by Bui Van Y, Zhang Jianhua
HANOI, May 15 — At a cloudy noon in early summer, a man in office outfit wearing dark glasses, and a woman in a sun- resistant cloak with a mask muffling her head, stealthily entered a room at a mini-hotel in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi. About an hour later, they checked out, again covertly.
The five-story mini-hotel nestles in Bo De Street in Long Bien urban district on the northern bank of the Red River in Hanoi. Long Bien, formerly Gia Lam rural district, is noted for its numerous mini-hotels that the local teenagers and adults choose to understand the phrase “sang Gia Lam,” which literally means “go to Gia Lam,” in its figurative sense.
A motley variety of mini-hotels, or “nha nghi,” meaning rest house, have mushroomed in Vietnam’s major cities, including Hanoi, attracting an increasing number of young lovers, or married men or women seeking an affair, rather than the conventional tourists or people on business trips. Mini-hotels attract their new customers because they are considered “convenient, safe and economical.”
Many married and courting couples in extended families without their own rooms often rent a well-furnished “nha nghi” over the weekends for between 60,000-100,000 VND (3-5 U.S.dollars) for the first three hour. Some even managed to squeeze a visit during their lunch hour.
A receptionist in an ordinary outfit without a name tag at a 10- room mini-hotel in Tran Duy Hung Street, told reporters that they receive a daily average of 30 couples. “On festive days like Christmas Eve or Valentine’s Day, we run at full capacity although rooms are double or treble the normal price.”
A female designer with a local newspaper who only gave her last name as Hong, said she and her husband some times still visit the “nha nghi” they frequented before marriage. Couples would feel more comfortable and secure in a quiet space away from daily cares, hence enjoying a more intimate sexual experience.
Dung, a stock investor, recalled his experience when he dated his girl friend some 10 years ago, when they had to go to deserted parks and tree-lined roads, and had their wallets twice stolen, and stumbled time and again over syringes thrown away by drug addicts. “If there had been more ‘nha nghi’ at that time, we wouldn’t have had to put up with such things,” he said.
Mini hotels help keep couples away from embarrassing and dangerous situations, as intimate acts in public places are still frowned upon by many people, especially the aged.
Diep, a college student from Thanh Tri rural district who claimed himself to be “open-minded,” said he and his girlfriend go to mini-hotels every week. He said intimate acts in public places can be dangerous, citing the example of his friends who had their photos of intimate acts put on pornography sites by some paparazzis.
Mini-hotels in out-of-the-way lanes also helps those having affairs to keep away from acquaintances. Most “nha nghis” even help cover the number plates of their customers’vehicles to ensure privacy. They seldom require their customers to show personal documents such as identity cards, a common practice in larger hotels.
However, serious incidents at mini-hotels are sometimes reported in the local media. These hotels are some times raided by police to crack down on prostitution, child sexual abuse and drug smuggling. Some times wives would go there to pick up a fight with their unfaithful husbands’ mistresses.
Well-known psychologist Trinh Trung Hoa, a frequent contributor for local newspapers on love and marriage, lamented that today lovers pay more attention to sex, and less to the noble values of true love. “The growing number of ‘nha nghis’ and their customers, especially the young, indicates that a self-indulgent lifestyle is becoming more and more popular,” he said.
Despite the occasional serious incidents at “nha nghis” and the great concern over the moral and ethical issues they have raised, these hotels are still mushrooming in cities in Vietnam.
In Hanoi, areas such as My Dinh, Tran Duy Hung, Hoang Quoc Viet, Dam Trau, Nguyen Van Cu and Bo De are well-known for their high density of these mini-hotels. In Bo De Street alone, as many as seven “nha nghis” operate within a 100-meter stretch.
However, “nha nghis” are losing some customers after local media reported incidents of the obscene photos, even videos of couples visiting mini-hotels being posted on Facebook, YouTube or pornography web sites. What is more startling, a jobless man in Ho Chi Minh City tried to blackmail several schoolgirls in the southern province of Long An when they played truant to visit “nha nghis” with their boyfriends.
The risk of having their privacy intruded and undesirable hygienic conditions have turned some customers from these mini- hotels. Some have turned to star hotels in urban district. “The price is much higher, but the room is cleaner and bigger,” a 37- year-old office clerk in a state agency said, declining to be named[db:内容2]
by Bui Van Y, Zhang Jianhua