Wednesday 27 March 2024

Reading/Time No. 4 | September - December 2023 - The Book/s I Read, The Watches I Wore, and One Typewriter Leaves While Another One Arrives


Oh, one typewriter that I’m most likely gonna shift - I have an Olivetti Lettera 22 that has always been problematic, but seems to have gotten worse recently. The ribbon doesn't seem to advance any longer. Aside from that, the original problem was that the carriage locks up when it gets to the end of a line and the bell rings. So, rather than spend time, energy and money on getting it dealt with, I think I'd rather just get rid of it as a fixer-upper or parts machine for somebody else.

October 2023
I didn't read much throughout September. Our wonderful cat Dussy's health deteriorated rapidly in the first week of that month and we made the painful decision to put her to sleep. See my post from around that time, as my eyes are welling up a little as I write this. I spent a couple of listless weeks concentrating on work during the day and not much else once I got home. I may have gotten a little run-down too. Thought it was hayfever, then suspected it might be Covid. Did a test. It was Negative. Went to the doctor. Turns out it was a 'flu. My wife and I would be going to Vietnam a week later, so I took things easy. Felt back to normal a few days later.
Okay, the books I read. After finishing London Rules, I sped through two more of Mick Herron's books. These two aren't part of his Slough House series, but they do still take place in the corners of that world, with some guest appearances from characters and/or departments that are touched upon in previous novels.
Nobody Walks concerns Tom Bettany, an ex-MI5 operative now working at an abattoir in France. As far a cry from his former life as possible, when he gets a message telling him that his estranged son has died in London. He heads back to England and finds that more than a few people from his former life are interested to learn that he’s back in town. This book has a le Carre feel to it in terms of mood and plotting. I don’t normally look at what’s occurring between the lines when I read a book but this one had a strong theme of ‘closure’ permeating throughout the narrative.

The Omega Seamaster Professional 300m, which I purchased way back in November 1999. This watch hasn't seen much time on the wrist in recent years. Most likely due to the skeleton hands, which I've found tricky to read in low light as my eyes age, along with the rest of me. I do think there are aspects of this watch that have dated over the years, such as the aforementioned hands. I've also found the wave pattern of the dial to be another element of this watch which firmly plants it back to the late Nineties, although it doesn't tend to stand out as much now as it used to. Those hands, however, had been on my mind whenever I'd wear the watch, but I had a plan to do something about them. 
More about that later in this post - if it's a short one - or in the next post.
The next Herron book that I read was called Reconstruction, and it starts with a young man on the run who busts in on a kindergarten and takes a group of teachers and children hostage, demanding to speak to Ben Whistler, who works for the Accounts Department. The first few chapters establish each of the characters caught up in this hostage situation. Again, looking for a theme of the book, the phrase 'nobody is really who they seem to be' kept flittering through my head. With the exception of "Bad" Sam Chapman, Head of MI6's Internal Security Division, otherwise known as 'The Dogs'. He's a chain-smoking cynic and he remains so throughout this book and other Herron novels set at Slough House. 
I like Herron's writing style. He's hammered out 19 books since 2003, beginning with a mystery thriller called Down Cemetery Road. He wrote Reconstruction in 2008 and began his Slough House series in 2010, with Slow Horses. He has stated in recent interviews that he's given some thought to ending the Slough House books which, to me, would be a shame. Although, an author does run the risk of churning out crap if they start to feel a little burn-out regarding a long-running series. 
Once I'd finished these two Herron books, it was time to revisit a novel that I first read when The Wall was still up.


It would be fair and justified to say that le Carré's books should be viewed as literature as much as espionage fiction. Which is why so many of his works are considered classics.

In some ways, this book first appears as a 'small story' which concerns the efforts of CIA operative  Claire Saylor as she  attempts to meet with East German Stasi intelligence officer Emil Grimm so that she can convince him to  steal some of these decommissioned files before the Stasi destroys them. 
The story moves at a good pace and paints a good picture of Berlin in the post-Cold War months as East Germany begins to crumble. Fesperman is an accomplished espionage author with a prolific back catalogue of titles and his journalistic background lends a deft hand to his writing an research. 

After finishing the Fesperman book, I decided to read another book that I hadn't touched since the mid-Eighties. Aside from spy fiction, I was also heavily into hard-boiled crime fiction of the '30s and '40s. Reading through much of Dashiell Hammett's works eventually led me to his last full-length novel from 1934, The Thin Man.
The story concerns ex-private detective Nick Charles, who's married to railroad heiress Nora. Nick spends his days as an executive for this railroad company when he and Nora visit New York prior to Christmas. 
He bumps into the daughter of a former client and gets roped into looking for her father, who hasn't been seen or heard of for some time. 
It's a fun book in a lot of ways. Within the first ten or fifteen pages, I'd lost count of how many drinks the Charles couple partake of. 
Hollywood churned out six Thin Man movies throughout the '30s and early '40s, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora. It's fair to say that this book, and the subsequent films, cast a very long shadow, as their influence can be seen in TV shows of later decades, such as Hart To Hart and Moonlighting.
Re-reading it now that I'm much older, I found myself preferring the characters and dialogue rather than the story itself. It's a shame that Hammett never wrote a few more of these Nick and Nora books, as their lightness of tone was vastly different to his earlier detective stories. 
Finally, the Omega Seamaster Professional 300m that I mentioned earlier.
First introduced in 1993, it replaced the Omega model Seamaster 200, which had been in production since the mid-Eighties. This new version did respectable business upon its release, but it wasn't until it adorned Pierce Brosnan's wrist in his first OO7 outing Goldeneye in 1995 that sales began to soar. 
I began working in the wristwatch industry back in late 1999, a few weeks after I bought this watch and over the next decade, I saw just how popular this watch was. 
It's a well made and robust dive watch which walks that very fine line between dressy and sporty. No mean feat.

In recent years, though, I found the skeleton hands a little difficult to read in low light, given the sparse amount of luminous paint used on the hands. 
I knew that there were a few things I could do about this. One option, which I had seen done by other owners of this watch, was to use the hand-set of the other Seamaster model of the era, the 2254.50.00 model;

I gave this option some serious consideration, but found that this hand-set's hour hand appeared a little too short on the Bond model. Also, I wasn't a fan of the way the minute hand tapered down towards the middle of the dial.
I was about to give up when I read of another collector who used the older hand-set from the vintage Seamaster 300 model of the 1960s. I have one of these;
Notice that the minute hand on this model retains its width, like a picket-fence paling. 
Hmm, that might work very nicely indeed, I thought to myself. 
Next day, I discussed it with the watchmaker that I work with and he said he had a set of these hands lying around somewhere at home and would take a look for them. 
One thing though; while the hour hand's hole will slot right into position, the hole at the base of the minute hand needs to be 'breached' slightly in order to fit on the central pipe that the hand attaches to. Basically, it needs to be filed/reamed a little.
My watchmaker didn't see a problem with this. It's the sort of work that he's been doing since the early 1980s. 
And so, a few days later, he found the hands and I brought the watch in to work. 
No rush, I told him. He had it done by next day. He's a terribly nice guy. 
Anyway, the end result;

And we end up with a super-legible hand-set. Not only that, but this hand-set design harks back to the classic military Seamaster 300 and Rolex Submariner dive models that were issued to Royal Navy divers back in the 1970s.

In a further attempt to de-Bond the watch a little more, I may look at changing the bracelet. All of these changes are easily reversible, which was my main concern. 

Either way, I now have a watch that I can easily read again. Because that's what a watch is for.

I hope you've all been well.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday 7 January 2024

My Most-Worn Watches of 2023

Twenty/twenty-three was an interesting year in terms of my watch wearing habits. I was busy in my job, I spent most of the year recovering from the bunion surgery that I underwent in September of 2022, and I suffered a set-back in March when I fractured a metatarsal in my left foot, which has left me with daily pain when I walk. 
As such, I didn't cycle through my watches last year as often as I did in previous years. This was perhaps due to laziness more than anything else. It was sometimes easier to leave a watch on my wrist for several days at a time rather than swap them out daily. Which was fine by me, as I got a chance to spend more time with a certain watch.  
As a result, I settled into a preference for certain sizes and certain watches. This is something that I've been contemplating over recent years, as I began to see patterns in the sizes of watches that I tended to like. My collection comprises numerous watches of various types, but I tend to make a bee-line for certain pieces. I had a few new arrivals in 2023 and one departure. Some watches were well overdue for servicing and had therefore not gotten much time on the wrist, some watches needed other attention, and some watches were overshadowed by others.
I have found these yearly round-ups to be quite useful in showing how and where my tastes may have evolved or changed, and which pieces found their way onto my wrist more often than others.
Anyway, time to get this post underway. I will admit that some of the results were quite surprising to me.  
And so...
There's no shortage of Pilot's style watches out there. Just about every brand has produced one or two at some point throughout its history. The beauty of this type of watch lies in the clarity of the dial. They tend to offer at-a-glance readability with wonderful contrast between dial and hands.  
Similar to Military and Field watches, the dials comprise of Arabic numerals  all the way around, with plain picket-fence hands. Usually, the numerals and hands have a luminous coating for legibility in the dark or low-light conditions. A seconds hand ensures that the wearer knows that the watch is running, and these types of watches often had a hacking function, allowing one to synchronise the seconds hand, so that a squadron of pilots, for example, could set their watches to the exact time down to the second.   
I love the dial of this watch! So much detail and thought has gone into it. Each numeral is applied, as in attached rather than printed or painted on, and then filled in with a generous dollop of SuperLuminova. The glossy sunburst blue dial has a beautiful sheen to it and the numerals appear to gently sit on its surface. 
The red diamond-tipped seconds hand ticks along and passes over a white diamond marker that's recessed slightly in the chapter ring and positioned behind each numeral on the dial. The five stars on the dial has nothing to do with a Google Review. These stars were a symbol of Longines accuracy back in the days of their Admiral series of watches in the 1960s.
This Spirit model is COSC-rated and contains a silicon balance-spring, which means it is highly corrosion resistant and not affected by magnetic interference or extreme changes in temperature. 
For me, though, the niftiest aspect of this movement is the 72 hour power reserve. Take it off on Friday evening when you get home from work and this thing will still be ticking along when you pick it up again on Monday morning. I never used to think a long power reserve was a selling point for me. I always felt a 38 or 42 hour power reserve was sufficient, but these modern watches with an approximate 3-day power reserve is quite handy. Especially when alternated with other watches.
Oh, and this watch has 100m water-resistance. Not the first watch I'd think of for a dip in a pool or ocean, but still handy if you ever get thrown into a pool or ocean. Although, if you ever do find yourself in either of these scenarios, you may have a bigger problem than your watch's water- resistance. 
And, of course, as with most modern watches, it has a sapphire crystal. Not impossible, to scratch but it'll handle day-to-day scuffs. 
The sun was shining and it was a warm day, so I whipped up a Daiquiri for this last photo;
The Daiquiri #
60ml White Rum
30ml Lime juice 
20ml Simple Syrup*
Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake it up till it's ice-cold. 
Strain it into a cocktail glass. 
Garnish with a slice of lime. 

*Simple Syrup - two or three teaspoons of fine sugar. Castor Sugar is probably best, but I was out of it. 
Into a small glass and add a little bit of boiled water to create a thickish consistency, somewhere between that of water and honey, leaning more towards honey. If you make it and it looks too runny, just add more sugar till you get it right.

# Recipe taken from The Essential Cocktail Book / Edited by Megan Krigbaum  / Ten Speed Press, 2017 / 341p. 
As far as Expedition watches go, the Rolex Explorer and Omega Railmaster are my favourites, but I'll readily admit that I'm not a fan of every iteration of these two watches. 
With this version of the Explorer, Rolex returned to the classic 36mm case size and provided an upgrade to the dial by filling the 3, 6, 9 numerals with a thin layer of their proprietary Chromalight lume, which glows a pleasant shade of ice-blue. As much as I like the older models, my one pet-peeve was the lack of lume on the numerals at the cardinal points of the dial. This is why I love my Railmaster. The numerals glow in the dark. 
Either way, this current Explorer redresses this by providing markers and numerals that glow in the dark. 
This watch also has a long power reserve, similar to the Longines Spirit. The Rolex Calibre 3230 will run around 70 hours when fully wound. Again, this is something that I've come to like in a wristwatch in recent years. I don't consciously seek out watches with long power reserves, but it is a nice bonus when I find one.

I'll start off here by saying; My God, those lenses are filthy!
Okay, that's out of my system. Moving on.
In Live And Let Die (Jonathan Cape, 1954), Ian Fleming equipped Bond with a "Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with large phosphorous numerals, fitted on an expanding bracelet."
Fleming didn't add much to his description of OO7's wristwatch beyond that, despite the fact that he was a stickler for details. Something tells me that if the watch had said 'EXPLORER' on the dial, Fleming would have stated it. 
This watch was worn through 64 days of 2023. Beaten by the Longines Spirit by one day! Still, sixty-four days is a pretty good run, considering that I got this watch in mid-May. I knew I was going to get a lot of wear out of it. It's understated, clear, and it exudes a real 'urban guy's watch' vibe. 
Even just lying on its side in the photo above, it looks terribly masculine. 
And, like the Longines Spirit, this Explorer is also rated to 100m water-resistance. Again, not a first choice for a day at the beach, but nice to know that it'll handle any day-to-day immersion in water, whether you're reaching into a bucket of water while washing your car, or you get thrown into a swimming pool at a slightly out of control Christmas party. 
I've, uh, done both of those things.  

Apparently, there's a wristwatch in the photo above. Yes, I can't see it either. 
A slight digression - I had some Pommery Brut Royal Champagne left over from New Year's Eve so, time for a...
French 75#

30ml Gin
15ml Lemon juice
10ml Rich Simple syrup (see recipe up above and add more sugar so that it turns out syrupy)
Place these three ingredients into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake it for about ten seconds.
Strain into a Champagne flute and top up with Champagne. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel on the edge of the glass.
# Recipe taken from How To Make Better Cocktails / By Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge, Natalia Garcia Bourke and Andy Shannon  / Mitchell Beazley, 2023 / 224p.

Okay, the info relevant to this watch is lost in that first photo, so let me aim for a close-up;
Yeah, that's better.
I knew I was gonna love this watch when I first clipped it to my wrist back in mid-2018. 
I put my name down on one of those dreaded 'expressions of interest' lists and waited 18 months to hear back from the Assistant Manager of a store I'd previously never dealt with. I never did hear back from him and I strongly suspected that he never had any intention of contacting me, since I wasn't an already established customer of his with a purchase history from his store.
By the middle of 2020, I decided to cast my net out wider. I went to see the Manager of a store that was a Tudor stockist. This fellow was the brother of a co-worker of mine and I told him to put my name down on 'the list' and I'd be happy to wait. Six months later, I was informed that he'd received a BB58 on a leather strap.  
Was I interested?, he asked. 
Yes. Yes I was, I replied.
He placed it on hold for me and I asked him to order the steel bracelet for it. My plan was to sell the strap, since I knew I'd never wear it. Once I got the watch (on Boxing Day, 2020), I put it on a leather strap of my own while I waited a couple of weeks for the bracelet to arrive. 
Once it did, I fitted it to the watch, removed some links to fit my wrist and...just one problem;

A near-perfect fit, dammit. That clasp bridge section doesn't follow the curve of my school-girly 6.5 inch wrist. I could still wear the watch without any problem, but this clasp arrangement provided a 90% perfect fit. I wanted 100%.

Eventually, a few companies came up with varying solutions. I doubt they had me in mind, but there were a couple of intriguing options. One brand, called Steel Reef, had a foldable link solution that could be attached to the underside of the clasp. Not sure if this would work for me, and I didn't want to shell out 100GBP to find out if it would work. 
So, when Uncle Straps came up with a half-link, designed for the Black Bay 58, priced at around fifty AUD, I figured I should give it a try. 
End result was;
Okay, still not 100%, but pretty damn close. The clasp bridge now sits more in line with the second link on the right-hand side of the clasp, virtually eradicating that gap that's seen in the previous photo. Close enough, and it sits a little better on my wrist. 

Okay, finally, a half-decent photo. Taken a couple of years ago. This BB58 was worn throughout 54 days of last year. I probably would have worn it more, but the Longines and Rolex were new arrivals and they got their fair share of time in the spotlight in 2023. 
Having said that, this watch has nudged the almighty Submariner 5513 to a much lower spot on the totem pole of my collection. 
Don't get me wrong. I love the Submariner, but while it has old-school charm and cred that's through the roof, it also has old-school technology. The crystal is Plexiglas for one thing, and it doesn't suit my clumsy lifestyle. 
I knocked the watch against a door frame a few years ago and the bezel fell off. A year before that, I was removing the bracelet from the watch and when I tilted the watch to the side, the bezel and crystal fell away from the case. It's a beautiful watch, steeped in wristwatch history and photogenic as all hell. But I can't afford to get it repaired every time it gets knocked around. 
The BB58 is everything that a vintage Submariner isn't. There. I said it. Collectabillity, investment value/potential, social media flex. Pfft! These mean nothing to me. I just like wristwatches, which is why my 5513 shares room with a $38.00 Casio MRW-200H. 
Purists and snobs be damned. 
Danny Milton, my favourite writer at Hodinkee, owns both a Sub 5513 and this Tudor and he summed the BB58 up perfectly in ten short words; In many ways, Tudor is now what Rolex once was. 
It's a great article, with fantastic photos taken by his wife. Here's the link;
My collection will surely change as the years roll by. The Submariner may go, to be replaced by a more modern iteration.
The Tudor Black Bay 58, however, ain't going nowhere.


Seiko is often considered a gateway brand into mechanical watches and the SKX series was often a starting point for a lot of collectors. I have no shred of evidence or proof to support that statement, but I have read of a few watch collectors who have stated that this watch was their introduction to mechanical wristwatches.
Some collectors move on from this watch to Swiss-made, while others hold on to their SKXs as a reminder of where their watch collecting journey began. As for myself, I arrived at this watch around mid-2021. 
I always knew of its existence, but my collection was a little top-heavy with dive watches, so I kept putting this watch off, thinking that it would be around forever and I'd get around to getting one some day. It was inexpensive, considering. Around four hundred bucks AUD. 
The SKX series was discontinued in 2019 (I think) and prices of these models soon began to climb as supplies began to dwindle. I snapped one up in September 2021, while they were still able to be found brand new. By then the price had increased to $650.oo. 
Rather than go for a black dial, I opted for the blue because A) it breaks up my dive watch collection a little, and B) I liked the 20-minute red bezel insert, as it is such a part of Seiko dive watch design language. Also, the arrow-shaped minute hand - which was almost a deal-breaker - and the crown-at-4-position of the crown are quintessentially Seiko. Put these three elements together and you have a watch that cannot be mistaken for a Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster and, given the popularity of this watch since its inception in 1996, it deserves a place at the same table as the Submariner and Seamaster. 
This watch was worn over 22 days in 2023, a sharp drop compared to the Black Bay 58's 54-day dominance, but still, this Seiko came in very handy due to its day and date function. 
This model, with the 'K' designation in the model number, was assembled at Seiko's subsidiary factory in Malaysia. The Japanese-built model, the SKX009J, tended to sell for a higher price and the quickest way to tell the difference between the Japanese and Malaysian model is the dial text. The models made in Japan have '21 JEWELS' printed underneath the 'DIVERS 200m' text at the 6 o'clock edge of the dial. Also, the shade of blue on the Malaysian dial is slightly darker than the Japanese-built model. 
I like the heft of the case when the watch is on my wrist. I like how the hands and hour markers glow all night long, and I like the smooth click of the bezel when it's turned. It has an effortless feel to it, something that quite a few high-end Swiss brands don't seem to emulate. And despite its 42.5mm diameter, it sits quite nicely on my wrist, thanks to its short lug length.
This watch originally came with a rubber strap, but I already had a steel bracelet from another Seiko diver that I had and I quickly attached it to this watch. 
The Calibre 7S26 in this watch has been used throughout numerous Seiko Automatic watches over the years.  It is a dependable movement. Timekeeping-wise, it's meant to lose or gain anywhere between 15 to 30 seconds a day, but I must say that I've had two or three Seiko watches with this movement in it and the timekeeping was more reliable than that figure. 
The other thing with this movement is that it is automatic only, meaning that you can't wind it by hand. Still, a couple of quick flicks of the watch while it's in your hand and off it goes. Put it on your wrist and get your day underway and the internal rotor will do the rest, keeping the watch wound while you wear it.
The SKX range has since been replaced by the Seiko 5 Sport series, which shares probably 90% of the design elements of the SKX series, so if any of you missed out on the SKX when it was in production, you have a chance to get something very similar in the 5 Sport collection. 
Some watch collectors/enthusiasts don't look twice at the Seiko brand. 
Their loss. 
I cannot fault Seiko at all. One of the best bang-for-buck brands out there.

This watch can sometimes wear a little large on my wrist, but it's a small price to pay. It sits pretty low and this tends to balance out the diameter. 
This one was  a Grail piece for me. I spent around five years looking at water-damaged originals and Vietnam War-era fakes before deciding to pay a visit to WatchCo to have this watch assembled. WatchCo was an Omega parts distributor and they made a run of these watches, put together from period-correct movements from the 1960s and all new case parts. 
Purists will scoff.
Like I care.

At the time of writing this entry (Jan 6th), it was a sweltering day here in Melbourne, Australia. I did some light exercise in the morning, ran a couple of errands, and then my wife and I spent an hour or so trimming some bamboo trees along the side path and, by the time we were done, I figured it was time for a drink. 


45ml White Rum
15ml Lime juice (freshly squeezed)
1/2 to 1 tsp fine sugar
Mint leaves
Soda Water

Take a Collins glass and add the lemon juice and sugar. Mix it up. Add a few leaves of mint and press them against the sides of the glass with a bar spoon or muddler. This will break the leaves slightly to release their flavour. 
Fill the glass two-thirds with cracked ice.
Add the Rum.
Top up with soda water.
# Recipe taken from Esquire: Drink Like A Man / Edited by Ross McCammon and David Wondrich  / Chronicle Books, 2016 / 208p. 

I didn't miss the Nighthawk once it was gone. Sure, it's a cool looking watch, but it didn't really suit my tastes. 
And so, a month or so later, I began to think about getting some other solar-powered watch, something that I could use for travel, even though I don't travel all that much. I wanted a watch that would be dependable but not something that I would cry over if it got lost or extensively damaged. It needed to be water-resistant, it needed to be easy to read, and this time around, I'd go for something a little smaller in size. 
Enter the Seiko SNP585P. I went for the blue dial and bezel model, again this was done to break up the black dive watch collection a little. I saw this model at a chain-store jewellers at my nearby shopping centre and it was on sale. Seiko fans have humbly nicknamed this watch "The Sunmariner" due to its similar design elements to the Rolex Sub, and sure, the similarities are there, but it has plenty of Seiko DNA in it too. 
I actually stumbled across the black dial version in a wonderful article by Thomas Calara over on Worn & Wound;

Most likely, it was the great photography in that article that helped sway my decision towards this watch, and the blue version (SNE585P) doesn't disappoint. If I have one gripe about this watch, it would be the wideness of the lugs, but this is indeed a minor, minor quibble. The rest of the watch overshadows this. The bezel action has that smooth and effortless Seiko feel to it, the dial is wonderfully legible and glows nicely in the dark, 200 metres of water-resistance is way, way more than I'll ever need, and the watch has a nice sleek profile on the wrist. 
As a result, this watch got worn over 18 days of the year. It would make for a great travel watch and indeed it did when I took it to Vietnam in October for a quick week away in Ho Chi Minh City. I swapped out the steel bracelet for a rubber strap and the watch performed like a champion during the trip. 
The entire dial of the watch is a solar panel, which soaks up UV light and stores power. I've had the watch since around May last year and so far, it hasn't stopped ticking, so I think there's plenty in the tank on this thing. I'd probably have to leave it in a drawer for about a year for it to stop. 
My wife and I have booked to go back to Ho Chi Minh City in a few months and I'll again be taking this watch with me. Most likely, the bracelet will be replaced with the rubber strap and I'll maybe bring along a spare NATO or two-piece nylon strap to switch things up if I find the rubber strap too hot against the skin. 
All in all, it's a great watch. If somebody were to ask me to recommend them a dive watch without the care and feeding that's required with a mechanical watch, this would be what I'd recommend. 

And that's my Top Six Most Worn Watches of 2023 wrap-up.

But wait, there's more! 
I have two watches that hadn't gotten much wear in 2023. One of them is one of my earliest purchases, but I've come to find it difficult to read the time on it in recent years due to its skeleton hand-set. The other one is another favourite of mine, but I've never been a fan of the flimsy clasp on the bracelet. 
Anyway, here's what I did to get these watches to my liking again.
The Omega Seamaster Professional 300m (Reference No. 2531.80.00 / 1999)

This watch was first released in 1993 and it did respectable sales. However, once it was chosen as James Bond's wristwatch for Pierce Brosnan's first OO7 flick, Goldeneye, in 1995, sales started going skyward.
Okay, for the sake of accuracy, he actually wore the quartz version (Reference No. 2541.80.00) in that film and Omega soon realised that it could cash in on the more expensive automatic model, so the switch was made over to the mechanical version in 1997, for his next Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and Bond has since worn an automatic Omega Seamaster in every movie after that. 
I wore this watch solid for the first six years that I had it, before my collection began to expand. I wore it when both of my kids were born. It's going nowhere. 
My main gripe about this watch, though, was the skeleton hands. They are part of its design and still used in the current version, but as my eyesight got older, along with the rest of me, I found these hands tricky to read when I'd wake up, for whatever reason, in the wee small hours.
Hence, this watch got a little less time on the wrist. Also, my collection had expanded over the years and I had other watches jostling for position, so to speak. But, I've always liked this watch. Its slim profile sits nicely on my wrist, the dial is a wonderful inky-blue shade, and this watch and I had a lot of history together. 
But those hands!
Sometime last year, I read on the Watchuseek Omega forums of a member who swapped out the skeleton hands on his Seamaster Pro for sword hands from the vintage Seamaster 300, like my WatchCo Edition up above. Interesting. 
And, as luck would have it, I mentioned this to the watchmaker I work with and he said he just may have a pair of these vintage sword hands lying around somewhere at home. 
Sho' nuff, he brought the hands in to work a couple of days later and the transformation was done. 
The watch now bears a closer resemblance to those cool military-issue Submariners and Seamasters of the 1960s and '70s. AND it's a damn sight easier to read in the dark, too!
Again, the purists are gonna hate on this kind of modification, but I've never purchased any watch in order to make other people happy. 
Life is too short. 
One other change I might make is with the bracelet. The non-tapered chain-link style bracelet is so strongly associated with this model, but for me, that is the problem. It's a great bracelet and suits the watch nicely, but I figured I'd just change it up a little. 
I'll most likely get something from Uncle Straps at some point, but for now, I have the watch on a single-pass Regimental blue nylon strap and it's very comfy during these Summer months here in Australia. Not that it's been a great Summer so far, but that would probably be another post. Although, I have no plans whatsoever to write a post about the weather. 
And, the other watch that didn't get much wear in 2023 was the...
Omega Railmaster Co-Axial 36.2mm (Reference No. 2504.52.00 / 2009)
Read my review from 2013!
If the day ever comes where I whittle the collection down to a literal handful of watches, this one will be a stayer. Simple as that. The one pet-peeve I have had with this watch is the clasp. It harkens back to the 1990s bracelet designs and I consider it a little too flimsy for my liking. I don't like the hidden clasp design of it and the fact that the bridge section of the clasp operates in a sliding motion and is held together by one very tiny screw. I have attempted to solve this issue by replacing the band entirely. First attempt was the Flat-link bracelet by Forstner. Very well made and it fit the watch like a glove, but I just felt that the links were a little too thin to suit the case of the watch. Fickle, aren't I?
Back to the drawing board. Here's my problem with the Omega clasp;

Aside from the tiny screw, the clasp section is thin and works in a sliding motion along that cut-out section in the other part of the clasp bridge. The only thing preventing the clasp from coming apart altogether is the small screw. I would prefer a more robust clasp on a watch. Tricky thing is that the Railmaster has a 19mm lug spacing, rather than the more common 18mm or 20mm space that you tend to find on a wider range of watches. 
So, my next attempt was a long-shot. The FOIS bracelet from Uncle This one has a standard and solid-looking push-button folding clasp and was designed for the Omega Speedmaster commemorative model called 'The First Omega in Space', hence the FOIS designation. That watch was only ever released on a leather strap, so it would seem that there was a market for a steel bracelet that would fit that watch. This bracelet would have 19mm end-links, which I thought would fit the 19mm lug space of the Railmaster.
So I bought this bracelet.
Once it arrived, I attempted to fit it to the watch and it seemed to fit correctly. Or rather, about 90% correctly. I quickly realised where my error lay; my Railmaster has a case diameter of 36.2mm. The Omega FOIS Speedmaster has a case diameter of 39.7mm. Therefore, the curvature of both cases will differ.
Despite both watches having a 19mm lug width, it was the curvature the end-link on the Uncle FOIS bracelet that didn't follow the curvature of the Railmaster's case. 
Okay, think, teeritz, think, dammit!
Alright, let's try something, I thought to myself. I got the Forstner Flat-link bracelet, took off the end-link and swapped it over to the Uncle FOIS bracelet. It fit, with a gap of a fraction of a millimetre visible. Fine by me. 

And better yet, the clasp is made of milled steel and has two push-buttons. It also has that old-school row of holes in the clasp to allow for quick adjustment. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

It works nicely. Now, the only thing I have to do is get the watch serviced at some point, as it's long overdue, which is perhaps the main reason why I didn't wear the watch much over the last couple of years. 
And there you have it, folks. Some scrappy watch photos, some links to other articles, and a couple of drink recipes thrown in for good measure. 
Like I said early on, these yearly posts are a good indicator of my changing tastes and preferences. If I'm gonna thin the collection down at some point, these posts will be a barometer to help me determine which watches get a lot of wear, which ones don't which ones will stay and which ones won't. 
That's the plan anyway. 
It'll be interesting to see what kind of results 2024 will yield. 
But that's about a year away. 
Thanks for reading!


NOTES: The typecasts throughout this post were written on a late 1950s Blue Bird, made in Western Germany and marketed through the United States as the Torpedo 18B. It has a wonderfully snappy action. The rubber feet have hardened over the decades and this can make the typewriter slide to the left slightly when being used, but it's no great disaster. I may get around to gluing some rubber sheeting to the feet at some point to prevent this from happening. And by the way, all typos are my own.                                              
And please excuse the quality of the photos. I ran out of steam early on, methinks.  

Thanks again!

Wednesday 29 November 2023

October 2023 - The Eventful Month - Part 1| Short Trip to Saigon & The Watches I Wore

Alright, in an effort to reduce the spaces between posts, I've just posted the previous one and jumped right in to beginning this next one. 
I started this post on Tuesday, November 7th. Melbourne Cup Day. I didn't place any bets. I gave up on it a few years ago when a horse was being led back to the stables after the race and some idiot in the crowd waved a flag as it went by. This spooked the horse and it reared up and caught a leg on the railings between the track and the crowd. 
It injured itself so badly that it had to be put down later that afternoon. 
So no, I don't consider it 'the sport of kings' anymore.

The Trip
I mentioned in my last post that my wife and I were feeling a little burnt-out and maybe a short trip might be a good idea. Last holiday we had was back in March 2019, when things were simpler. Nobody was hand-sanitising or wearing masks on public transport. There were no 8:00pm curfews or lock-downs of the entire state. The elderly were not being admitted to hospital with persistent coughs, never to return home again. 
Travel bans had eased up back to pre-Covid levels. And we needed a short break from our hectic work schedules.
We decided a six-night stay in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon would be a good idea. No major plans for sight-seeing. This would be a cruisy holiday where we would take things easy, get massages every day, and get around at a gentler pace. I arranged it through a travel agent in the city and the trip was booked for the first week of October. 
And, me being me, I spent some time deciding on which wristwatch I would be taking with me. 

I've had this solar-powered Citizen Eco-Drive Nighthawk for about five years and I've usually worn it for those occasions or purposes where it might risk getting knocked around a little. Handyman stuff around the house, bike rides, etc. This watch was what collectors refer to as a 'beater'. A watch that you'd wear when you don't want to risk damaging something more expensive or treasured. 
Because I hadn't worn this watch much in recent years, I decided to move it along and promptly sold it on eBay for about $35 dollars more than what I paid for it. 
A few months earlier, I had purchased a Seiko Prospex Solar Diver 200m (Ref. SNE585P) from a local jewellery chain because I liked the idea of a solar-powered set-and-forget quartz wristwatch, which would take over the beater duties of the Citizen Nighthawk. This would be the watch that I'd take with me, along with the Longines Expedition watch that I got back in 2011. I figured I might as well take something that was a little more dressy, for dinners out while we were away. 
Excuse the crappy photo. I adjusted the bracelet on the Seiko watch, but I wasn't entirely happy with how secure the links would be, so I switched it over to a rubber strap. That way, I could also adjust the fit of the watch throughout the day if my wrist swelled up a little in the heat during the trip. 
So, wristwatch(es) sorted. Next up, some reading material. I brought along a copy of a Mick Herron stand-alone novel titled Nobody Walks. This book is not part of his Slough House series (see previous post), but it does contain some characters from that series. In the end, I didn't end up getting any reading done. 
I had also brought along a notebook, with the view to writing a bit of a travel journal while I was away. I did do some writing - with mixed results - but I found that whenever I had the time to sit and write, I didn't really feel in the mood for it. 
My wife, meanwhile, had brought along some study notes that she planned to read and collate for an assignment, as part of her Master's Degree, which is in its final stages. 
All set. So here below is the transcription of my half-assed travel journal. For the sake of giving it a jaded ex-pat washed-up journalist vibe, I'll switch to Courier font. In Italics. 
And, with the benefit of hindsight, I'll probably add a little more than what I wrote at the time. 
Yes, I'm sure it's cheating.
Monday October 2nd
                The drive out to Melbourne Airport was calm and quiet. Our flight was booked for 11:30am departure. Our driver arrived on our doorstep at 8:00am. We used a limousine service rather than a cab. This costs about forty bucks more than a SilverTop, but you get a spacious car and the driver helps with your bags. We were travelling in a late model Mercedes-Benz and it was a very smooth ride. Looking back, I think next trip we'll probably just take a train into the city and then catch the SkyBus to the airport from there. It'll be way cheaper. And we can manage our bags ourselves. 
Got to the Departures Terminal with plenty of time to spare. We'd already done the online check-in the night before, so we proceeded to the shorter queue and checked our suitcases in, once again thinking that we may have over-packed.  
Mrs. Teeritz and I discussed ways of being slightly more savvy travellers while we sat in the airport's Brunetti Cafe with a couple of lattés. We haven't travelled enough to get good at it. 
By the way, excuse my handwriting. I'm writing this at 39,000ft. 
Destination is about 4,000 mls/ 6,400 km 
Time to Destination - 7hrs, 50 mins
ETA - 3:36pm
4 hrs behind Oz
- Flight a little tiring. Feeling sleepy.
I have to admit, I don't fly well. It doesn't make me nervous, but it does tend to knock me around a little. My tinnitus flares up a little, my ears block up due to the cabin pressure, perhaps. By the sixth hour, my head began to pound a little. I popped a couple of Panadol and counted down the remaining two hours, as I unwrapped a couple of sticks of gum to deal with the blocked ears prior to landing at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

After getting our bags from the carousel, we got into the queue for immigration/arrivals and we were soon dealt with by an officious and very competent clerk who stamped the dog-eared page in my passport. I had purposely put the slight fold in the top corner of the page. It already had the stamps from our previous visit back in 2019 and, for the sake of continuity, I was hoping he'd stamp the same page. Which he did. Cool!
Stepped out of the airport terminal building into the warm Saigon air. It was overcast.
We caught a cab to the hotel* and I was again reminded and amazed by the way traffic operates in Saigon. Probably 70 or 80% of it is made up of motor scooters and it's an intricate ballet of two and four-wheeled vehicles which negotiate around each other at any given time. Our cab driver relied heavily on his horn, as he closed up gaps in traffic before too many scooters zipped up ahead to block his path. Red lights at intersections are a suggestion, it seems, as some scooter riders check left and right before stealing their way across, with little regard for approaching cars which have the right of way. The cars slow down to let them pass, anyway. You hear regular short beeps from scooter and car horns, but I have to say I didn't hear the screeching of tyres or the sound of crunching metal at all during our time there. 

Checked-in to the hotel at around 5:30pm. We were taken to our room and we sat down on the bed and made loose plans for the rest of the evening. We decided, as per usual, to head out and go for a walk to get our bearings. And to look for an ATM teller machine for some funds.

The one thing that took us a bit of getting used to again was the exchange rate. One Vietnamese Dong doesn't translate into any meaningful amount in Australian dollars. 
Basically, 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND) equals about $0.65 Aussie cents. So I had to jump onto more often than I wanted to. Since I carry pen and paper, I quickly jotted down a handy reference;

VND                           AUD
1,000,000                    $65.oo
   500,000                    $32.50
   400,000                    $26.oo
   300,000                    $19.50
   200,000                    $13.oo
   100,000                     $ 6.50
     50,000                     $ 3.25
     20,000                     $ 1.30
     10,000                     $  -.65

I didn't end up using the money clip, opting instead for a small leather RFID blocking credit card holder which contained my bank card, AMEX card, and whatever cash I might carry. This wallet was small enough to fit into my front pockets. I did feel weird carrying three million Dong, even though it only equated to about $195.00 AUD. 

We got back from our walk and decided to hit the small bar on the 1st floor of our hotel. After a quick look around, we took a seat at a low table. This would be where my wife would do most of her study while we were away. The waitress brought over a cocktail menu. I had a quick glance through it and didn't see the drink that I wanted. No big deal. I'd just order it anyway. 
She came back to us about five minutes later and I asked for an Americano cocktail, which is basically one measure of Campari, one of sweet red vermouth, and then topped up with soda water, in a glass over ice. The waitress had a little trouble understanding my order. So, I ended up ordering a Negroni instead, which was listed on the menu. I don't mind Negronis, but it's a very on-trend drink at the moment and I like to take the road less travelled. 
It arrived about ten minutes later. Not bad, but I couldn't help thinking that they may have used Aperol instead of Campari because it had a light orange hue to it rather than a darker blood-orange colouring.  
Later in the evening, we went up to the 24th floor where the roof-top bar and pool were located. The floor below was where the gym and day spa were situated. It was good to find the spa, because we had planned to get daily massages during this trip.
We resolved to make a booking next day. We got to the bar and I ordered a Gin & Tonic. My wife doesn't drink. The air was warm as we sat there looking out at the cityscape under the night sky. Saigon is known for a plethora of roof-top bars and many of the hotels have pools on their roof-tops. That way, lower floors can be dedicated to rooms. 
After this, we went for another walk down the road from the hotel and found a Runam Café on a nearby corner. We visited one of these cafés the last time we were here. It's a small chain, but they make excellent coffee. Truth be told, you really cannot get a bad cup of coffee in Saigon. Every place we visited made a great cup.
Tuesday October 3rd
                                             Got up around six am. My body clock is in business for itself. Went down to breakfast buffet. One thing that we began doing about ten years ago whenever we travel- always see if a buffet breakfast is included with the hotel room rate. You can sometimes eat a big breakfast, since there's so much to choose from, and virtually forego having lunch later in the day. 
My wife ordered a latté and it arrived soon after. It was very milky. We suspect that the coffee was Nespresso. It had no kick to it. No major drama. This city has more coffee places than Melbourne. A lot more. 
My wife likes her first cup of the day to be strong. I have to agree. Your first coffee should be an ignition key that wakes you up. 
Headed out for a walk after breakfast and we ended up at a café called Shin Heritage, which we visited a few times when we we last in Ho Chi Minh City. We had a couple of coffees, to make up for the lacklustre ones that we'd had at breakfast. After that, we kept on walking and soon got lost. Again, no major drama. Stopped in a another Runam Café and checked Google Maps on our phones**. Turns out we were 300 metres away from our hotel. We had a couple of cool drinks at this café. I had a Strawberry and Blueberry smoothie and my wife had a Lemon and Mint cordial. 

Later in the afternoon, we headed up to the hotel's day spa for a massage. It was in a quiet, dimly-lit room. I opted for the one-hour full-body massage and felt like jelly by the end of it. 
We had the same the following day.

As I said earlier, this travel journal of mine was half-assed. A couple of days into the trip and I wasn't really keeping tabs on what we did. This probably had more to do with the fact that we had no real plans for this holiday besides walking around the neighbourhood and taking things easy wherever possible. As such, the journal and our photo-taking took a back-seat to us just being there with no definite aims set. 

One day three, we headed out. There are a couple of things that are abundant in Saigon. Cafés and roof-top bars, as already mentioned, and day spas. These spas all vary slightly in terms of services that they offer. Some do massage only, others offer manicures and skin treatments. Most of them have doorways that are situated on street level and you'll usually see two or three ladies sitting on stools outside trying to drum up business, with a casual "Hello, Madame" to my wife as we walk by. 
One such place had an entrance hall with a scooter parked inside it. Two ladies were sitting outside and they greeted us as we walked by. We stopped to look at the pamphlet that they offered us. Foot Massage Acupressure, Facial Reflexology + Head Massage, Manicure Polish, Foot Massage with Paraffin, Special Acne Treatment(!), Pregnancy Massage(!!??), the list went on. And on page three, A Body Relaxing Oil Massage for three hundred and fifty thousand Dong, which worked out to about $21.00AUD.  
We booked two of those for later in the afternoon. Twenty-one bucks was better than the sixty that we had paid at the hotel's day spa. And how bad could it be?
Later in the afternoon, we walked over to this day spa and were ushered up two flights of stairs in this wonderful old building to a group of small rooms. We pointed to the 60 minute Body Relaxing Oil Massage on the list of options and then were led to two tables in another room where we disrobed down to our underwear. Always leave your underwear on, thrill-seekers. Removing them sends a completely different message. That was not what we were after. And I got the impression that this was not that kind of place, anyway.
As regular readers may recall, I had bunion surgery on both feet back in September last year. Then, in March this year, I fractured a metatarsal bone in my left foot and have been feeling some pain in it ever since, due to the fact that I walked around with this fracture for ten days or so before getting it attended to properly. As a result, I think the fracture didn't heal properly. 
As a result, I didn't want my feet touched during the massage, so I  showed my masseuse a Google translated sentence that I had prepared before we arrived. In English, it was; "I had both feet operated on last year. Please do not touch my feet."
She read the Vietnamese translation and giggled. She had very limited English, so we explained it to the older masseuse - who spoke better English - and she explained it to my one. 
Later that night, I re-translated the Vietnamese sentence back into English and it read; "I am a magician. I had to send my brothers to another dimension."
Once we stopped laughing, I re-wrote the Vietnamese sentence in Google Translate one word at a time and got vastly different English translations each time. 
Vietnamese has numerous symbols above various letters. I had a feeling they would have different meanings. Back in my hospitality days, a customer told me that the Vietnamese word 'toi' could be pronounced five or six different ways, each with a different meaning. 
A quick question on Google yielded this answer;

Vietnamese has an extensive number of letters with diacritical marks to make tonal distinctions.
There you have it. That explained the giggling. She must've thought I was crazy.
Anyway, I once read that when you're getting a massage the idea is to relax and just focus on the area that is being worked on. I lay on the table, with my face in the cut-out and began to relax as my masseuse worked on the back of my neck and shoulders. My wife was on the table alongside mine and I heard her masseuse say; "You are very strong." Lady Teeritz does light workouts throughout the week with the weight set that we have out in the car-port. She has sometimes recounted to me the story about actress Linda Hamilton who, when she began training prior to filming "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" in 1991, stated that she wanted to get 'a better back than Madonna's'. 
By the end of it, I could have fallen asleep there and then. I felt like jelly. My eyes were bleary as I gingerly got off the table and got dressed. My wife felt the same. We had found our preferred place for massages for the remainder of our trip.
During our time in Saigon, my left foot didn't really hurt all that much. Was it the warm weather? I also thought that the high humidity in Vietnam might affect my asthma, but I found no issues with my breathing while we were there. My wife said her eyes didn't feel as dry as they do back home. Her hair did go a little frizzy, though. Not something that I myself had to worry about.

We didn't take many photos this time around. We figured we'd take a holiday from doing so. Therefore, I'll just include a few pics from the time we were here back in 2019. For atmosphere.

I wanted to visit the Hotel Continental again. This is where author Graham Greene stayed, in Room 214 while writing The Quiet American in the early 1950s. Maybe we'd have a drink at their Bar Du Jardin. This time around, the bar was closed to the public. So we headed to the gift shop, which was also closed, and I asked at the reception desk if they still sold the coffee mugs with their logo on it. I had bought one the last time we visited. 
They informed me that these were no longer available. Ahh well...

Here's a shot of the Opera House, a grand old building located near the Continental Hotel. This time around, on the evening we walked by, there was a large crowd gathering outside waiting to be ushered in for some performance that night. A newly-wed couple stood on the steps to have some photos taken, while other random visitors took selfies nearby, with the facade of the Opera House in the background. 
At some point during this trip, two things happened to me; my stomach began feeling a little dodgy and I got some kind of skin rash on my forearms and neck. 
My wife and I retraced events, to see if we could determine the cause. We narrowed it down to the day before. We had been walking around the city streets and by around 2:00pm, I was feeling quite hungry, to the point where I was a little light-headed. We had yet to try any of the street food vendors and as we stood on a street corner looking for some place to eat, a young man approached with a laminated menu and I took a quick look at it. Some type of barbecued pork on a skewer. Yep, that would do. My wife's appetite in hot weather tends to diminish, but I was quite ravenous by now. So, the young man led us upstairs to a large dining room and we took a seat at a large table. The place was empty. Was that a sign? I ordered two of the pork skewers and a lemonade. My wife didn't have anything. 
The skewers arrived soon after I placed the order. They were nice. "Are they hot?", my wife asked. 
"Just above warm", was my reply. 
"Be careful, T", she added. 
Once I was done, an older lady brought me the bill and a refresher towel in a sealed sachet. I was feeling the humidity, so I used this towel to wipe down my forearms and the back of my neck to cool off a little. 
Next morning, I felt a little queasy at breakfast and just had some buttered toast and fruit. Looking down at my arms, I noticed a reddish rash and it was slightly itchy. My wife saw that the back and sides of my neck looked pinkish and goose-bumpy. Playing detectives, we reasoned that maybe the warm pork might not have been a good idea and the refresher towel was probably not free of parabens, which I'm allergic to. 
The street food in Vietnam is generally safe to eat, as long as it's hot. Another tip would be to eat from a street vendor where the locals are eating. I'll know for next time. 
So, my appetite took a nose-dive for the rest of the trip. 
We had our massage in the afternoon and while my masseuse was working on my shoulders, I felt her pause for a moment and then felt a finger drag slowly along the back of my neck. She then left the room. Was she getting an axe? 
She returned a few moments later and a felt a cream being applied to my neck and rubbed in. Within a couple of minutes, the itchiness subsided.
Friday October 6th
                                             Haven't really kept a travel journal this trip. Too tired or busy. That's okay, though. This holiday was all about taking things easy. Got back onto cigarettes, with very mixed results. I said to my wife a while ago that I'd only smoke when I travel. Silly idea. Takes too long to get off them once I return home. My handwriting's crap, by the way. 
Needless to say, a few ugly Australians staying in town, so Mrs Teeritz and I are being our usual selves by counteracting their poor behaviour. We had a quick lunch at My Bahn Mi, a small place that specialises in these pork or chicken filled bread rolls with lettuce and seasoning. A couple came in and sat a few tables away from us. The male was a large, heavy-set guy with close-cropped blonde hair. He ordered a beer. A few minutes later, the waitress brought over a beer bottle in one hand and a frosted tall glass in the other. As she attempted to place these items on the table in front of him, this fellow snatched the bottle from her hand while pushing her other forearm away, indicating that he didn't want the glass. He then polished off half the bottle in one swig and said to her; "Haven't you got bigger bottles?"
The bottle in his hand was a standard 355ml. Very poor behaviour, buddy. Very poor. 
I don't know why it's so hard for some people to remember that they are a guest in a foreign country and should, therefore, present the best of themselves. 
Then again, maybe that WAS the best of him.
My appetite was a little better, so I figured I could eat a chicken Bahn Mi without any issues. 
For dinner, we went to the Runam Café near our hotel. My wife ordered a salad and I just ordered some fries. Her plate arrived about fifteen minutes later. Another ten minutes went by. Then another five. My wife called the waitress over and we mentioned that we had ordered some fries also. Shortly afterwards, the manager came over to offer his profuse apologies for the delay. We said it was fine, no problem. Being a hospitality industry veteran, I know that these things happen. We assured him that it was no major drama. He apologised again before retreating. 
My fries arrived about five minutes later. All good. Afterwards, we ordered coffees. A latté for my wife and an affogato for me.  
'Affogato' means 'drowned' in Italian. You basically take an espresso coffee and add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream to it. Drowning it. The ice cream melts, resulting in a creamy golden brown coffee. 
They brought the coffees over. My affogato had a small scoop of vanilla ice cream in it, a little smaller than a golf ball. Then the waitress put another small bowl down in front of me. It had seven or eight more scoops of vanilla in it, with some maple syrup drizzled over it. 
"You sure you'll manage?", my wife asked me with a raised eyebrow as I dipped my teaspoon into the ice cream.

Saturday October 7th

Our final night in Saigon. My handwriting is on holiday also, it seems. 
Today was good. 90 minute massage, light lunch and then to the Rex Hotel for a beer at their roof-top bar. Hot day and not much cooler while we sat there talking about future travel plans. Slow walk back to the hotel. Mrs Teeritz has been the best travel companion.
Wonder if I'll try an egg coffee before we leave? My stomach has been a little stand-offish this trip. I may have lost a kilo.  
We had no firm daily plans during our time in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon this time around. We had gotten a little burnt-out by our respective jobs and this trip was all about taking a breather and recharging our batteries. 
This trip pretty much did that for us.

*We caught a cab to the hotel...
The driver took us for a ride. Really took us for a ride. I was watching the meter while he drove. Towards the end of the journey, it was showing around 2 million Vietnamese Dong, which worked out to about $125AUD. Ouch! 
Feeling head-achey still from the flight, and reasoning that the Aussie limo to Melbourne Airport back home cost a little more, I figured this was a standard cab fare here in Saigon. First mistake. I should have remembered that a lot of things in Saigon are cheaper than back home. 
As we stepped out of Tan Son Nhat Airport, a young lady in corporate black trousers and crisp white shirt asked us if we wanted a taxi. I replied "Yes, a Vinasun taxi, please". Vinasun is one of the few authorised cab companies in Vietnam. She led us over to a cab rank and a driver quickly helped us with our bags. 
"Does the cab have a meter?'', my wife asked me under her breath.
"You have a meter?", I asked the driver as he came around and held the back passenger door open for me.
"Yes, yes, have meter", he replied as he made his way around to the driver's seat.
Second mistake - the cab didn't have the Vinasun livery across its doors.
So, after a half-hour drive - which felt longer than I remember -  where he steered with one hand while checking his cell-phone with the other, we arrived at the hotel and I counted out the Vietnamese Dong that I had brought with me. This money was left-over from our previous trip in 2019. I counted it out. One million eight hundred thousand VND.
Not enough.
"You have Australian dollar?", he asked, a little too hopefully. I had a hundred and ten bucks in my wallet. I handed it over to him while I asked my wife if she'd brought any AUD with her. She hadn't. 
Then I remembered my mobile (cell) phone. I keep it in a leather flip-wallet and, behind the phone itself is an emergency $20 note, designed to get me a cheap lunch and coffee if I ever leave the house without my wallet. I don't do the pay-with-your-phone schtick that I see 90% of people doing these days. 
I fished this folded note out from behind my phone and handed it over to him. The fare was $120AUD and I gave him $130.00; "And ten for you",  I said. 

Seven days later, when it was time to head home, our hotel's Concierge ordered a Vinasun taxi for us. The driver helped with our bags and got us to the airport in about 20 minutes. Then he turned to me and said; "One hundred fifty six thousand."
Had I heard him correctly? Hundred and fifty six thousand VND? That worked out to about twelve bucks AUD. I asked him again; "One hundred and fifty six? Thousand?"
"Yes, one, five, six", he replied.
I gave him about 220,000.oo VND, which covered the cab fare and left him with a four dollar tip, which seemed to make him happy. He fished our cases out of the boot (trunk) and bid us farewell. 
I stood there at the terminal. My wife said; "What's up?"
I explained the cab fare.
"You're joking. Oh my God!"
"Bastard", I said, referring to the driver who took us to our hotel a week earlier. "That bastard", I repeated.
"Do you know how many meals a hundred and twenty bucks would have paid for?", my wife said, shocked. "How many massages?!", she added. 
"That's it T, we're too old to be rubes like this. The bastard."
I hope that driver has ten kids to feed, and I hope they ate well that night. 
So, hepcats, if you need a cab from Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, ALWAYS look for a Vinasun taxi.

**Stopped in a another Runam Café and checked Google Maps on our phones...
Our mobile phone provider used to be Optus. However, they had a massive data breach last year and, for me, this was the final straw. I switched over to ALDImobile, run by the German supermarket chain which opened up here in Oz about a decade ago. My wife had already defected over to them over a year ago. 
Only thing was that ALDI doesn't have International Roaming from Vietnam. Strangely, though, they DO have Norway. You know, for all the Norwegians who call Australia on a heavily regular basis. 
No huge drama, we thought. We would FaceTime our kids while we were away...until it dawned on us that my wife and I have iPhones and the kids switched over to Android-powered Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel phones earlier this year.
Another travel-rookie mistake! In the end, we wound up using Instagram video calling with our daughter, just to stay in touch with the kids while we were away. 
And we used free Wi-Fi wherever it was available. 
Which would explain the absolute bombardment of Spam emails I've been getting since we got back from this trip. I'm laughing as I write this. 
Either laugh or cry, buddy.
Laugh or cry.

Next trip, we'll get a couple of $200 dollar data cards for our phones from the Post Office and use them while we're away. A little more research required before then. 
Time to become a little sharper when we travel. 
That damn cab driver! 

Thanks for reading!