Dragons in the Streets

In the morning a driver in a tall black van arrived and took us to where the bus to Hội An departed from. While we drove by the big river, he told us that he’s Catholic and there are many Catholics like him in Vietnam, along with many Buddhists, but no Muslims at all. We arrived pretty quick to his office, that was a room facing the street, and in the entrance parked many motorcycles and small vehicles. I looked around – there were two small fans on the walls that eased on the heat and a lot of photos with landscapes of the country. The driver went out again and left us with our bags, that took most of the seats in the small office, and came back again a few minutes later with the van, and this time some women with babies – some of them pregnant – got off the car and went into the office, disappearing behind a beaded curtain. We still had fifteen minutes to wait and I wanted to use the bathroom before we go, so I went as well behind the beaded courtain into a big living room where an old couple sat behind a table and drank beer. They kindly smiled at me as I took off my shoes in the entrance and looked for the bathroom around the house.

After a while the driver told us to take our bags and cross the street, where we waited for a few minutes to a big bus with seats with blue decorations and many people from different places. We sat in the back, hoping to catch a breeze once in a while from the window since there was no air conditioning, and after a group of women with long blue clothes got off the bus, we began the ride. It didn’t took long since Đà Nẵng and Hội An are close. A group of Asian tourists kept leaning above us to take photos. We could see through the window the bridge with the dragon, which everybody in the bus was very excited about, then the sea, some resorts places under construction, some shabby neighborhoods. Eventually we stopped at a sunny parking lot in Hội An. As we got off the bus a bunch of bikers approached us and asked if anybody needs a ride, so we joined two of them and they took us to the hotel.

A nice polite woman with a blue dress greeted us at the hotel, and said there is another Israeli couple staying there and the guy’s name is also Roni. A younger woman showed us our spacious room in the third floor, and after a brief shower we went downstairs again. The women in the reception told us about the area and the hotel, and how to get from place to place. I had a hard time concentrating in the conversation because I was tired from the ride and the heat, and my eyes kept wandering to the sweat droplets on the woman’s forehead. They all wore thick and long clothes, and I imagined they must be really hot underneath them. Afterwards we went outside to look for the marketplace. It was about 12 PM and the streets were dozy, but the market was relatively busy. We entered a big building with lots of booths of food and had hot and spicy noodles soup with lemon. After we sweated all our demons out we strolled outside, exploring the city with the little streets and clothing and souvenirs shops, And when it was really hot we came back to the hotel’s swimming pool. Since the beach was a bit far from the city center we chose a hotel with a pool so we could pass the time there in the hot hours, instead of just being stuck in the room.

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The hotel was medium-sized and very cute and the pool was small and surrounded with plants, and pleasant women worked there. We hade coffee and swam in the chill water and later on a woman with a bottle of beer and two children came there too, and also the Israeli couple, who talked Hebrew quietly and I wasn’t sure if they now we are from Israel as well.

Around 5 PM the weather got better, so we washed ourselves in the room and went outside towards the night market. We arrived at a wide river with lots of small colorful boats and crossed the bridge to the other side, where some fat cows stood between the houses and ate grass. As the skies got darker colorful lamps were lit everywhere in the main street where the market was. Women in simple wooden boats cruised along the river and sold candles in different colored paper boats, and people bought them and floated them on the water. There was a festive feeling all around. Once in a while groups of children passed by wearing costumes of dragons when one is the head and the other is the tail, and together with them walked other kids that some of them are dressed as chubby round-faced idols and others play drums. It was a few days before the mid-autumn festival, which has a back story about a dragon attacking the sinners and the god of earth collecting bribe to calm the dragon down. There were many booths of different objects, special lamps, clothes, jewelry, bags. We sat to eat Cao lầu, a dish unique to the city – noodles with fried pork and lots of greens, and spicy sauce on the side. We walked a lot, in both sides of the river, getting lost in the stylish shops and streets. We went inside a book store with some souvenirs and spent there some time since everything was so beautiful, and we saw various art shops, tailors, housewares – everything so special and diverse, like getting into someone’s attic full of goodies. Like in Sapa we saw many Israelis, perhaps because it was the holidays in Israel. we shared some fatty coconut pastry that Roni bought from a woman in the street, and then had tea at a cafe that looked like a museum. We entered a coffee shop that smelled amazing and looked at the bags of coffee beans they sold, and then tried coffee ice-cream that they made.

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We walked back to the hotel, since it was getting late and the market was closing. Roni got into a small groceries store and bought ground coffee beans while I stood outside and watched a big dragons parade that blocked the street, and then we had beer at a small pub next to the hotel. We went back to the room, talked with our families back home, and went to sleep on the huge bed.

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