Issue 35, Final Fringe

Apocalypse, Now Affordable

by Craig Fishbane Issue 34 04.08.2013

Are you tired of the same mundane tours that promise to show you the real Vietnam? For a remarkably affordable price (airfare not included), Apocalypse Tours offers you an opportunity to encounter a nation being torn apart by the most photogenic war in the history of modern cinema: Vietnam, exactly as Francis Ford Coppola pictured it.

Our itinerary

Day One — Ho Chi Minh City

There will be an early-morning wake-up call at your four-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Before you have time to say, “Shit. I’m still in Saigon,” you will be transferred to the port city of Con Tho, gateway to the Mekong River and your own personal Heart of Darkness. A light lunch will be served upon arrival. After boarding our luxury adventure boat, The Morning Napalm, you will receive your personalized secret dossier with a detailed itinerary of the week’s adventures. During the cocktail hour, you will meet your guide, a decorated veteran of the North Vietnamese Army. Please do not attempt to make eye contact or initiate any conversation. If you have any questions, they are best dealt with in the silence of your own locked cabin when all the lights have gone out and the last helpings of the complimentary buffet dinner have been served (beverages not included).

Day Two — Cruising the Mekong River, The Do Lung Bridge

Your day begins with a thrilling journey up the mighty Mekong River, inspiration for the fictional Nung River in the both the original film and the redux. Although surfing will not be permitted on its muddy swells, your captain will speed through channels congested with small fishing boats, capsizing many local vessels in its wake. Enjoy the delightful reactions of the native fishermen as you cruise in air-conditioned luxury toward the site of one of the most famous battles of the Vietnam War: the Do Lung Bridge. Although the original bridge was entirely a creation of John Milius’s acclaimed screenplay, with the help of some friendly villagers (tip not included), we will drape psychedelic lights across a wooden monkey bridge and present the photo opportunity of a lifetime: a certified picture of yourself standing beneath the last army outpost on the Nung River. After lunch, your guide will lead you on a hike through verdant rice fields, offering humorous anecdotes about the perils of hunting down enemy soldiers during the rainy season. In the event of a flashback, please remain motionless until the episode subsides. Complimentary champagne toast upon returning to the ship.

Day Three — Helicopter Tour

A tour highlight. After docking at Vinh Long, we will transfer to the airport and board an authentic US army surplus UH-100 gunship to recreate the famous helicopter assault on a Vietcong village. Thrill to the sight of terrified villagers scrambling for cover as your air-conditioned chopper swarms over thatched rooftops. With the amplified strains of Wagner blaring from a state-of-the-art sound system, we will make close passes over churches, temples, vegetable gardens and a school yard. Although we are prohibited by law from firing live ammunition, each passenger will have the opportunity to shoot one of our trademarked power water cannons for a genuine tail-gunner experience. Your guide will offer insights on the tactics of helicopter warfare, reflecting on the irony of riding the very same kind of gunship that killed his uncle and two brothers in 1967. Please do not attempt to offer words of sympathy until after the craft has safely landed. Upon returning the airport, we will be escorted back to the ship by the county police (bribe not included). Once we have sailed beyond the jurisdiction of the village magistrate, guests will be invited to join the captain on the top deck for a savory barbeque lunch. Afternoon at leisure.

Day Four — Cambodian Border Crossing, Kurtz Compound

The end of the line. After a crossing the Cambodian border and bribing local customs officials (included in your costs!), we will arrive at our true Heart of Darkness. Designed by the architects of Hong Kong Disneyland, the Walter E. Kurtz compound is a romantic palace of terror and mystery where we come face to face with our most barbaric desires. Your guide will lead you past a gauntlet of skulls impaled on wooden stakes and escort you deep into the murk of the inner sanctuary. You will be taken to a private cell and left alone for hours until you finally hear the sound of another person entering the chamber, the soft voice of your inquisitor. You will be interrogated by an agent from Angkor Estates Limited, one of the largest real estate firms in Cambodia. Through disembodied whispers in the shadows, you will come to discover the true meaning of horror: the horror of returning home without a beach-front time-share in the burgeoning resort town of Sihanoukville, the horror that you may never again leave this cell until a down payment has been negotiated. You will remain in the compound as long as is necessary to experience this epiphany about the true nature of travel in Southeast Asia. Complimentary foot rub upon returning to ship.

Day Five — Return to Ho Chi Minh City

We can only speculate on what happened to the survivors of Captain Willard’s doomed expedition into the jungle, but for the adventurers on an Apocalypse Tour, the return to civilization is a party worthy of the last days before the fall of Saigon. After a leisurely buffet breakfast, the finest performers in Southeast Asia will entertain you with a rousing musical revue (lap dances not included). Due to a series of recent unfortunate incidents, we have had to cancel the Russian roulette demonstrations that had been a signature of previous tours. There will, however, be an opportunity to purchase firearms and ammunition at the floating market at Phung Hiep before returning to Can Tho. Upon arrival at the port, you will be transferred to Ho Chi Minh City for your return flight home. Or, if you wish to continue your Vietnam adventure, Apocalypse Tours is happy to offer a three-night extension in fascinating Hanoi. For a modest supplementary fee, you will be our guest at the legendary five-star Hilton, where your guide will be delighted to bring the movies to life in ways you may never forget.

Craig Fishbane

Craig Fishbane

Apocalypse, Now Affordable

Craig Fishbane has been featured in the New York Quarterly, the Boston Literary Magazine, Opium, Prime Number and The Nervous Breakdown. His short fiction collection, On the Proper Role of Desire, will be published by Big Table Publishing in the summer of 2013.