I'm Just a Guy Trying to Buy Maxi Pads in a Remote Northern Vietnam Village

My female friend Lo who I was traveling had her period while we were in the incredible area of Tả Phìn, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam. Don’t be grossed out. At this very moment, approximately 334 million women are on their period, according to one Quora user. Credit: Quora

We had just gone hiking for a number of hours in Tả Phìn, crossing rivers and going up steep inclines. I had just gotten done with about 6 weeks in NZ and AUS, and had done a fair amount of hiking, so I was a bit more prepared to continue on. She did extremely well, though by the end we both knew she needed some rest. 

The only problem was that she needed to go into town to buy some maxi pads. So, being the noble gentleman that I have the capacity to be, I offered to walk to town and grab some.  I was feeling spry and wanted to catch the sunset anyway, so I set out to accomplish my mission: Get Maxi Pads. 

What I hadn’t thought through was the fact that I had no internet whatsoever (Vietnam isn’t part of T-Mobile’s international coverage plan), and there was no wifi close by that I knew of. So I decided to wing it. 

I got sidetracked by some pretty incredible scenery along the way:


Then I resumed my search, which I've detailed below. 

Shop 1:

My first try turned out to be a miserable failure in communication. I just had no idea how to say menstrual cycle or maxi pad (maybe I should've tried saying maxi pad?). 

I couldn't just start grabbing my chest to try and say I'm talking about people with boobs here. In the same vein of thought, I couldn't just grab or point at my crotch. That could've resulted in:

1) Someone trying to betroth me
2) Someone taking me to a village brothel (I'm pretty sure there weren't any there)
3) Me getting my ass kicked
4) Getting laughed at as the new foreign idiot in town

I'm usually adept at accomplishing number four without grabbing my crotch.

Shop 2:

My second try was also a failure, but I gained an ally. One of the  Red Dao tribe ladies who try to sell foreigners souvenirs was talking to me in English and trying to help. Undoubtedly she was going to pitch me in the end, but I just didn't have any need for the awesome stuff they make. Here's a picture of Lo wearing the full regalia:

Red Dao Lo


I would try and say I needed something "just for girls" and they would grab a bag of Cheetos or the Vietnamese equivalent. This went on for a while when my new Red Dao friend just said: "you look around and see if you find." 

Shop 3:

It was at shop 3 where I was successful. It started off the same: huge abysses of misunderstandings and bags of potato chips being offered. I really didn't think potato chips would help with a period, so I pressed on. Then I saw it. 

Toilet paper. 

I grabbed some rolls and emphatically stated "for woman, for girl!" 

After saying "for woman, for girl!" a few times a sudden light seemed to shine in their eyes, the light of understanding and confusion. The understanding of what I was asking, and the confusion over why I was asking for it. 

The shop lady walked over to the Menstrua-Shelf, and pointed to the most expensive item there as if to say, "is this what you are looking for and please buy this one with the carrying case if it is." I nodded ecstatically but refused the Gucci-looking-maxi-package, opting instead for a simple box of good old fashioned maxi pads. 

I'd never been so happy to buy a box of maxi pads. Plus, I got to negotiate the price. I love Vietnam. 

So there you go dudes. Point to some toilet paper and say "for woman, for girl!"  and it just might work for you too if you need to do the same. Oh, wait, are you too "manly" to buy maxi pads? 

You can't use that weak shit as an excuse for your outdated misogynistic fears. Go out and give it a try.