A poetic retreat in Nha Trang

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The rain clouds came in low and slow, like a blanket over our heads, turning the beach town of Nha Trang into a subdued shade of gray.

We decided to get out of town a bit and see what the countryside had to offer on a relatively gloomy evening.

We hoped we weren't going to get caught in the rain, but if we did, it would be no problem.

We took off on our motorbikes for Nam Son Quan, which local friends had told us serves incredible and authentic Nha Trang hometown cuisine.

Just pulling on to the road leading to the restaurant lets you know that you're going somewhere special.

The road was very bumpy, narrow and sometimes muddy with large puddles of water forcing us to veer this way and that.

It was only 8pm, but local people were at home asleep early. The only noise that broke the darkness of village life was from our motorbikes.
 
After around 20 minutes, we reached  a coconut garden on the bank of Cai river. In the middle of orchard was Nam Son, nestled among the trees.

Under the mysterious veil created by the rain and its fog, the river looked bigger and its sound endless. I was taken aback by the poetic landscape.
 
In the darkness, the fog hid the village on the opposite bank of the river and we could see the blue mountain ranges west of Nha Trang in the distance.

Nam Son Restaurant Nam Son restaurant
95 Ngoc Hiep road, Ngoc Hiep ward, Nha Trang city, Khanh Hoa province.

The place reminded me of Ba Be Lake, one of Vietnam's largest lakes, which sits in the high mountains near the northern border with China. 
 
Nearby are lanterns over a small bridge across the river. The scene is reminiscent of Hoan Kiem lake and The Huc bridge. With the fresh rain comes the cold, and for a moment it is like winter in Hanoi.
 
The menu offers countryside dishes including seafood, river specialties, and local vegetables. 

Ms. Thuy, the restaurant's owner, said grilled frog with chili and salt, and Ca Ro (a river and green field fish) served with fish sauce mixed with tamarind, were two of Nam Son's most special dishes.

She also said other river fish, snails and oyster dishes were favorites.

We were just in the mood to order something very light and tea. We had a vegetarian in our group, so we ordered a special soup for him with mushroom, tomato, pine apple, tofu and some other vegetable (VND120,000).

We also ordered Ca Keo (roasted Keo fish-VND75,000), morning glory stirred with garlic (VND35,000), and some steamed rice.

The roasted fish was good, especially in the cold and rainy weather. The vegetarian soup was fresh but very spicy.

Other great dishes included Ga nuong lu (chicken roasted in a big clay jar), and goi tom dat kieu Thai (Thai style shrimp salad).

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