Prostitution Report
from Vietnam

The last couple of years I've been taking trips out of Pattaya for a couple of months during high season in Thailand to see some more of SE Asia and also to get a little break from living in Pattaya, the undisputed 'Babe and Booze Capitol of the World'. When I was first thinking about this years trip I was planning on spending a month or so in Indonesia but the events of September 11th made me think that maybe an alternative, non-Muslim destination might be better for this year, I could always do Indonesia another year.

Last year I spent two months in Cambodia and this year I wanted to repeat that experience as well as see Vietnam. I had heard mixed reviews concerning Vietnam with a good percentage of them being negative. The negatives were that the beggars and touts wouldn't leave you alone, the girls were too expensive and it was a hassle getting them back to your hotel, and that, like most Communist countries, theft was rampant. While I thoroughly enjoyed my Vietnam experience, I was to find out that there was a lot of truth in the negatives. If a babe safari is your primary reason for going to a country IMO Vietnam doesn't even deserve a second glance. The P4P is much more of a hassle in Vietnam than it is in other SE Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. On the other hand, if you would like to see some fantastic scenery, enjoy beautiful beaches with crystal clear water, meet many interesting people, and see some of the history of the American Vietnam experience from over thirty years ago then I think that you would enjoy Vietnam very much. The prices there are very reasonable also, maybe even cheaper than Thailand or Cambodia except for the babes but I will get to that later.I had been in Phnom Penh for thirty days and my visa was about to expire so I decided to go to Vietnam for a week or two and proceeded to get my visa. It was $28 and I obtained it at headquarters, the Capitol Guest House. The Capitol also has a bus that makes the trip daily between Phnom Penh and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) for $6 but I went in the Ho Wah Genting bus for $14 since it is a much larger and more comfortable bus. I'm not much on minibus travel even if it is only for an hour or so. For the trip back to Phnom Penh I took the plane for $79, the bus ride just made for too long a day for me.

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I caught the bus at the bus station right in front of the Central Market at 6:30 AM and we headed off to Saigon. The road wasn't as bad as I had been led to believe but it was plenty bad enough. It wouldn't have been that bad of a trip except that it took us three hours to clear Vietnamese immigration at the station in Moc Bai. There weren't any problems but there were only two officials to process all of the passports from sixty something bus passengers plus the other people crossing the border. Contrast this with about fifteen minutes to clear immigration if you fly. Finally after thirteen hours we pulled into the bus station after crawling through the Saigon traffic for the last hour. You can also go by ferry through the Mekong delta for thirty dollars or so but that is a two-day trip and I wasn't all that interested in seeing the delta. I would imagine that in the next few months someone will have a ferry-bus combination that will be a much easier trip and will only take one day but for now that option doesn't exist.Arriving at the bus terminal in District One, I took at moto over to look for the Giant Dragon hotel in the Pham Ngu Lao area. They were full at the Giant Dragon but just one building over I found a hotel that I liked even better, the Duna. My first night there they only had one room left, a room with no AC and no TV for $10 but they assured me that they would upgrade me to a nicer room the next day. After the long bus trip I was in no mood to continue looking for a hotel so I settled in for the night. The Pham Ngu Lao area of Saigon is a great area to stay in. You have over one hundred reasonable hotels all within walking distance as well as another hundred or so budget restaurants and many, many travel agents.

The next day the Duna upgraded me to a great room with AC, TV, HW, fridge, and phone for $18 and I even had a private balcony overlooking Pham Ngu Lao Street and this was including breakfast. I heartily recommend the Duna Hotel if any of you are going to Saigon. The address is 167 Pham Ngu Lao St. and the telephone number is (84-8) 837-3699. It's in the heart of the tourist area and the staff was very friendly and helpful. The second night I set out for all of the hostess bars close to the riverfront including Apocalypse Now, Greenfield's, Miss Saigon, etc. but for the most part I was disappointed in the quality and prices of the available girls. Prices were being asked in the $50 area and this was for girls that were a seven at best. I was still beat from all of the sightseeing on my first day in Vietnam so I headed back to the hotel empty handed.

The next couple of days I spent seeing all of the sights, the War Museum, the Reunification Palace, the main Post Office and the Cu Chi tunnels and I was impressed with all of them. From growing up in the Vietnam era I was interested in seeing all of the places that I used to hear Walter Cronkite talk about every night on the news. I remember during the war there was a lot of talk about tiger cages; these were supposedly very small cages that the Vietnamese put the captured American prisoners in. In the War Museum they had a replica of a tiger cage also but with a little different twist, it was what they said the Americans put the captured Viet Cong in . All of the museums and sights were very interesting to someone who grew up in the Vietnam War era.There were a few taxi girls, the name used to describe working girls in Vietnam, plying their trade in the area right in front of the hotel most nights between nine and eleven so I took a couple of those back to the hotel but it was nothing special. The girls both settled for $30 and the hotel charged me $10 extra for the room for the girl. The Giant Dragon right next door said that it was OK to bring girls back there no charge but I liked the Duna better and even with the extra $10 for the girl it was cheaper than the Giant Dragon.

Saigon is a modern, bustling city with big new office buildings and nice clean streets, it's nothing like Phnom Penh and wasn't anything like I expected. The quality of hotels is excellent as us the food plus it is a very reasonable place to stay. I didn't particularly like the play-for-pay situation and I didn't like the hassle of bringing the girls back to the hotel. In Thailand and Cambodia you never have this problem but all over Vietnam I found this to be the case. If you are looking for a destination that has beautiful beaches, great food, friendly people, and a very interesting culture I think that you will enjoy Vietnam but if you are going solely for the babes, forget it. Thailand and Cambodia have it beat hands down in that department.

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I was only in Vietnam three weeks and I am definitely a Newbie but here are some favorites from my trip.

Favorite Hotel - Duna

Favorite area of town - The Pham Ngo Lao area of District One

Favorite Budget Restaurant - A tie between Sasa Café and Saigon Café, both on D. De Tham St. The Saigon Café was also a good place to hang out with some of the Saigon expats.

Favorite Internet Café - The one on the second story of the Sasa Café. Reliable connections and 6,000 dong (forty cents) per hour.

Favorite Laundry - The one in the alley right across from Sinh Café and the price was. 10,000 dong (sixty-six cents per kilo).

Favorite place to find the babes - I had good luck in the area right around the hotel. There is a small bar there that usually has a few freelancers in it and there are also a few hanging around on the street. For the real lookers, take a look at the babes in the cocktail lounge of the New World Hotel. Prices start at $100 but these are model quality.

Favorite travel agent - Sinh Café They have the best tours, newest tour buses, and the best guides for getting around all of Vietnam. It is very easy to get around to anywhere in Vietnam using their buses that are all new with AC and are very comfortable.

Favorite Market - Ben Thanh Market about a fifteen minute walk from the Pham Ngu Lao area and has all kinds of tee shirts and souvenirs at reasonable prices. I was impressed with the quality of the items made in Vietnam. Best price I could get on tee shirts was three for $5. Vietnam also has a cottage industry of making photocopies of popular books. I saw a well-known Vietnam guidebook that looked new for $6 but after buying it, on closer inspection it was a very well-made photocopy of the original. Since I didn't have American TV in Nha Trang I did quite a bit of reading and I can heartily recommend The Quiet American by Graham Greene. It is set in the French Vietnam war period but I think has some very good insights into the Asian way of thinking. I also enjoyed looking around in the Dong Khoi area and visiting the Rex and Continental hotels, imagining what they were like forty years ago. Also most of the hostess bars are in this area near the riverfront.

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