Sometimes I get asked this: Are there any strip clubs in Vietnam? If you're Vietnamese, you would probably answer "no" or "what is a strip club?" In the West, we're used to there being places where girls are paid to take their clothes off and dance on stage in front of strangers. In Vietnam, girls wear tshirts and jeans in the water at the beach because they are shy.

AFAIK, there are no strip joints or nudie bars in Vietnam. Point one out if I'm wrong. I've heard rumors of a private dancer club oh Phu Quoc island which is only open to foreigners, but this could be something more like I'll explain below.

Strip clubs, even videos of what you might see inside a strip club, are illegal in Vietnam. Pornography in Vietnam is illegal and you should not try bringing girly magazines into the country. But you will still find guys peddling illegal porn on DVDs on the back of their bikes. And at least one men's magazine, belonging to a friend, has a license to show bare nipples - if done tastefully. In the movie theaters the foreign films with nudity are censored.

So where do older men go to entertain themselves and their business associates? Answer: Karaoke

But not just ordinary karaoke where you go with your friends to sing songs to a badly-rendered MIDI sondtrack. The Vietnamese call it "karaoke om" and where "xe om" literally means a vehicle you hug because you hold on to the driver, here "karaoke om" means a place where you can hug girls. But at some of these karaoke oms, you don't just get to put your arms around the girls. Some of these karaoke joints can get pretty wild with girls taking off their girls and dancing on top of tables while the patrons drink expensive alcohol. Sound familiar?

Perhaps the difference is in how public a strip club is and how private a karaoke om is. There are no signs outside of a karaoke om advertising what services it provides. No red lights or images of girls.

I'm not sure what other countries are like this. Are there strip clubs in Communist China? I think Cambodia is the same as Vietnam and I assume Laos is as well, whereas Thailand is totally the opposite.

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