April 11, 1955
Dear Dad & Russ,
Well, here I am back in old Cambodia once again and also back at the old typewriter once again. My goodness, but I’m quite rusty in my typing!
Before answering your most welcome letters of March 20 and 27, I shall bring you up to date on events since my last letter about that exciting flight to the fabulous ruins of Angkor. I do hope by this time you will have received my two small handwritten letters from Saigon. I just wanted to keep you in touch with my whereabouts and I must admit, my whereabouts these days seem to be all over the continent of Asia!!!
Now, about Saigon. I certainly didn’t realize that Saigon was receiving quite so much publicity back home! Yes, there have been quite a few “outbursts” in the “Paris of the Orient” of late, but rest assured, it is of no concern or danger to the International Commission. Purely local disturbances.
I want to tell you now about why I had to go to Saigon las week. For goodness sake, don’t get excited about what I’m about to tell you. You’re going to laugh when you hear the outcome of the whole thing! I spent all last week in a French military hospital in Saigon!! I knew I was going into hospital when I went down there last week, but as I didn’t know quite why, I didn’t mention it to you at the time. Didn’t want you to worry – can’t have that. When the MO here in Phnom Penh gave me my “physical” a couple of weeks ago, he did find some sort of “internal disturbances” – so to speak – and for a time he thought I just might have a slight case of hepatitis (upset liver). So, just to be sure, he recommended that I go down to the hospital in Saigon for various tests, observations, etc., etc. – which I did.
I went into the hospital a week ago today, and ever since then I became a real collector’s item! Every time I tried to go to the toilet, somebody would come charging in with a little box or bottle or something and ask me for a donation!! Sure enough, my little old liver was slightly enlarged BUT – the reason it was enlarged was because (now don’t laugh) I HAD WORMS!!! Yup, worms! Of all things! These intestinal worms are as common as headaches here in these parts of the world – you get them from certain foods (nobody is quite sure what) that still have the eggs alive when you eat them. You know, these worms are really quite ridiculous. They’re absolutely harmless except for one thing – they do cause quite a traffic jam down inside!! Sort of clog things up, if you get what I mean! I was treated for the worms by drinking a rather “heavy duty” oil of some sort and then taking laxatives – to “help pass worms away”. That’s all there was to it. My goodness, imagine me getting worms! I felt like walking fish bait when I learned what ailed me!! By the way, you can get these worms back in Canada, but relax – they are very, very uncommon in said country! Anyways, here I am back in Phnom Penh (all de-wormed) and raring to go on the last four months’ home stretch! Won’t be long now!
I left the hospital on Saturday afternoon and on arriving back at the Continental palace hotel, who should I meet but Roger Reardon, sitting in the lobby! He had come down on Friday night to have his eyes checked in Saigon. He brought me a carton of cigarettes from the “Phnom Penh gang” and, even though they arrived a wee bit too late for hospital consumption, they certainly were most welcome and appreciated. So yesterday afternoon (Easter Sunday) Roger and I visited the Saigon Botanical Gardens and paid our respects to tigers and pythons, etc. (in cages, of course). It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in Saigon. The sky was a deep blue, the palm trees waved gracefully in a warm breeze and the millions of tropical flowers were gorgeous! You folks were in my thoughts all day, but I must admit I didn’t envy you one little bit what with all that “Spring” weather back home! Sure could use a bit of that snow ever here in these parts!
Guess what? We’re into the monsoon season again here in Indochina! Yes sir, the rains have come again, and all over the countryside the natives are busy cultivating their rice paddies. So from here on, we can expect at least one “flood” per day. Something to look forward to! What a strange country this is. It hasn’t rained but once since last October and now, all of a sudden, it rains every day!
All being well, I shall be taking off on a shopping spree, either this month or early next month, in the fabulous city of Hon Kong! I certainly am becoming quite the gadabout, aren’t I? I seem to be getting in and out of planes all the time lately! Sure am looking forward to Hong Kong. It’s a beautiful “civilized” city with HOT WATER, AIR CONDITIONED ROOMS, and MILK and a great many other things to make a to trip to Hong Kong well worth the effort. While there, I am going to buy a few tweed sport coats (about $20.00 each!) and a few other clothes (pants, sweaters, etc.) that will be suitable for wear in good old Canada. Then I shall purchase an aluminum wardrobe trunk (they’re quite terrific – I’ve seen some of them that our officers have brought back to Phnom Penh) and pack these new clothes into the trunk, have it crated and ship the whole thing back to Canada. I certainly don’t want to keep too many woollen clothes here in Cambodia, especially with the arrival of the rainy season, when everything stays continuously damp and mildewy. More about Hong Kong next letter.
I got my first batch of colour slides back from Paris last week (some of the ones I took in Bangkok). Golly, are they ever terrific! And to think I took them! I even have myself in some of these pictures (sitting in front of marble temples). I think you’re going to enjoy them – they’re quite beautiful and the colours are exactly as they looked to me when I took them. That’s one of the advantages of colour slides over colour prints. With colour slides you get the full values of light and shadow that is somewhat stilted in colour prints. You’re going to see some pictures that you’d honestly believe came right out of a Hollywood “spectacle”!
Thank you for sending along my driver’s license. You can’t imagine the fit of giggles I got when I received it. Whenever I look at the thing now, I’m reminded that I received my 1955 Ontario driver’s license in the Saigon French Military Hospital while being treated for worms!!!
That dinner you describe sounds terrific! [Steak, baked potatoes, salad and Jello.] Do me favour? I should like exactly the same thing for my first “home” meal!
I think that just about wraps things up from over here. The rain has stopped for a while and it will be a good chance to make a mad dash back to our “chamber of colours” at the Hotel de la Poste.
lots of love,
So here’s the part David didn’t tell dear ol’ Dad. While in Saigon, he witnessed an attack on the UN’s headquarters in the Hotel Majestic.