In this series, Tuoi Tre investigative journalists report on prostitution in Chinese towns bordering Vietnam; Vietnamese women being forced into the flesh market; and trafficking rings, among other issues.
We visited an area known as “Xam Cao” in Dongxing town, in Guangxi province on the border with Mong Cai of Vietnam.
Once home to many brick kilns, Xam Cao is now a run-down place Vietnamese and Chinese traders visit for cheap sex.
Pretending to be clients, we visited a girl who, after inviting us into her compartment, immediately reminded us to “pay the money as the compartment has been opened”.
By this, she meant that since we had already entered her ‘room’, we had to pay no matter what happened.
We then promised to buy three sessions costing VND600,000 in total, after which her sad and exhausted face suddenly brightened.
Here, one session lasts around 30 minutes and costs VND200,000, or US$10.
Whenever we asked a question, the girl replied in short, blunt answers.
But in the end, we managed to learn that her name is Nga and that she is from Nam Dinh Province in northern Vietnam.
Asked if she voluntarily came to China for this job, Nga replied that she had been tricked by a Hanoi man, adding that she spent one year as a hotel prostitute in Vietnam before becoming unwanted and drifting to the other side of the border to work.
“Who wants to come here?”, she asked us.
Nga’s boss is from the same Nam Dinh hometown, we learned.
She too was once tricked but later lived with a Chinese pimp and became a procuress herself.
A girl stands by a brothel in Dongxing town, Guangxi Province in China
After talking with Nga we continued exploring the area.
The red light districts in Dongxing cater to both rich and poor classes.
Most hotels have their own prostitutes on offer, but if they don’t clients can order them from other hotels.
Even the hotel adjacent to the restaurant we had lunch at had some 10 Vietnamese girls on hand.
While enjoying the meal, the restaurant owner came over and told us “after drinking, just drop by that hotel to be served by the girls.
No need to go anywhere else”.
Disguised brothels mostly come in the form of barber shops and massage parlors.
Whenever we walked around, women in skimpy outfits surrounded us.
When our local guide stopped us at a place he knew, one Chinese woman whisked us in.
Inside, behind a living room only small enough to contain a table and several chairs, were a series of small compartments, some with the curtains closed.
The covered compartments indicate they are occupied with clients.
In Dongxing even female tram drivers are ready to recommend places where you can buy sex.
We were told that China’s one-child policy and the tradition of favoring sons has led to an imbalance between the sexes, so when the indigenous supply of women ran out, Vietnamese women filled in.
More flesh markets
After leaving the red light districts in Dongxing, we took a bus to Jiangping – another town in Guangxi Province.
We were on an old bus around noon when three cute girls, probably no older than 18, stepped on.
As they were hemmed in by six big men, we took a wild guess that they were prostitutes on the way to their clients or back to their brothel home.
At another town, Linh Coong, we met a 17-year-old Vietnamese girl named Nghiem Thi Thu.
Thu boasts clear, fair skin, sparkling eyes and a slender body on a 1.6m tall frame.
She has been working in the town for nearly a year.
We learned that she was tricked, along with three others girls, into prostitution.
Now, Thu is the most sought-after girl in Linh Coong’s massage parlor, serving up to 40 guests per day.
The parlor is run by a 50-year-old Vietnamese woman from the northern province of Bac Giang.
She too was once sold to a Chinese man for marriage.
At 7am, three girls called Thu, Ly and Phuong, wearing tight shorts and revealing clothes, sat in front of the shop and waved at guests passing by.
Tuoi Tre learned that they rarely get enough sleep, while their managers earn dozens of millions of dong per day. (VND10 million = $500).
(To be continued)