The art of Relaxation or how to put off until tomorrow

I’ve been traveling only two weeks plus days and this is really the first time I have ever traveled without a real destination in sight. Its kind of a weird sensation. I still fight the urge to get to a place or rush through a thing and I have to pull myself back and give myself a good talking to. Something like this,

Hey! Its okay to read your Kindle for 2 hours by the Lake here in Hanoi with a cold beer. You have no place to be and all day to get there. You can walk slower and see more. Turn left instead of right. No one really cares.

I think the retirement thing when it finally came was something so different that I still sit in my room in Hanoi and puzzle it. I can still hear the echoes of the people telling me that task or milestone X or Y may not get done and that may affect subsequent task 23 and milestone 50. Its hard to break out of that mindset but yet retirement has those things.

I sat the by the lake today right next to the old town here in Hanoi and watched the people propelling themselves to here and there. I felt their desire to see what the things were or to hop a cab or a tour bus and cram in all they could in a set of days and nights. I watched older folks like me move at a slower beat. I talked with a few younger backpackers who measure success by countries visited and visas stamped. I get that People do not have the luxury of time to kick things back a notch and get lost in Tokyo or find their way after taking a puzzling series of left and right turns in Hanoi.

I reached retirement in a circular direction after having wanted so desperately to leave the San Francisco Bay area for almost 10 years. It seems from about 2009 when I knew a divorce would come to finally moving out to a room in 2014, the thought was that I would move slowly through Asia at a pace up to me. It took until 2018 when i filed for retirement and also saved an amount of money that made me feel comfortable that I knew the time had come.

So with that said, I’ve learned some things about retirement after years of doing Information Technology and Program Management.

  1. Nothing prepares or tells you about the sudden lack of things you have to do. Its like a balloon and someone starts letting the air out and you know there is more room in the balloon but there is nothing taking the escaping air’s place.
  2. You know you are supposed to then “slow down” and only do what you want to do. But what are those things you want to do? And more importantly can you afford to do them with time, energy, money and desire.
  3. I desired to get rid of almost all personal possessions and get down to a single travel backpack that could be carried on flights. My reasoning for this is that all the things are “baggage” and you end up with the so many Kg of bags but you have the other metaphysical baggage too. You can get down to the weight restrictions of carry-on bags but the metaphysical and psychological and mental baggage weighs you down.
  4. Tomorrow does not exist in retirement. There is nothing to do that needs to be done today or tomorrow. The things that are left matter.

Now I’ve left the states and I have no car, no bills, no debt, no room. No things. The absence of things besides a small rubbermaid container that my wife is holding with papers and cards and memories means that life stretches out with no limitations. I have no room waiting for me or car needing attention or matters of importance to attend to. Cars and kids and things have gone their way. I could never see how they would get done or how things would end up for my children. I won’t dwell on each because even in retirement where nothing gets done, things still have orbits. There’s a bigger life out there.

I’ve just kinda checked out of the project management and life tasks which held me down, kept me focused on the tasks and deliverables. On vendors that needed to have a gentle tug every so often.

No I cannot see those days coming back. I still catch myself missing them and i have a stern talk with myself. Lets just say I earned this and move on.

Blog News and Sunday in Hanoi

So I started looking at themes both free and premium here on wordpress. I decided for the cost to upgrade to premium and here’s the rub. None of the so-called premium themes suit me as much as the free theme I am using now. Is it just me or is there really nothing in either the free or premium category that is useful? I don’t think I have a high level of requirement or design need. What I want:

  • a suitable theme to publish photographs on accompanied by text. Primarily I use the google media importer and build a collage of images or I create single images at a time.
  • a theme that lets me have a sidebar on the right and not the bottom. Only a few do this but claim its for presentation of the material.
  • the ability to rotate the header image and add more images to rotate. Many of the so-called premium themes do not do this at all but the free themes do.
  • not using the “read more” attribute. I prefer to have my content shown in all their glory without more clicking.
  • menu items for pages I create that makes sense. Why do some themes insist on having the menu items for -> HOME and -> ABOUT listed twice? I can see no way of getting rid of the second listing.
  • the ability to not have my widgets show up on my -> ABOUT page at all. I don’t like widgets on the sub pages.

So, this gets me to what I don’t like about the experience. I don’t particularly care for having no alternatives to just add storage instead of paying for the premium themes that I cannot really use. There is no real choice with either the free or premium themes I can see. I can go with either but when I end up just going back to the free theme i use now; its worth is debatable. I can see why Mikka also asks on his blog about a theme to use. I’m sorry team. None of the premium themes add value besides obtuse menu items that I doubt the value of.

I have paid for the premium account when all I want is more storage yet there is no way to do that only and I must add premium features which end up not being used at all.

Bah humbug.

Hanoi Things

Today I wandered around for a few hours taking shots of the lake and the city. I really like taking the Fuji with me here. Street and urban photo opportunities kinda line up waiting for me.

I did notice that while I am on 4g I cannot bring up or my blog but yet on wireless in my room I can. That’s kinda weird. Not sure why the mobile providers have a problem with sites.

Here’s some stuff I saw in-between trying out many and sundry themes in my hotel room.

There you have a day spent in the service of wandering. I will be going out walking each day because my body demands it. I have to put in around 9000 to 15000 steps or I feel very uncomfortable. I cannot see it being an issue here.

Visa Run in June

Yes friends, a Visa run is required in June. I must exit Vietnam and then re-enter. I could just duck out to Bangkok but instead I will go to Hong Kong for a few days and spend the time there. I’ll be booking that travel and hotel soon so I don’t have to pay more for the airfare than i want.

As I pointed out previously, you may want to check if you have a Visa on arrival here. Most require that I am told.

Bye for now from your slightly frustrated and getting hungry blogospondent.

First day in Hanoi

I got in to the hotel last night and the visa and immigration/customs things take awhile at the airport. Today I rested a bit and then headed out for some time in the Old Quarter with the camera. I ended up at the Ho Hoan Kiem Lake along with just about everybody else. It was a warmer day but kinda overcast with a light breeze blowing across the lake. Lots of people out with cameras, lots of tourists. Lots of people. I stopped at this beautiful lounge/bar and had a few beers because that’s what retired folk are supposed to do. I have not gathered the photos yet from the camera. I guess laziness has struck.

Tonight I decided to go to a brewpub for dinner which is just down the street and have myself a few more beers and some food there. Pasteur Street is right down the street from my hotel so I will stop in there. I figure there is plenty of time for Pho and street food. I’m gonna do the retirement thing and enjoy my time.

Here’s some stuff after only one day I have learned. Everything is cheaper than you can really imagine. Couple that with finding a cheaper long stay place and the cost of food and beer and its really a good deal. If you are on a limited budget and want places to go, I’m willing to bet that Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are quite cheap at least when you compare it to living in the San Francisco Bay area. Before I left, I had decided to be rather strict with my budget and record everything. I cannot see the reason in Hanoi to do this. I think when you do this it drags the time down to a lowest common denominator that may cause you grief. Given that, here is my list of little things to do your first day in Hanoi:

  1. Find a place to buy a SIM Card. Hopefully you have an unlocked phone. I just plopped down a few bucks and got a data sim card from Mobiphone. Its 4g most places and appears to be okay in cities. You can “top it off” by buying a little card in most places and entering the code. I could also just bail on this card and get a Viettel or Vinaphone one if i wanted. I noted this some years ago in Asia. The plan is not important but the phone is. All the phones in Chennai I ever saw were unlocked and I would buy prepaid SIM Cards in Singapore or other places and just keep them in a little envelope in my stuff. Nothing has changed.
  2. Exchange some money and don’t be shocked when a thing costs like ₫ 145,000. What’s helpful is find a currency converter for your phone. I found this useful right away.
  3. Exploration and getting lost can be fun but there are times you want to be found. Combine this with the first thing and learn how to use Google Maps to find yourself and plot the way back to a good known spot like your hotel room after a few too many beers.
  4. Visas in Vietnam are fun. Lets take the one I got last night. Its a 6 month multiple entry tourist Visa but I must leave and return after 90 days and kinda check back in so I will have to change travel plans a bit and fly out and probably fly back to Ho Chi Minh City and cancel the rail trip I had paid for. You may want to check this out especially if you get a VOA or Visa on Arrival with a agency like I did. I had no problems getting the Visa or using it at the airport. They issued the visa with my forms and the authorization letter from the agency and I was done with the buying part in minutes. One thing, bring US Dollars. That is all the they take and there is no ATM I could see so I took sufficient US dollars.
  5. Driving and walking here is much like what I remember from India. Drivers and cyclists don’t give a damn about you so be careful here. In the old Quarter the cyclists zoom with no real regard even for their bigger cousins called cars and buses. In Chennai, the buses ruled and my auto driver VJ would complain bitterly about the buses being unfair. Just be careful here.
  6. Tourists, ex-pats, visitors, retirees; whatever are all over the place. i heard more English today than any other language. The old Quarter is interesting in that regard but I think you have to get out of the area because its rather manic at times. The lake is just the right place to get away. i can see spending many quality days there to come ;-0

Now finally on to a point which is interesting and one I shall study more. I believe the value for the money based on my limited funds in retirement are much greater here. I can simply do more with the dollars I have. I can eat better, drink better, see things. Vietnam is a great value for someone wanting to retire and travel slowly I think.

I’ll put up the photos today a bit later when i get done with dinner tonight. I’m hoping sleep is better tonight and I will go for a walk tomorrow around the lake but I’ll perhaps start at the Starbucks tomorrow for coffee or the place i stopped for beers.


Last day In Osaka – Will need a return trip

I guess if I were to ride a tour bus I would claim some small measure of victory but I don’t. I walk and think and take pictures and then think some more. I think walking is the best tonic for me but yet someone may ask what about this or that major thing you did not see? Fair enough. I did not see major things. I did see other things though and I know this is one of the cities that one visit does not suffice. Much like Tokyo. There are other cities I’ve been to that I’ve known I won’t go back to even if I had the chance. I’ve seen Portland, Eugene, Seattle and loved them. I just don’t feel some pressing need to return. Also San Diego falls there. I liked San Diego a lot but there is not a reason to go back. Many cities I’ve walked in I felt once was enough.

Other cities I realize once is really not enough. I have been to Tokyo many times and I could still go back. I just know its so big and I am but one step in front of the other. Vancouver is that way too. Osaka joins the list. Its a beautiful and really large place and when you walk the steps turns into miles, the miles into hours, and well the days into beers I guess. Now I sit in my room at 4pm and think of flying out tomorrow.

But here’s some stuff until then. A little bite of Osaka for you in a different direction.

Now that my footfalls are in Asia, there are so many places I have not been.

A few things different today. You will notice some black and white snaps in there. I started playing again with the camera. Up until now, things have just been taking the photos. Today I started again learning using the custom film simulation modes on my Fuji camera. Why? Well because they are there and so am I. I love to take black and white photo’s because of the depth of them. I felt less concerned about the quality and more concerned about the learning so I just let things go. I think its one of the things I love the most about the camera. Its fun and you can see the results almost immediately.

But here’s the main thing folks. Tomorrow I fly to Vietnam. That’s a different reality. Its not 5 days here and 3 days there. Its going to be time to unpack and get things organized for three months in Hanoi. I’m really thrilled to have the longer term stays kick in. Its cheaper for me and it means learning more about the places. I’ll leave here tomorrow morning by 8am after some coffee and pastries and catch a subway to the connecting station and then get on the light rail that takes me to the Osaka Airport.


Tennoji Station Osaka – getting there a step at a time

Today I walked down from the hotel in a roundabout way to the Tennoji JR and subway station. This is the station on Friday I will go to to catch the Osaka International Airport tram/lightrail and its some station. Its got multiple floors of restaurants, shopping, and lets not forget train and subway action. I walked down a few smaller streets, down one of the shopping malls made up of small vendors with a street covered up. I love that in Japan. Its like a neighborhood mall but I see tourists up and down it as well.

Today I had lunch at McDonalds because I felt like it and then I walked all around the station plus a few classic Buddhist temples and parks along the way. I finished up and decided to return to the hotel up another smaller street. I stopped at one point to get water and rest a moment under some shade. Its really nice weather here. Temperatures are probably high 60s. People watching in Japan is really fun. Street photography is like basic stuff here. Everything you can imagine doing street photography is there on the streets of Osaka. People doing shopping, workers, young people, corporate types, old people, tourists like me. The whole world of candid street photography which is something I like doing enters another universe in Japan.

Today was more walking and less photography but I did take some shots here and there of what I saw. The shopping and stores and people really figure highly being out and about here in Osaka.

Thinking about the sights and sounds as i sit in my hotel room, I would say that Osaka is a city of so many different Osakas. There are the quiet places, the madcap and zany places, the wondrous places, huge JR train stations where the people mob around shopping and eating and traveling. Don’t forget traveling :-). But what I have noticed is that right down the street and its this way throughout Japan the places change with rapidity. You can be at the Shinjuku station but walk a few minutes and be down a quiet shopping street where people sit out and discuss the goods on display.

Young Japanese in the coffee shop I go to are openly friendly and have asked a few times in pretty good English what I am doing in Osaka. They think its cool that people come and experience their city.

A Day to Go

A friend of mine from work emails me every so often and asks how I am doing. It seems she and the other people that sit in nearby cubicles miss me. She was lamenting there is no one that irritates them any longer, plays music right at 4pm, and says stupid stuff. I have to admit to teasing her more than the rest but only because she’s a friend. Being from India, we instantly have things to discuss even though I have not been to the places she called home or worked at. I just seem to get along better with people from Bangalore or Chennai or Mumbai than the states. My take is that they are more loyal friends and will always try to maintain the connections. I think others from my days doing IT reach a half life with people. They want you as a facebook friend only. Before I left only a few people asked to see me or responded when I tried to reach them. I just decided to settle with things before I left and saw the people that came a certain distance or offered to see me.

Now with a day to go before i fly out, the feelings are running pretty high. Hanoi is a long term home for me and I have a feeling that life will be pretty good there. I could book a Halong Bay tour now if I wanted. I’ve seen a few I want to do that start in Hanoi. It will be nice on Friday night or Saturday to unpack and put things away since I will be staying in the long stay hotel for three months. As luck would have it, right across the street is one of the better known brewpubs in Hanoi.

One more day to go here in Osaka. Its been good seeing as many Osakas as I have seen 🙂


Osaka Castle Confidential

Today was mostly spent at the Osaka Castle wandering there and attempting to go into the castle but the line defeated my patience. So instead, I wandered the grounds and found things of value which I hereby commit to the blog.

The castle was burned down or lightning struck it or other things happened a number of times in its history. Now I think is the 4th or 5th time it has been rebuilt. The castle grounds are a mix of restaurants, gardens, and beautiful walkways It takes some time to see the stuff there. You have to have lunch and a beer and then take off again. Its a very popular spot I believe not only for tourists but artists and locals that were out today appreciating a truly fine spring day. The Sakura were blooming as well and the castle gardens were quite popular. The moats and the keeps are gorgeous and walking throughout the castle area takes some hours so if you go, just go wander the grounds. You don’t need a tour guide. Just get lost and by getting lost you will be found.

Osaka is a city of bridges both old and new. I love bridges. Walking over them is a guide marker to the city itself. Its not only an architectural and city thing. Its an art form in many ways. A bridge signifies a passage and a movement.  This city is big! Wandering around on foot today yielded only one small part seen and I did about 7 miles. I returned to the Starbucks I started it all at this morning for an iced coffee and some people watching. I wondered what I should write about on the blog today as my time draws gets closer to flying to Hanoi. Here’s a few thoughts on Japan.

I went to three places this time in Japan. First off was Tokyo. I’ve been there a number of times but you never really see Tokyo; You see a part of Tokyo that it allows you to see. I have never felt frightened wandering the city at any time. I’ve been out at night still trying to find a subway station or down lonely streets where I hear only dogs barking and the laughs of school children. I’ve never felt uncomfortable in Tokyo.

The second place was Hiroshima. I was told to be prepared to be depressed but I could not find anything depressing about Hiroshima. i feel that the city was born out of the atomic age but has built itself into a fun and funky city that can offer great times along with the more somber moments where those past time were recorded. One can reach a new thing in Hiroshima by simply wandering from the quiet places to the malls and markets and small bars that light up at night.

Finally, there is Osaka but the jury is still out. My first day take is that this place is large and has many places to see. I don’t know that three days will do it justice. That’s what I have though. So, we will see how I get things done and what I feel was left for another visit. I’ve already shared a collage of shots from the first two; but today was Osaka Castle and environs. I really liked it there! A few things I saw captured by my travel buddy the FujiFilm X100F:

It was a fine day out today. A beautiful spring day here in Japan. Wondrous weather, a really interesting city, and fun times. I have two more full days here to explore before flying to Vietnam.

Osaka in the Afternoon

I boarded the Nozomi 24 Shinkansen at 1217pm and got here right on time. I just love how this works here. I got into Shin-Osaka terminal and had to catch two subways to get to my hotel for the next 4 nights. I decided to take it a bit easier today for whatever reason. I don’t want this to seem like work or feel like I have to do a thing. I got situated and got wireless working in the room which actually is the best I have had yet here for free. Never can complain about the cost!

I have some things I want to do the next three days and did the usual for dinner which is cheap food from a mini mart. Tomorrow I have to hunt down some coffee since I don’t see any in the room and this hotel is not like the one in Hiroshima where they had free stuff by the front desk and lobby.

Osaka is busier and bigger and I have three full days to miss all kinds of stuff. I walked around today to just see things and ended up doing a big square i guess you could call it.

Here’s a few pictures of skylines, bridges, water, boats. Stuff I like to do.

Tomorrow I’ll get to perhaps the Osaka Castle and around there. Tonight I am going to study the map a bit and see how I can get around on the subways and just take it easy.

I have this week here in Osaka and then I’m off to Hanoi for a longer stay. It will be nice to settle in there and live semi permanently and unpack. I also need to get some laundry done.

Traveling with Tech

I had written about this in a previous blogpost but I wanted to comment or update based on a bit of traveling and focus in on devices and gizmos that made traveling light easier. Traveling light is not only carrying one rollerbag by the way. Rollerbags are evil things meant to roll over feet in airplane aisles and be used as carry on luggage when obviously the bag is over the size limitation. No friends, traveling light is a travel backpack of carry on size. For me its the Tortuga Outbreaker bag. It has enough organization to keep me busy but not allow me to go crazy. So far the bag has taken me to Japan and Vancouver previously. The freedom of traveling carry on only means you never have to worry about lost baggage in checked luggage or having a bag checked all the way through as happened to me on Singapore Airlines going from SFO to Singapore and then to Chennai India. The company had made a slight logistical error and my baggage was held because the next flight was only hours away. Besides the point of already having flown 17 hours to get Singapore and having to board the next flight in hours; all my “real stuff” was in the checked baggage. Bummer. I learned from that point to never ever go checked luggage again.

But on to the real point here if there is one. What are the key tech ingredients for me that made the final cut?

  1. Macbook 2017 12 inch. A marvel of a laptop that weighs in at 2 pounds. Its meant for crowded flights and buses and light rails. Its responsive. Find a dongle and embrace the dongle life though. I have a dongle which takes power and memory cards and a variety of USB connections. it makes the whole thing easier.
  2. iPhone 7 plus unlocked. This has been great since I simply plopped in a NTT Docomo data Sim Card and now have 5gb of data to use up over my two weeks in Japan. I will find another great deal in Vietnam. I don’t need cell service to call and chat with people. Hangouts or Facebook Messenger work just fine. Be sure the phone is unlocked though. You can check using a service or call your stateside carrier. I bought a phone from Swappa that was verified unlocked and it was!
  3. The flexible FujiFilm X100F camera. This camera and the zoom and telephoto lens are so easy to pack. I wanted to learn more photography while in travel mode and the camera makes it possible to try different film simulations, manual shooting, fully automatic, or other variations on the same. My favorite uses of the camera are everything besides where I just use the iPhone because its easier. If you want a travel friendly camera buddy check them out. I could not see carrying some camera with a hundred lens and tripods and stuff bulging out of a bag that probably weighs 10 pounds. That’s just me though. I am a rank novice at this. Professionals require a different level of commitment and gear support I bet.

A final note here is about electricity in different places. Do you know your way around 110 to 240? Check those chargers before going. Most will say on them what they support. Be careful. Electricity is beneficial but it can ruin your whole day if mis-applied.

Finally… A Travel Note.

Today is a transit day for me. I get onboard the Nozomi Bullet Train from Hiroshima to Osaka for 4 days and do the same adventures one more time there. On Friday I fly out to Vietnam from Osaka airport. Big times ahead!

Sitting in my nice but slightly small room in Hiroshima sees me drinking some room coffee and eating some pastry bought on the cheap at the local convenience store. Its a great deal when the coffee is free and the breakfast cost me ¥208 total. That’s a few US dollars compared to what the hotel buffet would cost me. I make a rule to not buy beer in bars here nor do I buy for the most part expensive food. For dinner last night I had a large bowl of Katsudon for about ¥600. Probably my big meal out is lunch but this time I have also done dinner out a few times because of the food choices here. Japan can be quite expensive! One time in Kyoto, I had a single 12oz glass of beer and it cost me over ¥1000. Really? I bought 5 cans of beer in a Circle K for that much and took it back to the room. I also do dinner on the cheap here by buying instant noodles in a convenience store and cooking them in the room. Its not as romantic or exciting but I try to be conscious of the money that things cost here.


Last day in Hiroshima

Tomorrow at noon I catch the Nozomi Shinkansen to Osaka for 5 days or so. Today I just wanted to see some areas I had not seen in Hiroshima and not focus so much on taking photographs of the places. I did capture a few to finalize my trip. Here’s a few from today.

Tomorrow I catch the train up to Osaka. Another city I have never been in and I’ll spend 4 nights there and basically ramble all over the city and see as much as I can or miss most depending on your outlook. Friday I hustle to the Osaka airport and fly to Hanoi by way of Bangkok. Things will slow down a bit from the rather manic nature of the trip thus far but I am pretty close to booking a 3 day trip to Halong Bay since its an item on my list of places to see.

I have some chores to do this evening like hand wash some laundry, get things in decent shape to be packed up and shower and enjoy the room for one last night which means some beer in the fridge.

Things I learned

From the beginning of this first part of the wandering, I had purposefully set up Japan as a place to go because I wanted to get myself straightened out and not think about work or what I left behind too much. I think that this is going to take longer and the stability of life in Vietnam as far as lodging and time goes will really help. I did learn also you cannot just put work down but you can gracefully let it go and act as a retired dude sometimes. Traveling really helps and wandering like a hobo really, really helps. I know I could never have stayed in the Bay area and had an enjoyable life. I would have continue to work. If not at IT, doing something else and it would have meant up at XX hour, home at YY hour. Where is the enjoyment?

I also learned I really had missed photography and learning more. I had this wonderful camera which is part art and part science and it just sat in the room for some months. Sitting today in Starbucks reading on my Kindle it dawned on me. This is what I wanted for myself. I wanted to be able to do whatever the hell came to me.

Anyways, thanks for following along. Hiroshima was very cool and I really enjoyed the mix of things like very somber and then blocks away funk and fun in the malls and shops. The somber part reminded me that we can never take things for granted with how our current leadership is. We have to remain vigilant and not allow people to believe war is an answer when we don’t even know the question. Like I mentioned, people who think nuclear buttons are cool should have to visit Peace Park and see what could happen.

The fun and funk part just comes from a city which has grown up and out from those other days. If you want a city that has it all and perhaps you have done Tokyo, consider Hiroshima. I’ve had fun here and having a Fuji camera was quite good.

Japan is still beckoning to me and I still have some kind of mental or emotional link to the place.


Last night’s ramble on the streets

I went out for dinner and took along the Fuji camera. Night-time photography is fun and different since the lighting, signs, and streets all take on a different character than normal. People sometimes are less guarded and the streets blare out in their evening music of horns, street cars, and sirens. Hiroshima is a active night-time city with some blocks of restaurants, bars, and malls where a variety of people get out in the evenings. I’m glad to see that since it makes evening photography that much more interesting.

Without further ado, a collage of frames of an evening in Hiroshima for your pleasure and review.