Travel by bus, train, air? – Sure you can in Asia

This is a companion piece to my blogpost about trip planning and booking hotel rooms in Vietnam or elsewhere. I wanted to focus on transportation within the countries other than airline flights. My goal was to fly as I needed but to try to rely on cheaper transport and you can move around a lot between countries here on bus, ferry, and train lines. The best way is to find the website applications which will make it easy to book the travel. Without further ado, I present a few of them for your consideration:

12go – This site is a master site for all kinds of transportation in Asia. You can book combination trips on it which include air, bus, train service. You can also just book a single transport and the site works very well on mobile devices. You get the tickets in an attachment and you can show just the attachment on your phone to activate the travel. I think of this site like a super site to book travel in Asia and to also research possible trips and transit. Very handy to look at a portfolio for a trip you may want to take. You can plan out the train trip from Chiang Mai to Singapore if you want and it will help explain what you need to do. Shorter trips are a piece of cake too.

Giant Ibis – Giant Ibis is a bus transport company that covers Vietnam and Cambodia pretty well. If you want to find bus service to go from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh Cambodia this is the place to look. The site is dead easy to use and you get nice tickets which you do not need to print. Simply show on your phone and off you go!

So far I’ve covered two sites which can make it easier to book travel on a variety of ways and also let you plan “what if” scenarios. Next up is a site which I have used for years looking at railroad journeys. It covers the world basically and you can look up distances, fares, travel times, issues or ways around them. I think of this as a comprehensive train resource for the world at large. Very useful.

If you have to fly and who says you may not want to given distances and time, consider airlines like Vietnam Airlines. I’ve found them to be very responsive and also issue tickets quickly. The website is easy to understand and you can get going quickly. As an example of an issue, I found that some air travel I booked had the first and middle names mixed up. The airlines support fixed this in one day and issued new tickets.

The real thing around asia is you can find multiple ways to book travel. The comprehensive multiple transport sites like 12go are very handy but sometimes you just want the bus ticket like I did from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. Ten minutes later had the tickets in hand.

Hope this helps you if you are planning on moving around Asia and were hoping to find comprehensive sites to book travel. I also have a plan to report on some tour agencies I have been using coming up. I am not a big fan of tours but sometimes they serve a purpose. I will be taking two over the next few weeks because its easier and like most things in Hanoi its very reasonable in price and I get to see historic and cultural sites in a dedicated vehicle.

Travel Planning – a conceptual workflow and two resources to consider

I made my way back to Hanoi today. Vietnam Airlines is pretty nice and they make a really good attempt to leave and arrive on time. We did today. We left right at 1145am from Danang and got back at 1245 to Hanoi.

What I wanted to do is discuss two primary methods for reserving rooms either long stay or shorter. I use both and have found that sometimes one will offer a room while the other won’t so using both is no harm no foul. Here are the two and some notes to consider:

  1. Agoda. Agoda is a very nice travel application which lets you book hostels, hotels, and apartments as you need. The website works very well but the apps are nice too. I use the IOS app on my iPhone and it works very well to search, reserve, modify, or cancel reservations. The listings are really good for Asia and I have had really good luck for rooms in Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The nice thing about the service I think is the booking section and how it will alert you if you have booked for the same period twice. It will also try to use your calendar to get your reservations. I have found that this does not work so well with google calendar at times. The filter and search capabilities are very nice with this service. I have not seen where you can save search criteria. This would be nice if you had the same dollar amount or room size or other particulars to apply across searches.
  2. Booking.com. This is the second one and I have really been using it a lot for travel lately. It lets you see a view of rooms and the logic flow on how the rooms are priced, what size they are, how many beds, etc is really nice. This service does not have a savable search criteria either. I have found that the information presented on booking.com is very accurate and I will be able to find a vast variety of rooms and also look at their locations. You can refine the search and apply it. Change the dates and the service flows with the changes very well.

I think personally, either of these services will let you be able to accurately book rooms and also compare between the two and both have gazillions of offerings and let you adjust the logic of when and where on the fly. I found both of these to be particularly relevant for my particular use which is wanting longer stay rooms primarily. I am able to book up to 30 nights on either but an email to the owner through the app will let you discuss your needs further.

Now for some apps I use but not for booking travel much any more. I do not use Expedia since I left the states and I only use TripAdvisor to look at attractions, things I may want to do, and to do reviews. I think doing reviews allows one to engage in community discussion and I’ve acted on reviews a few times to either book or change my bookings. On TripAdvisor all I really see are bookings using the two services above so what’s the real point when I can just go to the sites.

The final point are the mobile apps for either. I found both to be fully representative of the types of services you may want on the go. Sitting in an airport lounge, on a bus, in a busy coffee shop. You want to be able to see your bookings, adjust them, delete them. Having the websites side by side in chrome tabs on my MacBook is very handy.

The final thing is saving all those pesky emails that confirm your travel, air, bus, ferry timings. Do you do this? I have a workflow for this using Ulysses where I create sheets or notes that capture the details or copy and paste them but I also export them as PDF or image files and attach them to the sheet for the place I am going. This lets me have a working set of information I can quickly get to in Ulysses to review the timing without launching a website.

How do you do this? Do you have a central repository or workflow? Use Gmail labels or folders for things? I do both but the workflow has been a lifesaver a few times for me. I can quickly see the details of a trip and was able to find issues with overlapping rooms that I then fixed on either Agoda or booking.com.

Using sites like this to plan accommodation has been a lifesaver for me. I really like both of them and will compare and contrast their offerings and often change from one to the other if I see something good. I think if I traveled more frequently like shorter duration stays, I would come up with something else. I used to use TripIt to consolidate the travel but I cannot see why I should buy into another app when I can use Ulysses to consolidate the information. Ulysses really is my information manager and I am still creating workflows for ideas and concepts, stories, blogposts, and journal entries. I am drawing these out in Mindnode which lets me see the connection points better than flat notes. Then I can create the workflow like I did for the travel.

This all works pretty well for me but may not for you at all.

The last full day of the Hoi An Adventure

Today it seemed to get a lot warmer out so I ended up back at the room after still adventuring for hours and getting drenched in sweat. Now I’m in AC comfort and will go out and have a few beers before dinner tonight.

I spent 2 full days and one part of a day here in Hoi An and for me it was just long enough. Its an interesting historic view plus a lot of crafts and tailors and custom silks, coffees, spices. But the Hoi An cuisine is the most interesting to me. The food is spicy and has a decided seafood trend but as I walked along the night market, I saw just about every kind of food being sold on the street.Kabobs, ice cream, classic Banh Mi baguettes, small Pho shops.

Most people I think do not go out during the day times here in the summer and wait for sunset and the evenings when the lanterns light up and the temperatures cool off by degrees. Last night I went to the Red Gecko which was an amazing dinner and the owner and workers came to my table and told me to come back and have their BBQ. I don’t have the time so if there is one thing I could stay longer for its the food.

Tonight I’ll go to another place closer to the Hotel and then stop for beers again at this Irish Pub down the street. With tables out on the street and their 2 for 1 sale, its made for an evening of a few beers. Perhaps I have said this before, but Vietnamese people love their beer and food. In almost every discussion I’ve had, one of the common elements has been the food. Everyone in Hoi An, tourists and locals, loves to sit out in the evening with the food. It really reminds me of Singapore in some ways but the look and feel is completely different.

If I would build your trip itinerary to Hoi An, I would first find out if you wanted custom made clothing or leather goods. Next, would make sure you actually like to eat! Because if you don’t enjoy eating, Hoi an is probably not for you. Then there’s the old town itself. Do you like wandering a city and seeing the old and new kinda combined and sometimes with abandon? If you like these things you probably should visit. Now for the number of days. I only came for 4 days but 2 of them were not complete. So maybe you should you come for longer. Then there’s where to stay. So many places to consider. All different price ranges and comfort levels. I will say that I’m particularly taken with my Hotel. The Nova Villa is a really nice place with a great location and the rooms are just gorgeous. You get a free breakfast where they come back to ensure you got enough to eat. I had seconds of their delicious and yummy banana pancakes and two cups of coffee.

So you should visit Hoi An and eat and drink and perhaps shop. Don’t forget your camera. In evidence of this, here is today’s photographs of the walk. The entire Hoi An google photo album I’ll share when I get back. You should also bring comfy walking shoes and clothing that is good for warmer temperatures depending on when you come.

Anyways, tomorrow I travel back to Hanoi in the morning and I’ll back in the old quarter by 2pm or so. Probably go wander around Hoan Kiem Lake and eat tomorrow 🙂  Hope you enjoyed the little excursion and few days of blogging in Hoi An. Next trip in about 1.5 weeks is Hue. My time is winding down in Hanoi and I’ll be leaving around mid June and then relocating to Ho Chi Minh City for two months and a few trips there.

Life on the Road – The Vagabond Plan

The forever traveler is a strange thing to explain to people. I was in a restaurant in Hanoi with two tourists from Australia. They had 3 days in Hanoi and were wanting a “short list” of what to see. With only three days its difficult to suggest anything beyond the old quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, maybe the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Then there’s restaurants. Hanoi is just full of places to go eat and trying to suggest about 9 meals worth is difficult. I ended up picking places that I thought they would like.

But the real thing is the difference. I’m limited in time here in Hoi An but I don’t turn around and fly back home. Instead I just go back to my home in Hanoi for the next 3 weeks. I still have another shorter trip to Hue to do in about 1.5 weeks. I’ll go back to the airport and fly down to Hue and see historic sites, temples, and a bunch of other stuff. I may end up taking a day tour because it will let me see the majority of things and the cost is reasonable. When I get back will go to the Sinhtourist office and get the nice lady that helps me with directions and buses in Hanoi to help me with the Hue tour I want.

I guess after thinking about it and writing in my journal today, there is a profound difference in traveling when you know you are heading back in X weeks and when you are not. I have nowhere to go back to. Nothing left in the states that requires my attention. Children are adults for the most part. I have thought more than a few times that now its my time and turn. I went through the Hell years of divorce and debt and anger.

What is the travel like though when its not travel? Travel seems to have a start and finish. I equate the word to business travel. Where the business says you have to be at a place X for Y time. You go. There is no flexibility. I only really had flexibility at Celestix when I could take side trips but even then things are limited because I knew I had to be in Singapore and Chennai India. Things were going on and needed my attention. That is business travel in a nutshell. Things going on that need your attention.

So I explained to the two women that this is not travel. I purposefully picked countries in Asia with very flexible and cheap travel and with visas that were easy to get. My six month multiple entry tourist Visa for Vietnam only says that I must leave by 16 June. So off I go to Hong Kong on 14 June and get back on the 17th of June. Ready for my last three months or so. Its not travel though. Its most like vagabonding or the art of going here and there with no real responsibility or requirement.

Perhaps I finally gained it after those years of waiting. It still surprises me that it arrived and I caught myself at the bar in Hoi An this evening considering it. Now I sit as the eternal solo traveler that I am and am happy. I’ve finally found that answer to the questions that perplexed me all those years. The ones like could I or would I or should I? The answer is yes. Or I should say YES!

And its not hard to do. You don’t need a fortune to live a great life in Vietnam. Its different of course but you can find the services and support you need. Some of them just make more sense. Cell phone data service just makes more sense. Getting laundry done for $3.00 a week is another no brainer. Learning how to find the things I need in the IntiMex center is easy too.

I guess what I’m getting around to is that you too can be a hobo. Maybe you can find the ingredients that make sense for you and they are not the same for me.

That’s good! Because we all are different and the secret sauces we all enjoy require different attention. But perhaps the end result is that a person can travel the rest of their life. Pick the countries though. Do some research. Join an ex-part forum and use TripAdvisor. For lodging use Agoda and Booking.com. Or just go. That’s okay too. It all depends on what floats your boat. For me, I like a baseline of planning. I like having the room booked so I know I have a place to crash and a home base to plan from.

Go forth and make it happen according to your own life’s plan. I did.

Hoi An Day One

The first day in Hoi An is in the books. I took off from Hanoi International Airport this morning after a slight delay and the flight went for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Landing in Danang and meeting the driver was a piece of cake. After an hour of driving due to construction and detours I got to my hotel.  Let me say, the place I am staying is simply beautiful. I am only paying $64 US for 4 nights and I have this wonderful room.  The Nova Villa Hotel is close to the downtown and shopping and historic areas but you also get the river right there.

The restaurants in Hoi An are a bit more expensive so I hunted down a chicken and rice place that was cheaper. My first stop was for beers and I have to admit to getting a rather nice beer buzz on after drinking most of the day. Now I’m in my room and I have this wonderful feeling about life, retirement, beer. Beer is such a gentle drunk. It just guides me to what I want to think and blog about this evening.

I will say that Hoi An is one of the places to visit. Its one thing during the day but as soon as twilight and nighttime hit, the lanterns and lights go up. Its simply beautiful! If you like to eat and drink, I really think Vietnam is a great place! Here in Hoi An, the bars face the river with tables out much like I remember in Singapore. Food is all over. You can spend a lot of money on food or go hunting cheaper places. I found a chicken rice place that I only spent $3.72 for dinner.

The real thing though for this place is to wait. Wait until the evening time. Then the lanterns and lights go up and the people are out and its one of the singular places where you see the combination of river lights, people, city lights and lanterns. Its not like Shibuya or Ginza at all. You have to experience it.

Tomorrow I will go back out and do my usual wandering. Hoi An is a big clothing and tailor place but I don’t need any of that. What I needed was a place different and I think this is it.

Here’s the photos from today’s wandering.  Wha a great day!  It was a day turned to night and lights and beer and it was all good!

Fun and Frolic North of the Old Quarter

Tomorrow I leave for a few days in Hoi An so I ended up at this favorite beer place for cheap Halida draft beers in the old quarter. Its a nice place where a lot of tourists go but the prices are woozier. I can get three draft beers for about $1.70 cents total. Then I went over to eat at this place not far from the hotel. There I had a plate of Pho noodles with beef and a beer for about 75k VND. That’s about $3.30 for a plate of food I was very impressed with. The pho noodles fill up your tummy and the and beer is the dessert :-).

I also wandered around north of the old quarter almost up to Long Bien Bridge and the Water Tank. Its one of my favorite places to go walk because of all the differences as you walk the streets. Here are some photographs of today’s rather fun and sweaty rambling.

There are so many places in this beautiful city to get lost in that I seem to forever turn new streets and find a new temple, an interesting shopping district, or friendly people. I don’t know how many people on the street said hello today just walking by. Business people, folks that work in stores, young and old people. If you want to find a place that’s friendly, I would suggest that Hanoi is a likely locale. I do think you have to get away from the old quarter and find the places that will let you see the bigger city. Since its the capital of Vietnam you get to see government buildings, consulates and embassies, and private buildings. By the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and toward West Lake there are so many beautiful places.

I also paid my last month of rent at the hotel today and I’m good until June 14th. The next weeks leading up to my departure from Hanoi see me traveling to Hoi An, Hue, and then to Hong Kong for a Visa run. When I get back to Hanoi, I have one night at the airport and then a 30 hour train trip all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam is a finger of land.

As you can see, Hanoi is in the north and Ho Chi Minh City is in the south. Connecting the cities are the usual international airports but that’s not the way to go if you want to really see the country. The way to really go is the 30 hours of the train trip. Its easy to fly north to south. A few hours and you are there. What have you seen though? I want to see all of Vietnam via the train.

Anyways, after Hoi an, I am back in Hanoi and have a few places I want to go here still. There are at least three museums here I will visit. But I guess I feel after paying the last month’s rent, that the time is slowly ticking by for my three months in Hanoi. Its been so good living here. I’ve met people, found excellent watering holes and food places, learned my way around. If you have a choice with your travels, try spending longer in places. The Vietnamese people are gracious and fun loving and enjoy talking about their country. They enjoy beer and good food and the prices are so reasonable for both.

I’ll be reporting and taking pictures on my travel to Hoi An next. I fly down tomorrow on Vietnam Airlines. Not only is the food and lodging cheap, but flying around Vietnam is also reasonable.

When my time is up and I must say Sayonara to Hanoi it will be with a heavy heart. I think that this is one of the best and most interesting cities to have hunkered down in and lived for awhile. I’m so glad I defined my travels for longer trips.

Photography for Fun and no Profit besides my own

So this post is about cameras and not so much about travel or vagabonding. I have a few interests in my every day retired life. One is to make every attempt at getting over 12k steps done each day and I have been pretty good. The second is to take my FujiFilm X100F camera with me and blaze new frontiers. The last or maybe the first is to simply enjoy life, drink the beer, eat the food, and remind myself every day that this is not travel.

In the interests of the camera and what I do with it, I have been messing with a variety of customization options and since I’m new I tend to do research online to find more experienced people that may have done the same thing. I’ve come to find out that there are a number of things particular to the Fuji X Series cameras which need testing and experimentation. The first are the film simulations. There are over 7 I believe and some have multiple options like Standard, Red, Yellow, Green. I cannot possibly test on all of them so I narrowed down my choices to two and I based this on the quality of the images. The two I like on the Fuji X100F are:

  1. Classic Chrome
  2. Acros

Both bring you back to the film days one way or the other. Classic Chrome has this wonderful look to it that to me is made for daily exploration in a city with vibrant colors. Acros on the other hand is a black and white simulation but it has this funky look and it has four options to try that each have different use cases. I’m sticking with Acros Standard and Red for now.

Then there are a whole slew of customization options and here is where the rubber meets the road. Its easy to go bat shit crazy and find whole bunches of different options to try. The customizations are:

  1. Noise Reduction
  2. Sharpening
  3. Shadows
  4. Highlite Tones
  5. Color

You can see the problem, right? Too may options and every photographer has a set of favorite changes. The problem is when you see their images and you do the changes rarely do you get a similar look. What to do? I decided. I went back to a resource I use which is a book written by Dan Bailey on the Fuji X series cameras. I basically reset them all to defaults since I was getting frustrated and the quality of the photographs were starting to flag and the fun of the whole thing was going down the drain. Photography is not a job for me. Its supposed to be a fun adventures where I learn, test, try, record and save. Yet all these settings frustrate me. I decide to try yet another set of customizations and then I’m calling out in pain so to speak. So I visit Dan’s ebook for help. The help is reset all of them to 0 and start with the basics. The next thing to learn is Exposure Compensation since most of us shoot in Aperture Priority mode anyways. This has an immediate affect on what you see in real time. Darken, lighten. Make immediate choices and see the results.

These other settings I have decided are important but I will only go after two of them. One is Highlight and the other is shadow. If I use them, I will want to build this subtle S curve in the camera. One either turns down or up the highlights and the other turns up or down the shadows.

Now that is an achievable target. Not 5 or 6 of them. Enough to test with. Lets first get the basic stuff working and learn the two film simulations better. Then lets learn the direct effect of Exposure Compensation. Then lets start with the settings that can change the images by adding or removing shadows or highlight tones. This is achievable. Reading settings that Fuji Pro’s use is not. I will never be able to duplicate nor would I want to their settings. What I really need is my own style so I created one.

My style I dub “Urban Photography”. I want to take pictures of people, buildings cars, parks, trees, historic sites, whatever but I want them to be done with my settings so they are marked as mine. I also do not want to edit RAW files or shoot in JPEG+RAW. Its too much damned work and I don’t want to sit around and edit files that have all the color simulations pulled out that I am so carefully learning. So the uses of Lightroom or Affinity Photo or Photoshop go away except to perhaps minimally edit the JPEGs.

Fun then comes back and life becomes better for my goals. I get to enjoy the photography and the walking and not deride myself that I cannot create an image in the likeness of some Fuji master. I am not a master nor do I want to be. I want to create images I save and share and perhaps are somewhat good. But, in the end, they are my images.

If you do photography, what are your goals? Do you have your own style or approach? Do you shoot in RAW format and then edit the photographs in Lightroom?

I think each of us has a style or approach or a knowledge thing we want with something. Whether it was before making projectile points from Edwards Plateau Chert or now shooting photographs in Hanoi. We cannot emulate the masters or our work is not our own. And the fun goes out and is most likely replaced by misery. Misery which my ex-wife would tell me is “optional”.

Thoughts and Retrospections on Retirement and Travel

Two months in Hanoi! Amazing. I will have been living here for 2 months in a few days. I’ll be traveling to Hoi An during the second month. Its been an amazing little trip thus far.

I think the first two weeks in Japan really set the mood for retiring and knowing that I would not return to the states any time soon or even later. I don’t have anything to go back to. No car, no room, no job. Nothing there awaits me with trepidation or joy. My kids have gone their own ways. Both adults. One lives in Florida with her dude. The other still lives at home due to some challenges he has but in many ways he has grown up and matured. I’m happy for both of them in different ways.

Then there’s the job I had. A wonderful time at Veritas LLC with great people, a boss that started out wrong but became one of my best friends there. A group VP that honored me many times and let our CIO know that many things at a good level were because of my delivery. In the end he also acknowledged it all on LinkedIn by saying farewell. I was sitting over the time-honored beer after stumbling around for the day and getting completely sweaty. I guess its normal to wonder what the accomplishment was, what I had done, where I’m going. I see others traveling in their orbits. They have plans and places and things and agendas. I guess when you have a shorter duration visa for Vietnam you tend to have to make some kind of plan. You know in 3 months you have to leave. But lemme say. Having a 6 month tourist visa was the sauce. For a few reasons I can bullet:

  • the time. I had set in my mind that I would travel slowly and live in places longer. I wanted to learn the place or places. Vietnam has been great for that. Hanoi has become this quality of life to me. Fast, random, full of moments. Without the time, I would never have felt like I truly retired.
  • the trips. I had set in my mind to take trips of shorter duration within Vietnam. I’ll be leaving in a few days for Hoi An and then a few weeks later for Hue. Then a little over a week back and I leave Hanoi and do the run to Hong Kong for days.
  • the pace. I wanted a slower pace to enjoy the first two things. I did not want to rush the days to say I saw the old quarter or the French quarter. I wanted to do repeat trips with a slower pace.

As I look back on the retirement and the no goal goals; I think I met them. There are some things which still get me. I still think of work and feel rushed sometimes. Sometimes it seems like the five pound chicken with the ten pound egg thing. Perhaps I think of life back in the states. How I could never have had a quality of life there like here or Cambodia or Laos. I could never enjoy. I could have only subsisted. Maybe still worked. Still working was not an option. Its like someone emptied the tank with work. I had no more to give. When I left on 28 February, it was like the work tank had emptied and gas stations and new projects would not avail.

The final thing is writing something longer I think. I feel the urge to sit and write something longer sometimes. Perhaps a method and workflow to doing what I did. I don’t need to monetize the blog or have google ads or try to sell patreon support. I don’t really need any more than what I have. This room. The Banh Mi sandwiches and the cold beer with the AC going along.

And you all reading and maybe finding a small thing of value when you decide your days of work have come full circle. I will say that you can leave too. But the countries here are changing fast I think. Vietnam is still a joy at a financial level but the world and its economies are going through growth. Look at where you are and where you want to be. If you are an oldster like me, perhaps consider how you too could leave. I will say the States are no panacea. There is no joy of life there when everything costs and then costs more. You may have some culture shock living elsewhere. That’s ok. We all do. You may find your own place and perhaps its not Asia. Other places are cheaper too.

I will say you deserve more. The states do not deliver the goal if you are old and thinking of living on the pittance that social security doles out. Save some money to have behind you, get rid of debt, find the way to depart. Life will be simpler and easier and more minimalistic. You can wander the streets of the old quarter too!

Traveling around today — the lake and other places

Cold beer at Hoan Kiem Lake and heard from my friend Nguyen that lives here in Hanoi wanting to meet to show me around the city. We will meet up in a few weeks when I get back from Hoi An. Today I walked around and around Hanoi mostly at the Hoan Kiem Lake area but also went to parts east, west, north and south. The city fascinates me with its different districts and how you can turn a street and suddenly be out of the frenetic pace of the old quarter and see wide blocks with few pedestrians.

I think that’s one of the fascinating parts of the city. Its not just one city. Its like a whole bunch of cities all compressed and laid out geographically and by walking you don’t see a gradual transition. You turn a corner where the pace of selling and buying is amazing and suddenly you find a quiet wide street with embassies and official residences. The streets are wide and it seems the traffic laws are a bit more taken. Strolling these streets there are not the shoe shine people, others wanting you to buy this or that. Its quiet and you can have a measure of time to reflect on the day. There are more up scale restaurants that I never go into and more coffee shops. Lets face it coffee in Vietnam is big business. The coffee shops dot the city blocks and I have gone in to a few when it rains. Language is no barrier to coffee. You point, they pour.

It was also a very pleasant yet warm day out today and I always work up a decent or even more sweat before I get done and I’m back at the lake. Then there is a 1.5 liter water bottle and I watch the people. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are here on rather short visits. Maybe weeks. I’m going on my last month here. When I pay my room on Monday evening, it will be the last month in Hanoi for me but its packed with trips and getaways. I think I will miss the city that is actually several cities. It reminds me of Tokyo. When you go to Tokyo you realize its not a city but a group of districts and you can travel in a big circle and see them. The Tokyo metro subway helps with that endeavor significantly but the best way to see how Tokyo is Tokyo is by walking. Its a great city of many cities to walk in. Hanoi has a similar vibe going. Walking Hanoi means being able to be right there and see how the city changes.

The last time I went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Park, its noticeable how the entire vibe and feeling changes. If you get here, why not spend a bit longer and dust off those walking shoes. You can do the street crossings by simply watching and going. The main thing is the going. Tour guides and cyclos are only part of the story. There’s a earthy and passionate feel to cities that you have to get when you cross the street, walk down that smaller street and see the places most tourists will never get to. Small parks and schools, kids laughing. Its all there for you.

But, in the meantime, here’s some pictures of the day out. I’m getting literally thousands of photos. Perhaps I will clean up the Hanoi photos at some point and delete some. I don’t pay for the storage though so the desire to clean it up is less.

If you are a wanderer and nomad or vagabond or whatever, consider the longer stays at places. I’ve benefitted a few ways from doing that. The tourist Visas are not that hard to deal with. The things you will learn will be greater and the travel becomes so much more than bucket lists and stamps in the passport.

Photography this and that in Hanoi Today

Today was a great day walking Hanoi and doing the photography thing. I’ve been studying more about two primary film simulations on the FujiFilm X100F. I think the best film simulations are the Classic Chrome and the Acros. So went out today to practice on them more. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I do photography with the camera. There are those that say one must shoot in RAW to get the best editing. Others say you must shoot in RAW+JPEG to have the best of both worlds. People that shoot in RAW fire up some editor to make their work better. They work tirelessly on creating the best image after getting the RAW file, doing things to it, and then exporting to JPEG. Then it gets shared on Facebook or Instagram or whatever. My question today was why. Why do all that? Doesn’t the Fuji system provide the best quality JPEGs out of the camera? Really it depends on the person to make the right calls, to understand the camera, the light, the shadows. So why go to all that bother to edit the photos in Lightroom or any of them?

I’ll preface this by saying I have Affinity Photo on my MAC. I can edit the JPEGs or the RAW files. I’m not limited. What do I really want though as an avocational and novice photographer. It comes down to a few things:

  1. Enjoyment. I want to enjoy the time out. I don’t want to worry whether I should be shooting in RAW to make it possible to do editing in Lightroom or affinity. I am out there to enjoy the camera, the sweat, the weather, the walking, the beer.
  2. Learning. Combine the enjoyment with the learning. I want to learn how to use the camera and get the better quality JPEGs using the two film simulations I’ve chosen to focus on.
  3. Sharing. I like to share my efforts at photography with people. Its really not the primary thing though. Sharing is nice because people can see where you are, what you’re doing, the fun you’re having.
  4. Recording. I want to keep the photo’s on Google Photos forever. So when I go to Cambodia in months and someone says “what did you see in Vietnam?” I have an answer. Its there in the google photos. The streets, the people, the places.

So what I’ve decided is to not mitigate the fun of photography and only shoot in JPEGs and not RAW files. I will never sell my work and I will always be learning on the camera. I will never be good. It will be a stretch to do the photography but the Fuji camera is the best for that stretch for me. I can carry it easily in my bag on my trips. Not a gaggle of lens. Not multiple camera bodies. I saw this person with multiple cameras today. I could only wonder why. It cannot be fun.

And what I want is fun. Its part of the first thing above. So here’s the day’s work and fun and learning. Its a progression of learning black and white using the Acros film simulation and getting better using the Classic Chrome simulation and the funky nature of the camera itself. No more debates on the advanced editing of those RAW files or shooting in both. You get the JPEGs. Be happy and thrive!