The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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Once I had resigned from PA&E, I had to firm up my plans in a hurry.  It was necessary to get an Exit Visa from the Vietnamese immigration authorities. I left this to PA&E, since they had functionaries who dealt with immigration all the time. I  filled out a form in long-hand, gave them  my  passport and took a receipt. All other preparations for departure I undertook myself, distrustful of PA&E’s ability to handle my exit which was so different from those of their other employees. I put off my actual departure until the Thursday flight to Phnom Penh, scheduled out at 4:00 pm, to be sure I had time to get everything ready.

Meanwhile, I closed down my apartment, sold off whatever I could not carry, and moved to a hotel. A suitcase full of clothing was packed and sent unaccompanied—one could do that in those days—to Bangkok. There remained only one problem: that .38 revolver given to me by the fellow who freaked out soon after our arrival had been stored in the bottom of my suitcase. I had to dispose of the gun. I could probably have turned it in to some authority, but which of the many “authorities” available could deal with it? What kind of questions would they ask, and what amount of hot-water would I get myself into?

In the end, I wrapped the 6 bullets in newspaper and stuffed them into the holster with a stone: I tossed this into the Saigon Canal, confident that the numerous bugs in that polluted water would chew up the holster in a hurry. The stone and bullets would sink into the muck, never to be found. The gun itself I dropped into the elevated wall-cistern for the toilet in my hotel room. I figured that by the time anyone discovered it, it would be a mass of rust beyond any hope of use. For all I know, that gun may still be there!

PA&E, on the other hand, was slow in preparing my paycheck and getting the exit visa. Good thing I left extra time!

DIARY ENTRY:  Wednesday, 4 September 1968: Well, PA&E nearly fucked up the works, but through perseverance I managed to get nearly everything set to go tomorrow. The paycheck wasn’t ready until after lunch, which left precious little time to get travelers checks and plane tickets. Whereas I had to wait 4 hours just for two signatures to be applied to my final paycheck, I got the travelers checks and airplane tickets done in just under two hours—and that included three separate calls at AIR VN & @ the bank! They talk about orientals being slow??? Have to get some form or other @ Air VN regarding my bag—certifying it can go through Customs locked; have to get passport @ Australian Embassy, & have to get to TSN tomorrow—all should be relatively easy. Of course, I won’t really be sure this scheme is going to work until I & the Honda are safely ensconced on the plane!!

There was a charming young lady at Air Vietnam who explained in detail exactly the steps I had to take to buy a ticket for myself and for the motorcycle and to purchase travelers checks. The machine had to be weighed: she told me exactly where to go to get that done, and it went without a hitch. (Of course, I rode the bike to all these places: it would not actually be prepared and drained until the very day I left). Buying and paying for the tickets and checks was complicated by the restrictions on money, and involved several trips to the bank—a branch of Bank of America!—but in the space of an afternoon all of this was done. As always, I found that by following directions and smiling a lot, I had no problems.

I was told the bike had to be “drained”, that is, no fuel in the tank when it went on the plane. But this meant that at the other end I would have no idea where to purchase fuel and hence how to get the bike back on the road. So I took a small bottle of gasoline tightly sealed in one of the saddle-bags, and these I carried on with my satchel. The form from Air VN certifying that my bag need not be inspected allowed me to get away with this little subterfuge.

On my last night in Vietnam, I had a nice dinner at the only fancy restaurant going at the time: it was french cuisine (not my favorite), but did have white table-cloths and good presentation. Afterwards, I had one last quickie with my friend Nguyen, which helped me sleep.

Come morning, I would be off on a new adventure! With my passport in hand. . .


. . . I had my visa for going INTO Vietnam “voided”, on the theory that I might run into someone who objected to my having been there. . .

Voided visa

. . . and I had my visa for Cambodia:

Cambodia visa

The chop in upper left is my departure stamp, which took some doing to get! Stay tuned!



Written by Bruce

December 14th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Saigon 1968,VietNam

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