Shave, Haircut and a Ear Cleaning in Vietnam – More Than I Bargained For
I was starting to look a bit shaggy while I was visiting Hoi An, Vietnam so I struck out in search of a place to get a shave and haircut. A few blocks away from the waterfront I came upon a rather ordinary looking barber shop. The owner seemed friendly enough so I climbed into the chair and described what I thought I wanted with hand gestures. He seemed to understand and began clipping. It was an old fashioned scissor and comb thing and when he was finished I looked pretty good if I may say so myself.
He then pulled out a long handled straight razor and a fresh disposable blade. There is something luxurious and, in a way, thrilling to have a straight razor drawn across your vulnerable face and throat. The warm lather, the scraping sound of the blade and the tug on the skin as the whiskers are cut away is almost primal. He worked slowly but methodically in a very measured and practiced way. When my face and neck was clean he shaved the fine hairs on my forehead just below my scalp line. I have never really thought to shave anywhere so high on my face before but… okay. Then he takes the razor and begins shaving away the fine hairs on my ears. This is all very complete and unusual to me but… okay, when in Vietnam, I guess. Then he takes the blade and begins cutting the hair on the INSIDE OF MY EARS AND NOSE! My adrenaline level not to mention my flight instinct raises a little. Eventually, when there is not a stray hair anywhere on my face, he deftly unfastens the top button of my shirt, pulls the back open and begins whisking the razor across my shoulders and upper back. Whew! I asked for a shave and I certainly got one. He then claps me on the back, removes the towels that he had placed on my shoulders and I, thinking everything was finished, began to get up.
My waves me back down and takes what looks like a very complete set of dental tools wrapped in a cloth pouch off of a shelf. He straps on what looks like a miner’s headlamp and begins looking into my ears. He reaches into the pouch and grabs what looks like a tiny trowel on a very long metal rod and begins scraping the dark recesses of my ear canal. At this point inwardly alarm bells are going off but I resisted the urge to flee and resigned myself to whatever fate this simple shave and a haircut had in store. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant but I couldn’t help tightening my jaw muscles and flexing my ankles while he scraped and cleaned what at times felt deep enough to be cleaning the opposite ear. When all was looking good in there, by whatever standard he used, he took what looked like a tiny Chimney Sweep’s brush, dipped it in liquid and began twisting it inside my ears. By this time I was subdued and just laid there eyes closed and wished for everything to be finished.
I opened my eyes just in time to see him pick up what appeared to be a bottle of homemade eye drops and without time to protest he put two drops into each eye. Am I going to go blind!? He then gets a tiny swab and begins swiping the corners of my eyes. Finally, FINALLY he smiles and indicates he is finished. I get up very quickly in case he remembers something he has forgotten to clean and I pay him his fee; about two US dollars.
I walked away feeling a little dazed. That was indeed the most complete haircut I had ever had, my face was smooth and I think I was seeing and hearing things a little clearer as well. I’m not totally sure and maybe this is a latent masochistic tendency in me but maybe this could become a habit.