Our pack of motorbikes has been navigating choking rush hour traffic for an hour. I’ve never driven this far down the Red River dike road. We turn into one those ubiquitous tiny alleys and wind our way deeper into the arteries of Hanoi. We swerve to avoid motos, chickens, steamed corn vendors, buckets of water strewn from second story windows, and other moving objects that appear from above, below and either side.
The leader of our expedition comes to a quick stop in front of a rundown duplex house. This is the house of the fortune teller.
We take off our shoes and pass by a fish tank with a particularly sad-looking suckerfish inside. Children guide us up to the top floor where a woman with lots of large rings is waiting. She asks us to sit on the bamboo floor mat in front of her. Painted tigers prowl the walls of the humble penthouse, and a statue of Buddha gasps for breath in glass box overflowing with crisp 10,000 dong notes.
The fortune teller asks each of us for 50,000 dong. It must be one I was carrying before entering the room and, no, I can’t pay for two people with a 100,000 dong note. I hand over my note and scoot forward.
She runs her fingers over my left hand and is about to say something when her mobile rings. She picks it up in one hand while massaging my hand with the other. After a vigorous exchange, she hangs up the phone and focuses on me again.
The fortune teller tells me…
How: Ask any Vietnamese youth in the Old Quarter for a recommendation.