Adventure awaits you!!, 20 May 2016By Lorraine E Verified Purchase This review is from: Been There, Done WHAT!: ROMANTIC ESCAPADES AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN CHINA, THAILAND, VIETNAM, LAOS, AND AUSTRALIA (Kindle Edition) John proves that age is no barrier to having fun times, living life to the fullest and travelling to distant and exotic places , as well as having action packed adventures in your own back yard !! A very enjoyable read which makes you want to start your own adventures before it is too late.
Customer Review A wind of Refreshing, May 9, 2016 CustomerVerified Purchase(What's this?)This review is from: Been There, Done WHAT!: ROMANTIC ESCAPADES AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN CHINA, THAILAND, VIETNAM, LAOS, AND AUSTRALIA (Kindle Edition)Enjoyable ! It was very nice for me to read this book, as i felt refreshed in my mind.I am an Japanese reader. His experience in Asia on the beginning disgusted me occasionally. However, the more i read, the more his experience fascinated me. Exactly, his pure personality had been there. He met a variety of people and loved the people. His respects to the nature remind me how important it is. Thank -you Joe ! This book gave me great pleasure.
5.0 out of 5 stars - Get out of the house!!!
By Amazon Customer on June 1, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I first met John Smith and he told me his name I immediately thought he was running from the law or working for it, undercover. Who goes through life with the most ordinary name imaginable? After reading this autobiography, however, I realised that the ordinary name did not reflect an ordinary life.
John Smith has achieved many things in his lifetime that many other people would LIKE to have achieved, but never got around to. And that says something about the man himself. First it is obvious that he is an adventurer, always looking for new challenges and confronting them head on throughout his whole life. Second, the fact that he has survived to write this book shows that he must have been able to master these challenges and turn situations to his advantage when necessary. Hong Kong, California, South Africa and China and South East Asia ........he seems to have been everywhere and done just about everything. And that is what makes this book a good read and why I would recommend it to you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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By KCP on April 25, 2016Format: Candid, poignant, charming, April 25, 2016
Kindle Edition Verified PurchaseIt is all too easy for many of us to deny ourselves the full array of life experience. Burrowing into our comfort zones, beyond the walls of which we pass only with caution or reluctance, we timidly put one toe in the water before retreating to the secure familiar.As a woman of John’s age, I found it exhilarating to read these warm and poignant stories of a person who reaches to the very limits, risking his heart and physical safety to explore, observe and participate. Sometimes on a specific quest, but always denying trepidation, he opens himself to the world, inviting whatever/whoever comes along. He learns from mistakes but that doesn’t stop him from making them. He does not allow disappointing people or places to curtail his welcome of the next circumstance.In entertaining brief passages, the author skillfully offers details to fascinate the reader about each place or challenge. He reveals his fallibility and resourcefulness. We are charmed by his candor. We root for him and resist the temptation to say, “Oh no, John, don't try that! It might be dangerous…”, because we understand and respect his crusade to encounter life without fear and we have faith in his ability to work things out.Sometimes what is left unsaid is as intriguing as the text we read. Fully engaged, we wonder how the author makes his risky choices. We wish for more on the story. We picture the recipients of these emails waiting with bated breath for the next episode.Been There, Done What! is enjoyable, expressive and touching. I was pleased to accompany this amiable writer in and out of his adventures.
a journey worth taking, March 18, 2016
By Amazon Customer on March 18, 2016This is a book that will take you on a journey - it might not be the journey you expected or ever could have imagined. It might not be a journey that you would ever go on yourself. However, what you will take away from it is the importance of living in the moment, of embracing life with honesty and humour and ultimately it is about resilience and appreciation for whatever life brings to the table. And although there is a sense of searching - for companionship, for joy, for the next great adventure, there is also a profound realization that true friendship, genuine connections have always been there. Strong connections with both lifelong friends from afar and one dear friend an arm's reach away - emerge and remind us to open our eyes to what is right in front of us, to what is most important. As e.e. cummings wrote "only connect". It is wonderful to watch John travel the world to seek this connection and to acknowledge that ultimately it has always been there.
5.0 out of 5 stars - he has never been able to resist a charming and beautiful women (or 3) if the opportunity arose
BySuzie Ton 1 June 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have known the Author for close to 30 years, he has never been able to resist a charming and beautiful women (or 3) if the opportunity arose... however, I found the read extremely humorous in places and sad in others…….The Author has an amazing ability to make the most ordinary situation into an amazing event!! even down to an afternoon tea, of Bread, butter & Marmalade !!!
The situations John finds himself in, are made all the more hilarious by knowing him....however, all readers would find this read, an entertaining account of someone in search of a soulmate!!….
I did laugh like hell at various situations, and also wonder how on earth John coped with certain other ones – I also discovered that I knew him well in many areas, and didn't know him at all in others.....Funny and Highly Entertaining encounter of one man's search for a Life's Companion -
It is generally conceded that the 1950s in Australia was the most boring decade in the 25-decade-long history of Australia since the white invasion.
The war in the Pacific had only ended five years previously. Food rationing was still in effect. There was a ration coupon for fresh meat. And a separate coupon for eggs and milk. Money still followed the English system. However, the Aussies had evolved their own name for each coin. A penny was the basis. Three pennies was threepence or a "trey". Six pennies was a "Zac". Twelve pennies was a shilling, or a "bob". Twenty shillings was a pound or "quid".
Public toilets on railway stations and elsewhere cost a penny to use.
Thereby giving rise to the common expression: " excuse me, I'm going to spend a penny".
TV did not arrive in Australia until 1956. It was so unique that people would bring a chair and blanket at night to watch the flickering black and white TV through the glass window of the local electric appliance store.
"I love Lucy" starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez was the favourite program.
After a heated debate in Parliament, the wearing of bikinis on Australian beaches was finally permitted. On the proviso that gentlemen wearing ties and white coats patrolled the beaches. These were the often-derided beach inspectors, complete with tape measures, whose job it was to measure the fabric of bikinis to ensure that everything interesting was completely hidden from view.
Hotels were divided into the public bar for men and the saloon for women.
Hotels were forced to close at 6:00 pm. Giving rise to the famous "six o'clock swill", where men would hastily gulp down their beer and order another one before the barman would shout:" time gentlemen, please!"
The minimum drinking age was eighteen years and it was strictly enforced.
I was sixteen when I entered my first pub.
It was the Coogee Bay Hotel in south Sydney.
Nobody ever told me that Tooheys brewed old beer and new beer.
I was nervous as hell and wishing I did not still have pimples when I joined the throng at the bar.
"Gimme a Tooheys," I asked like a seasoned drinker.
"How OLD are YOU?", I thought I heard the barman yell over the general hubbub of the hundreds of men in the bar.
" I'm EIGHTEEN!", I yelled back defiantly, wishing my voice was a little deeper.
"I don't care how old you are son," said the barman, " OLD or NEW?". if you enjoyed reading this check my other writing at
June 13, 2016:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,072 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
· #14 in Books > Travel > Asia > Laos
· #45 in Books > Travel > Asia > Vietnam
· #49 in Books > Travel > Australia & South Pacific > Australia > General
The silly bastards don't tell you....the plane leaves the Gold Coast at 10:00pm and arrives at KL at 4:00 am.so, a six-hour flight. Bearable? Just.But what they don't tell you is that KL is two hours behind Queensland, Australia time.So whoops! Your bearable six-- hour flight just became an unbearable eight hour flight! Air Asia got their act together on the two- hour flight from Kuala Lumphur to Ho Chi Minh City. Or Saigon as I prefer to call it because it is easier to type. Today's plane was smaller and newer. Still no movie screen.seas in two rows of six, with a wider aisle in between. The Aussie baddy was in the row in front of mine. The cabbage lady was four rows ahead on the other side. Thank God, The knee in the back lady was not on board. She had a bad fall going down the steps from the plane. I know. I saw it all. I was right behind her. So, after 24 hours without sleep, I joined the long queue to the passport control Nazi. EventuallyGot to the front of he line, only to be told I had to join the long line to Visas Control first. Waited 40 minutes there, got my Visa, which had been pre-approved in zNoosa weeks previously. Then back o Passport zcontrol for another 50 minutes.All this had taken over three hours. Meanwhile on the other side if the wall Tuyetmai had got tired ofwaiting and gone home. I asked the gentleman who was changing mySim card if he could phone her for me. Which he did.Tuyetmai did a U-turn and eventually, finally, we met, in the flesh. Me smelling like gym men's room and looking like a wrung-out dishrag. After two or three days in the WiFi wilderness, I have lost track of time. What I do know is that right now I am drinking Baileys in a 1-star hotel in central south Vietnam, called Fulham, I think, and I am waiting for my rice and spare rib dinner to be delivered from the local street food provider.I am here because I have been stashed by the family, who are gathered from far and wide, and who number around 45, and who have just informed me that it is unacceptable for Mai to have a boyfriend because custom decrees that widows must not have a boyfriend until at lest three years after the dear departed. And Mai's old man only flew the coop two years ago .And Mother -in- Law would be in attendance.The pork spareribs morphed into beef stew with rice, sweet onions and watermelon. Beautifully cooked in the family's personal kitchen. They took me in there and lifted up the lid of the pot for my approval. All this without one word of English.Nobody in Vietnam speaks English. I am learning Vietnamese. "Gamon!" means thanks. "Gup o chee"(Cup of Tea) means You are welcome. "Dung Lo Lan" (Cow poo in the back paddock) means stay happy.In Vietnam, rates are based on the length of road frontage. Consequently all the houses are one room wide but very deep. Marble is used extensively on facades, floors and halfway up walls. The furniture inside the homes is made from massive Chunks of redwood.indestructible. And completely uncomfortable. Everyone has a motorbike. They are parked in the lounge room. Most meals are taken on the marble floor except for the old folk who have trouble getting down and up, so they eat at tables.We slept on thin mattresses on the floor. Maybe there was a regular bed in there somewhere.The shower was Asian style: scooping containers of water over your head with one hand, while soaping up with the other. Unlike Thailand, the toilet was western- style. Not those horrible squat down on the floor disasters.
Today Mai and I visited the Catholic cemetery. All the graves are the same size and design. Grey marble with a cross on top and a small shrine in front with room to burn incense sticks and an ingenious candle which comprises a wick in a glass vase of palm oil. The theory being that the wick burns for weeks, or months, until all the palm oil is consumed.
The cemetery was a riot of colour. Every grave was swamped in fresh flowers ( See photo - if ever I work out how to transfer them from my I Pad camera).
It appears to me that the Catholic Church is much more vibrant than in the west. In the service I attended over two thousand worshippers also attended. Six priests were on the Dias. Forty choir boys wearing red and white cassocks were in either side. A brass band reminiscent of a Mexican street band belted out the hymns at full volume, and two thousand voices raised the heavens in beautiful harmony. I wished I could have recorded them. Beats " Onward Christian Soldiers" hands down!
They have huge families in Vietnam. Mai's parents had nine children: five daughters and four sons. Mai was number three in the pecking order. Mai herself had five children: three daughters and two sons. And they now have children. Easy to see why this family gathering totalled 45 in all.
Today we all got together for a huge banquet at one of Mai's sisters' house. There were two table set up. One for the oldies (at some point in the proceedings I realised that I was the oldest person present by six years), and one for the next generation, numbering about a dozen. The food was beautifully presented and covered the gamut of varieties. There was Cooked chicken., a seafood salad, complete with raw prawns which one cooked in a bowl of sizzling palm oil, kept simmering by a small camp stove on each table. There was rice blended with something terrific. There was a seafood- based soup. Several salads. Etc.,And the beer kept coming, cooled with large chunks of ice in each glass. To get the full effect, see photos ( if ever I work out.........".
To get from house to cemetery to restaurant to another house ( this family appears to own half the town) we travelled by motorbike; with me being handed around to a number of hulking 20-year olds- none of whom could speak English.
Did I tell you, it seems that everyone in Saigon parks their motorbikes in the lounge room? Even in Mai's sisters' marble palaces. Sometimes up to six bikes, depending on who's home.
And the exchange of money is embedded in the culture. For Tet, all the grown ups (including me) had to give all the little kids money. Real money. I ran out of money several days ago. Mai has been carrying me since then. Because, with Tet, all shops and banks are closed for eight days. The local cop lives two doors up.Mai gave him money for Tet ostensibly not to hassle me with burocracy..
February 2 ·
Houses in Vietnam are one room wide and up to seven stories high (see photos, if ever I can find out how to transfer them).
Mai's house is one room wide and two stories high. The ground floor comprises a lounge room ( decorated with a motorbike), tiny kitchen and bathroom. It includes a six- speaker sound system and a flat- screen Tv.
Up the precipitously and potentially leg- breaking stairs is a large bedroom, with a second flat-scree n TV, and a late model personal computer. IPads and IPhones are dotted around the place. Mai spends a large part of each day talking to her daughter in America and her relatives in Saigon.
The banks opened today, at last (after Tet) and I was able to withdraw some money. The bank charged me a $35 transaction fee. Greedy bastards.
We had lunch at her sisters' and her husband's three-story grand home.He was a former high- ranking officer in the south- Vietnam army and was sent to a re-education camp in the north, for four years, for his troubles.He is not bitter. I would be.
It is easy to become a millionaire in Vietnam.
One Australian dollar is worth 17,303 Vietnamese Dong.
Fifty Australian dollars are worth 865,170 Vietnamese Dong.
is 3:00 am and I am wide awake. WIDE awake.
You will recall I withdrew $1,000 (plus $35 transaction free from the thieving bank). That should last me ten days, I thought. It was gone in 24 hours. $700 went on two gold rings. One for Mai, with my face on it. One for me, with her face on it. (I am one of the last great romantics.) Another $700 went on tickets for our Mekong River cruise. The cruise was my idea. While I was scrolling through the various options available on the Net, Mai was babbling on in Vietnamese with someone.It turned out that she had already bookedthe first river boat option she had come across."Tell them we want to go next week," I said. Oh no. The boat is leaving tomorrow." Okay," I said, " we'll go down to their office and pay via Visa card."
February 6 ·
No. Don't come to office. We will come to your house.We will be there at 7:00 pm.
" Okay, I will pay with Visa Card."
Oh no. We don't use Visa? It is not safe . ( Rubbish!)
You must pay cash.
"$700 is -2,600,000 Dong. Carrying that sort of money around is not safe."
"Do you have a brochure."
No I do not have a brochure but I have this for you.
He hands me two pages of type, photocopied from a letter.
" Do you have a photo of the boat?"
No. But it looks something like this. He scrolls through his iPhone until he finds a photo of a junk.
"How many other passengers are there?"
Not more than twenty.
"Which countries do they came from?"
I don't know.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
My alarm bells are starting to ring.
This guy does not work for the boat company.
He wants cash because he does not want to pay taxes or leave a paper trail.
He has arranged for a private car to pick us up at 0715 tomorrow for the 3 hour drive to the boat terminal.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
Here is what is going to happen:
No private car will show up. He has my $700 for two days on the Mekong. He is gone.
A dilapidated junk car will show up with an obvious criminal driver, who will take us out in the jungle and demand extra money to take us back.
A car will show up with two men in the front seat.
They will chuck Mai out in the countryside somewhere and take me to a basement where they will beat me up until I reveal my credit card's passwords.
Once they have emptied my bank accounts they will sell me on to another gang who specialise in hostage taking. They will place a price of $3,000 000 on my head. After they have contacted everyone on my IPad Contact list, they will have accumulated a total of around $50. Realising that I am a lost cause, they will sell me on to an Islamic fundamentalist group who will keep me in a tiger cage until the time is right for me to have my head cut off while being videotaped.
By now I am REALLY WIDE AWAKE.
So here is what actually happened:
At 0715, a newish 7 -seater SUV, with a driver dressed in a uniform, showed up as arranged. It was a Saturday. There was a lot of traffic. But as we were the only passengers, we had a pleasant air-conditioned three hour drive to the boat wharf at Cai Be. We met the crew. All smartly dressed in the boat cruise uniform. All mostly English speaking. All very nice and especially helpful. We boarded the specially designed river cruising boat, and inspected our cabin.
It had an outside window. Too big and square to be called a porthole. And a big double bed! Haven't seen one of those for a while. There were a total of 21 passengers: German, Danes, Poms. One other Aussie girl with a surly French guy. And, much to her disgust, Mai was the only Vietnamese. A welcome aboard drink was served followed by a fabulous 5-course lunch.
The engine started and we were off on our cruise of the Mekong. Something which had been on my bucket list for a long time.
At 4:00 pm we stopped for a stroll around a verdant (!) riversides village and was given an interesting talk by our university-educated guide.
At 5:30 we were back on board to enjoy a drink while we watched THE SUN SET ON THE MEKONG. Then
A delicious dinner while our boat, the Mekong Eye, found a place to anchor for the night up a quiet creek in the Mekong delta.
Thankfully there was NO karaoke. Had the best night's sleep ever.
We were off again at 6:30 am and enjoyed a leisurely alfresco breakfast on the top deck while we watched the Mekong come alive as everyone set about their normal activities, drying fruits and building boats.
At the southern end of the Mekong, where we were, the river is mostly built-up with substantial size towns dotted along the banks.
After breakfast we boarded a 20-seat sampan to inspect the Cai Rang floating market. This is a serious market wholesale selling fruit and vegetables to hotels and village shops.
We also explored tiny canals, a noodle factory , a street market and, just generally, walked around.
Mai and I were then dropped off at Bing Thanh, where our taxi driver was waiting for us. He had slept the night in his taxi, waiting for our return journey to Saigon.
Horrendous traffic jam coming back. At one point we drove ten kilometres in one hour. It was Sunday afternoon. There were literally thousands of motorcycles weaving in and around the cars, busses and lorries. I saw four serious accidents. One car had knocked the wheel horizontally on a big truck. Had to be a fatality.
The cruise company shouted Mai and me a terrific lunch at a 5-star Japanese resort.
So to home after a fabulous weekend.
Dung Lo Lan means Don't Worry in Vietnamese.
My sentiments exactly.
There are no coins in Vietnam.
Only paper money.
How to get rid of your worries in Vietnam.
Vietnams population is around 90 million.
Being communist, officially religion is not encouraged.
It is " the opiate of the masses", according to Karl Marx. The most popular belief in Vietnam is Buddhism. The second most popular belief, with over 10,000,000 devotees, is Roman Catholicism.
However there is a strong undercurrent of paganism and animism. Particularly in the remote countryside.
At many crossroad and T-junctions in the small towns along the Mekong river, the remains of small fires can be found. These are indicative of a deal being struck with the dark forces.
Here's how it works.
You buy a dozen or so candy bars and sweets and chocolate, because the evil spirits have a sweet tooth. You add a few cigarettes and a bottle of Coke or a can of beer. You get a handful of incense sticks.
Then your put on a second layer of clothing.
At the junction of a crossroad or T-junction, you build a small fire. Then you light the incense sticks to invite the bad spirits to the party. You take off the outer layer of your clothing, which contain all of your troubles and worries, And you burn them in the fire. Your troubles go up with the smoke but you must not pass the road junction for three months, or you will get them all back again.
These evil spirits are not to be messed with.
The proof being that the candy bars and offerings remain in place for many days and weeks.
They have Uber motorcycle taxis in Vietnam.
Who will be the first to introduce it in Oz?
Vietnam has it's own religion, found nowhere else in the world.
It's call "Cao Dai".
It was founded in 1926 by a simple civil servant who received a message from God.
He was told to unite each of the leading religious faiths into one overall faith dedicated to world peace.
Cal Dai was very popular for many years but was decimated firstly by the French occupation and secondly by the Vietnam war. All of their lands were confiscated and today Cao Dai own little more than their temples.
These are located mainly in the Mekong area. The temples are colourfully decorated in whites ( for purity), reds ( for Confusism), yellows (for Buddhists), and blues (for Taoists).
Worshippers wear white robes and prostrate themselves before an alter, while chanting to the beat of a gong.
These days Cao Dai support the poor in their district through education, work, housing and food.
They appear to have an aversion to shower curtains throughout Southeast Asia.
In every country, in almost every case, they use hand-held shower nozzles, which spray water all over the toilet. And everywhere else.
They could easily install a shower curtain.
But it's just not in the culture.
Instant hot water is provided by a very efficient little water heater which is mounted on the wall.
Much better than the huge, expensive to run, water heaters we have outside our homes, constantly heating hot water we don't need.
nd so the return journey starts.
I made the mistake of listening to the News before we left the house.
"" Airline Industry Overdue For Another Catastrophe "
Now let's see...Malaysian Airlines have had two mysterious disappearances.
Surely Air Asia will have their own planes for the return journey.
I said goodbye to Mai at Ho Chi Minh City airport.
It will be a couple of months before I see her again in Queensland. She was a little weepy.
I surprised myself by being a little weepy also.You get that way as you become older.
I queued for my flight documents.
I queued for immigration.
I queued for passport control.
And I queued for customs inspection.
And then I waited 45 minutes for boarding to commence.
I looked out the boarding area window at the aluminium tube in which I am to entrust my life for the next six hours.
It was an old Air Bus.
It was painted a dirty yellow.
Emblazoned along the side was:
The four-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur proved uneventful. The faded yellow airbus plodding along like a faithful old draught-horse.
Once there, I had a four-hour layover until my overnight flight to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
I wandered around. Good to stretch my legs. I ordered a chicken burger and a cup of tea at MacDonalds', but let the lady talk me into a family meal which included three stringy chips and a large cardboard container of sugar and water, masquerading as Coke -- something I was to regret later.
Eventually.) the clock ticked around to 8:35 local time, and we passed through a somewhat lax security to our departure gate, and boarded our plane. (Kim Jong Ill's brother had just been assassinated at this same terminal only a few days previously).
Thankfully our plane was a reasonably new Air Asia Air bus. But because ours was a Low Fare Economy Class flight, the seats were jammed together to the
Pint where I could not stand upright in front of my seat, but had to curl over the seat in front which contained a lady who I am sure thought I was peering down her cleavage. I had the window seat, so the two poor guys to my left had to get up and stand in the aisle every time I wanted to get out.
Loading completed, the plane te erased out of the loading bay and rumbled the two or three kilometres across the airfield to the starting gate at the beginning of the launching runway. And there we waited. And waited. And waited. Air Asia security guys, wearing yellow vests, were striding up and down the aisles. The stewardesses had lost their normal robotic expression and were running up and down the aisles, counting numbers and calling for two passengers named Aaron Zelig and Paolo Laurene. A stewardess came up to me:
"Are you Aaron Zelig.?"
" No, I'm John Smith."
Not for the first time did I curse my parents for giving me such an obviously fake name.
"Are you sure you are not Aaron Zelig?"
" Quite sure."
"Show me your Boarding Pass."
I hadn't really looked at it. Thankfully it said " Passenger John Smith". Otherwise I would probably be languishing in spartan accomodation, courtesy of the sultan of Malaya.
We waited at the runway gate for over a hour. Eventually the Captain got on the intercom and said:
"Ladies. and gentleman we have a situation on board. A lady passenger refuses to fly on the plane and insists on being offloaded. If we cannot convince her, we will have to return to the loading area so that she can exit the plane."
There is some commotion going on behind me but all I can see is a young woman's back. She is wearing a head scarf and carrying a backpack. Finally the engines rev-up out of idling mode and we lumber back to the passenger loading terminal.
We wait. And we wait. At last, the door is opened and the young lady steps out into the welcoming arms of the Malayan Security Police.
We wait some more.
Ultimately our Captain gets on the intercom again.
I am beginning to like him. He must have been under tremendous strain.
"Ladies and Gentlemen please disembark the plane and await further instructions."
All 365 of us disembark to wait in the departure lounge.
We wait for over one hour.
Now one of three things is going to happen, I say to myself:
Air Asia is going to fly in another plane and we will change planes.
AirAsia will put us all up st a hotel for the night.
We will all file back on the plane and take off for Oz (tralia).
We went with option three. By now it was approaching
11:00 pm. We found
our seats and squeezed into them.
During the thorough inspection of the plane, the security staff had found one suspicious backpack.
"Who owns this?"
I had to admit it was mine.
What evidently had happened was this:
The hysterical lady who had to be offloaded was one of a terrorist cell of three who had agreed to become martyrs by bringing down an Air Asia plane.
However two of the martyrs (Aaron Zelig and Paolo Laurene) had had second thoughts, leaving all the glory to the lady member of the group. Discovering that she was alone, she had second thoughts also and demanded to be offloaded.
That's my interpretation of events.
After laboriously getting everyone re-seated, we, at last, took off for an uneventful, all-night flight to the Gold Coast of Australia. Arriving two and a half hours late, with missed connections everywhere.
Uneventful that is, for everyone else but me.
I was actually too sick to fly.
I was very proud of myself to survive three weeks in Ho Chi Minh City without coming down with gastro-enteritis. Instead I came down with the worst case of Flu that I had ever had. My nose was streaming non-stop for three days. My throat was red raw. I could not stop coughing Day and night. I felt like hell.
I had some extremely strong prescription anti-biotic drugs
With me called "Roxithromycin 300".
I took one. I failed to read the small print which said:
"Due to a rare interaction, it is recommended that cholesterol lowering medication should be stopped while taking roxithromycin."
Several hours and one country later I had an urgent need to urinate. Air terminals never have enough toilets. In a state of deepening panic, I rushed around K.L. Terminal searching for the elusive toilet symbol.
At last I spied one up ahead. I clamped down on everything and rushed up to it. Damn! It was for Ladies.
The Men's was further ahead. I got to the door and Oops, too late, Niagara had erupted. I had peed my pants. Copiously.
Fortunately I was wearing bark blue jeans. I kidded myself no-one would notice. I pulled my black T-shirt down as far as it would go. Now I would have to spend the entire night sitting in very wet trousers.
Two hours later we were about to embark.Again I got the urge. Our section was closed off but I could see a toilet beyond a glass door which was guarded by a uniformed Malayan lady cop.
"Can I go through there?"
"No." She helpfully replied.
Oops! Once again it was too late. More pee in my pants.
"See what you have done!" I was tempted to ask. But there is probably a law prohibiting peeing in airport terminals.
Another time on the plane, my two mates had to stand in the aisle while I got out. One always had to wait for a vacant toilet on planes. I waited for my turn.
Oops! Too late! I no longer had a need to use the toilet.
But there was a mysterious puddle outside the toilet door.
Wet pants Joe coughed and sneezed his way back to his seat. Too sick to look down the ladies blouse in front.
I coughed all night long. But I noticed there was a lot of coughing going on all around me.
Toward dawn I had another urgent need to go.
Sorry boys. They gallantly stood up but there was no friendly banter this time. At the toilets there was a typical Gold Coast lady in front of me.
"Forget it," I said to myself. "By the time she puts on the false eyelashes, does the mascara, adds a little blusher, highlights the cheekbones, outlines the lips,adds the lipstick, kisses a Kleenex to blot the lipstick,checks the mirror to make sure there is no lipstick on her teeth; by all that time there was no way I was going to make it. I marched down the aisle the entire length of the plane to the second set of toilets but
Oops! Too late. Didn't make it.
I coughed my way back up the aisle hunched over so all the other passéngers couldn't see my wet patch, which now extended down to my knees.
I had long ago discarded my handkerchief which was soaked. Instead I used the bottom of the T-shirt I was wearing. God knows what the two blokes to my left were thinking.
Five times that night I peed my pants. And sat in misery in wet pants for the entire eight-hour flight.
When I eventually got back to my house I dumped everything I was wearing into the washing machine and VERY NEARLY didn't make it to my own bathroom toilet.
On Countries, Cities, Towns and motorcycles...
... China is the most congested country in the world...Mexico City is the most congested city...
Tokyo has 5-hour traffic jams. So often that someone invented the one-use pop-up cardboard toilet to use in emergency situations in cars...Moscow is rated the most unfriendly city in the world. And the fourth most congested city in the world.
With a total area of 2,096 square kilometres and a population of 8,426,000, all of whom own a motorcycle, Ho Chi Minh City must also be high on the list.
Unless you are born there, I do not think it would be a good idea to try driving or riding in HCMC. Better to take motorcycle taxi. Or a Uber motorcycle taxi. You need to know the local rules: it's okay to shoot out of a side street into a Main Street without looking...it's okay to turn across the front of seven motorcycles riding abreast. Somehow they weave in front of you, or behind you, or slow down just enough not to run into you. It's okay for a vehicle simply to stop right in front of you. The motorcycle traffic banks up behind and then slips past, hoping that no one opens a car door in front of them. It's okay to ride on the footpath, where there is one. It's okay to ride directly into the oncoming traffic, while you search for a gap to shoot across to join the traffic going in the opposite direction.
It's okay to stay home and live for another day.
Mo Chou was not a happy lady.
In fact, she was clinically depressed,( if they have such a diagnosis in China. )
Chou was a "left-behind' woman.
Age 30 with no prospect of a husband in sight. She lived in Dalian. A freezing-cold metropolis in the far north of China. Up near the Russian border.
Dalian is a former colony of Russia. And then of Japan. And it still would be if Japan had won the Second World War.
Dalian is where they have the famed ice-sculptures.
Mo Chou was at her wit's end. She wanted a husband. And she wanted a baby. And the clock was ticking. Having tried a matchmaker and dating agencies, all with a spectacular lack of success, in desperation she consulted a fortune teller. Or Ziping Bazi.
They hold enormous influence in China. And have done so for generations.
Mo Chou made an appointment.
She was ushered into a salon hung with lavish red silk tapestries and redolent with the scent of sandalwood incense sticks.
She was greeted by a dignified older man who exhibited enormous presence.
His name was Ming;li Shi.
"First, give me $1,500 (Australian)." He said.
"Now what is your name?..when were you born?...where were you born?... How many bothers and sisters?... what is your mother's name...what is her mother's name?...and many more probing questions, until Mingli Shi had a complete profile on Mo Chou and her family.
After an hour or so, Mingli Shi went into a kind of trance.
He was looking at her Zi wei dou shu, a complex algorithm based on many years study and much wisdom passed down through the generations for thousands of years.
(Long before the term algorithm was ever invented.)
"Ah!", said Mingli Shi.
He had arrived at a conclusion.
"Mo Chou you are an unlucky lady. Everything about your life is wrong. You must eat more ginseng. You must meditate every day. And, most important of all: you must change your name. Mo Chou means that you are evil and fickle hearted. Change your name immediately or no man will ever have you."
Mo Chou went home, fired up her computer, searched through a long list of names, and eventually settled on Feng Mian
Which means "falling asleep in the woods". Or peaceful, tranquil and relaxed.
Several hours later Feng Mian's computer went 'ding!"
It was a message from Dalian Love, a dating site she had long ago given up on.
"An Australian gentleman wants to meet you, " it said.
"He is 180 centimeters tall, age 55, divorced with two children and has no religion."
One tentative email, led to a prompt reply. Several days later, one tentative Skype call led to Skype calls every day.
Skype calls every day led to the Australian, named Des, alighting from a plane in Dalian airport, sometime soon after.
Des was everything Feng Mian had dreamed of.
He was handsome. He was soft-spoken. He was gentle. He was rich. He was a nice guy. And he could give her a beautiful baby.
Within days, the couple were down at the Dalian Marriage Registration Bureau. No appointment necessary. Almost all of the ceremony was in Chinese, but eventually Des was given a bunch of red roses to hold for the photo ceremony
(That will be $12. Now give us back the roses)
and he was presented with a little red book which stated that he and Feng Min were married under Dalian city law.
Des took his bride back to Australia.
And here entered a stressful period in Des' life.
Feng Mian desperately wanted a baby.
Almost everywhere Des went, a naked Feng Mian would pounce on him and demand that he make her pregnant.
Des tried . And tried. And tried. But ("my Des is not strong!") no babies.
To try and arrange some semblance of a quiet life, Des and Mian decided to try IVF. ($5,000 a pop).
No luck. They tried again ($5,000). No luck. They tried again. ($5,000) No luck.
In desperation they tried IVF for one last, fifth, time.
Feng Mian was expecting.
She turned-off the sex immediately.
After two or three weeks, Des tentatively suggested a little intercourse. ("It won't hurt the baby.") but Feng Mian was adamant. The tap was turned off.
Feng Mian was happier than she had ever been. Handsome husband. Baby on the way. Everything was good.
In due time, the baby was delivered. They named him Brandon. But instead of a gurgling little fat bundle of fun, Brandon was skinny, sickly and spent his days plugged into wires and tubes in a humicrib in the hospital.
Feng Mian was devastated,, She began to slide into depression. Her dream had morphed into a nightmare. Nothing Des could do would console her.
As a last resort, the couple decided to phone Mingli Shi, the fortune teller, all the way away, in Dalian.
"Before you tell me the problem, you must wire me $1,500 dollars (Australian)." Mingli Shi said.
Des immediately wired the money.
A tearful Feng Mian explained the problem, in a babble of Mandarin.
"And what is this babies name?" Mingly Shi asked when he could get a word in.
"His name is Brandon."
"Well it is obvious, that is a very unlucky name. You must change his name immediately. He is in danger."
Des and Mian talked for half the night. They decided on Bronson. A strong, manly name.
The hospital phoned the next day.
"Good news! Baby Brandon passed the crisis point at midnight last night and is now well on the road to recovery ."
If you have enjoyed this post you might also enjoy John Smith Book of a year long series of misadventures in South East Asia. See www.beenthere-donewhat.com
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different outcome the second time.
Thos of you who have read my book" Been There- Done What!"will quickly realise that that is exactly what I am doing.
The first time I met a 50-year-old doctor in China. Went through some sort of ceremony in the People's Hall. Who knows what was said? It was all in Chinese! I lived in Guangzhou for three months. Dreadful place! The pollution was so bad, I did not want to breathe.Population twenty two million. Same as the population of Australia.
I brought her back to Oz for a year of hell, culminating in the inevitable separation. That was three years ago.And now I am about to do the same thing, regardless of what Einstein said. This time with a 57-year-old Vietnamese widow.
I leave on Tuesday for three weeks in Ho Chi Minh City. Which I prefer to call Saigon. My visit coincides with the Tet Festival which celebrates the New Year in the Vietnamese calendar.
Click on the link and watchBlog 2Departed Noosa at 8:00 am after a lift down to the bus terminal courtesy Howard.When I booked my reservation the lady asked if I wanted to travel via Brisbane. I said" Definitely not!"So of course.....which added another hour to the trip.Am now ensconced at a table in the Surfers paradise Paradox coffee bar.As it was now 01:15 pm and I had not eaten all day, I ordered my favourite breakfast: Scrambled eggs, avocado,bacon and mushrooms.I was served by a delightful, smiling, suntanned young goddess. I probably reminded her of her Grandad. I now hang around Surfers for two hours before catching a bus to Coolangatta. And then another bus to the airport. My aAir Asia flight leaves at 10:50 pm and arrives at Kuala Lumphur at 4:00 am (!) where I have to disembark to catch another plane to Saigon.Surfers is a dreadful place. Somewhere there is the sea, but it is hidden behind all the high rise. And people actually choose to live here! It's 2:30 am and I am somewhere two hours south of Kuala Lumphur, MalAya, so don't expect anything too erudite.I arrived at Coolangatta at 5:45pm. Waited for the airport bus for forty minutes until I realised that there was no du h thing. So I negotiated with the driver of the next bus and he dropped me off about a kilometre from the Gold last Airport. My flight departed at 10:00pm. Only a four hour wait required.I madethemistake of buying a Gin and Tonic, not my normal drink, which might explain why I am still awake.We boarded the plane a little before 10:00. It is an ancient Malaysia Airlines Air Bus , hastily painted over by Air Asia. The seating is four across, meaning twelve per row. There are no s creens for in-flight movies. The Malayan crew spend much of their time meandering up and down the aisles selling, water, snacks, drinks, duty-free gifts -- just like in the old movie theatres.I am Charing my seat with an Aussie ex-soldier. He served in Iraqi and East Dili. I didn't ask whether he had killed anyone as I was worried it might set him off. Soon after we stowed our bags and settled in, he took a packet of electronic cigarettes from out of his pocket. He carefully selected one cigarette, broke it in two, and extracted three small white pills which he swallowed. He is a baddy. Behind me is a young lady who jams her kneee into the back of my seat causing me great discomfort. I have fantasies of leaping the seat and pounding her into oblivion. In the seat in front of me is a middle-aged Chinese lady who has farted continually for the entire trip. She is doing it right now.I think she must be on an exclusive cabbage diet. There was a brief frisson of panic a while ago. My mobile phone went missing. In tn he dark I started ripping things out of my backpack until I realised it was someone else's backpack.when I eventually found MY backpack, there was my mobile phone, safe and sound.
Click on the link below to watch a short video on youtube.
Andy Warhol said that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime.
My fifteen minutes came when I was nine years old.
Which was in 1949.
It was the inaugural Artarmon Billycart Race.
The local shopkeepers had got together and purchased a scintillating new Malvern Star pushbike, which was on display in a local shop window. In those days, bikes didn't have gears. But it did have a little toolkit which dangled behind the seat so that tyre punctures could be easily repaired.
I coveted that bike!
Previous to the race, I had zoomed around Artarmon on a scooter. You stood on one leg and pushed with the other.
My big brother, Jim drew up plans for a state of the art billycart.
Ball bearing wheels were all the go those days,. These days, I think I would prefer wheels from a baby carriage.
Jim did all the work. What are big brothers for? It consisted of one solid beam with a fixed axle on the back. And a flexible axle on the front, so that it could be steered with a piece of rope, which was attached to either end of the crosspiece, near the wheels.
For brakes, you dragged your feet along the ground.
Originally the race was intended to be held on the steepest hill in Artarmon. But some old darling decided that would be too dangerous, so the race was moved to the football oval at Artarmon's neolithic education factory: Artarmon Primary School. There were no stands or seats. The race was to be conducted on the flat with one boy steering and another boy pushing. We quickly signed-up Bobby Tartuff. Bobby was in Jim's class. He had the longest legs in Artarmon. And, possibly the world. The race was a shoo-in. The Malvern Star was mine. But first I had to endure the endless boredom of days and days at school. I was the first kid to discover the Just Willam books. Then Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. Then Biggles books. Biggles was a fighter pilot Ace in World War 1.
I would hide the books behind whatever tome the class was plodding through. Which was a big risk. Because teachers at that school would cane you for the least excuse.
'Six Of The Best', it was called. Six cuts across the hand with a willow stick. Tough kids would Rozzen-up their hands so the fingers would become hard and shiny and the cane would slide off and not hurt so much. I quickly learned never to sit in the back row of the class because that was the favourite hunting ground for teachers selecting victims. Six of the best was a common occurrence in every class. Six of the best on either hand was not uncommon. One poor kid, Cousins, copped Six Of The Best on both hands every hour, all day long for writing the F-word on the school wall. Although I was in total agreement with his sentiment.
We didn't see Cousins again after that.
When I look back I realise that several of those teachers were out and out pure sadists and should never have been allowed near a school.
Two of the worst were Saunders and Mallet.
Saunders was a weedy little germ who took obvious delight in caning small boys. Kids would pee their pants walking up to the front of the class to get punished.
Mallet was another one. He had been in the War and contracted Malaria.
He would be sitting up in front of the class, sweating, and shivering.
And I would be down in the middle of the class watching with barely controlled glee. Suffer you bastard.
The great day arrived. Thousands (it seemed) of people had shown up to watch the race. I was given my racing singlet with No 15 written on it. Bobby Tartuff was primed and ready to go. While we were in the pits waiting for the race to start, some Saint Leonards kids came up to me and asked if they could take my billycart for a ride. Being the naive, gullible, trusting fool that I still am today, I said yes. St Leonards is the next railway station down from Artarmon. They took off for a test ride but brought my billycart back in plenty of time for the race.
It was time!
The contestants were all named over the public address system: so and so...and so and so...and JOHHNY SMITH FROM ARTARMON! A huge roar went up from the crowd. Really huge!
I was the hometown favourite.
This was my fifteen minutes of fame!!
Never in my life since then, have I received such a roar of acclimation.
We lined up.
The starter's pistol was fired.
Bobby Tartuff and I took off and hurtled down the straight, well in front of the rest of the pack.
We skidded into the first turn.
And my billy cart disintegrated.
Those little shits from Saint Leonards had intentionally knobbled it.
I rolled over three or four times and stood up. I heard the announcer say :"He's all right, everybody.! He's all right".
Another cheer went up.
My dream of bike ownership faded into oblivion. I was doomed to ride a scooter forever.
A good rule in life: Never trust anyone from St. Leonards.
So I grew up.
I still have fantasies of meeting Mallet on a dark country road and having a little chat with him.
Even though I realise that he is long dead.
Ha Bloody Ha.
Old curmudgeons say that the cane never hurt anyone.
Like hell, it didn't.
Whole generations of men were created who were shy, anxious, inarticulate, socially inept, introverted and prone to alcohol abuse.
If you have enjoyed this post, you might enjoy reading John's memoir" Been There, Done What!". See the website:
When I was around three or four years old, almost every night, when I was asleep, a giant would silently enter my bedroom and sit on the end of my bed and not say a word. He would stay for what seemed like hours and he would scare the living daylights out of me. I was too terrified to speak and could barely breathe.
It wasn't until many, many years later, after puberty and a slowly-burgeoning wisdom had struck that I realised that the giant was actually my father and he would sit on the end of my bed.
And watch two young women neighbors, undressing, through the window of the house next door.
Later when I was a teenager and had one or two girlfriends visiting my house, my father would give them an enthusiastic hug. Whether they wanted it or not.
They would look at me over his shoulder with a look of stunned amazement and embarrassment on their face.
Fast forward to 1963. I was working for Drum Magazine in Johannesburg and living with a genuinely beautiful girl named Susan, who had superb alabaster skin.
Due to the fact that she came from Yorkshire and had infrequently been exposed to the sun.
Susan would say things like: "It was a rarte brarte narte".
Which translated into English meant "it was a right bright night."
We had a flat on the seventh floor of an apartment building in Hillbrow. Then a cosmopolitan area. Now a no-go area.
At her request, I had purchased one of those tinkle, tinkle, tinkle glass things which hang from the ceiling in front of a window and go 'tinkle, tinkle, tinkle' all night long.
I did not like the sound and made Susan hang it in the lounge room, not the bedroom, where it would keep me awake.
One airless night, Susan and I were both in bed reading. It was quite late.
We had all the windows in the flat open. And the bedroom door closed for some reason.
Suddenly in the lounge room, we heard: tinkle, tinkle TINKLE! A loud and insistent tinkle.
At the same time our bedroom door slowly, slowly, slowly opened and a cold wind blew from the bedroom door and out the window. The temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.
"Oh I dont like this!" said Susan, snuggling closer.
"Do you see anything?" I asked.
"No", she said, "But I'm frightened. What is it?"
I definitely saw something.
It was my old man, standing in the doorway, wearing his old fawn sweater and looking approvingly at my lovely blonde companion.
The wind became a breeze and then faded away completely.
So slowly, did my old man.
The next day my Editor, David, called my into his office.
"John", he said. "I'm sorry to have to tell you but I've had a call from your Mother in Australia.
Your father passed away yesterday.".
It was 1970 and I had just arrived in Southern California.
It was also New Year's Eve.
It is against the laws of nature to stay home on New Year's Eve so I reserved a seat at the New Year's Banquet at the Newporter Inn in Newport Beach.
It was the Newporter where the United States Attorney General had stashed Martha Mitchell prior to her giving testimony at the Watergate trials of Richard Nixon.
However, Martha never got to testify.
Her plane mysteriously exploded in the skies over Chicago, killing all 350 poor souls on board.
But I didn't know about all that then.
All I knew was that it was New Year's Eve and I didn't have a date.
It was when I opened a bank account at the Bank of America that that problem was solved.
The Bank of America used to be called the Bank of Italy. But no-one would deposit their money there and it was going bankrupt until some bright spark suggested: "Let's change the name to the Bank of America." And.....boom....instant success.
Her name was Tuppence Merryweather and she was a bank teller.
"Would you happen to be free.....................", you know the story.
Tuppence was part Indian. Red Indian, that is. She was a nice lady, although she did have scars across both wrists, indicative of a failed suicide attempt. You are supposed to cut along the vein, not across it.
The Newporter management knows how to handle friendless festivalgoers.
They put us all at one long table and we had the best night. One of the great nights of my life.
Tuppence got stuck into the firewater early on.
Soon after discovering that she was the only American at the table.
I didn't see much of her after that.
Several hours later, a mature lady tottered up to me and asked:" Are you Joe?" I said I was.
"Your friend Tuppence is in the ladies loo throwing up."
Seated to my right was a Swiss man about my age. We struck up an immediate, booze-fueled mateship.
He had just arrived from Venezuela. He was due to get married in two days time.
"Joe...Joe", he said earnestly. "You are carefree and single. You remind me of me. I tell you something. "
He hunched closer.
"When I was in Venezuela, three hundred kilometers north of Caracas on the Rio Orinoco River., I found a rich seam of diamonds."
"Goodonya!"I enthused."Bloody good! Have another glass of red."
"No Joe. Seriously." He gave me a drunken earnest look. "Seriously. I can't do anything about it or my fiancee won't marry me. She won't let me go back to Venezuela.
I draw you a map."
He spread a table napkin out and sketched a very rough mud map. Which soon dissolved in a sea of red wine.
"Seriously Joe. Lots of diamonds. I tell you because you are free, you can go."
I had just arrived and had no money to go anywhere.
"Yair, mate. Goodonya. Thanks mate. Now we'll stay in touch, right?"
The night came to an end. Tuppence faded off into the sunset not long afterward..
I became immersed into the Californian culture; eventually arriving at the conclusion that they were all mad.
A couple of months later, I was reading the Los Angeles Times, when a paragraph headline on page five caught my eye:
"Massive diamond vein discovery on the Orinoco River in Venezuela sparks huge diamond rush."