Review: 152 Massage — Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Although it is not internationally recognized Vietnam actually has a huge adult entertainment industry that rivals those of some of its neighbors in Southeast Asia. The local government and press recognizes this fact and discussions over things like regulation and even legalization of the industry have popped up with regularity over the last few years. At the same time places around the country are often raided and occasionally shut down.
Millions of people visit Vietnam for various reasons each year. If they are unaware of the adult oriented industry that exists I would guess that it because it is low key and more oriented toward locals than anyone else. While there are karaoke clubs and massage parlors mainly oriented toward Asian businessmen and a few remaining hostess bars more oriented toward Westerners around the majority of places are set up for local guys.
Although these places are mainly catered to Vietnamese clients they all seem to be accepting of foreigners even when they can’t speak the language. Foreigners who don’t know the routine can be over charged or even ripped off in some places but most places are surprisingly honest and straightforward.
While intimate barbershops are very common in Vietnam massage parlors are probably more numerous. In cities like Saigon many of these massage centers operate inside of two and three star hotels. Places like the previously reviewed Saigon Star are a good example of this sort of establishment. While these businesses see their share of Vietnamese customers they also serve a lot of foreigners.
Some other places operate independently and see few foreigners. The worst massage parlor in Ho Chi Minh City is one example of this sort of place. Another is 152 Massage.
152 Massage is very easy to find. It is located at 152 Tran Quang Khai in District 1. This is a major road that also houses international fast food restaurants and the place even has a big bold sign out front.
Customers enter 152 Massage through a garage at ground level. There they pass a small desk staffed by male attendants who can barely muster a word in the English language. These attendants guide customers to an elevator that takes them up and into the establishment.
Once inside customers are greeted by a male manager who does his best to explain the system. The charge for a VIP session is 600,000 Dong ($27 USD). A superior “super” set costs a bit more. Once customers agree on a service they are given a numbered wrist band like those handed out in Macau’s saunas.
Fitted with a wrist band customers then head up a flight of stairs where they find a lounge filled with uncomfortable leather chairs and two flat screen televisions playing local programming. Customers take a seat and receive an included free drink and foot rub. The foot rubs are given by Vietnamese men which doesn’t seem to bother locals one bit but may feel odd to others. The lounge seems to be a haven for younger local guys with nothing else to do. They may or may not work for the massage parlors.
Once the foot massage is over customers are given the opportunity to tip. It is optional and probably something a lot of locals don’t take very seriously though I imagine the foot rub guys make very little in the way of regular salary and welcome any tips wholeheartedly.
After receiving their complimentary foot rub customers are led up what feels like hundreds of more stairs to one of many massage rooms. In reality probably no more than two flights of stairs are traversed but in the heat of a Saigon summer they can resemble a major mountain.
The VIP rooms at 152 are spartan. While they are outfitted with televisions, lounge chairs, a full tub and a massage table they are nothing like the VIP massage rooms at a place like Minh Tam 2.
Not long after customers enter the rooms they are met but one of the many available masseuses wearing a short pair of skorts and a white top. The masseuses tend to be very attractive women ranging in age from nineteen to twenty five. They are typically very beautiful with white skin and fit bodies. Their hair and makeup is usually very well done even though they are working throughout the day.
Although most of the masseuses at 152 cannot speak much English at all they tend to be warm and courteous. They also tend to be witty which enables them to guide customers through sessions even when they speak a different language.
Sessions at 152 go just as they do at other similar massage parlors. Customers are bathed from head to toe and offered a shampoo. Then they are dried off and taken to the massage table. There they are covered with a towel and given a mediocre back rub. That leads to a front rub. That is followed by an offer of hand service.
Some service providers simply assume that all customers want hand service. Others find a way to ask. Unlike some other massage parlors around town a tip is usually not discussed. The masseuses may assume that any foreigner able to find his way into the place is astute enough to know that the usual tips are between 200,000 and 400,000 Dong ($9-18 USD).
Once the massage service is completed customers are quickly washed off and helped to dress. Then they write down the amount they would like to tip their masseuse on a provided piece of paper. This paper is given to an attendant downstairs who collects the total amount due.
152 Massage is a mid-range massage parlor in the middle of the city. It doesn’t really stand out from many of the others around. At most its rooms may be a little worse for wear and it may have slight more beautiful ladies on staff than some competitors. I give it an average score of two-and-a-half stars.
152 Massage. 152 Tran Quang Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Open seven days a week from noon to midnight. Click here for map.