Sex For Sale Sometimes, Somehow

Chatting in a small Hanoi Cafe, the second floor terrace, fading yellow and red French colonial paint scheme,


a large tree just outside, a thousand electricity and phone cables draped through its branches - chatting with my ill (dying in fact) mate Bruce, who has been doing the expat circuit for many more years than he cares to remember - chatting about sex for sale and how it works in Asia. He has had a vast and voluminous experienced of the varieties of purchasable pleasure in ports Oriental, over several tours of duty. E@L has been somewhat confused as the mechanism of these things of late, particularly since leaving Hong Kong where matters of the flesh were pretty much straight forward.

E@L: I find these Vietnamese karaoke bars somewhat confusing. How do they actually... work? if that is the word I am looking for.

Bruce: Well, its really quite simple. You enter this tawdry, garishly decorated room (if the lights work) after walking up 4 sets of stairs, exhausted and dizzy from the exertion, and they push three of four girls into the doorway for you see. You are expected to select a partner from those at the front, but they are trying to worm their way back outside into this larger group of better looking girls you can't see who were fortunate enough to arrive late...

E@L: So they don't actually wish to be with you?

Bruce: Having been sold at 14 by their parents for $1USD10 to the triads who run these brothels, no, probably not. Have you looked in a mirror recently?

E@L: So if you do choose a girl, what happens next?

Bruce: The girl comes into the room in her translucent au dai and sits next to you. You are on a U-shaped couch, around a U-shaped table with beer, water and cut pieces of unripened fruit only digestible if dipped into the sugar and pepper mix that is in a small bowl in the center of the table. She open your beer, selects "Unchained Melody" on the karaoke machine and promptly falls asleep with her head on your shoulder. In the meantime you politely grope her flaccid body, looking for an area that has at least the circumference of one of your thighs. Failing that, you drink yet another beer and sit back morosely to watch the Japanese guys try to prise their girls' tits out of their bras.


After a few minutes of singing torture, you go to the bathroom and see a squashed cockroach next to the toilet bowl.


You return thinking, "That about sums it up for me", and wonder about the daily life routines of your girl's family in their rice farm some 80 miles from here (you are guessing, she can't speak English), drink another beer and yet another. Not to mention this girl's daily life routines...

After a resoundingly unsuccessful rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day" (because of a skipping disc), you drink another beer quickly as everybody gets up and leaves. Somebody tips somebody and you exit, stage downstairs.

E@L: Where does the sex come into it?

Bruce: That wasn't sexy?

E@L: Not in the fucking least. It was suicidally depressing.

Bruce: You are one tough customer E@L. Well then, try the KTV bar in the Hotel.

E@L: How does that work?

Bruce: First of all, you go up in the lift thinking that you are going to bed but the beers have kicked in and you see a provocative advertisement on the wall of the elevator, so you change your mind and go back down to the lobby. You find a set of steps that take you downstairs. You are headed towards a large disco room but there are 40 or 50 girls congregated in a foyer built for maybe six at the entrance. They stand up and bow as you squeeze past. There are a series of couches arranged in sand-dune like arches facing a stage where a Vietnamese band is playing shite Vietnamese songs. A mamasan takes you to the bar instead. She asks if you would like a lady companion but you first of all warn her that you have no actual Vietnamese currency on you. Can you put it all on your room account? She smiles and walks away. All the girls from this point in time avoid you. You wish you'd stayed in the other karaoke bar where at least your girl was cute to look at.


AND you managed to get some dirt on the Japanese guys should future work contract negotiations reach a dead-lock...


You drink three more beers. You watch how whenever someone enters and sits on one of the couches an array of 30 or so girls all appear, crowding in, bowing and trying to get selected. You drink more beers, watch Chelsea and Barcelona on the big screen while the band takes a break and then you stagger a return to your room. Your Internet account has expired.

E@L: And that was supposed to be sexy?

Bruce: Man, you're one tough nut to crack.

E@L: So this is prostitution in Hanoi? Would I have been better off flashing a large wad of US dollars?

Bruce: Yep. It reminds them of the last country they won a war against.

E@L: I can't even log on to any porn sites. I have to sit here and draft this instead.

Bruce: While you're pissed. Excellent idea. And dude, did I mention that your Internet password has expired?

E@L: Shit. I am so depressed. And horny and frustrated.

Bruce: Get used to it, this is Vietnam. Gorgeous girls you can't touch. If you want a Vietnamese hooker, get some cash or go to Cambodia.

E@L: I prefer Hong Kong or Manila, where you just walk in and say, "I want a BJ."

Bruce: Me too.

E@L: This is way too confusing and ambiguous.

Bruce: You really are an innocent abroad, E@L, for all your fancy talk. You are so naive.

E@: Sort of proud of it really. Though I really would like someone to give me a BJ.

Bruce: Get in the queue for the Wanchai express dude... Let's spend a coupla grand on grog and pussy and chicken adobo in Luard Rd... the Rugby 7s is coming up!

E@L: You beauty! Something I understand... Alcohol and violent sport!



Posted by: expat@large on Feb 24, 06 | 1:36 am | Profile


Dude, if you're having trouble hooking up in Hanoi, either you ain't tryin' or you ain't the Road Warrior I thought you were!

Posted by: spike on Feb 24, 06 | 12:07 pm

sounds even worse than the cheap service you can get in and around love lane in Penang. There they have this incredible place that looks like a shop for engine parts from the outside. You enter expecting to find cylinder head gaskets hanging from the roof, instead it's all shower curtained wooden cublicles barely large enough to accomodate the grizzly auntie that waits inside. It's dark as hell and stinks of well...sperm. 10 ringit is the straightforward price for pretty much anything......why is Bruce dieing btw and what about dating real girls in Vietnam?

Posted by: trousersnake on Feb 24, 06 | 12:15 pm

I think i was in both of those bars in 2002...on the previous post i am sure you nailed the presentation...blame your interpeter if necessary..anyone who cant pronounce his name phonetically in his own langauge is always going to struggle in a second tongue

Posted by: mackie on Feb 24, 06 | 12:29 pm

Spike, the problem with the whole scenario is that we are being taken out by the local company people who don't seem prepared to take us anywhere "serious"...
Maybe the don't think we are real players!

TS - sounds like a place I went to behind Soi 33 in BKK one night. Mm that aroma... I would say from rumours that the 11km brothels in Phnom Penh are worse... (11km out of the city is an old Vietnamese refugee camp turned into a large brothel serving ALL tastes.) Bruce is an old mate... will explain later been called for dinner.

Mackie - good to hear from you dude. These may not be exactly the same ones - a generic thing these hundreds of KTV bars.

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 24, 06 | 7:51 pm

This is depressing......especially as I leave for Singapore tomorrow and from what you have just told me, I stand a better chance of getting some Viet p**sy in Orchard Towers...Sigh....

Posted by: Skippy-san on Feb 25, 06 | 9:42 pm

Life is depressing: this is some surprise for you?

Call me - I'm in town.

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 26, 06 | 2:04 am

The girls in the KTV bar wanted about $80US for sex, in case you are wondering.

You can get a good BJ in an Itaewon bar in Seoul for about that price, it won't get you much more than a fews drinks in a go-go bar in HK but a "free-lancer" on a quiet night in Fenwicks maybe, two girls in BKK, four in Manila.

It will also get you a really nice meal for about 20 people in Hanoi.

A bottle of wine in Singapore.

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 26, 06 | 2:31 pm

mate i have been following your posts religiously!! from the look of things you have been, in the words of sir les paterson, "busier than a baghdad bricklayer"...if i am in singapore in the near term will drop you a line.cheers

Posted by: mackie on Feb 27, 06 | 6:02 pm

the number is the same, only the phone has changed. (i've lost yours of course.)

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 27, 06 | 6:33 pm

roger that....852 ********...cheers

Posted by: mackie on Feb 27, 06 | 6:36 pm


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