Subject: Hanoi, Vietnam Dear Atta: Just returned (January 97) from a week in Hanoi and offer a couple of suggestions for the traveler. First, 30 years of communism have fairly well sanitized the city of open prostitution. It is coming back but not anything like in Saigon or the largeChinese coastal cities most affected by rapid westernization. The Hoan Kiem Hotel, 25 Tran Hung Dao Street in Hanoi has a massage place on the first floor but the sex doesn't happen there. The room setup is not arranged for privacy, no doubt quite purposefully. The massage is excellent but, once the hour session is over, the masseuse will whisper in your ear "hotel?", which may be the only English word she knows. A US $20 bill will pretty much cover your sexual needs but in a place that has to be arranged separately. The massage itself will set you back about $6. Bars are installed high enough on the walls so she can walk on your back. . Hanoi has many dozens of late night kaoroke bars for locals but there are also perhaps a half dozen ex-pat type bars. Apocalypse Now, with locations in Saigon and Hue, just opened a new location in Hanoi at 5C Hoa Ma Street in the Hai Ba Trun district that fills up at about midnight and goes until 5 am or so. There were about 15 very decent looking girls in their early 20s dancing or hanging around to accomodate about as many foreign locals. I don't have prices but got the clear impression that for clothes, if not hard cash, all were available for sex and/or romance. Another small but interesting place offered "Massage Da Mat", or what turned out to be a facial massage, on the second floor just above a karaoke bar at 20 Hoa Ma Street. The massage was 10,000 dong (13,000d to $1 US). You recline in one of a half dozen barber chairs and the masseuses, who range from 20 to 30 years old, massage your scalp and face, shoulders and work their hands under your shirt while you lay there fully clothed. They finish up by blow drying your hair. My attendent, Hong, was charming and pretty and didn't speak one blessed word of English except, guess what, "Hotel?" I gave her $10 and we were out of there. She kind of got to me. I've been back in the US three days and I'm still thinking about her.
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