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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Memories of Vietnam: part 5


Getting organised in Saigon: July August 1965

I spent the next few weeks getting organised.

The U.S. dollar was still being used alongside the Vietnamese piastre. Funny, there used to be piastres in Cyprus when I was there in the army at the time of the E.O.K.A. business.

One was introduced to the helpful services of the Indian money changers. They were also in the "rag trade». One visited the PX that haven (or was it heaven) of capitalism. One noted the black market in Le Loi street full of goods stolen from the PX.

Hotel accommodation was a problem. I was lodged in a place of very dubious reputation although the top floor bar with its ‘bar girls’ was a most novel experience. Later I would stay in the Hôtel Majestique which became my favourite. Ghastly food but such refined service and "please, no girls in the bedrooms". I would discover the Hôtel Continental and its terrace (more on that later).
I did night shift on the monitoring service in our H.Q. at TSN during this time to leave the days free to do the mountains of paperwork necessary to function.

When going to Tan Son Nhut one asked for the"Porte militaire", paid 20 piastres for a 17 piastre journey and said keep the change. A few years later it cost over 300 piastres and one haggled fiercely.

The first night I got lost on the unlit airfield and found myself in a very black Vietnamese helicopter park. Each "chopper" was guarded by a doberman or alsatian. I bumped into two US Airforce officers with drawn pistols, equally lost, and decided I needed one too.

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