In one of the days at Hội An we met Etienne, the French photographer we’ve met weeks before on the way from Bắc Hà to Hanoi. He took us to have coffee at a westernised place which served espresso and cappuccino and all, probably thinking this is what we prefered. He said he didn’t like the European state of mind, in which everything is heavy and people lack the motivation to create something of their own and there is too much bureaucracy, and everybody raised an eyebrow when he decided to move to Vietnam. He said that 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 casually, unaware that this sentence will stay with me throughout all the cities and islands we were going to visit. 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. I still check them out whenever I want to get that Vietnam feeling.
He recommended on 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 in the mornings. 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, when a guy who called himself Captain Dan approached and sat with us. He had dark wrinkled face and long fingers. He told us that he guides tours on the river with his boat, and gave us his card. We strolled in the market. I bought a skirt from a tailor and ordered another one from a fabric I chose, stopped to have some cold fresh passion fruit juice, and 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. When it got too hot we came back to the hotel’s pool and then napped for a while in the room, and got up to have another Bánh mì.
This is how we passed the days at Hội An. Each afternoon we would rent bicycles from the hotel and go to the beach. The way there took about fifteen minutes – you go straight on the main road and as you go farther from the city center there are less and fewer houses and more fields with big animals, and small rivers go here and there under the road. As you get closer to the shore buildings and restaurants appear again, clothing shops and hotels. At the beach’s entrance there is a full 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 are clear and calm, stretching endlessly. North from there Đà Nẵng’s skyline is visible, with its skyscrapers and bridges, but when you look 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. There is a small squeaky tap on the side with ice-cold water, where you can wash yourself after swimming.
My heart breaks a little every time I think of those days at the beach, with no commitments, without knowing anyone, without a sense of time and without a reason to go back. One night I dreamed again about my old job. I need to train an old childhood friend, which things ended up badly with her, and I’m a bit worried. It is a busy hour and I’m confused and tired, not sure why I’m back there after I’ve already left. I serve coffee to costumers sitting outside and the whole city is stretching in front of me, with dozens of planes in the skies, and one falls and crushes into a building.
There are many tailors in Hội An and you can order clothes, so I ordered 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. When she asked if I wanted padding I blurted out “No thank you, I have enough” and the ice broke with her, and she said repeatedly to Roni “Lucky-Lucky!”. We liked her so much that Roni also bought a swimsuit from her. Now the yellow swimsuit is hanging on the shower at home, reminds me of Hội An’s beach and singing “Lucky-Lucky” every time I wear it.
One night I dreamed I was sitting at the beach with a group of beautiful tan girls, and I say “Do you know that feeling that you just want to go into the sea and stay there forever?” and they node, one of them even says that this is what she did on her vacation in Italy. Afterwards I get into the water and dive, and see that the bottom is full with cocktails’ umbrellas. Roni woke me up – “Come on, let’s take bicycles and go to the beach.