I walked alone and listened to music, and tried to find the Crazy House – a place I saw marked on the map they gave us at the hotel but didn’t really know what it was.
I found the place after looking for it for a long time in a maze of small streets and alleys.
At the entrance, some Russian tourists stood, and local women sold merchandise and strawberries. I bought a ticket for 40,000 Dong (about a dollar and a half) and entered.
It was lovely inside, special and different, like being in a Doctor Seuss’s book.
It’s some kind of a museum that functions as a hotel as well, made of a few buildings with lots of steep staircases leading into and out of strange rooms.
Small, cozy bedrooms were looking as if they’ve been carved out of rocks or tree trunks. Hidden at the bottom floor of a building, there are a lobby and a living room with wooden furniture and maps on the walls, a funny gift shop is concealed somewhere, and amongst the buildings, there are yards with sculptures and hidden places, ladders, low porches.
If you go high enough, some of the staircases are becoming bridges that go over the whole Crazy House and whole Đà Lạt, and you can see the rooftops of the small colorful houses.

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I went downstairs, where there was a small kiosk, and bought passionfruit juice. I sat with my book by a lake, while toads cackled with their gruff voices and groups of tadpoles swam in the water.
When I finished the chapter I walked around some more – I looked at a big cage where different species of fat doves napped on the branches of a tree.
As the skies got cloudy again I walked back to the hotel, where Roni was already waiting.
Rain began falling outside and after we showered we sat on the bed and watched “The Social Network” that I somehow managed to download to my phone, and by evening, as the rain stopped, we went for dinner.
We sat at one of the places where you get a small grill to the table and order skewers to roast on it, ate fresh meats and drank beer. Heavy rain was falling again, and when it weakened we quickly went back to the hotel.
It was cold and we cuddled in the bed, and continued watching the movie until we fell asleep.

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In the morning we ate soup with mushrooms for breakfast. At the table near us, a woman with a Chinese look and an American accent tried Vietnamese coffee for the first time and admired its chocolate flavor.
We went to the market again to find me some shoes. At the hotel’s entrance, there was a place to put your shoes at, and in one of the days, my sandals just disappeared from there.
On the second floor of the market, there was an area with only different kinds of shoe shops, from practical ones for work to fancy ones, and I found flat colorful canvas shoes which I liked immediately.
I still have them in my closet and they’re starting to fall apart, but I can’t throw them yet because they remind me of Đà Lạt.

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In the afternoon we went again to the Crazy House because I wanted Roni to see it too.
I was glad to go back because everything was so cute and strange, and Roni liked it as well. Meanwhile, the evening came slowly.
It was our last day in Đà Lạt and I was a bit sad to leave – the sweet homey hotel, Hien the receptionist, the chill city.
We had dinner at a place similar to the night before, with a small grill served to the table, and for the first time I tried a roasted chicken leg. It was nice but poor with meat and had lots of bones. A local mother sat next to us with two little girls who were scared of the grill’s red sparks.

We moved from there to the night market, which was closed to cars and very busy with people and vendors.
At the central square stood two people with huge costumes of a Minion and Hello-Kitty, and some teenagers pushed them to make them fall down. We walked around a little, Roni got himself a pair of shoes, and then we had ice-cream at a small cafe.
We went back, organized our backpacks and went to sleep.

We got up at seven AM, got dressed quickly and went downstairs for check-out.
We sat with Hien for a breakfast of rice leaves rolled with meat, and coffee.
Her sweet sister joined us too but her English wasn’t so good, so she mostly smiled in silence.
A rough rolling sound broke the silence – Nip and Quan, the motorcyclists, parked their heavy motorcycles outside. As we loaded our things on the bikes Hien gave us scarves as a gift, to cover our mouths and noses during the ride.
Roni went on the bike behind Nip, a middle-aged man with a thin mustache, and I sat behind Quan, a quiet man with moon-face that seemed age-less, even though he must be over 60.

The motor ignited and rumbled beneath us as we made our way through the heavy morning traffic. After we passed by the central square we caught up with Nip and Roni, who disappeared in the distance for a while.
The bike accelerated and the wind began blowing through the hair as we left the city, towards another journey.

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On the two and a half days Quoc and Giang were in Đà Lạt they took us to restaurants, cafes and bars we would never have found on our own. It made me grateful again about the decision to leave the fancy hotel in Nha Trang, and move to their cute one.

On the first evening, they left us a note at the hotel’s reception saying they’ve booked a cab to come to pick us up at eight and take us to their favorite place.
The cab took us to the front of a big loud restaurant where they waited for us. After we got inside and sat, they ordered for all four of us a big comforting hot-pot, a soup that comes in a big bowl at the center of the table together with vegetables and meats you can cook inside, and everybody share it.
I told them we’ve seen people eating snails but never tried it ourselves, so they ordered a dish for us to try. Aside from the snail itself, the shells were filled with chopped pork, and were served with a stem of lemon-grass so you could pull out the shell’s content with it.
The snail itself had a texture similar to calamari and a very gentle flavor I could hardly feel, because it was blended with the strong tastes of the pork and lemon-grass.
Quoc and Giang told us they have a three years old daughter back home named Sushi since they like sushi. Quoc tattooed her name on one of his fingers.

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After dinner, we went together towards the market.
The hotel itself is inside an alley and outside of it there’s a small lake, followed by a steep hill leading to the central square of the market, a building with four or five floors.
We went to a cafe in the area called Windmills and sat on the second floor, at a porch viewing the square.
Roni and I had tea and Quoc and Giang had green matcha-based coffee drinks, and together we shared a tiramisu and another cake with cheese and berries.
We talked about the hotel in Nha Trang.
Quoc confessed that when he got our booking and saw we were from Israel, he was nervous because they had a bad experience with Israelies before. He asked the receptionist to be extra nice so we won’t have reasons to complain. We said we are aware of it that Israelies can be rude when traveling, and some hotels in the world won’t accept us at all.
They told us about customers from different countries they’ve had who complained about strange things, such us not having an elevator even though they knew that when they booked the room, or the place not being fancy enough, while the price is super cheap.
It’s nice you can give a review on Trip Advisor or Yelp, but it can hurt small independent places when people give low ratings for nothing.
I said I always check the most negative reviews to see if they were legitimate, or just petty.

We really liked the huge marketplace and the area around it.
To get there, you go down some stairs and reach the big square with a grass plot in the middle, and lots of restaurants and cafes around it. From there, you can turn right to a big street where dozens of modern and traditional restaurants are under the open skies, together with stalls of jewelry, various hand-made items, souvenirs. Behind the square stands the crowded market building, burdened with shoes, clothes, make-up, groceries. Around the building there are more stalls, the merchandise lays on a rug on the floor.
From one of the top floors, there is another exit to a different, higher street – since the city is so mountainous, it’s built with different levels.
In the evening lights are turned on in the square. There’s a thick crowd of families, dogs, children, young honeymooners, vendors who sell unnecessary items.

On the second day, Quoc and Giang took us for lunch at a tiny restaurant near the market with two crowded floors and a big grill outside. We had a delicious meal of rice with grilled meat and small bowls of soup on the side. Then we went for coffee and ice-cream at another place.
It began raining heavily, so we sat there for a while and looked at the raindrops from inside.
Quoc and Giang were the kind of people you can talk with for hours about anything, and you can also not talk at all.

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In the evening, Roni and I walked around by ourselves.
We sat at a cafe by the hotel and talked with some friends back home, walked slowly towards the market and stopped for a nice comforting bún bò, and at eight-thirty we met Quoc and Giang for beer. There were some hostels around with loud young American tourists who sat in nearby pubs, and Giang said that Western tourists always seem to her excited and full of energy.
The stories they told us about the Israelis they’ve met before, and tourists from other countries, made me wonder for the millionth time how we were being perceived in this country.

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In the morning, we sat on the colorful couch in the hotel’s lobby and had breakfast with Hien, the receptionist we’ve met on the first day. We said goodbye to Quoc and Giang who went back home to Nha-Trang, and went for a walk outside.
We walked slowly to the flowers garden – a park that is an attraction in Đà Lạt, which is known for its flowers and greenhouses. We walked lazily, looking at stores here and there, and got inside a pagoda we’ve seen on the way that was very peaceful and quiet.
We almost arrived at a big central lake, when a middle-aged man with a blue Eazy Riders jacket approached us and began chatting.
He was very welcoming and nice and we were planning to have another motorcycles trip to the next destination anyway, so we walked with him to his office, where we had tea with him and his partner and planned a three days trip and then a bus to Hồ Chí Minh City. They told us that it was the low season so they lower their prices since they were Buddhist and believed in Karma.
What goes around comes around, he said.
We took their details, shook hands and went on walking by the lake.
We walked on a big grass plot, stopped where two well-groomed horses stood and bought a bag of sweet popcorn for a snack. The skies got darker and it looked like it was about to rain, so we decided to go back towards the market and visit the flower garden on another day.
We arrived at one of the restaurants on the market’s square and sat under a big shade right when pouring rain began to fall, and had a spicy Phở bò. A lazy cat took a nap on my bag and covered itself with my scarf.

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When we finished eating we ran in the rain to the covered part of the market and stayed there until the rain stopped, and went back towards the hotel with the thunders still roaring in the distance.
In the evening we went again and had peach-tea at a cafe with a slight smell of coffee and cigarettes. We wanted to have dinner at that tiny restaurant where Quoc and Giang took us but they were closing, so Roni said we should get some pizza, something that suddenly we both had a craving for. We ate at a great pizzeria, even though the service was a bit too official for us, and looked at drunk tourists in the street and dogs playing on the road.
It was the only time during the trip when we had Western food and it was very comforting, but to be honest, I loved the local food so much I hardly missed anything.

In the morning we sat again with Hien for breakfast, ate the yummy soup they served for breakfast and had coffee. Hien told us about her job and life.
She chose this job because she loved meeting people from around the world, so she can practice her English and expand her horizons. Her sister works in the hotel as well but more at the back on the house, such as maintenance and kitchen.
We asked how come the stay there is so cheap, yet the hotel is so nice and clean and they serve such delicious breakfast for free. She said that Ken, the owner of the place, believes in giving as much as possible.

It was a bright sunny day, even warm, so we decided to try our luck again and go to the flower garden. We passed by the big lake again, where the beautiful horses stood. People paddled in the water in small flamboyant boats shaped like swans.
After a long walk, we found the beautiful entrance, paid 60,000 Dong (about 2-3 dollars) and went inside.
It was quiet, clean and very well-nurtured. Small pathways meandered between lawns and floral gardens where shrubs were trimmed into shapes of pitchers, kettles, teacups. A miniature house with a roof made solely out of flowers stood by a lake, and wind chimes gently chanted on its entrance. Nearby stood bonsai trees, that with a close look seemed like tiny fairy-kingdoms.

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We sat for coffee at a nice woman with a stall by the lake and kept on walking. We saw here and there young local couples, and aside from them, the place was relatively empty. We went inside a greenhouse with dozens of different species of huge orchids, where a Western woman talked with the saleswoman about the cultivation of the flowers.
We strolled there some more, enjoying the cool fresh air of the ground and vegetation until the noon rain clouds appeared in the distance again, so we went back to the market’s area.
We had a tasty lunch at the small restaurant with the grill outside, and when the rains stopped we decided to split for a while and travel by ourselves.
Roni went to the market, and I put on my headphones and went to explore the city.

After breakfast, we checked out and sat outside with our backpacks and had coffee.
The Easy Riders showed up – Mister Lam, with flames painted on the front of his heavy motorcycle, and Yen, with a big red motorcycle.
They began loading our bags on their bikes as Quoc and his wife Giang were also getting ready for the trip, Quac with a small sports camera attached to his helmet.
When we were all ready Roni and I went on the Easy Rider’s bikes – me behind Yen and Roni behind Mister Lam. The bike ignited with a loud growl, and we started navigating our way outside the city as Quac and Giang driving ahead of us.

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In a short while, I got used to the motorcycle’s tremblings and its metallic feel and leaned back on my bag that was tied behind. I took a big orange scarf with me which I bought back then from an old woman in Sapa and covered my mouth and nose with it, and a plastic part of the helmet protected my eyes.
We stopped right outside the city by a small shack with a big yard, where three middle-aged women sat and weaved rugs in red, yellow and green. Two of them worked on a rug, as one adds more strings to the loom with a long hook and the other arranges the interwoven ones. The third and oldest woman sat on the side and talked with the two others.
They let Roni and I try it in turns, and we managed to slowly weave a clumsy line.

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We drove on narrow roads between fields and small houses in faded colors scattered here and there.
We stopped by a rice field – tall plants growing like wheat, with small tough rice beans inside the leaves.
We passed on a long shaky wooden bridge stretching above a green river. Mister Lam said the rains start at November and the river overflows, so the locals break it apart and put it together afterward, a process that takes three months.

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We made a brief stop in another shack were some women made flat crunchy pastries made of rice and sesame, which goes great with the hot spicy food.
They make some kind of mush out of the ground seeds and pour it on a hot plate which in minutes consolidate it into some kind of a soft pancake, which they then move to a straw surface and take it outside to dry for several hours in the beating sun.
Lam said they begin their work at 3 AM and finish at 1 PM before the rains begin.
Quoc and Giang were there with us as well and Giang said she hardly ever sees those rural people because she doesn’t leave the city much.

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They took us to a workshop of a sculptor that works with wood.
He lives in a tiny house with a huge yard, where four barking puppies are tied. On the bare ground tools and wood chips with a strong smell of wood were scattered, and the place was full of statues in different levels of finishings.
The ready sculptures were smooth and covered in wax, and most of them described fat laughing Buddhas with big earlobes – a sign for luck, long lives, riches, fertility. Other and smaller ones were of gods actually coming out of the logs, which is a part of their bodies.
An impressive furniture was standing on one corner – a big tree lying on its side with bare roots, forming into a long bench, and on the other side there’s a smiling Buddha sitting, all made out of one piece.
The sculptor said it’s very expensive furniture which only rich people with a big house can afford.

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We stopped by a local village, where Roni and I explored the place by foot while the bikers waited on the other side.
Some curious children looked at us, and small pigs and poultry strolled around at the sides of the trail. We were accompanied by two dogs who barked at us from a safe distance, and a black puppy that was playing in one of the yards. A
t the village’s entrance there were stalls with diagonal tables, where dozens of yellow palm-like bamboo leaves were placed.

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Outside of that village, we passed by a sugar cane field and Yen chopped us small branch from one of the plants and told us to chew. It’s tough and fibrous, but after you work on it a sweet fresh juice come out. We moved on, now on open and free highways, driving much faster. I felt my feet vibrating near the motor and the scarf flapping behind me. The longer we drove, the higher the mountains around us became and the air was colder, and the wind felt like tiny tinglings on the skin. It was freshening to finally feel a cool breeze after weeks on the humid shoreline.

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After about 45 minutes of a consecutive ride, we stopped on a bridge towering above a big waterfall and went off the bikes.
Aside from us, there were only a couple of locals with big straw hats.
We walked across the bridge until we reached a small path with lots of stingy vegetation, and after we passed it and climbed over some black rocks we found the chill waterfall. We dipped our hands and feet in the freezing water.
It was dead silence there, as the plants absorbed every little rustle from the highway.

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We went back to the motorcycles and started climbing over the mountains.
White clouds cruised around us like steam, sliding amongst the mountains and covering us. The skies got darker and it began raining – light at first and then fast and heavily, the raindrops stinging like hailstones because of the bike’s speed. We stopped on the side of the road to cover our backpacks and wear blue plastic overalls that protect from the rain, and moved on.
We reached at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and stopped by a wooden house with a tall straw roof, and went up inside with a small ladder.
It was empty aside from a few long wooden benches. Mister Lam said this was where the locals gather up for discussions or special occasions, and such a building is a sign of a strong community.
There were similar buildings nearby, their roofs not as tall. The only living soul that could be seen around was a chicken picking in the moist ground, with its chicks hiding between its legs.

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it was noon, and we were getting hungry. We stopped at a small place on the sides of the road, where a local woman served rice with fried pork and small bowls of soup, and sliced persimmon for dessert.
We gave the bones to a pregnant cat who was meowing under the table and moved on.
We passed by a strawberries farm and tasted the fruits straight from the ground. We talked with the farmer, a laughing bearded man, who said he was also growing potatoes and persimmons.
Not far from there we stopped again at a coffee farm and saw the red coffee beans – they grow on bushes, like berries.
The bikers told us that the coffee came with the French who saw Vietnam has the optimal conditions for growing it, and before that, they used to drink only tea. They said there is some kind of an animal (later on, it turned out they meant weasels) that eat the beans and then take them out whole, and it’s used to make high-quality coffee because of a chemical process the beans go through in their stomach.
Light rain was falling. Somehow the conversation rolled onto our country, and we tried to explain to them the Israeli – Palestinian conflict in simple words, a thing we do not really understand ourselves.

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Towards the late noon, we arrived at Đà Lạt, which was surrounded by greenhouses and homes in various colors.
We stopped at a colorful pagoda which was heavily decorated with loads of sculptures of flowers and small animals and walked inside. There was a small garden in the center that had a pool with big orange fish swimming in it, and statues of dragons and people with three or four faces holding swords.
The place had a few temples where severe women with blue clothes sat by their entrance. We went up to the second floor, where huge Buddha sculptures were placed, and wandered in there for a bit.
After we explored the whole place we went downstairs and sat with our drivers, Yen and Mister Lam, and had coffee while they talked about the Buddhist beliefs.
Its symbol looks like a swastika but much more ancient and stands for Karma – what goes around comes around. After dying one can reincarnate as different creatures, depending on what the soul deserves basing on its actions in previous lives – animal, human, something higher than human or lower than an animal.
It reminded me of a Chinese book I’ve read before the trip – Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, about a man who dies in his village and reincarnate as various animals until he learns his lesson.

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The last stop was an old train station, that according to what they told us all the hipsters in Vietnam go there to take artistic photos.
Eventually, they took us to Ken’s House – the hotel where we stayed together with Quoc and Giang from Nha Trang.
We thanked the bikers and said goodbye, and went inside.
It’s a small place, very colorful and clean, with wall-to-wall carpets in every room and a warm homey feeling, which fits well in the cold city in the mountains.
We checked-in with Hien, a beautiful receptionist who said her name means “Gentle”. After taking off our shoes and leaving them in a cupboard by the entrance, we went up to our room. It was charming, tiny with a floral painting on one of the walls and colorful sheets.
We were wet and muddy from the long ride and while we showered in turns Hien showed up by the door with a tray of tea and spring rolls, which was right on time.
We rested for a while and got ready for the evening since we scheduled that Quoc and Giang would take us to their favorite restaurant.

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I went on wandering by myself in Nha Trang. Black clouds appeared in the distance and I was getting hungry, but I had to find an ATM first.
Right as it began raining, I went inside a touristic restaurant with an English and Russian menu and ordered a beer and spring rolls. I looked at the rain from inside and read.
People ran outside in an attempt to avoid the rain, and some employees tried to turn on a wet grill under a shade.
When I got bored I went back to the rain and muddy streets and went windows-shopping. Salesmen tried to speak Russian with me.
Eventually, I went back to the room.

 This whole time, Roni was sleeping and reading. He bought The Quiet American by Graham Greene at a second-hand book store back in Hội An.
It was about 4 PM and the rain stopped, so we took our raincoats and went outside. We had hot soup at a small booth in a wet street corner and then got back again for a hot shower, and as evening came we went to have some beer.
We sat at one of those places where you get a small grill and skewers which you fry yourself. The waitresses tapped around with miny-dresses and high heels and once in a while renewed the ice in our beer glasses, and an older woman sat on some corner and gave them comments.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for some yummy ice-cream at a cute small place and then fell asleep while staring at the TV.

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The next morning, after having coffee, Roni went back to the room to rest, and I was looking for something to eat. It was 11 and most places that served breakfast were already closed, and it was somewhat sad looking for food by myself while Roni is sick in the room.
Eventually, I got into a tiny department store with a grandma who served soup, so I sat there to eat and read my book. A man stopped by to get cigarettes. He looked Chinese but spoke English with a heavy Russian accent. He saw I was reading Lolita and told me that in Russia they read it in high school. It seemed strange to me, and very impressive, since the book is provocative and not easy to read.

I walked back to the hotel. Roni was sleeping and I sat on the bed and wrote a strange dream I had that night.
I fell asleep for 20 minutes and towards 1 PM I woke Roni up and we went to sit on the shore. The waves were huge, and I was feeling a bit blue because I felt bad for Roni, who was still feeling ill.

Back in the hotel, we talked with Quoc about the Easy Riders – a national company of motorcyclists who arrange trips, mostly in the center and South, and you can ride with them on their motorcycles or join with your own.
Quoc called his friend, Mister Lam, who arrived a few minutes later and sat with us to plan a day trip to Đà Lạt. Quac said he and his wife might join us and go on a vacation in Đà Lạt, and recommended on a hotel over there.
We walked outside for dinner a bit far from the hotel, at a buzzing and crowded place that served meats with rice and beer.
Just as a bunch of ten grumpy Chinese tourists sat. a pouring rain began to fall. In mere minutes, the restaurant – which was completely open under the night sky – shut down as if it was never open. It happened as we were finishing so we paid and waited under a shade together with the rest of the people, and as the rain weakened we went back to the room.

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The next day Roni was feeling much better. We had phở bò for breakfast at a small place, where a young woman fried fat worms in lemon-grass and snacked on them like nuts.
After a cup of coffee, we went to the beach.
It was sunny outside but not too hot, and the sea was blue and clear. We spent a few hours there, swimming, walking on the shore, drinking fresh coconut juice.
In the afternoon we took a long walk in the city. We had a spicy ginger-tea and booked that hotel in Đà Lạt Quoc talked about.
We talked about what was left back home – memories of us being students together, the jobs we left, our apartment, our friends.

Roni felt weak again so we went back to the room and he fell asleep, and around 7 I went for a walk by myself.
I walked on the boardwalk and got into an embroidery gallery, which was beautiful with a small garden where a few women sat and weaved, and local music was played.
I walked in the rooms and looked at pictures made solely out of threads, some huge and realistic, and very impressive.
I walked out and kept on wandering around the city, in places we haven’t seen before and didn’t show up on the small map they gave us in the hotel. I looked for a place to sit by myself. Eventually, I went into a bar called First Contact, that was a bit empty but had a nice vibe, and ordered crab-soup and a drink they served of vodka with apples. I sat with my book and when I got bored I paid and went back outside.
I didn’t really know where I was so I walked around until I saw familiar buildings again.
There was a big fight in the street – a small dog was bugging a man so he tried to beat it with a sandal, and another woman went out of a house and held him so he wouldn’t hit the dog, which seemed amused. There were many yellings and people got involved and separated them. The man left angry with his wife, leaving one sandal on the road behind him and walking with one barefoot.
I bought hot corn for Roni at a small booth with a vendor who talked Russian with me even though I knew some basic Vietnamese, and went back to the room.
I woke Roni up and we sat in front of the TV as he ate the corn, and then went to sleep.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

We had a hard time finding dinner on our first night in Nha-Trang, since the area where we stayed was a bit desolate. After walking around, we found a busy place that served good phở.
Then we looked for beer.
A place in an alley appeared to have a happy vibe, so we sat there and had two beers that came with glasses full of huge ice blocks. Aside from us, there were a few more couples that ordered meat which came on a hot plate and they fried it themselves. We weren’t hungry, but we said we’ll come back the next day for dinner.

In the morning we ate breakfast at the strange and fancy hotel’s restaurant together with severe oligarchs from Russia and China. The chairs were draped in a white cloth that hadn’t been washed in months. On the corner stood leftovers from a wedding that took place there god-knows-when.
We had coffee outside and went to the beach, and after a few hours, we came back to the hotel for a brief shower and then back outside to look for food.
Everything was beginning to close for noon but we found a place that seemed open. Two mamas were sitting by the entrance, and when they saw us they woke up a girl who worked there and was getting ready for her nap.
We’ve felt a bit uncomfortable about it but they insisted that the place is open, and anyway the soup she served was great.

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The day passed by calmingly.
By sunset, we went to the beach again and watched as the sky darkened, and in the evening we came back to the place where we drank beer the night before.
The menu was in Vietnamese, and the owner of the place was a smiling middle-aged man who didn’t speak a word in English. We decided to be spontaneous and just pointed at a few things from the menu without knowing what we’re ordering.
We got some fried meats, with a side of fish parts (mostly fins) cooked in tin foils with a boiling sauce. Everything was delicious even though the fish had a lot of small bones in it, and I like the idea of not exactly knowing what we’re gonna get.
The man tried to speak with us via Google Translate.
He asked about Roni’s tattoo of a fisherman and a fish, and wrote through google “You are not intelligent”. Later on, we found out that the words “Fisherman” and “Stupid” are written the same way, so I guess he was trying to ask Roni whether he was a fisherman.

He called his friend, who spoke a little English, and they both sat with us.
We talked about politics.
The guy who spoke English said he thought politicians are like children, just messing around with their stuff, while us, the simple people, looking from outside and not knowing what they are doing.
He told us that now they have problems with the neighboring countries. The relationships between Vietnam and Russia are very close, like brothers, but Vietnam has problems with China which affects the relationship with Russia.
He said that there is tension on the North border of Vietnam, and that sometimes people in South China disconnect their electricity (as some sort of vandalism). I remembered that there really were many power outages in the North.

He went back to his friends, and we paid and began walking towards the hotel.
We saw him again on the way back, sitting by a plastic table in the street together with three more men and a woman. He said they were his brothers and invited us to sit with them.
As we sat, he explained that sometimes very close friends define themselves as brothers. He and his friends know each other since school, and they are now 55 years old.
On my left, one of the men poured beer for us and on the other side, a skinny man asked us where we came from. He said that the only thing he knows about Israel is that people used to blow themselves up in public places as a terrorist activity.
They asked us what we thought about Vietnam, and we said that we don’t know if it’s just us, but people in the South seem much friendlier than in the North. They said it was impressive we noticed that and those differences are because people in the North tend to be more poor and hard-working, so it’s harder to “get” to them.
We said goodbye and they wished us goodnight while winking, and we strolled drunk back to the room.

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By morning we packed, checked out and took a cab.
It took me a while to figure out why the driver was blushing and saying again and again “Madam beautiful”, until I noticed my blouse was open…
The cab took us to the area we saw when we just arrived in the city, bustling streets with a long boardwalk, busy roads, street-food, lots of people.
We booked the night before a small humble-looking place right at the center.
A young woman with glasses welcomed us and gave us the room key, and when we came back outside she explained about the area and helped us book a snorkeling trip for the day after.

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It was very refreshing to move from that bombastic hotel into a much more intimate and cute place, not to mention the area – which was also touristic but had a much younger vibe.
We took another cab to the marketplace.
We entered a big packed building with lots of booths and people calling us “Sir” and “Madam” from every direction, and after I bought a phone charger we went outside and walked between jewelry, swimwear, and pendants made of dried sea horses and star-fish. We looked at swimwear at a shop where a bellied man napped on a hammock, and sat somewhere for tasty Bún bò.
We got back to the hotel to change clothes and went to the beach, which was minutes away. The yellow sand, the green trees, and the turquoise water. We spread our sheets under coconut trees and drank out of two cold and juicy coconuts that a passing woman sold us, read books and went swimming.

By evening we went to look for a place that could fix my phone, which wouldn’t connect to any charger. After we booked another night from the sweet receptionist with the glasses we asked her where you can fix phones, and she showed us on a map how to get to the main street with many mobile-phone shops.
When we entered a big store, all the employees stood in line by the entrance to greet us, and a man with yellow teeth led us to a technician and helped us communicate with him.
We had 30 minutes to wait so we went to eat Bánh xèo, a crispy pancake made of rice and filled with shrimps, sprouts, and greens.

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We collected the phone after they changed some tiny part in it and came back to the hotel.
We passed by the night market, a colorful and lit place where they sold mostly jewelry and souvenirs.
When we were nearby the hotel heavy rain began to fall. We ran from building to building, store to store, and eventually sat in a French cafe and ordered two whiskeys on the rocks.
When the rain stopped we strolled on the boardwalk, and went to bed since we had to get up early the next day.