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Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Adieu to Phan Thiet: Vietnam

Back to Saigon again. When I landed at Tan Son Nhut there was not a soul to be seen. A deathly silence hung over everything. I wandered around till I found a bunker and on entering found it full of people. Nobody seemed to know what was happening except that there was some kind of alert.
After the all clear I went to the office. The new manager told me to spend the night in town and then go to Van Kiep. His manner of talking irritated me, very uncouth, and I refused. I had no desire to go back there. Too many memories and any way I needed to sort my own life out. A new offensive had been launched against Saigon, mostly in Cholon, and the city was in some turmoil but nothing like the previous time. Its amazing really how life can seem quite normal in one part of the town and a few streets away there is fighting going on.
I saw PB and decided I needed a house or apartment in Saigon as a base. Not easily done as there was still an acute accomodation problem. An occidental would take up the same space as a Vietnamese family of ten. Privacy was always a problem. There was an acute overcrowding because of the war and the refugees, but in Asia people were accustomed to living one on the top of the other whilst we weren't. I eventually found a small house, newly decorated, very clean and bright, that would later become my home for the next few years.
I had been summoned to see a judge over this business of my confiscated weapons. The Vietnamese were using a variation of the French system of having one of the judges of the Tribunal investigate the case. The French investigating magistrates of course do not sit in judgment when the case is heard. A very charming fellow. Shook my hand, which I found very civilised. We had a long conversation in French. He told me not to worry, which I hadn't been doing anyway and said I would be summoned again later to appear before the court. I treated the whole affair as though it were a parking ticket.

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