A wonderful day walking

Here in Hanoi today had no goal and no directions. It was me and the camera and random life calling. Sometimes the steps come as though with no effort. Sweat flows in the warm Vietnam day and small streets converge to big ones. There are life lessons to be learned as you walk. Secrets that are not yielded easily. Whispers that come from the motor scooters and food stands. Can you hear it? It’s a murmur, a brief word. It’s carried on the gossamer wings of between here and there. Because you know you may never walk that path again or even if you do the outcome is different.

Walking a city is learning its depth and heights and moments. No tour bus can give you the same accomplishment as that moment when done and knowing.

There is no direction, no focus and no bearing. There is no wind in your sails. It’s just you and it and then beers after.

A mysterious city that slowly tells you its secrets. But they change tomorrow. So one must go back out and taste that fruit.

Now I sit with that beer reward and consider. Life was good but will it get better? No guarantee in the city of Hanoi. Tomorrow is up for grabs

Practicing English around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi – don’t be the guy that says no

So was out reading today at the lake in Hanoi. There are lots of graduation ceremonies and kids out wanting to practice english. You may ask why practice english and I asked one chemical engineering major at the Hanoi University. To her, english is the language of science and business. To be able to address the global stage, find success, and understand how the world works, english is required. If you think that this is limited to Hanoi, I have heard this on Japanese subways many times and on the streets of Shinjuku. Japanese school kids asking to practice english.

I have gotten a kick out of helping people speak english around the Lake. You learn that they value your experience and want to understand what it is you have done. Its not just the questions and answers folks. Its them. Its the kids who walk the lake being told that English is important. Don’t be that guy that won’t give 5 minutes to help them.

i will say again. English to them is important. A group of young college students and I went on past the questions to my life, my daughter, what is important to me as a solo traveler. Its not just the questions they write on paper. Those won’t help them speak english at all. Its the act of speaking it to someone else.

The unwritten questions are the most valid and they are the ones that are asked when the discussion goes past what is written down. I got the most value today in listening to these kids and their lives in college, learning their names, and their candid appreciation of the beauty of my daughter. One remarked he already loved her just from her picture and another was amazed at her hair color.

So why not share the wealth? Are you so caught up in your treats and food on that bench guy sitting next to me you have nothing to share? Shame on you. You cast a bad light on how people learn and experience other cultures. I will say the Vietnamese people have it all over the european and american tourists here. Seriously folks, a friendly nod or hello on the street or bar or restaurant won’t kill you. I don’t understand the attitude.

Today was good though…

For pictures! The sky was blue and temperatures were warm. Beautiful day for a novice photographer on the streets recording the whatever moments in life.


i wandered down a few streets that were close to streets I had walked before but I also found these wide avenues with few people on them and the beautiful architecture that Hanoi has. Its just a beautiful city when you venture out. The old quarter is interesting with the shops and bazaars and touristy things; but getting away I don’t see that many tourists.

Its been really good for me for walking as well. My app on my iPhone tells me I am going most days over 12k steps and almost 6 miles. Its different than the hour and twenty minutes or two hours on Fridays I did. This is more consistent walking and I do it every day. I may have slimmed down a bit but that’s a side result. My main interest is seeing the city, feeling good each day about what I do, and being able to move my life forward a step or two. Hanoi on a longer visa has been just great. Its the way to do things since you an settle into a routine and find the normal maintenance things like laundry and barber service, places to eat, things to see and repeat that on some one week visit you may not be able to.

Consider the slow travel if you can folks. It makes things much more worthwhile. Park benches become known qualities. Places can be seen in different conditions. Experiencing the life in a place like Vietnam is meant for that six month tourist visa.

Give it a shot and slow your pace down. You don’t need to do 60 countries in 90 days. How about just one country that you can say you have seen?

Getting from Vietnam to Cambodia

I have time left in Hanoi. Lots of time actually when the days are filled with whatever I want to do and not have to do. I started considering the Cambodia stay I want to do. I have bus service booked from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh but I had stopped there not knowing what would be next. Today I looked at a circuit of travel in Cambodia I want to do.

There are places I want to see at a minimum and then any trips or tours or sidetrips take off from each place. So I booked months in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and bus service. I will also go to Siem Reap and see Angkor and may take off for Laos from Siem Reap or Bangkok since its easy to do. I will have a year Visa in Cambodia once I extend it and get the retirement visa so travel there will mean multiple exits and entries and I will get a longer stay place as a basecamp once I do the circuit. This completes all the travel for this year basically. To give you an idea about the cost because everyone asks. I’ll preface this by saying I do not book large rooms but I also do not book dorm rooms. My days of hosteling it never did happen but they won’t start now. I value the privacy part of things. I used Booking.com to get the rooms because it seems they have better rates. Here are the places and rates I will stay finishing up this year.

  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Three months in district one which is right downtown and close to things. I am staying at Y Hni Guesthouse for $340.00 a month. I’ll stay in HCMC for almost three months or until my Vietnamese Tourist Visa runs out. I get to HCMC by train from Hanoi as I’ve posted here before.
  • Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I arrive in Cambodia on the 16th of September after riding a Giant Ibis Bus across the border and getting my normal visa. I am staying a month in Phnom Penh at the Lalune Hotel for $320.00 a month.
  • Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I arrive in Sihanoukville on the 15th of October and stay for 30 days at the Sea Sky Bungalow. Sound idyllic? Well it sure looks that way. Its $358.00 a month.
  • On or about the 16th of November, I will arrive in Siem Reap to see the archeological and historic wonders and also do the usual wandering around for a month. I do not have a place booked yet but will again ride the overnight Giant Ibis bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. I expect to pay around $350 for a month’s lodging.

This would get me back to Phnom Penh around mid December. At that point, I have to decide whether to go Laos or Thailand first. I’ll go to both but if I go to Laos, I can train over to Bangkok. I’ll have an apartment in Phnom Penh for a longer stay this time. I plan on renting a one bedroom flat or studio for 8 months or until my retirement visa would run its year.

By next year at this time someone may be meeting me somewhere. Perhaps that will be Singapore. It makes my little brain hurt to try to plan that far out. My sister-in-law, or ex sister-in-law or whatever she is retires then and needs someone to travel with. This may not ever happen but I think the kindest place to meet someone would be Singapore. Easy to get around and stuff. I would want to go to India then or perhaps something else. I could always do other places like China.

Not recording food and beer costs…

I am not tracking food and beer costs but have a sense that I am usually paying about $3.00 to $5.00 for regular street food here and more when I decide to splurge. I only eat one real meal a day which is dinner here. Usually for breakfast its a cup of coffee and a pastry or donut somewhere. Hanoi happens to be chock full of french bakeries and breakfast joints! So all totaled perhaps about $8.00 a day most days. If I multiply that out, I end up paying about $250 a month for food. But I probably spend a bit more since I splurge sometimes. So, just for transparency, my hotel here is $360 a month in the old quarter. I could have probably done better but it does not really matter. My feel is I am spending less than $1k a month on everything including laundry service once a week and my cell phone service which I now have with Viettel. If I restricted myself to no splurging I could probably get by on less but I would not be happy. Life is too short to be unhappy when you are seeing places so I do what I want with food and drink.

Perhaps this encourages others to seek out Asia when they retire. I have to say language is not a real barrier. If you are adventurous and like change, don’t mind cultures and people different and a different mood of life; perhaps consider retiring here or in another place in Asia like Cambodia. I have to say Vietnam is very reasonable and you can get a variety of food as you want. I’ve had pizza and genuine american diner food and went to an american owned brewpub here. Street food though is the best. Eating for about $3.00 for dinner is something I can do most evenings.

Perhaps I shall write more about retiring here and my findings. Its something I think more old-timers should consider rather than wasting away in McDonalds with the senior coffee.

Time unravels in Hanoi

Perhaps its the beer or the food or the wandering of 12k steps each day. Time has unraveled and its left the building. Maybe its also the fact that happiness each day has arrived after so many years of just surviving. Once my daughter asked me back in 2012 if I was happy. It took me a moment. So many things had happened. I lived at home in the midst of a divorce, found myself with nothing really to create happiness. I was just stuck living in a nothing life at a nothing time. I had no real clue when things would get better. Happiness? No. I just told her the truth that I had not been happy since 2009. I’ve spelt out the reasons here before so won’t belabor them.

So when 2018 came around, I had given notice at work. One final big cloud project was wrapping up. A week late it got done and by end of February I was done. My boss and I are friends now. But we did not start that way. I threatened to leave back in 2017 with our group VP. He was shocked I think and took action. I will always be thankful to him for being there for me. In the end it meant when I left it was successful and not just bailing on a thing.

I thought these things again like I have done millions of times since leaving. I emailed my boss at Veritas and heard back almost immediately. He’s a good guy and we traveled a few big projects with large dollar signs attached.

Now its evening in Hanoi and I know I did my best there. Time unravels and I think back to the days of yesterday and today. Time unravels in Hanoi. I sit in a cheaper hotel room with good WiFi and see all the things. But today I saw these things. I had a few beers and then a few more. Why? Because I can.

Here’s some stuff from today after the rain stopped. Hope you enjoy.

So there you have it, the pictures and the thoughts. Perhaps inspired by some beer tonight. I guess I have found the sweet spot of life in Hanoi. I eat, drink, walk 12k steps in a day and repeat.

I also heard from my wonderful daughter force. Never anticipate or assume a thing. Hardly ever is it true and I’m glad I waited to hear from her. I may not agree with all the steps she has taken but the end result is a thing she wants. Who am I to stand in the way of a person testing out being an adult and making life choices.

Evening time in the old quarter

I went out for some cheap street food and then wandered to this bar which is overlooking the busy street below. Putting this post together on my phone with the WordPress app and drinking a few cold Hanoi beers. Just beautiful out tonight here. Balcony eating and drinking are all over this wondrous city. Tonight I am there with it all in a local drinking establishment by my hotel.

Cyclos and people. Voices and scooters. Food pretty much all over. What else is there for an old retired guy like me? Besides another beer.

Cueing that up now.

I don’t have words of wisdom but that the leaving work and the states has meant the difference. I feel like life beckons and I’m there with no todo list or must do webex calls.

Stay tuned it gets better from here. And perhaps more sober too 😎

Another Direction in Hanoi

I took off today after coffee at Starbucks and did the usual left -> right -> left -> lost thing. I did not check google maps until I saw this lake that looked familiar. I had somehow walked all the way around to a point south of the lake so started feeling like I knew where I was sorta kinda.

I stopped by the lake for awhile and rested and then checked google maps to see how I should head back in a general direction. It was just beautiful out today and being able to get completely lost in Hanoi and just shoot frames of black and white and color with the Fuji camera was most excellent!

Here’s a few shots. I set up the Acros film simulation with specific enhancements to test on this time. I was interested in a burst of depth, better contrast, and shadowing. I don’t think Acros needs those things specifically but it was fun testing and seeing the result over beers later.

I really enjoyed walking today around Hanoi. Its such a variable city. One block the streets are wide open and down a side street are little shops with different types of goods being sold. Food is all over!

Tourist Views

I ended the day at a local cafe and bar with a few Hanoi beers. The place is frequented by the short-term tourists but I like it there because its right by Hoan Kiem Lake. I wonder of those people I saw today how many will strike out on their own to see the city. If all you see is the Old Quarter you miss the other districts like the French Quarter which is south of the lake.

I got pretty convinced that how I decided to live in Hanoi is the right way of doing things. You simply cannot learn a city with a package tour and days all defined. I was thinking today that perhaps these people should have just gone to Singapore or something. I love Singapore but I would always suggest that people start out there. Just heading out to a place like Hanoi or Chennai would be difficult..

Those people then left and I had another beer and decide to just do dinner instead of going back first. Dinner was most excellent and filling and I spent under $5.00 for dinner tonight. Cannot beat the prices to get full and have a beverage too.

I alo decided that over the next week or so I will get back to Ho Chi Minh’s coliseum and also the nearby West Lake district. The following week the Red River and the bridges will be visited.

Then I go to Halong Bay!

At Hoan Kiem Lake

It was time for reading today. So I stopped with the kindle and my thoughts. Minutes and then an hour and a bottle of water. A beautiful and brilliant moment at the lake. Quiet moments of book and me and Hanoi with its horns and scooters far away.

Only the lake and I and the lake did not speak.

Then the moment blended to another moment. Guilt and frustration long since departed. I did not have a place to go or promises to keep.

Only me and the lake. And the lake lived on. And I read.

Content Creation on the Road

I’ve been working through how I create blog posts, journal entries, and notes about travel that I want to have easier access than gmail. I could create folders on my laptop to store the notes and stuff; but then how would I reach it from my phone. The main thing always is integration. You want the same stuff on the phone as on your laptop. You need some things.

  1. Cloud storage. Some kind of cloud storage that respects the laptop and the phone and that’s sane. I tried for awhile using a Linux virtual machine and I would ssh to it and do my stuff. This is not the same. Its not stateful. So I moved on to Evernote for awhile. Evernote appeared to take care of the cloud storage and sync thing well. Then they decided to raise the ante on the subscriptions and lower things. I would have probably paid but it kinda made me decide to find something else. That leads me to point 2.
  2. Application that can handle your use case. Lets be fair here. My use case is your faux pas. My solution is your problem. My choice of platform is your hatred. To be fair, I moved off from Android to IOS and a MAC laptop not because I love the platforms. A better reason was the security and updates. I get updates to my phone and MAC as they’re released. But the main thing was a killer application that would meet my needs. So what are those application needs? They are the ability to maintain state, the ability to use a cloud solution (point 1 above) and the ability to create files in clear text. Clear text or markdown is the ultimate in portability. i create documents in clear text and use an application to apply markdown to it. if i have to bail on the solution, the files are still just clear text. There are many apps so I won’t go so far as to recommend one. I will suggest that you look at Byword or Ulysses on both IOS and MAC. I use Ulysses because it has this sweet document and library management credo. But if you want to get straight to writing, go for Byword. Remember the other thing; Portability. The apps must exist on all your platforms. This is  a big thing to integration folks.

So when you bring it all together on a Sunday evening after some beers and a bowl of pho and fresh spring rolls, you get a both 1 and 2. You get 1 and 2 in complementary interfaces. My journal and my travel notes and attachments of image or pdf files are all there. I can create a workflow if I want to bring things in to an INBOX then circulate them around to groups or folders. But I don’t. I just create and abandon and cleanup and start it all again.

If you use Android, a similar functionality awaits you with Google Docs. It works just as well and in some ways better. I did this before using Google Docs and it was easy on an Android phone. But I left the platform awhile back for many reasons and not only the application and integration. I left because of security primarily and updates. I could buy a Samsung Galaxy S9 plus but what OS level and when would I get security patches. I travel to foreign lands. This is a big deal. What guarantee do I have that Samsung will release the patches that El Goog makes available. None. Nada. Zip. They can speak to it all each time but when I had a Galaxy S7 stuck on two release past; it does not instill a lot of trust.

I don’t like IOS and MAC. I would prefer to use a Pixel 2 and a chromebook. That crosses over a few boundaries. One is the killer app that will let me do all I want. Making a choice of an app based on an ecosystem may be dumb. But I wanted more. I wanted complementary applications that worked the same way. I wanted security. I wanted to believe that Apple would take care of my iPhone 7 plus and my Macbook 2017 12 inch. And they have. I still don’t like the platform.t

But it works for me. And it works for my choices and my two big reasons. Travel with the devices has been good. I had an iPad Pro 9.7 inch which I left at home. No real need for it.

Give it some thought and choose. It can be daunting to change but not impossible. Or if you keep everything in clear text, a piece of cake!