vietnam had reported 2 cases, 2 deaths and 14 more recoveries. I skipped breakfast as I had to be at physio for 8.30am and I didn’t have lunch as I was heading back to Phong Nha with Phuong and I would have some cheese when I got home. On the way Phuong picked up his wife and her friend, Mun, who I also know from Funny Monkeys Homestay. As we approached some traffic lights they noticed a shelving unit that had been thrown out with the rubbish and decided to salvage and recycle it. When I got to our room at home it was so hot, I opened most of the windows and doors to try to get the heat out. I was ravenous and all we had in was cheese, pickled onions and olives which I ate plenty of. Captain Caveman came back from his Son Doong trip and was getting ready for an early dinner at Chay Lap. He invited me along and I initially said yes as I’d not been there this this year, but then I decided I’d go to The Villas where I could catch up with some blogging while having a margarita or two. Because I’d not eaten much I started with a Gastropulgite, a herbal tea and I was introduced to a combination of snacks which I had never tried together before. Ha, the waitress, who makes the best frozen margaritas and always looks after us, told me to try peanuts and popcorn in the same mouthful. Well, another first for me and it tastes great especially once I got started on the Happy Hour margaritas. I also had a pizza and was on my second margarita when Captain Caveman said he was on his way to pick me up. He wanted a takeaway pizza ordering but I still had over half of mine left so said he could have that. By 7pm we were on our way back home which meant we were sober enough for a good video call with my parents. It was great to talk to them both and we always have a good laugh despite the fact we might not be able to see each other for quite a bit more time yet!
Photo credit – Ha at The Villas
We were due to check out of Little Lies pool villas at 12 noon, however Mondays are generally quieter than other days so we were in no rush on Monday 24th August. There was 2 more Corona cases, 1 death and 5 recoveries in Vietnam which was looking like it was improving. I had pho again and Captain had sausages for breakfast, sat by the pool. We decided to stay for one more night but I left Captain Caveman to entertain himself while I headed off to Dong Hoi for physiotherapy. After my session Phuong drove me back to Little Lies and I had my left over Sunday dinner with a bit of Captain Caveman’s eggplant dish. Veronika brought some wine round and we had a good evening, we even had a sweet wine with ice as a dessert.
There were 6 more cases, 20 recoveries and no deaths reported on Tuesday 25th August. I had pho for breakfast at Little Lies and we were definitely checking out today. I had mastered crutching about in accupressure shower shoes which was helping my foot and leg a bit and I was, as always, sorry to be leaving the Farmstay. We went over to the bar and pool area for some lunch (fresh spring rolls for me) and Captain Caveman had an idea for us to go for a curry at Namaste that evening. Ben offered to call Raj and ask him to put the oven on for us so that we could have naan bread and tandoori meals, as long as we got 10 people to go. In a jiffy it was posted on the Facebook group, Phong Nha Visitors, and a random gang of curry lovers volunteered to make up numbers for the evening. The food was great, Raj was welcoming and we had a lovely evening with new and old friends – a bit of an impromptu event!
We had arranged to go for breakfast at The Villas on Wednesday 26th August between 9 and 10am. I was still looking at the Corona stats at 9am and hadn’t got ready yet. There were 7 more cases, 4 recoveries and no deaths in Vietnam. Worldwide the cases had exceeded 24 million now with no signs of letting up. Worryingly my Facebook showed so many more of my English friends now meeting up in lots of different groups and it wouldn’t be long before the kids went back to school so it didn’t look likely we would get to the UK this year, if we wanted to be allowed back to Vietnam. I had bacon and beans for a change while Captain Caveman had eggs Benedict. For lunch I didn’t fancy anything too heavy so I just had 30 grams of cheese and water. Phuong picked me up and I went to physio but I didn’t feel too well when I got there, my stomach was bad again. It was very muggy and hot and I felt ill through most of the therapy session as I tried not to get through as best I could. My ankle was certainly improving and my knee felt pretty good, though.
When Phuong and I arrived back at The Villas Caroline invited Phuong to come to join us for margaritas and popcorn. Captain Caveman ordered a pizza and I had the rather tasty smoked duck salad. I got on the back of Captain Caveman’s hired motorbike from Thang to go home and managed to be fine getting upstairs after my 2 margaritas. We were home early and in bed for 9pm, so much for Wine Wednesday – it had turned in to Water Wednesday.
On Thursday 27th August I was pleased to wake up without the hangover I had been expecting as I checked in on the NCOVI app. There were 5 more cases, 2 more deaths and 40 recoveries reported in Vietnam. Captain Caveman was off on his last customer Son Doong trip of the season and so was up and about early, he brought me a fruit salad from Oxalis Home for breakfast. I packed my bag as I was staying in Dong Hoi – even though I can now get up and down the numerous stairs to our room it is still difficult where getting food is concerned so it’s easier to stay at the Nam Long Plus Hotel where I can order meals and have help. Because of the unpredictableness of my stomach I decided to just have a snickers for lunch and I was fine for my physio session. Thuy, the boss had decided to buy me my dinner and as I was leaving she had got me a roast duck with rice and salad for dinner. I got back to the hotel and ate my dinner which was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a long time. I spent the evening watching Million Dollar Beach House on Netflix after my bath and thought myself lucky.
Captain Caveman was due back from Son Doong on Friday 21st August and usually I would meet him at a restaurant in Phong Nha after my physio and before he goes to his gala dinner or next briefing. Corona data showed that there was another 13 cases, 9 recoveries and no deaths for the previous day. Vietnam had now reported over 1000 cases in total for 2020.
I didn’t bother with breakfast at the hotel but had an early lunch of spring rolls from Tree Hugger and a banana with herbal tea before physio. The hot treatment was very relaxing at physio today and I actually found it enjoyable this time – another good sign I was improving. I didn’t get to speak to Captain Caveman due to a combination of him turning off notifications on his phone and my accepting a new update on my phone which seemed to make my phone malfunction. While Captain Caveman went to The Villas to meet Caroline for Happy Hour and dinner, I stayed at the Nam Long Plus Hotel in Dong Hoi. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries from Tree Hugger (because I had taken some stomach medicine) and it was absolutely fantastic.
On Saturday 22nd August I woke up after not much sleep and got a phone call from Captain Caveman, who hadn’t got home until 12.45am! We arranged to meet at Phong Nha Farmstay later that evening, where we were going to stay at the pool villas. I had leftover fruit salad and peach tea for breakfast and then checked in on the NCOVI app as usual. There were 2 more cases and 3 recoveries but no deaths reported in Vietnam, worldwide we had just exceeded 23 million cases in total. I had decided to get a gift for Thuy and the team at physio as a thank you, luckily Tree Hugger do gift baskets which I didn’t know about until recently and could deliver it to my hotel room. I also ordered spring rolls for lunch but wasn’t that hungry so just had one and then took the rest with me for later. At physio the session was hard work, painful and exhausting and I couldn’t wait to get to the Farmstay and have a soak in the bath. Unfortunately on the drive back, with Phuong, to Phong Nha from Dong Hoi there was a massive storm and when I arrived Captain Caveman was in the bar area with some new friends. It was too rainy to walk to the pool villas so I attempted to join him, the floor was so slippy in the wet that my crutches didn’t stay where they should and I had to shout Captain Caveman to come walk with me across the wet tiles.
Once the rain stopped I insisted we went to the room so I could at least get out of my sweaty clothes and Captain Caveman had to help me on all the slippy bits. I never did get that bath and instead Captain Caveman opened the bottle of fizz he had chilling in the fridge and Veronika came over for a glass. Captain Caveman and I had dinner at our villa, him pizza and me beef in bamboo which were as good as always.
We had a lovely day at Phong Nha Farmstay on Sunday 23rd August, Corona cases for yesterday were another 5, with 18 recoveries and 1 more death (for the first time in 4 days) in Vietnam.
Captain Caveman was up early to join the 7am Farmstay walk then came back to the pool villas for breakfast at Little Lies. I had bacon and beans, tea and orange juice and Captain Caveman had sausages and egg. Before lunch time I’d done a bit of crutching about and then some swimming (well, walking in the pool so not to use my bad leg too much). We had decided to join a family who were also staying at the Farmstay for a trip out, with Ben and Veronika too. The jeep drive with Ben is always exciting and the food in the Bong Lai Valley, particularly Moi Moi is amazing. Ben had took the liberty of ordering for us all and the Dutch family let their kids watch the killing of the chicken for lunch (I have never watched the kill, just the plucking and other prep) and one of them instantly became vegetarian. No matter whether you order in advance or just turn up, there is always a wait at Moi Moi and it is genuinely great food. We had chicken, pork in bamboo, veggie cassava dumplings with peanuts, sticky rice and various dips. I didn’t realise it at the time but the last time I had visited was 366 days ago! Fresh honey was for sale and we got to try before you buy – it’s superb and great value for money.
We had just got back to the Farmstay before another storm came and we sheltered at the bar area (how convenient) with a bottle of red wine while waiting for an appointment I had. Dua, the security guy, even gave me a shelter from the rain and Sau, the waitress, brought me a towel!
A little later Veronika joined Captain Caveman and I at the bar and we ordered a Sunday dinner which was lovely and this time I didn’t manage to eat the whole plateful. While Captain Caveman finished off the red, I moved on to white with Veronika, who thoughtfully took my Sunday dinner leftovers to her room to save for me for tomorrow. By the time we walked back to the pool Villa the weather had fined up and the path wasn’t too slippy, we had a nightcap and went to bed.
Photo credit – Captain Caveman
Captain Caveman had 5 tours to Son Doong and I spent most of August in Dong Hoi so there was definitely a reduction in the amount of time I spent googling things. There is a strong correlation between Google look ups and time spent arguing with Captain Caveman as well as the types of things I search. So here’s my list (in alphabetical order) for the whole of August to give you an insight into my googling world:
1. Ankle swells after walking
2. Bia Oi, An Bang
3. Boney M singles
4. Brenda Blethyn party trick
5. Caroline Jordan
6. Dalyan to Dalaman airport in km
7. Dr Dre children
8. English – Turkish translation
9. English – Vietnamese translation
10. East Hill, Phong Nha
11. Feels like electric shock in toe
14. GBA 800 G Shock watch user guide
16. Hydrotherapy for nerve damage
17. Honda Cub 50cc
18. Jack Fincham
19. Justin Hartley
20. Katie Price – ankles
21. Latest system update for phone
22. Lindeman’s sparkling brut cuvée
24. Maida flour
25. Numbers in Vietnamese
26. Nerve pain
27. Renée Zellweger
28. Tupac Shakur
29. Trisha Talk Show
30. Using the correct crutch
31. Vinpearl hotel, Dong Hoi
33. World Life Expectancy
I kept taking the Gastropulgite and before breakfast on Monday 17th August I was feeling absolutely fine. I even had toast with butter on with my bacon, beans and mushrooms at the Farmstay while Captain Caveman polished off the massive breakfast plus half of what was left of mine!
I was booked in for physio as usual in Dong Hoi and was meant to be coming back home afterwards but Captain Caveman had a great idea for us to ask if we could stay over one more night! I obviously agreed and we let Veronika know we would be up for meeting later. Captain Caveman had his briefing that night but he would drive over to Oxalis and then return afterwards while Veronika and I would meet for wine and dinner – she had also promised me a try of her guacamole and sourdough bread.
Physio was interesting and there were times where I almost cried, me and a couple of the kids helped each other out by counting the exercise repetitions together or holding hands for the painful bits. When I got back to the Farmstay after physio Veronika had not only provided the amazing starter as promised she had got the sparkling wine chilling. Our waiter, Ty, brought the wine and ice bucket, opened it with a pop, poured us a glass and took our photo – great service. I had the beef in bamboo for dinner and Veronika chose the mushroom soup. Captain Caveman returned and had remembered to drive on the highway to avoid the roadworks. He finished off last night’s wine and, although tempting, we decided to stick to our one bottle of fizz between Veronika and I.
By Tuesday 18th August my foot was swelling and my ankle was aching more than it had been recently, I also had a bad stomach. Captain Caveman was up at 6am and he left to go to have breakfast at The Villas on his way home and before his trip to Son Doong. I had pho for breakfast and then rested up until it was time to go to physio. I didn’t fancy lunch because of my stomach so I had some cashew nuts and water. Physio went ok however Nam, the therapist, had to ice my ankle and work on it more than usual – I wasn’t able to do any walking or standing exercises this session.
The weather looked stormy and I was quite content in room 201 of the Nam Long Plus Hotel despite no WiFi, and ordered pork fried rice for dinner from 7th Heaven.
On Wednesday 19th August I had a fruit salad for breakfast from Tree Hugger which they had wrote a little get well note with – it was so kind. I did my usual tasks in the morning and then had veggie spring rolls for lunch, also from Tree Hugger. I was browsing Facebook when I saw a cheap motorbike (a Honda Cub 50cc) for sale but it was in Hoi An so I asked Seamouse for some help to go check it out. We had it all arranged for him to view the bike with the current owner the next day, I was even going to call him Cuthbert, when the seller sold it to the first viewer.
I had physio in the afternoon but only ice and deep tissue massage therapy, followed by a hot bath back at the Nam Long Plus Hotel. I had BBQ pork ribs from 7th Heaven for dinner (no wine this time).
In the news on Thursday 20th August there was a notice to all foreigners in Danang to say they will all be getting a Corona test in the next few days, this was the first mass testing of foreigners I’d heard about. There was also a teacher who had tested positive for the virus and now they were busy isolating and testing numerous people he had been in contact with.
I had pho bo (beef noodle soup) for breakfast at the hotel and ordered lunch from Tree Hugger of fruit salad and a rice plate with beef. Physio was hot and just massage therapy because my ankle still needed more work before I could do the standing exercises again. When I got back the rain was heavy as I went to my room for a bath. For dinner I had pork fried rice from 7th Heaven and some leftover fruit salad which was very nice.
On Friday 14th August I drank my stomach medicine and ordered pancakes with fruit and honey from Tree Hugger, it was absolutely amazing, great value for money and a good sized portion. For lunch I was really pushing the gluten experiment again by having another ham and cheese toastie from Tree Hugger which tasted fantastic and I had no side effects at all. At physio I managed to do all of the exercises, walking a little as well as going up and down the stairs, this time without putting my left hand on the wall so much. I needed to be able to get up the stairs at home in Phong Nha tomorrow so I was practicing in readiness because I would only be able to hold a rail on my right as our stairs are a lot wider than at physio class. Once back at the Nam Long Plus Hotel I made a video of me practicing walking and then ordered a celebratory steak dinner with red wine from 7th Heaven – it was as good as always and they even let me borrow a steak knife for eating it at the hotel instead of the restaurant. Tomorrow I would be heading back to Phong Nha where Captain Caveman and I had an exciting weekend planned.
I was still in Dong Hoi on Saturday 15th August and, although I had tried to get a physio appointment in the morning, I was still booked in at 3pm. I didn’t bother with breakfast as I get bored of having the same things and because I was planning to have medication and gluten later on I was cautious with my lunch choice by ordering spring rolls and peach tea from Tree Hugger – delicious as always! My physio went fine and I was looking forward to being able to show Captain Caveman that I could walk a little when I met him later that night. I arranged to meet him at The Villas so that I could have some dinner and he could pick me up after his gala dinner at Chay Lap.
I got my usual Phuong’s Transfers back to Phong Nha and was dropped at The Villas just in time for a Happy Hour sangria, I had my stomach medicine and ordered my first pizza from the old Capture menu, now made at The Villas restaurant. The Showstopper is my all time favourite pizza which has a cheese base (no tomato) with blue cheese, prosciutto, fig jam and spring onion toppings – it’s so good and I couldn’t even finish it because it was massive and I took 2 pieces home. Captain Caveman told me 3 times he was setting off soon and I was getting a bit bored of waiting, I made a glass of red wine last ages so that I would still be able to walk and do the stairs at home. By the time he eventually came at 10pm I was over the surprise walking and was annoyed with him. I crutched to the car where he was really drunk and he let the driver get out to help me in. When we got home I crutched up the steps in to the house and then Captain Caveman went to put the lights on so I could walk to the main stairs. I had to get his attention to show him I could walk without crutches and he wasn’t as thrilled as I was, obviously. He saw me walk up some of the stairs but he was desperate for a pee and so went ahead, insisting he was just going to help me by unlocking the doors and put more lights on, of course. I decided to have another glass of wine when we got in and so Captain Caveman did too, by this time he was really slurring his words. The leftover pizza didn’t last long and we had a piece each with our wine – it’s just as good cold too. Hopefully Captain Caveman wouldn’t be too hungover for our plans tomorrow.
I was glad to have a day off from the physio on Sunday 16th August and surprised to see Captain Caveman was not suffering with a hangover. We checked in on the NCOVI app, as usual, before we headed off to The Villas for breakfast where I had pho ga, juice and a tea. We then carried on, by motorbike hired from Thang, on the longest ride I’ve been on since my injury (about 10km). We’d heard that there was a Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings newly added to the repertoire at Phong Nha Farmstay, I’d even seen a video of the pork joint being cooked and I wanted to try it! I’d been told from a reliable source (Multi) that the gravy and crackling were top notch. Captain Caveman had planned a route along the river road so that we could maybe stop off along the way should I need to. I knew once I was on the back of the bike that it might be easier to just get to the Farmstay in one go rather than getting on and off as I was a bit uncomfortable and, if I’m honest, couldn’t get my leg over as easy as I used to.
We were doing well and Captain Caveman was driving slowly enough for me to not be in pain when we got to any bumpy bits however not too far after the last turn off to Sy’s Homestay we came to some resurfacing works where half the road was sectioned off with a metal rod, spikes and fresh tarmac. Unusually for Vietnam there was a sign with arrows showing to keep to the right which was at the back of a series of machines/tarmac rollers. As we went through the roadworks it became apparent that the sign had been put on upside down and we should have been on the other side and we were unable to stop or move over due to the metal and narrowness of the available road. I mentioned to Captain Caveman it was too narrow for us to pass the big machine without my crutches getting stuck and he quickly told me to move the crutches, which I did. I was just in time otherwise they would have got caught and I would have fallen off the back of the motorbike. My right foot felt a bit weird and I had sticky tarmac on my porter sandals so I asked if we could stop after Captain Caveman managed to get us over the other side and through to the end without coming off. When we stopped my foot rest had been pushed in by the tarmac machine, along with my foot being bent back a little – I wasn’t in agony but it felt a bit odd.
We carried on, driving past but not stopping to speak to, Bich as I insisted I just needed to get to our destination. We were lucky really as it could have been a lot worse and I felt knackered and extremely thirsty when I eventually got off. We went straight to the poolside and had a little rest before lunch, Captain Caveman didn’t say much at all. While he obviously had a pizza for lunch I had the fresh spring rolls and we arranged to meet Veronika and Ben for a little safari trip in the jeep later. After checking in to a lovely suite room in the main Farmstay building and putting my foot up for a bit to get the swelling down it was time to meet back up again.
The jeep safari was good fun, we saw lots of buffalo, cows and some ducks and it was the most adventurous thing I’d done in months – and I had the front seat.
Back at the Farmstay we had wine at the bar/pool and ordered the Sunday lunch with Veronika, it went down a treat. I’d taken my Gastropulgite as a precaution but then used it to eat a piece of carrot cake which was delicious. We had more wine and then retired back to our rooms, I called my parents and we had a good chat before bed.
The week started with news that the total number of cases of Corona reported in the world had exceeded 20 million, who would have thought that 8 months ago! On Monday 10th August there was 29 more cases in Vietnam and 1 more death. I had cheese for breakfast, chocolate for lunch (the healthy diet was going well) and then made my way downstairs to get picked up by Phuong for physio. My stomach was feeling a bit iffy and on the way I desperately needed the toilet. Phuong stopped at one place, a petrol station, but it had no toilets and was closed. I was a bit worried I wasn’t going to make it to Dong Hoi when we stopped at another small petrol station that also looked a bit unfinished or closed. To our surprise they had toilets, western style, that were fully functioning and clean. The only downside was I had to walk through a building site floor full of trip hazards and a kennel of at least 4 barking dogs to get there.
At physio Thuy was determined that I was going to have a straight leg by the end of the session and I thought I might cry from the pain – I didn’t! Phuong was able to pick me back up at 4.30pm and take me to the Nam Long Plus Hotel where I was early enough to order dinner from Tree Hugger, they are closed by the time I finish physio usually. I was hungry so ordered the beef and veg rice plate, a fruit salad, yoghurt and peach tea – all of which was delicious! The hotel still had problems with the WiFi and unfortunately if I wanted a bath (which I did) then room 201 was the only one available which was also suitable for my needs. I decided I could cope without the internet in the room and would use it in reception if I needed it. In my hotel room I managed to keep my leg straight enough to be able to stand up on 2 legs without crutches, a bit more progress! I started watching a great series on Netflix called What If (with Renée Zellweger) which was recommended by a lady in Dalyan, Turkey – I was getting in to it.
I had my usual pho bo breakfast at the Nam Long Plus Hotel on Tuesday 11th August and then checked the NCOVI app. There were 6 more cases, 4 deaths and 4 recoveries in the last day. It was definitely worrying to see deaths, even the low numbers compared to the UK (46,526) and Turkey (5,858). So far the deaths in Vietnam were still only in the Danang and Hoi An area and there had not been any recorded in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.
I was feeling dehydrated so when I ordered my veggie spring rolls for lunch from Tree Hugger I ordered peach tea, pineapple juice and they brought me free herbal tea and an apple – they are excellent and really look after me!
My physio session was rather eventful and, after a good session of deep tissue manipulation/massage including the bum cheek and a smack of my arse from Thuy, I had to try some new exercises. She had me standing without crutches then sitting on a small plastic stool and standing again – this is difficult because I couldn’t do it without hands or help before the injury! At the end of the session instead of passing my crutches she asked me to hold her shoulder and walk without them. I managed about 5 steps and felt like I’d ran a marathon – it felt like I was finally getting to be able to walk!
Back at the hotel I had a lovely hot bath and ordered chicken and fried rice from 7th Heaven, another one of my favourite places where the food for delivery is as good as in the restaurant. Captain Caveman was back from Son Doong but I decided not to bother going back to Phong Nha as he had his next briefing that night and was going back in to the caves the next morning. I finished the night off with a drop of red wine and then slept very well.
While Captain Caveman, back in Phong Nha, headed off on his next trip I was eating a tasty pho bo for breakfast at the Nam Long Plus Hotel on Wednesday 12th August. There were 19 more virus cases recorded and another death, the first outside of Danang area and in Quang Tri (our next province). It seemed people were really feeling the tension and even where lockdown wasn’t imposed a lot of people were just staying at home and limiting interaction with others as much as possible.
I ordered a delicious chicken salad with peanuts from Tree Hugger for lunch and really enjoyed it. Physio was intense but we got fantastic results and I was so pleased to finally be able to walk a few steps unaided as well as go up and down my first set of stairs upright! Thuy had told me I would be able to walk by the end of the week and it was only Wednesday so I was thrilled. Also on Friday it will be 4 months since my accident so I had hoped to be mobile before then.
When I got back to the hotel I showed the receptionist, also called Thuy, that I could walk and she was also pleased for me. I headed up to the room to show off on Facebook but then realised I wanted Captain Caveman to see me do it in person before seeing it on social media, so I held off and didn’t tell anyone except a couple of people.
I messaged my Mom to ask what time Dad finished work so I could call them. I also got sent Thuy’s video of me walking so I would be able to show them after the call because the WiFi wasn’t working and I would have to call them without the camera on. It felt like ages to wait until 10pm but I had a bath, caught up on a few tasks and ordered pork ribs with sweet potato fries from 7th Heaven for dinner. I was on my second glass of red wine when I called the UK and my parents had assembled for what news I had. They were really pleased for me and I was finally relieved I was getting better. I went to sleep happy but exhausted.
For my breakfast on Thursday 13th August I had a Gastropulgite sachet for my stomach (which was still a bit out of sorts) and a banana which then meant I was able to tolerate gluten so I had cheese and ham toasties for lunch from Tree Hugger. I’ve not had a toastie for years and I didn’t realise the size of the portion so I had enough leftover for dinner – they tasted so good! At physio the therapist stood on my bum cheek and massaged my thigh with a foot which really helped with my sciatic nerve. There is a young boy, called Vu, going to physio who speaks English and is very polite and helpful, he’s now my door and floor monitor because he helps me by unlocking and opening the door when I arrive each day. He is also very good at moving the toys from the play area which I have to crutch through to get in to the heat room. Although I can walk a little without crutches I still needed to use them for balance and speed, as well as getting in and out of the entrances to buildings where there are steps without handrails. In the second part of my physio Thuy got me walking up the stairs again, just 10 of them, holding the wall on my left and the hand rail on my right. I went up ok and then coming down she told me to simply go back down in reverse rather than turning round and I was able to do it – 3 times in fact. When we finished Thuy gave me a gift of Banh Loc which is a Vietnamese snack made from cassava flour, prawns and pork – it was such a kind gesture and is one of her favourite foods. I’d just got back to the hotel when it rained and so the air cooled down a lot. I had a chilled evening, catching up with some language lessons, blogging and Netflix before bed. Despite the rain cooling the air a bit and the air con being on, I woke up at midnight feeling really hot!
Captain Caveman was back from his 4 day Tu Lan trip tomorrow and while he was away I have had one of the most exciting 3 days of my life (definitely in the top 10!)
On Sunday after Captain Caveman had left Ho Khanh’s Veronika and I waited for our easy rider motorbike drivers and 2 women, Sissy and Beth, to arrive. We were about to embark on a 3 day trip over one of the steepest and winding roads in Vietnam – the whole 246km of the Ho Chi Minh trail on the back of a motorbike. We rode from Phong Nha to Khe Sanh on the first day having to deal with a flat tyre before we’d gone 15km and then a loss of power getting up the hills and having to stop and wait for another bike to take Sissy. We had mist, baking hot sun and torrential rain as well as news that an english man had been killed that morning in a motorbike accident in Phong Nha. We left at 8.30am and arrived in Khe Sanh at 5pm filthy and knackered so we’re surprised that the cheap hotel we had was ok and had a nice warm shower. Veronika and I shared one room, Beth an Australian who’s son was a chef in Saigon, shared with Sissy, a financial analyst from Austria.
That evening the riders took us for chicken in sticky rice which was a speciality of Khe Sanh and was so tasty – football chicken is fantastic. Unfortunately we were too tired for karaoke and headed back to the hotel before 9pm after just 3 beers. I slept like a log and didn’t wake up ’til almost 7am…
… After breakfast of bread, jam and lychees we checked out and, wearing the same smelly and slightly damp clothes, we set off just up the road to the Khe Sanh combat base. Veronika did an excellent job of being our guide as she told us of the horrific fatalities in the area during the war. The small museum was interesting and it felt so sad that the war had even happened. The photos on display showed an unrecognisable place to where we were.
Back on the bikes and our next stop would be for lunch which we arrived at just before the torrential downpour came. Food was amazing and we waited for the rain to stop before heading off again to visit a waterfall where we could swim, not too far from Hue.
When we arrived 2 of the drivers said to follow them on foot down a path, across some rocks and in to ‘blood stream’. I asked why it was called that and Chung replied that we would find out later. I couldn’t be bothered to put my bikini on so went in, in my bra and knickers. It was really nice and the fish even chewed our feet. The water was cool and refreshing with a gushing waterfall into a small natural rock pool.
As we walked back we were reassured that blood stream was because when the heavy rains come it washes the orangey red sand down the waterfall making it resemble blood.We rode on, me regretting having a wet bra on as it got a bit nippy on the bike and it later meant wearing a bikini to dinner later.
We arrived in Hue at 5pm and checked in to a dump of a hotel but for £6 for the night it seemed acceptable to manage without soap or a light in the bathroom.
After beers in the Why Not? bar we got a taxi to a delightful restaurant, Les Jardins de La Carambole which is situated near the citadel. I particularly enjoyed the duck a l’orange for dinner and we shared 2 bottles of French fizz which was amazing.
We chatted with the owner after our meal and he bought us all a Bailey’s before we headed back to our basic accommodation where Veronika and I said our goodbyes to Sissy and Beth, who were heading to Hoi An the next day. We would spend a day in Hue, shopping, then get the bus back to Phong Nha.
Despite the ‘roughing it’ $10 digs I slept well and went over to the Why Not bar for a lemon juice at 9.30am. Hue was unusually quiet with hardly any traffic or tourists which was weird. Our bus back was booked for 4.30pm so we went shopping and I bought a dress and 2 pairs of trousers for $25.
We ate lunch at Bistro La Carambole, same owner as the restaurant the previous evening and in the centre of Hue. I had goats cheese salad and a glass of wine which was most enjoyable. Having had a taste for cheese we found a shop that sold cheese, crisps and sweets and bought a load to take back to Phong Nha. Considering we had a 38 degree heat to contend with plus a 5 hour bus journey and then a motorbike taxi before they would reach the fridge again we were a little concerned. We decided to walk in to a 4 star hotel and sleep on a sun lounger, with our shopping bags of cheese in the shade. No one questioned us being there and the hotel was nice – no one questions anything you do when you’re travelling with a pensioner.
Just as we were drifting off to sleep in the shade by the pool Veronica’s phone rang and important news came that she needed to leave the country tomorrow as her request to extend her visa hadn’t been agreed. She wasn’t happy, especially as she had her motorbike driving test on Friday but calmly we checked out flights and within half an hour she had a flight booked to Bangkok for Wednesday afternoon and we were on our way to the bus.
The bus driver was not happy for us to be anywhere near the front of the sleeper bus but Veronika did get a bottom bunk. We did worry that the cheese was starting to smell a bit so when the driver came towards us I thought it was for that reason. He wanted us to tell him where we were from and when we said Phong Nha he wouldn’t have any of it and got quite mad with us, he even tried to slap us with his clipboard!
Photo credit – everyone on the trip
On Friday 7th August I went downstairs for my usual breakfast at the Nam Long Plus Hotel and for lunch I had veggie spring rolls and tea from Tree Hugger. There were 33 more cases, 2 deaths and 11 recoveries recorded for the last day in Vietnam and so now the total cases of corona had reached 750. Captain Caveman was due back from Son Doong while I was at physio and so I had decided to go back to Phong Nha that afternoon. Physio was intense but more progress was made and after football came ‘standing on a massive ball’ which was harder than it looked. By the time I left the physio I was a sweaty, exhausted mess and had actually started to regret agreeing to go back home just for the one night. Phuong came to pick me up from physio at 5pm and Thuy told him I was making progress and should be able to get about a bit better which I was pleased about, I was so glad to get in his minibus with the AC on and comfy seats as I was so tired. He dropped me off at The Villas where Captain Caveman was waiting but was about to leave for his briefing. I didn’t fancy a margarita (which was strange) so I ordered a white russian, I had already decided what I wanted to eat but I waited until Tatas joined me. She had the potato and edamame salad (with tomatoes) and I had a specially made cheese plate without any bread/crackers. We shared a bottle of red wine of which I had the most because Tatas still had a margarita on the go. It was late when we got home, I went by taxi with Thang, Captain Caveman cycled home and I was absolutely knackered by the time I got in bed.
Captain Caveman was back in Son Doong on Saturday 8th August but it was nice to have slept in my own bed with comfy pillows and a duvet on. He went to get me breakfast before he left and so I had fruit to keep me going. Another 39 cases of corona were reported in Vietnam, 3 recoveries but no deaths. I had a catch up on what was going on in emails, messages and my blogging then had lunch of peanut M&Ms (I can’t believe I only found out they are gluten free this year). Phuong came to pick me up for my physio visit and this time I was going in to Dong Hoi, having my session and then coming back. It’s more expensive this way but means I don’t have to stay in Dong Hoi on a Sunday, when there’s nothing to do. There is the issue of the toilet (there always is with me) because it’s a 45 minute drive each way and 2.5 hours in the physio all without using the loo if possible.
The physio session went well and I ordered a takeaway curry from Namaste which Phuong picked up on our way through Phong Nha and he even carried it upstairs for me. I’d asked Raj to pop in a bottle of chilled white wine too but forgot it was cork not screw top and our fridge doesn’t fit a bottle in when it needs to be stood up. I did consider opening it and drinking it all but resisted and will have to have it when I can share it with Captain Caveman. The food was amazing and I felt so full after, even with more than half left over for tomorrow’s meals. A Saturday night with no booze and off to bed early to watch Netflix – what a party animal.
I had a rare day at home in Phong Nha and on my own on Sunday 9th August, which I was really looking forward to. I started the day by doing a quick calculation of how many hours of physio I had endured to still not be walking and it came to 73 hours over 7 weeks at a cost of just under 22 million Dong (£725), no wonder Captain Caveman remained unimpressed with my progress! The Corona data showed there was another 23 cases reported, no deaths or recoveries. I had cheese for breakfast but no rice crackers and crisps for lunch then a feast of leftover curry for dinner and still no booze!!! I did all my usual chores and time flew by and I managed to almost straighten my leg without holding it while laying on my back.
A fairly ordinary weekend without too much excitement but I enjoyed it nonetheless.