Sterling’s first novel, Saigon Adieu, excerpt 1 (An Angry Pretty Girl)

Saigon, Adieu by Richard Sterling (excerpt 1)   An Angry, Pretty Girl Nguyen Ai Chau, born in Saigon in 1912, was known to the French by the name Perle. She was well educated in both French and Annamite schools. She wore Paris fashions and Viet chignons with equal grace. The French described her as svelte; the Annamites as skinny and undernourished. She was a parishioner... Read More

Cole Porter and the Beguine (Sterling’s First Novel, Saigon Adieu, excerpt 2)

Cole Porter and the Beguine (Richard Sterling’s Novel excerpt 2)   It was the year that Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi; Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. And Cole Porter set out upon a world cruise. Although he never set out to give a name to a tramp steamship from Saigon. It was just one of those things to begin the Beguine. It was March 1, 1935 in Apia,... Read More

Rum Agricole: Negrita in Old Saigon

Rum Agricole: Negrita in Old Saigon

Negrita Rum in old Saigon More than half a century ago, some time in the 1950s, a small triangle of vacant land lay at the confluence of Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Cu Trinh Streets. Its address today is 148 Tran Hung Dao, on the way west to Cho Lon (the Chinese district). Some time back in those olden days, I don’t know exactly when, it might even have been in the waning days of... Read More

All at Sea – A Tale of Shipboard Romance?

All at Sea – A Tale of Shipboard Romance?

A Tale of Shipboard Romance?   She had one of those names that are so common in the Philippines, like Lucy or Linda. Maybe it was Dinah. I can’t remember. I met her on the Manila waterfront. True to what I had been told, she did look a bit of a tramp, and an older one at that. You might even have called her mannish for her shape. But she was a she to the core, as any good... Read More

Durian Days and Tasty Ways

Durian Days and Tasty Ways

The Good, the Bad and the Durian IN PAMPANGA, a small Philippine town, I was traveling to Olongapo City from Manila. I was hungry and had walked into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, the kind that has a counter for about three and seats for two. The proprietor spoke no English, but I spoke enough Tagalog to say something like, “Give me your best.” He brought me a steaming... Read More

Saigon Pickpockets | How to Turn the Tables

Saigon Pickpockets | How to Turn the Tables

Saigon has always been a lady, and a beautiful one, but a lady with a touch of sin. There is a game you can play here, when you are tired of more mundane pastimes and hanker after a contest of wits and nerve. It is not inherently dangerous, but neither is it a game for the faint of heart. Much is at stake. For in this game the hunted becomes the hunter, and the predator turns prey.... Read More

Good Taters – Still in Saigon: Again

Good Taters – Still in Saigon: Again

The south facing balcony is my favorite feature of Apartment 608 here on “No Tattoo Street” in HCMC, Vietnam. It’s at the perfect height to observe both street life below, and such things as new year’s fireworks above. And it provides me a front row seat for the “fireworks” of the magnificent lightening and thunder shows of the rainy season, now underway. When... Read More

The Hotdog King & I

The Hotdog King & I

Damned funny, the things that can connect people. Even a hotdog. Well, junk food has come to Vietnam. I knew it would. It started with fast food. Colonel Sanders came to town a few years ago and has become firmly rooted. And it’s a mark of higher status here to dine with the Colonel. Yes, you read that right. In a country whose annual per capita income is less than a thousand... Read More

Hong Kong Redux

Hong Kong Redux

Revisiting the Bottoms Up Bar in Hong Kong This is a drinking story, but not the usual sort. Bear with me. For reasons I’m not sure of I went for twenty years without returning to Hong Kong, a place that had had a grip on me for years. But now I have found that the Hong Kong of my youthful navy days has faded away. The demi-Shanghai, the outpost of empire, the steamy fleshpot... Read More

The Richest Gift: April 30, 1975 Redux

The Richest Gift: April 30, 1975 Redux

I was still quite a young GI, but I had had a full combat tour in Vietnam, and that was more than enough, when in the Spring of 1975 I was sent back in as a member of the expeditionary force tasked with extracting the South Vietnamese government, their dependents, and many thousands of fleeing civilians. All was disorder on April 30, and our efforts were reduced to ad lib and impromptu,... Read More