The official reason I went to Nha Trang a while ago was to attend a wedding.
And the wedding was fun, a variety show with more highlights than a royal command performance. There was even a red carpet of sorts but that old western adage of never trying to outdo the bride was not being adhered to here. Out of taxis, a parade of glamour from the old world and the new stepped up into the reception centre, áo dài interspersed with revealing black cocktail dresses, glitz and shiny spangles and sequins catching the light, Revlon making a killing on make-up sales.
Inside, the MC facilitated the proceedings, wired up with decibels surely exceeding the limit recommended for prudent ear care. In turn, he delivered us a parade of virgins adorned in white with fluffy fairy wings, their walk up the aisle terminating on stage with thespian-like twirls and waves. A troupe of what looked like Swiss guards in red berets marched up next, brandishing large sticks attached with flowers, out the top of which industrial grade sparklers were shooting fire at their feet. A pre-pubescent ballroom-dancing couple shook their booty about in the next act. Nha Trang's wedding singers belted out a few tunes as did the father of the bride (beer in hand) and an aunt of the bride. Singing a traditional song from the Central Highlands, she nearly brought the house down.
Meantime, the people whose union we were gathered to celebrate were being given the rounds of the table.
After pouring red champagne through a science experiment of tubes, flutes and dry ice and cutting not one, not two but five (three are fake) wedding cakes, the couple are being dragged from one table of guests to the next for toasts, smiles and pleasantries. By table number 33, the barely sipped champagne is as hot as tea, the smiles somewhat strained and the pleasantries reduced to "how did you get a berth at my wedding?" After such a marathon, they are craving food, drink and familiar faces.
But by then the guests are leaving. It's all over. And, without wanting to sound ungrateful, so was the official part of my journey to Nha Trang.
The next night I was seeking simplicity, not so much entertainment...and seafood. On the road that hugs the coast north of Nha Trang is a restaurant I've been visiting regularly since 2002. The menu is all things ocean and just across the road is the sea. The fish that night was raw and so fresh I convinced myself its nerve endings were still feigning movement.
Gỏi cá mai translates as raw salad of the tomorrow fish. On its platter, it spoke of promise. I wrapped the fish's little fillets in rice paper with lettuce, herbs and finely julienned pineapple, young banana, red pepper and cucumber. In a tương with chili and crushed peanuts, the completed rolls got their finishing touch.
And I got what I really came to Nha Trang for.
Biển Tiền Hải Sản
ride 3km north out Trần Phú St
( it's on the left )