It took about four hours on the bumpy roads to get to Rạch Giá, in a bus filled to the brim with people.
A van took us from the central station towards the hotel by the shore, passing bridges and rivers with houses built right on the water. After a bit of a walk, we got to the relatively empty and strange hotel. The room was nice, with a big window viewing the sea.

I was still feeling nauseous from the ride, but pretty soon it was gone and we were looking for lunch. A middle-aged woman served food at what seemed like her living room. We had the comfort-food as her tiny barky dog sat beneath our legs, and then went to the port to book a ferry to Phú Quốc. All the offices at the port seemed to be empty, so we asked the receptionist at the hotel and she told us where the offices were.
Only women worked at the office, and only one of them spoke English. She sold us the tickets as the others giggled behind her.
The sun was high and it was getting hot, so we stopped for cold coffee at a small cafe. All the other customers looked at us, some of them laughed. It was typical of small towns, where they don’t see many western people. An old woman was begging for alms and stopped by to curiously touch my hair, which made the bystander laugh even more.

Rạch Giá is very suburbian and quiet, so finding somewhere to have dinner at wasn’t easy. Especially at the isolated port area, where we stayed. We had a long walk to the center until we found a stall with good food. It seemed like we were the only tourists in the whole town since we attracted a lot of attention.
It was still early but the streets weren’t particularly interesting, so we went back to the hotel and sat on the porch with beers, viewing the dark sea.

The next morning, we walked to the port and had coffee until the ferry arrived, a big boat with the epic name – The Super Dong VIII.
The Super Dong was broad, with many rows of red cushioned chairs and screens that showed music videos, featuring a guy looking like the Vietnamese Justin Bieber. I didn’t know how long it would take to arrive at the island so I napped, mostly dreaming about food – again with the craving for Mediterranean, fresh vegetables in olive oil and lemon, accompanied by light cheeses.

After about three hours we docked at a lovely port, where we took a cab. It took twenty minutes of driving amongst bright-green jungles until we stopped on a main road, parallel to the shore.
Only one row of buildings separated the hotel from the beach. The room was nice and clean, and relatively big, and we had a porch viewing the beautiful open sea. After we settled down, we took a walk to explore the area – just a straight street, pretty quiet, the ocean peeking from in between the buildings. Small businesses, restaurants that were owned by a single person and served delicious home-cooked food, cafes that also offered a manicure.

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And then, after we had lunch and coffee, we finally went to the beach.
Sometimes I still close my eyes and see myself back there again.
A classic beach, as if it came from a movie, with coconut trees, white sand, blue ocean. Some shades sprinkled here and there. Yes, it is cheesy and touristic, but it’s so indulging.
The water is so lucid you can see the ground, and the animals lurking inside – crabs minding their own business, fish, huge conches and seashells with hermit crabs hiding inside.

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We’ve spent several hours at the beach, and in the evening went to the night market. It had many stalls with jewelry, mostly integrated with pearls and seashells, some stalls with clothing, and many restaurants with fresh grilled seafood.
We walked through the whole market until we arrived at the docks.
We stopped there to look at the dark sea, and the big crabs running on the sand. I breathed in the ocean air – the vast, endless water smell so much less salty than the Mediterranean.

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There were some restaurants on the beach, so we had dinner at one of them. The food was great – we had shrimps, fish, okra, some rice crackers and beers. At a table near us sat a big local family with many children, and I watched them eating a huge pile of clams, pulling the meat out of the shell using safety pins.

We bought ice-cream and walked back through the night market, and since it was early we went to a second, more central one. It was nice, but had mostly restaurants.
We got back to the room, had some beers and watched movies in bed. There was a Back to the Future special on one of the movie channels. We binged the movies until we fell into a deep sleep.

We got up early and had coffee at the lobby with Miss Vy, and then went to the travel agency where we booked the bus ticket the previous day.
The same clerk was there and she rode with us on a van that went to the bus station, and then showed us where to go and said goodbye. We took a bus to the central station, and then another one to Cần Thơ.
The ride took several hours, during which I wrote in my diary, listened to music, napped. It was a bit strange that I managed to pass long rides with my nose in a book without getting car-sick.

When we arrived at Cần Thơ, taxis and bike drivers gathered by the bus doors and offered a ride to anyone who got off. It was confusing, and we needed a few minutes to figure out where we are and where to go, when we saw a van going to the city center.
Through the windows, the city seemed suburbian and cute.
We stopped in front of a small hotel where a polite young man greeted us, gave us a city map and told us where it’s best to eat. After settling down in our room we went out.

The city is built on branching of the Mekong river, with the main street on its bank. At its center, there’s a humble marketplace, and simple city life – the sun stands high in the skies and underneath it people are working, eating, napping on hammocks. Some fishermen standing by the river, boats passing by.
In the evenings there’s a night market, which has one street with clothes and a parallel with food stalls.
After a walk in the city and a dinner we put together from several stalls we went back to the hotel, where we had beer with the receptionist (unfortunately I forgot his name) and went to bed.

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The next morning we got up at four-thirty AM and had coffee at the lobby until we saw the guide for the trip to the floating market on the Mekong that we booked the day before. He led us to the docks where we went on a small wooden boat with a small middle-aged lady, that navigated with an engine on a board that she operated underwater.
The sun began rising as we sailed the quiet water and actual neighborhoods emerged on the river bank, with houses built on pickets on the water.

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Big ships greeted us on the entrance to the floating market, and then small wooden ones like the one we had – at first just a few, leading to heavy boat traffic. On the prow of each one stood a bamboo stick with an example of what they sell, mostly fruits but also various appliances.
A cry from bellow of “Hellooo, coffeeee” caught our attention, and a woman who sat in what seemed like a floating tub sold us some coffee.
We kept sailing slowly through the market that stretched on several kilometers.
In the end there were fewer boats and we turned and made our way back through narrow canals, and the guide told us about life in Vietnam.
He was a young man, an engineering student, and said that the labor market is tough for the young generation but there is always a demand in construction, since it’s a developing country. Right now they are dealing with global warming and the approaching rising of sea level by high construction near the shores.
The sun was high and it was getting hot when we finally arrived back at the dock.

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We got off and said goodbye to the guide and the driver, and went to get some tasty Phở.
I thought about that young guy, who seemed a bit sad and unpleased.
I thought about the temporary jobs I’ve had as a student back home – serving coffee to tourists, on their way to or back from the beach, enjoying the sunny days while I struggle to balance my precious time between working and studying.
When a tourist asks about life in Israel, go tell him briefly about the military, gentrification, corruption, violence.
It made me think about all the things the guide didn’t have the time to tell about.

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Despite being told Cần Thơ was boring, we spent almost a week in there.
The main excuse was that we had to wait until the weekend was over to fix my phone, but the truth was, we really liked the place.
Passionfruit juice with books by the river and food stalls that served Xôi gà – a comforting dish of rice with chicken, vegetables and quail eggs. Tiny cafes, a marketplace with a load of strange vegetables.
We met some people at the hotel – Thom from New Zeeland who traveled North with a rugged bike, and Keith, an English pensioner who roamed through South-East Asia and bought local women’s hearts with his retirement money.
At the evenings we’d get dinner at the night market and then went back to the hotel and sit with the owner on the steps outside, the humidity is high and drunk mosquitoes are buzzing around, drinking beers and talking in broken English into the darkness.
The polite receptionist kept calling us “Miss” and “Sir” even after we gently implied he can lay aside the formality – possibly he felt more comfortable this way. He told us he was in the military but working in an office and study English in his spare time, and asked for help with his homework.

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As a new week began, I went to a big store that fixes phones.
I walked a lot on foot since it took a while to catch a cub, and when I finally did the driver and I had a hard time connecting because of the language barrier, but eventually we’ve made it there.
I walked into the big clean space and was greeted by a woman with a traditional Vietnamese dress, marching in tiny steps and smiling without showing her teeth. She served me coffee and sat next to me with a polite smile, waiting for me to speak. It seemed a bit odd but I tried to somehow explain what the problem with my phone was. She smiled and nodded and after I finished she remained silent and kept looking at me, and then referred me to a man in a tie that sat by one of the stations. I asked, “English?” and she said, “Yes, yes”.
I sat in front of the man, and told the problem again. He looked at me and I looked at him, and then he typed on his phone for a while. Eventually, he showed me the screen – a Google Translate page was open there with a text – “What is the problem with phone?”. I took a deep breath and explained again, slowly, using the Translate and hand gestures. In the end, he picked up the phone next to him and dialed, and let me speak to another man on the other side. After I explained the problem again to the man on the phone, he asked me to wait.
I kept sitting there in awkward silence until the guy arrived – a man with wide bearded face and hands as big as paddles. He sat next to me and talked about politics, of how they are all corrupted and play with us like soldiers on a chessboard. When I told him we call our prime minister Bibi, he rolled in roaring laughter and slapped his knee.
He took my phone and messed with it for a while, and said he fixed something in there but it might take a few days before we can know if it worked. I asked if I can get a new battery, and he said there are no phones batteries in the whole Mekong Delta.

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When I got back to the hotel, Roni sat outside with Thom next to him on the sidewalk, working on his bike with hands black from motor oil. After he was done and the bike ignited successfully, he parked it and asked if we were hungry.
We sat at a small street restaurant that served noodle soup, and spoke about restaurants in our countries. Thom said he used to fish and hunt his meals back in New Zeeland. It led to a long conversation about vegetarians and vegans, and about food-ideologies in general. After we had coffee together we went back since dark rain clouds appeared in the distance.
In the evening we went to the main mall, possibly the biggest in the area, because they had a Galaxy store and I wanted to check one last time if they can somehow fix my phone – they only offered unnecessary gadgets, so I just accepted the fact that the phone is dead. next to it was a designed ice-cream parlor, a cinema and an arcade, and groups of teenagers gathered by them.
We had dinner at the night market at a stall with a woman who laughed at us because we are westerns, and then kept strolling for a while.
In one stall they sold olives in what seemed like oil and chilly. I was very excited since during the last weeks I developed a crazy craving for olives, and those seemed so nice and juicy. It was only after I put one in my mouth that I realized it was some exotic and too-sweet fruit. We also got some durian – a big fruit that looked like a spiky melon, bright yellow on the inside, and a smell that resembles a pineapple.
We got back to the hotel for beer with the receptionist. I tried the durian and thought it was gonna be sweet-sour like a melon, but it was so sweet it made me sick – kind of like gum for kids loaded with sugar.
Keith also appeared in the lobby with a grumpy Thai woman, and while she went upstairs he stayed with us. He told us he speaks many East-Asian languages and showed us he was chatting in Thai with various women. He used to be a history teacher, and four years ago he retired and divorced his wife. Now then he’s traveling in Asia, meeting women who are looking for an older man with money. He laughed and said his money was worth a lot in those countries.

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We went upstairs and booked hotel rooms in our next destinations, and went to bed. Even though I brushed my teeth twice, I could still sense the durian’s sweetness in my mouth.
In the morning we packed our bags and had a humble breakfast of bread with jam and butter at the lobby, when a van arrived and we took it to the central station.
I said goodbye to the city through the window – the hotel, the river, the main street, the marketplaces, and the small restaurants and cafes. From the central station we got on a bus and began the bumpy ride to Rạch Giá, where we would take the ferry to Phu Quoc.

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When we went outside the hotel to get soup for breakfast, we saw Cambodia  a valley, and then a row of mountains that is already in another country.
After breakfast, we went back to the hotel for coffee with Nip and Quan, as next to us sat a bunch of giggling women who spit shells of seeds on the floor. I had a feeling they were laughing at Roni and me because they were from the outskirts areas and hadn’t seen a lot of white people in their lives.

Before nine we were on the bikes again, back on the roads.
The sun was beaming and strange tan marks began to form on my thighs.
We stopped here and there at monuments for the war fatalities, and on a narrow road inside a jungle. Quan showed us a small rough fruit you can eat its soft inside and said in broken English that they used to eat that in the war to survive. He saw a root with a strong perfumed scent, and said you can chew on it if you have a fever. We continued the ride, stopping here and there in front of landscapes that broke my heart.

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We reached at a relatively big village with 10,000 residents, and Quan took us for a walk in the marketplace. Curious children followed us as we looked at the vegetables and meat, tubs of seafood, live poultry and one crab that escaped a tub and walked in the market’s alleys. Outside we met Nip, who waited by the bikes. We bought some fresh fruits, had sugarcane juice and continued.

We passed by a field of guavas and Nip bought some home, and then stopped at a Mường village  a minority in Vietnam. Girls walked around with school shirts and colorful skirts and some kids stared at us while we sat on a bench in one of the yards.
Nip said that minorities get support from the government, so they have electricity and TVs in their homes. He also said that the Mườngs often get married to their relatives so the children might be underdeveloped. And stupid, he added quietly. I peeped at their faces and saw that indeed some of them seemed to look underdeveloped, physically and mentally.

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After that we stopped again in a remote town, to look for lunch. The skies got dark and as soon as the afternoon rains began we got under a shed at an old lady’s yard.
We sat by a long wooden table as the nice woman took out rice, fried pork, greens, small bowls of soup.
Heavy raindrops dripped from the edges of the roof.
While Nip and Quan talked, I could already understand some words. Even when he spoke Vietnamese, Quan pronounced long slow letters.

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As the rain stopped we began with a long ride of 70 kilometers to the bus station, where we will take the bus to Hồ Chí Minh.
Above us were red and green mountains and above them the big skies, beneath us a valley and lakes with floating houses. It was raining lightly part of the time. Once in a while we passed by a truck or a bike that emerged from beyond the road’s curves, and here and there we stopped to stretch and look at the view.
I don’t know how long this ride took, perhaps even hours.
Eventually, more vehicles appeared and we arrived at a town, and then to a bus stop.
We paid Nip and Quan, thanked them and said goodbye.
Again,
 with this strange feeling of letting people go.

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A clumsy sleeping bus approached the station.
The ride took forever. Pretty quick it got too dark to read, and I’ve forgot my phone at the hotel in Đà Lạt so I couldn’t listen to music. After three days of open roads, it was weird to sit inside the bus, on the bottom bed near the floor, as bare feet passing by.

Towards ten PM we began to see through the windows some buildings, skyscrapers, colorful lights, and eventually the bus stopped at a broad main street. Lots of cabs passed by and one driver asked us where we need to go to. After we gave him the address of the hotel he said it was just a few minutes away, and showed us where to go.
Inside the block he was pointing at, was a hidden ally that led into a crazy maze of narrow streets.
We arrived at the small hotel and the owner, a young woman who said her name was Miss Vy, greeted us kindly. After she gave me my phone, that was sent there by Hien from the hotel at Đà Lạt, she showed us our room and said to ring a bell by the entrance if we go out and want to come back.

We went outside to the busy street and found a small place for dinner, and as we ate I looked at the people.
For a second I’ve felt like in Bangkok again, at the Khaosan, because of big groups of tan European and American tourists. It was full of music and bars everywhere and the locals seemed to be more modern than in other places  young women with mini-skirts leaning against motorcycles and smoking, flirting, two fancy transgender tip-toeing on high heels, merchants with small wagons crossing the streets and selling dried salted octopuses, drunk men laughing loudly.

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The next morning I woke up early but stayed to cuddle in the bed, and eventually went down to the lobby at nine.
We sat with Miss Vy on the couch and she showed us on a map places to go to. She then took us through the narrow alleys out to the main avenue to a woman that sold Bánh  outside. The recommendation was great. We ate the Bánh  at a park across the street and then kept walking along it and had iced coffee, and then went to the market. The sun was high in the sky and inside the market building it was shadier than on the streets and very crowded, and people from all around tried to sell us things.

We passed the hot hours with watermelon juice and lots of iced tea, and after a quick shower at the hotel, we went to “The Bánh  King”.
With hair dyed black and huge rings on his fingers, the Bánh mì King rules his small kingdom, and his staff produces dozens of crispy Bánhs with huge amounts of butter and pate, which makes the Bánh  taste divine.
We ate standing under a roof while the heavy rains began to fall.

We planned on staying for two days at Hồ Chí Minh before traveling south and then back to the city, and on the first visit it seemed to me cynical and alienated.
The huge main roads busy with hundreds of motorcycles, the tall buildings, the nights when neon lights ignite and the streets fill with tourists.
It was hard to see what’s real and what’s not.
Young women were standing at each corner with fake smiles, belonging to the sex industry and not happy at all.
By the evening I had the same feeling I had in Bangkok, like meeting somebody radiant and glamorous that would never let me into their heart.

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On the morning of the second day, we went to a travel agency to book a bus to our next destination, Cần Thơ.
Fans on the ceiling swirled the air lazily as a sweaty agent suggested some deals for tours and sightseeing in different towns by the Mekong, and said we didn’t have much to do in Cần Thơ for more than a day or two. Yet we refused for the deals and only chose a bus ride because we preferred to not be tied to schedules.
We went back to the room and packed some stuff. Then we went to the mail post to send a few things home and save space and weight in our bags. We found the one clerk that spoke English, who wasn’t particularly friendly, and it seemed we were bothering her. She unpacked our things and checked them one by one, and then repacked them into cardboard boxes that didn’t seem to be strong enough to survive the trip. The packings and paperwork took almost two hours.
When we finally went out it was pouring rain and we were hungry, so we ran to the marketplace building nearby and ate rice and fried pork.
After the rain stopped we went back outside, and passed the day lazily.
As evening came, I began to like the city. The streets are huge, but inside every block of buildings there’s a web of tangled alleys that amongst them there are peaceful everyday lives.
Later on, the night market was opened, and the sleaze I’ve felt the night before turned into a feeling of life and freedom. There were mostly clothes and shoes in there, and I found the perfect pair of shoes at a tiny crowded store that was run by a loud woman. I decided to wait and buy them when we come back, so I don’t have to carry them during our trip to the Mekong.

We finished the day at a BBQ place on the street where we had meats and cold beers, and went to bed early.

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.

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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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.

In one of the days at Hội An, we had coffee with Etienne, the French photographer we’ve met weeks before on the way from Bắc Hà to Hanoi.
He said in the European state of mind, people lack the motivation to create something of their own, and there is too much bureaucracy. Everybody raised an eyebrow when he decided to move to Vietnam.
In this part of the world, you could decide to open a business and just go with it. “It’s Asia, everything is possible!” he said, seeping on his coffee.
He told us about his job as a photographer and teacher and said he likes to go early morning to the fishing market, and take photos of the working people.
Later on that evening we looked for his Facebook page and it really did had spectacular photographs from the market.

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He recommended a place to have breakfast at, so we went there the next morning. It was a busy street with people sitting at booths, that were open just for a few hours each day.
We sat on the plastic chairs and had noodles soup with some kind of a round rissole made out of crab meat, lots of greens and lemon, and it really was as good as he said.
After breakfast, we went to the big market by the river that was still empty. We sat to drink some sweet Vietnamese coffee and looked at the colorful wooden boats that had eyes painted on their fronts.
A man approached and sat with us. He had a sun-kissed, wrinkled face, and long lean arms. He said he’s name was Captain Dan. The Captain told us that he guides tours on the river with his boat, and gave us his card.

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We strolled in the market. I bought a skirt from a tailor and ordered another one from a fabric I chose, and when it was too hot we stopped to have some cold fresh passion fruit juice.
When we were hungry we went to have Bánh mì at a place that boasted about Anthony Bourdain visiting and filming there an episode for one of his shows.

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Each afternoon we would rent bicycles from the hotel and go to the beach.
The way took about fifteen minutes – you go straight on the main road and as you go farther from the city center, there are fewer and fewer houses, and more fields with big animals and small rivers. Some of the rivers go under the road. As you get closer to the shore, buildings, restaurants, shops, and hotels appear again.
At the beach’s entrance, there is a parking lot for bicycles only, with a man who parks them and give you a note with a number. When you want to get the bicycles back you give him the note, and he finds it.

The beach itself is one of the prettiest ones.
The sand is soft and the water is clear and calm, stretching endlessly.
Đà Nẵng’s skyline is visible in the North, with its skyscrapers and bridges.
Straight ahead, the only thing that breaks the horizon is a lonely wooden boat that somebody tied there with a simple rope.
Some areas have more people, and some are empty.
We would spend hours on the beach, swimming in the water between plants floating here and there, walking on the sand, reading. Ordering a coconut with a straw in it from one of the women passing by.
You can was after swimming with a small squeaky tap on the side has ice-cold water.

My heart breaks a little every time I think of those days at the beach.
No commitments, not knowing anyone, no sense of time and no reason to go back.

There are many tailors in Hội An and you can ask for tailored clothes, so I bought a swimsuit from a woman who ran a store by the beach. I chose a fabric with a print of yellow flowers, and she let me try different shapes to match the size.
She asked if I wanted to add padding to the bra, and I blurted out “No thank you, I have enough”.
The ice broke, and she said repeatedly to Roni “Lucky-Lucky!”.
We liked her so much that Roni also bought a swimsuit.
Now the yellow swimsuit is hanging on the shower at home, reminds me of Hội An’s beach, singing “Lucky-Lucky” every time I wear it.

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One night, I dreamed I was sitting at the beach with a group of beautiful tan women. I say, “Do you know that feeling that you just want to go into the sea and stay there forever?”. The women node, one of them even says that this is what she did on her vacation in Italy. Later, I get into the water and dive and see that the bottom is full of cocktails’ umbrellas.

Roni woke me up, to go to the beach again.