A Big City with a Yellow Dragon

We really liked Huế but it was time to move on. We decided that the next destination will be Đà Nẵng, a big city with a beach. After breakfast we came back to the room to book the next hotel, and then went out again towards the river. We had coffee and sat on the lawn with books. A young woman approached us and wanted to chat to practice on her English, which was nice at first and got awkward after a while. She told us she was 23 and graduates from university soon and lives with her parents, and that some people in Vietnam (or in Huế at least) live with their parents until they get married. She also said she has a boyfriend but her parents don’t allow them to sleep in the same bed because they want her to stay a virgin until the wedding. We wanted to move on so we said goodbye after she added me on Facebook, and then we went to look for an ATM and then to the market. It was very hot and sunny and after a short while we sat down to have Bún bò. We got back to the hotel to pay for the room and book a trip to Đà Nẵng for the next day, and then I went to pack our bags and Roni went outside to look for an ATM that works with American Express. It took him a while and I started to worry, and when he came back he told me that he met the Australian man again. We took a brief nap and when we were hungry we came back to the Bánh mì restaurant, and had rice with chicken and noodles with beef. We strolled in the city, exploring its streets and daily routine, getting to the more wretched areas. We had iced coffee at a stylish cafe where a woman with piercings and short hair worked, and walked slowly towards the hotel.

By the evening Quan took us to a big restaurant under the skies in which every table had a small grill, and you order skewers and meat and fry it yourself. Many groups of young teens parked their motorcycles in the side and sat there, and some tables had crates with beer next to them. It’s a system we saw many times – when a big group of people comes in they just put a beer crate next to them, and when they want to pay the server count how many cans they took. It saves some time for the waiters and probably encourages the costumer to drink more, when the beer is more available for them. Quan ordered a skewer of okra, together with pork, shrimps and frog’s legs, and everything was fresh and crunchy and very good. He showed us how to roll the frog in a big leaf and dip it in salt and lemon, but it was hard for me to eat like this since it was full of small bones. He said to just spit them out, but the whole sorting process in the mouth takes too much skill. It was the first time I ever tried frog and it surprised me how gentle the flavour was, somewhere between chicken and crab. Quan’s friend from high school joined us and said her name was Hang, which means Moon. She was very pretty, with moon-like round and white face and full lips, and dimples on her cheeks. She was a bit shy but it went well because Quan was very chatty, and led the conversation. He told us that he ate a dog several times and described the meat, which is similar to beef but harder and more fibrous. We asked him if he ever ate a cat and he was shaken, how can you even think of eating a cat?

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After lots of food and beer we came back to the hotel by foot. We woke up the next morning with a slight headache and after breakfast we went downstairs with our bags and left them at the lobby, and went to have iced tea at the woman by the hotel. We met there one of the hotel’s employees, a woman with a cute smile who blinks a lot, and she saw I had a lot of mosquitoes bites on my legs and recommended I put mint-oil on it. They arranged for us at the hotel a trip to Đà Nẵng through mountains and beaches in the area. The driver came with his long hair and a bit rowdy face, and Quan helped us take the bags to the car. We said goodbye and added each other on Facebook, and began the ride. Before we left the city the driver stopped and got out of the car, and came back after a few minutes with a small green bottle of the mint-oil – apparently the woman from the hotel asked him to buy it for me. We thanked him and paid him back. The oil has a strong smell of, well, mint, and it is used as a magic medicine for everything, from migraines to tendonitis. It stinged for a second when I put it on the itchy bites, and then chilled the skin.

It was very hot and I couldn’t help but falling asleep, and after about two hours Roni woke me up to see the view. A white beach with blue water was spread in front of us, an infinite horizon with green mountains at the distance and some simple fisher boats in the sea. We made a stop there by a hut where they served seafood, and went to dip our feet in the water and take a walk across the shore. When it got too hot we came back to the hut, where there were some big aquariums with big fish and shrimps and some tubs with seafood. We ordered some fried shrimps and iced tea, and moved on.

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The car parked in the sun and was very hot, and it took a while to cool again. The driver stopped again at an amazing viewpoint above the sea, where a man with a wide hat approached us and tried to sell us maps and showed us his foreign bills collection. After we took in the picturesque view we came back to the car and continued, shaking on half-built roads between the mountains until we reached the top of a high mountain and stopped again. It wasn’t as hot over there thanks to a cool wind that blew once in a while and there were some plants and trees that gave shade. There were some people with booths that tried to sell us souvenirs or drinks but we refused. We explored the place by foot together with a curious dog that followed us everywhere, and after the driver finished drinking his iced tea we continued.

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We drove for another half an hour, during which we stopped at another viewpoint where we could see the whole huge Đà Nẵng from above, and began going downhill into the city. We drove between the small houses in the outskirts of the city and through huge houses in the center, above big bridges towards the beach, until we arrived at the hotel. An employee from the hotel with fancy uniform greeted us and took the bags inside. We said goodbye to the driver and paid and tipped him, and entered a clean big lobby. A silver statue of many fish swimming upward towards the ceiling stood by the wall to our right. A polite and nice woman behind the counter gave us the key, and a young man came with us to the seventh floor and showed us the big designed room with the view to the sea. Apparently we booked a fancier hotel than we planed, and even though we usually prefer the smaller homely places it’s still nice to indulge once in a while.

We showered and changed clothes, and went downstairs hungry. We made a short walk in the area but it was the hot afternoon hour and everybody closed for a break. Eventually we sat at a small place that was still open together with two tall American women who recommended on the food. They told us that they arrived a week ago to a ten months trip in Vietnam, during which they are going to teach English to make a living. They asked us if we are going at the evening to the big bridge at the city center which has a yellow statue of a huge dragon all along, and said that each Sunday the dragon spits fire. We tried to order food from the woman who worked there but she was closing as well and said she’s out of everything, so we kept looking. We arrived at a seafood restaurant with blue plastic tubs on the floor full of different fish and sea creatures, and ordered fresh shrimps with rice. After the delicious meal we came back to the hotel and waited for the hot hour to pass, and went to the beach at five.

Unlike in Israel, where the sun sets into the sea, in Vietnam it sets on the other side so the beach was shady and chill. There was a lovely vibe and many people swam or sat on the shore, and two lifeguards were strolling around – one on the shoreline and another one on a small boat in the distance. The water itself was wonderful and clear and the wind was cool. After we with footprints by tiny crabs. We stopped under a small shack where two elderly hippies offered us beer via a funny pantomime of a drunk man, so we stopped by to have fresh coconut juice. When the evening came we got back to have another brief shower, and then went to the city.

We walked by foot on the slightly empty streets that were filling as we went. We arrived at the bridge with the yellow dragon and crossed it towards the other bank, where dozens of people did aerobics in groups at a square with lots of statues and lights, and children skated on roller blades and played with dogs. We walked into the city itself, trying to avoid the tourists traps, and had some soup with dumplings in a small restaurant on the street. Afterwards we came back to the bridge, that was now blocked by cops for the fire show. At nine thirty there really was some fire – on the other side of the bridge, where we came from, and it ended quite fast. Anyway thousands of people crowded to look at it, and the whole area had a festive feeling.

We walked back on the bridge, that slowly opened again, and sat to drink some coconut juice and sugar cane juice. We’ve met the two Americans again, who said the show was kind of funny. People began folding back the plastic chairs that they spread around to look at the dragon, and we came back to the room and went to bed.

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