Monday, April 14, 2014

going to SAIGON!

     I actually went to Nam three times...twice as a freelance reporter and the third time for NBC News in 69-70.  The first trip was to do what are called “home-towners” or short interviews with military types which were sold to radio/tv stations in their hometowns.
    My second trip was more interesting albeit unfruitful money wise.
    I initiated the first one hour daily program from a war zone in history. 
    I took my handy Uher portable recorder where none had gone before and taped a couple of hours a day until I realized the so called “syndicator” back in Miami wasn’t placing any of the shows.  So...nobody got to hear these fascinating hours at all but it was fun doing them.

    On the way over I stopped off in London and stayed at the Savoy Hotel.  Over priced and unimpressive for me...despite its reputation.
    The next day I took my tape recorder down to Trafalger Square...famous for a lot of speakers and pigeons.  As I began interviewing Britishers about the Vietnam War for my first program I was interrupted by a London bobbie.  The Cop wouldn’t let me continue.  So much for free speech in Trafalger Sqaure...for Americans anyway.
     The next day I landed in Rome and stayed at the Hilton (much more to my liking).  That night...with an early flight to Vietnam the next day...I decided to “see” Rome via taxi.  I took the first cab in front of the hotel and offered the driver a hundred bucks to give me the grand tour for a couple of hours.  He spoke good english which was a plus and I got the check everything out...without the daytime crowd problem.  It was different...but enjoyable.  And nobody picked my pocket!
    Early the next morning I boarded a German Lufthansa flight leaving Rome and bound for Bangkok, Thailand.  We landed to refuel in a couple of interesting places...only one of which we were allowed to deplane and check out the airport gift shop.  The first stop was Dar Es Salaam deep in the middle east and as we walked from the plane to the door of the terminal...there were fatigued clad soldiers with big guns watching us.  The  attractive stewardess walking beside me whispered: “We’ve never landed her before...My god I think they’re going to shoot us!”.  
Eventually they did let us back on the plane.
    Our next stop, just as daybreak arrived, was in Calcutta, India.
It was a fast refueling stop so I only saw India from the sky.  And from high in the sky it was most appealing but very misleading.  You saw lush green fields...lots of rivers and water...but you couldn’t see the multitude of humanity for which that country is famous.
    Arrival in Saigon was interesting.  I had been warned by some experienced Vietnam travelers that I must be prepared to “grease palms” to even get through customs.  Turned out to be true as I had some radio equipment with me which was subject to much discussion.  So I took the official aside and slipped a couple of twenties into his hand.  It worked.

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