The week started with Captain Caveman getting up at 4.30am on Monday 14th September so that he could join a cycling trip in the National Park. Ben at Phong Nha Farmstay had arranged it along with 2 guests and him so asked if Captain Caveman wanted to join. Going early meant that it wasn’t too hot and by the time I got out of bed the 4 of them were probably back at The Villas having breakfast. I just had a banana for my breakfast so that I wouldn’t be ill for my afternoon physio appointment. I finished watching one of the most upsetting documentaries I’d seen in a while, Chasing Coral and I had no idea what was happening under the sea – it was devastating and I had a little cry. Thuy, from physio, was kind enough to move my physiotherapy session to 2pm and so Phuong was booked to pick me up at 1pm. For lunch I didn’t dare chance anything but salted crisps and water but it did mean I was starving hungry by the time I got dropped off to meet Captain Caveman. He had been working in the afternoon and so we decided to have a date night at The Lake House where he had also pre-ordered some freshly baked bread. I got there first as Phuong dropped me off and I ordered a coke as I was very thirsty after physio. I had a chat with Tam, the owner, and I managed to show off a bit by walking a few steps without the crutches but I was still using both of them for getting about. Captain Caveman arrived by motorbike after he’d finished work and we shared the chicken satay for a starter and a bottle of red wine. The menu at The Lake House is the same as at 7th Heaven in Dong Hoi and as I’d not had the food there for a while I was looking forward to the steak. It came with potato wedges, which normally I’m not a fan of but they were very nice. Captain Caveman had a chicken cordon bleu which I was too slow to get a photo of. Tam gave us both an ice-cream afterwards which was so good. Caroline popped in for a visit after a trip to East Hill with her friend and we had a drink together and an invite for more drinks at The Villas but we declined. It was a bit further a ride home on the back of the motorbike than I had remembered but I was ok and went straight to bed.
We decided to venture to the Farmstay for breakfast on Tuesday 15th September where I had a pho ga and 2 green teas while Captain Caveman snaffled down a cheese toastie and some espressos. We stayed there a while chatting to Ben and Bich before I ordered a second breakfast of fruit salad with yoghurt to take away, which I had for lunch. I booked Phuong to take me to physio and then drop me at The Villas for Happy Hour and a Half later on. After my usual 3pm physio session I got to The Villas before anyone else and sat at a table outside. Caroline and her friend were due to meet us and arrived shortly after Captain Caveman. I ordered peanuts, popcorn and margaritas and we all chatted. I decided to have veggie spring rolls and the potato gratin with asparagus as my dinner because I felt I needed the carbs to be able to stomach a drinking session while Captain Caveman nipped off to watch the Son Doong Cup 2020 football match. When he came back to get me I had drank 3 margaritas and was tipsy and I slept very well that night.
We were meant to get up earlier on Wednesday 16th September so that we could eat breakfast before our trip to Dong Hoi – I forgot to set an alarm and I was very tired. The sunshine bus set off at 8.30am and after a 45 minute drive we were at the supermarket in Dong Hoi where I managed to walk around with just one crutch fairly quickly, considering. We bought apples, grapes and some wine – Captain Caveman was in charge of the basket and I obviously couldn’t keep up with him. We didn’t stay long and we got back in the bus after half an hour. The next stop was an organic grocers, a small shop full of fruit and veg, quality of the produce was great and we picked up a few things. After only 25 minutes we were back on the bus and off to the Vincom centre where Captain Caveman did all of the shopping in Vinmart supermarket while I had a browse. I found it difficult to get on and off the escalator because they seemed to go so fast for me but I was ok and didn’t fall. The last stop was at QB Casa, where I sat and had a coconut which I really enjoyed while Captain Caveman looked confused at his double espresso which arrived in two separate cups. We got back in the fun bus just after 11am and was home by noon – a successful shopping trip and such a full fridge! Captain Caveman would be looking forward to knocking up a few gourmet meals while I was happy to have a decent fruit salad when I was home. I had rice cracker and grapes for lunch – I do love a rice cracker! later on Captain Caveman made us White Russians and for dinner I made us a halloumi salad which was very tasty and healthy. Before bed I had time to call my parents who were doing well, it was good to speak to them.
On Thursday 17th September Captain Caveman went to watch a morning football match, I had some lovely seedless grapes for breakfast and drank plenty of water while checking in on the NCOVI app. The world had reached 30 million reported cases now with no signs of slowing down. I tried to get an earlier physio appointment but failed so had a very safe lunch of corn tortillas with peanut butter and water. The tortillas had been in the freezer at the Glass House since our last trip to Hanoi where we bought a packet from Salt ‘n’ Lime because they were gluten free. I warmed them in a dry frying pan and they were the nicest (gluten free) bread product I had tasted in a while – I had 3! In the news there were warnings of a tropical storm coming, which I got confused was a typhoon. It was called Noul and we were told the winds would be very strong, it would rain and there was a possibility of loss of power. When I arrived at physio for my 3pm appointment it was 2.30pm so they fitted me in then, meaning I could leave at 4.30pm and hopefully miss the bad weather. That afternoon Bich called to invite us all to the Farmstay for a dinner, she was cooking a Mi Quang. It was already raining when we got to The Farmstay, I managed to seat myself on a high chair (another first since my injury) and we ordered a bottle of our favourite red wine (R7). The Mi Quang was absolutely delicious and we both really enjoyed it and of course it was gluten free. Before the weather got too bad we went home with some wine left. The eye of the storm was due to hit us while we were sleeping, possibly around 3am.
Photo credit – Captain Caveman Video credit – Ben at Phong Nha Farmstay
It was all about numbers when I woke up on Friday 11th September. The world had now reached over 20 million recoveries from Corona, Vietnam had just 3 recoveries, no deaths and no more cases in the previous day. The lockdown in Danang imposed at the end of July was finally lifted and I had a message from our mate to say he had already had breakfast and lunch out and was going to the pub later to celebrate their freedom after 6 weeks! I had cancelled physio due to my stomach being a bit too sensitive and unpredictable and Captain Caveman had to do some work. We decided we would try to work out exactly what was making my stomach so bad and maybe it was going to have to be back to basics and cooking from scratch more often. Captain Caveman made himself a full English breakfast and he had some lovely fresh bread to have with it. I felt a bit disappointed at just being able to have bacon, rice crackers and brown sauce (which I then realised might have gluten in), followed by an apple for dessert. I did some language lessons and blogging and some leg stretches. In the evening Captain Caveman made us White Russian cocktails and for dinner we had left over East Hill chicken, guacamole and cashew nuts. It was only later that I realised I had drank milk but I had no side effects and wondered if UHT milk was ok! We would see tomorrow.
I was feeling fine on Saturday 12th September despite the 6.30am alarm after a night of White Russian drinking. I had managed to get an appointment at physio for 8am and so Phuong picked me up at 7am and off we went. I much prefer a morning appointment – it means I have less stomach issues if I go before eating and I can work/study in the afternoons. I had started doing my Vietnamese language practice in the physio and it was hard to concentrate when it got painful but I tried to take my mind off it, especially the sciatic nerve and toe twitching which seemed to be getting worse. I had a new therapist today, Hien, who seemed a bit more gentle until she did the back of my calf, knee and thigh with her arm. The beach in Danang was now open and people were out walking, jogging and swimming with masks on (mostly). It was 21 weeks since I’d woke up after our end of lockdown celebrations with an injured leg – this Corona had a lot to answer for! I had a banana for breakfast, although I don’t like them they can’t do me any harm – my stomach was still fine. Captain Caveman was working again that day but we had planned to have some takeaway food from Momma D’s, and I was particularly looking forward to her gluten free sausages. For lunch I continued with my experiment and had just 30g of brie with my rice crackers, cashew nuts and a dragon fruit – I was fine and spent the afternoon doing my usual tasks. I had just opened a bottle of red wine when Captain Caveman arrived with our food and my order of all the different types of gluten free sausages with french fries. The idea was to eat some and save some but I ate most, with the help of Captain Caveman and I really enjoyed them and the chips, with a second glass of wine. I also had a bit of the BBQ sauce with them which was very tasty. My favourites were the pork snags but before I could have a third glass of wine I was ill again, it couldn’t have been the gluten free sausages this time so maybe it was the delayed effects of the cheese from earlier.
I was looking forward to a nice day off from physio on Sunday 13th September. This week I’d only had 5.5 hours of physio, so a lot less than usual, but I felt ok. The knee pain had pretty much disappeared but the ankle was still sore and ached a lot – I was disappointed that I still wasn’t allowed to swim. Captain Caveman had to work and so was up very early. My stomach had settled down and I felt fine so I decided to have cheese, crisps and a Snickers for lunch and see how that went. It went fine and no bad effects, which was a relief, maybe next week I would try yoghurt. Today was 21 years since I had started working at Norwich Union (later renamed Aviva) and it made me feel a bit nostalgic. I had been left there for over 5 years now but I still had lots of friends back home who I had met through working there. My life is so very different now and I wouldn’t want to change that (I’ve hardly touched a spreadsheet since then) but I do miss my friends back home. Captain Caveman was finished early so we decided to go for dinner at Phong Nha Farmstay where we ordered a nice bottle of Shiraz, we took half home to finish as Captain Caveman was driving us on the motorbike. Captain Caveman surprised me by not ordering pizza, he had Aussie pie, chips and beans and gravy – he’s an animal! I had a sensible gluten free option of beef in bamboo with steamed rice and vegetables which I really enjoyed. We even sat at the big dining table with some of the other guests which meant Captain Caveman managed to not be glued to his phone the whole time. Back home we had a night cap and then an early night. The coming week was set to be a lively one, by my standards.
There were still no more Corona cases or deaths reported in Vietnam on Monday 7th September and just 10 recoveries for the day before – it was nearing a week without more cases or deaths reported. Captain Caveman and I went by motorbike to Victory Road Villas for breakfast. I had pho and Captain Caveman had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, both excellent. For lunch we went by motorbike to Phong Nha Farmstay and as soon as I started walking in to the pool and bar area I heard a familiar voice; Momma D was sat with one of the Farmstay guests, Miss H, about to have lunch so we joined their table. We ordered lunch and I had a bun cha which was very tasty. I also had a glass of wine and we took the rest of the bottle home. We didn’t bother with any dinner as we were still full from lunch and just shared the wine and some cashew nuts which Captain Caveman had picked up in Dong Hoi. It was a rather relaxed evening and we were happy just to chill out.
We woke up fairly early on Tuesday 8th September and decided to go for breakfast at Phong Nha Farmstay where I had pho (as usual) and a juice. We went by motorbike and it was a nice scenic ride, through the rice fields, passing lots of cows and buffaloes. The Corona data showed good news in Vietnam that there were still no cases or deaths reported now for a week – the strict measures and lockdowns seemed to be working. Unfortunately the world data had shown over 9,000 deaths in the last day which even for a Tuesday seemed rather a lot. Before I knew it, it was time for me to go to my physio session. Having had 2 days off I thought it would be more painful but I survived. The heat treatment had started to feel amazing but what wasn’t so amazing was some of the calf and hamstring stretches at the end of the session – my bad leg was definitely becoming more flexible than my good one. That evening we decided to eat dinner at the Farmstay where Captain Caveman found a new pizza, which made him happy, and I had a rather delicious chicken with rice and vegetables. I’m still trying to be healthy so I took all the chicken skin off and had a small pile ready to give to Betty, the cute dog of one of the guests. She snaffled the chicken skin and then would not leave Captain Caveman’s feet to go to bed when called. We took the rest of the wine home and had a drink before bed.
Something ‘terrible’ happened in my world on Wednesday 9th September! I found out that cheese was also making me ill – dairy to be precise and I was distraught. For breakfast I had a pink dragon fruit (they taste the same as white ones but are messier) and everything was fine. I learned some languages, wrote some blogs and was feeling fine. For lunch I had rice crackers and Gouda cheese with water and then had a short rest before physio. Just before Phuong arrived to pick me up I had a terrible stomach but not exactly like gluten belly. I wondered if I would make it to my therapy session and had to take imodium just to get in the car. On the way there I started to feel worse and I desperately needed to go, Phuong even had to pull in to a side road of a field so that I could go ‘in nature’ but there was a herd of cows and their owner in the way. He suggested we try to make it to the next petrol station and finally we got to my favourite one with the new toilets and barking dogs. I was tempted to ask Phuong to go back home but decided I would be ok. I felt ill all the way through the physio and hoped I’d be ok, I even finished 30 minutes early so I could get back without any more incidents. Back home I didn’t eat any dinner but felt better, I really didn’t want to be allergic to cheese – I love it so much!! As it was Wine Wednesday, not to let the side down, I managed a couple of small glasses of red wine later that night but probably shouldn’t have!
I was still unwell with a dodgy stomach, fatigue and headache on the morning of Thursday 10th September and so I didn’t risk going to physio. I also kept my food intake pretty basic to try to get back to normal for the next day! I was worried that missing too much physio would set me back. While the world exceeded 28 million Corona cases, Vietnam had reported 22 more recoveries and 5 new cases (from repatriation flights which went straight to quarantine). In the UK my Facebook feed was a mix of posts commenting on Boris Johnson’s new ‘Rule of 6’ which was announced today but to start from Monday 14th September. I decided I would have to get to the bottom of the dairy allergy once I was well again and so for today I only had food I knew didn’t affect me at all. Fruit for breakfast (no yoghurt), rice crackers with cashew nuts and an apple for lunch, then a sesame sweet as a treat because I was hungry. By the time it got to dinner time we decided to order East Hill chicken combo and I was feeling much better so I had strongbow cider and a glass of white wine. No gluten, no dairy and I was feeling back to almost normal.
My flight to Turkey from England was on Monday 10th September, 2018. This was what I wrote about my last visit to England, back then! I know I’m very lucky to be in Vietnam right now but it doesn’t stop me missing my friends and family:
On Friday 7th September, 2018, I had an appointment at the bank at 9.30am, in Sheffield town centre then came back to my house in Middlewood (which was up for sale) to start some packing. I met Becca at The Albion on London Road at 5.45pm for a swift drink before a delicious meal at Satay Yo Beer at 6pm with Louise, Becca and Nel. We went next to The Devonshire Cat for 8pm to be joined by Caz, Jo, Lucy, Liv and Rach for prosecco and very loud music. My last night out with the girls would not be complete without a trip to The Washington from 11pm with Becca, Nel, Caz and Lucy for lots more drinks, dancing and hilarity with the selfie stick. Becca and I were of course the last ones standing and she stayed at mine.
On Saturday 8th September we woke with hangovers and had to force down a MacDonalds for brunch. I managed to sort myself out for a visit to Ma and Pa and Ted the dog until it was time to go to work. I worked at the local pub (The Queen) ’til 2am, we had a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Christine, the landlady, being there with more booze and I slept on sofa in the upstairs of the pub.
It was time to say goodbye on Sunday 9th September after breakfast at my parents’ house. I just had time to pick up contact lenses in town, have a cheeky bucks fizz with Kerrie and Jack over at my house which I’d packed and cleared with the help of my mom. My parents took me to the train station with my massive case! It was a teary goodbye as usual and would have been even worse had I known then that I wouldn’t be back after 2 years! Once in Manchester I checked in to Etrop Grange, a lovely hotel close to the airport, had dinner with wine followed by an early night ready for the early morning flight the next day. It was an amazing weekend and just great to see so many people I’d not had chance to see as much as I’d have liked to since I’d been back.
On Friday 6th September I would finally be seeing my parents again, after quite a long time. I’d last seen my mom in Turkey about 11 months ago but I’d not seen my dad for about 14 months, back in England. We had agreed to meet for breakfast and they would message me when they were up. I was awake from 7am (11am Vietnamese time) with a hangover and no recollection of saying bye to anyone last night. I waited for the message and drank loads of water, trying to sort myself out as I felt terrible and had a really bad stomach. We went to Jiks for breakfast around 10:30am where we all went for the English versions, it was great to see them and afterwards we stocked up on provisions and went back home for a rest. It was a bit rainy but we didn’t care as we were happy to see each other after so long. In the afternoon we had a couple of drinks at Amy’s bar, where I managed two ciders and then in the evening we had our first family meal at one of our favourites, Bistro Blue. My chicken casserole was so big that I took some home and we had a good first night together drinking wine too.
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.
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!
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.
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