Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXVI

Less than 48 hours after capitalising on a ‘$5 Haircut’ from a lady who had apparently cut just ‘four hairs’ previously while using equipment they had likely bought second-hand in the ‘80s and who could doubtfully see straight anyway, I returned to this Bui Vien ‘Health Spa’ for a do-over.

Having since found two adequately positioned mirrors to give me a clear view of the back of my own head, then witnessing with horror the strip hacked up the back of my skull with an obvious number one comb while the surrounding hair was a number two, I was irate…

Granted to make a mistake cutting someone’s hair is not unforgivable, but to say nothing about that mishap and to let that customer leave your premises thinking they have a reasonable haircut when in fact what they have is laughable, that cannot be forgiven.

…I stormed to the front desk, calmly removed my hat and, indicating the back of my skull, said, “You made a mess of my hair … You are going to fix it.”

The lady, the taller woman from last time, seemingly accepting that their in-house joke had come to its end, nodded apologetically. “Yes, OK,” she conceded, before asking, “how you wan fix?”

I shook my head in dismay, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; they were the ones advertising to cut people’s hair, yet it seemed it was the customer who needed to have the barbering know-how to make it work. Regardless, and hairdressing incompetency notwithstanding, I had decided exactly what needed to be done.

From the chair I explained, attempting to downplay the sarcasm in my voice, “As you’ve hacked up the back about a hundred mils with a number one comb when you were supposed to be doing a number two cut, all you need to do – all you ever needed to do and I can’t believe you didn’t have the initiative to do this the first time – is to cut around the entire back and sides at that height and at that same length … Number one…”

“You wan, number one?” she pointed to the side of my head in confusion.

I shook my head in futility. “Honestly, how do you not understand?” I stared into the taller woman’s eyes. “All I want, is a haircut that looks good … Do you understand that?”

“It look good, yes.”

No,” my head dropped to my hands, “it does not look good, that’s the problem … I need you to make it look good.” I looked at the lady beseechingly and awaited her response.

She looked back at me vacantly.

I closed my eyes, hung my head and almost cried; never in my life had I experienced such overwhelming exasperation. “Number one,” defeatedly I held up a finger.

She in turn held up the number one comb.

I took it from her and crudely ran it around the side and back of my skull in demonstration, then gave back the comb and stared at the woman.

She appeared to understand and relayed this knowledge to her lazy-eyed counterpart. “No no,” I promptly intervened, “not her – that woman does not know the first damned thing about how to cut hair.”

“But she, hairdresser,” said the taller woman, as though it was the most simple thing ever.

“She is not, a hairdresser,” I disputed vehemently.

“She cut hairs, we cut no hairs.”

Another hour after entering the premises I was walking out the door. My hair at the sides had been trimmed down to a number one and supposedly matched up with the errant strip at the back. No more money had been paid; none had been earned. What an utter waste of time.

For the record, the previous year, in Hoi An, Vietnam’s marketplace, I paid 180.000VND for a barbershop haircut and, aside from the result bearing unnerving similarities to the preferred style of Kim Jong Un, it was a precision cut. My strenuous recommendation, therefore, transcendent as the Vietnamese seem to be at turning their hands to just about any job, task, skill-set or profession, it would be unwise to try and pick up a haircut at any place in Vietnam other than a bona fide hair salon/barbershop.

I wandered back towards the Yen Trang, feeling depleted, although my spirits were lifted somewhat by the comical array of multi-coloured kiddie furniture outside Loan’s Café. Suddenly I felt I was choking on my own heart; seated comfortably on one of the chairs, smiling contentedly as he drank his coffee and smoked his cigar, exuding such a grandiose level of self-importance that his presence was quite impossible to avoid (that ‘presence’ in fact smacking of wealthy Western traveller, particularly Yank), was a well-dressed, clean-cut, fat-bellied, middle-aged gentleman. Our eyes locked as I sauntered by. He gave me, what I considered at the time to be, a nod of familiarity; I was given a chill, as I endeavoured to swallow back down the lump that had risen into my throat.

As you will have noticed, in the previous edition, with that disappointing Facebook share – which incidentally had no trouble displaying in full colour on a Microsoft Word Document – this website struggles to project that kind of page/layout/font. Nevertheless, it was while in the process of ripping and sticking that segment of social media text that I happened to enter onto Lin’s profile; the very first thing I saw left me stunned…

More curiously still, around one week after my unauthorised copy and paste, her Facebook page had shifted from ‘Lin Aug’– formerly ‘Ga Ra Lin Ayun’ (the Viet’s do like their name changes), a page which I believe still exists – to simply, ‘Facebook User’, and while my messages are still there, all of her past entries now claim ‘This message has been temporarily removed because the sender’s account requires verification.’

…Now, had I been aware that her page would effectively vanish I might have been a little quicker ripping and sticking details of the horror that faced me that day; she had posted on her site a lengthy YouTube video (not uncommon among FB users and not an altogether startling action, no) but, in fairness it was the title of the video that shocked me the most – Wedding Ceremony of Gary Cooper and Lin Aug…

Bear with me; that was viewed only recently, yet around eight months prior, from HCMC Vietnam, I have just engaged in heated online discussion, then possibly even encountered in the flesh, the man behind this developing fracas.

…I was seriously beginning to wonder just how far this so-called Gary was willing to go to ensure he landed his prize.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by G Cooper

Photography by D Ranged

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