Back to Bangkok
26.10.1966 - 28.10.1966
From a letter home dated Friday 28-10-1966
Doubtless you have received the postcard from Laos. Just after I posted it, and the evening before we were to set off for Cambodia, we changed our plans completely and decided not to proceed, returning instead to Bangkok. We had weighed the pros and cons, and there were far more cons than pros, so we came back here. Main reason was that the floods they had in the area a month back washed out the road and it was doubtful if we would be able to get through. Even when conditions are normal you only have a 50-50 chance of making it by road, and river traffic down the Mekong from Vientiane into Cambodia is very irregular at the present time. Secondly, even if we made it into Cambodia we might not have been able to get out except by air, and we could not afford that, so all things considered we decided not to take the chance. My main regret is that we will miss Angkor Wat, reputedly one of the wonders of the world. It will have to wait until another day. Vientiane was about the dreariest capital I have been to - absolutely nothing to do. It rained most of the two days we were there and we were bored stiff. Some of the buildings seemed to have been shot up – bullet or shrapnel holes everywhere. An irate Lao general had bombed the city two days before we arrived and we were half hoping he would do it again to break the monotony. Our only consolation was the superb sunrises and sunsets over the Mekong River. The recent floods had made a terrible mess of the town as well and, with the present rain, the streets were all mud puddles the colour of tomato soup. We weren’t sorry to leave Laos and get back to Thailand, which is great.
It seems you have just finished in Sydney with President Johnson and his entourage. Well we are getting it here now. He and his wife arrived in Bangkok at 1.30 this afternoon by helicopter in the State Square. He laid a wreath at 4.30 on a memorial just near where we are staying, so Ade and I went down to have a look. I have never seen anything like it. He was there and gone by closed limo in about 10 minutes and we hardly saw him for all the secret servicemen and news photographers. It was like something out of a gangster movie. Guards fanned out everywhere, hands on revolvers, eyeing the crowd for would be assassins. We hardly dared move, let alone take a photograph.
We leave tomorrow at 4.30pm by train for Penang in Malaysia, reaching there Sunday evening at 7pm. We have cut about 10 days off the schedule by not going to Cambodia, so I might be home earlier than expected, possibly within three weeks. I think now we will almost definitely not be visiting Indonesia. However, there might be another last minute change of plan that could keep our arrival still a month away - we are considering the possibility of coming by sea rather than by air. If there is a convenient ship from Singapore with berths available we will cancel our plane tickets and take it, as it would be a saving of maybe £30 and that is not to be sneezed at. But don’t bank on anything just yet. All is up in the air for at least another week. I should be able to send you definite information in about 10 days’ time. Until then,
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(above & below) The roofs and Buddha of Wat Benchamabophit
(above & below) Wat Pho
Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River
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Banana seller at the river markets
LBJ lays a wreath at the Victory Monument in Bangkok
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