Monday, 14 December 2015


9th Dec 2015 

As part of my 'Chrexit' plan this year I decided to revisit old, and perhaps some new, haunts in Vietnam. OK, I have come to realise that it is impossible to escape the mind numbing Jingle Bells and ghastly Rudolph the Pestilential Reindeer in virtually every reach of the planet (except North Korea, which is possibly the country's finest selling point), but at least in far flung places one stands a fighting chance of avoiding the worst excesses of the mandatory Festive drudgery. Of course, all countries of any faith or none (except North Korea) have cottoned on to the commercial benefits of the 'Christmas' message (ie buy buy buy) with department stores, hotels and streets decked out in fairy lights, Christmas trees, tinsel and bloody reindeer towing hideous Santas in sleighs over polystyrene snow, even those places in which the inhabitants have never experienced temperatures of less than 30˚ or have the slightest inkling of any religious connotation. Actually, one Chrimbo decoration which I found amusing, and therefore approved of, was in Japan where a department store had mounted a gigantic cross on a wall upon which was nailed Father Christmas. I thought that summed it all up rather neatly! Another version above. It must be catching on. Ho! Ho! Ho! indeed.

So, off to Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh City for a spot of lazing around in a warm climate with plenty of good bars, restaurants and the company of a few old and jolly mates. I expect it will be a period of very merry, and hopefully 'Christmas-lite', entertainment.

The train and underground to LHR terminal 4 was, surprisingly, on time with no 'we regret to announce' announcements. As such, and having given myself plenty of time (expecting the worst), I arrived particularly early and was somewhat disappointed not being able to have another good whinge about the useless British transport system. Of course not completely surprised to hear that the Vietnam Airlines flight 050 to Saigon was delayed. By how much? The board just said 'please wait'. "How long?" I asked the lack of information desk. "Don't know" was their helpful reply. As it happened it was only 2 hrs late (not bad by Vietnamese standards). The aircraft was one of the brand new Boeing 787 'Dreamliners', recent additions to Vietnam Airlines' fleet. Even so, travelling cattle class, I expected to be sandwiched in next to a fat, revolting, sweaty, smelly, snoring, farting, spitting, coughing, nose-picking creature with disgusting table manners and some form of contagious disease for the 12 hour flight (I optimistically hope noone may think that of me!). As it happened I was in the aisle seat of a row of three with an empty one beside me, so plenty of space and surprisingly ample leg room. A rather charming Welsh girl had the window. Quite comfortable in fact. The only downside on these flights can be, and normally is, yowling sprogs. There were a few and they make the most hideous racket. I believe a seperate, sound-proofed, compartment should be reserved for these little monsters (and their seemingly oblivious parents). Either that or they should be compulsorily drugged unconscious for the duration of the flight.

We arrived at SGN at 7.15am and remarkably quickly through immigration/customs. No forms to fill in and efficient, smart and polite Vietnamese officials. Why the hell can't our 'officials' make the slightest attempt to look smart? Also impressive was the lack of Christmas tat in a newly revamped arrivals hall. I remember a few years ago they had succumbed to  lots of artificial trees etc. with tacky life size dancing 'yo ho hoing' 'Santas'. Good taste seems to have prevailed. Things are looking up!

I am due to be staying as the guest of a generous ex-colleague, on leave at the moment, in a most comfortable apartment in the Phu Nhuan district, not too far from the airport. The taxi ride there was relatively quick despite the apparent increase of cars in the city (for which it wasn't designed) and I wasn't even ripped off...possibly because the driver knew that I knew where I was going and I managed to remember a bit of the lingo, something that always makes them a bit wary. Anyway, arrived and all pre-organised to let me into the apartment for, initially, a good kip. Things are definitely looking promising.

More posts to follow, of probably/hopefully not too dramatic content. I seem to remember posting many pics of Ho Chi Minh City and environs a few years ago (2012) and I don't suppose much has changed. We shall see........

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