Sam (from Malaysia)
A good Saigon massage has different meanings to different people. For some, it’s being pampered and having a great body massage by an attractive masseuse; others go for happy endings and sometimes more. This article describes everything you need to know!
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You can find the same types of massage in Vietnam as you can in other South East Asian countries; the only difference is that Vietnamese ones make you feel more relaxed, focusing on muscles – compare this to Thailand say, where massages involve joint movement and can get quite painful.
You have three options. If you want a non-sexual massage and pampering, you should go to the small shops that you’ll see on the sides of the streets. Some often use a room in their own home, and you’ll probably be asked if you want a haircut or shave afterwards.
Sexual massages are common in the hotels that have a parlour on the upper floors. Alternatively, you could go to the spas at the high-end hotels where more often than not, you can get both sexual and non-sexual massage types. The best place to get a Saigon massage with a happy ending is at a hotel. The upstairs massage room usually has access via a bar or restaurant below. Hotels like this are in most districts and you can easily identify them with their giant neon signs.
It works like this; you pay for an entrance ticket and choose between a standard, VIP, or Super VIP room. Standard rooms are plain with just a table and are quite cheap. A VIP room is more comfortable and has a steam room and bathtub. You’re bathed naked by the masseuse who stays fully clothed. The Super VIP is much more expensive but you’re bathed by two fully clothed girls that last for two hours.
Don’t rule out the spas in the high-end hotels. Despite looking professional and official on the surface they’re no different from the other hotels. I’ve heard stories from expats who go for their monthly Saigon massage here and always get what they want. I’ve also heard an account of a tourist who was shocked because the girl offered it in such a luxurious place. It is a bit hit or miss at these high-end places though.
If a girl says ‘baby massa’ she’s offering you sexual services. Another tell-tale sign is the familiar South East Asia practice of brushing against your genitals whilst they work on your thighs…
Prostitution in Vietnam is illegal and the police can raid and shut down any hotel or parlour where it happens. For this reason a lot of the rooms have a window on the doors for the management to check what going on – Vietnam is unlike Thailand and anything ‘extra’ is usually offered in spite of the managements wishes. The implication is that whilst you may still be offered the extra service, it’s probably going to feel rushed. The masseuse will probably put a towel over you whilst frequently peering over her shoulder to see if she’s being spied on!
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The bizarre part of a Saigon massage is how desperate the girls can be. Believe it or not, the masseuse is sometimes on the verge of begging if you decline. I once went to a hotel for a sports massage, at the end she kept trying to touch me and encourage extra services. I kept declining and eventually she accepted that I didn’t want it. Her mood changed and she started to sob for 10 minutes…
I asked a few western friends if this happened to them too; they said that it’s quite common for the girl to act and behave like that if a client declines. In other countries I’ve never had a girl almost begging in this manner.
The girls make their money from tips and this means they’re more inclined to offer something extra for a big tip at the end. Some girls offer blowjob services, only a few offer the full package and you need to ask around the expat community to find them.
You can find and have a good Saigon massage in any part of the city. Central ones in District 1 are more comfortable and closer to western standards. The price is higher, the girls speak English and expect a large tip. District 3 and 5 are good places too and happy endings are more likely there.
Don’t expect the same quality as Thailand. This goes for both sexual and non-sexual massages. The girls are uneducated and usually aren’t very professional, but they are relaxing. Tipping is expected so always check if it’s included in the price to avoid any shocks later on. This can catch people by surprise.
You’ll often get poor service. Girls are pushy to attract foreigners inside and the attractive ones wearing skimpy clothes may not be the ones who give you your massage - you don’t get to select the girl that you want. Unlike the massages that I’ve had in Thailand and Cambodia, you’re not usually naked on the table. You’re expected to keep your underwear on or wear the shorts that they provide. The latter is a better option unless you don’t mind getting your underwear covered in oil. You’re only naked in the steam-rooms or baths in VIP or Super VIP rooms in the hotels.
As with most things in Vietnam, people see foreigners as dollar signs and will do almost anything to get your money. Scams are common along Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao.
There are two in particular to be aware of. The first is that someone goes through your locker and when you confront them they become aggressive. The other is when two girls are working on you – one appears to have a coughing fit and excuses herself to drink water whilst the other works heavily on your neck as a distraction. As she exits she slips her hand in your clothes hanging on the door and takes something to give to her friend outside.
It’s not always easy to tell which ones will be honest or not. Typically, if someone is actively trying to get you to have a super cheap massage, they will have ulterior motives.
Also see: Vietnamese Girls and Western Men
Stick to the street-side options for a no-thrills massage and pampering. For more action, Hotels with a massage room upstairs with the elevator are notorious for offering sexual services.
Expect to pay a hefty entrance fee as a foreigner and anticipate the girls appearing desperate to give you a hand-job. An acceptable tip is between 300,000 to 700,000 VND. Protect yourself by avoiding Saigon massage places where the girls are trying their hardest to get you inside – the only happy ending at these places goes to the girls when they steal your wallet!
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