In June 2006, DJ and I boarded the Pacific Princess (by now we were Platinum Captain Circle members) in Bangkok, and sailed off to Malaysia, Singapore then up to Vietnam and into the port of Phu My, where we drove into Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City, or commonly referred to as ‘HCMC’).
We visited the Reunification / Independence Palace (the old U.S. Embassy from the roof where the Ambassador left by helicopter with the US marines during the war) and had a beer in honor of my father at the REX hotel, where he often briefed the press on war status. Before reboarding the ship, the locals put on a lion dance on the dock and sold liquor bottles with giant scorpions and snakes inside. We then followed the Vietnam coast up to Nha Trang near Hanoi.
Loving this country, I took my gay family back to Ho Chi Minh City for a couple of weeks of relax and explore time. A good excuse for some delicious street-side pho and local ice cold beer.
Saigon: Good morning Vietnam, again
DJ and I had been to Vietnam, and returned with Jones and Ryan to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) where I had booked two suites at the fabulous Pullman Saigon Centre Hotel (by Sofitel). By this point I was platinum elite with the Sofitel membership program, which gave me significant benefits and upgrades.
The rooms were modern and grand, with a giant bathtub in the centre of the room, which itself was enshrined in two floor to ceiling walls of glass overlooking the city. The hotel is adjacent to the notorious Bu Vien bar and ‘girls for rent’ street used by US GI’s during the war and made extra famous by the musical MISS SAIGON. It’s become so touristy, that it’s really the Disneyland of sex and beer in Vietnam.
More authentic, behind the hotel was a spectacular gay friendly Thai restaurant, one of the best rated by Zagat at the time, which has a magnificent courtyard surround by recycled tin and lush tropical trees, where once we found it mid stay, we spent most evenings there. Over the nights that followed, more and more locals and restaurant staff joined our table for drinks following dinner.
The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the Mekong delta is about the same size as the Netherlands. I rented a private van and guide to take us on trip around the delta, including a long boat ride on the Mekong and visited a snake wrangler that placed a giant one around each of my gay family’s necks. I wanted to get a sense of the geography and feeling of the area that my father managed in Vũng Tàu during the war in the late 1960’s.