Illustration by Trịnh Lập
Jeremy Clarkson really is the Marmite of television.
Just like the sticky, dark brown yeast-based food spread, there’s no middle ground when it comes to Clarkson. You either love him, or hate him.
Personally I fall into the former category. At his peak, his television show Top Gear was a must-watch in my front room.
He may seem a little Jurassic in today’s world, but, dress sense aside, Clarkson was very, very good at what he did.
Some of the best moments on television, were the Top Gear road trips around the world and one that immediately springs to mind was the Việt Nam special recorded more than 10 years ago.
Sure, there were a few digs and pops during the show, which was to be expected because of the programme’s format.
Richard Hammond refused to eat any food except for cornflakes and the odd bowl of rice and their ‘back-up’ vehicle in case anything went wrong was a motorbike painted with the stars and stripes of an American flag that boomed out the Bruce Springsteen classic, Born in the USA.
However, there’s no doubt whatsoever Clarkson and co thoroughly enjoyed their experience driving from Hồ Chí Minh City to Hạ Long Bay.
Clarkson particularly didn’t like his wheels, and old Vespa, and spent much of the show cursing mode of transport but he did clearly love the country, its spectacular scenery and of course the people.
In fact he loved it so much, this year he was back, partnered not with a film crew, but his girlfriend, Lisa Hogan.
On Valentine’s Day he posted a photograph on his Instagram page treating his girlfriend to a romantic picnic on a rocky beach with the tongue-in-cheek caption “on our gap year”.
But things did not go according to plan on this, his latest visit to Việt Nam.
During the making of Top Gear in 2008, Jeremy did take a tumble and fell from his motorbike sustaining some minor cuts and bruises.
This time around, he ended again in need of medical treatment, but on this occasion it was far more serious than simply a few grazes.
The 59-year-old, who now hosts The Grand Tour on streaming site, Amazon, was speaking on television recently about his ordeal in Việt Nam.
He revealed that during his visit, he ended up in hospital after developing an abscess on his abdomen.
Despite the health scare, once again, Jezzy was quick to praise Việt Nam and in particular, his treatment at an undisclosed hospital in HCM City.
He told the Jonathan Ross show on ITV in the United Kingdom: “I went off to Indochina and it was fantastic. Việt Nam and Laos and Cambodia are all just absolutely fabulous things to do.”
Clarkson then went on to explain his experience of the Vietnamese healthcare system, and he had nothing but good things to say.
“I said, ‘It’s nothing, I just need a doctor to pop around and lance this little abscess I’ve got.’
“She [the doctor] said, ‘Where is it?’ I said, ‘My abdomen.' She said, ‘Does it hurt? I said, ‘Yes it does.’ She said, ‘Which side?’ I said, ‘Left side.’ She said, ‘We’re sending an ambulance…'"
“By the time I’d finished explaining, the ambulance was there… In the ambulance, siren on, off to the hospital, doctor was there 30 seconds later and three minutes later I was on the operating table.
“There was a growth coming out of my abscess so they lopped it out. It’s a fabulous healthcare system.”
So no matter what Việt Nam throws at him, be it a 1,600 kilometre road trip on old scooters, or a medical emergency and surgery at a hospital in HCM City, Clarkson’s views on the country never waver.
“Our machines were completely overshadowed by this incredible, beautiful, brilliant country,” he said on Top Gear 11 years ago.
And after his latest escapade to Việt Nam on Valentine’s Day, he clearly remains well and truly in love with the place. VNS