Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lost and Found in Vietnam, Chapter 3

Here is Chapter 3 of Lost and Found (work in process)

Chapter 3

How did three Americans find themselves living in southern Vietnam? (Not South Vietnam, that hasn’t existed since 1975 and the Communist victory in the civil war between the North and South. That’s how the Vietnamese in the South here referred to it. In the North, it is seen as the reunification of their divided country. A country divided by the western imperialists, first the French and then the Americans.)

A divorce catapulted me out of my simple upper middleclass American life. One day my wife came to me and said that she’s happy but she wants to be super happy. Could you find another place to live Sal?

I’d worked in the financial industry and had enough money put away so that in my mid-50’s I could take off and have a really good mid-life crisis. (50 being the new 40.)  If this were THE mid-50’s instead of MY mid-50’s I’d probably consider that my life was over. But it’s not. And I decided to start a new one.

So after putting my affairs in order, which meant quitting my job, talking to my daughters (who fortunately for me were in college), and hiring a divorce lawyer, I booked a flight to Thailand and began Sal’s life, part two.

After a few days in Bangkok checking out the Temples (I got conned out of $20 by a monk), two hour massages, and eating street food to my hearts content, I caught a train to Ko Phangan, a quiet island where the beaches were clear, clean, and mostly empty. The only interesting thing I did there was to try a mushroom tea that promised a hallucinogenic experience. It was mildly reminiscent of an LSD trip way back in my own college days and did a good  
job of scaring the shit out of me. I did like the fact that it did make time seem unreal, as did LSD years ago.

I quickly grew bored in Thailand and determined that sitting in the sand all day was no way to have a good psychological adjustment. I needed something more exciting. I wanted something to write home about.

So then I booked a flight to Cambodia, spent a day walking the ruins of Angor Wat, brushed aside lady-boys offering to massage my body, and decided that I needed a different kind of excitement.

On to Phnom Penh and a trip to the killing fields. Genocide. Mass graves. Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot’s war on anyone with an education or glasses. The Cambodian people were sweet as could be, but I wasn’t going to stay in that land-locked city for very long. Two days later I was on a fast boat down the Mekong River, on my way to Vietnam.

And that’s where this adventure begins. After the frightening experience of being met at the border by dour-looking soldiers with guns and having to give them our passports, I fell in love with the country. The rivers, the sea, the green landscape, and most of all the playful, welcoming, fun-loving people.

My first minute off the boat and I was greeted by a young guy on a motorbike offering to find me a hotel, a massage, a girl, and a place to eat and drink. I suggested we find the hotel and then a place to eat and drink.

The next day I bussed my way to Saigon, these days officially Ho Chi Minh City. Not liking cities I stayed a few days and then took another bus to Nha Trang, a choice that
 sounded interesting because the name was familiar from Vietnam War era news.

It was in Nha Trang that I fell in love with Vietnam and fell in love with more than one sweet, longhaired, short-legged, sexy, Asian woman. I loved the street food, the weather, and ocean views from just about everywhere. My traveling days were over. My troubles were not.

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