Battambang Fun Continues!

Today I walked down one of the major roads in Battambang to the provincial buildings and parks. Its a really nice area with large city blocks of older architecture and the city and province buildings including government, utilities, and other administrative offices. All in older buildings. Very cool! Here’s the beginnings of the photo album from here so you can see too.

What I really enjoyed today after some breakfast at the Tous Le Jours bakery which was quite good is the pace of life here in Battambang compared to Siem Reap. Life is just slower and easier. Sometimes Siem Reap seemed rather frenetic especially down in the tourist areas. Here you just wander around and find cool places to see without the pace of tourists and activities. More of a city that’s fun to wander in and see. I also get a lot of “hellos” from people especially kids. Smiles often come from older people here and people will wave to me across the street. Really a nice city to calm down in.

I have about another 1.5 weeks here give or take but I don’t haver a set pace like I did with the temple tours to get done. Each day here seems to just go on with a nice pace of walking and seeing things and the camera just captures the beautiful city and its architecture and temples.

I identified a few areas I want to see tomorrow like the markets. I was going to do that today but decided it was too nice out to spend the time hunting though crowded markets of which there must be 4 in the town. One day I shall do the markets!

Food here has been very good as well. Last night I found a nice Khmer place for chicken curry and rice. Tonight I am not sure. Restaurants here are a bit different but all are nice. You can walk down the road by the river and see different city areas that all have nice looking places to eat.

If you want to see a different side of Cambodia, I think you should see both Kampot and Battambang. Both offer a different view of a city here. Its a different view than the rush of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Since the days are slower now, I end up back in my hotel room for a few hours each day after about 2pm just relaxing in the AC perhaps reading or watching some news on CNN. I also am working on my story every day just about. I don’t set some goals for that but I write new content daily because it feels good. I don’t know the end game with it but I know how I feel doing it and it’s worth it.

Last thing is that it appears I will do Christmas in Battambang since its next week. Then I will do New Years in Phnom Penh because I leave here on a bus on 29 December for there. I don’t really have a strong feeling about the holidays any longer or observing any set holiday for some reason or other. I have seen Christmas decorations both in Siem Reap and here.

So its interesting that life here is at a much nicer pace and people seem to like it immensely here. The town appears older and the city blocks have a rather fun look to them with these streets and blocks that have small businesses and restaurants and coffee houses. I’ll take some photographs tomorrow of some of the city blocks because I think they are really neat.

Welcome to Battambang!

Wow. Talk about a change. Going from Siem Reap with its party down atmosphere to a quiet town like Battambang. Its nice though. I rode the Mekong Express bus for about 4 hours to get to the city and then walked about 10 minutes to the hotel I’m staying in. The hotel is like most of the others. Its comfortable and I like it but its not like some 4 or 5 star digs. In fact, I have not stayed in those kinds of places for almost a year now. The big thing is though is the AC and the bed and the comfort.

I’m here for 2 weeks so will be going forth tomorrow with the camera to go explore the city after some coffee across the street. I don’t, as usual, have some kind of plan to explore tomorrow. I will just walk and see what I see. Its the best way for me to find things that I like or want to remember or photograph. If I draw out some route I never stick to it anyways. Tomorrow I also need to find a few things. I have to find a small store to buy some stuff like shampoo and body soap and toothpaste since I did not bring what was left with me from Siem Reap. I also need to find a laundry place that I can drop off to. Usually its about a $1 a kilogram for laundry services.

Dinner tonight was at the Khmer Delight restaurant which I had seen on the map before but did not really notice it was that close to me when I was out walking. It has a nice menu though and the food is reasonably priced. Tomorrow when its light out I can find things easier and gain some familiarity with the city. Its hard at night when you don’t really know the place. But the food sure was good and the beer was cold!

Another good thing is that WiFi seems much better here. At the last place it was a disaster. Up then down. It would be good for 15 minutes and then fail throughout the hotel. I told them to call the service provider but I think they are paying the least for the service so thats what you get.

Tonight is kind of a rest night for me so I’m back in the hotel room after eating and kinda planning what I want to do here. I have a all day tour a week from Monday so that will be good. Then I leave for Phnom Penh two weeks from today.

Anyways, that’s my welcome to Battambang Cambodia post. I’m sure I will have more to say tomorrow after its daylight and I get a sense of the place and directions and stuff.

Siem Reap Finals

Its the last day just about or so or almost somewhat in Siem Reap. Tomorrow is a travel day after 2pm. I go from here in Siem Reap to Battambang for two weeks. It takes the bus a few hours because there is not a road that goes straight there and one must turn this way and that to get there. Its okay though because there is not a thing waiting for me there. No big plans tomorrow for arriving besides to eat some dinner and check the evening out in the city.

I planned for two weeks in Battambang and then decided to stay in Phnom Penh for about 12 days and finally Kampot for 10 days which gets me to 21 January when I fly to Singapore. I have not been back in Singapore since 2011. Before that though I was a frequent visitor since a company I worked for had offices there. Often it was a few day stop over and then flying on to Chennai India. It will be nice to be back there for a week. Still have friends there that I’d like to see but the main thing is the walking in the city again and just take my time, eat the food, visit places and take the photographs of the usual stuff.

Getting back to the leaving of Siem Reap though, I have to say this has been one of the better stops for me. I really like the city a lot and the places you can see in a few weeks are simply outstanding. The food scene is amazing here folks. There are restaurants at every price level for every taste. The Khmer restaurants are lovely little places where a dinner and a beer can be had for under $5. Most also offer western cuisine and I’ve had French fries instead of spring rolls a few times. If you are after nicer places to eat, there is no lack here either. Its not just Pub Street which is somewhat over-priced for the food. I found a Khmer restaurant there which basically had marked up the local dishes by dollars but it was the same stuff. Lok Lak or Amok or whatever but just costing more. You can walk a few blocks and find the same stuff for dollars cheaper. I went to Pub Street not to have Khmer food. I had pizza there and some decent Mexican food a few times when needing that. But get a bit farther from Pub Street if you want to find a good cross section of foods. Sok San Road is ideal for that and its a busy road with hotels, pricier residences, and hostels all lined up. The restaurants range from local places to more western style dining. All places it seems have dining outside where you can sit and watch the evening unfold and the people wander by.

As you can tell, food is a big deal for me. I happen to love to eat and I love testing and tasting the food no matter the cost really. I sometimes want a bowl of green curry, rice, and a spring roll. Other times I want a BBQ or a western style breakfast. I tend to find those places or ask others where such places exist out there. That’s how I found Sister Srey Cafe by the river. If you are wanting breakfast, I strongly suggest a visit. Prices are not way down there but if you are wanting something like a plate of hashed brown potatoes, an egg, and bacon on top; this place delivers the goods. It is my only real recommendation since sometimes breakfast can be challenging.

Food is not the only thing that Siem Reap has going for it. History and archeology are simply incredible here. The temples vie with each other to amaze and delight you and sometimes challenge in climbing or finding that one picture of the face at the Bayon Temple. Some want to read a favored temple and I have one. While Angkor Wat is incredible and I saw it at sunrise Bayon temple is by far the best. Its stone carvings and mysterious faces cut in stone are incredible. You have to see Angkor Wat but you must see Bayon Temple. Then there are the rest lined up with all different things you should see. I took two tours that the hotel gave me but was left to my own to see the temples each day so I just wandered around and took lots of photographs and read the information on the sites from the historic context to efforts to preserve and protect the antiquity.

The temple are so important folks. They are a bridge between the past, today and tomorrow much like what archeology does. It is not the face carved so much as the message translated across the times. The art and science and work and grand tapestry it all provides. There should be some mystery so you keep coming back for more. In the Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert in California, we did not know why certain canyons in the foothills had rock art while others nearly the same did not. Something inscrutable and unknown and never defined had been at work and we shall never really know. I think that’s best for the history of Angkor too. The museum here is the other part and it provides a beautiful context but also admits to a lot of unknowns about the past periods. Its better I think to not know the “Why” of things. We can imagine or dream or wonder the unknowns.

Finally and by no means the last thing here in Siem Reap are the people. The people across Cambodia are friendly, honest, and kind. More smiles and “hellos” here from old and young you will find than other places. I was astounded before in Vietnam when people went out of their way to cross a street, introduce themselves, in Da Lat Vietnam ask for a picture from a stranger, and then wave goodbye. Here it seems even more sometimes. For an old retired guy from the SF Bay Area where people are just the way they are; its always a nice change to find genuine people here.

So I tried to not write a clickbait post and call out the 5 things or 7 restaurants or the budget items here or what to do in 24 hours or a week here. I don’t like those blogposts at all. They try to reach our lowest common denominator I think which is finding how many countries we can do in X months, how many things we can do in each country in Y days, and how to budget it all across Z weeks. The clickbait posts are just filler material to me and I would prefer reading past them to find the genuine posts. But some blogs have no genuine posts sorry to say. They are simply clickbait posts and others that are sponsored content or reviews of a shoe or a nice camera or something. I always feel like asking,

where’s the unique content? where are your feelings? I don’t need socks or a new camera. I want the real you.

I’ll always try to create content that you may love or love to hate. The photo album of 30 days in Siem Reap comes next! But first is packing up for tomorrow’s bus ride to Battambang. Another city to explore with a different setting.

See you all when I get to Battambang!

Writing and the Fear of Retirement — Changes will Come

Its almost the end of times here in Siem Reap. Today I took a day off from the 7 miles walking almost every day and read a lot and worked on my story. I had spent time last night also drafting down the outline to a few sections so I could manage things easier. While the 11 step pre-writing process helps a person to drill down it soon becomes way too much when looking for a thing. It gets down to the following for me:

  1. Ideas, Plots, and Premises. I dedicate some pages to the idea and premises of my story plus outlining some of the conflicts.
  2. Characters. Its easy to lose sight of the characters when they’re stuck away in some note but I think you refer back to the characters to either add one that comes upon you in a blast of impression or when you want to check a name out. At this point, I still add a character or two because as I write, I think of someone who should be in that world.
  3. Writing or the Content. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will go back and redo the first part. I’m up to 5 chapters now and the separations are when I feel like it. Since this is a draft, things may end up with less chapters or more.

I think once you get the first two things in sight the third can come but you don’t need to reach some ideal point. I dwelled on the ideas, plot, and premises for days. I had tried before writing to them but without the ideas actually written down. I failed. I think the important thing is to get them written down. They will change as will the plot. Writing seems to be an engaging and evolving process at least for me.

We’ll see how we do as I get more of the story crafted out. Now I’m sitting in the room with some beer and watching the clock kinda tick down on my last days in Siem Reap. I’ve been here a month and will leave on Saturday for another city in Cambodia. Then I get back to Phnom Penh and down to Kampot for some days.

Next year is a traveling year. I’ll be on the road from Cambodia most of it only to return for awhile in June to get ready to go to Vietnam and Lao and then in September to prepare for China. Busy times all around.

Retirement and Quora — Some thoughts here

I answer questions a lot on Quora about aging and retirement primarily because I think people that are young have this strange idea that when a person turns an age somehow they are really not meant for much else than coffee down the street and a slow walk in the park. There are numbers of ex-pat retirees here in Cambodia and others I have met in Vietnam that would tend to disagree. The truth is and I hate to burst the young folks bubbles that nothing changes just because an age is reached. We all want the same adventures and changes and relationships that you do. After all, we have all gone through more of life than you which does not mean we are smarter. It does mean we don’t drop all the dreams and focus on the nothing of retirement. Come on young people! Give us some ability here. We are not literally waiting for the final act here. Many of us decide to leave and find a new life. Sometimes the new life is in Asia or South or Central America.

The real truth is that it sucks to retire in America. Why? Because it costs so much. Everything you want and need or desire costs too much. So people get trapped in a life there that is not of their making and perhaps they’re afraid to change. Well you guys; change is out there and it’s always happening. But I think the main thing is others get trapped with the house and car and debt and either continue to work always thinking,

oh next year I will break free! I will take that cruise. I will remove all debt. I will find a new way forward

But next year never comes and they suffer the next thing. The next thing is fear. Or I should say FEAR. All in big letters. They are simply afraid of the first thing which is change. So they stay trapped because fear of change traps them.

I hope that as you get older you see that we are not just a bunch of decrepit coffee house wanderers. We all have the star stuff essence. There is still the hunter-gatherer in us. Its just buried under a ton of fear and fear of change.

Don’t let it be. Life is there for everyone. Age is no barrier. I did it. I am no hero. I figured it out. There is no secret sauce or conditions to be met. No book to buy or link to click on. No private club to join. Its you and what you want and not letting fear and fear of change conquer your life.

Thats all! Ain’t that enough? 🙂

The tale my old Merrill Moab Ventilators Shoes can tell…

The cell phone rang this morning while I was reading and enjoying some moments of morning solitude. First it was someone that did not speak English and then it was a delivery driver for an overnight shipping company asking me if I could be available to sign for a package. The package was a pair of walking shoes I had shipped from my mail service to Siem Reap almost two weeks ago. They had stalled in Phnom Penh and I thought that FedEx may send them back or Cambodian customs may stop them because they had questions. But in the end, the shoes made it through and then were placed with a local delivery agent and this morning I received them!

These are the only shoes I can really wear with any comfort at all and they are not sold here so once a year or so I have to buy a new pair. My old ones have really seen better days after lasting me through the miles since March. If they could tell a story it would be:

  1. Welcome to Japan. You used me for 2 weeks and 3 cities sometimes walking further and longer. I was there for you in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka and we got to see each city together.
  2. Then we were off to Vietnam together. Thanks for taking me along! You first took me to Hanoi for three months but we did side trips to Hoi An and Hue and then we left for a few days to go to Hong Kong. I really liked Hong Kong and you put the miles on me there too. All told we spent a long time together in Vietnam and ended up going to Da Lat, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City a few times. We also did a few other trips like to Nha Trang and Cham Islands. Cool stuff! All told you and I saw Vietnam for 6 months. I was there every step of the way. I’m only a shoe but I think you found some value and we got to walk some city streets, some temple grounds, got to see the Golden Bridge and so many other sights in Vietnam.
  3. Then we left for Cambodia. Oh Cambodia! You took me along for so many walks in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and Kampot and now in Siem Reap. I heard rumors though that perhaps my time was coming up and that new some shoes on the block would arrive. And so they did. I’m not jealous or mad. I know I am here for a mission and the new pair of Merrills and I talked a bit and they will serve you well. My time is just about done. I have some rips and tears but I’ve been loyal and steadfast here in Cambodia.

So the Merrill Moab V2 shoes have seen me through a lot and many steps and miles have been done. I’ve tried Sandals but they rub my feet the wrong way. So I always ended up back with the Merrills and they have been good to me.

Now I have a new pair and I’m good for another year. Next December I’m sure that these Merrills will have a similar tale to tell. The old ones get retired here. Their time has come and I’ll spend the last few days in Siem Reap saying goodbye to them. I don’t know about other shoes and these are not the cheapest but for my feet and the 5 to 7 miles every day I do, they are just the best for me. No break-in period. No blisters. No hurting feet. I’ve worn them for years actually and always they have been there for me. I won’t be trying other shoes or buying cheap sneakers. I’ll spend the money and let them tell their tale next year at this time.

Thanks to Merrill for making a shoe that is more than the sum of its parts. A shoe that can tell a story and be there for me in the steps I take. No product link. No affiliate. Only a recommendation from an old retired guy that walks a lot.

Siem Reap Times – Meeting another blogger and travel plans

Last week in Siem Reap and today got to meet a fellow blogger I follow. Here’s the back story. I was walking yesterday by the Siem Reap River just kind of enjoying the cooler day out and looking around and I thought I saw someone that looked familiar walking away from me. He was quite a bit ahead of me but he had turned to look at something. I wanted to be sure so after dinner and a few beers I checked his blog. On his About Page there is a picture. Sure enough. It was! I did not want to yell and disturb him so I wondered whether we would meet again somewhere. Siem Reap is not such a large city and though I wander in non tourist areas a lot today I walked by the Sister Srey Cafe which is a breakfast and brunch place right on the riverside and there he was!

I got to meet Cornell Sandifer, the publisher and author of this blog! One I admit to following for a few reasons. One is he travels kind of in a similar orbit in Asia but we always seemed countries apart. He would get to Vietnam as I was leaving. We had a chance to talk briefly and he let me know how his travels were going across Asia. It was really cool meeting someone who maintains a blog I follow. After a few minutes of talking about traveling and the places we both were going or had been, we parted but it felt good to meet him. Thanks Cornell! Really a pleasure meeting up with you in Siem Reap!

Days Fall Away in Siem Reap…

My days are slowly falling away here. Its my last Sunday here and its been a great place to visit. I’m down to only 5 full days left and then I board the bus to Battambang for 2 weeks.

In a way I kinda feel ready to go. I think walking the city, eating all the great food and seeing the temples has really recharged the travel batteries for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about the travels next year. I have wanted to firm up the plans after 5 months in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. I decided to do the following:

  1. Vietnam for 6 weeks. I’ll spend 2 weeks in Saigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi.
  2. Lao for a month. I’ll visit Lao for a month.
  3. Back to Phnom Penh around mid September. I need to renew my retirement visa extension of stay for another year.
  4. China in early October. I will get the Visa in Phnom Penh when I get back. Should take a week or so.
  5. Philippines maybe/maybe not. I don’t feel some desire to really go to the Philippines. Its never really been a place I have wanted to visit. A friend had told me that their retirement visas are good but the problem there is its an island or a group of islands. No train or bus service. No neighboring countries easy to get to like here.

So my desire early next year is to lock in all of 2019 in travel plans. I’ve been thinking a lot about India and I would want to go in early 2020 and see Chennai first and catch up with so many people there I know. I likely would want to spend more time in India.

That’s been the line of thinking my last few days here. I feel better having a basic plan in place so I know what 2019 has in store for me.

So it has been really good days here in Siem Reap and I always ask myself if I would return. I don’t think so now. There are only two places in Cambodia I would return to. One is Phnom Penh and the other is Kampot. Both offer something of value on opposing ends of the spectrum. Phnom Penh offers the big city stuff. The Central Market and shopping while Kampot offers the small city charms with such a diverse selection of food and bars and fun. I also need to get to some other places in Kampot which I did not do last time. I’ll be back there in January before flying to Singapore.

I also thought through settling down somewhere and staying longer. It would be in Cambodia since I have the visa extension of stay. There is nothing I gain from staying longer anywhere. I simply lose the time to see things that I want or the fun of the slow vagabonding that seems so good for my soul.

It will be good to see some people in Vietnam again but I have to be honest. I am only going back to get back to Da Nang again because I love the place so much. Saigon and Hanoi are extras and I can book the flights through all of them easily on Vietnam Airlines.

And that is a wrap for today! I got to meet a fellow blogger today that I follow, got to see down side streets and feel mighty good at the walking and how the warm Cambodian sun beats down on me and makes me feel so good. I sweat but those 5 to 7 miles slide by with the camera.

I’ll be publishing my photo album here by next Friday or so. Stay tuned! The adventure continues.

Photography Attitudes — don’t be that photographer

I read an interesting story on PetaPixel which I link to here on arrogance and attitude in photography. It seems amazing to me with such a wonderful medium of expression that we still find people willing to judge if someone chooses to shoot photographs in film or digital. Even hobbyist photographers are not left out it seems from the first paragraph of the review. Here is the thing about photography and I’ve said it before. Its not up to “them” to decide what camera, whether you shoot in black and white or color or decide to shoot in film. Perhaps if you make your living with the camera the “them” out there can stipulate the delivery and execution but if you are enjoying the creativity found during a walk or stroll in Ho Chi Minh City its not.

The article goes on to question how any group can impose a will or sanction on creativity but not just for the professional photographer. For us hobbyists as well. We should do things the way they say because they know best. Here’s a quote from the article,

But that doesn’t answer the question of why many still think they may tell others what to do and what not to do with their work, with their creativity, with their lives, and with their time. Why is chemical photography perceived to be a threat to some? Another question I can’t answer: if it isn’t perceived to be a threat, why would anyone even bother to try to discourage people from doing it?

But really the question is more basic. Its the my way or the highway thing. If we don’t do digital photography or if we want to shoot in film to spark the creativity or personal fulfillment its not wrong or right. It’s our choice.

This is a fundamental thing with the whole art and science of it. Its not just the JPEG shooters and the post processing argument. Its not whether one camera is better than the other. Its not the size of the lens unless you have lens envy. We need to take care not to make photography so hard to enjoy for the avocational or hobbyist that they stop experimenting and sharing. We’re not all gonna do things the same way. The article goes on to say,

Instead of focusing on divisive arguments like Film vs. Digital, Canon vs. Nikon, Mirrorless vs. Mirror, Bayer vs. X-trans and so on, we should give a chance to the uniting aspects of photography. Because as with every other form of art or creative expression, photography can create and sustain joy. The joy of having created something beautiful worth sharing with the world, or at least giving the world a little insight into oneself, through photography.

So this is the essence of the whole thing to me. There is no right camera. No right way. No autofocus versus manual. No aperture priority versus shutter priority or just shooting on automatic. What its really about is the creativity, the zeal, the wonder of creation. The next thing is sharing it. To me, the creation is the moment when you see a thing. The top of a building, the smile of the tuk tuk driver, the sideward glance of the person. Perhaps a discarded building in urban ruin. Maybe a moment of sheer creativity where the thing grabs you and insists. If the first thing is the moment of creation, the next thing is the moment of sharing. I think others are constrained by what they see on the Instagrams and Twitters of the world. Their followers and attachment rates and somehow they strive to get the approval of those that follow them. Want to do black and white photography but what if your legion of 10.5 thousand followers dispute and don’t like? Want to do candid street photography?

I think that here is where the arrogance of photography starts and ends. The real truth is that I bought my camera and you did not. I’m saddened that people cannot let self expression and creativity rule the day. I’ll never claim to be a photographer because I’m not. I’m just a guy that enjoys taking the odd photograph and not being constrained by a set of imposed values that a group of others seem to hold.

The article concludes with this,

Whatever works best for you is okay for you, as long as you can express yourself through it, even if it’s something as simple as a portrait of a grumpy looking cat.

If photography ever becomes so elite that a chosen few can tell us the how and what of things, the art of it is lost and the thing that replaces it are the norms and values of those elites. Photography needs all of us from the professional with the great gear to the wanderer of streets with the Fuji X100F. Without the sum total of them all, the parts are lessened and we will drive people away.

That’s my take!

Days to the Left and Right – Fuji cameras gone and around

Slowly transitioning from one city to another is not so difficult when you are the slow traveler anyways. I’ve been in Siem Reap for almost a month now and each day has built on the day before in some ways. In other ways though each day is unique. I wander in a different direction with the camera. It does not matter if I’ve seen the street before because to me each day with the people, the weather, the environment is different. That same tree or street looks one way on a beautiful blue day but when clouds come the street gets bathed in some shadows and the photography is different. Down goes the aperture and since I vary from somewhat light to somewhat shadow on goes the auto ISO. I just let the camera decide what works.

I have found on the FujiFilm X100F the sweet spots for photography are somewhere between F/4 and F/11. If you settle on F/5.6 or F/8 you are gonna be safe because these seem to be so dead on whether you wander in clouds or bright day and let the camera decide the ISO you will probably get a good shot.

This works wonders for me since each day is a bit different starting from a bakery to have some morning coffee and a nice donut or other goodie. I have liked doing the pastry thing since Vietnam. I’ll just say in Vietnam the bakeries were oh so good! Here I have found the smaller places for coffee that Cambodia seems to specialize in. Particularly the neighborhood stands. Kind of street food for coffee. I have one across the street from the hotel here and there was a delightful one in Otres Village when I was there. Unfortunately while I wanted to get a picture of her and the coffee stand before leaving, she was not there and the cab driver to the airport arrived early.

Anyways back to whatever the main topic was if there was one. Oh yeah… The days. The days with the camera and the wonder of each day and that which makes it unique. The city streets in Siem Reap are like others I have seen but then again not at all. There is the mix of older colonial architecture buildings, government and city buildings, stately hotels, and beautiful restaurants and bars. In Kampot the mix was even more delicate. Streets there were graced with smaller coffee stands, neighborhood pastry shops and then the older buildings. Wonderful! Each day I went with the camera was something new. How the light struck the river or how the boats looked at night running the river. It all seemed so different each day.

So I figured out that the slow travel, the wandering with no real purpose in sight and the slow camera things all figure in to what makes the mode of travel I do the best for me. Relaxing after 3 hours of doing the wandering and back in my room I realize that tomorrow is the countdown. I will only have a week left and then will get to the bus station and move along. I always ask whether I would come back and an equal question is whether I should revisit places. Should I go back to Vietnam in June or July next year? I spent 6 months there already. I feel it would all be different this time but I also look at the other places I could go with the same time. I could go to:

  1. China
  2. Korea
  3. Philippines
  4. Taiwan
  5. Lao
  6. India

So many places I have not really been to yet. I would like to get the last 6 months kinda defined for travel because I have to be back in late September to get the retirement visa extended or move to the Philippines and get their retirement visa. Truth be told, I don’t want that visa. I like it better here. Its easier to get the visa here and I can travel all I want to and its not an island where buses and trains simply won’t work.

But for now the next few weeks beckons. To Battambang and then back to Phnom Penh and finally to that lovely little city Kampot by the river. From there I fly off to Singapore and perhaps see old friends there (or not). Then off to Malaysia for 90 days and traveling in many directions. Its not everything in Malaysia. I hand-picked places like Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Port Dickson and Penang to represent different cardinal locations in the country. Each places gets weeks so I can explore with the camera.

Final Frustrations with the FujiFilm X-T2 camera…

Yes, that camera was so frustrating and anger and irritation producing. I bought that camera in Da Nang to replace my original X100F which had gone through rain storms, been dropped in a puddle, dropped on the floor, slammed around in luggage and still mostly worked. The X-T2 camera to me is a piece of crap. I had the camera’s shutter button repaired after only two months. That took effort. Then I get it back and it starts sticking again in two weeks. I have only had that camera for about 4 to 5 months folks. Cameras are supposed to last longer than that. I have no faith now in those camera lines at all. I also will never buy the X-T3 because of its proximity to the X-T2. The X100F just is the best for me. Its small and resilient and reliable day after day.

I am no photographer nor do I want to be. I don’t crave instagram moments at temples or desire to catch the perfect shot or composition. What I like to do with a camera is capture what I like. How a simple building looks with the sky and clouds. How a tuk tuk looks against the backdrop of a building. How the light crosses the shadow in black and white shots. My interest in getting better is not to be called a photographer (ever). I want to be able to express myself better with the camera but still only capture that silly building or the darkness and light vying for the building.

The X100F does all this for me and it has never had a problem with the shutter button. I guess there is no next camera for me in the FujiFilm line unless a camera is released that builds on the X100F tradition with a fixed lens.

This whole thing brought me all the way around and back to the streets I love to walk and the pictures I want to take. A famous photographer when asked how to do the best photography said,

F/8 and be there

I’ll add you have to have a camera that’s fun to use and be glad to be using it. With no camera you will not be there and a smart phone camera will never be the same folks. It will never let you have the experimentation or fun. Its too “been there; done that”.

So I still love the Fuji cameras and would buy another one. Just not that X-T line of cameras. I don’t trust them and I think their quality control and build is lousy. I also know that I am not the norm with doing photography. I am the person who gives a shit less and just wants to capture and see what I did on a day on a tour. I also never edit photos. If I cannot take the picture and save it off as a JPEG what’s the point? I don’t have the time or inclination to learn Lightroom or Photoshop. The Fuji cameras pride themselves on the quality of their JPEGs so why should I be different?

At the end of the day, its me, the camera and the world in front, behind, to the left and right of me. I make the choices. I capture the photographs. Its me and the street and the camera. The X100F. The camera that just works to capture the world there around me. To me, the best camera ever.

Working on a Longer Form Story Concept and Outline!

After starting one piece of longer content by simply starting to write and then becoming dissatisfied with it and deleting it, I decided to take the idea and try another approach to writing. I think I needed more control or definition and outlining so I could take the different parts of creating the outline and premise, characters, the plot lines and see how I could make a pre-writing approach work. My idea was that by taking an existing pre-writing step process and slightly modifying it I could create a work of fiction and literature. I had come up with what I think is a unique idea and concept that I had studied and written down a few times.

It embodies a lot of the things that I picked up the last 10 months. Travel figures prominently in it but so do a lot of other concepts perhaps based on some of the reading I do. I like reading a mix of fantasy, history, hard science fiction, and historic fiction. What I love reading is how skilled authors take the plots and narratives and arc them to cover multiple settings or worlds. I think creating worlds where the human characters can play is the most wonderful thing. I wanted to be able to experiment with this myself but do it in a way that would be unique.

So I started with an approach for pre-writing here and then started modifying it and still am to fit with what I am doing. The approach works fine for a single story line but when you have what I would call multiple plots and story lines with multiple characters both good and bad, the pre-writing gets difficult to formulate. I am not sold on the entire set of pre-writing outlines but it has let me focus on developing the ideas and concepts more than ever before.

And its a lot of fun and challenging!

So I asked myself as I got to the point of writing some of the more advanced outline data what becomes of this overall? Well, I think it becomes a novel at some point. It becomes an interesting mix of fantasy and history which I find to blend the best of both worlds. I also get to try my hand at crafting imaginary worlds but I lock them into known places.

I don’t want to yet give away the story concept and ideas and premises. I feel too tied to them and to be blunt and honest, they are my ideas and premises. I tried a few times with them but came up empty. Maybe at some point I’ll define a way to share the ideas with you in a way that I feel comfortable with.

Right now the approach is too near and dear to me and I am having fun creating the outlines with no real stress or goal to do anything else. I think it will be fun to take the outline ideas and then create the actual content. Flesh out a world. Define the characters and their good and bad relationships.

I have not written a longer story for awhile and never have gotten this far with creating a long form story. Very cool times! I can say on the average I spend a few hours a day at it now and most of it after walking the city and in the evenings after eating and having a few beers. Today I walked almost 8 miles and thought through what I really wanted some of the plot lines to be and how I could modify the existing outlines to make it easier to write what I want to write.

I think by the time I leave for Battambang I should be at a good point with the outline at a few levels. I would like to start finalizing them and looking at them end to end then and making sure they tell the story correctly. I also will modify the outline approach and perhaps share it here since I think its easier than the approach I linked above if you want to do pre-writing. I am not sold on pre-writing. But I can say that it creates a more balanced approach since you spend time capturing so many of the story content ideas, characters, how the plots will work, etc.

Fun times!

Down Time in Cambodia – Time to Do Whatever…

Down time is good time I’ve come to realize. In my earlier incarnations of traveling, I only had 3 or 4 days to try to walk a portion of a city that I would feel joy and accomplishment in. In Vancouver I had 3.5 days. I ended up walking 7 hours a day because the city is so diverse and fun. It was the same in San Diego before that. Only a few days. Really the down time was the evenings over beer and food and I would study google maps a bit. I didn’t really care if there was a tourist thing I could miss if I ended up feeling that I had given the place my best shot. My work colleagues and friends then could not understand the walking each day.

When I retired in 2018, things changed. I had 3 months in Hanoi to wander the city. That has been my longest stay in one place yet. I was still new to the slow travel, long term stay thing so I gave it a lot to see all the wonderful, strange, funky, and fun places I could but I also wanted to see the out of the way side streets and alleys. I wanted to say at the end of the day I had seen what I wanted to see. I knew I had not seen all.

Preceding that Japan in March was 4 or 5 days in 3 places. Much the same as my previous walking excursions. I had limited time and then off on a Shinkansen to see another place before flying out of Osaka to Thailand and then Vietnam.

Down time has come…

The thing after 10 months on this slow hobo vagabond means I see parts of each city at a different pace. Like here in Siem Reap, I’ve done the tourist things like temples and museums. Now I am at the daily life thing. I walk the city streets to see how people live, what they do. It also means down time. That has been a particularly hard thing to get used to. I think it’s because I feel like I really worked hard those last few years at the company. I gave them all I had and by January of 2018 I knew that the tank had run dry. I could summon no excitement and only waited for the end.

Here’s the strange and profound part. When the end came for work and I had the down time, I had no idea what to do with it. Still I find myself kind of chomping at the bit sometimes. I take my 6 or 7 mile walks and see the city and get back to an air conditioned room and peace and quiet. No cars and people. And it’s still rather strange. I have realized to cherish the down time as well and I work at it diligently. I try to carve out time each day to do other things even if to read. Now I consider wanting to write some longer content. I think perhaps a story and a few ideas have battled in my head when out strolling the city.

It has become easier to accept the down time since there is no work that battles it each day. The hardest thing to c0me to grips with is that finally the days are all mine. There is nothing that must be done besides what I say must be done. And there really is not a lot there. I’m after learning a bit more about photography, walking each day, eating well, drinking a beer or two. Then I travel slowly to another place.

Someone in Vietnam once asked if I could go back to work. I don’t think so. I don’t have the drive and desire to ever give my time away again even for money. I have sufficient money to last me as long as I want it to. I can live how I want. I can splurge on a room or meal and there is no guilt or budget to track against.

Maybe the down time is the greatest adjustment in retirement. If you worked 30 years and suddenly all that is gone and you have no plan, I think life kinda spirals down and it is you and the window and the front yard. I’m forever grateful I got the down time and the “me time” and I fill it with experiences, ideas, and tomorrows I want. But slowly… Slowly… Slowly…

There is no hurry when you have time to spare. A meal or an adventure or a quiet afternoon carefully thinking about a thing to write or a book on the kindle. It’s all there. My down time is looking up!