October 28, 1961 – Vietnam

Caravelle Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam – Clear and rain

      I woke up feeling refreshed and rested this morning although Edith didn’t.  She seemed to have trouble getting comfortable sleeping with her cast on and she woke up several times during the night.  After packing my things up and helping Edith pack up her suitcase we joined our tour group for breakfast.  Once our meal was done we were to do some touring before leaving in the afternoon for Thailand (previously called Siam).

     At breakfast Edith reminded me that I had been invited to go to the home of a Lieutenant I’d met on the airplane at the start of my tour.  He had been so kind as to give me his card and invite me to come to his home to meet his family.  I regretted that I wouldn’t get a chance to see him again because it would have been fun to visit with him. 

      Our bus loaded up to leave on our morning tour and I felt sorry for Edith because she felt miserable.  I was glad for her sake that we weren’t going to be doing much touring today.  Our exploration of the city took us to see various historical buildings, various temples and gave us a good perspective of the area.  It was interesting to compare this culture with what we had seen in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.  At one stop we happened on a Palanquin funeral procession that had a lot of pomp and circumstance to it so I was glad we were able to stop and watch it for awhile.  The Palanquin was very colorful and I wondered who the funeral was for but I knew he or she had to have been someone of substance.  While some of the people were dressed up many weren’t. 

River in Saigon

Temple in Saigon

Temple Grounds in Saigon

Temple Mosaic in Saigon

Another View of the Temple Mosaic in Saigon

Palanguin Funeral Procession

Another View of the Palanguin Funeral Procession

Third View of Palanguin Funeral Procession

      On the way to the airport several of us wanted to stop at a store to do a little shopping and get stamps.  A few people went to a liquor store but those who purchased some said they found alcohol products were very expensive.  I bought some stamps so I could mail the letters I had waiting to send out while I was still in Saigon.  I really wanted Patrick to have stamps from Viet Nam along with the ones I’d gotten him from the other countries. 

Saigon Market Place

Another View of Market Place

      We didn’t have a long wait at the airport before we boarded our Thai-Royal Orchid Air Service plane to travel to Bangkok.  During our comfortable flight the stewardess made her way down the aisle handing out orchid corsages to each woman and they were so beautiful.  The stewardesses were dressed in orchid colored uniforms consistent with the name of their airlines and each one treated us very well on the whole trip. 

      I was seated next a Mr. Ishida of Tokyo who worked for a company called Electric Power Development, LTD.  After we introduced ourselves we visited for awhile and I learned quite a bit.  Initially he told me that earlier he had been in Washington, D.C. for two years to negotiate a loan for his government.  When I inquired about the war he explained that Red China currently surrounds Saigon and due to the existing conflict the borders in and out of Cambodia had been closed to traffic.  I explained we were getting into Bangkok a day earlier than planned just because of that reason.  He said he regretted that we wouldn’t be able to see Cambodia because there were some wonderful things to see there.

      From my window seat I could see a little of the countryside and the pilot pointed out we were flying over the Mekong River district where there had been floods over the previous week.  Mr. Ishida added that our plane had to fly out over the South China Sea to avoid crossing over Cambodia because we weren’t supposed to enter their air space.  It made me wonder what would happen if a plane did make that mistake.

     While we waited at the airport for our bags I had time to admire how it was decorated in silver and turquoise blue.  I really liked the color combination.  Once we had our luggage and passed through customs we made our way to the bus.  Driving through the streets of Bangkok I found everything looked new and clean with the color of the buildings predominately in pastel shades.  Our guide for this portion of the tour was Mr. Herdsman who told us that the city was so spread out that no one could really tell where the center was.  He also mentioned to us that the metropolis had a population of one and a half million people.

      Our destination, the Royal Hotel, was very nice but old.  At check in I was given three letters from home and it pleased me a lot.  One letter was from Harry White and the other two from Ramona.  Once we got into our room Edith and I only unpacked a few things before lying down on our respective beds to take a nap.  I didn’t even read my letters.  Before I knew it I heard Bob knocking on our door to remind us it was almost time to meet in the lobby for dinner.  I helped Edith change and I made sure she looked extra special nice because today was her birthday and tonight was a celebration for her.  She didn’t know that the dinner tonight was a surprise party for her set up by Mr. Herdsman. 

      The bus took us to the Caravan Hotel for our dinner celebration.  The hotel was quite grand and what we could see of the grounds was covered with elaborate beautiful fountains.  Our meal turned out to be close to gourmet quality and we all devoured everything they brought us.  While we ate singers entertained us by playing American style music.  After eating we were treated to a floor show with Siamese dancers whose costumes had heavy jewels and were more beautiful than the Bali or Java dancers we’d seen.  Although their costumes were different the dancing seemed very much the same. 

      Once the dancing was over Edith started to get up but no one else did so she sat down.  Once she was seated again the waiters brought in a huge decorated cake with candles and placed it on a table on the stage.  Bob called Edith to join him up on the stage.  After she was up there Bob introduced her to everyone eating in the dining room and then announced we were going to celebrate her birthday.  She was surprisingly shy when it came time for her to speak before cutting the cake.  Everyone gave her a big hand and sang “happy birthday” to her when she tried to blow out the candles on the cake.  Edith had a big smile on her face and I was glad the celebration had cheered her up because she’d been depressed a since getting hurt.   In fact she seemed happier than I’d seen her in several days.

      After dinner we returned to our room for the night.  I helped Edith take a bath and then I soaked in the tub for a long time.  When I’d finished my bath I noticed that Edith had already fallen asleep so I was able to lie in bed and quietly read and reread my letters from home.  It was good to read the general happenings from home again.  Ramona was good about writing nice long letters with lots of details.  Reading her words made me relax and not be quite so homesick tonight.

      Having finished reading I had no trouble in going to sleep.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patrick S Poplin
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 02:11:35

    How strange it is to read of and see pictures of Viet Nam in a time before the war went into full swing. I have to wonder if the places she mentioned and photographed are still in existence. What would she have thought if she saw Viet Nam just 5 years later? What would she have thought if she saw it today? As far as the stamps, I don’t remember them. They are probably in Dad’s collection. I still have, however, coins she saved for me. I put them all in a coin collector’s book. A lasting memory of Grandma.


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