3 Aug 2015

And Then, A Bit Of A Ding-dong….

Way back in the day, when I was still 'in the world', the rig I was working on at the time moved out of Singapore and was parked in Vietnamese waters thus resulting in crew changing through Vietnam. It kicked-off first time by flying into Saigon. One night there then early doors hydrofoil down the Saigon river to Vung Tau for another overnighter then a chopper ride to the rig.

On the flight down to Saigon, or as it had become known, Ho Chi Minh City, a name no local ever used, I met up with Willy, the Chief Mechanic from Dundee, who for many years now has sadly been kelly-down on the big stacked rig in the sky. We found our overnight hotel in Saigon, cleaned up, met in the lobby bar, where else, right? and then headed out for a few local brews. Okay, a few more local brews.

A promising looking hostelry was quickly located just round the corner from the digs. A sort of eating place with a garden type bar out front.

With cold brews in front of us, Willy recounted his inability to locate any dong at any banks in Dundoo. I managed to suppress a smile with some difficulty knowing the dong was {still is?} pretty much a closed currency and, as everyone knew, apart apparently from Willy, US dollars was, although allegedly illegal, the favoured currency and thus a fist full of dollars was the way to play.  Small bills because if you paid in bucks you'd get change in dong.

At that time we decided to move on so Willy called for the check and, saying he'd changed some money at the hotel, he'd pay. He also mentioned the extraordinary number of notes he'd got for so few pounds. He wuz always a hand wuz our Willy.

The young waiter presented Willy with the bill; Willy took a look and instantly went ballistic; ranting and raving about being ripped off and demanding the manager come right quick. I glanced at the bill and there did seem to be an awful lot of numbers all in a row to be sure. Hundreds of thousands of dongs in fact. I had a rough idea what was to do here but there's no way you should attempt to interrupt a Dundoonian while they're in full rotating, venting mode.

As Willy continued to rotate at an ever increasing speed, the manager came running over and bravely and patiently explained that the waiter was new and had written the bill in dong and if he would prefer to pay in US dollars, it'd be four bucks.

Willy was a tad, nay, a lot nonplussed by this and finally said, "What? Oh, right. Just making sure. He he. My friend will be paying then." I handed over a ten remarking they should keep the change for their trouble. This was greeted with as much smiling and thanking as if we'd offered to buy the whole place for twenty times its current market valuation. Which, back then, was probably in the region of ten bucks.

Over the time of the rigs contract, quite a few of the expat crew would change a relatively small amount of USD or GBP to dong just to be able to say, in all honesty, that for a time they'd been a millionaire. Leaving the dong bit out of course.

Present exchange rate is 21,818 dong to the buck so very few bucks for your million.

Quote;  Woody Allen.

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."

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