It’s a warm Reunification Day in Hanoi – time for ice cream

For the third day the streets around Hoan Kiem lake are shut down in observance of the holiday. I walked south of the lake and took side streets kinda reminding me of Japan. Little stores, the ever present coffee shop, no cars. More people walking. Now I sit at an ice cream shoppe and feel the cooler breeze from the lake float past. My chocolate ice cream is in a hurry to melt in the almost 90 degree sunshine today. I merely observe. It does not matter really since I came here only to sit in the shade and see the lake.


There’s the lake and my fast melting ice cream and so I sit only too glad to observe and have not a thing to be done and the rest of the day to get it done.

I’m thinking a pizza tonight would be good. I have not splurged on dinner for awhile. But that’s later. I’m on glorious standard retirement time. The clock ticks not at all. Reminders are not set. Hanoi sparkles and the children run with balloons and foam airplanes that weave and dive and delight.

The day will once again fade to evening and another day in the books where there are no books and no accounting.

The lake water whispers some blessing but beyond the ken of mortal ears. Hanoi is a delight of the senses.

My ice cream turns and so does the day.

The Little Things on the Road

I’ve been keeping a set of notes in Ulysses on the little things. Things at home in California I could just do and before leaving I had wondered about on the road in my hobo mode. For the first two weeks in Japan, things were a mite different so I took care of the little things somewhat differently too. Now that I’m kinda sorta living in Hanoi one finds other ways to take care of the things. None of these are big things like eating or finding a place to stay or keeping in contact with my daughter. I have all those things but perhaps that one is a little thing which leads to a big thing. So here in my room on a Sunday afternoon relaxing after doing some walking in the city, I came up with some bullets.

  • Laundry and Cleaning. During my first two weeks in Japan, I took care of this by washing my stuff in the sink. Underwear, socks, t-shirts got washed by hand and then hung up over night. This worked out pretty well given I did not want to spend time with only two weeks or money getting the laundry done. When I got to Hanoi, things changed. Down the street is a place I visit every week and they do my laundry the same day. I pay a few dollars US and come back in the afternoon and its done. This makes taking care of dirty clothes so much easier. If I had to wash by hand, I learned some tricks but its nice not to. Two of the three hotels in Japan had laundry rooms but given that it was just more money to spend on things like detergent, washers, and dryers; it was just easier to do by hand and hang up.
  • Bottled Water Supplies. On yes a little thing which you want to take care of. Do not drink the tap water, brush your teeth in it in Vietnam. Just don’t. In Japan, the water is safe anywhere so its pretty easy. Here i go to either the place I get my laundry done or a small market two doors down where the lady is happy to sell me Hanoi Beer, bottled water, or whatever. If you are on the road walking, a word of caution about pricing. I have watched around Hoan Kiem Lake the prices go up from the street vendors on the busy weekends so I tend to find a Circle K. Most of the store workers speak english and its just as easy to find bottled water there and pay a price that seems more normal.
  • Travel to Airport and Back. This can be a ripoff waiting to happen. I use my friend Lucy here to arrange transport. She gets me to the places I need in a dedicated vehicle. Perhaps I spend more but I get more too. I feel better with how Lucy arranges things and she will email me back often about transport and pickup updates as the time gets closer to go.
  • Tours and Trips. I don’t like group tours too much. I don’t like Tour buses and sightseeing caravans. I like arranging my own trips where possible. Booking my own hotels, buses, flights. Some trips like Halong Bay or the Mekong Delta probably become a necessity for a tour but I was talking to the person that helps with water and laundry service and she said I could have done things differently for Halong Bay by riding the train there and then finding a cruise ship. Oh well. Live and learn. My main message is be careful and look for reviews and be sure when you pay you are getting what you want. I tend to use Viator sometimes to fact check and then do TripAdvisor checks on availability of tours. Every shop down the old quarter offers tours. Just be careful out there.
  • Personal Hygiene. Think of things like Hair Shampoo, Toothpaste, bar soap. In Japan, I used the room supplied stuff but I also had packed some stuff in small TSA bottles. That all ran out here so I hiked down to the Intimex store in Hanoi and picked up larger supplies of the main things. So much easier and the stuff is cheap. Just look for a supermarket or store like Intimex and it has the goods plus all kinds of other stuff you may or may not need or want.
  • Haircuts and beard trimming. Down the street is my barber. He does a good job and speaks some english. I found him walking one day and stopped in and he invited me back the next day for a trim. I will go see him again in early June before leaving Hanoi.
  • Cell Phone Services. A small thing that you can get easily in Vietnam but it really helps if you walk the cities. I got a data sim card in Japan too with NTT Docomo for my travels there. It was waiting for me at the Narita Airport postal office which was kinda fun finding when I landed but I plugged it in and it just worked with a few little changes for a profile that needed to be added. This is all for naught if your phone is carrier locked. I bought a used iPhone 7 plus on Swappa before leaving and verified with the seller it was unlocked. So much easier in Japan to have the data plan. In Vietnam, really consider getting a plan like with Viettel. Owned by the government and supported by every little store around. You buy these “topup” scratcher cards and send a code to viettel and then you have more. I will go in two days and topup for another 10g of 4G/LTE that will go for 30 days. Its rock solid service as I’ve pointed out before.
  • Communications and Technology. This is a small thing but it can turn into a big thing. I wanted a US phone number no matter where I was and one that could get text messages, be reached by my daughter dialing a US number that would ring here. Yes, its very possible and the service is free from Google. Google Voice does all this so my bank can send the pesky activation and security code numbers to a US phone number, I can make voice calls, I can do SMS and chatting using the Hangouts integration on my laptop and iPhone. All of this costs nothing to use folks and it works very well here. I found this to be invaluable to having a communication line with family and friends just in case and the number is a known commodity. It worked flawlessly in Japan and it works just as well in Vietnam. Perhaps some countries block this service. That leads me to the final thing to consider on my list of little things.
  • VPN Service. Yes. You need this. If you go to those open wifi cafes and coffee shops no matter here or there; its so easy to snoop the traffic folks. Get yourself protected and if you are gonna do something financial or personal and you are sharing personal information, get a VPN. I use ExpressVPN. Its not free but it works. It also means certain things which won’t work will work when I do a VPN connection but the main thing is the security and protection of your stuff.

That’s my little list of things I have compiled. I hope they help you. I am always adding and I’m sure as I move to southern Vietnam and then to Cambodia in September things will get added like about the Cambodia retirement visa extension I will get. More things to research on quiet Sunday afternoons in the room. More things to think about when I perambulate all over the city each day.

Ho Chi Minh City in June

So round mid June, i do a visa run to Hong Kong and back to Hanoi and then ride the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city as i blogged before. I want to take at least three side trips before leaving for Cambodia in September. I’ve booked a trip to Con Dao already for a week in July. I decided to take a trip to Vung Tao in August which does not require a flight. One can ride a ferry boat from HCMC there in 90 minutes and then back to almost District 1. So that will be my second journey. I think my final one will be a 3 day tour of the Mekong Delta in August or so.

I just want to make sure I have seen stuff in Vietnam north, central, and south before leaving for Cambodia. Best way is to just find the places and then book the hotel and find the way to get there. In the case of Vung Tao one can go by Ferry boat which sounds ideal.

I figure I will have weeks and more weeks to explore HCMC to my content but will also have three trips planned to various places by the time I’m done. I was thinking about it over beers tonight and I want to make an attempt to see Vietnam whether its something like Halong Bay or Hoi An or places south. Vietnam has so much going for it. Did I mention the people are great? They are. Did I mention the food? I’m sure I did.

Here’s a pitch with no adwords. Go to Vietnam. Take a trip somewhere. You will not be disappointed. You can live on the cheap if you want. Find a long stay hotel in the Old Quarter or find a hostel. I don’t stay in Hostels. I don’t like barracks of people that snore, cough, come in drunk. That’s just me though. I can find competing private rooms and enjoy my solitude for a competitive price in Vietnam. You may dig the Hostel scene. Great! Go forth and Hostel.

The main thing is look at a map of Vietnam. Pick a place like Hanoi or HCMC. Then look at all the other places you can get to with minimal effort. This is one great country for living folk. I opted for six months here because US citizens get a Visa like that. I also have to leave for a Visa run. Its all okay. Consider staying longer. Its worth it. I think you will be astounded by the variety of places to see here. Its not only Hanoi but I really like this city and its bustling, crazy scooters, food, neighborhoods. Get out of the Old Quarter because there is so much more. Walk the city. See what it has.

Then plan trips out of it. I think you definitely have to do Halong Bay. Its a once in a lifetime thing. But other places offer beaches and history and eating and scenery and local things. Traveling on the domestic airlines is a cheap thing folks. You can do it!

I’m an old retired guy and I did it.

North to West Lake Today

I had decided to walk up to West Lake today to take in an area or two I did not believe I had seen. I got turned around this way and that and did end up there but saw so many other things on the way, that I am not sure I made it to where I wanted to go. So I just substituted the area I was in and walked over to the Lake itself from the Hanoi Water Tower. Its an interesting area with high rises, sleepy streets, large stores, and then the lake parts I saw. Its more of a high class tourist area I think so the hotels and restaurants and shops cater to the tourists staying at the bigger and better hotels around the lake.

Its a great walk though from Hoan Kiem. It takes about 30 minutes walking to get there and you get to see a bunch of stuff that transitions you out of the old quarter and then opens up wider streets and a variety of sights to capture on the camera. There are government buildings, hotels, a lot of people as usual doing things and coffee shops. Man I have never seen so many coffee shops.

I toured around the southern part of the lake. If you don’t know, West Lake is the largest fresh water lake in Hanoi and its huge. I would not really try to walk around it unless I was staying up there I think so I tackle pieces of it I want to see now and again.

Here’s some photos from the day today. A wonderful day of finding and losing and then finding a great beer place and some Pho where that was the only thing on the menu. Boy, did it taste good since it was kinda rainy off and on through the day. Now I’m back in the room and my feet are tired and perhaps I shall beer again!

All in all a great day for wandering the city, finding a new place to partake of the beer and a Pho place where that’s all they do.

Hanoi is really a fun place to hunker down in and live. I was talking to the guy that worked at the brewpub who had the same thoughts. I’m so glad I am able to stay here longer and really get around and see the city.

I was thinking how fortunate I am sitting over my beer and watching Hanoi wind up for the evening. I guess years ago I never could see this happening. Life was so concentrated in work and the remaining pieces of a disintegrating family life where kids were not kids and work was just about it all. I feel I gave the work all I had but there in the end by December of 2017 the tank was running on fumes. I was simply tired of the high risk projects even with bonuses and awards and nicely written commendation.

I guess it still amazing that I was able to leave and first do Japan and now be settled in to Hanoi with days of walking behind and ahead of me.

The Streets Less Traveled in Hanoi

On my daily walks, I look for a place or places I can go to which I have not seen or perhaps don’t remember seeing. Either is good. I don’t keep records on the places or street names. What I’m after is the going of it. The getting lost and wandering of it. the photographs down streets that are big blocks and sleepy little streets. Both capture the interest in completely different ways. Hanoi is full of both so you can head out for a walk in the morning and get to see French Colonial architecture, embassies, schools, and then little side streets with small markets and food stalls. Coffee shops dot the Hanoi street scene. You can escape the momentary downfall of the wet stuff by ducking in and getting a coffee. I’ve done this a few times and the local places have a certain feeling to them. The coffee beans are roasting and the fresh smells excite. The Army or police folks sometimes come in. There are nods and smiles and hello’s. There is no high pressure sales going here. They are genuinely glad to see you. Don’t worry about not speaking the language. Do you know what coffee looks like? Just point. Same for food stalls when you are pioneering your way through a city.

In the interests of Mike’s tried and true tips to city walking voyages, here are my ideas to make it worthwhile.

  1. Spend a bit of time with google maps and select an area that looks interesting. At the start all areas are probably interesting. In Hanoi its pretty easy to either get lost or get found depending on what you want. I do both but the morning Google Maps session helps me decide on a general direction. Perhaps there is a thing I want to see there.
  2. Set out after coffee and breakfast! Do you have a camera of some kind? Good. It can be whatever. I use a Fuji X series camera because its small and portable and easy to shoot street scenes with. If its a smartphone, consider if you can to get a SIM card. I use Viettel because the government owns and operates it and the 4G/LTE signal has been very good for me from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Give it some thought. If you have a phone that is locked, a basic map can help. The most of this point is to leave the beaten track on your voyage.
  3. Now the most important part. Get lost in the city. Find quiet streets where you don’t see another backpacker or tourist. Little stores, school children rushing to school, older people nodding and smiling. Its all there. You don’t need to do anything special for this because Hanoi is a real city and it has the locations where all the tourists go and down the street and around the corner you will find gems.
  4. At this point, you maybe want to start looking for known landmarks. A map can help but Google Maps is the best! One of my landmarks is the Historic Hanoi Water Tower. Once I find that from whatever direction I’m going or coming from, I know where I am. Lesser things are you may get thirsty. Drink bottled water only. Do not drink tap water! Consider that a health warning. Go to a store or Circle K and buy the big bottle of water for 10k Dong. Done deal.
  5. Perhaps you are getting tired and want a rest. Hanoi is full of parks with these friendly benches in them. I’ve sat in a park for hours reading and outside and away from the touristy areas like Hoan Kiem Lake have never been bothered. No sales, no books, no shoe shines, nothing. Just you and the bench and perhaps your bottle of water.
  6. Now it time to perhaps head back in some route. I often go in a circuitous route because I can. Having the phone with Google Maps meaning never really worrying about the step of getting back. Now you are getting closer to known places. Perhaps time for a beer or ice cream. Go ahead! You deserve it! You have made it to Step 6.

All of this is meant to communicate that the only real way to see a city is to see the city. I met a young lady who had a week in Hanoi and never ventured out of the old quarter. The old quarter is not Hanoi. Perhaps its a part or district or a location. Its not Hanoi. Hanoi is down other streets too. Get away from the comfort medium. Go walk and take the photographs and spend time in the city.

When you leave you want to be an ambassador and let others know that a slower trek through a city will avail more. Two weeks may be the itinerary but its not the city. Give it some thought as you plan your getaway. Its not so much a matter of where you stay. Home stay, guest house, hostel, 5 star hotel. Its where you go. Make the break and become the person blazing new frontiers.

Maybe you will decide to write a blog and record your places. My blog is meant to be written in every day as a mile marker of what I see, feel, wonder about. I purposefully chose Hanoi to stay longer in. I wanted to cool my jets. Find more todays and tomorrows and fill the moments with the walking and seeing.

When I finally leave Hanoi, undoubtedly there is a street I have never seen. It happened every time to me. That tour bus can cover more ground than my feet in a day. But I see things a tour bus can never happen to see. That neighborhood in Shinjuku with the flowers and Sake bottles. That small park in Hiroshima by the river. Busy Osaka not so busy when you walk down small streets with shy school children still smiling. Then there’s Hanoi. Manic and wonderful. Scooters driving all around but quiet park benches for reflection.

Its all there for you. How about starting one of these blog type things an letting us know what you see.

Rainy Day in Hanoi

I hung around Starbucks until almost noon over coffee and a blueberry muffin. It was raining and seemed like it would not stop just for me and my desire to walk another direction and take some photographs. But the FujiFilm camera does okay in the rain and clothing and old retired body is fine so out I went. I walked through what is called the French Quarter which is the magnificent old architecture and state and federal buildings like embassies and consulates. I saw the French Embassy today. I don’t remember seeing that one.

Yet it rained still and thunder rolled across and I was starting to wonder if I should stop at one of the literally millions of coffee shops and wait it out. Then the rain started lessening but I had been taking some photographs no matter what. It was one of those “tweener” days. It rained until about 2pm and then as I was negotiating the turns to get back to Hoan Kiem Lake and do some other photography  that I did not know I wanted to do until I got back it stopped. The skies were still dark but I headed to one of the places I go for beer after doing about 12k steps.

Here are a few results of my labor. You see? I’m here for you. Hanoi is yielding all those secrets but keeping a lot more. Even after months I will not have seen the city. Its too vast and mysterious and I am but a two legged retired guy who cannot turn down every street.

All in all, a nice day to be out even if I got rather wet.

Other travel plans and places to go…

I also booked a trip in July to go to Con Dao for a week. I will fly from Ho Chi Minh City there for some time on the beaches, inspecting the historic sites, and just doing what my prime directive is. That would be eating and drinking and subjecting you to my photography across Vietnam. To say that I love this country would be accurate. Food, people, culture, places. I’ll be sorry to see my six month visa wind up in September. Never fear though. I have a number of places to still record on this blog in northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Just sit back and relax. This tour is far from over.

Dinners in Hanoi

Since I’ve settled into life kinda sorta in Hanoi, I also have something of a routine for eating. I normally do two things around food each day.

Late Breakfast. Around 11am or so I stumble to Joma Bakery, Mint Cafe, or Starbucks or a few other places. I have a piece of pastry and a coffee. Usually costs less than $5.00 except at Starbucks. I study the Google Maps on the free WiFi they all provide and decide what I will do for the day while sitting with the coffee and pastry. I usually sit around an hour or so dawdling and reading. This is a good time to read news, get caught up on facebook or whatever. I may have a general idea about where I want to go in Hanoi with my camera.

Out and About. No food. Usually water. I usually am out from about noon until 3pm walking the city and taking photographs here and there. No eating then. Only buy bottled water and then end up at Hoan Kiem Lake reading on my kindle. At about 4pm its beer time so I end up at a few places that I like for a few beers. Its beautiful then an the day is sliding toward evening. I start thinking about dinner. I often go back to my hotel first and chill for about an hour and decide then what dinner should be.

Dinner. My normal dinners are at street food places where I spend less than about $5.00 for a full plate of stuff. Usually its Pho or Banh Mi or some noodle dish. Tonight it cost me all of $3.07 for a plate of delicious noodles stir fried with beef and a cold Hanoi beer. The place is about a 5 minute walk from my Hotel so getting around to eat is pretty easy. I have a favorite places now that I will go to for Pho and Spring Rolls or Banh Mi. I just sometimes want the expected so I go there. Other times I find a place where all the local people are eating. There’s a place right outside my hotel which has Banh Cuon which is simply delicious. None of this so-called street food costs more than $5.00 for everything including beer or water. Other times, I splurge and get a Pizza or a burger or Indian food. Perhaps twice a week I splurge and spend somewhere around $7.00 for dinner or more even. I don’t keep track besides out of idle curiosity to see what a thing cost. The Indian place I went last night I came away feeling less than impressed. The AC was not on that I could tell and the person tried to talk me out of getting Garlic Naan. I will not be going back there. There are so many choices for food here!

Budgets and Costs

One of the things I had good intentions before leaving in February was finding a Google Spreadsheet to track my spending. I decided to be vigilant and cost effective starting with Vietnam. Japan was hopeless since if I wanted an expensive dinner I could drop a lot of dollar. I never did that though. I ate really reasonably at budget noodle places and often fast food for lunch.

But I had decided I should budget my money and track every expense. After almost two months here, I never did do that. I just spend what I am going to spend on things. I have beer in the hotel fridge, plenty of bottled water and I just ate a delicious street food dinner for about $3.00.

Maybe others are more disciplined than I and can do the budgeting and tracking. I cannot. So I gave up or perhaps I would have made myself miserable. Retirement is not about being miserable and the truth is with the money coming in and what I have, there is no real reason to worry about either splurging or regular meals. Vietnam is a joy for eating and living you see 🙂

Today in Hanoi in Pictures and Plans

I slept in this morning until after 10am and then decided to go the local coffee place called Mint Cafe. There are down the street and easy to get to and I like the people there. They like asking me my plans for the day and get me a second coffee almost unbidden. I sat awhile and considered where to go and what to do. I decided on a walk that would take me past all the embassies and official residences to a new route back to the old quarter.

The other thing was to to test and play with and learn some settings on the camera. Specifically I wanted to shoot in F/11 which seemed reasonable given the nature of the day, use the Classic Chrome film simulation mode, but change up some other settings based on what I wanted to take pictures of. I used the Shadows, Sharpness, and Color Q menu settings and just dialed up what I thought I wanted to see. Making changes to shadow highlights means that the picture gets more contrasty and shadows are more pronounced. Changing the color brings out the basic colors. Sharpness edges up the contrast and sharpens the image. All very interesting but I wanted to look at each photograph I wished to take and make a call on what I thought it should be. Should it be +1 or +2 for color? Time to play!

So the pictures are interesting and the walk and beer rewards were even better! Here’s a few of them. Notice the buildings and other stuff seems more richly textured. I focused on a specific thing in the photo I was taking.

The goal here was to enrich the color or sharpness or shadow highlights to bring out he parts of the image I wished to focus on. Since I am forever learning I will go back tomorrow and do the same in another direction in Hanoi.

Its all fun and I get the walking in that makes me feel good and the camera is there to record the places. Photography just happens to be the bestest thing for the walker in me.

Conversations are Places

Today I went to the Starbucks here for some coffee and a croissant. I like to sit and read on my phone even though they only give an hour of internet for each thing you buy. I have a good cell phone provider so I don’t mind crunching up some cell data. I will need to buy a scratcher for Viettel next few weeks and “top up”.  Here you just find a place with the logo and buy the little card and then send the code in and you get the goodies. Happens there is a place down the street from my hotel that has them. Easy peasy.

I lingered over some beers at one of my usual places and listened to all the people mostly tourists exchanging their map ideas, places to go, things to see, food to eat. I had decided to go get a Banh Mi or two at my favorite place called Banh Mi Pho in the old quarter. I get two sandwiches for about $2.73. Cheap but delicious dinner! Now I am working my way through the second one and will soon have a beer carefully stored in my hotel fridge.

This morning whilst at Starbucks I met an Australian retired couple traveling for a few weeks. We discussed old cars, travel, how to find things to do, food to eat, places to go. They were an interesting pair and the guy probably would have stayed longer but I think his wife was gently urging him to not waste more time on conversation. So off they went. Its amazing to me of all the people I meet how little time most people decide to spend here in Hanoi. To me, Hanoi is this wonderful place with culture, food, history and streets that lead to other streets. A novice and hobbyist photographer’s extravaganza! But people have their schedules and timings. Three days here and 4 there. See only the old quarter. What? There’s more? I told them a bit of the history of Long Bien Bridge and how they should get there since its not terribly far from West Lake at least by my foot wandering.

But lets face it. Conversations are places. You come from a place and are going to one. Your path on that route crosses another and they have a place to tell you about. Its all about the conversation and the place. You know you have a story to tell that is made up of intricate and wonderful things called places. Your memories strike the iron foundry of yesterdays and perhaps are captured by a photo gallery or a journal or a blog. But each way station reminds me the journey is not complete. You may meet another that is traveling a path not so similar. They perhaps are going to a place that you will not or their conversation is about a whole bunch of yesterdays that you can never share. Those places are locked away and no matter if you visit one, it will be different.

So I left that conversation and it dawned on me. Each time we talk to another we are exchanging not only ideas but places. Perhaps at first it comes slowly. You try to find common ground. There are always good things to start with. Food, travel, home. But soon the vagabond in you strikes out and so do theirs. You know their mysteries are not yours. You will travel a grand road made of turns and hills and dips and stops. Their road can never equal. No matter how much you want, the vaunted goal of commonality is perhaps jaded. In the end you each come from a place so unique that with a touch and a smile and perhaps a laugh and a story you find a place that each can meet at.

Other times there is no connection and no commonality. The words are slow and the other person will not meet you at a common place. Its easier to just move on. Find another place. Maybe its a solitary one. A place where its you and a thing. A sunset. A cliff. A limestone karst in Halong Bay.

And then you know. You can reach 1000 miles but sometimes the other person is just out of reach. Maybe you have a moment like I did. The words come easier. But soon the coffee cup is empty and the wife is telling him gently but brooking no argument its time to go.

So ends the places you went of that one conversation. Is there another? Who knows. Time will tell. And its fickle and it does not give away the happenings to come.

Stay tuned and perhaps you will see.

Does your camera offer fun?

I imagine from the Nikon’s and Sony’s and the other cameras around Hanoi that photography is an important thing. People invest money in lens and bags and camera bodies. Then they invest more in time in learning how they all work. I watched a guy today overloaded with camera gear as his wife wanted another lens from a bag he was carrying. He hunts through the camera bag and meanwhile misses a hundred interesting street moments. He finds the lens and his wife snaps one off and the other on and puts the old one back in the poor guy’s bag. I kinda wonder how all this works. I don’t have a camera with a prime lens and a body and all the stuff. How does one do it all? Isn’t that bag kinda heavy and you always have lens envy? What happens when you want a shot that’s in a moment and the moment soon disappears? I am not chiding the significant number of people carrying big gun lens and cameras. No. And I am not deriding or lowering their abilities. I’m sure they shoot better than me with all that gear.

I travel light you see. My gear is a FujiFilm X100F camera which fits into a smaller bag and lets me get the street or urban shots I want. But here is the main thing. Its fun! Let me tell you how. Fuji included film simulations on the camera and different enhancement possibilities with color, shadow, etc. One can dial in a new film simulation but then also start changing default shadow, color, sharpness. A single shot can take on multiple personalities. One can go out in a day in Hanoi and practice a single thing. Like today I started shooting with the Astia simulation but then bumped color and shadows to +2 for the halibut. Suddenly the shots got sharper with deeper colors and it was…

Fun!

Fun because you can change the elements of the camera and make it do things that are fun and strange and weird. It makes a day out with the camera an exploration of a film simulation and then more fun with the different effects you can dial in. So its not just the photography which may be serious or not; its the fun of trying new things. Here’s a few I did today of the Astia, Classic Chrome. and Provia simulations with different sharpness and color at +2. I shot a few at the Hanoi Historic Water tower with various settings.

Notice the subtle changes in color? I had moved up color to +2 and sharpness to plus +2 and I was shooting with the Astia film simulation. No matter what, its fun. The camera is fun folks.

Now I’ll share some others with the settings changed here and there around Hanoi.

As I looked at the JPEGs, its dawned on me. I don’t need Photoshop or Lightroom. I have these special film simulations that the good folks at Fuji gave me and I have the Q button to change different sharpness and contrast settings.

I don’t own a Nikon or Sony or something. I have this FujiFilmX100F. I’m curious if the other cameras with the bags of lens and filters and what not are fun. Do those cameras have these different custom settings which can effect how the JPEG rolls out?

For me, its a difference of night and day. I go out each day and experiment and have fun with this camera. I keep all the photographs and upload them to Google Photos. Some good. Some not so good. Its all in the learning.

In the learning and in the fun.