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'VN soldiers who never went home', and the human diaspora

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JR8
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'VN soldiers who never went home', and the human diaspora

Postby JR8 » Mon, 28 Oct 2013 9:30 am

I used to think that the character John Rambo in the film Rambo 4, was largely symbolic. That film is the one where he's working at a Thai snake farm, until he gets hired for 'one last mission' into Burma.

So there is a parallel concept of the American Vietnam vet who never [fully] went home. Most did physically, but perhaps not wholly mentally. There can be a lifelong sense of connection with places that have been formative experiences, and IMHO that is at the centre of the character 'Rambo'.

[Sorry... I am somewhat thinking aloud]

So when I learned that a regular* here had served in VN and 'never went home', I remember finding that very striking. 'So maybe Rambo isn't just symbolism, but art imitating life?' Just today we have another old time poster who says he served in VN, then lived here, and has more recently retired back to the US.

I was wondering how many other Vets there are in SE Asia, who 'never went home'? Are there any regional Vet associations? Then I was thinking about migrant groups more generally. Not really where they have consciously chosen to migrate to seek a better future, but people who have had no choice but to move (to fight a war, to flee a war, natural disasters, etc).

What niche communities are there in Singapore? And how or why did they (or, at least the more distant ones) get here? I know there is a Burmese community, centred at Peninsular Plaza. You can find a tiny African 'zone' behind Mustafas near the junction of Verdun Road/Sam Leong Road. What brought them here? Filipinos seem to dominate Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road. There used to be a Thai enclave down on Beach Road, near the Concourse building (in it's attached mall?).

Are there any others here? Where are the Cambodians? There must surely be some here? The VNese? Singapore must have taken in some 'boat people', right? I know there was a major 'processing centre' down in the Riau islands just to the south.

- a parallel example might be the Nepalese community in the UK, although it's roots are arguably discretionary. IIRC Gurkhas who serve-out their 16 year (?) enlistment are given the right to settle, together with any family. So that community's existence is solely down to a now obscure historic event.



* Intentionally vague. I don't think it's my place mentioning names.

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Postby PNGMK » Mon, 28 Oct 2013 10:02 am

Two niche communities here come to mind.

The Armenians (embodied by the Sarkies) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarkies_Brothers

And the Baghdad Jews (aka the Sassoons and others here).

Both are very successful and (IMO) quite insular.

I've also met and known some 'Arab' Singaporeans - that's a very interesting community as well.

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Postby JR8 » Mon, 28 Oct 2013 2:09 pm

Good heavens, the Raffles was built by Iranian Armenians!?

Amazing! And this is precisely why I posed the question.

Wow. I didn't know that, I just thought it was 'some Brit/colonial thing'.





[Really really... I'm REALLY shocked :) Damn, there goes a bit of my imagined heritage. Hey plus I only got married there].

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Postby PNGMK » Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:31 pm

Walk through the Armenian church on Armenian St. V interesting place and a lot of graves with dates and names.

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Postby the lynx » Wed, 30 Oct 2013 9:14 am

Yep, the E&O hotel in Penang was built by the Sarkies. Hence, the resemblance to the Raffles hotel here.

Should check out Crag hotel (by the Sarkies too) on Penang hill if you have a chance. Absolute beauty despite its sorry end to its former glorious day. A (slight) pain to hike up to see it but the eerie beauty is a thrill.

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Postby JR8 » Wed, 30 Oct 2013 10:35 am

the lynx wrote:Yep, the E&O hotel in Penang was built by the Sarkies. Hence, the resemblance to the Raffles hotel here.

Should check out Crag hotel (by the Sarkies too) on Penang hill if you have a chance. Absolute beauty despite its sorry end to its former glorious day. A (slight) pain to hike up to see it but the eerie beauty is a thrill.


Wow never heard of that. What a location, to lie unused, perhaps tied up in some complex will/dispute. Reminds me of The Mitre Inn on Killiney Road... a surreal time-warp, finally consumed by condo-building avarice.

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Postby PNGMK » Wed, 30 Oct 2013 10:36 am

JR8 wrote:
the lynx wrote:Yep, the E&O hotel in Penang was built by the Sarkies. Hence, the resemblance to the Raffles hotel here.

Should check out Crag hotel (by the Sarkies too) on Penang hill if you have a chance. Absolute beauty despite its sorry end to its former glorious day. A (slight) pain to hike up to see it but the eerie beauty is a thrill.


Wow never heard of that. What a location, to lie unused, perhaps tied up in some complex will/dispute. Reminds me of The Mitre Inn on Killiney Road... a surreal time-warp, finally consumed by condo-building avarice.


Yes I miss the Mitre hotel. It was the fail safe place to dump drunk offshore mates.

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Postby JR8 » Wed, 30 Oct 2013 11:24 am

PNGMK wrote:Yes I miss the Mitre hotel. It was the fail safe place to dump drunk offshore mates.


[Genuinely laughing out loud]

That was a one-off hard-core place (it's wonderful that some others here remember it). Just this huge rambling crumbling mansion, open air to the lawns around. You'd pick a room, lie on a crusty old leather sofa with a bottle of wine, with friends, almost like having a private party. I don't recall there being more than 10-20 people there at a time. Then later you wake alone, no one there in the still open-air building, just you draped over a sofa. Wake up at 5am, silence, trying to figure out where TF you are... then realising that you have to get up and stagger home.

edit: formatting
Last edited by JR8 on Wed, 30 Oct 2013 5:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby beppi » Wed, 30 Oct 2013 5:05 pm

PNGMK wrote:Walk through the Armenian church on Armenian St. V interesting place and a lot of graves with dates and names.

The adjacent mansion still is the communal centre of the (perhaps 50 strong) Armenian community here. I once attended one of their functions - very interesting people, and the place has an incredibly historic athmosphere!
One of them (not a priest) lives upstairs in the building - maybe the oldest inhabitated structure in Singapore.


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