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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