On Saturday, November 10, 1956, at 7 in the morning, I started my jeep for a long journey . While my friend and roommate Rudy ran around looking for the best spot from which to take my picture, I pondered deeply.
About one month earlier I had started planning this two week vacation. I was going to go with Charles, who after our successful trip to Latya had become a jeep-fan. Everything seemed to be fine when suddenly he had to take over the job of a colleague who had fallen ill. I had tried two other friends, because it was impossible to delay this local leave, but twice the sad story repeated itself that a friend had to opt out because of problems at the job,
and I had run out of candidates.
Against advice and my own good judgment, I decided nevertheless to go by myself, and started the drawnout procedure of obtaining visa for Cambodja, Vietnam and Laos, as well as a re-entry permit for Thailand. I also tried to pump various legations and embassies for travel information and maps and travelguides, which proved particularly unsuccessful because no one appeared to know a thing. I even got angry looks when I enquired about rebels.
With visa for the three "Indo-Chinese" countries in my pocket and a beautiful letter of introduction, written in French, secured from the Netherlands Legation, I determined the following trajectory: Bangkok, Nakorn Nayok, Aranyaprathet -crossing into Cambodja, Angkor Wat, Pnom Penh - cross into Vietnam, Saigon, Dalat, to the coast of the South China Sea and along the old Mandarin Road northwards as far as Hue- close to communist North Vietnam. From there, I wanted to head inland again and cross the Mekong river into Laos. Following the Mekong upriver, I hoped to pass Nakorn Panom on the way to the capital Vientiane, which just at that time was undergoing rapid development because of considerable U S economic aid injections (our customer Siew Lieng Hang even offered me a bank manager's job there where I would do such things as importing seawater in used whiskey bottles, anything to tap the dollar ). If time allowed, I might visit Luang Prabang, if not, I'd cross the Mekong again into Thailand and return to Bangkok via Korat. By the way, the only map I could find was one labeled "Birma and Indo-China" which did show Thailand but not in its title