Vietnam has its priorities firmly in place. A pack of Marlboro Reds is cheaper than a cup of coffee, a liter of Hanoi Vodka costs less than a box of cereal, and the best part of two months each year are given over to a huge party called T?t, which is kind of like New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras rolled into one, but with a few more firecrackers, masks, and games of “catch the duck blindfolded” (note: that is not a euphemism).
But it’s at lunchtimes when Hanoi, the country’s capital, really comes into its own. While the rest of us are stuck wrestling with a cost-benefit analysis of splashing an extra buck on a sandwich with real animal meat in it, horny Hanoians are meeting in specialized motels called Nha Nghis across the city for some afternoon delight.
The Nha Nghi (which translates to “rest house”) is a fairly modern phenomenon, but in the past decade the hotels have sprung up throughout the country’s major cities, and it’s easy to see why they’re so popular among people sneaking in quickies with either their lover, a stranger they met online, or a prostitute. Considering they start at just three dollars an hour, the rooms are remarkably clean and well-furnished. The one I checked out in Hanoi’s Long Biên district reminded me a bit of a Travelodge, only without the continental breakfast of cereal and stale danishes.