|Vietnam Travel Reports|
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 22:35:02 UTC VIET NAM The following details are my experiences from a trip that I made from Hanoi down into the Mekhong delta region December 1994 to late January 1995. Due to the fast pace of economic change and the relatively high inflation within the country I give no financial figures apart from the general advice that virtually everything is priced in US$, but should be paid in Dong, the local currency. This almost always workes out to be somewhat cheaper. Also, you may not have enough small US$ bills and change is always in Dong. Abstract Sex tourists please try another destination. The government has clamped down on prostitution in such a way that it is virtually non-existant. Even if you are running a Million Volts, PLEASE keep your hands off the girls as you may run her and her family into VERY serious troubles. I know, this is easier said than done, but they have no embassy to call when they get into problems with the police. I partially write this to let you know what SHE may be in for after you left. Prostitution in General & in the North As I was told by many people, there's a JAIL term for all Viet girls that go or even have closer contacts with foreigners. In North Viet Nam, prostitution is virtually wiped out. In many places the fear of the people is quite obvious, even to western visitors who never lived under communism. In spite of this I was invited by several girls in their private homes but I never had any chance to be alone with any of them. In the one exceptional case I may have brought her into troubles later. It's also almost impossible to make any close friendship with someone, probably for fear of later police repressions. In my special case they discovered that there was no official seal on the picture in my passport when I arrived by air from Hong Kong and they almost kicked me out on the next plane regardless to where. It took me well over two hours to talk them out of this. Most likely this is also why I was an object of suspicion to the security apparatus and kept under police surveillance for almost my entire trip. This was quite obvious in Hanoi, but from what I have heared from some well experienced former secret police officer in E. Germany later most likely the case throughout my presence in the country. Some embassy official told me that ALL phone calls to/from embassies get monitored and more than half of the tourists that come to Viet Nam leave there an official report in some government agency. Night clubs There are only few night clubs and no such fancy things like strip shows and the rest. You can get a "dancing girl" for the equivalent of 5 US$ an hour but inside the place only. They never go to the room with anyone. These girls are just dancing partners and employees of the club. Hue There is a place that is quite obvious a brothel. The place is unnamed and it takes a taxi driver who speaks english (and has some courage) to get there. It's not exactly a clean place but I was the attraction of that nite. Still, none of the girls was ready to come with me anywhere outside, probably for the reasons described above. I stayed in a government hotel (most hotels are still government run), but private hotel owners get their business closed when a prostitute is discovered in their room. Da-Nang A place probably well known to some Americans and once teeming with girls. Days gone by... Now, there's no such thing. I picked up a girl there who has a small local travel agency. Although in the end she asked some money before I left her in Saigon, I don't think she was a prostitute in the actual sense. I have several friends like her in many places around the world and would rather prefer to call them "local wifes". She came with me down south. Her mother insisted her sister comes with us. She was really scared as long as we were together in her town and refused to be seen with me in public or even come to my hotel at night. When we got moving she only came to me for an hour or two saying that her sister must not know what was goin' on between us. She was also scared of nightly police raids though this never happened. Even in Saigon she was too scared to spend the entire night with me. As far as I was told plenty of people made nasty comments on us in public. This of course meant she was loosing face, probably the worst thing that can happen to a Vietnamese. She must have really loved me to take this kind of troubles. Later I came to know that when she returned to her place she was required by the police to report on us on a day-by-day basis ! Probably she must have run into further difficulties as she now refuses to talk to me on the phone. My letters are never answered. This is probably only partially due to the fact that an airmail letter from Viet Nam costs about 50 US Cents but an good average income is only some US$ 30 to 50. Actually I do feel guilty about this. My-Tho A nice town in the Mekhong delta region, several hot hours squeezed in a bus from Saigon. This is the only place in all Viet Nam where girls have actually offered to come with me, but they said I had to stay in a certain hotel. The place is expensive and very poor value. From the way they insisted in having my passport in the reception it appears very likely that it is run by the police themselves who takes their share in the business that is going on. Most government agencies run private businesses in order to raise funds. Some of the girls must have combat experience... In all, very poor value. Nha-Thrang A seaside resort on the southern tip of Viet Nam, within easy reach by bus from Saigon. Formerly the Soviets had a large army base there and this is probably why Westeners are really hated as long as they think you're Russian. When they see you're not, they become friendly. One of the few places that have massage parlors, but they're just that. Not even a hand relief. Be very careful, when they think you're Russian, you're either not even sold food or shamelessly cheated. Nha-Thrang is the only really hostile place I have come accross. Saigon When hanging around in the bars during the day there are nice girls who try to sell maps, books, post cards and the like. The ones I made friendship with had families to feed and made very little money on her job. It is usually possibly to take one of them to the hotel if you ask the hotel owner before. The place that I stayed in is a private place near the New World Hotel that was very new and very clean but also quite expensive. They said I could take a friend in my room during the day but not after dark. This is probably due to police checks on rooms occupied by foreigners. In general Saigon is a bit more relaxed from what the rest of the country is like. Saigon is the only place I visited in Viet Nam where I was allowed to keep my passport (all other hotels insisted keeping it in the reception until I leave). There's some prostitution going on quite openly in the park next to the New World Hotel after dark, but it's probably not a very good idea to stick around there at night.
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