Hanoi sex lingo: going out to ‘eat pho’


When Vietnamese men go out for sex, they say they are “eating pho” (Vietnamese beef noodles) instead of eating rice at home.
Leaked US diplomatic cable

Hanoi in 2002 sounds remarkably like any Malaysian city of a couple of decades ago, going by the account in the leaked embassy cable Sex And The City — Hanoi Style In those days there were cabarets, with dance hostesses, who (rumour has it) might be willing to provide other services. Today there are discos and karaoke bars, with “guest relations officers”.

And whether in Hanoi or in Malaysia, karaoke singers all seem to know Unchained Melody or Sealed With A Kiss by heart.

Paraphrased extracts from Sex And The City — Hanoi Style, or otherwise known as the US Embassy sex guide to Hanoi, 2002

Hanoi men go off and “eat pho” with their buddies rather than on their own, after spending an evening in a beer hall and/or karaoke and/or massage, about once a month.

Short-time sexual services range from 100,000 Vietnamese dong (USD7, about RM28 then) upwards.

Discos have “large numbers of unaccompanied young ladies (wearing long, slinky evening gowns) who are remarkably friendly to strange men”. Men who dance with them [are expected] to buy at least one drink per dance”. Everything else appears negotiable.

There are thousands of karaoke bars, especially along the main road through Gia Lam, known by locals as “Hong Kong Hanoi”.

Many have “a stable of usually very good-looking hostesses”. Vietnamese call these bars “karaoke om” or cuddle karaoke — the hostesses are enthusiastic [at singing] “but also willing — nay, eager — to keep the male singers warm against the chill of air conditioned rooms.” The girls are willing to get off work early for “other nocturnal activities”.

There are hundreds of massage parlours many offering “Thai-style” massages. “An astonishingly high percentage of these masseuses appear to be attractive young ladies … from out of town or Saigon. Almost all parlours have private rooms, some with attached baths. One new multi-storey “entertainment centre,” decorated in “classic brothel style,” and just a couple of doors away from the US embassy, offers a swimming pool, massage, sauna, restaurant, bars, and karaoke.

All over Hanoi are small, privately-owned “nha nghi” (rest houses) where few questions are asked, and rooms go by the hour for about USD7. Some offer young hostesses of their own.

Hanoi’s many small lakes with attractive parks around them offer charming locations for sexual activities. Lenin Park teems in the evening hours with young couples seeking a private spot, a bench or in the bushes. Hoan Kiem lake offers aggressively friendly young men courting clients.


Based on what that diplomat’s account, Malaysian men might now have to think twice before shouting out “poh-dah”. Or did you mean “pho, da”?