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Full Circle

Day 88: Saigon to Manila

Michael Palin - Full CircleI'm drinking in a bar with the crew when I see Sir Winston Churchill come in. He's a little bit the worse for wear. He approaches Lady Churchill and her friends and it's quite clear from their half-hearted 'Hello, Winston's' that they aren't interested. I don't like to see a great man treated that way, even if he has had a few, so I ask him to dinner. He accepts. I am about to ask him a terribly important question when our food arrives in a baby buggy.

Why I should have to go to Vietnam to dream about Churchill I don't know, but this is just one of a series of odd and vivid nocturnal imaginings which seem to be increasing as the journey goes on. I lie awake in my hotel room feeling rather ill and think of the scene with Martin Sheen going crackers in Saigon at the start of Apocalypse Now.

Maybe it's just a side-effect of where we are in the journey. A long way from the beginning, and a very long way from the end. At Little Diomede, the Pacific was fifty miles wide. From Saigon it is over ten thousand miles to the opposite shore. At the rate we're moving it could take us six months to get back to the Bering Strait.

Summoning up the bulldog spirit, I forego breakfast, pop another malaria tablet, pack my suitcases for the thirty-second time and slip a guide to the Philippines and a tab of Immodium into my shoulder bag.

Manila is two hours and ten minutes flying time north-east of Saigon. Like many of the islands off the coast of Asia, from Alaska southwards, the Philippines were, until quite recently, linked to the mainland by a land bridge. It sank beneath what are now the waters of the South China Sea only 5000 years ago.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 88
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Saigon
  • Book page no: 128

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