Part 2. of Drugged & Kidnapped & (almost) Sold into Slavery: Vietnam on a Dime

Part 2 of a 3-part series: Part 1 is here

The next day I wandered back to my old hotel to catch a cyclo to go meet my mom’s manicurist’s friends and family. I went back to my fancy hotel for 2 reasons:
to find out what I should bring to my guests as a gift (M&Ms and whiskey as it turns out)
so that someone would know where I was going and when I got me a cyclo and had a great conversation with the driver.
The funny thing about Vietnamese taxi drivers is that they all speak English because during the war they fought in the South Vietnamese Army and then they couldn’t get a job afterwards, so they ended up as cyclo drivers.
I showed my driver the address on the letters of introduction and tried to pay attention to where we were going so I could find my way back — Hanzel and Gretal like. After about 5 minutes, I was horribly lost (and I didn’t have a map — why ‘o why?) and so I just settled in for the ride.

After about 30 minutes, we pulled up to a large apartment block. I paid the driver and he pointed me to a door, and then he drove off leaving me there. I went up to door, gifts in hand and knocked. It was the middle of the afternoon, but luckily someone was home. In fact, a lot of someones were home, as I was greeted by a bunch of women. It looked like they had been sleeping and I had woken them up.

Even though I had come unannounced, they were very gracious and invited me in. We all sat around in a circle in the living room and smiled at each other. They spoke no English and I spoke no Vietnamese so we just sat there. Then they all lit up cigarettes. Uh oh.

As word got out that a foreigner was visiting, more and more people came. I showed them all the letters and naturally assumed I was at the right address and they were the people I was supposed to meet. Luckily, I was at the right address. Unluckily, these were not the people I was supposed to meet.

U.S. Embassy in Saigon (in 1991)

They promised to throw a BBQ for me (so funny how they knew that word: BBQ) to meet all of my mom’s manicurist’s clan. One of the women and a guy with a moped were going to take me back to my hotel and I was to return the next night for the BBQ. Cool, I thought, safety in numbers. I promised to return the next night and off the 3 of us went on the scooter.

Somehow my two escorts talked me into going out with them that night. I didn’t particularly like the idea but didn’t want to be rude. They dropped me back off at the hotel and we were to meet up again later that night about 9:00 pm, which we did.

At first, when they came to pick me up, they were pretty disappointed with my outfit. (I had purposely dressed down for the night out.) But never mind, off we went out into the night on the scooter, arriving at a night club. It was quite fancy, with neon flashing, an elevated dance floor and crowded rooms.


Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized I was surrounded by Asian (I believe mostly Japanese and Chinese) men in booths and women lined up against the wall, wearing little numbered tags. I was in a brothel. I know I should’ve left immediately, but I was fascinated. I had never been to a brothel before, except for passing through Bangkok’s Patpong.

Soon the 3 of us were joined by more people and we hung out drinking and dancing at the disco. I was just drinking soda and only danced once or twice. Again my hosts were pretty disappointed in me. Although my lack of enthusiasm didn’t stop some local dude from telling me how much he loved me. I didn’t take him too seriously since I’m pretty sure those were the only English words that he knew.

The night ended early, without incident, and my friends took me back to the hotel. We left it that they would pick me up again the next day for the BBQ. 

Part 3 of Drugged & Kidnapped & (almost) Sold into Slavery: Vietnam on a Dime

Part 1 of Drugged & Kidnapped & (almost) Sold into Slavery: Vietnam on a Dime

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 30th, 2009 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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