TRAVEL: BEAM ME DOWN, SCOTTY

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The Independent Travel
This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are:

22 13' N 103 50' E

FIRST REACTION

I love the smell of agent orange in the morning.

COUNTRY & REGION

North-eastern Vietnam, in the remote Bac Thai region, close to the Chinese border. Pig country.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

Fertile, lush hills with forests and rice paddy terraces. The nearby Cau River is a tributary of the Red River which flows south to Hanoi.

ALTITUDE

About 400 metres.

NEAREST SETTLEMENT

Bac Can, not to be confused with Cao Bang up the road, or Bac Ninh down the road.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Pigs. Just remember 'Four legs good, two legs bad' and you'll be fine. More human threats include the Chinese, who last invaded in 1979 and who regularly threaten to do so again, and then there's always the chance of bumping into a 'Nam Vet babbling about The Horror and Purple Haze and who'll stick to you like glue because you remind him of his best buddy who bit the bullet one day in S-S-Saigon. Tell him his side lost.

USEFUL LANGUAGES

Mind your Ps and Qs - until 1987 you could be arrested for speaking English in public. Better off sticking to the official language, Kinh, a mix of Mon-Khmer, Thai and Chinese. In the mountainous north-west, the hill tribes speak a variety of dialects.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

Bit of a problem there. Although, if you've got a minute, the dozen right honourable members of the Marxist Leninist politburo, elected by a central committee, in turn elected by other sub, not-so-central committees, would be glad to advise.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

Wellies are advisable since winters (Nov-April) are wet. At least you should avoid the typhoons that tend to drop by in summer.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF THERE

You could always follow, follow, follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail all the way to ex-Saigon. Or else it's a slow boat - or train - to China.

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