Saigon’s Secret Love Hotels

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnamese lovers have a problem. Convention dictates that public shows of real affection are taboo. We’re not talking about doing the “thing” here, merely kissing and cuddling is frowned upon by one of the most conservative societies on earth. So young lovers are forced into standing on the Thu Tiem Bridge gazing at the night city skyline or congregating on Mai Chi Tho to sit on a motorbike and fly a kite. There is an innocence about Vietnamese society that is actually quite charming. Young couples actually enjoy the simply things in life, in a way that is lost to most in the West.


“The charming innocence is really endearing”


But surely young lovers have needs and urges the same as anyone else. Well, this is where the Nha Nghi, or “Love Hotels”, come in. To the initiated this remains a hidden part of Saigon life. Whether you know it or not, the chances are you drive past love hotels every single day. These pleasure palaces can be rented by the hour and have become a regular haunt for young couples, cheating partners, married couples in search of some privacy and Saigon’s famous “butterfly girls” with their clients.

A great strength of Vietnamese life is the strong family bond. However when you are sharing a small house or even a single room with mum and dad, amorous advances don’t, well, advance very far to be honest. “We’re close, but not that close!” So when the birds and the bees start to get restless, it’s time to pop down to the Nha Nghi and take advantage of the opening rate, which is between VND60,000 and VND100,000 for the first three hours.


“When the birds and the bees start to get restless, it’s time to pop down to the Nha Nghi”


There is one street in District 7 that has about a dozen of these establishments. It really is quite a sight in the early morning as children stroll past on their way to their local international school and at the same time, dozens of young couples emerge looking bleary eyed and rather pleased with themselves. Each couple discreetly jumps onto two different motorbikes and heads off back to their normal lives.

As with everything there is a certain ambiguity about it all. The term Nha Nghi simply means guest house and there are many of these all over the city that are nothing more than that. The love hotels are normally spotted by the signs outside advertising the rates. If the prices are by the hour then there is every chance that the stair carpets will be more worn that most. It’s the same with the infamous Hot Tocs in Saigon. Hot Toc merely means a hairdresser, though some are more blow job than blow dry. A guy could come to town for a haircut and a room for the night, and find himself involved in a whole different ball game.


“A guy could come to town for a haircut... and find himself involved in a whole different ball game.”


Sex it seems is still the big taboo here. Everyone does it, nobody admits it and nobody talks about it. Vietnamese society is incredibly conservative and seemingly naive, but take a look at the sex chat sites and you get a real sense of where Saigon is. Online, everyone appears to be at it.


So just where do the love hotels fit in on Valentine’s Day? Well, each year, they report great business with many saying that they get fully booked on February 14th. Some have three hour slots booked right through the afternoon, evening and night. My, if the walls could talk. Maybe that’s why they call it a headboard!

There is a riskier side to this risqué business. Some partners, finding out about infidelities, have been known to have done deals in the past with hotel owners. They installed cameras and caught their loved ones loving other lovers. The resulting grainy videos hit the social media sites and caused quite a stir.

However, Saigon’s infamous love hotels show no sign of losing their appeal anytime soon.

Why You Should Stay Home on Valentine's Day

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Either you’re alone or your partner and you just don’t want the hassle of overbooked venues, stuffed bridges and crowded parks - there are several good reasons you may want to shut yourself indoors this upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend and celebrate in your own special way.

1. Ice cream and movies

There’s nothing like cuddling up with your partner, putting on a good movie and slowly gobbling a bucket of ice cream. Or, if you’re alone, getting the bed, tissues and ice cream all to yourself. If you and your partner are both overworked, exhausted and in need of some serious R&R, the stress of restaurant reservations, overhyped expectations and pricy chocolates may just put you both over the edge. Ease that edge off with gobs of sugar and romantic comedies. And if you’re on your lonesome, be sure to avoid getting those sugary stains on your bed sheets!

2. Large crowds turn you off

Some work well with crowds. Others find them repelling. Whatever your perspective is on massive amounts of human beings in single centralized locations, sometimes you and your partner want to forget about everyone else but each other. A picnic in the park suddenly gets less special when there are several dozen teenage couples around you timidly holding hands and eating their confections. Stay in your own private bubble this Valentine’s Day.

3. You only love yourself

As our editorial this month professes, it’s only when you love yourself that you can truly love others. While it may not be healthy to take this to narcissistic extremes, on a day when society pressures you to find someone and give them all your attention, it might be liberating to wave off the romanticism and just enjoy a ME day, working on projects, reading, getting together for a house party with other singles, or just lazing off.

4. You don’t live with your parents

The fact is, most younger couples both live with their parents, or at least one partner is constrained in a family household. When that’s the case, going out seems inevitable. And if you both live in a house, you may have the kids to take care of - ideally, in that case, you want to hire a sitter and book something nice. But if you’re alone, or your kids are having a field day with granny, then celebrating your independance starts to sound like a much better idea.

5. You find the commercialism unbearable

Whether you’re tethered to someone or on the prowl, the pressure and commercialism of Valentine’s Day can sometimes destroy the spontaneity and excitement of love (or simply enjoying a day to yourself). As an act of private rebellion, stay indoors and celebrate without anyone stuffing cupids and hearts down your throat. Get some food delivered, let loose and enjoy the fact that a holiday doesn’t have to dictate how to love yourself or your other.

Meet The Saigonese: Roger Ferrell

By: City Pass Guide

Roger Ferrell is the President of Kid’s First Enterprise, a social enterprise company that donates all profits to support disadvantaged children, focusing on kids with disabilities and those suffering from cancer. They run two large events each year in HCMC and use the money to buy wheelchairs. They buy in excess of 100 wheelchairs annually. The next one is The Bourbon Street Jazz Festival, on the last Saturday in May at Cargo in District 4.

Can you suggest a hidden gem or little-known Saigon Attraction?

I think that most of the venues are pretty well known these days, but really I like the idea of Street Foodie Saigon. They organise tours around various street food vendors in the city. It’s a great way to find the good ones.

As we approach Tet, what are you wishes for the New Year?

I think my wish for the new year is to continue supporting the children that we do. I hope our business continues to be successful enough to support more disadvantaged people in Vietnam.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in Vietnam?

I was robbed by two motorbike bandits and it happened with such efficiency that it completely took me by surprise. I was at a bus stop, with my briefcase containing my laptop. It was gone before I even knew what was happening.

What is one thing about life in Saigon that pisses you off the most?

I would have to say that business banking is the biggest pain in the ass, in my life. I worked in banking in the States and it is seriously bad here. It should not take 15 minutes to make a simple withdrawal. Another thing is that I shouldn’t have to be scared for my life on a footpath because of the motorbikes.

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