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Monday, 23 April 2007

Strange people in Vientiane. Laos

I don't know if my memory is at fault but the town seems to have been full of Americans wearing short sleeved white shirts with black ties.
There were a few Englishmen. One working for the local airline told how an American pilot had crashed his DC3 into a hill, when having lost one engine he turned his plane into the wing with the broken down engine and lost control of it. The Englishman's alchohol level was such that I didn't much like the idea of flying with him either. I met a couple of pilots from the Hampshire Regiment up from Singapore. God only knows what they were doing in Laos. The regiment had been in the Bahamas when I was there. I didn't know British infantry regiments had their own pilots.
I found a good bar to hang out in but didn't make any friends. People didn't like being asked questions. At the US cultural centre I met an American who was utterly charming. One of those rare New Englanders of an older generation. Himself very cultivated and with a vast knowledge of the country. Unfortunately there were very few of his calibre in the whole of the far east.
I spent some evenings at a place called The White Rose where the girls took off their clothes and sat on your lap for a dollar. They were mostly Thai who had crossed over the border. In fact I was not overly interested in them and only went out of curiosity. I had left my wilder days behind me.
I needed a visa to get back to Vietnam. For this the Vietnamese said I had to get a letter showing I was of good moral character from the British Embassy. I went to see the British consul. He didn't know me and said anyway they didn't believe in the necessity of this letter so wouldn't give me one. Discussing it with the owner of my hotel he gave me the name of someone at the French Embassy. This Laotian who owned the hotel was a marvellous chap. He knew everybody and everything. The hotel was small and not very luxurious but the most interesting and odd types stayed there. I wanted to avoid what had happened to some fellow who had left Laos by boat to go to Thailand. He crossed the river but had no visa to enter Thailand so couldn't get off. He went back to Laos but they wouldn't let him back in. He spent weeks on this boat going back and forth. I never did know what the end of this story was.

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