Roland (from Vietnam)
The phrase Hanoi ladyboy, to most travellers who’ve toured Vietnam, would seem a bit incongruent. They’d tell you that you’re thinking of Thailand; Vietnam has no transsexual girls! For the most part, they’d be right. The acceptance of the LGBT community in Vietnam has been lukewarm at best.
While there have never been any discriminatory laws, there aren’t many non-discrimination laws either. Things have started to change in recent years however. Laws and attitudes are both gradually becoming more supportive, allowing a small Hanoi ladyboy community to emerge.
If you are curious about Vietnamese ladyboys then Hanoi is not the best location in the country to explore that curiosity. Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh if you prefer the official name, is a much better choice.
The southern capital is home to a much larger number of Vietnamese ladyboys, and they like to parade themselves around the main tourist areas in hoping of meeting a customer for the night. Obviously I'm referring to the P4P scene here, but that seems to be the basis of the vast number of encounters between western men and Vietnamese ladyboys, serious long-term relationships are very rare.
In appearance there is not too much difference between what you see in Thailand and what you see in Vietnam, but Thais are somewhat more likely to have been using hormone replacement treatment from an earlier age and are therefore more likely to have a more feminine appearance.
Post operation ladyboys are more of a rarity due to the fact that Vietnam is significantly poorer than Thailand and fewer people can afford such expensive operations.
As you might imagine, I never expected that I’d ever encounter a Hanoi ladyboy myself, the thought never even crossed my mind really. I met Phuong on Tinder. I’d been living in Hanoi for a few months and, having finally adjusted to my new job and the pace of life here, I was ready to give dating a shot. Her picture caught my attention immediately. Vietnamese girls are frequently very beautiful, but Phuong was stunning.
We began to chat not long after. We shared many interests, and she spoke good English. I found her very easy to talk to. After chatting for a few days we exchanged Facebook details and moved the conversation there. It was only after a week, and a bit of stalking through her old posts, that the penny finally dropped. Phuong was a ladyboy.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Nothing in this beautiful woman’s photos suggested that she had ever been anything other than a girl, but it was true. I’d been conversing with a Hanoi ladyboy.
My enthusiasm for her quickly waned. Unlike many a curious western traveller, I’d never really been interested in transsexual girls. I’d like to consider myself an open-minded individual, and I would never speak ill of transgender people, but I didn’t want to date one.
was kind and friendly. She was fun to chat to. She was gorgeous. But
Phuong had a penis, and I do not like penises, so that was that. We
chatted a few more times, but things quickly petered out.
Over the next couple of weeks my job began to take up a lot more of my time, and so my dating plans were shelved. They sat there gathering dust, kept company by my social life, until one day I received a call from a friend. He was coming to visit. My friend, let’s call him Gary, was living in Thailand. I’d known Gary for years. We’d practically grown up together. Excited about catching up, I arranged for a bit of time off work and made ready to start being social once more.
We met up at the airport, I quickly got him sorted out with a bike, and then we headed straight out to the bars. I was in high spirits. It had been over a year since the last time we’d seen each other. In fact it had been more than a year since I’d last seen anyone from home at all.
As the evening passed, several bars came and went, as did a string of drinks. Eventually, with the sky beginning to threaten us with the approach of dawn, we found ourselves sat beside one of the city’s countless lakes. The little bar nearby must have been the last one open, and even it was near deserted by now.
We’d been comparing notes about our experiences in our respective adopted homes. There were as many differences about life in Thailand compared to Vietnam as there were similarities. The topic then drifted to matters romantic and carnal.
It was then that Gary began to excitedly, and somewhat drunkenly, recount his recent experience with a Bangkok ladyboy. I was full of questions given my Hanoi ladyboy curiosity. None of my other friends in Asia had had any experiences with a transsexual girl, and it was fascinating to hear a first-hand account.
He told me that he’d had a great time, and highly recommended that I give it a try if I ever found the opportunity. We decided to call it a night soon after, my eyes falling closed just as the sun began to rear its head.
After several days spent valiantly, but futilely, trying to overcome our hangovers with yet more alcohol, we landed up at one of the bars we’d previously visited. Instead of the live music we’d been expecting, we came upon the tail end of a local photography group’s meetup. I looked around the room, and then suddenly, there she was. Phuong, the Hanoi ladyboy. She was, if anything, even more beautiful in person.
The English-speaking community in Hanoi is quite centralised, but Hanoi is nonetheless a city of eight million people. The odds of running into her were surely astronomical. Gary’s story swam around my head as Phuong and I chatted.
I still had my doubts, but with how positively he spoke of dating a ladyboy, I was starting to think about giving it a try. I certainly couldn’t deny my attraction to her. It was still early in the evening, so as we left to find a livelier bar, I invited her to join us. She said she might message me later.
We’d barely been at the new venue twenty minutes when I received a message. Phuong had a few things to do, but wanted to meet me. As we continued to trade messages I gradually became aware that I was sitting on my own. I’d been on my phone so long that Gary had wandered off to go and make new friends.
Then, finally, I received the message I’d been waiting for. She gave me directions to her place and told me to come and pick her up. I let Gary know I was leaving early, and set off.
Phuong didn’t want to go drinking so, with few other options at that hour, the decision was made to go and hang out at my place instead. Yes, hang out. Just hang out. She made it clear that sex was off the table at this stage. I was a little unprepared then, when after only an hour spent hanging out, sex was suddenly placed back on the table. That said, I couldn’t find any reason to object.
I was soon lost in her warm embrace. I explored her smooth skin. Her soft lips. Her perky little breasts. Her penis. Wait. Suddenly the nagging thought at the back of my head came into focus. I don’t like penis. I began to notice a few other tiny details. Her body was soft and feminine, but there was something about the shape of the figure beneath me, the tone of the muscle, that just wasn’t quite womanly. It dawned on me then how daft this all was.
I had been paying attention only to Phuong’s femininity, but there was more to her than that. She wasn’t a girl after all, she was a ladyboy. If I was to date her I would have had to be able to appreciate everything about her, not just her girlishness. I expect she noticed something of my overdue epiphany as we awkwardly made love. Our few conversations after that were brief, and they soon ceased altogether.
I’ve got no regrets about my Hanoi ladyboy experience, but I have to conclude that it was ultimately somewhat pointless. I learned something about myself that I already knew. A little advice then. If your interest in ladyboys extends no further than a bit of mild curiosity, then, like me, you’re probably better off sticking to dating girls. If, however, you’re genuinely captivated by them, and are visiting Vietnam, then a Hanoi ladyboy could be just the girl for you.
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