Pleasant as this is, the R & R-er has another reason for not caring how long the flight takes: his allotted five days and nights do not begin until the plane touches down. When it does, he is again briefed by the local R & R center (sample from Taipei: "Keep out of the buses or you may lose your wallet. Do not purchase the company of a girl for more than 24 hours at a time; they seldom look as good in the morning."). The R & R center will also arrange to rent him civilian clothes (several countries are nervous about having U.S. personnel in uniform). And then come his five carefree days, single-mindedly devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. 。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。。
In general, the modern U.S. serviceman is better educated, more sophisticated, more curious about alien cultures, and better behaved than any of his predecessors—and he has more money to spend. On the average, he spends roughly $200, making a total yearly tourist bonanza for the area of some $72 million. And he may be the best-behaved soldier in history. One R & R officer stationed in Thailand, where the record shows only one serious incident for every 12,000 G.I.s who visit Bangkok, says: "The trouble rate is so low, no one wants to believe it." In Hong Kong, police authorities say that they have more trouble with the resident British garrison than from visiting U.S. servicemen. Busting up bars seems to be something that went out with From Here to Eternity and the professional army. The G.I. these days is a civilian at heart—and savvy enough to reject the most importunate tout’s offer of "a good place" with a grin and a worldly-wise shake of the head.
What he seeks and what he does in his five days is as various as American youth itself.
World’s Biggest PX. Basic drives remain simple. First come good food, clean sheets and hot water. "I took four showers the first day," says SP4 Ethen Woodward, a mortarman with the 1st Infantry Division. "I hadn’t had a hot shower in ten months." Some first seek out the local R & R center and gorge on fresh milk, hamburgers and ice cream. Next objective is usually, in the words of a 173rd Airborne trooper, "a girl." But, he added carefully, "I’m also very interested in the cultural bit. I figure I may only be coming this way once." And because they may never come this way again, large numbers of R & Ring servicemen earnestly seek, watch, explore and examine a range of cultures that they would never otherwise have even glimpsed.
Among single men, the favorite city is Bangkok. Its Petcahburi Road offers the neon-lit Goldfinger Massage Parlor, the Whisky A Go-Go Club and some 50,000 bar girls, but also impressive temples for inspection during the recuperative hours. The companionship of a girl who also numbers English among her several skills can be secured for $11 a day or $50 for a full five days. After Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taipei get about equal attention. Tokyo is particularly popular in summer because it is cooler, attracts those troopers who like modern nightclubs but also recognize that Japan is one of the great cultures of the Eastern world.
Taipei, which has few cultural monuments apart from the great collection of Chinese art in the National Museum, has gained R & R status from the complaisance of its girls and the excellence of its food.
Hong Kong is also the most popular R & R center for the Seventh Fleet; the arrival and departure of U.S. ships coming off patrol duty off Viet Nam is recorded on an updated blackboard at many a bar-dancehall in its famed Wanchai district. Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore get fewer applicants—mostly those who want to avoid the sight of fellow Americans.
Fastest-rising star is Sydney, Australia, which was only put on the R & R list two months ago; its appeal is great surfing, a change of diet ("No rice on the plate," says one G.I.), and a place where everybody speaks English. Says Lieut. Tom Ryan, of the 1st Airborne Division and Big Rapids, Mich.: "It’s great just to see white girls with round eyes again." Major Norman G. Lau-meyer of Long Prairie, Minn., a helicopter pilot of the 1st Cavalry Division and a farmer in civilian life, took a day’s flying tour to inspect ranches, explaining: "Here I feel like I’m back among my own people." Australians apparently feel the same way. Some 4,000 families have standing offers for visiting G.I.s to live at their homes during their R & R stay.
Midway Rendezvous. Curiously, the biggest R & R city is Honolulu. Its appeal is neither its hula dancers nor its beaches. It is simply that Hawaii is a geographical midway point for a rendezvous with a wife or a sweetheart for five brief days. The expense can be staggering, even though Hawaiian hotels offer a discount to military personnel. But month after month, more R&R-ers (some 7,290-odd) take the long trek to Hawaii than anywhere else.
At the end of their five days, whether their activities have been licit or illicit, cultural or psychedelic, they dutifully turn up at the R&R center for the trip back to Viet Nam, tired, probably broke, but almost certainly happy —or at least, happier.