Prostitution Scene in the Backpacker's Area of Saigon, Vietnam

Prostitution is a never-ending story in a tourism city such as Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Singapore. Even if your travel intention is just for sightseeing and visiting tourist attraction places, single or group male travelers normally cannot avoid from being approached by sexual offers from male or female prostitutes in town. Even, the industry is not as open as in Bangkok or Phuket, the scene in Ho Chi Minh is on the rise especially at the backpacker area, Pham Ngu Lao.

In this article, we describe female prostitutes as “Night Butterflies” which to portray their image who are flying around the city seeking for customers.


“Night Butterflies” on the Bike

Motorbike is a means of transportation in Vietnam. These “Night Butterflies” are very mobile when they are moving around by motorbike. They can ride on streets, alleyways and even in the pedestrian walks. When you walk alone from Ben Thanh Market heading to Pham Ngu Lao across 23/9 Park, do not be surprised when there are beautiful girls on bikes nicely say “Hello” to you and offering sex service. Its can be 1 girl and sometimes they come with another friend. The best way is, just smile and go without looking at their eyes. If you be chattier, they will think that is your “buying signal” and they will bother your way


“Night Butterflies” on the Pavement

Some of these girls are working together with other teams who are finding customers by using motorbikes. When you out for drinks with travel buddies and walk to your hotel a bit later around 10pm, some girls on the walking side sometimes daringly will ask if you are looking for prostitute and they are very open talking about their services. Not only that, some motorbike taxi or locally called “xe om” driver also play a role as an agent for this prostitution business in backpacker area. With coffee-dirt teeth smiling faces, they will repeatedly asking every male tourist if they are looking for “massage” or pretty women.


“Sexy Shampoo Girls” in Saloon

There are some Hair Saloons or massage centres with half dozen of beautiful girls with a very short mini skirt sitting in front of their saloon premises. It is fine if you just want to cut your hair, but you have be careful whenever the girls are trying to do something weird to you as normally it will come with different price. Some say, it’s kind of weird when it is hard to see a scissors in a hair saloon. The best way is, avoid these places and Google for places that tourists always go.


Mid Age Women at Bar

There are many bars in the backpacker area with American-Vietnamese interior design which are always welcoming American veterans as their customer. The best part is, the waitresses in the bar are just their type which is middle age Vietnamese women with sexy low-cut dress. Not all of them are prostitutes as many say so. It will be best for you to be gentle towards those women and politely say no if you are not interested in other intimidation movements.


“Massage Boy” on Bicycle

If you are staying along Bui Vien or De Tham Street, you will definitely see this “Massage Boy” on bicycles. The age of these massage boys are around 17 years old to 25 years old and they are riding bicycles to make hundreds of rounds at backpacker areas to find customers. They come with a unique tool to attract tourist attention by putting some steel bottle covers together and make it as a signal ringer. Their target customers are mostly gay tourist or some gay friendly straight men that are curious about their services. They normally offer massage services in customer’s hotel room besides offering sex services. The price for this service can starts from VND200,000 up to VND1,000,000 depends on type of services. There are some robbery cases reported by tourist who are using this services which end up with loosing money, camera, Ipad and many other valuable items.


“Male Prostitute & Money Boy” at 23/9 Park

Do not simply talk with stranger when you walk passing by 23/9 Park after 9pm onwards. There are numbers of cute and attractive young Vietnamese man who are always seeking for a hunk American boyfriend here. A walking westerner can be considered as a “walking dollar” for them. Most of them are sitting on their bike with group of friends in between 9pm to midnight to try their luck to catch a boyfriend for money. You might be melted with their soft-spoken poor English and bringing them to your hotel room and it may end up with money stealing and more tragic incident if you refuse to give what they are asking from you.

This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on June 25, 2012

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