Monthly Archives: April 2019

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXVII

I was battling. My head felt on the verge of combustion. Too much information coming in; so much unwelcome speculation going out.

That evening I sat, sipping one of Loan’s brilliant fruit concoctions – which I’d had her spike with a generous measure of bourbon whiskey (not real whisky but best she could do) – and tried to straighten out the recent influx of knowledge in my brain…

Lin Aug appears to have married a Yank by the name of Gary Cooper.

Gary Cooper appears to be some deranged middle-aged creeper.

Across Ho Chi Minh City, sex is money and money is love.

As established last year, ‘HCMC is the unequivocal arsehole of Vietnam’.

Most people here are not above lying and/or cheating to get what they want.

Men don’t typically work, and Ho Chi Minh City is ultimately run by women.

Bars in Southeast Asia use ‘bargirls’ to seduce men/promote the sale of liquor.

A family’s eldest daughter is beholden to provide for her parents in later life.

That being so, ‘Moneeey!’ is an eldest daughter’s number one priority.

Eldest daughters will say and/or do just about anything in the pursuit of money.

A bargirl will act/say however/whatever is required to push the sale of liquor.

Pleasant as they may appear, in Vietnam, no person is to be trusted.

Most Vietnamese women are not ‘prostitutes’, yet many accept money for sex.

Sex is money and money is love.

…I had reached the final week in my tour of duty; there was a chance I was going to make it after all. It was from this state of mind that I came upon perhaps the most enchanting character (and as it would turn out, perilously so) who I would meet while in Vietnam. I ran into this paragon of charisma, this personification of enigma, out front of the Yen Trang hotel on Bui Vien Street. Name was Stu, and Stu did what he could (I originally imagined unintentionally but now am not so sure) to ensure that in my final week, I would struggle to make it out alive…

Perusing Facebook profiles of the few Vietnamese ladies I had come to know well – then perusing further, more deeply into Facebook’s astonishing breadth of stunning Vietnamese women – I noticed there was a hallmark; a quirk or idiosyncrasy that many of these ladies tended to project in their photographs – just as one might witness a Japanese person displaying the ‘peace’ sign, in these Vietnamese women’s photographs the fingers of one hand were brought up into a light fist but with their thumb and forefingers held together, with these digits crossed at the first knuckle (also I imagine, in real time, gently oscillating), in the internationally recognised symbol of, there it is, moneeeeeeey!

…He wore a hat not unlike my own, dressed not unlike myself, displayed mannerisms not unlike my own, was a solo traveller not unlike myself; in fact the first time I saw Stu, seated as he was at Loan’s café, looking down as I was from the Yen Trang hotel lobby, such was the nature of his presence, indeed such was the present fug-state of my own brain, I actually thought, albeit briefly, that I may have been having an out-of-body experience and, in total seriousness, I actually thought, if just for a moment, that the gentleman I was viewing down below was me…

One afternoon, a few days before I was due to leave Vietnam for Singapore, Noobie came by the Yen Trang, because apparently, after all I had done, all I had given her, she believed she owed me one last visit (I would have liked to have learned the formula she used to equate those factors; over the past month I must have spent around twenty nights at her bar, with every pair of drinks I bought us earning her a commission, and at an average spend of five million dong per night, thus, 20 X 5,000,000 = 1…?

…When he was sober, he was clearly British; when intoxicated it could not be overlooked that Stu came from South Africa. I suspect this was a game he liked to play with people, although it did not take long to appreciate that this – evidently England born but South Africa grown – former advertising executive might just have been the most charismatic chap I’d met to date; certainly, Stu knew how to speak to people’s souls.

That night I showed Stu along Bui Vien; I wasn’t surprised to end up at Crazy Girls bar, nor was I surprised when, around eight hours later, the place began shutting up for the night. Stu had become exceedingly drunk in the meantime; that didn’t surprise me greatly either, the guy was a big drinker. He and I began making our way out and onto the street then unsurprisingly, Stu realised he’d forgotten his jandals.

He ducked back inside; I waited for over ten minutes, but he didn’t come back out.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Darce Ted Lee

Photography by Anne Ticks

Tim Walker’s Electric

One month ago, I found cause to cease my incessant derision of the New Zealand Government and the fuel prices they so clearly dictate.

In fairness the Government still pisses me off and even when my preferred right-wing party is back in power, you can be damn sure I’ll still be vociferous in my bemoaning of the Opposition.

Back before Christmas 2018, as documented in an earlier instalment, our beloved Jacinda reduced the price of petrol from an unprecedented $2.45 per litre to a decidedly reasonable $2.03, then assured besotted Kiwis there would be ‘no more price hikes in the next twelve months’.

As I saw it, and despite our Prime Minister’s mellifluous wording surrounding the issue, fuel prices were only ever going to become increasingly unaffordable, and the thing is, although I was only clocking up a comparatively meagre 4 to 500 kilometres in a week with a relatively fuel-efficient car and with an extremely conservative right foot, I was done having my weekly budget dictated by the fluctuating cost of petrol.

Since Jacinda’s pre-Christmas fuel cost reduction – ultimately Government respite from massive Government tax increases – the price at the pump has been increasing steadily, by at least one cent a week, as we all should have known it would (from $2.03 over Christmas, what is it now – what will it be this time next year?).

After a great deal of researching and an even greater deal of real searching, I stepped into the 21st century of motoring and purchased an electric car.

The Nissan Leaf goes like a dream – in that no one on the outside can hear it running – it is remarkably well appointed – the interior is plush and reportedly constructed from recycled materials – it is technologically advanced – from my old-school perspective it’s dead-set mind-blowing – and, other than a few trivial, superficial aspects, one month on, I have zero complaints about my new car.

Nissan’s entry into the world of Electric Vehicles appears to have been a successful one, devoid of any significant mishaps; the moment one begins to operate a Leaf it becomes clear that these are well thought out vehicles. In order to keep up with the world’s growing desire for sustainability Nissan could have so easily rushed into production of their debut EV, neglecting vital aspects thereby bringing to the market a car of substandard quality; Nissan most certainly have NOT done that. The countless electronic features – Keyless Entry so you’re not always digging your keys out of your pocket, or the Reverse Camera which I had thought would be a waste of time (I back with my mirrors, don’t try to change me) but is actually awesome because you no longer have to leave that half-metre ‘gap of uncertainty’ between bumpers, or Charging Timer so you can choose when and for how long you charge, and then there’s that little (electric rather than electronic) light that comes on when you clip open the charge-port flap just in case it’s too dark to see what you’re doing – are so logical yet are the kind of thing that could have so easily been overlooked by a manufacturer trying to save time or, pointedly, money.

Like most cars, driven economically, the Nissan Leaf is not a fast car yet like some other cars, when one totally disregards economy, one finds themselves driving a very fast car indeed; I can comfortably, sedately, drive over 100 kilometres in my 2013 Leaf (after around a 4% annual battery degeneration), or I can race, foot right up it, for about 40.

Most evenings I sedately drive a 70 to 80 kilometre circuit, then park up and put the car on charge overnight. Given my solo living arrangements, also my inherently frugal nature, in the past a heavy month of electricity usage would have cost me under $60; charging my Leaf effectively doubles that thus, fair to say it is costing me around $2 a day to run – used to be more like $20.

At this rate, and providing no major expenses along the way (which after numerous reviews, I can’t help feeling, this is the expectation), based on a past fuel bill of over $4000 per year, in three to four years I’ll have funded my Nissan Leaf in petrol savings alone; then let’s not forget there is also the cost of lubricating an internal combustion engine, and the associated engine wear/repairs/costs that come with that.

Of course I understand that electric motors wear and may similarly require repairs but come on, electric motors have far fewer moving parts and if they are not abused (thinking of an antique shearing plant motor in a hundred-year-old woolshed that still ticks away), they can go forever.

I’m doing my bit for the environment, too, which is additionally awesome.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Leigh Fuss Great

Photography by Nee San Leif

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXVI

Less than 48 hours after capitalising on a ‘$5 Haircut’ from a lady who had apparently cut just ‘four hairs’ previously while using equipment they had likely bought second-hand in the ‘80s and who could doubtfully see straight anyway, I returned to this Bui Vien ‘Health Spa’ for a do-over.

Having since found two adequately positioned mirrors to give me a clear view of the back of my own head, then witnessing with horror the strip hacked up the back of my skull with an obvious number one comb while the surrounding hair was a number two, I was irate…

Granted to make a mistake cutting someone’s hair is not unforgivable, but to say nothing about that mishap and to let that customer leave your premises thinking they have a reasonable haircut when in fact what they have is laughable, that cannot be forgiven.

…I stormed to the front desk, calmly removed my hat and, indicating the back of my skull, said, “You made a mess of my hair … You are going to fix it.”

The lady, the taller woman from last time, seemingly accepting that their in-house joke had come to its end, nodded apologetically. “Yes, OK,” she conceded, before asking, “how you wan fix?”

I shook my head in dismay, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; they were the ones advertising to cut people’s hair, yet it seemed it was the customer who needed to have the barbering know-how to make it work. Regardless, and hairdressing incompetency notwithstanding, I had decided exactly what needed to be done.

From the chair I explained, attempting to downplay the sarcasm in my voice, “As you’ve hacked up the back about a hundred mils with a number one comb when you were supposed to be doing a number two cut, all you need to do – all you ever needed to do and I can’t believe you didn’t have the initiative to do this the first time – is to cut around the entire back and sides at that height and at that same length … Number one…”

“You wan, number one?” she pointed to the side of my head in confusion.

I shook my head in futility. “Honestly, how do you not understand?” I stared into the taller woman’s eyes. “All I want, is a haircut that looks good … Do you understand that?”

“It look good, yes.”

No,” my head dropped to my hands, “it does not look good, that’s the problem … I need you to make it look good.” I looked at the lady beseechingly and awaited her response.

She looked back at me vacantly.

I closed my eyes, hung my head and almost cried; never in my life had I experienced such overwhelming exasperation. “Number one,” defeatedly I held up a finger.

She in turn held up the number one comb.

I took it from her and crudely ran it around the side and back of my skull in demonstration, then gave back the comb and stared at the woman.

She appeared to understand and relayed this knowledge to her lazy-eyed counterpart. “No no,” I promptly intervened, “not her – that woman does not know the first damned thing about how to cut hair.”

“But she, hairdresser,” said the taller woman, as though it was the most simple thing ever.

“She is not, a hairdresser,” I disputed vehemently.

“She cut hairs, we cut no hairs.”

Another hour after entering the premises I was walking out the door. My hair at the sides had been trimmed down to a number one and supposedly matched up with the errant strip at the back. No more money had been paid; none had been earned. What an utter waste of time.

For the record, the previous year, in Hoi An, Vietnam’s marketplace, I paid 180.000VND for a barbershop haircut and, aside from the result bearing unnerving similarities to the preferred style of Kim Jong Un, it was a precision cut. My strenuous recommendation, therefore, transcendent as the Vietnamese seem to be at turning their hands to just about any job, task, skill-set or profession, it would be unwise to try and pick up a haircut at any place in Vietnam other than a bona fide hair salon/barbershop.

I wandered back towards the Yen Trang, feeling depleted, although my spirits were lifted somewhat by the comical array of multi-coloured kiddie furniture outside Loan’s Café. Suddenly I felt I was choking on my own heart; seated comfortably on one of the chairs, smiling contentedly as he drank his coffee and smoked his cigar, exuding such a grandiose level of self-importance that his presence was quite impossible to avoid (that ‘presence’ in fact smacking of wealthy Western traveller, particularly Yank), was a well-dressed, clean-cut, fat-bellied, middle-aged gentleman. Our eyes locked as I sauntered by. He gave me, what I considered at the time to be, a nod of familiarity; I was given a chill, as I endeavoured to swallow back down the lump that had risen into my throat.

As you will have noticed, in the previous edition, with that disappointing Facebook share – which incidentally had no trouble displaying in full colour on a Microsoft Word Document – this website struggles to project that kind of page/layout/font. Nevertheless, it was while in the process of ripping and sticking that segment of social media text that I happened to enter onto Lin’s profile; the very first thing I saw left me stunned…

More curiously still, around one week after my unauthorised copy and paste, her Facebook page had shifted from ‘Lin Aug’– formerly ‘Ga Ra Lin Ayun’ (the Viet’s do like their name changes), a page which I believe still exists – to simply, ‘Facebook User’, and while my messages are still there, all of her past entries now claim ‘This message has been temporarily removed because the sender’s account requires verification.’

…Now, had I been aware that her page would effectively vanish I might have been a little quicker ripping and sticking details of the horror that faced me that day; she had posted on her site a lengthy YouTube video (not uncommon among FB users and not an altogether startling action, no) but, in fairness it was the title of the video that shocked me the most – Wedding Ceremony of Gary Cooper and Lin Aug…

Bear with me; that was viewed only recently, yet around eight months prior, from HCMC Vietnam, I have just engaged in heated online discussion, then possibly even encountered in the flesh, the man behind this developing fracas.

…I was seriously beginning to wonder just how far this so-called Gary was willing to go to ensure he landed his prize.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by G Cooper

Photography by D Ranged

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXV

The next time, from the Yen Trang lobby computer, that I spoke with Lin, evidently on the 13th August, 2018 (pretty sure the time you’ll see there, 10:21 p.m., is NZST; Vietnam is six hours behind, so assume it was 4:21 one muggy afternoon in HCMC), as you’ll see  I very quickly become exasperated with the whole game.


8/13/18, 10:21 PM

He hacked your accounts tim

Tim Walker

I don’t give a shit if he hacks my Facebook accounts; what’s he going to do, post a rude picture?

I dont know.he said that

Tim Walker

Said what?

I am fighting with him .he hacked my accounts today and unblock him

But he said he didnt do

I am very upset now

Tim Walker

Who CARES?! Lin, it’s Facebook, it doesn’t matter…?

He hacked your accounts?you dont care??

Tim Walker

Why would I – what’s he going to do?

Oh he said bad things about you

Tim Walker

Lin, this is ridiculous; you have to just forget Gary and his childish manipulation and get on with your life.

Really, he SAID bad things about me…?


Tim Walker

Do you realise how stupid you sound right now?

They’re WORDS Lin; they can’t hurt us.

But his words hurted me before.

Tim Walker

Only because you let them hurt you.

That’s why I say Lin, ignore the silly old prick.

8/14/18, 12:45 AM


GAry: hey timmy

it’s Gary

How are you?

Do you really want to meet with me and tell me how you feel?

I can tell by the size of your little kids mouth, I would hurt you so bad

you can talk shit behind a computer tho

you can write mr writer

my job was infantry

its to fight

so don’t think you can ever walk up to me and talk shit in your lifetime

you are just a kid to me

You talk shit about me because you want what I already had with her

You get half truths from her and want to judge wholey

but I’m american timmy and I just bust you in the mouth when i see you in HCMC

write your books and talk shit behind a compute all day, but you won’t hit it like I did with her and I’ll bust your little ass up and down the streeet

Go do your little side jobs and lie about the stock market to people who don’t know. Because you are fake

Yes Lin needs money

2.5k to be exact

meet with me and bring it to me

if you so well off mr writer come meet me pay what she owes me

Easy to walk into a relatinship with problems and share your 2 cents..

And I can tell you have a small penis

don’t change the subject

your mouth is so small

everything about you small

you are not long and strong like me

and you got a temper

lin will never marry you

but you can take her for a spin

You know what is funny to me

you asking her to tell you about her guys

here your are just meeting her and you want her to be honest

I’m the guy that was going to marry her after 8 months and she didn’t tell me the truth

A blowjob behind my back

with james

telling me she only had 3 lovers in her life

but she sleeps with her best guy friend

you better learn all these names timmy boy

James, Dale, Justin, Gary, Mon, and thats just the serious relationships in the past year

1 night stands you will never know

so don’t bother asking her to tell you about her guys

you are nothing special

And you are just like her with your I searched all over vietnam for love act

lets see who hurts each other first, I got the popcorn

She has that I’m a conservative farm girl from Dak Lak act.

Timmy boy just make sure you carry on the tradition of warning the next guy like James warned me……….

[07/06/2018 20:15:04] Lin: Why you lied him?i have never asked you to buy camera for me and i have only this zalo
[07/06/2018 20:19:33] Lin: I didnt many guys,when i met you i broke up him
[07/06/2018 20:19:48] Lin: You should tell the truth
[07/06/2018 20:20:05] James Leigh: Stop playing with this poor guy! He’s dumb and actually believes you. I won’t tell him all about you because he’s a nice, dumb guy and doesn’t need to be hurt. Why aren’t you using your other Zalo
[07/06/2018 20:20:47] Lin: I have only this zalo
[07/06/2018 20:20:49] James Leigh: You don’t need to use some old guy to get out of Vietnam
[07/06/2018 20:21:14] Lin: I d̀ont use him
[07/06/2018 20:21:28] Lin: Which the a nother zalo you say?
[07/06/2018 20:21:33] Lin: I even dont know
[07/06/2018 20:21:45] Lin: I havent talked to you for long time
[07/06/2018 20:21:59] James Leigh: Ha ha? What? Is he reading this? Okay, keep lying, if he’s stupid enough to believe you! Let’s chat on your other Zalo so I don’t embarrass you
[07/06/2018 20:22:04] Lin: I didnt ask to meet you in June
[07/06/2018 20:22:10] James Leigh: Ha ha
[07/06/2018 20:22:13] Lin: I will marry him
[07/06/2018 20:22:24] James Leigh: Switching to your other Zalo
[07/06/2018 20:22:28] Lin: I dont have another zalo
[07/06/2018 20:23:18] James Leigh: It’s funny this one has no pictures or timeline
[07/06/2018 20:23:35] James Leigh: I’m going to your other Zalo now

Lin was never the victim

she will play the role of the victim

but she was never the victim

But you need to stop pretending to Tim, you just want a piece of ass

8/14/18, 5:07 PM

Tim Walker

Gary, you are insane. To infiltrate people’s Facebook accounts is deranged. Fortunately I have better things to do with my days than play immature games with a 50-year-old kiddie fiddler.

8/14/18, 6:40 PM

Tim Walker

You want to do something today Lin?

8/15/18, 12:00 AM

I just read your text.i am sorry

Are you there??

Maybe you went out already now

I didnt know you text me .i am sorry respomding you late

I am at home.i just had dinner

8/15/18, 3:23 AM

Tim Walker

It’s fine, Lin.

How are you?

Tim Walker

You know Lin, when I met you, you were easygoing, carefree.

Now through your own actions,  you’ve made your life a lot of work.

I worked in the morning today

I am at home

Tim Walker

I know.

I know.

But he texted me much so i dont want to open my messegers

Tim Walker

I know.

I am sorry for everything he talked to you yesterday

Tim Walker

Yeah, about that, Lin, you’ve turned yourself into more work than I can be bothered enduring.


That conversation continued for a little longer, with me becoming progressively uninterested in the awkward situation that she had made…

It only occurs to me now, and while I was in Vietnam of course in the heat of the moment I believed everything that Lin told me, but the above Facebook message, dated over eight months ago, including – especially – the apparent entry by ‘Gary’, is utter shit. She was clearly doing what eldest daughters in Ho Chi Minh City do best – attempting to scam money out of White folk. Reading over that Facebook conversation over eight months since I last saw it (which, admittedly, didn’t transfer from Facebook quite how I’d hoped), it’s seems so obvious – how did I not see it at the time? Lin reveals to me in person that she owes Gary $2500 for a camera, to be later corroborated in Gary’s apparent Facebook interaction, particularly his invitation/demand that I should pay this debt; the whole thing now seems so comical.

…I did however, while scrolling over Lin’s and my FB conversation, for the first time in months, just happen to check out her profile.

You won’t believe what I found; I barely believe what I found.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Lin Aug

Photography by Gary Cooper

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXIV

In line with the rest of Vietnam’s outdoor seating, the kiddie furniture out the front of Loan’s Café caused me and my Western stature continual problems.

On the plus side Loan’s tables and chairs were made of timber rather than plastic, so that was something.

Constricting as it may have been, I found that if I turned side-on, rather than attempting to wedge my wiry frame under the table, it did provide a fine vantage point from which to view the everyday shenanigans of Vietnamese locals…

I was seated contentedly outside Loan’s Café as dusk fell one afternoon/evening, sipping a fruity, icy beverage that Loan had whipped up for me (she used to regularly prepare ‘testers’ for me to sample and critique; a largely pointless endeavour as anyone who knows me will be aware, I eat and enjoy most anything), when I saw what I perceived to be a familiar face.

…Street vendors continuously walked by with their trays of novelties, merchants cruised by on motorbikes, some towing trailers, laden with their wares – bottles of water, bags of ice, fresh fruits, desiccated meats, exotic vegetables, smoked fish or indeed, just about any item of produce imaginable…

I recall experiencing a wave of surrealistic vertigo; I recall thinking how this could have been the plot from one of my own novels – a character from the beginning, largely unremarkable, of little noteworthiness to anyone, somehow returning to the story at the end to surprise, or perhaps to startle, the reader. As I stood to command this character’s attention, I recall witnessing the look of shock – with my being a presumed short-overstaying tourist he seemingly expected to have never seen me again – then uncertainty, or even of fear, on the young man’s face. I smiled, the only lasting trace of injury to my face a small horizontally linear scab on my right cheekbone, “Kohm ko chi (No worries),” I attempted to reassure him.

…It was from this vantage point, sideways seated outside Loan’s Café, that I would go on to  witness the kind of mechanical ingenuity that would surely impress even the most creative Kiwi mind; motorised trolleys, carts, or precarious three-wheeled monstrosities designed solely for shifting produce along HCMC’s potholed streets (then there was the ‘ice-guy’, who I saw most mornings, wearing a heavy waterproof hat and stiff plastic homemade poncho, riding his tiny motorcycle carrying bags of ice to supply local produce retailers, with – no exaggeration – a one metre square stack of 10 kilo ice-bags balanced on a tray immediately behind him and towering over his head at – I swear – around three metres high, on a bike whose rear tyre was perpetually flat and whose front wheel barely even contacted the road, and each time he stopped he was met with a veritable cascade of icy water, but which he had to do frequently, and which he did do using a homemade support/brace he would wedge under the stationary bike’s frame to keep it upright while he stepped off to unload before moving on to the next premises) which, at a glance, were just crudely appointed, comically basic, home-built vehicles but when I looked closer, these contraptions, dilapidated as they appeared yet functional as they clearly were, had all been built around the frame, the basic structure and feeble engine of one of Vietnam’s myriad worn out, broken down and disused motorbikes…

As the young man made his tentative approach, I again marvelled at how good-looking he was; wheeling a motorbike – hitched to a wooden trailer stacked full of grapes – he came to a halt a few metres before me (in fairness I had seen this street vendor around but only from a distance, thus had never identified him as ‘Petty Thief’ from my third night on Bui Vien) where, as I suppose he would any other potential customer, through gestures and broken English, he offered to sell me some grapes. Petty thief indeed; he wanted 70 dong for one kilo – I bought a half kilo, watched him bring out his scales and carefully weigh the goods, then paid him 30. Given the circumstances I didn’t think he’d complain.

…Typical of scooters/small motorcycles these things tend to run at inordinately high revolutions; given the modifications involved in transforming a small bike into a flatbed truck, exhaust systems/mufflers are seldom reattached.

Petty Thief turned out to be a reserved, respectful young man who clearly worked for a living; as he wheeled away his rig I guessed the reason for his tethering a trailer to a motorbike then pushing both, had a lot to do with a regard for potential customers – few tourists enjoy the obtrusion of discordant noise, particularly when the vehicle behind that noise is showering your fresh produce with exhaust fumes. Noise was ample on Bui Vien anyway; as if to bolster my assumption of the gentle-spirited Petty Thief, at that moment the most abrasive sound I had ever heard caused both he and me to cringe and turn our heads from the incoming audio, as a three-wheeled, pseudo-military, but merely scooter-powered monstrosity lumbered by, of course, pulling massive revs.

The aforementioned situation is not what one would consider a rarity in the daytime on Bui Vien, and probably explains the closing of this particular street for one afternoon, as I was fortunate enough to become an uninvited guest for my first ever Vietnamese wedding ceremony; which I witnessed from the steps and out front of the Yen Trang hotel…

A downpour had just ended and the stench on the street was horrendous yet, chaperoned/ushered by the only genuine Police I saw in Vietnam (this, as opposed to ‘security’ guys), along with the apparent Chief of Police (a stout little chap who stood at around 5 foot 2 with a generous belly, was dark-skinned, bald on top with longer stringy hair around the sides, complemented by a brilliantly polished dome and with a smouldering, unmoving cigarette hanging from the corner of his feverishly delegating, clearly self-appointed ‘Chief of Pomposity’, mouth), were a meticulously attired bride and groom who, carefully avoiding puddles and potholes, lovingly carried out their nuptials, concluding with a tentative kiss and a cheer from anyone who happened to be watching.


I had noticed that, by the two week point, as I had hoped would happen, so recognised was my presence, I was now being treated less like a tourist and more like a local; Bui Vien massage girls and other street vendors had become sufficiently familiar with me that they had, largely, ceased in their otherwise relentless approaches and seemed to have accepted that if I wanted to buy something from them, I would ask for it (and if you think back to retired expat, ‘Canadian Aiden’ from week 1, this is just what he had said happened to him after he moved here; Vietnam becomes a different place once one has experienced that transition from ‘tourist’ to ‘common-placement’).

While my presence may have appeared commonplace to most, during my final week I was approached by a woman I had not before seen around Ho Chi Minh City. She was gorgeous, she was vivacious, she was intriguing, she was captivating (yet strangely, I didn’t get/don’t recall her name); that night I took a 45 minute taxi-ride across to District 4 in order to capitalise on the coupon for a ‘Free 60 Minute Full Body Massage’ (retailing at 220.000VND – around 20NZD) that this woman had given me. I felt as though this was a challenge I could handle; I now understood how to avoid taxi-scams but importantly, I understood how to pay for a massage that was just a massage, and this was a free massage.

The next 50 minutes were spent in oily heaven with a gorgeous Vietnamese masseuse (not the one I’d met in District 1, but close). Of course I was timing it and yes, fifty minutes later, of course I did query the missing 10 minutes, to which she responded innocently, “But you say you no wan boom-boom…?”

“The coupon said, ‘Free Sixty Minute Massage’ – you only did fifty minutes…?”

“Last ten, for boom-boom – you say you no wan boom-boom.”

“Aha, I see, so it’s more like a ‘Free Fifty Minute Massage’, then pay two million dong for boom-boom…?”

Three million – you wan?”

“Thank you for the wonderful massage.”

Several hours after leaving I had returned; District 4 was a different place, much less busy than District 1 and more geographically spread – District 1 everything is crammed tightly into spaces along street edges while in District 4 things don’t appear nearly as squashed. I walked back into the bustle of Bui Vien Street and sat outside drinking local beer with a group of expats/travellers (this location in fact was where I overheard the fable of the ‘White man beaten by Viet Cong street-youths’, mentioned in an earlier instalment, and realised, with a sickening jolt, that this ‘fable’, which may just be on track to become Vietnamese folklore, referred to the incident outside the banh mi vendor on my third night on Bui Vien – Vietnam XXI). Hoping to mentally abscond from the situation, I unthinkingly accepted and sucked back some awful Vietnamese weed – overlooking the fact that I had recently ‘recovered’ from a serious chest-borne illness – only to have my lungs spasm and convulse their way to bed that night.

The next morning, after placing my breakfast order with Loan then heading back up the steps and spending over half an hour on the hotel’s public computer in ‘talks’ with a rather ‘distressed’ Lin (original object of my affections) regarding ‘hacking’ of her Facebook account…

According to what Lin had told me, the current object of her affections, a middle-aged American man named Gary, and she had ‘broken up’ (this was, reportedly, following Gary’s multiple visits to Vietnam to see her, also after Lin’s admission of her ‘extracurricular’ antics with other American men she’d met around town); yet apparently, during their time ‘together’, under Vietnamese rule the two had become ‘engaged’ and, presumably along with a lovely ring, Gary had bought Lin a rather expensive camera, which he now wanted returned. Truth is I forget/didn’t understand the exact circumstances of this case, but for some reason Lin was not able to give back the camera thus needed to refund the money; now back in NZ and with an objective mindset it occurs to me that, obviously, I mean if Lin was any kind of Vietnamese eldest daughter at all, she would have sold the camera for the cash. Reportedly the item was worth somewhere in the vicinity of 2500USD – tantamount to around 75.000.000VND – over a year’s salary for an average Viet worker. It seemed ridiculous that this wealthy American ‘Gary’ should be demanding the return of such a gift and in fact, the deeper I ventured into this tale the more unbelievable the story became; furthermore when she had announced to me – this was prior to the ‘camera’ thing – that despite the cessation of their relationship Gary would now not allow her to officially expunge their ‘engagement’, yet was still insisting that she reimburse him for the camera.

…From what I could tell Lin was hysterical (although this was Facebook communication, and we all know how easy it is to misinterpret dialogue via Facebook communication). Honestly, I struggled to see the problem; ‘hacking’ somebody’s Facebook account seemed a pointless thing to do and besides, it was online, he was in a different country – he couldn’t actually do anything…

It occurs to me, again, the content I am describing, indeed the manner in which the above plot is reading, this saga is playing out along very similar lines to a novel that I might write; let me please assure the reader, everything I have written in my Vietnam Chronicles to date, everything that I have yet to write, much as it might be coming off ridiculous, far-fetched, or even farcical, (in fairness I believe the reason for the similarities, is that, rather than the author of a novel developing a protagonist then creating a story around that character, in this case it is the author who is the protagonist and, much like a story I might myself create, while the author is doing their best to control the story’s path, realistically, life will always dictate life’s story; I’m merely telling that story), to the best of my recollection, is 100% truthful.

…Or so I thought.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Gary Cooper

Photography by Rhyll Guy