Vietnam… what can I say about it that will make it sound like a place you need to visit. I have been here for a total of about 5 hours, I have been nearly run over more times than I care to mention and harassed by market stall vendors to buy stuff I would never wear. I ate, food was good and more expensive than Cambodia, nope none of that helps. Oh well, time for this post to take a detour.
Tonight I ventured into a bar, just because I fancied a drink. I have avoided main street bars so far. All I get as a solo guy travelling through is girls calling me, although I am sure they do it to everyone.
“Helo sir, want a drink sir, nice lady inside sir.”
I smile at them, wave and keep walking, no interest in what they are offering, or the hundred or so times I have been offered marijuana by motorbike drivers. So I walk into his bar that has not hassled me and grab a beer 20,000 dong (approx 32,000 to he pound at time of writing) and the bar girl (one of three) sits me down, pours my beer for me and begins to be incredibly attentive. I thank her and continue to read my book, putting out he signals that says I don’t need company. I probably should mention that all three girls working this bar are wearing short shorts and are happy to talk to foreigners. Now this might be because they want my business, they might actually be this nice or they might want me to buy them a drink which I think is the beginning of a whole different transaction.
The band; a three piece consisting of a guitar, keyboard player and female singer start their act with a Shania Twain tune. What? Don’t look at me like that, I have no idea who Shania Twain actually is, nor could I tell you what songs she has performed, the band introduced the song, that’s how I know.. promise. I try my hardest not to burst out laughing. In walks a fairly well dressed Asian guy walks in, I’m going to say he is Chinese (just a guess) and immediately gets attention from the girls. They pull out a few more chairs for his friends, then more friends turn up. The girls change the table and move me to a different table so they could have my table too, they apologise for having to move me but it really makes no difference where I sit. I smile and just take a back seat in full observer mode.
The band attempt some Adele, yes.. the English Adele and actually don’t do a bad job, all the time the three bar girls paying extra special attention to the well dressed guy and his friends, who are already on their third beer and dancing (sorta). Every now and then I catch myself smiling because of the surreal surrounding I am currently in.
This may be perfectly normal for a bar in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City but for me this is far from normal. Whereas I usully moan about bar staff being non-attentive, for me this is too attentive and reeks of exploitation. I am however thoroughly amused by it all, it’s an experience and if you can look past the possible exploitation of both the clients and the staff then I am sure you will have a fun night. Be prepared to be offered girls, drugs, motorbikes, food, t-shirts, full suits or really anything your heart may desire. Mine just loves the experience and is glad of the enrichment this environment brings to my life no matter how I actually feel about it.
Not exactly a great advert for Vietnam, but an honest one.