Saigon

At last I’m in Saigon. The city of 8 million people, 4 million small motor bikes and absolutely no trafic rules that I can ascertain.

Yesterday I flew Brisbane through Bangkok arriving late and tired. I had a good seat courtesy of my youngest daughter’s boyfriend who told me to phone the day before and book a preference. It worked. I had more leg room than the pilot.

Good flight, good food, indifferent movies.

Arrived at Bangkok at 22.30 and waited around the carousole for around thirty minutes until someone told me that being in transit I wasn’t going to see my baggage untill I got to Saigon. Clean clothes and shave pack were things for tomorrow.

Damn.

The lack of a fridge or coffee facilities in the room forced me to use Room Service and I gladly signed a chit for 450 baht. Not having noticed the conversion rate I didn’t have a clue what that meant in AUSD but next morning in the lift I noticed a Christmas Lunch for 400 baht. Visions of the coffee costing 50 or 60 bucks were unfounded as it eventually converted to $13.00

Ordered coffee next morning and thanked the waitress… ‘Cam On’. The girl looked blank and should have as I thanked her in Vietnamese! She gave me a quick reminder and I thanked her meaningfully, in her language.

I wished I could have stayed longer in Bangkok as it would have been a buzz to go to the Old Asia Hotel where I lived for 6 months during the Vietnam War. Maybe Tai was still behind the bar and Honest Sam may still be selling rubies. I brought my wife a ruby from Sam way back then for $90.00 for one carat which is now worth several thousand dollars. It would have been good to do it again. A fellow always needs some brownie points.

Ah, Thailand, where the woman are petite, pretty and all smiles and the fellows are…mmm…I don’t know..didn’t really notice.

A short flight to Vietnam sitting next to a young Vietnamese woman who has just finished two years in Switzerland preceeded by four years in Vietnamese Universities.

Her job hopes?

She is going to work in hospitality as all the young people with any sort of education can see the tourist dollar is coming.

Are your parents meeting you?

No, just my boyfriend. If I told my parents before hand I was coming they wouldn’t sleep until I got home.

Good story with the boyfriend being the winner. Love or hormones, it was sweet and she was so excited when the plane touched down.

Flying low over the city the Saigon River still snakes through the suburbs and the old aircraft bunkers protecting memories and old oil slicks at Ton Son Nhut are still there as if the Vietnamese are maintaining them. Small memorials to many brave deeds.

The last time I was there I wrote;

Tan Son Nhut airport still beggars description. Every cliché that ever was has been used by war correspondents to describe the chaos and order. The chaos apparent, the order witnessed by the lack of mid-air collisions. Then the busiest airport in the world, our arrival deposits us in an inferno of heat and fuming avgas produced by the tropics and uncountable aircraft. Not a system in sight but oh, the aircraft! F4-Phantom jets, Republic F-105,\nC123 Providers, RAAF Hercules and Caribou, Huey Choppers like a locust plague on the Nullabor Plains, Jet Ranger Choppers and small bubble choppers we later called the Flying Sperm (was there something on our minds?) Sky Cranes, “Dragon Fly? Chinooks and Push-Pull Cessna’s used as spotter aircraft. Military Inventory Overload! Get me to an Aussie base!

Not so this time. Nowhere as busy and instead of trying to kill us they were just checking our passports.

Tomorrow we, my son Stuart and I, are off to Vung Tau by ferry. Tonight might be the time for a beer at the Caravelle or some such other pub steeped in history.

Will post again from Vung Tau after I’ve visited the old battle grounds – the bars-and other sites a vet might like to see again. Long Tan, Nui Dat, Hoa Long, Lang Phouc Hai, Phouc Buu, The Horseshoe and all places inbetween.

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