Review: Van An in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Smooci

Van An is one of the many hot toc hair salons in Ho Chi Minh City. Located well outside of the beaten tourist path it serves a mainly local customer base. Prices are ambience reflect that of course. So it is a good example of what this kind of shop is normally like.

This is the sort of nondescript place that foreigners usually do not mention or even notice. Indeed many locals probably overlook the place too. Yet it remains in business with a regular stream of customers. And it even has listings on the local Vietnamese directories.

On the surface these kinds of places offer facial massages and hair washing. That’s why they are called hot toc goi dau. Literally this means cut hair shampoo. In reality and behind closed doors however these places are known for offering blow jobs with the aid of hair dryers.

Location and layout

Van An is located in District 2. It’s on the north end of a small road that connects two more major thoroughfares. There is plenty of traffic yet little in the way of traffic jams. There are all sorts of businesses around. Van An is marked by a sign and some minor neon lighting. Otherwise it blends in with the retailers around it.

Hot Toc Van An in Ho Chi Minh City

The front doors are open to the street. Yet you cannot see into the place when passing by. So it is public and discreet at the same time. Unlike other hot toc shops such as Kim Yen, the doors are not normally locked. So customers can walk right inside.

Ladies at Van An

Beyond the doors there are no pretenses. Despite the services listed on the exterior there is no barber style hair cut setup at Van An. Instead there is a small makeshift lobby where two or three women sit and wait for customers. They wear the kinds of form fitting dresses that are standard in most businesses of the kind.

None of the women working at Van An are set to win any beauty pageants. But it is not a retirement home where women who can’t make it elsewhere are put out to pasture either. The gals in the shop are in the middle of the road. And in Vietnam that means they are comparatively on the attractive side considering their age and profession.

The women all appear to be in their thirties. They don’t have an obvious distaste for either their work or their customers. But they aren’t necessarily enamored with it all either. As is common in Vietnam they simply doing the work they are being paid for.

Service and summary

Customers are taken to a row of booths in the back of the shop. They have walls and doors yet there are not totally private. Sounds and such could theoretically be seen and heard from other booths as the walls do not go up to the ceilings. Yet that would require a rush of customers which seems highly unlikely.

Service is similar to other shops of the sort. Each woman has their own way of doing things. But typically the start by instructing their customers to drop trowel. That is followed by a quick clean up. Then they move their kit around to reveal a little skin and go to work. They stop after the logical conclusion.

The house fee at Van An is 150,000 Dong. And the typical tip is 50,000. That comes out to a total of 200,000 VND ($8.56 USD). This is what the vast majority of customers pay at this shop and some others like it. There is no special fee for foreigners. Yet in some shops now well known by foreigners fees of 400,000 or 500,000 are now commonly requested.

Van An is easy to miss. And for locals who live, work or play in Saigon it must be just as easy to forget. That is because it is like so many other similar shops in the city. There is nothing to make it stand out from the pack. But that may very well be by design. As they say in Japan, “the stake that sticks up gets hammered down”. For this run of the mill men’s hot toc a two-and-a-half star rating seems most fitting.

Address:41 Nguyen Thi Ding, Ward An Phu, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Map)
Hours:9:00AM-9:00PM
Rating:
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