Day 645: Charlie Don’t CouchSurf

07.10.10:

Arrived Saigon at about 9am and scooted over to District 1 to meet up with me auld mucka Stan, here in South East Asia on holiday with his soon-to-be better half, Helen.  My backpack which I left in the luggage storage under the bus had got soaked on the way down here (apparently the middle of Vietnam is currently flooded), and I was in desperate need of the three ‘s’s: a shower a shave and a s—.  Stan and Helen graciously allowed me to abuse their hotel bathroom and before you could say ‘doesn’t he smell nice’, I was fresh-faced, bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Also here in Saigon (having lived here for the past three years) was an old friend of Mandy’s and mine from Australia, Thro.  Thro (pronounced ‘throw) is here working as a teacher, has got himself a tasty young Vietnamese girlfriend and has (understandably) fallen in love with the place.  Well, how could you not?  It’s just brilliant: tons to see and do, the traffic is manic, the nightlife is electric and joy-of-joys, beer is 30p.  A pint.  WHY AREN’T YOU HERE?

Thro was putting me up for the night, negating the need for me to CouchSurf, and at lunchtime I went downstairs from Stan n’ Helen’s guesthouse to meet him.  As we said our hearty hellos, a British guy said ‘It’s Graham, isn’t it?’ and shook my hand.  ‘Hi.  Are you Thro’s mate?’ I asked.

‘No I just randomly saw you – I’ve been following your blog.’

Holy monkey guts!  I thought the only people who read this drivel was Mandy and my mum.  I better stop being mean to awful places like Cape Verde (and find a way of checking the webstats), just in case, you know somebody takes offence and then meets me in a dark deserted alleyway in Timbuktu…!

So me, Stan, Helen, Thro and this guy Sam set off to find some lunch, which we did at a smashing bakery around the corner.  While I was stuffing my face with pies, Stan and Helen organised an afternoon’s trip down the Cu-Chi tunnels – the secret network of underground burrows that kept the Vietcong one step ahead of the yanks during that episode of madness we call the Vietnam war.

Thro couldn’t come, he was working in at four: but he did take my soaking wet clothes to chuck in his washing machine (Thanks Thro!!) and after saying goodbye to Sam, I set off with Stan & Helen (and their Italian friend Emilio) to go for a jog down the tunnels of doom.

I’ve been down these tunnels before, but I wanted to get some fun footage to make up for the two weeks I missed out on when Javier the camcorder was up on blocks.  So we watched the hilarious 1967 propaganda film, squeezed into a hole in the ground the size of a postage stamp, breathed in sharply through our teeth as the various deadly booby traps that the VC used were shown to us, I got to shoot a M-30 (LOUD!) and then Stan and I legged it through 200 metres of tunnels not wide enough to swing a kitten.

After we got back to Saigon, the Cu-Chi four grabbed a (superb) meal at the Indian restaurant over the road from their guesthouse, I then dropped my gear off at Thro’s and the five of us headed out for drinkies, drinkies and more drinkies.  We popped into the Apocalypse Now bar (the Heart of Darkness is sadly no longer with us), but a surprising hatred of dancepop amongst the troops (I hate it too, but tolerate it on the grounds that I haven’t been to too many Heebie-Jeebies in the last two years) led us back to District 1.  We stayed up drinking and talking bollocks so late that I was thankful that the battery in my watch is dead – old friends aside, I had a bus to catch in the morning.

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd...

VIDEO: Last Exit To Serbia! (2007)

In the summer of 2007, myself and Stanley “Stan” Stanrydt, two grown men with the mentality of 13 year olds, set out on an epic journey across the heart of Europe in search of music, beer, broads and a decent sausage.

In a Mazda sportscar we christened ‘Traci Lords’ (she was underage but could still squeeze us both in), we shot through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Croatia in order to arrive in Novi Sad, Serbia, for the rather epic Exit Music Festival, held in an ancient fort on the Danube river. There we watched the likes of the Beastie Boys and many other bands that I vaguely don’t remember.

After four days of drunken debauchery, we sobered up and decided to take the long way round back to the UK. So we went to Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dubrovnik in Croatia, rattled through Montenegro, got scared by the scary road in Albania, opted to take Traci out for a spin around the streets of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, before dripping our toes in Macedonia, skirting the city of Sofia in Bulgaria and crossed back over the Danube into Romania.

After a spooky trip around Bran castle in Transylvania (where Dracula was supposed to have lived), we thundered hell for leather back to Liverpool via Hungary, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. A music festival and about twenty countries visited for no good reason other than we could? Now that’s MY idea of a holiday!!