Hi Hanoi Travel Blog | Chapter 6

r.j. kushner
4 min readDec 21, 2023

After breakfast we took a cab to the DMV again. Forgot to do laundry the other day so I had to wear ankle socks.

The version of Uber here is called “Grab,” a name I’m not in love with. The taxis seem to be the better option anyway. Twice now a cabdriver has had to reach behind himself and close my door again. I’ve started really slamming my door when I get in but now feel I’m overcompensating.

There’s a lot of horn-honking in the city’s traffic, but I would say about 90% of it is informative, rather than aggressive. More of an “I’m beside you!” rather than an “I hate you and myself,” which I feel you get more of in Chicago traffic, at least when I’m driving.

After Nhi got finger-printed at the DMV we drove over to take a look at the house she grew up in. It’s a beautiful old house that’s been mostly cleared out, save for some desks and, on the wall, one large SpongeBob clock.

Next we visited Nhi’s old grade school, which was just a short ride away. We passed by a group of students on our way in and one said “Hello, sir!” exaggeratedly at me, then him and his friends laughed and ran off. There is something cosmically beautiful in the fact that, no matter the time or culture or placement on the globe, I am incapable of entering a middle school without getting bullied.

Later we perused another gift shop — this one a little fancier than the rest — and I found what I would call a “periwinkle” baseball hat. I was on fence about it until Nhi’s father told me it was my color. That sealed the deal.

We came back home and had lunch and then took a walk to a bonsai garden, which sold huge trees imported from Japan. A salesman wearing a big scarf walked with us and told us their biggest tree was 400 years old and cost a few million dollars. I pointed to a dog sleeping under one and asked if it came with the tree. Big laughs. Then the guy said they had 11 dogs running around and that they are friendly in the daytime but get mean at night.

On the walk back we stopped in a WinMart, which is what it sounds like, and I got a lime-flavored Pepsi Zero. It was great, but I have to agree that America is not ready. Maybe in five years.

The next morning we went to some bookstores where you had to take your shoes off to come in. We bought a copy of The Great Gatsby that was in both English and Vietnamese. The lady working there told Nhi she looked young and that I looked handsome. We’ll be back.

We grabbed lunch at a bun cha place. There were four bun cha restaurants on the same corner and all claimed to be the “real one.” We’re pretty sure we ate at the real one. We were packed in really tight with another party on the second floor and there was no ordering — they just bring you your food. They know why you’re there.

After lunch we bought some combs and walked around looking for a Lego store Nhi had seen earlier. The sidewalks were filled with parked motorbikes so we had to walk single-file or in the street. I rubbed shoulders with more than a few other guys who were also wearing puffy coats.

As we were walking we passed by the fattest corgi I’ve ever seen. It looked out of place and yet also completely in its element. We saw it again later and watched it hop into a motorbike and drive off.

I returned to the tailor who measured me last week to try on some of the shirts that were ready. His helpers were very kind and one of them explained apologetically that she’d been instructed by her boss to practice interacting with customers in English. “Where are you from?” she asked me, and, later, “Do you like to dance?”

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r.j. kushner

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