Sunday, June 29, 2014

I am who I am-and damn proud of it!

Society often dictates our behavior and what labels we put on people.
For instance, the infamous (and very much alive and well today) “nice girl” and “bad girl” labels: “nice girls” are those who are monogamous and “bad girls” are whores and sluts.

Women’s sexual behavior historically has been severely controlled by a patriarchal system that requires knowledge of paternity, which means restricting women to one sexual partner (and hence one potential sperm donor)-ever since land ownership days of long gone past when these matters were of utmost importance.

There is long history of oppression of women around money and sex. In many cultures (including Western cultures in the past), women were forbidden to work outside the home. This guaranteed their financial dependence upon men: their fathers or their husbands, which kept them powerless in other arenas.
The only work outside of home available to women in those days was sex work-that’s how the term “working girls” was coined.

Things are very different nowadays, but certain perceptions (and labels that come with them) are dying hard. Quite a few people still use “whore” and “slut” as derogatory terms.

Although prostitution is slowly becoming acceptable as a legitimate profession/service, it still carries a stigma. And even those who accept it (and partake in it) often attempt to manipulate it to their advantage.

Sex can very much be an arena in which women have considerable power over men. While men as a group have physical, economic and political power over women, women control something that most heterosexual men desperately desire. Regardless of how powerful, wealthy, physically attractive a man is one thing he cannot guarantee for himself is consensual sex.
Some girls and women learn early in life to use this power for their advantage and sex work is simply the extension of this practice-nothing more and nothing less.
Some men resent this and use various (often overt) tactics to turn the tables. For instance, men who partake in sex industry often try to put forward a notion that “good hooker” is the one who does the job because she loves having endless sex with strangers and money is just an accidental side benefit, and  a “bad hooker” is the one who does it for money.

Why is that, I wonder? 
Success of a man is often measured by position he holds and the amount of money he earns: the higher his position and the more money, the more successful he is deemed.
Men proudly boast of their six figure earnings and their position as CEO or President of companies.
They talk about things they’ve acquired with their earnings openly and with great pride. It is not at all shameful for a man to admit he does his job for money. 
I’ve known many a CEO whom complained bitterly about the stress brought on by their job, early grey hair, etc while still happily chatting about $60K cruise they took with their wives/girlfriends. No, they didn’t love their job. But they loved the money and were proud of it.

Let’s be real: very seldom one has a job that has one jumping out of bed with joy every morning, fills one with happiness every minute of the day AND earns one enough to sustain the lifestyle of wealth.
Job is just that-a job. Means of earning the income to support your desired lifestyle. All jobs have good and bad sides. Most of us wanted to quit a job at one point or another. And most of us had days when we thought our jobs are nothing short of awesome.

I’ve worked as a waitress (and later a restaurant manager) for the better part of my life. I did it because it earned me more than average income (I worked in US where tipping system is very strong).

Waitressing is nothing short of servitude: you dress in uniform required by the company, you groom yourself according to those same requirements (very strict in Las Vegas) and you try and please every customer that you have to wait on-even the rude and obnoxious ones. Because you have to-that’s your job. You could only take certain amount of time off from work without losing the job-again, that was dictated by the company.

Sex workers have much more flexibility with their “uniform” and make-up/hair/jewellery. They also can pick and choose their clients and take time off whenever they need to without jeopardising their job.
Yet one job is considered “respectful” and proper and the other carries a bad stigma.

Also, no one expected me to (or cared if I did or didn’t) “love” my job as a waitress-all they wanted was for me to do it well and deliver the service they were paying for.
No, I didn’t leap out of a bed every morning singing and dancing all a flatter overjoyed that I get to go wait on tables. But I was damn good at it.  I didn’t hate it, either-it was a job I chose to do because it paid well.
Often times, when I saw it appropriate I cracked borderline off-color jokes with male customers and did "accidental" boobie brush against them. I didn't hate it or despised myself for doing it-I did it in order to earn a better tip. And it worked!
Here’s just one the commendation letters I’ve received (I have over a dozen from different employers/establishments):

If I decide to do something, it is always of my own free will and I will try and be the best I can be at it. I don’t do anything “half-assed”.

 I always feel there is an element of the theater in any job and in service jobs more so than others. In sex work probably more than most.
Professionalism means consistently delivering top-notch service to each and every client-whatever it takes. This definition holds true for every job. One’s job performance should not depend on one’s mood, circumstances of one’s personal life or whether or not one loves the job on any given day (because we all have days when we hate our jobs). 
How many of you plastered the smile on your face and went on carrying an animated conversation with your boss/colleagues/important client when you really felt like crawling in bed and hiding under the blankets or simply just being elsewhere-shopping, fishing, car racing, punting ;).

So why is that WGs are been judged by how much they “love” the job? Isn’t it how they do the job is what’s important? Isn’t that’s what “service” is all about-delivering what’s promised/advertised while projecting a great attitude while doing it?

Sex work has been empowering and liberating for me. I chose to do it exclusively about three years ago. I did not want to work in hospitality anymore-I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t want to put up with long hours and limited choices and flexibility. 

I am sex positive. I am not degraded by sex. I am not a resource or property that can be devalued through use. I am not victim identified by any stretch of imagination. I am not hurt by such terms as “whore”, “hooker” or “prostitute”.
I am financially independent. I am self-employed. I have time and resources to express myself creatively in other fields-such as writing.

I can very much relay to the following quote from “Whores and other feminists” by J. Nagle:

“A woman who embodies the combination of power and femininity bears the brunt of the scorn with which powerful women are treated by mainstream society: where a man is assertive, a woman is aggressive, where a man is effective leader, a woman is pushy or nag; where a man speaks his mind, a woman is bitchy.

Because of the persistent belief that power is somehow inherently masculine, a woman who openly and proudly combines the traditional signifies of both femininity and power strongly challenges accepted gender roles”.

I could be very assertive at times, but at times I like to bury my face in my friend’s neck and be held-I am vulnerable.  I could be bossy and I could be soft and mellow. All the while I enjoy my femininity. I do not think there is a conflict-in fact, some people pay premium rates to experience the mixture of the two ;).

Sex industry has been great for me! I most definitely do not hate or dislike it and it is certainly not out of desperation that chose this line of work. I can “pay for everything”, I’ve started my own business, travelled, took men and women out, shopped till I dropped and walked away from hundreds of dollars because I had more important things to do with my time. 

Making money is a rush (as many successful wealthy men can attest to)! I’ll never forget a quote from “Ally McBeal” TV series. It was an exchange between two very successful male attorneys. One said “Watching my bank balance grow gives me a hard on”. I agree! 

Choosing not to make money is even more powerful. I chose to see some clients and I chose not to see others. I chose what sexual activities I am willing to engage in for pay and I chose what is not on the menu. I firmly stated my boundaries and I greatly respect those of others.

I reserve the right to pursue my goals openly and I refuse to eschew money and all that it can buy just so I can earn some merit badge of a “good hooker” devised by some men.  

I am damn good at what I do and I am proud to be financially rewarded for my work.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bi-doubles: easy money or hard work?

There is a school of thought (usually tooted about by men) that bi-double service is “easy money” for sex workers: higher charges for half the work.
I beg to differ.

First of all, not all WGs offer bi-doubles, which means it’s a service that’s not very easily attainable and these usually command higher premiums.

Secondly, bi-double service is actually twice as much work: a WG has to have sex with two people instead of one in the same amount of time AND orgasm usually takes longer to achieve for a client, as part of the booking spent visually stimulating him (vs. direct physical stimulation of his penis in one-on-one setting). 
This visual simulation takes place while two girls 69 each other, enter each other with their fingers and use strap-on on each other (meaning working hard while client is relaxing).

Thirdly, no matter how much WGs might enjoy sex with women in their real life, bi-double booking is very much a “show fuck” where providers engage in gratuitous sex displays for the benefit of the client whom generally gets the idea of girl-on-girl sex from various porn videos. These sex displays of lesbian lovemaking bears very little resemblance to what takes place in real life between two female lovers.

Women are very much emotional and tactile creatures: they love gentle caresses, cuddles, soft kisses and holding each other. Yes, sometimes we want our sex hard and fast, but even then it is usually one partner pleasing the other first and then switching the roles.

Hardly ever (never in my personal life experience) do two women go at it as portrayed in “Blue is the warmest colour” film (directed by a male, not surprisingly. Fun fact: both lead actresses refused to work with that particular director ever again, so probably no sequel is forthcoming...LOL...)

Bi-double booking usually involves a lot of penetration of each girl by both another girl and a punter (twice as much as regular booking if not more), lots of French kissing (again-twice the amount of a single booking, as there is an extra person doing the kissing) and a lot more activities, as client can avail himself to pussy eating girl#1 while being ridden cowgirl style by girl#2, not to mention having his balls sucked by girl#2 while screwing girl#1 in missionary position.

Considering all of the above, extra $50-$100 most girls charge for bi-doubles seems like small price to pay, indeed.

Disclaimer: bi-doubles described above are genuine services, performed by myself and some providers I personally know and work with. This is what bi-double service means and it should include most (if not all) acts described. I cannot speak for every provider and certainly do not condone scam artists who do not deliver services advertised.

On the subject of “real orgasms” in commercial setting

I am not saying it’s all fake. On the contrary, quite a few sex workers do achieve very real orgasms while with a client and getting paid.

However... Guys have to be realistic about this. Commercial sex first and foremost is a service-the one that commands pretty hefty fee. Certain expectations arise from that (and as well they should).

Different women orgasm differently. Yes, I am an expert-being a lesbian I have eaten more pussy than some punters.

Case in point.
Few years back I had a lover who could only orgasm from clitoral stimulation. And it had to be done in a very specific way: with her laying on her back, completely relaxed and me tending to her clit with the tip of my tongue in vertical lapping motions-like cat lapping at the saucer of milk. Not too hard but not too light, either.
She did not want any other touching/stimulation while this was taking place (like fingering, etc)-she said it distracted her and she couldn’t cum. She didn’t like any changing of tempo or style-no switching into sucking, licking, etc.  Just steady lapping at the same small area.   
It usually took about 20-25 min of my mustering in that manner for her to orgasm. She was always very, very quiet during all that time-she said she went into the “zone”. So no moaning or any body movements. 
She orgasmed really quietly as well-you couldn’t tell except her clit got quite large when she did and the taste in my mouth would be different (those who are skilled oral lovers know what I mean).
Immediately after orgasm her clit became hyper sensitive and she couldn’t bear any touching of it.
Normally it would take her quite a while to recover-she liked to just lay there and bask in the afterglow.
I loved it, as we would spend that time cuddling and holding each other.

Now imagine her attempting this in a commercial situation (she was never a sex worker, BTW): she would get scathing reviews branding her a “starfish”, lazy, a rubbish hooker. And rightly so! 
Who wants to pay hard earned cash to strain their neck for 20 min, licking until their tongue is numb while not be able to touch or play with any other  body parts without any visible (or audible) indication that their efforts are successful/appreciated. I sure as hell won’t and that’s a fact.
While it was fine for me in a personal relationship I would expect something entirely different in a commercial setting (when I am paying for it).

Other girls, while achieving orgasm in a fairly animated manner, don’t want their clit messed with after they did.
Others still require a very particular sequence of acts/foreplay to get there-and that sequence might not suit some clients or do not include certain acts that are expected from a Full Service commercial provider.

Let’s face it: reality is not what you are paying for. Many of you have plenty of reality at home and often times that’s exactly what you are trying to escape from.

So why don’t we all stick with a fantasy: a skilled worker will make you believe you are amazing lover while managing to include all elements  of sexual encounter you require/long for and make it look like it was everything she wanted as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

13 tips to cure Sex Worker Burnout Syndrome

These are from the book "Whores and other Feminists" edited by J.Nagle (available on Amazon Kindle).

This particular segment was written by Annie Sprinkle.
Great advice!

13 Tips to cure Sex Worker Burnout Syndrome (SWBS):

1. Admit that you are burned out. Our egos,as well as incomes, are invested in feeling good about our work. Often we are scared to acknowledge Burnout, especially to ourselves. Learn to recognise it, and see it as an opportunity to make positive changes in your life.

2.Take breaks and vacations from your work as a matter of course. With enough down time and replenishment, you may never even get crispy, let alone burned out.

3.Spend time in nature. Most sex businesses are housed in dark, windowless, closed environments, in busy neighborhoods in high stress cities. Being in nature is a perfect balance. I have found being out on a boat to be my favorite medicine, but city park will do. Get some sun, fresh air, hang out with trees, smell the flowers and roll around in the grass.

4.Spend some time alone, go inside yourself, stay quiet, so something very relaxing or meditative, even if it's just for a few minutes. Languorous, candlelit, aromatic baths do wonders. Add mineral salts and herbal extracts to your bath to help release toxins and relieve stress. Close your eyes, relax your mind, take some long, deep breaths and draw in life-force energy to gain psychic strength. You need it.

5. Be in touch with your feelings and express them often. repressed emotions alone can create major burnout. I remember a few times when I had bouts of SWBS, bursting into tears with clients while they were fucking me, and raging at a few clients or my bosses when they didn't really deserve it. Not good for business! You will attract a better clientele, and ultomately make more oney, if you are emotionally strong and clear. When you are alone, have little cry sessions, or "crygasms", whenever possible. "Angergasms" are also necessary and valuable. Beat or scream into a pillow for as long as you need to. Or, team up with a trusted partner and take turns giving each other nonjudgmental attention: relaxed touching, aware listening and encouragement from a clearheaded sex-worker friend or understanding ally can facilitate release and enhance the process.

6.Be aware of what colors you wear and live in during off hours. Because most of us make the most money wearing particular colors (generally red, black or white), on your off hours try to wear other colors. Also, if yo work in an environment that is particular color, try to have other colors at home. Almost everywhere I worked was red, gold and black, so I made my bedroom royal blue and emerald green with hot pink accents, and it had a great equalizing effect.

7.Get therapy. Time and again I've seen friends and colleagues with SWBS feel a lot better relatively quickly with one therapy session a week. Be sure to find a therapist who is sex positive and nonjudgmental or, best of all, who has been around the block herself. I strongly suggest a woman, as most clients are men. If you are financially strapped, call women's or community health ceters for free therapy. Lots of SWBS comes from repeating unconscious negative patterns created from childhood experiences, learned beliefs about cultural norms, and the like. Therapy can help put you in the driver's seat, as opposed to doing things unconsciously. You can be sure that sex work will bring up lots of personal issues such as money, sex, men, sexual orientation. What's unresolved is what you may continue to attract. Sex work can be a great teacher and healer, especially when coupled with therapy.

8.Have a good social net of peers with whom you can have sympathetic, loving, supportive communication. There is absolutely no better cure than this. Sharing your stories and feelings with people who have had similar experiences is absolutely magical. For eight years I was part of a support group consisting of 5 porn stars, which we called Club 90. For one full evening every 3 weeks, each of us took a turn to share aout our lives. it was tremendous help and source of strength for all of us

 9.Take good care of your body. Because our jobs involve our bodies, it is important to eat well, exercise and get body work. A good massage can do wonders for a worn-out whore or stripper. Again, it's best to have a session from a woman when possible. Less costly options are gardening, jogging, yoga classes, swimming or simply a long walk.

10.Get your mind (and body) off work. Indulge in your other interests and hobbies. Take a class or two. Go to a funny movie. Get a pet. Do something you've never done before. Go to a museum or carnival. Hang out with little kids or old folks. Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

11.Be willing to make less money. Decide what kinds of people you want to work with and be willing to let go of those that don't fit the bill. Develop your own style. Don't let the client determine the service. Rather, let him know what you offer. Practice saying "No". Clean out your little black book. Challenge yourself by periodiclly upgrading or expanding your business. You may in the short run seem to make less money, but taking care of your personal needs will give you longevity in the business and you'll surely come out ahead.

12.Create other sources of income. Look into other business or career opportunities, go to college or trade school, make an investment, start a sideline so that you won't feel financially trapped. This way, when you need a break from sex work, you'll have an alternative job.

13.If your SWBS is chronic, get the hell out of the business. Perhaps you are simply not cut out for it. it's not fulfilling your needs, or it's time for a change. Sometimes getting out of sex work can be difficult. You may need to leave gradually until you get your alternative sources of income in place. Or it might be best to go "cold turkey" and make radical changes all at once. In any case, you alone know what is the best for you, and have the power to make your life just the way you want it.

Who is who of punter forums

This blog post is not written by me-it is a copy and paste of a post from "Because i'm a whore blog" which I think is invaluable.

I feel it needed to be re-posted, as it is relevant and describes the situation very accurately.
I also found it mirrors sentiments of many other WGs:

Once upon time about back when local hookers were just beginning to utilise the internet for business, i met a Annie. She was a tech savvy sex worker with an established online identity who introduced me to a whole new world. She showed me around sex industry forums, review sites and advertising options. It was all new to me and i spent hours reading the various posts and reviews engrossed in this ‘client community’.
It felt like i was gaining some kind of inside knowledge about the industry, the workers and our clients. As i read the candid comments by the anonymous ‘punters’ as they refer to themselves, I felt like i was getting a true sense of what clients think, a real insight, a glimpse of our industry from their perspective. I was excited to see if anyone had reviewed me, so i searched my name, but i didnt find any mention. I began to check back regularly looking for my name but i was also curious to read what clients were thinking and saying.

Being the talkative and opinionated whore i am, i didnt last as a voyeur for long. I started joining in with some of the forum conversations, using my work name, keeping my comments sweet and fluffy and trying my best to stay endearing and in character. It wasnt always easy and plenty of times i had to bite my tongue (or sit on my hands as the case maybe) to stop myself getting into heated debate and risk turning potential clients off. I didnt always succeed.

It was only after i began to advertise occasionally online that i got my first review. When I saw my name  I felt almost famous. I read the post and breathed a sigh of relief that it was a positive review. Other clients had commented on the in response, all expressing their interest in seeing me as a result of this recommendation. I felt full of confidence and in demand. I had always had return business and good feedback from my clients in the past but for some reason this felt different, I read it over and over. I had no idea who it was that reviewed me, it could have been anyone and i started me wondering which of my bookings would result in the next review. I kept checking back at the forum to find out the latest gossip and see what they were saying about me. Out of curiosity I read the other workers reviews feeling envious of their outstanding reputations or sympathetic when it wasnt so good.

It wasnt long before i got my second review. It was another good one, followed by more comments from clients who were keen to see me. But reading this review didnt give the same thrill, actually it made me feel uncomfortable. It went into specific gory detail, giving a blow by blow account of his time with me and the service he received. It was almost like reading a tacky story from a picture mag and I couldnt help but cringe.
This time i knew which client had written the review because he described the passionate kisses and the extra 10 minutes that I gave him, which was not part of my standard service. That worried me too, I had clicked with this particular client but I didnt want everyone making appointments expecting the same type of service. I realised though, that i was lucky. It could have gone the other way. If he happened to rub me the wrong way, his service might have felt forced and rushed and I could have just as easily gotten a bad review. I thought about the workers who had received bad reviews and felt bad for them. It could happen to any of us, and if a good review has the power to triple my confidence i didnt want to know how it felt to be criticised and insulted in this space.

Sometimes I would read a review that frustrated me. I couldnt believe how indiscreet some clients could be. I would be blinking my eyes with disbelief while i read in detail, how a particular worker at a massage only establishment had offered sex, even though it was against the rules of the business. Or how another worker had offered oral without a condom for extra money even though that was not allowed at the brothel she worked at. These careless clients were so busy gloating about the extra services they got, they didnt seem to understand the potential ramifications for the workers. Apart from having to deal with every man and his dog showing up expecting the same type of extra service described, one of these “good” reviews could result in the worker loosing her job or being ostracised by the other workers.

After that second review, i started getting enquiries from people who made mention of the forum and my reviews. I felt popular and was thankful for the extra business. But every time a forum punter made a booking i felt anxious. Will this be my next reviewer? I began feeling like they were all writing their reviews in their head during the service. Im trying to be sexy as I strip my clothes off and they are judging my body and face, Im rubbing my naked body against them and they are busy scoring my massage, Im trying to be sensual while i go down on them and they are rating my blow job. I was imagining them all scoring each aspect of my looks and service out of 10. It made me self conscious and put me off. Ironically, if i thought they were a potential review writer, their service would suffer.

I still managed to get a couple more good reviews and for a while it seemed like i was the flavour of the month. I was the one to see. But it didnt last. Before long all the forum punter started looking for the next hot tip. The 5 or 6 regular reviewers had seen and written about me already and now all their posts were asking about new recommendations or talking about who new is good and where. And i was old news. Which is fine. I mean at first I was frustrated because I had been reviewed so well, I had done nothing wrong but they still seemed intent on moving on. But I didnt let it get to me, my business wasnt suffering, sure there had been a slight spike during the height of my forum sweetheart days, but it was still steady, no quieter than it had been before the positive reviews. I realised these forum punters were a bonus to my business and not our bread and butter.

A while later I came into contact with a worker who was fairly new to the industry and was incredibly concerned with what they were saying about her online. She, like me, had been the flavour of the month but her stint ended abruptly when she got a nasty scathing review. It really knocked her confidence. I begged her to stop reading, but she couldnt stop worrying about it, trying to figure out how to get back on the good side of the online forum punters. She was beating herself up trying to guess where she went wrong, what she didnt do right, or who was behind the bad review. It really got to her. In her desperation to please them all, she gave them all her power. She began thinking of herself as a failure which affected her business and the whole thing spiraled out of control.

I stopped visiting the forums and searching for my name among the reviews and I became less invested in the punters community. After reading about the situation for sex workers in Hong Kong and just how toxic these review sites can get, I decided they are not healthy for sex workers, and I made a point to avoid them.

I know for some sex workers, avoiding ‘client community’ and review websites is not always possible.  Im sure that for some workers, like those in Hong Kong mentioned in the article above, engaging in these forums is an essential part of their business plan. But for many more of us, its just not necessary. Most of the time, we dont need to hear it. Its not fair or balanced. we have no right of reply, and we dont even know who is behind those screen names! Sometimes its not even a genuine client. It could be our competition, a vengeful ex, or anyone with a grudge. It could be the online equivalent of those douchebags that get their kicks by visiting brothels for intros, just so they can reject all the workers there. We need to remind ourselves that most of our clients arent reading those forums. If we have repeat business, and we are happy with the service we provide its probably best to stay away.

And with that in mind, I invite our clients to consider how they use such forums. I completely understand why you would want to read reviews about a worker before you spent a large amount of money. I do the same with accommodation, with movies, with holidays and restaurants. And i guess i understand why you might want to write a review about your experience good or bad. I have wanted to share my inside knowledge about particular hotels  with other travelers, however, lets be clear, giving my breasts a score out of 10 is not providing inside knowledge. Its also not helpful because its subjective and your taste in breasts is not relevant. I understand that some people might write a review in order to warn others about their dissatisfaction with a service they received. But in the same way as you would if you were sent the wrong meal or over charged in a restaurant, you should give the worker the chance to resolve their mistake before you rush home to tell your murky mates. If you havent given them this option, perhaps dont vilify them online. Tastes and expectations of sex workers vary so much they may not even realise you were not happy.

Given there is probably limited opportunity for clients to share stories about their experiences with sex workers, I guess some people write reviews as an opportunity to debrief or vent. If thats the case why do you have to name the worker, list their contact details,  link to their website etc. And why is there such a tight community of outspoken regular posters on these forums? I cant imagine being as emotionally invested in as some of these posters are. Be careful that your online punter gang isnt being used to bully workers or to share information in order to prey on vulnerable workers … “I know she has been desperate to make money lately, if you threaten to walk i bet you could knock $50 off her price” (actual quote i saw not that long ago on a popular punter forum)

Just keep in mind when you are reading or writing reviews in these forums, they have the potential to not just effect our business but they can also seriously effect our self esteem.
And for those of us on the other end of the reviews, remember there is nothing to gain from hearing the boys club compare notes trying to outdo each other. It has been my (limited) experience that we are much better off focusing on the people who are paying us RIGHT NOW.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My impressions of Vietnam

As I’ve described in my last post, I was robbed in Vietnam. However, I didn’t like it to begin with, even before the robbery happened.

My very first impression wasn’t good: a taxi driver attempted to scam me. As soon as I exited airport’s sliding doors, I was approached by a guy who thrust some sort of license in my face and said “Taxi, taxi”.
I asked how much and he answered “Five hundred”. I have never been to Vietnam before and just exchanged $50US at the airport and didn’t know what rates are. I assumed “five hundred” means just that-five hundred dong
We got into his car (rather nice and clean SUV) and as he approached parking lot attendant’s gate, he asked me for the full amount-ostensibly because he needed to pay for parking.
It was then he clarified that he meant five hundred THOUSAND (Vietnamese Dong)-about $25US. I knew that couldn’t be right. I asked to be let out, which he did after backing from the gate.

I found taxi rank and the going rate from the airport to the city is $10US-so the first guy tried to charge me 2.5 times the fare!
The taxi dropped me off on the main street and pointed to the smaller, narrower street and said my hotel was there somewhere. He didn’t take me to the hotel’s entrance (I had to walk quite ways to find it), although that street was open for traffic and later taxi came right to the door to pick me up for the airport.

I travel a lot and have been to Asia (although not to Vietnam) on many occasions, so I know how to dress/act. While travelling to Asian countries, I deliberately look like a poor backpacker: I wear simple unadorned baggy shorts and T-shirts (definitely NOT tight-fitting, short or low cut), carry a cheap (Wall mart-type) handbag and wallet and my suitcase is bought at Warehouse (New Zealand’s version of Wall mart). I don’t wear any jewellery apart from cheap watch and bring with me a cheap phone to use while overseas.
I am aware of my surroundings and make a mental assessment of situations continually: areas I go to, hotels, restaurants, etc.

As I checked into my hotel in Saigon, I noted a number of people hanging around /behind the front desk and employee room located by the elevators –it had a glass wall and the door was always open so I could see and hear everything. There were at least 3 I can see (I later noted that at any given time there were 3-6, not counting the cleaners). All of those people seem to belong there-as in staff, management, owners (or maybe their friends/family).
When I inspected my room, I saw that locking mechanism (the code input pad in the front with buttons) on the safe also had a grove for master swipe card to open the safe-that meant that owners/managers (and whomever else got hold of that card) can open it any time in less than a second.
This did not instill any confidence in me as far as keeping my valuables in that room safe.

As I was unpacking and taking a shower, I heard the sound of alarm coming from a hallway. As it turned out later, the guy in the next room-American who was staying there for a while attending to his Vietnamese GF/child’s visa-installed a cheap alarm on his door. It was the kind that makes noise when the door (or window as case may be) opened and one has to turn it off manually.

That evening I have ventured out only for short time and didn’t go far-I was staying right by Ben Thanh market, so had a look around there. It’s alright: full of touristy-type merchandise (I have no interest in that) and some good food stalls.
However... Unlike Thailand, where stall keepers just say “Come have a look”, in Vietnam they actually touch you to get you to stop and if you did stop and looked at something (especially if you asked a price of something); they grab your hand and physically prevent you from moving on, attempting to get you to buy their stuff. I found that quite off putting.

They also start with extremely inflated (to a point of being ridiculous) prices. For instance, I asked the price of a small replica Prada bag (not of a particularly great quality, either-nothing like fantastic bags you find at Al Karama market in Dubai, or even those at Patpong market in Bangkok). I was shown (on a calculator) a price of 2 MILLION Dong-that’s about $100US!
I thanked the girl and started moving on-she ran after me and offered $25US. In Thailand in a similar situation they would start the bargaining at about $40-$45.

The next morning I went around Saigon to take on the sights. I found architecture unappealing: the city seems to be built on the cheap and somewhat in a hurry. It’s dusty, smoky and traffic is horrendous. 

Crossing the streets is a huge ordeal. Dozens of motorbikes and cars are coming at you at good clip from at least 2 directions (often 3 or 4, as some individual motorbikes are often drive against the traffic close to the curb).  It’s one solid wall of traffic and they don’t really obey/stop for traffic lights or zebra crossings. One has to duck in between to cross and streets in centre city are often 6 lanes wide.

While staff in Western-style shops and cafes like Starbucks, etc is friendly enough (probably because those are quite expensive in Vietnam and they want you to spend the $$), locals on the street and local shops do not look friendly at all. They eye you with a scowl mostly. After I was robbed (as I was running around replacing my passport and getting police report, visa, etc) I also noticed that many of them (not all, but fair number, men especially) eye your bag – in an assessment of value/possibility of theft presumably.

I have mixed feelings about services such as massage, nail and hair in Vietnam. Although prices are pretty good, it takes a while to get to the service part itself: there is a person on the street who gets you to come in, another person (who speaks at least some English) asks you what you are after, then yet another person gets you to sit and wait (and wait and wait), and finally the person who actually delivers the service appears (they often don’t speak any English).

They tend to do what they want to regardless of how clearly you’ve explained what you are actually after to the English speaking person.
For instance, although I chose a red nail polish for my toes and pointed my finger at the sample, my toes were polished orange colour (I am assuming because they ran out of the colour I have chosen). When I asked for acrylic nail fill (clearly advertised on salon’s front door), they persistently attempted to do my nails with gel.
 Also, it pays to make them spell out exact price, listing carefully everything you want done, as everything seems to be “extra” on the top of advertised and listed prices (like scrubbing the bottoms of your feet during the pedicure).
I always tip, but in Vietnam no matter how much you give them, they always ask for more, making the situation awkward.

I love street/market food in Asia. 

In Thailand vendors charge the same price whether you are a tourist or local –for instance, if they are selling their “stick of food” for 10Baht, it’s 10 Baht for everyone (granted the same exact stick of food in a different area-like Siam-could be 20Baht, but then, again, it will be 20Baht for everyone).
In Vietnam they try and gouge the prices for tourists if they can. You have to be very vigilant and bargain constantly-I find it tedious.

There isn’t much to do or see in Saigon, either. I remember walking by the river (quite polluted and not at all pretty or attractive) and thinking of what I could possibly do the next day and wishing I didn’t allocate that much time for this city.

Now, to the main issue: Vietnam and Saigon in particular is extremely unsafe. 

Personally, I have a certain “acceptable danger level” threshold while determining whether or not I want to see any particular country. When I travel for pleasure, I want to enjoy the experience. Travelling is my passion that I can finally indulge on after many years of hard work. As for most, money does not grow on trees for me. 

I have no desire to go to any country that is akin to a war zone where one has to strap all valuables to one’s body and plan every outing as a covert op, growing eyes on the back of one’s head and staying on high alert 24/7. That’s not a relaxing holiday

I normally enjoy day-time activities: sightseeing, shopping, spas, visiting Zoos and animal sanctuaries.
I don’t drink or smoke and never done any drugs (really) and was never a “party person”. I relish my early nights and usually am in bed by 10pm and asleep by 11-11:30pm (both at home and on trips).

I expect to enjoy my visits in easy, relaxing manner while exercising normal reasonable precautions: for instance, I would never leave my bag sitting on a chair/bench next to me-I always have it on my lap and in front of my body while walking.

Normally, while planning my travels, I do consult various friends and acquaintances that have been to the countries I am planning to visit and read various forums and blogs.

I’ve had email exchange with expat who runs food tour in Hoi An (which I booked) and not once did he bring up danger levels in Vietnam-he kept on about how “lovely” it is.

My GF visited Vietnam in March and recommended it to me. I’ve read up on it and talked to people and determined the “danger level” to be similar to that of Thailand where one is fine with some reasonable common sense precautions. Clearly, I was wrong.

My assessment now is that while visiting Vietnam, you have 50/50 chance of some unpleasantness happening to you.
Why, even the GF who talked me into going there admitted that her debit card was skimmed/hacked when she used a proper bank ATM machine there (NOT one of those no-name strange ones).

After posting about my robbery on my FB and Trip Advisor, I have learned that:

-A couple (husband and wife) were robbed TWICE on the same trip
-Girl’s hand was chopped off with machete for her Smartphone by a thief
-A gold chain was ripped from the guy’s neck while he was crossing the street with his wife
-Expat living in Vietnam was burglarised and thieves unscrewed his door to do so while neighbours didn’t even call the police
-A female tourist was dragged from a taxi and beaten in plain view of everyone for refusing to pay inflated fare while a dozen or so locals stood, watched and grinned
-A group of doctors staying in Vietnam on “Doctors without borders” program was burglarised in the hotel they were staying at (by hotel staff presumably) and police did not want to hear about it, never mind do anything about it.
-A businessman had a briefcase stolen from him while conducting a meeting in a restaurant of a very upscale hotel.

I wish I knew the extend of danger before I booked the trip. I would have never gone. It is way beyond my personal threshold of acceptable danger level.

Clearly, my opinion is just that-an opinion. Plenty of people would still want to visit Vietnam after reading this. But many might opt for someplace else where odds are more in their favour.