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Sunday, 15 April 2007

Saigon to Raffles, Singapore.Back to Vietnam

I now found myself without a residence visa. Or I would in a few weeks if I didn't take immediate action. Remembering what had happened to two of our Decca people who had overstayed their visas, quite unknowingly, and had been refused re-entry. There was also the case of Joe. On a return flight from Washington his plane had landed at Bien Hoa, an American military base about twenty miles from Saigon. All US civilian personnel, even those working for the US Government had to enter Vietnam via Tan Son Nhut with their tourist visas. On getting off the plane Joe was arrested. He was taken under police escort back to Saigon. He told me later he thinks they put pressure on him to get some money. On the other hand it could have been a trap and would have complicated the situation adding bribery to illegal entry. It was an absolute headache being harrassed by these Vietnamese officials. One wondered at times why one bothered to help them in their b..... war.
I settled up the twenty dollar fine I owed the Vietnamese government, not wanting to have any trouble leaving the country. On one occasion a customs inspector had asked for some money not to look in my suitcase. This would also be the last time I would leave Vietnam with ease. I was yet to encounter the problem of exit visas.
I went to Singapore for a week, with a side trip into Malaya. I was not overly impressed by the place, or I might just have been out of sorts. I paid one visit to Raffles for lunch. Perhaps it was living on past glory, I don't know. There were a bunch of Englishmen in a corner, with their gin and tonics, all wearing blazers. The last vestiges of empire. I'm quite happy to play the last Englishman when I'm the only one in a town but I find a group rather nauseating. It rather reminded me of an old Etonian I had known. A very decent fellow, an ex major in the Scots Guards who'd served with the special forces during the Second World War and captured a German general on Crete. He then wrote a book about it. I'd known him in the Bahamas and then seen him for the last time in Jamaica. He'd borrowed somebody else's wife. The director of our local newspaper who then married a girl I rather liked. On searching for his ancestors this director found he was descended from one of two idiot sons around the begining of the nineteenth century.I think he stopped looking further. Anyway to get back to the Old Etonian. Very charming, but had taken to drink and had become what I call 'A fallen Etonian'. Much the best kind. I took his girlfriend to Montego Bay on business where I think she bounced some cheques paying for everything. A couple of days later we got lost at sunset in the Cockpit Country driving back to Kingston. Very dodgy. It reminded me of my sister a week or two earlier taking a ring of stones for a Voodoo circle when it was the boundary of a cricket pitch. We survived
Anyway I obtained a three month visa for Vietnam and flew back.

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