Hi Hanoi Travel Blog | Chapter 8

r.j. kushner
3 min readDec 25, 2023

Walked to the mall again and found another 10,000 dong on the sidewalk. This brings me up to 220,000 dong so far on this trip, which is still around 8 dollars.

It was Christmas Eve day, and a Sunday, and the mall was packed with people, about 40% of whom appeared to be under three months old.

At a Japanese clothing store I bought a light weight jacket at the last second, just before Nhi was about to check out. I’m not usually impulsive when it comes to clothing. I think it helped that I had no idea how much it cost.

There were two instances where I got to display my communication chops. The first was waiting for our lunch order at the mall’s food court. Nhi asked me to go ask her parents for the receipt. I walked over to where her mother was sitting and said, in Vietnamese, “Nhi want…” Then I made a gesture like I was opening an ancient scroll vertically with my hands. Nhi’s mother got it right away.

The second time was when I went back up to the counter to ask for another set of chopsticks. I’d planned to ask in Vietnamese “Another pair of chopsticks, please?” but when I got up there I held up the chopsticks I already had and said, “One?” They got it immediately and I returned to our table with the extra pair, beaming as if I’d arrived after hunting enough big game to last us through the winter.

After lunch we drank egg coffee, which is coffee mixed with whipped, well, egg. It was creamy and perfect and I couldn’t get over that there was no dairy in it (a requirement for me now, especially since my chai tea incident).

You can consume egg coffee like a soup with a little wooden spoon, drink it with a straw or sip it from the cup like a regular java. I chose a combination of straw and sip.

When we finished, Nhi’s father broke one of the wooden spoons in half and used it as a toothpick.

We were going to go to an Aquarium they have in the mall but Nhi’s family discovered that they charged extra if you appeared to be a “foreigner.” I was told it was “discrimination” against me.

“It’s not like you breathe more than us!” Nhi’s family said.

“Actually, I think I do,” I said. If I’m being honest, I have been breathing really hard.

We didn’t go in. Nhi’s mother waved at the entrance as we walked away.

“Bye-bye,” she said. “Won’t see you soon!”

We went to a big grocery store next door to the aquarium instead. It had fish on display Red Lobster-style in the meat section, so it wasn’t a total loss.

On the way back to Nhi’s parent’s place we walked past the prime minister’s house, which has security posts on both ends of the block. I wore my new jacket.

All the coffee made me feel anxious that afternoon. I read three chapters of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and felt guilty afterword.

After dinner we watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Nhi’s laptop. The only version we could find online with Viet subtitles had to be refreshed every 10 minutes, the way Frank Capra intended it. It was worth it for that warm feeling of introducing people you care about to a movie they end up absolutely loving.

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r.j. kushner

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