Tuoi Tre undercover journalists spent a month penetrating deep inside massage parlors and shed some light in this all-revealing new series on the sex, the pitiable living conditions, the tips, the techniques needed to survive and all the other kaleidoscopes.
Part 1: first day on the ‘job’
To work as a masseuse, one needs a license but most, if not to say all, massage parlors fake papers for their massage employees.
Called technicians, the masseuses just have to pay VND1.5-5 million (US$71-239) to get the licenses and certificates required for the massage job.
“We sisters will undertake the legalization for you. Massage certificates are quite easy to buy, looking like true ones even though they are forged,” said Van, owner of massage parlor B on Kha Van Can Street, Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City.
When your journalists pretended to apply for a job as a masseuse at massage parlor TN in the city’s Thu Duc District, Hung, one of its managers, explained the modus operandi is simple.
The parlor would spend VND2 million on each newcomer and collect this sum back by subtracting it from massager’s tips every week.
Our first time
After having our applications accepted and having passed some grueling checks on body statistics and our willingness to work in the industry, we - Tuoi Tre undercover journalists - began to learn the first skills.
No sooner had we put our bags on the floor than Van, the owner, led us to a massage room and told us to touch this and that.
“If you learn well, I’ll let you cater to a client this afternoon”, she promised.
When a girl lay down on the bed, our mentor - Ms. Thanh - started to grope her to show us the sensitive body parts.
Thanh is a young, beautiful girl with just three weeks’ experience.
But Thanh quickly quit after demonstrating some basic massaging techniques.
“I succumb, sister! I can massage but cannot teach”, Thanh said.
The next morning, Van requested Thanh and three other girls to teach us again. Their different pedagogical techniques and massaging styles confused us and we did not know how to do.
“We just learned from our predecessors and improvise,” Thanh announced.
“Here, it’s important to know how to make clients relaxed and it’s okay to do a cursory job”, she advised.
Thanh emphasized the word “relaxed” once or twice. In the Vietnamese massage industry, ‘relax’ means a hand or mouth job.
Voyeur first, practice later
Meanwhile, new employees at massage parlor TN had to learn erotic massage first. To learn it, they are requested to secretly stand outside a massage room to sneak at a technician ‘serving’ the client.
At this parlor, we were told by a manager named Ngan to wait in front of a massage room at 10 a.m.
Through a glass on the door we saw a man lying comfortably in the bath tub and being meticulously washed from head to foot by a scantily-clad masseuse.
Suddenly, the customer looked at the door, spotted us and grumbled some words. We were ordered to retreat right away.
Later that night, we were sent to the ‘classroom’ again. We were panicked upon seeing a technician performing oral sex on a fat client.
Showing approval, Ngoc glared at us and raised her head asking: “accept that and I’ll let people teach you how to massage.”
Ngoc revealed that she wanted newcomers to see the prostitution acts first since many used to come there to learn massaging but quit after refusing to ‘relax’ customers.
“Willingness to relax customers is of crucial importance, massaging techniques are nothing,” she pointed out.
At another massage parlor named L. on Su Van Hanh St., District 5, HCMC, manager Thu looked me up and down and said I needed a certificate.
She offered to obtain it for me in return for VND2.5 million.
Two days after handing Thu a copy of my ID, passport-sized photo, and settling the fee, I received the certificate with my name on it, issued by a medical school in Dong Nai Province.
The license says that I completed a massage therapy course lasting between September 5 and November 5 of 2008.
In addition, I also received a healthcare book issued by a hospital in HCM City. It has details about blood test, HIV test and health conditions and carries a vague red seal.
According to Thu, all the papers are authentic. She also said she needed more ‘technicians’ and asked me if I had any friend to introduce to her.
Apart from massage parlors, many motorbike taxi drivers and brokers were also ready to sell massage certificates. Loc, a motorbike taxi driver in HCMC’s Tan Binh District, said the cost of producing a massage certificate is only VND1.2 million but its market price fetches VND1.5-2.5 million. The balance goes to brokers.
“They are often called fake certificates but in fact, the certificate and the seal are 100 percent authentic”, Loc told Tuoi Tre.