HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- To most Westerners, the idea of paying someone to stick little scoops and tweezers into their ears is downright unnerving. To Vietnamese, it's an art.
Though the procedure may sound like torture, men line up day in and day out to experience this unorthodox probing. It's part of the country's pampering culture and is offered in corner barbershops, the oases where Vietnamese while away hot afternoons with luxurious shampoos, relaxing shaves and facials. But it's the picking that elicits moans of ecstasy.
Many returning Vietnamese-Americans head straight to these barbershops, or "hot tocs," after disembarking from long United and EVA Air flights at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.