30 Hours Later and here I am — at my homestay in Ho Chi Minh City

Wow! What a train trip. I think I saw a part of Vietnam or parts that I would never have imagined only being in cities and some of the more touristy places. Remote places with trees and valleys and no one. A person I met on the train told me the central part was known for the central Forest and it just goes and goes! Then you wake up in the sleeper the next morning and you are seeing rice fields and farmers stretching out to the distance. Just amazing terrain. After some time of that and a few tunnels and stops in smaller cities, we are at the ocean. The train goes down the coast for some hours as well so you get to see just about all the geography.

It was a long train trip but I am so glad I did it! Next time perhaps I would divide it into three smaller trips but I wanted to do this part of the plan and say that I rode almost the entire length of Vietnam. If you ever decide to do the train travels here, few things to note:

  1. Food is cheap and they feed you almost continuously. The dinner was 35,000 VND or about $2.00 US and you get a lot of food. Dinner is the same. Then the people stroll by offering bottled water, snacks, instant noodles all the time. If you are hungry on this train, something is wrong.
  2. This is not a bullet train folks. This train does about 55mph and sometimes slower. It also shares the tracks with freight trains so every so often it stops and lets someone else go.
  3. There are three classes of seating. There is the hard seat (think wooden bench), the soft seat (perhaps it reclines, don’t know), and then there’s the soft berth sleeper type thing. This is 4 to a berth. Go for the sleeper! You will be more comfortable and able to stretch out on a semi soft sleeper.
  4. The train stops and lets off and takes new passengers. This goes on the entire trip to big cities like Danang and smaller ones. But to the credit of the SE5 train, we got to the Saigon Railway Station on time. That’s pretty good for a 30 hour train trip folks
  5. Don’t expect things like wifi on the train but there are USB chargers which was nice since I used my iPhone almost the entire time. My cell provider Viettel was stellar on the trip!

So in a nutshell, in 30 hours and a lot of stops and beautiful country which I captured a few shots of here  on my iPhone you end up all the way in southern Vietnam. In my case at a homestay with a family that cooks dinners every night, provides laundry service for free, and seem to be the greatest people. Tonight I am going to do a little less and get prepared to start seeing the city tomorrow. I’ll find the usual coffee and bakery shop I can visit regularly around the homestay, investigate a new city tomorrow, and see the places I can go with the camera.

Bye for now vagabonders! Happy dreams and new places await!

The Reunification Special SE5 train from Hanoi to Points South

Today is a transit day on the Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City train. I’m sitting in my sleeper berth after the dinner meal. They serve huge portions of rice, veggies, some meat and an egg. All for about 1.73 USD. It was the same for lunch. Now we’re set for the night. The train trip is pretty cool once you leave Hanoi and the northern parts of Vietnam. You get into a huge forest with streams and rivers, rice fields and farmers. It’s a completely different look to Vietnam.

We’re going to be at the halfway point here in a bit. I think Danang is close to it. The train is called the Reunification special and I think there are 3 or 4 of them. The trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City covers almost all of Vietnam. There are two or three different passenger classes. There are hard wooden benches, soft chairs and then the sleeper berths. Each berth holds 4 people or more kids and people.

Tomorrow will see us way past the halfway point and we will get to Ho Chi Minh City at some point in the evening. From there it’s a 15 minute cab ride to the Homestay I am at for a month.

I think the train travel here let’s you see a completely different Vietnam and the people are a mix of western backpackers, students, families and workers. It now gets a bit quieter as the kids calm down a bit after dinner and the train rambles on. The sun has just about done it’s disappearing act and it’s the quiet evening time.

An amazing day on the train!

Evening at the Sleep Pod at the Hanoi International Airport

The Hanoi International Airport has sleep pods. These are small roomettes you can rent right at the airport . I guess most people get these when they have a last minute flight change or layover. That is until I heard of them awhile ago. I decided after getting back from Hong Kong to get one. They are in a quiet corner of the domestic terminal. Each pod has a TV, AC, is very clean. You get some free goodies and water when you check in. The extra special politeness by the Vietnamese folks that run it is in full force too. She smiled and laughed a lot as I was checking in. If you’re curious, the pods look like this from the outside.

sleep pod

You get a key card lock and there are restaurants you can walk to. There are no en suite restrooms so you use the facilities at the airport.

Today I wandered Terminal One watching people leaving. Lots of people leaving. I bought some Pringles and water and sat there. Soon someone else sat next to me and then another person. We had filled up the little seating area. They all smiled and said hello to me. I waited a bit longer and decided to head on back to the pod. I’m not flying out tomorrow. I ride the train. Instead I will have car service take me to the railroad station at 7am. I guess I just felt the need for a change. Sometimes the travel is all set. Rooms and restaurants and places to go and the normal becomes the too normal.

It also dawned on me today that its Fathers Day today for me. My kids are in the US so they are just getting there. It seems I always remember some of the events of life on these days. Some of the good things. Some of the bad things. Having children is a mix of things. You look back on what it took, what they delivered. Some of the challenges along the way. Its not easy really to get divorced in the middle of things. It causes so many changes that while they are necessary cause even more stress and unhappiness with the kids. I’ve left most of that behind now but truth is that you never do. Its one of those life changing events and even though its been almost 10 years many of the events and what happened after are small pin pricks in the memories.

Now though with the vagabonding, I have something else. Not just a pod. I have a new life. I did a thing which I dreamt of back when. Sitting at the Changi Airport in Singapore I wondered. What would happen? That was 2011.

Now its 2018. So much has changed. The kids are grown and have things. I’ve grown to and have things. But we still share the moment. The moment may be separated by miles and time and space. It matters not.

As I sit here in the Pod with the TV going and the AC running; its dawned on me yet again on this Fathers day. Its not just about the day. Its about the connections and the feelings and the wonder I felt. The wonder I still feel.

I’m a dad. It makes me feel good to know that even though my two children are busy attempting to adult that there are moments like I said on quora awhile back where they still ask. The questions have changed.

Before they were:

Dad, can I?

Now they are:

Dad, how can I?

I’m glad I still maybe know some how’s and why’s to them.

Last day in Hong Kong

Yesterday was the last day of wandering Hong Kong for me. I ended up walking along the Bay for some distance but was rather disappointed that its really difficult to get to a point to see the skylines easily. They have construction going on all over by the Bay side so ended up walking to the Convention Centre and was then able to have a view of the most magnificent skyline!

Hong Kong was a lot of fun and rather expensive down to the almost $20 burger and fries last night for dinner. My other meals were less expensive.

Today I fly back to Hanoi and then tomorrow start the train journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Since a lot of the travel is during the day, I am hoping to capture some of the changing tapestry of Vietnam out of the train window. This is not some bullet train so the passing views go by at a slower rate of speed. I’m looking forward to the trip and being able to see hopefully parts of Vietnam that are not visible by tours and definitely by flying.

Here’s the google photo album for the last day here. It was a beautiful day out!

Catch you all on my train trip.

Services when Vagabonding – Part One

When you travel forever, how do you handle these things:

  1. Phone Service that may require a US SMS and phone number
  2. Physical Mail Services

Before leaving I gave these two things a lot of thought folks. It seemed like I could do things any number of ways. For the first thing why is a SMS service tied to a US number needed? It comes down to a few security and authentication things. Many dual factor authentication approaches use a second trusted communication method like SMS and so do banks. BofA wants to send texts to a US number and many other services like social security want a US number. Although Social Security will send authentication numbers to an email address and I guess banks can be set to send to email as well, having a US phone number that can be used has been a good thing. I’ve had to call some people that use a US phone number as a gateway. How do you handle it when you are gone? I have two ways of handling the first thing. One is free and one costs a bit. The first way is with Google Voice. You can get a US based number that receives texts and voicemails for free on Google Voice. You can make calls as though you are calling from a US number and receive calls to the number. On Android devices you can now make wifi calls. IOS is coming at some point. All of this is free and it works very well.

The second way I want to point out is finding an app for your phone that will give you a second number. I used the Hushed app. The service can be used for a so-called burner number but its equally as well suited for a permanent number. The app on IOS and Android registers a real phone number for you that you can choose and you then can get and make calls, get voice mails, send and receive SMS which are all the requirements I had. Why choose a paid one you may ask. I would answer “skin in the game”. Google frightens me at times with its desire to shake loose technologies and sunset them. While Google Voice just works and the service is actually pretty good for vagabonds, who knows how long it will be. A second thing is that Google just now is releasing wifi calling direct from the voice app. Prior to this, one had to use hangouts integration which is another story in the mixed up, muddled up Google view of messaging. Hushed just cuts through all that gives you the basic things and you can get an annual service plan. BTW, Skype or WhatsApp are not solutions for this. I would not ever trust Skype and I don’t believe they do SMS to US phone numbers. WhatsApp does not call non WhatsApp numbers at all. You want something that is a true footprint of your needs for this one I think.

There are others you can find as well. Find one that suits your need. It may be that Google Voice just works and you are good! The main thing is to consider the needs you may have to get and receive calls and SMS when you vagabond. I have found that this is one thing that has been vital for me with banks and security and dual factor authentication and validating access.

Lets talk about Thing 2. Physical mail service when you are gone forever. Popular choices may be getting a mailbox at UPS, the USPS, or sending mail to a family member and letting them judge what is important. To actually see the email though you have to get a picture taken or have the mail scanned and sent. What about packages? You may think you will never need a package from Amazon but don’t count on it. I have found that at least in Vietnam and probably other Asian countries on my list in the future, I can find many things like hats, shorts, belts, and other things. I have not been able to find T shirts that fit this old retired body. So I tend to order things occasionally and have them shipped. But where does this stuff go? Many US services do not send packages to places like Vietnam directly. You need another service in-between that will do that for you. There are services that will have the package shipped to them and then send via FEDEX or UPS. But what about regular mail?

Its better to have a service that takes care of you without involving family members that will sooner or later go crazy with receiving your email. If you are going for independence, why not find a virtual mail service? If you google it, you will find many that do this. The primary idea is that there is a clearing house of services that will receive your mail to an address, arrange to scan that mail with your approval or junk it, forward parcels as you need. Some charge per piece of mail received. I’ll make a pitch right here to get services online and get out of paper submittals but some agencies like IRS and Social Security are not there. I need to receive the mail that matters and I don’t want to burden my family. So again, enter the idea of a virtual mail service. It basically takes the responsibility back to you to deal with your travel and independence. My ex-wife has some patience in dealing with sending things to me but its better to simply leave her out of it and find a service that will provide the support you need.

The one I ended up with is US Global Mail. The differentiation is in the service to me. They charge a base rate for no matter how many pieces of mail you get. You will pay for scanning services so its another pitch to go through all the people that send you real mail and do something more permanent. Opt out! Get rid of debt and things. When I had a car, Allstate sent all manner of emails wanted and not. Once the car went away, I stopped receiving mail from Allstate, the DMV, and other things relating to the car like service announcements. Goes to show that simplifying your life, removing debt and creditors, can act in your behalf a number of ways.

Two things! More to come…

I had mentioned in a post I would create a story or static page about how I dealt with things moving out and vagabonding full time. My goal was to remove others from the responsibility where possible and not leave the needs around mail especially up to family members. Even though I pay an annual service fee for the mail service, the degree of independence is liberating.

Consider just these two things and ask yourself how you intend on handling the basic things when you cut the ties that bind. If you are doing what I did, I will never go back to the states so I need long term solutions. Paying for a quality solution can be good but like I pointed out for calling Google Voice works. Leaving your physical mail to a family member is not free. You are simply shifting the responsibility to some poor ex spouse, brother, sister, son, daughter who probably have enough on their plates.

Give it some thought before you hit the road. Have you considered lessening your footprint of real mail? How will you receive calls that for whatever reason want a US phone and SMS? Its easier to deal with things head on when you are taking a big step. There are always a series of smaller steps to consider that make up the big one.

I want to add one thing here since I am updating this post a bit. If you are vagabonding forever or on an extended trip, for heaven’s sake get yourself a VPN! Do not believe that a coffee shop or airport is safe folks. I use Express VPN. Its not free but the security is bulldog like. Protect those passwords. Use a password manager that encrypts and not a text document! A VPN is also handy for things like watching Amazon Prime videos since they check where you are coming from. With a VPN you can look like you are coming from the US based on a thing called an IP address that they source. The final thing is that neither of the services are good unless you use them. Do not trust to banking anywhere on wifi without security for your connections. Just a word to the wise. There are bad people out there that will grab that information that is over public or coffee shop wifi and use it for nefarious means. Be wise! VPN and use a password manager. You can do this not only on laptops but on phones and tablets. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Use a trusted connection all devices that do sensitive transmission of details.

I’ll be posting a few more as we go of the things I found in my adventure of one to meet needs I had. Stay tuned!

Day 2 – Further Adventures Wandering in Hong Kong

After coffee this morning, I set off on the adventures. My goal was to just walk the city and take photographs of anything that I wanted to. I don’t try to line up some perfect shot. I’m after just the city and what I see. I want memories of the small streets, the parks, the skylines and the people. If I wait for the perfect light beam and moment, I will miss the bus, the person with the umbrella, and the wonderful cloudy day which seems a perfect backdrop to seeing the city today.  I found that I actually walked in something like a square or circle or something today which worked out actually pretty well for me. I ended up about 3 blocks from my hotel which seemed like a good deal. Now I’m back in the room listening to the traffic out the window and thinking about the end of my second day but actually my first real day here walking the city.

Thoughts of Hong Kong on Foot

Hong Kong is an interesting and fun city to walk on foot folks. It has really cool looking little streets leading to major malls and then it lights up and there are people strolling, businessmen, older folks like me wandering slower and i see also a lot of western folks. Not sure if they live here or are visiting or what. Its an interesting place but beyond my financial means so I would not want to live here. Its great for a Visa run and I really like the food and the scenery and being able to photograph such changes is really nice!

The other interesting things about visiting here are the buses and trams. I really like the little two story tram things that seem to be electric with all the signs on them. I like catching them on the streets with the Fuji camera because they are so cool looking and seem to be a part of the Hong Kong aura.

I also really like the shopping scene here. You can find just about anything in the smaller stores and I may get myself a smaller bag for my kindle today which could also hold the passport and pens and stuff when I fly somewhere. It could fit easily into my duffle bag and be taken out and ready to go. I saw a few but I need to make sure they will hold the kindle, the iphone, a few pens and my passport. I can also just wait to get back to Vietnam. There is no lack of little bags to buy there :-). It would be fun to find one here tonight or tomorrow when I go out again.

Another thing are the open air markets. I have seen just about every kind of fresh food here down fun little side streets that really invite me to explore and record. Meat, vegetables,  small restaurants, and stores are all tucked away in these amazing side streets that invite investigation.

Next Steps both Literally and Figuratively

I only have two real days here to investigate and there is just too much. I doubt I will make it to Kowloon and I don’t know when I will get back here. I think I will just focus on the area I am in and go another direction here tomorrow.

Getting out today was the best! I got to cover with my steps interesting and fun places and I really like all the buses and trams and just the busy randomness of the city. It really invites the travel photographer that enjoys just capturing moments of streets, people, buildings and the wondrous skylines of the city. It seems everywhere I turned today the skylines formed such interesting backdrops of the city. Another fun thing today was the sense of exploration since I have not been here really walking the city with a camera before. I took over 70 photographs and found the sweet spot of things I love to capture. It comes down to people, random events, buildings and city stuff, and mass transit and Hong Kong has all those things. I’ll probably head back out for dinner around 5 or 6pm and the rule has always been to take the camera wherever I go. Instead of just adding yet more photographs and taking away the remaining storage space (don’t get me started on how stupid wordpress.com is to not offer storage upgrades), here’s the link to the album on Google Photos.

Evening in Hong Kong is next!

So evening here is just as much fun as day time. The lights all come on and people that were at work head on out or food and drinks and fun. I’ll join that group if I can wait. Since I only had coffee and a pastry this morning, food is calling at a basic level. I saw so many cheap places when walking so will try to find a few of them tonight for dinner. I just don’t feel like spending lots of dollars on food here. That to me is one of the downsides here and perhaps I’m just spoiled with food in Vietnam. Things here are just more expensive and the money does not go so far. Its a good thing I think that I am going back since I could never afford to live here :-).

Bye for now. Tomorrow is the last day for me here. Coming up next!

I wandered around Hong Kong today

This is a big city! And confusing too. I’m glad I have a SIM card for my phone and Google Maps. I walked in a few different directions to get organized and I’m not. I am just going to go wander each day and do what I usually do instead of trying to have some grand plan. Here are a few of the things my Fuji camera saw today.

Hong Kong is kind of confusing with lots of streets, big buildings, and a people all over the place! I found a street where they have cheap noodle joints so will be trying those tomorrow and Saturday. Also found a coffee shop and bakery for tomorrow morning not far from the hotel.

Tomorrow, I will be going in some direction to see some stuff here. Perhaps by the Bay. I’ll start with coffee and then see what I’m gonna do. I only have Friday and Saturday full days to see things and take some photographs. No way to really see a lot of Hong Kong. I did this trip though to just get away and see something different and it was an easy flight from Hanoi airport.

The hotel room is decent and the location is fantastic! Money does not go too far here. I guess I am Vietnam spoiled or something. I stopped at a McDonalds today to eat primarily because I had not eaten all day and I was starving and I could find it. Tomorrow will try one of the cheap noodle places for dinner after walking the city.

I also went to a supermarket here to get some stuff and they had Lays BBQ potato chips all the way from the USofA. So having not had potato chips from the US in awhile, i bought a bag. Now I’m gonna relax the rest of the day and see if the TV works in the room. I don’t stay in real upscale places most of the time. I try to find value for the dollar. This place is decent and I can stay here easily. What I am not paying in room costs I will pay for food.

Anyways, catch all you good people after my day of exploration tomorrow! I’m gonna tke it easy now. I deserve it!


90 days in Vietnam – Thoughts of the time spent on the road…

A day of transition awaits me today folks. I decided to take it easy today, enjoy my last day in Hanoi with some breakfast at Joma’s Bakery in the old quarter and generally get ready to go. Its dawned on me that I have lived here in Hanoi for three months give or take a day. I’ve been on this slow vagabond since 1 March when I first left for Japan. On 16 March I left for Hanoi. In the spirit of recollection and memory, a few of the highiights of the last months in no particular order:

  1. Japan! Japan was definitely a highlight. There is something about the country and the places I went this time which were magical. I truly love Tokyo but being able to visit Osaka and Hiroshima was key! Also wandering each city for 5 to 6 hours and thousands of steps with the Fuji camera was great. The weather was kind of transitional for Japan but about what I expected. Springtime is cold, rainy, sunny, windy. In other words like it is when you go outdoors! The walking in Japan was really good and a few I remember was walking to the Akihabara down almost deserted city streets and then coming upon the electric lights of technology town! Another memory were the two times I stopped for beer and lunch in the Lion Beer Hall in the Ginza. I have been to that place since the 1970s so its special. Another big deal was seeing the Atomic dome and park in Hiroshima. There is something that is key there folks. A thing we have to remember. These weapons are not meant for diplomacy or bargaining. They are terrible things and the power unleashed will destroy us. Yet another thing was riding the Shinkansen trains on the Nozomi Line which is the fastest and most express line. Traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima was just cool! A final thing was Osaka. Its so big that 4.5 days does not do it credit. But yet I am not sure I will get back any time soon.
  2. Vietnam! I have to say that Vietnam is a special place in so many ways. Its people are kind and generous and fun. They love to eat and drink. Socialize in the afternoons at coffee shops and in the evenings at Beer places. The highlights had to be the daily walking of Hanoi. Rarely have I seen a city day after day for months like what I have done here. Usually in the past its just been a day or two. This stay was a longer excursion on a daily basis. Very cool to just set out with camera in hand and go a different direction. Another highlight were the side trips and tours. I loved seeing Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue plus the day tours I’ve done. But the big thing is I am not done with Vietnam. I’ll get back and get more highlights and things done.

Someone would say what about lows or things that were negative. There have been those things. I have been scammed with clothing a total of one time here and do not like the nature of some of the high pressure tactics of those selling rides, tourist doodads, and other things. I think they do a disservice to the tourist industry here in some regards but on the other hand, the same things happen in other places so its a mixed bag. Nothing else notable on the negative side has happened. I did not ever get food poisoning or even sick here.

Now how about some key enabling things which have made my trips better? I think one of the things is always getting a prepaid SIM card in each place. In Japan, getting the NTT Docomo data card meant a lot of freedom from the constant hunt for wifi. Having pre-bought the SIM for Japan meant it was ready for me when I landed. A second thing was having the Shinkansen tickets already. Much easier to navigate the amazing Tokyo Station with the tickets in hand.

Here in Vietnam, I think the same kind of things with a few differences since I am staying longer. I bought the Viettel SIM card which renews every month with plenty of data on it plus a real phone number. I have used the number one time here and tend to use WhatsApp or the Hushed App these days on my iPhone. Also having the initial room booked here was a good thing and also working on booking the side trip tickets on Vietnam Airlines was key. I would highly recommend two travel booking sites. Those are Agoda and Booking.com. Both work very well here! For Asia travel, I recommend you looking at 12go as a combination travel site throughout Asia. Its made it easier to do some farther out planning for Cambodia and also buy bus tickets when I wanted to ensure I could get tickets to different places there.

Summary Thoughts and Ideas

I’ve come up with a few. Be sure if you can to have a single source for your plans. I tend to create notes in Ulysses but the primary app is Google Calendar for me. It gets booking emails from the agencies and airline companies, lets me put in holding dates for things, and do attachments. The beauty of Ulysses though is the richness and ability to transfer information from a journal or inbox or idea to the blog folder or group and create a blog post like this one in mere minutes. I can also work offline if need be.

Another thing which is good for me but may be bad for you is traveling slowly. By slowly I do not mean two weeks in a place. I mean months in a place. The requirement is to do your Visa homework and ensure you understand the legal ramifications and what you need to do to get that long stay Visa. As an example Vietnam requires a departure after 90 days and then I get the rest of the time. Other countries may have different requirements. I suggest getting an account on ExPat.com and checking out how the fora work there and reading the excellent posts by long term ExPats in the places you may want to go. I have understood a few of the vagaries of the Cambodian Visa process and my ability to easily get an retirement extension of stay thanks to that community.

To stay long in a place does not require a plan for the day to day. I believe you stay long in a place to not have a plan for that. What you want is the freedom to declare a direction to walk, a place to go, a thing to see. I also believe others that may be RTW type travelers or backpackers cannot do this. Their time is limited or perhaps they have a more extreme set of needs for seeing places. All of this is about your needs and expectations though but also with some baseline research done on whether what you want to do can be done in a place.

For me, and I am but but an experiment of one; the long stay vagabonding and living in a place like Hanoi has set the stage and proven out what I expected. For me, this is the way to go!

Enjoy your time on the road. Be the best vagabond you can be. See you in Hong Kong!

A day touring a Pagoda and Museum of Ethnology plus Lunch with some nice people I met

This is a packing type thing renewed. I’m leaving in a day plus a few hours so its time to pack the backpack. I’ve gone on shorter trips with a carry on duffel bag with all my stuff. This time is different. I have to actually pack twice.

Pack for Hong Kong Trip. Carry on Duffel Bag. This is a three day international trip from Hanoi to Hong Kong and then back to Hanoi for one night. So I will carry the duffel bag and store the backpack. In the duffel will go:

3 T-shirts, 3 underwear, 3 pair of socks
1 pair of shorts
Laptop and Camera bag
Electronic stuff in a small bag (AC adapter, multiple USB charger with two AC plugins, camera battery charger, AirPods, cables for phone and camera.

This comprises my 3 day haul of stuff I need for Hong Kong.

Pack the backpack for the trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. In the backpack I am storing the remaining gear I have including:

T-shirts, socks, underwear
light weight pants and one pair of shorts,
laundry bag.
other small doodads and things I am sure 🙂

I’ll store the backpack at the airport early Thursday morning and then get it on Sunday when I get back from Hong Kong.

I will be carrying two bags when I travel on the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City next Monday. That’s okay because there are no carry on or checked bag requirements. I don’t check bags anyways.

That’s how the packing works. So some things I am not carrying. I am not carrying toiletries besides a portable razor and comb. The shampoo, soap, toothpaste I am throwing away. I don’t like carrying lots of toiletry items. I have weeded through T shirts and will get rid of a few of them. I need to get down to six packed T shirts and the one I’m wearing.

When I get to Ho Chi Minh City, laundry will be a need so I will find a place probably down the street that does laundry for some dong. My SIM card does not run out for another few weeks so will then find a viettel store and buy another bunch of data down there. I will also find a market like IntiMex and buy some soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Its cheap here and easy to do!

So that’s how I see the travel packing working. Things I will take and not take. Now on to the fun stuff…

Day Tour and Bucket List Reprised

I did a day tour today and got to see Tan Quoc Pagoda and the Museum of Ethnology. Very cool. I also saw places I had already seen but the tour guide told us the history and the settings which is something I don’t get unless I go slowly. Talking about slowly, the only real complaint is not having sufficient time to really go through the museum. I would normally have spent two or three hours there but due to the distance from the old quarter I felt I could compromise. I also met some really nice people that we then had lunch with. Lunch was provided as part of the tour package.

Gosh. I guess I forgot post the Google Photo’s link to the album. Here it is if you happen to read this now. Sorry about that. I’ll blame it on all the food for lunch we had.

Now I’m down to one full day left in Hanoi. Wednesday has not been decided. Do I go to the Hanoi Museum via a taxi and then walk back? Do I just pass on it and consider what I’ve done these last days good enough? I am not sure.

I do know I have put in some effort at getting around Hanoi for the list of things, adding more things that I had missed or forgotten, and then arranging for the travel or tours. The tour today was a last minute thing while at the museum yesterday. I kinda feel like a day of moving slower would be nice. Sleep in, don’t really do much. Get my stuff packed and organized a bit.

I guess I will know when I know. That means tomorrow 🙂

National Museum of Vietnamese History and wandering with no goal in sight

I had saved the National Museum of Vietnamese History to go to last but had forgotten about it in my last minute bucket list mania. Then I came across a note in Ulysses about the Museum. Drats! I don’t like going somewhere and not seeing the places especially museums. I simply love museums and Hanoi is a city of them. So today I fixed the lapse and visited the National Museum for a few hours or more and its simply beautiful.  You get to see Vietnamese history, prehistory, archeology done in one of the most beautiful displays I have ever seen. Its breathtaking and very quiet inside and you can take photos although the light sometimes is a bit diffused as with most museums I have seen.

So here are some pictures of the day’s fun and profits. i had a great time as usual wandering.

I also found that I did not have a plan to get to either the Museum of Ethnology or the Hanoi Museum. I fixed the first thing by getting a day tour which will take me to a few places and give me a free lunch. Its an easy way for me to get to see Hanoi in some comfort on a tour bus but I also get to see the Museum of Ethnology.

To start the day I visited my friends at the Mint Cafe and had coffee and some toast and talked with them. They are a bunch of really nice people and sometimes I go walking by and they are yelling “mike, mike! over here!” The people here are just the best to me.

Then I wandered with no real goal in sight and I somehow walked all the way around to the south of Hoan Kiem Lake and saw the museum and it dawned on me. So I looked at my older notes in Ulysses and encountered a note I had taken and somehow had not read. This is an argument for a centralize repository of notes when traveling and I use the Ulysses app for that which supports the Apple ecosystems very nicely.

Blogging Services

As part of this whole thing today, I had started considering whether i should upgrade to the business plan on wordpress when my subscription comes up. The price difference is significant. The only things I can see that are the features or services I want are;

  1. unlimited storage.
  2. upload plugins.
  3. upload themes.

So I started asking myself, for the $190 a year that wordpress wants is there a value or something that is worth the price? I don’t think so. I am not interested in ads, monetizing, removing the branding. All of that is fluff. The important stuff are the words. I think personally that ads and popups are annoying but a lot of people do them. I’m only here for the words folks. I like what you write. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your ads or branding. Sorry. If you make it hard to read your words and get meaning, the chances of me visiting are less.

Anyways, I found another hosting provider which shall remain nameless which promises unlimited storage for the incredible price of $4.00 or so a month. That is $48 a year and I can have the three things because I own the install. Except they hedge their bets when you ask them and want you to upgrade to a VPS instead of hosting. So we went back and forth in email about the language they use and the services provided. the end result is that I would not buy their service if they splash all over the internets that they do unlimited storage but then tell me,

oh, most people only use 1 to 2 gb. you want to be a good neighbor, right?

Yeah right. i am not paying to be a good neighbor. I am paying for services.

So the end result is that they basically tell you a thing in ad speak and then the reality is you are hamstrung and probably monitored if you go over the lower allocation they seem to think that the term “unlimited storage” means. The real result is that i will not renew on wordpress and I will not upgrade to the business account which is rather featureless except for the three things for me.

I will move along to a cloud provider I know which will offer me the storage and support for the themes and plugins. It may be a bit more than the business plan but the real thing is that the business plan on wordpress has no real compelling features. If they would offer storage enhancements like bumps to 30gb or 40gb or whatever and charge me a bit more, I would stay.

When I look at it, I could start with the cloud VPS provider i know for $10 a month and get 40gb of storage and have my own root enabled Linux instance tied to this domain. There is a lot more upside when I have a real Linux box I can SSH into and do strange things on.