The hostess bars of Ho Chi Minh City
I first wrote about the hostess bars of Ho Chi Minh City back in January of 2013. Not long after that report made its appearance on this site a major crackdown occurred leaving several shops reeling and many more closed all together. An update on the scene is certainly in order by now. Today I’ll write about what’s left of the girlie bar scene for those who are interested in the information.
Hai Ba Trung Street was once the center of activity for Saigon’s hostess bars, but the raids of 2013 put a stop to that. Today there is no real main street area of activity. The bars that remain open are spread all around District 1.
One bar that remains open on Hai Ba Trung is the well-known “91” located where one might expect it to be at 91 Hai Ba Trung. This bar has always been among the most popular and well reviewed but I’ve never been able to figure out exactly why. The women who work at 91 don’t seem to be generally any better looking that the women at other hostess bars (and staff can change from one day to the next anyway). They do seem to be more aggressive and hungry for tips. Reports indicate that the drive for dollars has gone up even more since the shutdown with women now asking for as much as 500,000 Dong ($24 USD) just to sit with a customer and share an overpriced drink. That’s more than guys typically pay for service at a hot toc om like Benny’s. Reports of rudeness and attempted bill padding also abound.
Other smaller bars are still around with the same general level of service they’ve always offered. One such bar is located on Le Thanh Ton near the intersection with Chu Manh Trinh, but it’s certainly not the only game in town.
VIC bar at 55 Ho Xuan Huang has been open for some time. Although it’s not located on a main street, it’s one of the largest and most well appointed hostess bars in all of Saigon. The bar seems to be most popular for Asian guys though there is a mix of customers from all over. The staff is rather large with something like 50 women working any given evening. The tips expected at this bar for basic things like sitting with a customer can rival those of 91 and taking a gal out of the bar isn’t easy. Punters looking for a point and click setup probably wouldn’t like the place.
The tourist and backpacker part of town also has a fair share of hostess bars. They are located on Bui Vien and its offshoots and have names like “Sexy Girl.” A guy only needs to walk down Bui Vien at night and listen for the “hello welcome” call to find one or more of these pubs. Although they are more oriented toward lady drinks than anything else the Bui Vien area hostess bars can get relatively busy. Surprisingly, these bars don’t gouge tourists as much as one might expect considering the surroundings. Drink prices are basically the same as they are in the other hostess bars and there’s no push for tips whatsoever. It is quite possible for customers to leave the bar with many of the ladies though it’s certainly no guarantee.
As you can see there are still plenty of hostess bars around town even though the major hit the industry took in 2013 has definitely taken its toll. Not every woman will venture out with a customer and even those that will won’t go out with every guy who asks every time they ask. All sorts of factors are at play. If and when an agreement is made an exchange of one hundred US greenbacks typically takes place on top of whatever bar fees are required.
Since they are relatively laid back and easy to navigate I imagine that the hostess bars of Ho Chi Minh City will continue to draw customers for as long as they exist even if guys looking for immediate action will probably head elsewhere.
Those sorts and others will find plenty of action outside of the hostess bar scene. Specialized massage parlors and barbershops continue to supply popular services to locals and foreigners alike and other non-hostess bars also offer areas for punters to look. Working women going the freelance route continue to gather in bars and discos like Apocalypse Now, Go2Go and Crazy Buffalo though they tend to prey on newbies and short time visitors and often quote sky high rates.
If time allows I will do my best to write up a general report based on the information available to me at some point in the future.