Friday, March 03, 2006

My last day in Vietnam

I was watching the news today on the box and noticed a familiar looking face on the telly going to prision in Vietnam for a spell. It reminds me of a story that I must tell you all.

It all started when I was travelling in July 2004. I had been all through Vietnam for about a month and I had made may way to a tiny border village called Chao Duc to stay for a night before floating up the river and across into Cambodia.

It had been a typical pain in the ass journey in a cramped mini bus packed to the gunnels with an old grannie and her doting entourage, a pockmarked corrupt looking sweaty cop, and some shit tour guide who couldn't be arsed talking. Which suited myself and 2 pals, who couldn't be arsed listening. The trip was in typical Vietnamese fashion. Bumpy roads, the most god awful Chinese version of westlife playing on a tinny stereo system which just so happened to postioned just above my head. To add insult to injury I had a seriously sprained knee that I had some how mysteriously acquired the night before while out "socialising."

Anyway we arrived at Chao Duc, and I was not much of a happy camper by this stage. Hopping (literally) out the minivan I was quickly surrounded by about 20 guys all with horse drawn carts and no horses, all screaming at me to pick them to take me to the local guesthouse. I was in no mood for anyone screaming at me, and I uncharacteriscally lost it and started screaming back at them. Dumb idea. All I got back was a lot of "oohs" and "ahhs" and some girlish sniggering. Typical. To cut a long story short, I got on the back of the cart, and watched the horse/boy take me 2 minutes down a road to what turned out to be the only guesthouse in the whole godforsaken town.

My friends and I settled into to our rooms and decided to get some food. No luck, however as everything was shut. However there was an older English looking guy sitting on the porch with a tray of bread, cheeses and fruit, and most noticably a few bottles of red wine. You don't see this type of spectacle very much Vietnam. He invited us to join him, and we all started getting into the wine and food.

He seemed a well read, interesting chap. He knew about New Zealand, commenting that he was in the play version of the Rocky Horror Picture show playing none other than
Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Impressive. He then started tell us about crazy times in Bali in the 70's where he was in rickety beach shacks with local prostitutes and been startled by huge geckos running over his bare ass while I suppose being on the job. He was full of stories. We all commented that he should write a book about it all. He told us that he had. We kept on asking his name, and he kept on saying his name was Paul. Something was nagging in the back of my head. This guy was famous, but for what ever ever reason, I couldn't put my finger on it. He eventually leaned forward to us all and lowered his glasses and said, "my names Paul, but some people call me Gary."

The penny dropped. We we're sitting across the table getting sloshed on vino, in the middle of nowhere with Gary fucking Glitter. Now that his secret was out of the bag, he started to tell us what had been really going on with him. He was on the run from Cambodia, where the President had been trying to kick him out for the last 2 years. Turns out the President used to fly over his rather palatial grounds every 2 days in a helicopter trying to get a glimpse of what was going on in there. I shudder to think what that was. He then said he was staying illegally in this border town, trying to get his immigration sorted out. A likely story. He was bummed out (no pun intended) that he couldn't go back to Cambodia and that he couldn't show us his pad in Phnom pen, or put us up there. Yeah right. Could you imagine it. Try saying that to anyone.

  • Fellow Traveller: "Where did you stay in Phnom pen Reilly?"
  • Me: "Oh, at Gary Glitters place?"
  • Awkward silence for about a minute.
  • Fellow Traveller: "Hey dude, I think I might get my own room, instead of sharing"
  • Fellow Traveller: Mutters under breath "Pervert"

That would be about the sum of it, really. The rest of the night, he was holding court with his fantastic stories, plying us all with wine and trying to get hold of his "18 year old Girlfriend" who was out getting drunk with people her own age and from what I gathered was trying to avoid him.

It's a weird feeling where you are genuinly interested in this guys storytelling and seemingly charming manner, but at the same time just want break a wine bottle on his bald head and yell at him "You fuck kids, don't ya." It's a very strange headspace to be in. Eventually I needed to sleep and had enough of his wine and food. I shook hands with him, felt instantly replused and managed to force a smile and scurry off to my room. I bolted the door, had a drunken shower and washed my hands about 5 times. The next day we left early, my pals and I quite stunned by the whole event and happy in the fact that we were going up the river and well erm... not up the Gary.