We asked the cab driver (via an English speaking concierge in the Vina Hotel where we stayed) to take us to Thuan An, the nearest beach; a popular spot for local families filled with beach club/ restaurants. Naturally, we pulled into one where the cab driver liked to wait and drink tea with his cabbie friends. Not to worry, I don’t imagine there was a huge variation between the row of restaurants offering shaded bamboo platforms with grass mats available for rent by the hour. Being a summer Sunday, the waves were full of people. None but us were non-Asian, likely most were local.
We swam in our clothes in Vietnam. While we were staying in Hue, we made an afternoon trip to swim in the South China Sea. We’ve been collecting them: bodies of water we’ve been in. Sort of in the way tourists sometimes sightsee to check things off a list. Only wetter.
Not one female over 12 years old was wearing a bathing suit that showed hips or cleavage. Almost every woman and girl was actually covered with t-shirts and shorts, even if we could tell they had swimsuits on underneath. The few swimsuits we saw looked like those we’ve seen in movies about the 40s and 50s. Certainly nothing like beaches on the Mediterranean or Adriatic, where topless is a norm and we’d happened across the occasional nude. (Not a local custom we embraced, ourselves, nor were they typically bodies anyone would prefer to see in that state…)
We knew that the more rural areas of Vietnam are more modest than in the cities, and Vietnamese women may wear sheer clothing, but will not reveal much bare skin. Now we know that is true even in the water. So, the girls and I sat and debated. We opted to follow the local custom and took to the water without taking off our shorts and tank tops, even if it meant an afternoon in wet denim that would stick to us the rest of the day.