If I had to draw my sphere of personal space it would be about this big. It gets smaller when I step into an elevator and everybody shrinks a bit, bigger when there is more space around me. Its smaller around girls than guys. I need to know someone before I’ll push through their personal space and touch them. Conversations can cut through personal space too and there are some things you don’t tend to ask in the first 3 minutes of meeting someone.
I think thats pretty normal for Australia, however these are all perceptions and your space is only as much as people give you. Anything smaller than your little sphere feels a bit awkward. Men in Vietnam have a different perception of personal space. It can get a little awkward.
Now, I should clarify here that I’m basing opinions on the people I meet. By the nature of bike touring I’m meeting a lot of people in roadside drink stalls and alike. Also, because you can buy half a litre of 30% homebrew booze for under a dollar, I’m probably meeting more drunk people than normal. If I met the equivalent people in Aus that have the time of day to sit around road side drink stalls I may well think the same about us.
Anyway. I can see some novelty in that I have hairy arms and Vietnamese are hairless. I start to worry when he slides right up next to me and starts stroking my arm, its beyond my comfort zone. Oh look, hair on my chest. I’m looking for an exit when he starts diving his hand down my shirt because I’ve learnt from experience what comes next. I normally give a decent slap across the arm as soon as they start trying to dive down my pants.
But by then the seed is sewn. He’s now got my willy on his mind and wants to touch it. Normally its the subtle, pretend you’re distracted elsewhere, then BAM. In for the grope.
Last night I ended up with a choice of staying in a roadside camp with five workmen or riding another 45km in the dark and rain. I didn’t have much choice really. After the first formalities of getting to know you, these guys wanted to move on to getting to know you. They had a new technique, it was the barter method. You show me yours, I’ll show you mine. This was followed by an apology for an attempted grope of ‘do you want to feel mine’. I got scared every time someone moved all night long.
Call me prude.
At this point my generic new friends in a drink stop somewhere, still thinking of my penis,
realise that it has uses against women too. Their attention turns to the unfortunate lady working the stall or to somebody’s nearby daughter and they start suggesting things I should do to her. I used to humour them and tell them no politely. Now I pay for my drinks and leave.
I don’t fully understand attitudes towards sex in Vietnam and how liberated they are.
However after two nights staying in places along highway 1 that offered massage, had
trucks parked in the car park and charged 200,000 VND a night (about 10 bucks) I made
a decision to change my hotel vito criteria. Previously if they had two out of three of bed sheets, a window and hot water they were fine.
But when I thought about it, the common factor between all the crap hotels is 200 a night. Any less is functional but basic. Any more is spacious clean and nice. But 200 is the price you charge when you know your hotel is worth half that but you’ll try your luck anyway.
So the night after my resolution I find a hotel that doesn’t offer massage but it costs 300. As i turn away the price drops to 250 then 200. my resolution never said that 300 a night hotels for 200 were out so I had a look and the place was funky so I took a room. An hour later there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find a girl with a short dress and expectant eyes.
I turned her away. When I saw the hotelier later he looked disappointed but when I
came back in he was enthused again and asked If I go to sleep now or want boom boom.
Maybe this is all just preparation for getting to Thailand.