For breakfast that day, we hadphở bò at a street restaurant. Then we came back for coffee at a woman with a small wagon under the hotel.
By nine-thirty the tour guide came and led us to the van, which was already full of Asian and Australian tourists, and we drove towards the port. The ride was short and pretty, quickly we got to a pier with lots of small motorboats and a huge cable railway stretching above the port’s buildings and cranes towards distant mountains.
The guide, who said his name was Tea “Like the drink”, helped us one by one to get on a small boat, decorated with charts of sea creatures.
We put on the life vests while Tea went through the safety instructions. and asked the Asian tourists if they can swim. Apparently, many Asian people do not swim.
After about thirty minutes we came by shallow rocky water and got inside with the fins and snorkels we got earlier.
The first touch with the water was amazing and scary.
I kept trying to rearrange my diving mask since water came seeping through the left lens and dripped into the nose, but I just lost balance and swallowed lots of water.
I swam to a rock I could stand on and tried again.
I was curious and determined to dive but the water kept getting into the mask, so I swam back to the boat and Tea threw me a better one.
I swam alone in the silence, hearing only my breath underwater through the snorkel. I found Roni and we swam holding hands, showing each other the colorful fish – some huge and peaceful and some tiny with bright colors, hiding amongst the corals.
When it was time to get back we swam back to the boat’s ladder and went up, comparing the marks the diving masks left on our foreheads.
We sailed by big cliffs with small houses built on, while Tea talked about the environment and about the birds who build their nests on the tall cliffs.
A few minutes later we stopped where the water was about 20 meters deep and got an hour to dive.
After I jumped underwater I found myself lost in a blue void, only my fins floating in the nothingness and sunlight cutting through the water like huge drapes.
I moved forward towards some rocks Tea pointed at, starting to see small fish and corals peeking out of the blue.
I reached a big rock that was peeking out of the water and big colorful fish were grazing on it. I was a bit lost, not seeing Roni or recognizing anyone else around. A huge red starfish was glued to a rock deep down, and scuba divers swam inside the tunnels the rocks created.
I had to stop to rearrange my diving mask and catch my breath a little, so I found a relatively stable rock to rest on.
My skin was itching, probably because of small jellyfish, and I had a slight headache from the pressure the mask created, but it was so beautiful there and I wanted to keep swimming with the fish forever.
Eventually, I heard Tea calling everyone somewhere in the distance, and saw the girls who could not swim with their bright orange floats returning to the boat. I began swimming again into the blue void, losing myself from time to time, until I reached the boat and went up dizzy and tired.
I sat next to Roni, who returned earlier to the boat, and we exchanged stories.
Tea began breaking apart the wooden benches we sat on so they turned into one long table with benches on both sides.
Roni and I sat next to a family of Australians, who began a conversation. While Tea and another man spread different kinds of food on the table an Australian girl told us that they’ve been traveling in Vietnam for three weeks and been in Hội An and Saigon, and they will also go to Bangkok for a week. The children have already been in seven different countries, and were very open and self-assured. The girl told me that she’d learned that the Vietnamese do not like the Russian tourists that get food at grocery stores and eat it in the hotel instead of eating outside, and said it seems funny to her to go all the way here and not try the local food.
I couldn’t agree more, as I remembered the Burger-King in Bangkok and the Israeli restaurants on the Khaosan.
We ate the seafood, rice and vegetables they served us and drank beer, and Tea gave us another hour to dive where the boat stood.
I was planning on waiting for a while and not swim right after eating, but I was so curious so I ate fast and dived again into the blue void, swimming towards some rocks.
I followed big schools of blue and yellow fish and some seahorses, swam among tiny yellow snake-like creature with brown spots like giraffes, and small underwater structures with lots of seashells glued on. A small blue fish scared away anyone around it and tried to attack my fins, but was too scared to get close to me.
Once again I couldn’t see anyone and realize I was too far away from the boat as I saw it tiny in the distance, so I swam back, seeing the corals disappear again into the blue as the water got deeper.
Roni waited there for me and helped me get up, and turned my mask and fins back to their place while I recovered from the long swim.
Meanwhile, the long table and benches were back in their previous settings.
A light rain began to fall as we sailed back to the port, eating some fresh fruits they served us.
Pretty fast we arrived at the beach and went on the van that brought us back to the hotel, where we showered and fell asleep until the evening.
When we woke up we went downstairs and met Quoc, who runs the hotel with his wife, Giang. He sat in the lobby with his glasses his mohawk hairstyle that he tied into a ponytail and build a tiny house out of toothpicks and glue. We spoke with him about the city and the trip we had that morning, and after he gave us a small umbrella we went outside to the pouring rain.
We had black hot coffee and moved on to an Indian restaurant.
Roni was not feeling well, and I was still exhausted and dizzy from the boat.
We had a delicious lemony Caipirinha and ordered shrimp with a spicy cashew sauce and fried fish with white rice.
I only realized how hungry I was as we started eating.
It was all very tasty but the sauce was too heavy and spiced for me, and I thought that perhaps I’m just not that into Indian food.
We had spiced tea with milk for dessert and went back to the hotel.
Roni fell asleep immediately because he was feeling weak and I watched some movies on TV, still feeling the gentle swings of the boat and the blue surrounding me.
The next day went downstairs, where the woman with the coffee wagon stood. As it turned out, she had a small fire and a pan on the bottom of the wagon, inside a stainless steel cabinet. She cooked noodles with meat and kale, so we ordered two of those for breakfast.
Then we began walking towards the marine museum.
About halfway there Roni felt dizzy and weak again so we took a cab to the museum, which was very close to the port where we were the day before. We bought tickets for 30,000 Dong each (about a dollar and a half) and got inside.
By the entrance stood aquariums and big pools, filled with huge fish, small sharks and sea turtles. There was also a big cage with seals, which I thought was kind of sad. A group of teenagers on a field trip sat on the edge of the pool with the turtles and played with their smartphones.
We walked in a dark hall with lots of blue aquariums with big colorful fish, corals, fish that look like rocks, multicolored shrimps, big crabs and octopuses.
From the ceiling of another hall a huge whale’s skeleton was hanged, and next to it was a smaller one in an aquarium.
We went back to the main room and then into another hall with aquariums filled with strange lobsters, and a pool with a sea turtle who played with an oxygen bubble stream.
We climbed the stairs to the second floor, where there was a whole library of wooden cabinets with small jars, filled with a yellow liquid inside where skeleton, small sea animals, corals, and seashells were conserved.
At the end of the room were different kinds of taxidermied seals and turtle armors closed in glass cages.
We sat outside for a while a curious turtle peeked at us from time to time, and then we took a cab back to the hotel and napped for about 20 minutes.
For some reason, I remembered my mom used to take me swimming when I was a toddler. I had a doll with pink hair that I used to take to the pool and play with, in the water.
Roni, who was feeling very bad, stayed to rest in the hotel and I went for a walk outside.
I walked along the boardwalk and listened to music until I sat at a cafe next to a young man who did math exercises and muttered to himself.
Everybody was watching a dubbed Indian film on a small TV set, and I had coffee and wrote about the last few days in my journal.