Vietnamese society seems to be sexually conservative at a glance, but one cannot truly suppress human needs and desires. Café Om literally translates to Café Hugs, where coffee and drinks (albeit a very limited selection) are offered as fronts to massage parlours. These coffee shop/massage parlours cater mainly to Vietnamese men and it is generally understood that manual sexual stimulation is included in the ticket price which typically ranges between $5-$7 depending on the facilities. What exactly is offered and the subtlety at which it is offered varies from place to place and waitress to waitress.
There are obvious signs as to the nature of the place when one walks into a Café Om. The blue and white beaded curtains are common, but it is the sexy posters on the wall and tables and the red or hot pink fluorescent lights that differentiates them from normal cafés. Before a client even sits, a drink is offered or a massage if the hostess is bold enough. The client is then led into a cubicle separated by cloth curtains hung on wires and a few half-hearted attempts at (painfully) slapping the back is made before the intent becomes clear.
There is a life outside of massages and coffee. Some live together at the shop while others spend their spare time visiting family or living their own life. This is a series on the day to day living in such coffee shops. Like Capitalism, these shops run contrary to official policy, but are tolerated to an extent. They have their own unique place in Vietnamese culture.
Funding provided by the Canada Council for the Arts and shot with a Nikon D3s with thanks from the Eddie Adams Workshop and Nikon USA.