Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Douglas Wayne Rice

I regret to inform you all that Doug passed away from liver disease on December 28th.
His remains will be buried at the National Cemetery in Dixon, California sometime later in January.
He will be missed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mental Doug and Vung Tau's Vietnam beaches


If you've been following me, you've read how I had myself stuck in Saigon.   Not physically but like that sailor who stops off in a port and can't seem to get out to sea again. Really don't know why or what held our mythical mainer in place but for myself it was the overpowering feeling of lurking dangers that no one other than myself was aware of that were waiting for me once I left.  These were invisible forces taking on their own life inside my mind and I was powerless in fending them off.

Triggering, for a lack of a better definition, an out of body sensation, my vision blurs as I defensibly watch myself implode. Another by product of my decrepit mind is the stomach problems I experience that no matter what medical test I'm subject to no physical cause shows up.

50 years ago, well close to it is when I first experienced this feeling, Vietnam 1968. One night while laying in my bunk a firefight started up outside the perimeter not far from our hut.  This out of body sensation kicked in, I pushed it away, guess feeling a little guilty as I looked on at the fighting.  I was an aircraft maintenance supply sergeant so the return fire wasn’t our thing unless everything  really went to shit.  Anyway, most nights there were firefights outside my hut and these uncomfortable mental feelings grew. Then just like that I'm on my way back to the states to be discharged after landing in Seattle, sent on my way again with an airline ticket back to Detroit and all was good.  Though  in fact their was more to it than just finishing my hitch.

I flew from Seattle to Detroit and after a couple hours in the car and I was home but it really wasn’t home anymore.  I had been away for four years and just spent a year living in a hut in Vietnam and home just didn’t seem right.  Then the feeling of anxiety, blurred vision and that out of body experience hit me hard.  Tried to explain my feelings to the people around me, in return received blank stares or the reply” you look okay to me”.   My family coped by ignoring my mental illness. Meanwhile I drank, found a doctor who prescribed valium and other drugs like that, totaled two cars and  drank some more.   Then it was found I really didn’t have such a great tan but a blockage in my liver, jaundice, but anyway, still had pills. Over the years since I’ve talked to a bunch of mental health folks as these feelings come and go and then here I am once again.

Vung Tau back beach

Anyway back to Saigon, I knew I had to make a move, maybe a change in scenery a bit of sun and sea therapy to get me back on tract. Vung Tau, ya that's the ticket only an hour and a half by boat. My friend Luyen booked me a seat and transported me aboard her motorbike to the boat dock.  Somewhere along the way I picked up the makings of the Jim dandy of all the respiratory infections, complete with all the makings of a crippling caugh.  My boat ride over was spent coughing and hacking slouched over in my seat.  Felt so bad
that when we arrived I wasn't sure if I had the strength to get out of my seat and into the Terminal.

Got a taxi to a hotel, spent two days listening to the surf from across the
Vung  Tau back beach

road as I lay on my back. With a day left I headed out with my camera and shot some beach photos.

It did help my state of mind as I headed back to Saigon and closer to my return flight to the states.

  Vung Tau front beach

Thursday, March 10, 2016

All aboard the updated hydrofoil to Vung Tau.. Update on reinstated service.

Status of Hydrofoil travel to Vung Tau from Saigon


A hydrofoil bound from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau caught fire on January 20. Photo: Cong Nguyen
A hydrofoil bound from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau caught fire on January 20. 2014 Photo: Cong Nguyen

15 minutes out of Saigon on it's way to Vung Tau a fire broke out . The captain piloted the craft into shallow waters where the 85 passengers and crew waded to safety.  On examination the government found the craft to be 20 years old, prompting examination of the remaining fleet were found to be in the 19 - 25 years old range.  The fleet  of hydrofoils plying this route have been  in service since 1993. During their service they where making somewhere between 19 and 26 one and a half hour trips daily, carrying 800,000 passengers per year. The government suspended all hydrofoil service.

                                                     A Greenlines DP's hydrofoil boat - Thanh Nien New

This past January I made the trip to Vung Tau on Vina Express but it could have been petro Express as the boats all look the same, both leave from the same place in district 4 arriving at the same terminal in Vung Tau. Wanted to try the Green Line's but could find them.

Vina express boat - Saigon
Vina Express - terminal Saigon

Preparing to board - Saigon

Terminal - Vung Tau

Harbor area - Vung Tau

Thanks for stopping by.................  Doug

Thursday, December 10, 2015

old asia hands

Feel like my body is breaking a part, achy and stiff as I stumbling along the crusty walkways of central Saigon.   My legs mostly are a big problems but shortness of breath is a show stopper on some days but not always.  

The vision I have of myself trudging along is somewhat common of those vintage westerners who hang out in the Pham Ngu Lao area, half drunk until a suitable place is found to become fully drunk.
Though I haven't been  drinking, my condition will improve, consulted a doctor before leaving the states, shortness of breath is believed to be asthma, which I believe is also exaggerated by a medication the VA prescribed.  The leg thing, all my life I’ve had achy legs but the swollen thing is something new.   Went to FV Clinic here: diagnoses of a mildly venous of the popliteal veins and mildly edema of subcutaneous feet, whatever that means.  The doctor had limited English skills but it didn’t sound life threatening so I’m still here. 

However, it brings the point of health coverage for guys like us.  If you’re over 65 health insurance is expensive here and I mean expensive like hundreds of dollars a month.   Western style health care with no insurance can  also be expensive,  as an example my trip to the FV Clinic cost me, including an ultrasound, doctors consultation, medical devices, etc came to a little over $200.00 and I'm not fixed.

Which brings me back to the old guys drinking the rest of their life away on that alley off of Pham Ngu Lao Street or in 9-23 parks.   Many are Vets, some of the war here and others are guys who just feel through the cracks.  One I know is here because his monthly $600.00 SS check is not enough to live on in the states; he is a Vietnam era Marine Vet. I asked him once what he did for health care because he said he had a stroke, his reply is that he had made friends with a Vietnamese pharmacist   and that was getting him by.  Sad that his life had come to that.

So here I am, kinda stuck in Saigon though it is hot here it isn’t cold or snowing.  I’ve read about sailors who pull into a port and get themselves stuck there, I can understand it now. Nothing holding me back accept me.. So now I’ll try my best to overcome my issues and head out.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.          Doug


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Come on down to the river, the Saigon river that is -

cruising down the river

serous ocean going tugs in ready

Saigons expanding skyline

Many river boats have eyes painted on, maybe to ward off danger
but looks kind of spokie

floating resturant

Monday, November 16, 2015

A visa is not a passport

Our passport arrived so we can get out of the USA but as always there's still one more thing to think about and that is a visa.

Our passport acts as a certified record of who we are, what we look like, citizen of what country and our past travel records. A visa is authorization from a foreign government to visit their country.

A visa can take many different forms, some countries have a form you too fill out prior to arrival and sometimes this is referred to a visa on arrival. Some countries may require you to apply for your visa in advance.

Thailand has many different types of visas but for most,a tourist visa allowing for up to a 30 day visit is available on arrival, the airlines will hand out forms prior to landing.  Cambodia, offers up to a 30 day visa on arrival $30.00 and a three month online e visa $37.00.  Lao also offers an on demand visa $35.00 for a 30 day duration.

Visa’s come in all different flavors: from a diplomatic visa to a tourist visa.   If you are entering a country for a special reason, it’s best to check out the consular affairs web site for the country you’re heading to or pull the phone number for the up to date info and costs.  For the most part a tourist visa is the norm but you still need to call and get the current costs.

I’m in Vietnam right now so I’ll use it as example:  Vietnam requires you apply andgain authorization in advance before you arrive.   Here are a couple links detailing the procedure for a visa.
http://www.vietnamconsulate-sf.org/en/consular-services/visas/   San Francisco, California 

At the time I applied in July, a one month and a three month tourist visa could be down.  A three month single entry visa, meaning enter and leave one time then a $130.00 and a multiple entry, leave and return as many times as you want for $180.00.  I can’t stress enough that Vietnamese visas are date sensitive, whatever date your visa starts on you can’t get in before that date and your visa period starts on the original date, no matter how much later than that you arrive .

Thanks for stopping by -   Doug

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Junta states the Erawan Shrine bombing case is officially closed

We got em (Erawan Shrine) bombers,
case closed

Thailand’s Junta, has announced on August 17 the Erawan Shrine bombing case has been solved and is considered closed.  The Erawan Shrine blast killed 20 and wounded 120 people in the centre of Bangkok.  

The first arrest, few weeks after the bombing was Adern Karadak, also known as Bilal Mohamed, he was carrying a forged Polish passport and in searching his apartment bomb making equipment was found. 

The Erawan Shrine is a popular tourist attraction and because of this many of the dead and maimed were foreign nationals on holiday. Originally it was thought the bombing was in retaliation of the forced deportation of more than 100 ethnic Chinese Uighur back to China.   However, on closer observation the police discounted that theory and blamed it on their crackdown on human trafficking gangs.

Then came the number two arrest of Yusuf Mirabilis close to the Cambodian border or at the airport in Phnom Penh, seems to be some discussion here, though it is said in his pack was the yellow t shirt shown to be thought to be worn by the bomber. He was thought to be the bomb builder and passed the completed product to Karadk at the Hue Lumphong railroad station.

Both were turned over to the junta’s military for interrogation – in a rather shocking turn of events they both confessed to playing major roles in the bombing, they will be tried in a military court so will be unable to use their civilian rights. However, it is thought there were up to 17 other people  involved, so time will tell how this shakes out.
This event happened at an inopportune time for police Chief Somyat Poompunmuary who was set to retire.   At a press conference after the arrest of Karadk he displayed a block of money valued at $ 83,000 (US) as a reward for help in the closure of the case.  This week as he announced his retirement and the closing of the case and the $ 83,000 reward would be spread out among the officers working the case.  Good work if you can get it.

While the whole bombing, other than the deaths, destruction and maimed victims seem a bit murky.  Once the police get the suspects from the military things will start to fall in order, you think.  That's the word....

thanks for stopping by    Doug




Thursday, November 05, 2015

Rain or is that the sky falling

Rain, tropical rain is the kind you hear before you feel.  You hear the hammering   of the impending rain as it strikes down from the sky. Not on you yet but moving toward you, the thought paseese through your mind that you could run along ahead of the storm and watch the impending action over your shoulder.  You could of course do this but it would probably mean a very wet shoulder in a short time.

The intensity and volume of water is what makes these rain squalls unique to the tropics.  The hammering sound amplified by the rains impact on the mostly tin roofed buildings, creating puddles the size of small lakes make one wonder if Henny Penny in “Chicken Little” was correct in saying the “sky was falling”. The sheer volume of water falling is like stepping into a shower stall with the shower heads being fed by multiple fire hoses. It seems to rain harder and harder, then abruptly it’s over, save for a couple drops here and there as a reminder of what just happened.

This isn’t just a one off deal either, as you poke your head out thinking it couldn’t rain any harder, it continues to mess with you  and rains harder. During the rainy season it can be a daily occurrence or even multiple episodes per day. The saving grace of all this is it hits hard for 20-30 minutes and then here comes the sun.

Thanks for stopping   Doug

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Gotta get me a passport -

Myanmar immigrations officer with my passport

A passport, we all need one if traveling outside the USA. I remember  a few years ago, okay many years ago, showing up at Jamaican immigrations, my girlfriend  asking about what  ID I planned on using as proof of my citizenship. Quick thinking on my part had me fishing out my driver’s license just as we reached immigrations control. Meanwhile, she pulled  out a voter's registration card, a certified copy of her birth certificate, Mary Kay frequent buyers card (Mary kay card, what!) and ultimately her driver’s license as my new best friend Red Stripe I waited. 

Spin the world up to date  and the girlfriend was on the right track as now a days you need most of the documentation she brought to apply for a passport, Mary Kay card not required. A passport in reality is a, condensed, certified personal identification folder containing the stuff girlfriend brought for our trip to Jamaica, less the Mary Kay card, documenting your name, birthdate, gender, a photo, plus a record of your travels, along with containing immigration stamps verifying entry and exit dates of the countries you visited.   

Unlike our Jamaican trip of old, now a days you need  a passport with information certified by the stuff girlfriend brought to Jamaica.  Now, unlike days of old, before the rocking 70’s when visiting neighboring countries like Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean a driver's license did the trick. A passport is required to get you out of the USA as well as back in, let alone foreign countries.

So what do you think, metaphorically speaking, passports grow on trees, if so the government is our tree and if we nurture it with money,  worked it with dealing with red tape and our effort we get one of those little blue books  (passports).   The money  $110.00 for what is called normal processing, 4 – 6 weeks, but normal can take 10 weeks or more. Although, for an additional $60.00 you can get your application expedited to 2 -3 weeks because the tree loves the extra nourishment and will bear fruit quicker.  Though, according to the “(fort Lauderdale) Sun Sentinel”  the government in recent years is behind in it's processing due to the 2009 requirement to have a passport for Canada and Mexico travel and the old improving economy excuse. They also wrote September through December are slow for the government's processing centers, so more timely response times are possible during that period.

In order to apply for a passport the money part and waiting is the easiest .  The application part is not so easy as we are talking a DD form, original and duplicates copies of documentation, locating and applying in person at a Passport  Agency.  I’ll stop here and insert this link by the State Department Bureau of Consular affairs                       http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/first-time.html

A passport - needed to get out of the USA and to get back in, sort of like the notes your mom wrote (actually the neighbor Lonnie using the pen name of mom) to get you out of school and back in. However, once you have a passport, no more permissions are required visit the world except visa's, there is  always something, isn't there. Coming is a visa guide for asia to get on your way with the confidence of a true world traveler.

It's a big world outside the USA, all it needs is you..

Thanks for stopping by   Doug

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Man from Turkey arrested in the in Bangkok bombing


Urgent: Suspect arrested in Bangkok with bomb making equipment

Police arrested a Turkish man at a rented room in Bangkok's Nong Chok district Saturday afternoon and found a lot of bomb making tools and materials.

The arrest was made after about 100 police and troops surrounded the apartment at at 1:30 pm.

Among the matterials, police found 0.5mm-diameter ball bearings that were the same type with the bombs that exploded at the Erawan Shrine and the Sathorn pier on August 17 and 18.


  Note:   Ever since I tossed this piece up from one of Bangkok's leading newspapers it      has bothered me.

What I've been thinking is that this piece from the NATION might have more flash than anything else. As time passes the pressure is on the police to come up with an arrest or at least a suspect is in creasing.  As is the pressure on the media to come up with something. Then a Turkish guy with ball bearings in his apartment is found and, ah ha....

Of course my hope is that this isn't just a set up but really part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Terror in Bangkok

At the time of writing, no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing that occurred in Thailand earlier today. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who might be responsible. Of six major terrorist attacks in the past 10 years, five of them have been overtly attributed to the Islamic nationalist separatist umbrella group known as the South Thailand Insurgency (STI). 

Pattani province, in the South of Thailand (Red Dot)
Pattani province, in the South of Thailand (Red Dot)
Some may argue that the attribution comes from the government of Thailand, itself hardly a beacon of transparency and democracy in the region, and therefore a source not to be trusted. But independent sources have also verified that STI and its component groups have been responsible for at least 5,500 deaths between 2004 and 2014, in its bid to terrorise the Thai government into granting independent status to the region of Pattani in the south of the country.
The groups, which vary in name, all carry similar separatist sentiments, with most of the Islamic in background, and keen to see an independent nation established under Islamic law in Pattani. Reports suggest that 80 per cent of the population of Pattani province are Malay Muslims, which may go some way to explaining how the group is easily funded, and displays its large recruitment pool. The area has around 700,000 inhabitants.
STI is credited with the past few terrorist attacks, including 2005’s Hat Yai bombings which killed two and injured 66, the 2006 equivalent, in the same region, which killed four and injured 82, and the 2007 attacks in Pattani itself, killing seven and injuring 33.
And the group’s activity hasn’t stopped there. It is believed to be behind multiple, repeated stabbings, machete attacks, and shootings. This includes a 2006 attach which killed three and injured 38, a 2012 attack that injured 5 in Bangkok, and the 2012 bombing in Yala which killed 16 and hurt 321.
The groups in question include the following:
Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN): A Pattani separatist group that has come to use the “black flag of Islam” in recent years. The group prefers the Salafist interpretation of Islam, and is said to have split into several factions, including distinctly Islamist splinter groups which wish to create paramilitary groups. Many of the Islamist element’s leaders are reported to have been trained in Afghanistan.
Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK): This group is recognised as a militant Islamic group with up to 3,000 members. There is believed to be a large overlap between it and the BRN’s Islamic faction.
Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP): The group started as a criminal racket, “gun running” for Islamic terror groups, but soon took on an identity of its own. It is believed to be linked to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – a Phillipines-based separatist movement backed by the Malaysian government. The Jamestown Foundation think tank reports: “Following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the GMIP distributed leaflets in Yala calling for a jihad and support for Osama bin Laden.”
Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO): One of the most prevalent groups in the country, PULO counts itself as more secular than the other groups, despite its foundation by an Islamic theologian, and the end goal of establishing a Salafi, Islamic state in Pattani.
Barisan Islam Pembebasan Patani (BIPP): An Islamic separatist movement, believed to be the oldest of its kind. The group has only recently begun to stress its Islamic allegiance.
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI): The continent-wide umbrella group, a regional affiliate of Al Qaeda and in some instances, Islamic State. The group was proscribed by the United Nations after the Bali bombings, and has been identified as responsible for over 20 terrorist attacks in the region since the year 2000.
Insurgency movements were believed to have been broadly defeated as of the year 2000, but they have come back in a big way over the past 15 years.
This is not to say that the Thailand attack today was definitely perpetrated by one of the above groups, but the likelihood is certainly high.
Western media sources have said that no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, and therefore it is not reportable who might be involved yet. But traditionally we haven’t seen large-scale acknowledgement and/or claims of responsibility in the region. When responsibility isn’t claimed, the Thailand government usually attributed the attacks to STI.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Vietnam - the siren song

I was greeted by a cardboard sign, nailed to a tree, located around a bend, at the top of a hill, with an arrow pointing to a lot of construction - Phu Cat, the sign simply stated.

The Vietnam War now is just a past memory to people like me; while many younger ones only know of North Vietnam with no memories of a divided North and South nation.  Tall buildings have sprouted in the main centers of commerce, even a subway is being built in Saigon. Though, Vietnam is still a place you feel more than see.  Many people ask me what sights I recommend and I always reply - pick a corner, hang out and there it is.

 Graham Greene in his book  The Quiet American  said it best -
"I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze.”

For me I'll be back there in a few months - what’s this, my 17th or 18th trip, not really sure.  I do know that once Vietnam gets her hooks into you it’s hard to pull away. 
1967 was my first step outside the states and that was to Vietnam.  Like me at the time many had no idea what to expect in the war or what was to be expected of them. My trip over was good, flew
aboard a commercial flight, reasonable food, cute stewardess and all that.  Arriving at Tan Sơn Nhat which seemed pretty much the same as any large base in the states, all the buildings with AC an NCO Club where I had a nice steak sandwich lunch and then it all changed.
My set of hard copy orders had me reporting here at  Sơn Nhat  but as quick as you can say jacaty flip those orders were exchanged for a note written in pencil, with the two words scrawled on it - Quin Nhon. 

Clutching my note, duffel over my shoulder, I’m directed out towards the flight line and told to find a ride up country to Quin Nhon. 
Man it was hot when I arrived at Quin Nhon ops, the sergeant in charge  had made a futile attempt to beat the heat by positioned himself strategically in the vortex of three portable fans blasting air drawn from outside via the rolled up flaps of the tent. While his assistant scrambled around trying to carrel the flying debris.  Even with all that he still looked hot and pissed off as he grimly pressed on in the center of his self styled, rainless typhoon.  My hand written, penciled, note seemed to bring a bit of joy to his face.  He wadded it up, looked over his shoulder at a chalkboard swaying in the fan propelled air, “find your name and erase it, easy peasy.”  He goes on to say - “Getting late, Charlie’s out so get yourself some chow and a bunk. In the morning grab a ride with one of the convoy trucks. 

The next day I’m on my way again riding shot gun in a deuce and half.   In the late morning the driver pulled his truck out of the convoy and we rolls to a stop beside the road, pointed off to the side to a dirt road - saying “just down their”.  After the rumble of the convoy there was an eerie quiet left in their wake as they faded from sight.  Seemed that I was all alone, and the land was barren except for an old, dilapidated thatched hut to my left.  I start walking up the road to the top of the hill, its then I see the cardboard sign , nailed to a tree –  announcing Phu Cat.

As I looked down the road on past the cardboard sign all I could see is a bunch of construction going on, flanked by a couple guard towers.  However, as I walked closer I could see Quonset huts and what looked like what might be temporary living quarters.  So I’m thinking that’s the cause of my convoluted orders there wasn’t a Phu Cat Airbase yet.   

Vietnam is changing ever so rapidly now, like an old friend who discovers fame and fortune and  his success carries him off for a walk on the wild side.   I struggle to hold on but I fear the chasm between us may bring an end to our long relationship.   I’ve started looking for a raggedy cardboard sign that points me down a new road, just in case.    

See ya- thanks for stopping by....... Doug