Pretty young girls, mainly around 19-20 years old, play the role of hosts at the restaurants. They are hired to receive foreign men in secluded rooms for karaoke singing and then join the men in their homes after 23:30pm.
Many of the girls are college students attracted by copious tips from their night-shift labor: VND300,000 – 400,000 (US$14-19) for sitting with a male expat for one or two hours, and another $100-400 for spending a night, starting from 23:30pm.
The restaurants cluster themselves in districts 1 and 3 in the center of the city, with guests mainly coming from South Korea, China, Japan and Singapore. There, girls are called ‘lady,’ and are actually treated like no more than prostitutes, the only difference being price.
Tuoi Tre journalists disguised themselves as ladies of some of the ‘dens’ for three months and sketched out the ambience of entertainment that ‘elegant girls’ and ‘successful businessmen’ build up.
Around 50 such ‘dens’ exist on streets such as Ngo Van Nam, Pham Ngu Lao, Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Thai Binh, Chu Manh Trinh and Bui Vien in the center of the city, which is the busiest economic hub of Vietnam.
At 8pm -- or just three hours after the closing time of most offices, Jee Bar in the area called Westerners’ Town on Pham Ngu Lao Street becomes busy with the appearance of foreign men.
The whirr of the outlets of air conditioners adjusted at maximum blowing capacity seems not enough to cool down the atmosphere in the lounge. A 20 square meter room in the corner became cramped with 30 ‘ladies’ who are ‘staff of entertainment,’ waiting for their turns to go out to ‘greet’ customers.
These young ladies were dressed in skirts that exposed more flesh than cloth and were busy making up eyes and cheeks and lips -- ingredients of their night recipe to earn money.
Suddenly, a temperate voice of a woman spoke up through a handie-talkie: “Girls come out for greeting, girls come out for greeting”. The sentence or command was repeated twice, meaning new male customers were waiting.
“Those who can go with guests queue up on the right, those who can’t on the left,” Mrs. Hoang, manager of the restaurant, told the girls.
Upon seeing a girl who is a reporter disguised as a new comer standing embarrassed and confused while all the others, except two, move to the right side, Hoang gently asked, “Babysan, can you new comer go with guests?”
Another lady standing by her side nudged the new comer, explaining, “Going with guests means sleeping with them. It’s to meet all their desires.”
With Hoang waving them out, the girls stand in queue and enter a secluded room with several Taiwanese men, all saying ‘Hello’ in Vietnamese and Chinese and making big bows in front of the men to wait for their picking.
The men laughed, one of them stood up and spoke Vietnamese in a slight accent, “Nice, nice.” He gradually approached each girl and gazed at them carefully. He then put his hand into the bra of a girl and asked Hoang something in Chinese.
Hoang turned back to the girl, “He asks if you can go with him to a hotel after the party?” After receiving a nod, the man held her hand and took her to sit on the sofa by his side. Other men were also sitting on it and deciding who to pick for each of them.
Those who were not selected left the room and waited for another turn.
Usually, the girls who are in good shape with developed breasts and hips are the favorite, a girl said.
Now, the most popular restaurant in the city is Migi, on Pham Ngoc Thach Street in District 3, which is well equipped with ten secluded rooms and 70 regular ladies.
All of them are conversational in Chinese, Korean and English, and most of them are willing to spend the night at home with guests or in hotels, except for those in ‘technical period’.
'Ladies' wait for their turns to greet foreign men (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
If they want to take home a lady, a guest has to ‘book’ and pay the manager in advance, and their ladies will only leave for the rendezvous at 23:30 -- the closing time of the restaurant.
Apart from the tip of $14-19 for around an hour in the restaurant, a lady is paid $100-400 for a night. Usually, a party of 4-5 men with their girls at a restaurant spends $400-3,000.
Le Hong Lien, a lady at a bar in District 1, admitted that her job is nothing more than a ‘bia om’ girl, who drinks beer and then spends the night with men, generally prostitution.
The advantages of working there are earning good money, enjoying amenities, and freedome to catch up with local friends and relatives.
It’s easier to avoid the police in this job, as guests usually take the girls home, not to hotels, she added. The other thing is that foreigners rarely force them to over-drink, as locals do, although sex is desired by men universally.
Ladies who are introduced as students are also preferred, said a lady named Le, who introduced herself a student of the tourism department of a university.
At Migi, most ladies are introduced as students, who are priced from $100-150 for an hour in a hotel.
Duy, a manager of a restaurant on Ngo Van Nam Street, said his business has made a huge profit. Each party gives him a net profit of $200 – 1,000, as girls are not paid salary and their total income comes from tips and overnight labor.
Each night, a girl receives 3-4 parties before leaving for their rendezvous until the following day.
Time of entertainment in a restaurant while waiting for men (Photo: Tuoi Tre)