Chapter Fourteen

We continue our journey from my base at Nha Be to Saigon. About half way there I passed though the actual town of Nha Be. Below is the main street, to the right but unseen is a very large tank farm. A tank farm, by the way, is a fuel storage area consisting of large round tanks filled with oil, gas, jet fuel, or whatever. There was also an artillery battery around here some place but I never saw it. I did, however, often hear shells go over our heads at the base when they were firing.

Along this same road was the dump. I was only there twice and never as a driver. This lady/girl (below) had a little refreshment stand, offering the 1970 Vietnamese version of the Slurpee. I’m not sure how safe it was, but when you’re hot, you’re hot. The background is light because I had to overexpose it so that you can see the girl better – that is DEFINITELY not snow!

I made a run to Saigon almost every day while I was driving the supply truck, 2 runs a day after the first few weeks. I carried my camera with me on almost every trip, so you can about imagine how many slides I shot – mostly in the city itself. Those who have viewed this document have already invested a lot of time in it, so I’m going to give you a break and only include a few of the better shots here. I can only comment on a few of them because I don’t even begin to remember in what part of Saigon or on what street I took most of them.

These first few shots pretty well sum up the traffic situation in Saigon – bumper to bumper traffic, few stop lights and fewer people obeying them. The standard mode of private transportation was the motor scooter; I don’t think they were powerful enough to be considered motorcycles by U.S. standards. The funny little two toned cars are taxis; they were everywhere.

I think I mentioned earlier that life is cheap in Southeast Asia. When I started driving, I was told that if I hit someone (a pedestrian or scooter rider), to make sure he or she was dead. And if not, I was to back up and hit them again. That was only half in jest – it was cheaper for the U.S. to pay death benefits to a Vietnamese civilian’s family ($600, if I remember right) then to pay for extended hospitalization. I did have at least one close call when a Vietnamese guy dumped his scooter right in front of me at an intersection. He actually flipped over the handlebars and literally ran on his hands until he got slowed down, then he did a forward summersault to get back up onto his feet. Oh, how I would have loved to have had a movie camera that day. I also had two Vietnamese on a scooter challenge me at an intersection one time. The rule was that the biggest vehicle and/or bravest driver had the right of way. They thought they were braver then me, but realized almost too late that a 10 ton truck can’t stop on a dime. They ended up dumping their bike in order to get stopped.

Not all of the streets were as visually appealing as some I’ve showed so far, as you can see in the next photo.

There were thousands of these little roadside stands around Saigon, usually grouped according to what service they performed or what item they sold. When Bill and I needed an extra key made for our room, we just asked a guy where to go to get a key made. We ended up at a street similar to this. The amazing part was how the key got copied – it was all done by hand using a file. And the copy actually worked. Next is just another highly cropped street scene to wrap this chapter up.

<- Chapter Thirteen          Chapter Fifteen ->