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In Vietnam, crystal meth abusers find their place in secret karaoke bars

Thursday, October 15, 2020, 14:53 GMT+7
In Vietnam, crystal meth abusers find their place in secret karaoke bars
Bar girls stand in front of guests inside a ‘karaoke bar’ room in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tung Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

Methamphetamine – commonly known as crystal meth – addicts are well aware of extremely high dangers of shocks, brain damage or bone depletion. However, they may still burn money for this toxic thing in a secret meth fortress.

In Vietnam, people use ‘fly’ to refer to the feeling of getting high on crystal meth.

“Wanna go for ‘flying’ today?” addicts were calling to one another.

“Police have been tough on us. Do you want to get caught?”

Tran Van Sau, also known as Big Sau, gave a wicked smile. “I’ll show you.”

“This ‘meth fortress’ is perfectly safe. It’s very luxurious. The girls and the drugs are great,” Sau added.

“It has rarely been caught red-handed by police since it started operations. That’s why we call it a fortress.”

Midnight ‘music shows’

At 11:00 pm, a team of four people were drunk. One of them was Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s undercover reporter.

Sau Dai footed the bill and gave a signal to the correspondent. They drove to an outlying area of Ho Chi Minh City.

There was no need to book a room or bar girls in advance, according to him.

“There are about 30-40 rooms for guests, and hundreds of chicks. Some of them are pretty new. You can choose as you wish,” he added.

“The owners are really powerful. They can offer this service for a whole week without getting cracked down [by the authorities].”

Their trip to the Saigon South neighborhood in District 7 was short. The destination, Karaoke Bar B., appeared with its dazzling lights.

The billboard of the karaoke bar looked majestically large, stretching over 20-30 meters on the façade.

The team of four got through the door very easily.

“Any reservation?’ asked the receptionist. “Party or music?”

“Give me a music room.”

Music in their language was the crystal meth service. They went to the third floor.

The reporter asked Sau, “How much is a small room?”

“It’s VND300,000 [US$13] before midnight and VND450,000 [$19.5] after that. The middle-sized room is VND600,000 [$26] after midnight. A large room for 30 people can be VND1 million [$43].”

There were all kinds of drinks and fruits on the snack table, including energy drinks, high-calorie milk, and bird nest cans.

These snacks may help customers recover whenever they are too tired.

Minutes later, a gay man led a group of seven sexy girls dressed in see-through outfits with noisy colors into the room. All of them had had plastic surgeries for their noses and breasts.

A set of crystal meth is placed on a white dish. Photo: Tung Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

A set of crystal meth is placed on a white dish. Photo: Tung Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

‘Tray, candy’ and money

In a well-experienced manner, Sau took out two small plastic bags with ‘tray,’ slang for ketamine, considered illegal drugs in Vietnam, inside.

He poured one onto a banknote for grinding and light burning.

“Hey, what ‘candy’ do they have today? Domino? Last time, you gave me some kind of candy that didn’t work at all,” Sau asked.

‘Candy’ refers to crystal meth.

“There’s the white AB ‘candy’ today. Just a bite and you fly to the top. Only VND250,000 [$11],” answered a waiter.

Within minutes, the waiter brought in four round white candies and charge VND1 million ($43). The crystal meth cost VND250,000-300,000 ($11-13) each, and the ketamine VND1.2 million ($52).

All transactions were done through the waiters.

“I’ll have fun with you the whole night. I won’t serve other tables. Give me a good tip then,” said a bar girl.

“OK, babe. But is it safe here?”

“No worries. There’s an exit right there!” she said to the correspondent, who then asked Sau about the bar owners.

“Are the owners very resourceful? They can run a place like this without getting caught?”

“Needless to say, they’re super ‘powerful’. L. and P. are both owners of large restaurants in the city center. They have invested heavily in this place.”

“This bar alone costs VND40 billion [$1.7 million]. Don’t you see the system of lights that flash along with the music beat? That is priced at hundreds of millions of dong. They earn loads of money every night with these facilities.”

The bill amounted to almost VND20 million ($865) as every single item was overcharged.

A lighter, for example, sells normally for only VND3,000 ($0.13), but the price listed by the bar was VND30,000 ($1.3).

Similarly, a box of tissues was VND100,000 ($4.32).

“It’s costly, but you have hot chicks and safe service. Drug users come here in droves,” he said.

People who can afford this service are the super wealthy, like those working in illegal lottery, loan shark or some unlawful businesses.

However, customers of this bar are still divided into two types, ordinary and VIP.

“Regular customers treat themselves and the VIP ones are served. There are some super VIP guests who can pay around VND200 million [$8,650] for a three-day spree,” Sau said.

Behind such glamor is a wide pool of potential problems. According to Ha Nguyen, a real estate broker, he used to spend millions of dong every night at such bars when his business was going well.

“I was so reckless then. It greatly destroyed my health and burned my money, too. We should remain wise before getting addicted to it,” Nguyen said.

“They may be very rich, but it’s impossible to tell if they can cover their medical expenses in the future. Lots of chicks here get a drug shock so often,” said a bar girl.

“I even heard that my brain and bones would be badly damaged in the long run.”

The reporter was about to talk something to the girl but she swiftly stood up to hide generous tips under her bra and walked out.

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Tien Bui - Tung Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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