Stimulating hiding places in cafes, massages; prostitutes solemnly soliciting, soliciting guests in the daytime … Although the authorities are busy, the social evils still spread from the suburbs to the center.
Who are the sex-workers in Saigon? What does prostitution here look like?
Saigon’s sex industry
Why do people do exploit themselves? And do you think you could ever be driven to it? This post began in my mind about a week ago when I was sitting in the local park with my boyfriend, eating a picnic. You see, on that lovely day in that quiet park with that picnic…and next to that wonderful, beautiful man I call my boyfriend, a beautiful siren of Saigon reality brushed past and made me remember that I was, in fact, still on Earth.
I was not in some magical cloud-palace where sandwiches, free-time and dragon fruit float around in tandem with park benches… No. Not at all. Actually, I swear I recognised her. That siren, that woman was tall and had the bossom of a goddess. She was just so damn familiar. Her chin was high, but her clothes slapped of the sort of mess that only happens when you stop caring about yourself.
And as she approached I realised where I had seen her before — every night, waiting, at the bar beside my house. But is is not just the West which brings money to this lucrative and notorious industry — the sex-worker scene here is as varied as it is flourishing, and it caters to tourists and locals alike.
Her face was strikingly empty, like a shell. I followed her with my eyes, and watched her take a seat quietly on another bench nearby. She sat nicely, and took out a book to read. About that thriving world of sex, money and night-time erotica literally right outside my door? As it turned out, there was a lot….
They shake the rattles as they ride, and will do as many as fifty loops of the backpacker strip Bui Vien in one night. Occasionally one will stop to talk with a pedestrian, a white-haired western business-man, a group of gangly backpacker boys, or he will be hailed by someone and pull up next to the sidewalk, to converse. Many work on the street, from motorbikes or from the park. I was curious about these men on bicycles, and did some probing — I talked with local friends, observed a lot and consulted Mr Google. The bicycle prostitutes negotiate with their client in public, and charge a hefty sum for their service.
Street prostitution in Saigon in general is rampant. There are apparently a of hot spots around the city but the only insight I can give you is from my own observations driving around near where I live and work. Just one. She has short wiry hair tamed into a bun and wears the same pant-suit combination every day. She waits, and men drive up to her piece of pavement on their motorbikes. They negotiate, make a deal, and she gets on behind him to fly away into the night…hours later and she is dropped back, to do it all again. How do I know? Back in the notorious red light district of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, the sex work scene of Saigon is even more blatant.
So many of these women are heroin or meth addicts, and it is a commonly known fact among the locals here that people use the park as a place to shoot up. Many users sit in groups. At the end of Park A many men Ho chi minh city red light area women with these drug problems sit, broken, opposite that phone shop which has such loud, bouncing music blaring just outside that you wonder how the parking security resist the urge to leap up and start raving. Families brush past them. Men and women, tourists, couples, locals, business-men and tiny children…and they sit there.
I wrote another post about this actually, about one terrifying thing I saw one night when I was walking home. You can read it here. Many of the women in this group use prostitution to pay for their habit. Many prostitutes in District 1 also walk the strip and approach people, some perch in bars with one drink all night and the promise of commission to the bar owner, and many arrive after midnight when most revellers on the strip are too intoxicated to care much about their wallets.
"red light" districts in ho chi minh city
Sad, immoral, horrible, but clever. I know I am ignorant, but it shocked me to hear from my friend Ami that she was studying full-time to be an ant. Ami works at a bar in Pham Ngu Lau. Ami is just one of many many women, men and even children who prostitute themselves around the world in the hope of a better life. People are captured from their city every day and taken to other countries with the promise of a good job and good money. And in Saigon, mothers sell their bodies to support their families while next to them a budding ing student works nights to pay for her degree.
Some send money home, and others use it to pave their way out of the cycle of poverty to a better life.
Red light district – ‘love markets’ in ho chi minh city
Sure pave your way out of poverty, but why use sex to do it? Why enter that world of cash-in-hand degradation? Whatever happened to a good old part-time job?
At the end of Park A many men and women with these drug problems sit, broken…. Well, mothers have families to care for. Students study all day. Poverty is a viscious and never-ending cycle. If you are born into a poor family, you learn how to live in a poor family.
There is neither time nor money to invest in skills like art, music, and sometimes even school. You grow up, and your options are slim.
Poor children often end up working the poor jobs of society — as cleaners, waiters, bar girls and labourers. Freelancing like I do is often out of the question, simply because they never learnt the skills to do it! My artmy writing and my drive to find new creative work is just not an option for many people. Poor people here work for nothing, stay poor, and their children have the same life. Mothers are desperate to give a better life to their children and students are desperate to fight their way out of this cycle, but to escape they need money.
I could never imagine turning to prostitution myself, never ever. No money is scary. Everything becomes harder, you eat less and you get thin. For me the solution has always been to work harder — I sell more art, I scour Elance for freelance de jobs, I take on more hours at my teaching job. I also have friends who I have leant on — couches to crash on, meals to share, etc. Many here send money back to their families in the provinces….
This means that the red light district here is full of a variety of strange services created by people who have a lot of freedom to be creative. This means that the usually beautiful young women working as beauticians also double as masters of the hand-job, and will demonstrate their skills for a hefty tip. There are also escort services in the city where women simply accompany a man for an evening, act like his girlfriend and stop him from feeling lonely. Maybe offer a kiss. The girls often work out of a bar and this is the way many bars on the backpacker strip Bui Vien function, though you will certainly come across conventional sex workers here too.
Finally, I came across what was perhaps the most surprising version of sex work last week on that very same park bench I mentioned earlier. Nguyen the boyfriend and I were sitting, sharing lunch like we usually do before running back to work.
Now, I am no idiot. I waited a few minutes before casually turning my head, to see a middle aged Vietnamese woman clothed head-to-toe and wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sitting next to a wrinkly Vietnamese man who had to be more than 60 years old. As I watched, he moved his hand inside her shirt and began to massage what he found in there.
After maybe 10 minutes of this the man got up, they exchanged some cash, and he walked away. A few minutes after another gentleman of a similar demographic arrived and the process continued. And this was in broad daylight, in the middle of a public park, fully clothed. Gosh some people are weird. There is literally something for everyone, and the reasons why people both offer and take services are varied.
A look at this industry is possibly the most blatant slap of pure humanity that I have ever experienced. It fascinates me to understand why people do things, and it upsets me. But one key thing we can all take away from this particular example is that we should never judge anyone, ever.
If someone is deliberately doing something that degrades them, that hurts them, you would have to be a real witch to hate them for it without understanding why. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google. You are commenting using your Twitter .
You are commenting using your Facebook. Notify me of new comments via. Notify me of new posts via. As it turned out, there was a lot… 1. People wait on quiet strips to be picked up But does he converse about?
The strips that function as red light spots at night become places for other, less questionable business by day Back in the notorious red light district of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1, the sex work scene of Saigon is even more blatant. All round far more pleasant and wholesome. They are mothers, sisters and students I know I am ignorant, but it shocked me to hear from my friend Ami that she was studying full-time to be an ant.