Battle of Long Tan 1967
It was to be more than 2 years later I became a guest of the Republic of Vietnam for 359 days. December, 1969.
46 years on, with a fellow serving mate from that period, I returned for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. To pay our respects, possibly contemplate our own experience. To honour the dead; injured, both physically and psychologically. Both sides.
But that is not what this is about.
Brighten up, reader. This is a about a beautiful location – plus sex, ships in the night actually. An experience I relate below. It is for those who reside in Thailand, who have not visited Vietnam, and who may be a wondering what the country has to offer.
My old (younger, actually) cobber had organized all. A quality hotel in Saigon (HCMC) for the first night, thence to the city of Vung Tau the next day. This location (Phuoc Tuy Province) is not so distant from Saigon, major dual highway or a ferry (Mmm, once was enough). For those in the know don’t pick me up on distance, say 2 hours – bus available or taxi.
The plan was to return to Saigon for our last evening – same hotel – my friend to Oz, me back to Thailand.
We, departed Vung Tau late morning, coupla’ extras on board. Arrived at said hotel early ‘arvo and young (old) friend was going to ‘take it easy’ poolside. Not me. Wandering around, found a bar, Aussie. Could have been in most suburban/city places of Oz. Boring. I’m in Saigon for Chrissakes. Last evening.
Wandered off, entered a nearby bar happy to mind my own business. And that is what I got. Nice, well dressed ladies, friendly, but that was cool. No plan, just enjoy the ambience. Oh, omitted to mention, happy with Tiger beer, and very fair prices.
Okay, time to meander along. Recognised a bar I’d been in the first evening. I should say these places are very well set up, clean, smart. It was late afternoon and I was the sole patron (restaurant upstairs, apparently) and the bloke serving turned out to be the recently appointed new manager. He politely asked if he could practice his English with me. We had a very pleasant time. Air-conditioned but I was allowed to address my smoking habit.
Five o’clock approx. Time to depart, back to the hotel. Little did I know what was to happen a short distance down the road.
A corner. Turn left 150 metres, my accommodation for the night. But, on that corner was a large, flash, open fronted coffee shop, clearly favoured by the more well-heeled locals. At the ‘T’ intersection, right on the corner, a mobile trolley. Two ladies, sitting upon those squat backless plastic stools we are likely familiar with.
A spare stool was apparent and I was gestured to it by a smiling lady.
Why not. Not in a hurry to return ‘home’ yet. “Only If I can get a beer”, I said. “Sure” was the response. One was, I reckon, early 40’s, the other one 30 odd – very skinny the latter (and I am far from Hercules in stature) and she took off across the road and returned with a Tiger. The other ‘tiger’ ahum, came later.
We had a great chat and they soon joined me with a beer (or two……)
Thoroughly enjoyed their company, good craic. Then out of the blue.
You would like a lady? The skinny one had asked and put her hand up, but Nah. Keep in mind we’ve discussed ‘previous’ visit to Vietnam a million years ago, current harmony, great discussion. “Okay”, pissed, guard down, lady. Skinny, on ‘phone. Minutes, two young, nervous girls appear afore me. I said to Van, the older, no……. too young. “They okay for age”. No. “Too young for me”. Ten minutes, two more ‘older’. Nah, same same.
“Okay Van, what about you, please?”
Eyes agog. She was more than a bit surprised………
I’m old, working on dead, but still observant. She was not unattractive and I liked her manner
All the time there had been, two motor bike blokes left of me. No more than two metres (yeah, lots of ‘twos’).
No price discussed. Did not give a damn. I’d left Vung Tau with US$200 that morning and, now, was determined to go home broke. I was enjoying myself after all.
Moments later, after some brief discussion between Van and a motor bike friend, I was third in line quietly driving down some ‘soi’.
‘Same’ communist government as Laos – but not.
Discrete – – but not the same.
US$20 for private hotel from the old dear whom I may have ‘met’ some 47 years before. Not likely. Very clean spacious room, replete with toothbrush, towel et al. Two (again) hours allowed. Three parts of the time – phone call – motor bike rider wondering why so long – “okay” said Van – “I ring you!”
The bikey got his tip, Van got my last US$, about 105 bucks from memory. The change from the hotel included a 500,000 Dong note (about 23 bucks). I handed miss skinny, still sad ‘til then, the note and she squealed with delight.
I was walked ‘home’ to my hotel by the girls, hand-in-hand either side with a lament from Van that “we had not met earlier”.
Happy folk all round, no money. Simply a memorable experience………..
PS I still do not know what they sold from their trolley.
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