Hi Hanoi Travel Blog | Chapter 5

r.j. kushner
3 min readDec 19, 2023

Took a cab to the Viet version of the DMV in the morning with Nhi and her father so Nhi could fill out some paperwork for her ID. We had to wait around for a bit so we walked to a Japanese grocery store to look for glue.

While we were shopping, a small woman with a mask on and her hood up tight walked up to Nhi and her father and began talking excitedly. They chatted briefly and she pointed at me a few times. Then she waved goodbye and left. I said, “Who was that?”

Nhi said it was her great-aunt, whom I met for the first time on our last visit to Hanoi in 2019. “You’ve been to her house!”

Apparently the great-aunt had recognized me and had been calling my name in the store to get my attention but I hadn’t heard her. Not sure what I would have done if I had heard this completely in-disguise woman saying my name to me in a Japanese grocery store in Hanoi. In either case, we really have to stop running into each other like this.

We kept shopping and I found a cookie brand in the store called “D’asses” and, unlike Tattoo Bart, I felt entirely confident in stopping in my tracks to take a picture that will last a lifetime.

We walked back to the DMV and waited on a porch outside the office for a little longer. A woman inside opened the door and swept some dirt out at us then closed the door again.

Later we had to cross the street, a harrowing task, as the few traffic signs and lights that are in place are typically ignored by an unceasing cavalcade of motorbikes. I was told to hold on to Nhi’s father’s jacket as we crossed, and I did, but in a manly sort of way.

We took a taxi back to Nhi’s parents’ place and it was the same cabdriver who drove us to the DMV that morning. Nhi did not seem to think this was as unusual or exciting as I did. The cabdriver had a crew cut and he rolled down his window when I sneezed one time.

Nhi had an event at a bakery/cafe in the afternoon and I tagged along and sat in the corner with a nice little coffee and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. I’m realizing now that the coffee portion everywhere is small. But the coffee itself is strong and makes me feel like a million bucks. Robinson Crusoe is a rollicking comedy when you’re hopped up on this stuff and I burst out laughing in the cafe twice.

Afterword, Nhi and I walked to a famous opera house that was nearby. It was dark out but still crowded and twinkling with lights from motorbikes and restaurants and the small controlled fires of street vendors. We walked down an alley where Nhi’s grandma used to live and we found 10,000 dong on the street. I pocketed it quick. Combined with my standup earnings, so far I’ve made 210,000 dong on this trip, which amounts to around 8 dollars.

The real luck came when we crossed the street twice on our own without incident that night. Redemption. We are growing up so fast.



r.j. kushner

Dubbed by the New York Times as “all out of free articles this month.”