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"Red light" districts in Ho Chi Minh City

Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 16:08 GMT+7

“Wanna have some pleasure for 300,000 dongs? Rent of room included.”

Most men riding their bikes alone in some streets in Ho Chi Minh City would find themselves the target of these sex solicitations in public, regardless whether it is during day time or night.

Part 1: “Red light” districts in Ho Chi Minh CityPart 2: Street prostitutes cum robbersPart 3: Vietnam ladies' dens for foreigners in the city

Though banned in Vietnam, prostitution has never been completely eliminated – driven underground during police crackdown campaigns and thriving when police enforcement is lax.

The “butterflies of the night,” as the prostitutes are commonly referred to by the locals, ply their trade around certain streets in Ho Chi Minh City, some riding motorbikes, others on bicycles or just standing under the tree shades on street pavements.

Picking up one of the girls on the streets to have a few brief moments of sexual pleasure, male customers sometimes get more than what they have bargained for. As some men are getting ready in the toilet, the girls disappear from the hotel, together with their wallets, money and cell phones. Sometimes, the prostitutes, working in cahoots with mafia gangs, beat up their customers and rob them of all their money.

One of the current hot spots in Ho Chi Minh City is Hoa Binh Park, located on the corner of Hung Vuong and Nguyen Chi Thanh streets, lying in the border between two districts 5 and 10.

Just spotting a man pulling his bike over to answer a phone call, a girl riding an expensive motorbike approached him and asked, “Looking for pleasure? Three knots (slang for VND300,000 or US$15), rent of room included.”

Getting no response, she moved on to another man sitting on his bike nearby. They had some brief exchanges and, apparently after agreeing on the price, rode away together on their bikes.

It was a brief scene a Tuoi Tre journalist witnessed on Nguyen Chi Thanh Street on August 24.

On a stretch of street that is only 500 meters long, running from Nguyen Chi Thanh Street to Hoa Binh Park, prostitution activities seem to go on around the clock. The girls just need to cross the street to enter another jurisdiction to escape in case of police raids or ID checks.

Mr. Sau, a taxi motorbike rider in the area, said, “Prostitutes parade themselves on this street every day from early morning till mid night. They used to cruise the street only at night but recently have started to hang around here all day long.”

It is estimated that around 40-50 “butterflies of the night” work this stretch of the street.

“The police raided the area some months ago, bring down the prostitution activities for a time, but the problem has re-surfaced recently,” said NVT, a night watchman of Ward 9 in District 5.

Other streets, such as Le Tuan Mau and Kinh Duong Vuong in District 6, Hong Bang in District 5, Cong Hoa in Tan Binh District, 23-9 Park in District 1, Linh Xuan Bypass in Thu Duc District and An Suong T-Road in District 12, have also seen prostitutes publicly waving down passers-by.

A sex worker who introduced herself as Lan admitted, “I had a customer at 7:00 am early morning today.”

“It doesn’t really matter whether it is day time or night time. As long as a guest has money, anytime is ok.

“Recently, many men want to do it during day time. And supply comes after demand,” she said curtly, bringing our conversation to an end.

To be continued

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