It's been a while since I penned my last Taxi Tale, a regular blog series dedicated to the insightful anecdotes, witty repartee and occasional pearls of wisdom that emerge from my regular conversations with taxi drivers around the region. So here's a new one:
Once every month, a Hanoi taxi driver goes to pick up one of his best clients - a South Korean businessman in his mid-20s. Without fail, this young man needs to travel every four weeks to Do Son, a far-from-swanky beach resort east of Hanoi. It may only be 130km from the Vietnamese capital but because of the poor condition of the roads and the deteriorating traffic, a round trip can take as long as eight hours.
For the young Korean, these time-consuming, regular journeys are essential to his ongoing success in Vietnam. But he is not traveling to meet government officials or business contacts. He is not interested in the sea, the sand or even the Do Son casino (open only to foreigners like all Vietnam's growing number of casinos).
He goes to Do Son to sleep with Vietnamese prostitutes and to alleviate the boredom and alienation of expatriation. While few businessmen would travel quite so far to satisfy their carnal desires, across Asia, prostitution continues to oil the wheels of commerce. And commerce continues to oil the wheels of prostitution.
The taxi driver, who only earns $500 a month with which to support a wife and two young children, is happy with the regular custom. Like many men in Vietnam, he has no moral qualms about what his client gets up to.
"Men need to eat, drink and fuck," he told me.