It's Fly Lice You Plick

Friday, July 07, 2006

Nha Trang: Happy Endings Massage Parlours

Backed by highly valued tourist dollars and anonymous in their travels, a number of otherwise well adjusted backpackers relax their moral compasses, gird their loins, and indulge themselves in less than savoury activities. To fill the demand, "Happy Endings" establishments pop up at the big tourist hot spots, dropping the bar for everyone else. Beach towns in particular are the hardest hit, and Nha Trang is no exception to the rule.

One thing I've noticed about seaside towns in this region is, the closer one gets to the beach, the more Happy Endings Massage Parlours they will see. The streets running parallel to Nha Trang's main beach are good examples as the businesses nearest the ocean tend to be more party oriented and the ones farther away are more practically minded. Let's say you look anywhere farther than three blocks from the sand and surf, you will only find supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies and doctors. Two blocks (where our guesthouse is) and closer, one is more likely to find Sleazy bars, Karaoke joints (read: brothels) and Happy Endings Massage Parlours. Maybe this chart would better illustrate this theory:

...or maybe not...

Anyway, your average Happy Endings Massage Parlour is fairly easy to pick out and it doesn't take a genius to distinguish one from a legitimate massage parlour. Telltale signs include:
  1. Dark tinted front windows
  2. Loud hip hop music coming from inside
  3. Red entrance lights (only visible at night)
  4. Emaciated (and possibly underage) girl in a tube top/miniskirt ensemble standing near the front door
  5. Largely male clientèle.
It's not rocket science.

Regardless, a temporary lapse of judgment ensued this afternoon following a bowl of pho and a round of fruit shakes. It must have been the daytime heat or maybe I was lost in conversation at the time but something distracted me as I stumbled across a reflexology sign carefully placed in the middle of the sidewalk. I turned toward the girl at the door (telltale sign #4) and asked how much an hour costs, ignoring the loud Eminem track blaring (telltale sign #2) from behind the tinted windows (telltale sign #1) and the unkempt men milling in and out of the entranceway (telltale sign #5). I think it was when she looked over at Jo and rolled her eyes that I finally put two and two together and backed down. My face is still red.

Oh, and for the curious among you, a "massage" (and complimentary rash) will set you back about 125,000 VND (about $8 USD).

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