Monthly Archives: December 2018

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXVII

The issue, I believe, with the concept of First World men looking to Southeast Asia in the hope of capitalising on its countless beautiful women is that, as many desirable women as there are in, for example, Vietnam, the likelihood is, nowadays they are being outnumbered by this plethora of Western suitors with the intention of taking them off the market.

Maybe going back thirty years, back to when there was something less commonplace about the notion of a White man taking an Asian bride, there may well have been more available Vietnamese women than there were Western men (I hesitate to use the term ‘single’ when referring to these Western men, as I was recently made aware of a number of Lin’s US suitors already having wives and who likely, were just looking to increase belt notches with a cute little Asian girl young enough to be their goddamned daughter) on the hunt for an Asian bride but nowadays, this is less likely to be the case.

The result of this, I believe – and probably much of the reason these women are so very unreliable in their ability to keep personal appointments – is that any one Vietnamese woman (as 90 percent of them seem to be let’s just say she’s slim, attractive, aged between 25 and 35) at any one time may, and indeed quite likely might, have (again, still only speculating based on what I experienced) any number of Western men on the go.

During my stay at the Pink Tulip, among the different people, among the various nationalities I encountered, there is one Dutch character in particular (no, not Annie but good guess) who stuck in my mind; ‘Oobit’ (I’m guessing the English pronunciation is ‘Hubert’) was a lanky, long-haired dude of around my own age, who dressed, spoke and acted as though there should have been a surfboard under his arm at all times with a tub of Sex Wax in his other hand. While his Netherlands accent was certainly pronounced, he did have a good grasp on both (schooled) English and (self-taught) Vietnamese; a few years back Oobit had fallen in love with and married a Vietnamese woman from Buon Me Thuot then, along with his wife’s seven-year-old son, they had built a house and settled into a nearby township in the Vietnamese countryside. Oobit was in HCMC District 1 (according to what he had told his wife) for a dentist appointment, (yet according to what Annie had told me, it was for something decidedly more recreational) and was returning to Buon Me Thuot in a few days’ time. He was an exuberant character, full of positivity and vigour, and even he – particularly he – could empathise with my situation; “My friend,” he said to me, sitting in the shade, outside on the Pink Tulip hotel porch, one morning over glasses of café sua da, “Vietnamese women,” holding up both hands to show his five fingers on each, “beautiful women, ten out of ten … Vietnamese women, good women,” with hands still held in front of his face he now folded nine of his digits, “one out of ten.”

I chuckled, nodding knowingly. “So, what, you found that one in ten?”

Oobit laughed, his thick accent discernible even through his laughter, “Oh, no, my friend, no, I would still be looking … No, my wife is from Buon Me Thuot … Vietnamese women different in the countryside.”

My eyes widened in recognition, “Oh, I know a woman from Buon Me Thuot – name’s Lin.”

It was Oobit’s turn now to give a knowing nod, “Ah, bet Lin speaks good English, too…?”

“I guess she does, yeah – why would you say that?”

“Further inland you go, the bigger focus on English … Girls from the farming districts, what are they going to do? They go find work in a city or they find a White husband to keep her.”

“Like Lin,” I murmured distastefully, I thought, inaudibly.

His smile grew wider, “She’s the one you want, my friend, hold onto her … Lin will do you well.”

While I appreciated Oobit’s sentiment, I understood he might have misconstrued my musings; for obvious reasons I had reservations about ‘holding onto’ Lin. “I dunno man,” I spoke thoughtfully, “I mean, there are complications, and sure, she’s from Buon Me Thuot, but for the past year she’s been living and working out of District Six.” (I recall as I spoke, casting a thumb leftward, in the general direction of where I suspected District 6 might have been located.)

“District Six,” Oobit muttered, his face becoming intense, “haven’t been there – what does she do?”

“Oh, she’s some kind of, ah, healthcare consultant, I believe.”

Oobit nodded; suddenly his expression lifted in realisation. “She’s not the eldest daughter, by any chance, is she?”

“I think she is, yeah … In fact, yes, she definitely is.”

His smile grew again. “Aha, and you know about eldest daughters in Vietnamese families, don’t you?”

I went cold; it felt as though Oobit was going to drop on me some massive ‘familial sexual abuse’ bombshell or something. “Go on…?” I said with trepidation…

Much of the reason I went back to Vietnam, and certainly the reason that this time I decided to embark on such a prolonged stay, was essentially for this; to meet/befriend locals/expats then to develop relationships of such familiarity and trust that these people felt able to talk to me about reality, without having to filter their speech. The thing I noticed last year, particularly in Hoi An, it was as though Vietnamese locals had a tongue they used when speaking to friends and other locals, and a tongue which they reserved for tourists; it was a happy tongue, a carefree, joyous, ebullient, a sycophantic tongue but ultimately, it was a fake tongue. Thus, I had come back this time with the intention of developing genuine relationships and engendering familiarity to the point where I was not just given that horribly obsequious ‘tourist tongue’. Oobit was one character with whom I managed to develop such a relationship, Annie was also one and, among others, once she realises that I am beyond the point of ‘just another tourist scam’, Mai will become another; the things I learned (will come to learn) from these kinds of people, who have been in Vietnam for long enough to see it go through a number of significant changes, was (and will be) more enriching than reading any recent history book, or listening to any tour guide’s rendition of ‘the facts as they want you to understand them’. These people will impart knowledge of reality, and of events as they happened or sometimes even, as they experienced them.

…“You know that most Vietnamese men don’t work, don’t you?”

“Huh, well, looking around, I was getting that idea, yes – how does that work though … I mean, how do they earn money – what do they do all day?”

“It’s the women, my friend, the wives work … The men drink coffee.”

“That doesn’t make sense … In New Zealand, for example, the man works and, if she chooses, sure, it’s the woman who is less likely to work.”

Oobit nodded with that big affable grin. “That’s normal, my friend, that’s life – in life women are the breeders, men are the workers – but in Ho Chi Minh City also, do you know, many women don’t want to work.”

“I thought Ho Chi Minh City was where women came to work…?”

This inquiry was met with uproarious laughter. “My friend, do you call, lying on your back, while a sweating, stinking White man stabs you with his giant pork sword, working?”

I smiled and stifled laughter at the image (I found myself very much taken with Oobit’s humour – his steady, calm and calculated speech, yet razor-sharp mind – the man was brilliant). “Honestly bud,” I spoke with a hint of irony, “I wouldn’t know, but they seem to think it is – they’re getting paid for it, anyway.”

“That’s it,” Oobit clapped his hands, “that’s all an eldest daughter wants, is to get paid … She doesn’t care what she does, she just wants to get paid … She will fuck for it, she will suck for it, she will scam, con, swindle and thieve for it … But work for it, not so much.”

“What do these ‘eldest daughters’ have against an honest day’s work?”

“Ah, you see, they want too much – much, much more than a normal job can pay them.”

“Like, how much?”

“These women, they’re greedy … See, a farming family would get by easy on five million a month, but these girls, they ask for more like twenty.”

“Yeah but, who pays that, I mean, who do they ask?”

“White suckers – you, me, any other tourist – we’re all rich to these women, and these women, they just want to get paid.”

I just sat there, thinking of every woman I had met so far in HCMC, inwardly choking.

Oobit concluded, “My friend, the eldest daughters you meet in Ho Chi Minh City, they have their family to look after – they don’t care what they do, they just want to get paid.” He paused to brush back his hair then dragged deeply on his Marlboro (along with other imported tobacco brands, these cost 30.0000VND – 2NZD, although the cheapest cigarettes are local – Thang Long ‘Thum Lohm’ – and cost only 10 dong – under $1). “Oh, and here’s a trick,” Oobit grinned deviously, “if you ever have to pay a Vietnamese, and if you say, ‘I can give you one million now, or five million in a week’s time’, they will always take the million now … It’s like they can’t see the future – they’re all about the now.”…

Vietnamese women tend to be very much responsive to tourist advances and in fact (unlike the majority of Kiwi women who will usually either ‘be busy’, ‘be not interested’, ‘have a partner’ or be just plain nasty about the whole thing), in Ho Chi Minh City at least, most women appear only too pleased to indulge a male’s request for company; most were willing to give out phone numbers or Instagram accounts (which, I feel if I’d had any way of making either of these forums work for me things might’ve been quite different) while many are even willing to take a few minutes out of their day, take a seat at a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a beverage (likely making them late for another appointment which merely corroborates my earlier point).

…“What did you mean though, ‘women here don’t want to work’ – I mean, far as I can see, Oobit, this city’s run by women.”

The lanky Dutchman smiled broadly, “It may look that way, yes, but actually Ho Chi Minh is run by families … The wife always is the boss, but the whole family is really the owner,” Oobit pointed over the road at various hotels in turn, indicating that they were owned by different families.

“What about this one,” I observed, “I mean, is Annie not the owner of the Pink Tulip?”

“He is part owner, and he manages it, but that’s all … Did you know, no foreigner can own any, ah, how is it, any, place – any premises, in Vietnam.”

“What about your house – or does that rule not apply in the countryside?”

Oobit chuckled. “My friend, the house where I live in Buon Me Thuot, my wife’s house, that took almost three years just to get the permits to build there.”

“Shit man,” I mumbled, “that’s worse bureaucracy than we have in New Zealand.”

“No bureaucracy my friend, it’s simple – they don’t want me to live there.”

“What, in Buon Me Thuot or, in Vietnam in general?”

“I’m a White,” Oobit stared into my eyes soberly, “Vietnamese Government, and probably most people in Vietnam, they don’t like us – they don’t want us here.”

I sat stunned, thinking of all the Viet people I had met and had, supposedly, befriended – I couldn’t accept what I was hearing – was it all a lie? “Are you serious?” I queried incredulously. “Are you meaning ‘European’ White though, ‘English speaking’ White, or just ‘White’ in general?”

“For Vietnamese Government, it’s general – English, Euro, Western, whatever you want to call us, we’re White, they don’t want us here … Remember the Vietnam War?”

“Technically,” I shot back with a grin, “while you’re here it’s the American War, but, yes, of course, I am familiar.”

“Mm, then you might have also heard about how Vietnamese, how Asian people, are very big on pride, and retribution.”

“Yes, that’s very interesting … I often wondered about the Vietnamese feeling toward US folk, you know, given their history – they appear to treat them well enough though.”

“Don’t believe everything you see in Vietnam, Tim,” Oobit lowered his tone, “it’s not always reality.”

I smiled at the notion. “Still, you seem to be doing alright.”

“They couldn’t stop my wife and me building a house in Buon Me Thuot, anyway.”

“Nice one,” I gave an affirming nod.

“Oh geez,” Oobit looked at his watch in sudden panic, “wow man, I gotta get to the dentist.” With that he stood up and pranced away, giving a wave over his shoulder as he went. “Talk soon, my friend,” he called from the seat of his motorbike (and ‘talk soon’ we would, further exploring this apparent Vietnamese distaste for Western society).

Regarding the earlier paragraph, once a ‘coffee-date’ is over (still I am unsure if this constitutes an actual ‘date’), if I was lucky, I was able to organise another, official, rendezvous (for which, if I was even luckier, she would turn up on time or even just at all); alternatively (and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is ‘lucky’ or a form of entrapment), on completion of our tryst she might place her hand over mine and seductively propose that I give her two million dong ($160), so we can go back to my hotel room for some ‘exciting fun’.

As I discovered, Vietnam very well might be renowned as one of the world’s cheapest tourist destinations but, one has first to get the hell out of Ho Chi Minh City.

The place is toxic.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Si Tin Fon

Photography by Etta Price

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXVI

The value system of most Southeast Asian women can be summarised in this simple formula: Sex is Money and Money is Love.

Before anyone judges just think; realistically this philosophy is no different to what we advocate in the Western world – much as I suspect most of us would never admit to such a thing – it’s just a simplified version.

On the other hand, in my quest to experience Vietnam I walked longer and farther than I ever had done, usually returning as a sweaty, exhausted, shell of my earlier self; I wanted to see more of Ho Chi Minh City and while I was aware there were probably less strenuous ways of getting around, walking afforded me the ability to see, smell, meet, and sample the ways of these exotic southern Vietnamese streets.

In New Zealand – also I’m sure around much of the developed world – we see ‘Love’ as support, care, protection, and nurture; all these wonderful constituents of Love though, in the long term, they all require Money, and of course the more money one has, the more able one is to administer these ‘constituents of Love’, thus Money is essentially Love. Furthermore, realistically, most Western men, at least initially, would not stay with a woman and agree to provide for her all these glorious constituents of Love – which we recently established is tantamount to Money – without the assurance of Sex; thus, by implication, Sex is Money too. (To look at it another way: for as long as men have been hopelessly controlled by their lust for a beautiful woman, there have always been women prepared to exploit this desire in return for money therefore again, Sex is tantamount to Money.)

In District 10, the locale of Nhan Tam Dental Clinic, the atmosphere is vastly different to District 1. The primary disparity is the physical atmosphere; District 10 HCMC is significantly less polluted than District 1. Secondarily is the overall feel of the place; less pressure, less urgency, less hostility, less tooting – fewer vehicles, fewer people and less commotion in general. There were still banh mi vendors (blessedly) on the side of the road and most of them (extra blessedly) sold café sua da, but the best thing (even more extra blessedly), during my time in District 10 nobody tried to sell me anything; simply, I approached them voluntarily, they accepted my custom graciously, and I left happily.

Outside the overwhelming Vietnamese penchant for procreation, sex, generally, chiefly, is not an act undertaken for the purpose of enjoyment; it’s something that, predominantly, is used, by women, as a tool, simply, to make Money. Sex to a Viet woman is not particularly sacred or taboo, it does not have to be special or involve a great deal of emotion, nor does it need to be monumental or in fact even the least bit meaningful; it’s just a damned good way for that woman to make money. A Vietnamese prostitute (who, incidentally, may have begun her career as a teenager after, potentially, becoming the victim of sexual assault, perhaps, at the hands of her own family member/s and/or, possibly, their friend/s), for example, will return home with the Money she has been paid in exchange for Sex then show Love to her significant other, by sharing with him that Money. Men in Vietnam, as previously explained, typically, don’t work but instead have a woman who Loves and (for some reason) worships them enough to buy them the things they need and basically, provide them with enough of this Money to propagate an existence.

While many women do work legitimate jobs (prostitution in Vietnam being, technically, illegal), as already mentioned, in Ho Chi Minh City District 1, for the right price, most Vietnamese women will become anything the man with the money wants them to be.

In my quest to meet a nice Vietnamese woman – feeling as though I’d already met my share of skulduggerous ones hence my decision that locating women on the bar scene was not for me – I was not above approaching and, implementing my decidedly basic Viet tongue (which ironically, despite its simplicity, these Viet women seemed to find rather endearing), attempting to strike up a (decidedly basic) conversation. Much of the time though, after politely waiting for me to finish crudely mincing their language’s words, with a grin the Viet woman might interject; for example – “Ah, I have, ah … Some, Engleesh…?” – and in wonderfully broken English we might converse.

The problem I encountered though, was that so often, upon meeting this ‘nice’ woman then perhaps inviting her to join me for coffee it was then her who, perceiving dollar signs all over the youthful White male sitting across from her, would in fact attempt to turn the conversation salacious in the hope of initiating a carnal expedition; of course I was aware, by this stage, of the ‘wholesome Buddhist, four date philosophy’ thus found it perplexing to be invited back to my hotel room for ‘exciting fun’ (or if she was particularly forward, ‘boom-boom’), after only one coffee date. This game that pretty Viet women seemed to enjoy playing with White folk was moreover frustrating when I knew that my intentions (at this point anyway) were good, yet it was she who was trying to bring our budding relationship into premature disrepute.

Mai though, Mai admitted to not being an ‘eldest daughter’ therefore really had no need to be money-hungry; as is the Vietnamese (or perhaps Southeast Asian) way though, acquiring money through unscrupulous channels seems to be in their blood.

When I met her (last year’s Chronicles), evidently, Mai had casual work at a glorious District 6 café as well as, apparently, some other ‘health and beauty’ work; as I understood it, she was a wholesome Buddhist woman driven by love for her family, but not an eldest daughter. I recall last year, sitting in the dingy little café/bar situated under the Aston, being served by hotel porter Fine, slurping through a straw a glass of Jimbean as I made my farewells to Mai – shortly before our tour group were scheduled to head up country where we, a little under three weeks later, planned to fly out of Hanoi – she appeared to become suddenly anxious, as if realising that her plans (perhaps to screw me out of money) hadn’t been executed, or that she hadn’t had enough of an influence on me to ensure that I remained in contact with her (to perhaps try to later screw me out of money). Whatever the reason, on that occasion, she suddenly rushed away to the female WC, to reappear just minutes later having showered and undergone a complete change of ensemble; she had gone from donning her wonderfully elegant traditional Viet garb (last year’s Chronicles) – which I admittedly had found quite arousing – to wearing a sleek black and tastefully but wonderfully short dress along with a pair of stunning 4 Inch heels – which I definitely had found quite arousing. We sat closely for a short while and talked about nothing substantial before Mai blurted (with her limited grasp on English and strong Viet accent), “Need money … My grandma sick.”

I didn’t know what to think; I almost laughed. “Are you serious?” I was in disbelief, “You’re hitting me with the ‘sick grandma’ line…?!”

Looking at me now with a face of (manifestly disingenuous) despondence, nodding, she added, “She very sick.”

“Well shit Mai,” I spoke with levity, “my grandma’s sick too, matter of fact she’s been sick for over a year.”

“Oh,” Mai lowered her head, perhaps realising that the time to swindle me out of my dollars had passed.

Thinking of it, I’m just recalling, at that time, last year, downstairs in the Aston bar, before she had mentioned her grandmother but after she had transformed herself into the sleek goddess in black, I was becoming frustrated, exasperated with her; she appeared to want something but wouldn’t, or couldn’t, tell me what it was. This of course was not aided by her very basic English skills but I recall, at one point, she seemed unwilling to let me depart; she had just changed her attire and I had had the sudden thought, ‘Oh wow, she’s actually trying to impress me, she must really want something’, yet despite best efforts, I could not work out what it was that she wanted from me. All she was doing was sitting closely to me, hugging into me as though I was her saviour and making a concerted effort to look sad, all the while dressed like a classy Asian prostitute.

What was I to do? In my frustration at not being able to understand what she wanted from me, why she wouldn’t let me leave, I took the initiative…

It ought to be noted, for those of you thinking, ‘Go on, dick, she wants you to be a man, she wants you to make a move on her’, I can assure you, this is not what she wanted.

…I grabbed her by the butt, pulled her in and tried to kiss her; she writhed in my grasp and pushed herself back with the words, “No … Not want.”

This left me confused and more frustrated; I was about to just stand and leave but had one last thought. I removed my wallet, took out a 500 dong note and said, “What, you want this?”

I recall she had just looked at me with pining eyes.

It ought to be noted though, I didn’t feel at all sorry for her; she was annoying me to the point of insanity. An observer might have concluded as much but there was no way she had developed genuine feelings for me either; we had only met a few days earlier. I withdrew another 500. “What, you want more?”

Still, she had just looked at me.

As I recall I had become extremely agitated; she appeared to have suddenly relinquished any ability to reciprocate verbal communication and it was making me mad with frustration.

Mai refused to take my money yet had still appeared to want something from me; twelve months ago, I didn’t ever find out what she wanted although twelve months on, I now had the opportunity to meet her again and see where things went.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Sax Money

Photography by Minnie Love

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXV

Think it was my eighth night in Vietnam, eighth night a Crazy Girls, I accidentally choked out that American dude, therefore it mustn’t have been until night nine, through my recently accessed Facebook page on the PC at the Pink Tulip, that I finally contacted Lin.

Infatuated as I was with Noobie, ‘woman of my dreams’ as she assuredly was (and if you find that hard to believe, hear this: after only three nights of her pleading with me to shave off over three years’ of prized chin-tickler growth – from bottom of lip to bottom of chin – I did it, for her), I had come to realise that she was only going to care about me as long as I continued to spend a lot of money on her, at her bar; a revelation which did not bode terribly well for a bright future together in the New Zealand countryside.

Realistically though the ‘Lin’ thing was no more promising; while we had been in contact for over twelve months, shortly before I made the journey to Vietnam in the hope of meeting, and hopefully being with her, she had made some admissions…

The incident with – as I recall we labelled the portly American – ‘Craig’, was so stupid it was comical; as documented in a previously instalment Craig had been seated outside watching, among other things, me play pool with a few of the Crazy Girls bargirls and, based on my dress also my ostensible connection with these Crazy Girls employees, he had assumed, naturally, that I was something more than just another patron. I had gone along with his perceived eminence and, without ever having to technically mislead him regarding his assumption, Craig and I had begun chatting; from there it had taken only a moment to realise that the American was, as we call it in New Zealand, a ‘blowhard’. He made certain that I was informed of just about his every accomplishment, achievement, or other embellishment to date then, with the WWE Smackdown playing on the bar television, it was not altogether shocking that we started discussing combative artforms; as a point of interest, after some time I slid into the yarn that I was an active member of a jiu-jitsu club in New Zealand, where of course Craig did his best to one-up me by revealing that he used to compete in MMA (I felt at that point it might have been too much of me to mention that I was a competitor in my sport also and, in fact at my last tournament, had managed to come away with bronze).

…Lin had been good enough to reveal, after over twelve months of communications, and after plans were almost underway for my second trip to Vietnam that, because at the time she ‘didn’t know if I was serious about her’ and she ‘wasn’t so sure about us anyway’, she had been holding communications with other, older (shit she was only 25 herself; where I felt our ten year gap was perhaps excessive, seemingly she didn’t think it was enough), American – not just man – me­n

Being the tough guy that Craig seemed ever-hopeful of portraying himself as being – corpulent middle-aged drunkard that he outwardly was – he wanted me to demonstrate my rear-naked choke on him. This should have been fine, I do it most nights of the week, for God’s sake; it’s not a dangerous manoeuvre if you’re careful with it and you know what you’re doing. As previously documented (I believe, Vietnam XVI), stepping in behind Craig I had carefully set up the choke, for the dozenth time reminding him to ‘tap out’ when the pressure grew too much.

…Apparently things hadn’t gone so smoothly between Lin and her entourage of middle-aged US kiddie-fiddlers and, while I was still in New Zealand, she had begun lobbying for my sympathy vote, apologetically playing the role of the ‘confused little damsel with the world against her’; additionally though, not only had she been ‘conversing’ with these middle-aged American men over the past 12 months – during which time she and I were supposed to have been developing our own relationship – according to her admission she had been meeting, and even engaging in relations with, a number of these older men. (Cough.) That was fine, whatever, I could overlook, I could live with that; while my time had obviously meant little to her, I felt as though I had put in a great deal of effort to our, albeit online, relationship – it’s a typical gamblers mentality but ‘I had invested too much, there was no way I was just walking away now’…

My left elbow aligned with Craig’s chin, back of my right hand forcing forward his skull, using the pressure of the crook of my left arm I gradually closed off his carotid arteries at the base of his neck. Suddenly though things went awry. I felt Craig slipping off his stool and beginning to disappear under the table in front of him. The portly American’s otherwise floppy physique had gone totally limp. Immediately releasing the choke pressure and now using the crook of my left arm just to hold him atop his stool, I glanced leftwards and saw dead eyes. Exerting every muscle of my wiry frame I pushed, pulled and balanced Craig’s mighty deadweight until finally I felt strength returning to his limbs; “You alright, big guy?” I asked, relieved and annoyed at the same time.

Craig stared into space, disorientated; at that point I became intuitively aware of every person at Crazy Girls staring at us.

“You didn’t tap out, bud,” I chuckled, forcing good-humour, “I told you to tap out when it got too bad.”

“Wha you doo?!” One of the more authoritative bargirls, Lona, was angrily slapping my right shoulder, “You leh him go, I see, he do nothing to you … I see!”

“Hey, hey,” Craig’s raspy voice came to life, as he leaned to his right across the table. “This guy,” thrusting a thumb into my chest, “he’s my friend.”

Lona stepped back, looking confused.

“It’s alright,” Craig continued defusing the ordeal, addressing the concerned bargirl. “Thank you for your help, sweetheart, it’s fine … I’m fine, thank you.”

“You sure you’re good?” I asked, giving him a pat on the shoulder.

“Yeah, I’m good, thanks … Hey, it was a good choke.”

“I know it’s a good choke, that’s why you’re supposed to tap out before you go out,” I reminded him in scornful jest.

“Yeah, sorry about that, it came on so gentle, you know, then boom,” Craig slapped his hands for effect.

“That’s the idea,” I nodded, inclining right to put my arm around the recently arrived Noobie.

“It was a good choke, man,” Craig said again as he sipped his beer.

“Thanks bud,” I replied, relieved; appreciating that things might have turned out a lot worse.

“You craaazy,” Noobie looked up at me, grinning wildly.

“Wasn’t my fault,” I argued half-heartedly, “he didn’t tap out.”

“You craaazy boy.”

“Ah, you love my crazy.”

…I contacted Lin on Facebook from the Pink Tulip earlier that evening; while my facial swelling had all but gone down I was now harbouring, beneath the rims of my glasses, the residue of a black eye and as for the slit cheekbone – that gory, gaping fish mouth – it had miraculously pulled itself together (I attribute my good fortune in that regard to Nhan Tam’s unknown dentist with his mystery pot of brown salve) leaving behind barely a mark. I was now left to wonder though, admittedly with mild disappointment, if I would even be left with a ‘Vietnam keepsake’ (what good’s taking a beating if you come away with nothing to show for it?). Turns out, in fact, I appeared so ‘normal’ that during the taxi ride to my second dental appointment, the driver – the same driver who would later explain the prevalence of Vietnamese lower leg injury – a good looking Vietnamese man himself who, without prompting, in fact complimented me on my appearance – said that I was ‘dep chi’ (handsome); I told him, “That’s funny, Sir, I was just thinking how you were very much ‘dep chi’ yourself”, and just like that I felt as though I had made a friend for life – a happily married friend, thank you very much.

Although still technically a resident of the Bali B, as I was spending most of my time in and around the Pink Tulip it was from there that Lin and I began our first date. It was nice; we had a light meal at ‘the Oasis’, on Bui Vien, a strangely verdant family café/bar/restaurant with a swimming pool situated in the middle (patrons sat on a tier around the pool area, in an elevated position so they may view the water), where I drank scotch and she drank coconut water (yet still I swear, Lin was still the more intoxicated of the two of us) and despite the omnipresent background volume, we did our best to talk. Being from the inland region of Buon Me Thuot, as is often the way with residents from this largely farming community, Lin’s English was reasonably good  although her Viet accent was very strongly pronounced; I took great pleasure from listening to her trying to wrap her delightful Vietnamese palate around sounds that simply didn’t exist in her language (for example, ‘shr’, ‘cl’, or ‘tr’)…

On that, when a Vietnamese person puts their finger to their lips in a request for silence, they make the most peculiar sound; rather than the ‘Sshhhhh’ that we assume is internationally familiar, in Vietnam it’s more like, ‘Tthhhhh’. The first time I heard it – Noobie was looking at me blankly, beseeching me to stop talking (‘I no unnerstaan!’) – I laughed out loud; I thought she was making a joke, or mocking, but no, naturally, a native Vietnamese mouth/tongue/palate is not equipped to make the ‘sh’ sound.

…Lin and I parted company then once again, I was left feeling somewhat dejected.

Now with Internet back on my side I was much less anxious about everything; my money woes were still bothering me although with online banking in my favour the issue was more easily managed. I had, perhaps foolishly, transferred some funds to bring my budget back on track the easy way and with that done, I decided to see about experiencing Vietnam, rather than focusing so much on trying to experience the women.

She was wonderful, and she was gorgeous, but Lin was clearly, unbelievably, inexplicably, infatuated with one of these ‘US father figures’ of hers; whatever the case, and although she had remarked that ‘I was more handsome in person than she had expected I would be’, she didn’t ever really ever seem ‘into’ our time together.

The next time I opened my Facebook account my memory was given a swift kick; Mai, the Viet woman I had met  last time I was in HCMC – in fact it was my very first night in Vietnam, drinking ‘Jimbean’ on the street outside the Aston Hotel (last year’s Chronicles) – who had been nice enough but had essentially inspired my feeling of uncertainty towards Vietnamese women in general, what with the fluctuations in her ability to speak/comprehend English and (clarity to this coming sentence will presently be given) because Mai was not the eldest daughter among her siblings of course she had to the one with the ‘sick grandma’…

With no superannuation in Vietnam it is expected that the eldest daughter in a Vietnamese family (crap, have I already mentioned this? Ah well, it’s probably worth noting again, anyway) is the one to support the parents through their older years thus these are likely to be the ones working the higher paying and, arguably, more demanding jobs, such as prostitution (a Vietnamese prostitute can bring in, in one day, as much, if not more than a woman working a regular job, such as store clerk, will make in an entire month), or a masseuse (which often, but not always, is simply a front for that ‘other’ career choice, although even if it’s not, by Vietnamese standards, it likely pays better than most other, ‘regular’ jobs); then there are the bargirls (also a very high-paid position because as well as their employer paying them a standard wage – presumably much the same as any other basic salary around HCMC – as I understand it bargirls take a commission of every ‘sale’ they make, hence their constant badgering – ‘You wan buy ring?’ – two drinks – 220.000VND, also ‘Shishaaaaa!’ – 350.000VND, or ‘Balloooon!’ – at Crazy Girls, ‘NOS Balloons’ – large condom-like balloons containing Nitrous Oxide – essentially laughing gas which, is a simply marvellous form of intoxication yet, like all great drugs, is ultimately deadly – 120.000VND).

…From what I have learned, at the time and thereafter, these so-called eldest daughters are not the kind of women a foreigner on the hunt for a sweet little Asian bride wants to be pursuing; these ladies have genuine need to earn more income than their siblings and generally are willing to do anything to achieve that target. From experience, these women, these Vietnamese ‘eldest daughters’, are money-hungry, rapacious, devious, deceitful, dishonest (but so often the most exquisite specimens you’ve seen in your life), lying, cheating, swindling, thieving and ultimately unscrupulous people…

According to what they each told me Lin was eldest daughter in her family, Vy was the eldest daughter in her family, Noobie was the eldest daughter in her family and, as it would happen, I think just about every damned woman I met in HCMC claimed to be the eldest bloody daughter in their family. Unbelievable as I found it at the time, sometime later looking at this supposed pattern from an objective viewpoint, I realised it does actually make some sense – for example, if an eldest daughter is born to a farming family in Buon Me Thuot (Lin), Pleiku (Noobie), or some other rural area in Vietnam where living costs are low and wages are even lower, it makes sense that in order to later provide for their family, they would jump on Vietnam’s tourism bandwagon, head on down to Ho Chi Minh City and capitalise on that valuable Western dollar.

…Mind you that’s only what I saw of them, and that was only in Ho Chi Minh City, predominantly in District 1; I’m sure some eldest daughters are honest – probably those ones who have already snared themselves a wealthy American husband to keep them in a manner of which they had never dreamed yet, curiously, the manner which they desire.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by El Dust Dotter

Photography by Mania Hing-Grey