||VAWN HIMMELSBACH, Chic Savvy Travels
After a few months of backpacking through Southeast Asia — and a few years left to go — I had reached the point where I desperately needed a haircut.
My long-time hairdresser had given me some pointers before I left on my trip, and I even purchased a pair of professional hair-cutting scissors that I brought along with me to Asia. But I was nervous about the prospect of cutting into my own hair, so instead I wandered the streets of Saigon looking for a salon.
Photo Credit: iStock
My first mistake: I didn’t ask around or do any research. I just walked into the first place I found with a “saloon” sign over the door. My second mistake: Not bothering to find out if anybody understood English, and not bringing along a phrase book where I could at least attempt to explain what I wanted in Vietnamese.
Once I sat down, every woman in the “saloon” — whether hairdresser or hairdressee — wandered over to examine my pixie cut, lifting up the strategically cut layers, shaking their heads and making a lot of “tsk, tsk” sounds. Despite the language barrier, I knew they were appalled that someone would cut my hair so unevenly, in all these different layers.
Half an hour later, I walked out with my short hair cut all one length, styled with a healthy dollop of mousse and blow-dried into a helmet-like structure on my head. The mousse, however, didn’t stand a chance against the heat and humidity of Saigon. Within five minutes, my fine strands had gone limp, falling into a perfect bowl shape around my head.
Mortified, I scurried back to my guesthouse, dug those scissors out of my backpack and started hacking layers into my hair — and I did so for the next three years.
This is not to say you can’t get a decent haircut while you’re backpacking. Here’s how to avoid disaster:
• Ask around for recommendations, rather than just randomly walking into a salon.
• If you can, find a hairdresser who speaks your language, learn enough of the local language to express yourself or bring along a phrase book (or language translation app on your smartphone). Don’t rely on gestures, which can be misinterpreted. Or, have a local at your guesthouse or hotel translate for you (even over the phone or in a text message). Be as specific as you can.
• Find an ex-pat or backpacker with hairdressing experience who is willing to cut hair for extra cash. Check notice boards at hostels and guesthouses; travel-related chat forums are also a good bet.
• If you find yourself in a situation where five hairdressers are simultaneously razoring off your hair (this happened to a blonde-haired friend of mine working in China), don’t be afraid to politely stop the procedure.
• If you have a short, layered cut, you may want to attempt cutting it yourself (since the layers don’t have to be even). If you have long, straight hair, you may be able to convince a fellow backpacker to trim the ends in a straight line. For best results, purchase professional hair-cutting scissors prior to your trip and bring them with you — don’t use cheap, crappy nail scissors you bought on the road.
• Remember, hair will grow back. Sure, I may have shed a few tears over that bowl cut, but — years later — it’s one of my favourite memories of Saigon.
Copyright @ 2012 Chic Savvy Travels
Date Added: August 13, 2012 | Comments (1)
That”s pretty funny how you went back and starting hacking layers into your hair, sounds like something i would do if i didn’t like my new haircut.. i also just walk into somewhere that says salon. thanks for the advice, will be sure to research different places from now on.
Comment by Beth Campbell — August 14, 2012 @ 8:58 pm