«

»

First Choice in the Massage Parlours

13The massage parlours of Hanoi are renowned for their oriental opulence. They are where the wealthy citizens go to relax in comfort in luxurious surroundings, and a major element in creating this special aura of sensual sophistication is the extensive use of silk.

Silk drapes adorn the walls, the customer is invited to lie on a silk-covered bed and the beautiful young masseuses are sheathed in silk.

For thousands of years the women of Vietnam have used silk garments to complement their natural beauty and this has been exhibited to the world in the traditional high-necked figure-hugging dress, the ao dai. Now widely seen and admired internationally, the ao dai has frequently induced both male and female minds to wonder what is worn underneath. According to the proprietors of women’s lingerie stores, massage parlour attendants are their best customers, those with the most money to spend and the most intent on acquiring the latest fashion in luxury items; and their material of choice for inner as well as outer garments is silk.

It is said that many of the young female attendants who work in Hanoi’s massage parlours come from a group of villages in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam’s tropical south. Here the women are reputed to be of outstanding beauty. It is not surprising therefore that many succeed in finding a wealthy husband. One might wonder why they travel so far when the bigger and more modern Ho Chi Minh City, still known to the locals by the more glamourous name of Saigon, lies much closer to their homeland, but it can be assumed that the Saigon establishments are already well staffed with their sisters.

There is no doubt that the young women of the massage parlours feel that silk garments enhance their allure, boost their business and increase their matrimonial prospects. So they are happy to recycle a generous proportion of their income through Hanoi’s many small garment and lingerie stores which are scattered throughout the narrow tree-lined streets in all districts. They sweep to their favourite retailer on their shiny new motorcycles, leaving them parked in a neat line on the pavement outside the shop. If some of the goods they buy are hid from public view, their wealth and status are openly displayed by the quality of their means of transport.

The sirens of the massage parlours may lead the way in taking full advantage of every new fashion but all women can enhance their self-esteem and social standing in a similar way. Both garments that are seen and garments that are not seen, can confer elegance and comfort. All can share in the glamourous life of silk.