Monthly Archives: August 2018

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XI

Having accepted an offer of transportation from my number one plasma-buddy, I was picked up from my driveway on Thursday night then taken to spend the night in Christchurch.

Friday morning, with Kelly preparing to later undergo the needle at NZ Blood Service (as he and I like to do every second Friday), I was dropped off at Christchurch Airport and, after a firm handshake also a fair amount of loitering and general time wasting, embarked upon my second journey to Southeast Asia.

The flight was marvellous; Singapore Airlines – in conjunction with Air New Zealand – are phenomenal. Complimentary snacks are periodically administered, the meals are substantial rather than continental, and even Johnnie Walker Red was even available for those idiot passengers who liked to singe their nasal passages with the vapour of cheap whiskey neat through a straw (I do believe in that capacity I was alone in my idiocy)…

Forgive me, my writing is not what it should be – having only arrived home Monday afternoon then staggering around aimlessly until about 5pm where I gave myself an ice-cold sponge-bath (I seemed to have already forgotten that not all water comes tepid from the cold tap) before collapsing into bed then waking with an anxious flashback every two hours after that, until around 9am – but I expect that, given time to process, to contemplate and indeed, to palate the happenings of the past 30 days, I ought to be back on track for next week’s instalment.

…Almost a day later it was night. I had decided after last time, where I travelled overnight and arrived in the morning, that night-time travelling is among the worst things a long haul traveller can do; yes by travelling overnight, in theory, one can sleep on the plane or other mode of transportation but honestly, can one really? Travelling on the plane overnight I found myself very tired, very uncomfortable and, as generally happens when one cannot sleep at a time when one would very much like to, increasing agitated; I dozed for perhaps ten minutes at a time but that was about it, hence I arrived in the day feeling as though I’d done an all-nighter. Conversely travelling during the day one’s brain is aware that it is not sleep time and therefore probably dozes as much as one would while travelling at night but ultimately arrives at their destination ready for sleep, at night…

As with last year my initial assessment of Vietnam is horrific (now you just wait and see what I have to tell you before you judge, thank you very much) although in fairness I spent my time only in Ho Chi Minh City and perhaps more pointedly, primarily in District 1; I recall starting one of last year’s Vietnam Chronicles with the line ‘…Ho Chi Minh City is the unequivocal arsehole of Vietnam’ which, again, given that I had extensively seen only District 1 of HCMC, this was probably an unfair assessment to make – probably largely accurate but perhaps mildly unfair.

…I arrived in Singapore, circumnavigated baggage claim (having again taken the gamble to allow my suitcase along with all its worthless contents, to make the entire trip to HCMC unassisted) and although I had been told, I was taken aback by the magnitude, also mesmerising beauty of Singapore and its glorious Changi Airport…

District 1, as I pointed out last time, is the most corrupt, the most debauched and decidedly the most depraved section of Ho Chi Minh City; it’s where the majority of HCMC tourists go to have a good time and, while I was there for a number of other reasons as well, the street on which three out of four of my hotels were situated, Bui Vien (Buoy Ven) Street, was tantamount to Kings Cross in Sydney, Khao San in Thailand or even – viewing it from a high vantage point at around 3am – the noise, the lights, it could have almost been Vegas.

…Singapore is very much reminiscent of New Zealand in many senses. The currency is comparable, the expense is comparable, the roadside fauna is comparable, the air quality is comparable, the concentration of Asian population is comparable; the cleanliness is actually of a better standard – at the airport and throughout much of my stay I saw not one cigarette butt littering the street – additionally one feels safe in Singapore and, well, it’s just a pleasant place to be. This is also a highly organised, highly efficient nation (as the value of their currency might indicate); upon disembarking I strolled through the airport, located the correct travel desk, revealed my documents and was presently whisked to my hotel in the most official-looking, glistening, but always in one gear too high – a theme I will later come to realise – black Toyota Vellfire…

Alas as I have explained, currently, my mind is not where it needs to be to in order to properly grasp all that I have experienced, all I have put my body through, all that I have seen; all that I have endured over the course of the past month.

…Hotel Boss, as it is called, is without misnomer; it is bigger than any hotel I’ve seen, with somewhere near 20 storeys including a pool on level 4, a 100 metre square lobby with a restaurant and a 12 metre reception desk at which, at any one time, are stationed no less than six personnel…

Thus as I sit here at my own desk, dredging my fatigued brain for content, for recollection but moreover, for clarity, while poring over the last month’s worth of receipts scattered before me, trying to piece together some sort of chronological or at least, coherent structure to the past month, hoping to see where all the time, hoping to see where the days, the weeks, the years off my life, hoping to see where all the Goddamn money went, I assure myself that this time I will have no sympathy; everything that I experienced, everything that I have endured, everything that I learned about District 1 Ho Chi Minh City – not matter how grim and no matter how unpalatable – I assure myself, that if the reader wishes to learn about those experiences too, next week and for the many weeks to follow, they may do just that.

…Hotel Boss is where my mission begins and indeed, this is where it ends.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Tim Walker

Photography by Tim Walker