Saturday, November 21, 2015

Apocalypse Now, 1997: Jasmine and Saigon (Part 1)

This is a verbatim entry from an old paper-and-ink journal that I kept. The entry is dated March 23rd, 1997. I advertised it as "something gross about a Vietnamese whore" but in fact there's nothing all that gross about it. I present it it as an historical look at expat life and sex in 90s Vietnam.

This happened after I left Korea, where I had taught for ten months; I was 28 years old. 

I left here at about 10:00pm and took a cyclo towards a strip of bars on Mac Thi Buoi; it became quickly apparent that the only lively one -- indeed the only one that seemed to have any customers -- was the tritely-named "Apocalypse Now," which I'd seen advertised on t-shirts all over SE Asia.

I went in and ordered a BGI beer (18.000 dong / almost $2 -- outrageous by local standards) and was not terribly surprised to find that there was nothing much apocolyptic about the place. The decor was minimal -- dark walls, a long wood bar, thatched columns and a pool table and a small dance floor, with a little patio in the rear.

The crowd looked like a bunch of Yuppie Scum if ever I've seen 'em -- polo shirts, khakis, and cigars. Some were obviously local "expat" business people -- a lot of tourists, too, but even the tourists seemed like Yuppie Scum.

I had a few beers and then was ready to leave when I saw a cute Vietnamese girl in a really tight flowered minidress, kicking it good on the dance floor. And damned if she didn't give me the Long Lovely Look. My pulse raced.

However, I've been in Asia for quite a while. I began to think she might be a kratoey (or whatever they call transvestites / transexuals here) or at least a hooker.

I kept my eye on here and we smiled at each other a few times -- she knew a lot of people there, but seemed to be there alone.

Eventually, we ended up dancing together; she writhed coyly. I decided if she was a transvestite or transsexual, she was the greatest one I'd ever seen, and it was high time I tried one. I touched her waist while we danced.

We started talking. Her name was Jasmine. (Of course!) She was 22. After some introductory chit-chat, she was surprisinglyly frank. She said she'd been a whore a few years ago, but wasn't now. She had a boyfriend who lived in Hong Kong and he sent her enough money to live comfortably. She was studying art and graphic design now. (And taking piano lessons.)

Her English was completely fluent and bizarrely had a very thick Southern accent. She attributed this to her favorite film, Forrest Gump, but said that her boyfriend was from Texas, also.

This was all quite strange to me, this time / space warp Tennessee Williams accent coming out of this delicate young Oriental blossom. She was not what you'd call classically beautiful, though -- face a bit too round, maybe, teeth not particularly straight, and (I would later see) a scar on her forehead and another on eyebrow. She had long flowing black hair, though, and a great slim body, and her face had a lot of character, something often absent from Asian girls.

She told me about life in Saigon; said the government and police are all crazy and hassel the foreigners constantly. They'd once come to Apocolypse Now and arrested all the Vietnamese girls there and tried to get them to sign statements saying they'd worked as prostitutes there, wanting to force the bar to close (or pay a large fine) in this manner. All of the expat men had gathered outside the police station and sung "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" She refused to sign and was eventually released.

She said that the expats that worked for large international companies usually had it very good -- they were paid large amounts of money to do nothing, to be a "foot in the door" in Vietnam while deals were endlessly negotiated and formalized with the government.

Around 4:00 am, the bar closed. I asked her if she wanted to walk outside with me; she said she'd stay here for a while. I got her phone number and said I'd call her.

I got on a Cyclc and headed back home -- two whores on a moped followed me and offered me a massage, or a blow job. I said thanks, but I was tired.

When I got back to the guest house, the gate was closed. A voice said, "X!" and I saw a female head sticking out of a taxi cab. For a weird second, I thought it was Kun Jung Ah from Korea but of course it was Jasmine.

"Do you want to come back with me?" she asked quietly.

I nodded and got in.

End part one!


Jug Jugette said...

Uh oh, got a bad feeling about this one. I had an almost identical experience (so far) in 1999 at the Hanoi branch of AN. It didn't turn out well.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing X was too smart to get ruffied or buy some of her paintings. Maybe she got him to go to a nice trad family dinner? Com, pho and those tasty cold spring rolls they have over there.