A FEW MONTHS BEFORE MY TRIP, I STARTED LOOKING FOR VIETNAMESE GIRLS ONLINE. This wasn't particularly hard, there are plenty of sites where you can find Vietnamese people looking for friendship and language exchange, cultural outreach and whathaveyou. I got in contact with a girl who called herself J.M. "I'm a Chinese but was born in Vietnam," she wrote to me, by way of introduction. "So both China and Vietnam are my life and I love them." It turned out J.M. was one of the many Chinese-Vietnamese who live in Chợ Lớn, the sister city of Saigon. J.M. said she attended the Cultural University in Ho Chi Minh City and wanted to be a tour guide (like about half the students and young people I have met in Vietnam.) "Yes, there are many Chinese people in Vietnam," she wrote. "In Ho Chi Minh City, Chinese live most in Cholon (district 6) and District 5. My family is one of them. My house is at district 6, near Cholon (yah, just need to turn one corner, I'll be at Cholon ;P).."
When it finally came time for me to arrive in Vietnam, or Việt Nam as the locals call it, I decided to try to hook up with J.M. I was due to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday, March 9 2007, and stay until Sunday, March 13. It was a relaxing trip from Tokyo on my Vietnam Airlines flight, with me sleeping in the warm sunshine coming in through the porthole, and dreaming of being a Vagabondist. There were swarms of scooters on the streets heading into town, as Ted Guhl might have noted, but the buildings looked a lot more modern than they were back in his time. . I must be thinking of some other place (perhaps the bar on the old Australian boat?) So, it seems I have never been to Apocalypse Now, which might well be a good thing. Apparently the place, named after the famous phim, is run by a Vietnamese-American. She told me to wait for her at Zen Plaza, which is obviously something of a local landmark.
Thai girls may be cynical, but I don't find Vietnamese girls to be so. On the other hand, they won't hold back from telling you how they feel. I once had a Vietnamese girl call my cell number after reading this website, and ask me point blank: "You like Vi'tn to by a stranger. One thing for sure is that Vietnamese girls are interested in foreign men, and they are looking for marriage rather than something more casual. They are not out just to play, not like the Th who calls herself Phar 2 Juicy, in a chaotic Khao San Road nightclub!) They make for good girlfriends, and good lovers. If hooking up with tasty singles is more your thing, you might want to head to Japan rather than Vietnam. But that's just my opinion -- others might have more to say about it than me.
ANH GIRL XINH: SEXY GIRL PHOTOS.
This seems to be one of the most popular sites in Vietnam at the moment devoted to photos of gorgeous girls. There are galleries of Vietnamese women posing in rice paddies, at beach resorts, or splayed across sports cars or colorful mopeds in the middle of the city. Girl xinh means "pretty girl" in Vietnamese. Anh means picture or photograph.
Though openly ridiculed in the west, international beauty pageants are a big deal in Vietnam. It was here that Miss Trinidad/Tobago and Miss Japan and some photographer called Wyatt Gallery got it on in their infamous home video, according to one rumor at least. Vietnam is a country which thinks it wins international esteem for holding a Miss Universe pageant. At this popular site, you can see a lot of photos of Vietnamese models and beauty pageant winners (and their boyfriends). The photo above gets introduced as: "Miss Teen Quỳnh Chi 'hẹn hò' hot boy mới" ("Miss Teen Quynh Chi with her new Hot Boy") There are a lot of celebrity style photos like this here, and Vespa's feature as well.
excited about my Vietnam stopover because it was one of the first Asian countries I ever visited, and I made two tours there. I remember I had quite a crush on the place back in the mid 1990s, even though my holidays there had invariably turned to disaster (paralysed with culture shock and hiding in my room like a timid mouse the first time, trapped with a babe who considered me a creep the second.) But Vietnam had come a long way since the mid 1990s, and I had matured too. This time around, I was going to do Vietnam like a man, rather than a cowering rodent.
As is my wont these days, I did plenty of research before the trip. One sunny Sunday morning, I read a story on the Internet, a very old (by Net standards) story written by this guy called
Ted Guhl, about his experience with Vietnam girls. It had a strange resonance with me. Little did I know at the time, that I would soon be living the story, or at least a story parallel to it. Parallel but not touching. But unlike Ted, I decided not to be a pussy, but pursue the opportunity offered to the end, just to see what happens. And I decided that this page, and the threads which sprout from it, would be the story which recorded it.
Ted wrote: "During my first moments in Saigon I half expected to see something shocking, surreal, a time-warped American tank, or columns of Viet Cong marching down the street. Instead I saw a rather poor, pleasant looking city of wide boulevards, hundreds of bicycles, motor scooters, cyclos, and a few cars and trucks. The people, dressed in a wide variety of clothing from lovely Ao Dais to Western business suits, appeared lively and attractive.
"Leaving the taxi, three white jacketed doormen quickly whisked my bag and me into the lobby of the Saigon International, a small French-era hotel. Within minutes I was registered, assured that the required notification with the authorities would be handled by the management, and escorted with smiling efficiency to my modern air-conditioned room on the third floor. There was no elevator; however the stairs were wide with large windows on each landing, like those of an elegant European house.
"I unpacked, cleaned up a bit, and went for a walk. Upon leaving the hotel I was approached by a cyclo driver.
"'Hello. Where you come from?'
"'Where you going?'
"'I give you tour? Go to war museum. Go shopping."
"'No, thank you, I just want to walk around.'
"'Maybe good restaurant? Show many temple.'
"'No, thanks. Maybe later.'
"'OK. No problem. I am here.'
It turned out that the War Museum was at the first corner, but I missed the sign and kept walking. Despite some interesting examples of colonial architecture, the area seemed amazingly uniform. Each block had a few stores and at least one street vendor...
"Late afternoon found me still wandering the streets, I knew I was hungry and would have to eat soon if I wanted to keep my energy up but I could not make up my mind where. I wanted to try some of the local food from a small cafe or street cart but could not remember, beyond some rather strongly worded warnings about unwashed fruit and unboiled water, what the guidebooks had said about this. Finally I ended up eating some fast food chicken from a place called California Fried Chicken. It was dreadful and served me right for being so fearful.
"Feeling dislocated, I returned to the Rex Hotel, where my driver found me immediately and gestured for me to get into the cyclo. "You want go eat?" he asked.
"'I eat already,' I replied, as we headed down the street away from the plaza.
"'Want go to nightclub?'
"I said nothing for a moment, trying to decide if a beer or two would feel right, or if I should return to the hotel. Part of my mind was warning me that I should watch out where I let myself be taken in this indecisive and somewhat uneasy mood.
"'You want meet girl?'
"'No. Maybe a beer.'
"Okay. I know good place. Cheap." And off we went, east on Le Loi Boulevard and south down Deng Khoi Street again. Good lord, I thought, he's taking me to one of the tourist bars..."
COLD CALLING, AND GETTING APPROACHED BY VIETNAMESE GIRLS
IN MY SO OH SO LIMITED EXPERIENCE, VIETNAMESE ARE CERTAINLY NOT BACKWARD ABOUT COMING FORWARD, TO ABUSE AN OLD CLICHE.
I have been approached by Vietnamese girls in Vietnam itself, approached by Vietnamese girls on the Internet, and even cold called by at least one particular persistant girl, who found my number at the bottom of this very webpage. Most people would consider listing your cellphone number on the Internet a dumb idea, but I believe in openness and transparency, and besides, what's the worst that can happen -- someone might bug you on the phone? Ever heard of call screening? I hardly ever pick up the phone anyway, when it is coming from an unknown number. One of the few times I did pick up an unknown call, I was at that aforementioned singing job in Tokyo, up in the clouds, when this girl with a south-east Asian girl came on and said hello. I thought it was the girl I had met in Vietnam at the start of this adventure, but her accent sounded different. I asked her why she was calling me. "Do you like Vietnam girl?" she asked, but it sounded like: D'you like Vitnam girl? "Do you want marry Vitnam girl?"
"Sorry I have got to work," I said, which was true -- my shift was about to begin. But I was kind of a bit astounded, by the lengths some Vietnamese girls will go to, to find a foreign boyfriend or husband. I mean, did she think I was just going to agree to marry her right there on the phone, without even seeing a picture? Did she think I was that easy? Anyway, it was kind of cute of her to try!
In his classic tale of hot tropical love which never had the chance to bud, Ted Guhl wrote (Situation background -- He is still getting carted around by the cyclo driver who befriended him at the start of the story, having made that fundamental tourist mistake, of ever giving those vultures the time of day): "Half way back to my hotel, a motor bike pulled up alongside and slowed to match our pace. On it were two attractive young women, perhaps in their twenties. The driver had a charming smile, full of playful energy. The rider, who looked a bit younger, was willowy, with dark hair and deep, searching eyes.
"'Hello,' the driver shouted, 'where you come from?'
"'USA', I shouted back.
"'America. You want massage? Make love, good?'
"Speechless, I smiled, looked away, then looked back. I shrugged.
"'Where you going?'
"'We give good massage, good make love, yes?'
"Rallying, I replied, 'You young girls, I'm old man.'
"'Make love us, you feel like young man.'
"They were laughing and so was I.
"'Hotel no let you come in.' I said, trying to regain some control over the situation.
"'You come us, we take good care you,' the driver said. She really seemed to be enjoying this.
"'How much?' I asked, out of curiosity I hoped.
"Shit, I thought, what do I say now. What did I want? I was certainly enjoying this conversation. And suddenly the somewhat fragile feeling I had had all evening disappeared.
"'I give you ten dollars. Just massage.'
"Her smile disappeared. I could see that she was sizing up this new suggestion and that she didn't believe me.
"'Twenty dollars, massage, make love, two hours.'
"Suddenly, I didn't want this to end here.
"'Listen, I give fifteen dollars, but just massage, no make love.'
"I could see that this offer was tempting from a monetary point of view but that somehow it didn't feel right to her. I believe she thought I was being cheap. There was no smile. Suddenly the motor bike veered off and turned around and was gone. I sighed. Welcome to Saigon..."