Ha Trung is the Street – I found what I needed there!

This is about getting the smaller things done in Hanoi I guess. I have pretty much given up wearing jeans here so I took a pair of cargo pants in to have them altered in the waist. You cannot go to a regular tailor for this. There is a special street in the old quarter where you can find backpack mending, detail work on leather and other materials, and money exchange. Seem like an interesting combination? I thought so too :-).

So of I went to Ha Trung Street based on the recommendation of a tailor. My goal was to find a person who would alter my store bought and cheap cargo trousers by taking them in about an inch in the waist. I guess I’ve lost some weight in the 90 degree heat and wandering 12 to 14k steps per day. I’ve tried to compensate by drinking beer every day. Anyways, here’s the rule in Hanoi. There’s a street for everything and the street I needed was Ha Trung Street. This post also suggests if you want a backpack mended, store bought jeans altered, or other stuff like this you must find the wiggly waggly Ha Trung. I did.

The first few places I stopped were not the ones. The third one was. She took some measurements and had me try on the pants. She smiled a lot and laughed and told me to come back after 5pm. We did not haggle. I came back and the pants were done and fit better. Its worth it because you cannot easily find western sizes for old retired guys like me here. So I find the places that will take care of my needs.

I stopped and talked with the hotel guys and they told me I was going to the right place to get the job done. I will say I spent about $4.00 to have the job done to my satisfaction.

The main message I have for you if you come to Hanoi is find the street of your desire. Electronic repairs? Go look north of Hoan Kiem Lake. I have seen more laptop and electronic repairs there. Clothing? Old quarter is the place pretty much. Do you need some metal? Flowers? Cloth? Candy? I have seen it all wandering the streets.

Its different than the US where you look in a phone book or go online. Here you ask someone. I found that this local tour shop with the nice people will tell me where places are to get things done. Find the places. Its all good in Hanoi. It just takes a different direction to look. Except for Pho. Pho can be found in any old direction you wanna go 🙂

Walking to the Beat in Hanoi

North to Long Bien Bridge I heard the voices say over coffee this morning. I wandered over to Starbucks and sat for awhile over a coffee and blueberry muffin and read for a bit on the kindle. There was no rush to starting because I had the day in front of me. A day to spend in the solitary pursuit of walking the beautiful and mysterious city of Hanoi. Its a city of many cities you see. There is the tourist Mecca around Hoan Kiem Lake and the old quarter. Shops vying for the sale or the shoe shine or whatever. Once you leave that though, like walking north to the Long Bien Bridge area, the roads open up and large sidewalks give you access to so many choices. You can walk to West Lake perhaps if you want or cut through more of the shops and districts. I saw flowers and metal and computer districts that I walk through. All there for the shopper in you!

But I don’t do a lot of shopping. In fact, none at all. Nothing really needed now but I will get a baseball cap and a t-shirt before leaving Hanoi. Nothing is really gained from buying it now. I walk through a thousand clothing stands every day and can find what I want tomorrow or a week from now.

I also think I found a decent Mekong Delta tour that I may take in early September. I got a quote back and while its a bit more expensive it also is tailored for what I want in two days and a night.

Today’s photography is courtesy of the Provia or standard film simulation with some color, sharpness, and other controls altered to give the photos a different look. I really like Provia and Classic Chrome on the camera so may set up some custom settings with those and the values I like tomorrow. I don’t see a use for Astia at this moment so will ignore it until later. Here’s the fruits of those steps for you to see. The google photo stream is growing by leaps and bounds. I’m glad its unlimited!

Hanoi shined today and the beer was cold and the day was beautiful. I have a little over a month left here with trips coming up. I think staying longer in Hanoi has been a good thing. Long staying is a thing which yields a lot of benefits in learning the city, the places to go and how to get around. Yet there is mystery because every street turned down means dozens of others missed. Walking the city every day has been a wonder. I will always look back on the streets photos and marvel at the things I have seen.

Sunday with Blue Skies and feet touching pavement in Hanoi

Sunday is a warm day in Hanoi. Was great for walking a different direction south and west of the old quarter. I never really know where I’ll end up when I start. It makes the photography and getting to the 10k steps goal more entertaining. South of the old quarter the streets open to wide blocks with larger stores and the mix of modern and French colonial architecture a delightful combination. Not many tourists wandering those streets. The people are more open and smile. I get invited to coffee shops more and the restaurants dot the blocks with pho and banh mi and other foods. Most at excellent prices. A baguette called banh mi in one of 10 styles goes for about 16000 VND.

There are not the touristy shoe shine, hats, or cyclopeds trying to earn some money. It’s all quieter and yet more busy. It’s like a different city than the jammed and busy old quarter. It’s why you should adventure forth in Hanoi.

The next few weeks see me traveling to two destinations. First off on 16 May I will go to Hoi An for 4 days. Then on 2 June, I am off to Hue. Both cities are rich in historical and cultural significance for Vietnam. I fly out of the Hanoi Airport on cheap economy tickets for both flights.

May is my last full month in Hanoi so I need to go to a few places I have not been yet. I have a bucket list of sorts of things to do:

  1. Hanoi Museums. The Museum of Ethnography and the Vietnam military museum are close to each other but I will probably split up the visits into two days and walk a different way to each next week.
  2. Water Puppet Show. I need to see the water puppet show here in the old quarter. There are a few I can do but the price is about the same.
  3. Buy a few small souvenirs like a t-shirt and baseball cap. North of the lake there are so many places to find this stuff!

After I get back from Hue, I only have about a week left in Hanoi. Then I jet off to Hong Kong and my visa run for a few days. Upon getting back to Hanoi, I spend one night at the airport and then take the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and begin my two months and change of staying there. I have a few trips planned for there too. I am gonna go to beaches in south Vietnam because there are a number of them. I also decided on a trip to Danang for a week so am going there. Flying around Vietnam is really easy. Airline prices are cheap and you can get to most places via the big and regional airports and airlines.

One thing it looks like I miss is the Mekong Delta tour I wanted to do unless I can find one that I could do before riding the train south. I really wanted to do that tour but I can come back from Cambodia and get it done I guess.

Anyways, it was a beautiful day out and the photo stream shows it pretty well I think.

Have a great weekend and enjoy yourself. You deserve it!

Glue for my Travels

Working my way back to using Ulysses for blog posts. I use it for all else pretty much. Since it runs on my Mac laptop and iPhone it becomes much easier to start a post and then pick it up on the Mac later in the room.

A lot of my posts are about the travel and photography and the philosophy of it all. You need glue too. Glue keeps all the little parts together and lets me share across devices in just about real time. Glue allows the start of an idea or thought and decide what I want to turn it into. Blog post, article or story I will publish, or amplify into a diary post.

It’s hard to have glue if the adhesive comes in all different containers. I’ve tried before to move off the tool. It changed to a subscription model so I tried Byword. I tried Day One for Journals. Nothing works when it’s all in pieces. Byword has the components but not the organization or integrated model of groups and sheets and document management. It’s a push for me to adopt it.

No matter what though I think when you hit the road and want to chronicle the life ways you need a central repository. It’s the place where ideas spring forth and travel plans are kept. It’s central idea is the home for your words. Long, short, bullets or free form. Find a thing that can give you the power to create and use it.

It could be Google docs as well. It has power across platforms. This Ulysses thing to me though has a central essence that is missing in all else. Perhaps it’s power or control or freedom.

What do you use as that central tool to help you track and manage the moments, creativity, plans of your life? If on the Apple ecosystem check out Ulysses. If not, google documents is very powerful.

All in all, it makes the travel easier to manage and quickly capture ideas that are then presented back to me in my room at night. Ideas are good. Capturing them and getting a workflow is key.

Going Slow – Another month and change in wonderful Hanoi

I talked today with the folks that run the long stay hotel I am in. I wanted to stay in the same room I have had and at first I thought I may have to move but they have locked me in to the room until my departure from Hanoi on 14 June. The whole thing about traveling this time I wanted to restate. The going slow part reaps benefits. I get to settle in to a place, learn the restaurants, the walks I can do, the places. Given that I will never see the wondrous city of Hanoi completely and I don’t expect to. What I do expect is to leave in June with a set of memories locked in with my photographs of thousands of memories of the streets and the people and the culture and food. If you are considering a trip and perhaps are old and close to retirement or you have retired and wonder how to make ends meet, let me tell you to consider doing what I did. Getting the six month multiple entry visa for Vietnam was totally worth it. I will have spent 3 months give or take in beautiful Hanoi and still will have two months and change in Ho Chi Minh City.

The good thing about travel this way is that you can budget the time and expenses and also book very reasonable domestic flights to various and sundry places in north, central, and south Vietnam. So many places and I will probably not make it to the Mekong Delta at this point due to weather issues when I want to go. I may have to come back from Cambodia or do the trip along the delta from Phnom Penh instead. I just don’t want to miss things.

I chatted with a friend on Facebook Messenger today while having beers and watching a rain shower move in and then just as suddenly move out. I was telling him its not so much how many countries you can get stamped in your passport. Its more about finding a place you can settle into. Vietnam is easy to settle into.

Like I posted before, the services you need like cell phone, laundry, haircuts, and buying clothing can happen here easily. Finding a cheaper hotel in the old quarter is like flipping a coin. I am staying in one that charges $12 a night long stay. I don’t like Hostels so I never book them. I don’t like sharing or hearing snoring or drunks or a bunch of gab. When I get done with the day of seeing the places I walk to, I want solitude. I have found you can stay just as cheap or perhaps a dollar more or two and get a room with a bathroom. My room has TV and a fridge that works and has AC. AC! Very nice! I use it every night now to sleep better.

Anyways, today I went north and walked longer and saw streets and people and stuff that I had not seen but also got to one of my landmarks the water tower which always tells me how to get back once I find it. Google Maps ain’t a slouch either. Here’s some photographs with my trusty Fuji X series camera. Except for the food picture which is always easier with the iPhone.

Anyways, give it some thought when you plan a trip. Why rush through the itinerary especially retirement beckons. I’ve found Vietnam to be an excellent place to hunker down and enjoy staying longer. You won’t find more friendly people! Today drinking beer, the school let out and I was told Hello by so many school children.

Now I slow down and perhaps drink another beer and watch a movie on youtube. Think about tomorrow and that there are no places and no chores and no projects. No risks and milestones and issues. Its like I waited so long to be done with doing Program Management and when it happened, the main thing that struck me was the freedom from the never-ending webex calls, meetings, emails. Maybe you do something different. But if you are gonna retire, why not do something really different. Consider the slow travel and vagabonding. Become a hobo of the lifeways.

Today in Hanoi I decided to wander…

I do this every day actually. I have breakfast at one of a few places and then leave from there. This morning it was Joma Bakery Cafe in the old quarter. I really love that place! The coffee and pastries and bagels and the place has it all over Starbucks.

I had also decided to consider whether I should stay at the current account level and make changes to how I share photographs, upgrade to the business account and get unlimited storage or just move to another provider.

The real issue for me is the sharing of photographs and there is no plugin or widget that will show current photographs in Google Photos. I have made an investment in Google Photos with literally thousands of images over the years and having it searchable, filtering for sharing, and being able to share subsets as I want are all things for me. And the number of images are unlimited. But then, I started thinking about the community here as well and why I came here in the first place. I have been doing the blogging thing for awhile and did not want to just start at a place and then decide I needed to move again. There is a loss in the community and sharing part of things when that happens and I value the sharing and community things here a lot.

So, I decided the best thing for me is to share the images as a link to albums I can easily create here and not upload the images directly to wordpress. By doing that, I get away from having to move. Upon realizing that I would be around to irritate and antagonize everyone here things were better :-).

But I digress…

Today I wanted to test some custom settings on my Fuji X series camera. The camera is nothing if not flexible and the JPEGs coming out can be altered in a number of ways. I can create more highlights, shadows, more color, and make images sharper. I can also drop the noise reduction to see what that does. Its all an exploration for me and I have been doing this for awhile since now I have no work to mess with my photography.

The settings I can modify are all easily reachable by what is called the “Q” menu. Perhaps that stands for Quick. It gives you immediate access to things you can change on the fly and its easy to rotate around to different settings and find things you like.

Without further ado here are a few photographs of the day today. I’ve changed the noise reduction downward, upped the color and sharpness some, and wiggled a magic wand at the rest :-). As you can see I am already providing a sharing link to Google Photos instead of uploading the images.

So what did I learn today? Well, I never changed the settings but did move from F/11 to F/8 depending on what I saw as the available light sources. The sky was brighter today so F/11 seemed reasonable.

I will be going again tomorrow to play with the same settings going north to the Long Bien bridge. I have an area I want to see up there tomorrow. And the city streets going somewhat north vary to more open and big streets with interesting little side streets to wander down.

Its all good!



One other note…

I am not satisfied or happy with how the accounts and storage space are computed on wordpress.com. There is no way to upgrade storage only and I have raised a support question. I will not upgrade to a business account to pay for a storage upgrade. Photo’s take a lot of room and yet there is no way to share photos with google photos which is my chosen photo management utility since it has applications and easy sharing to facebook, twitter, and google plus. I don’t like just posting links.

If I do not see a path by December to upgrade the storage, I will be forced to leave for . self-hosted wordpress.org solution on DigitalOcean. I mention this because wordpress.com has no real plan on upgrading storage only while keeping us on the same overall plan. That’s not good if you write a lot, upload lots of images, etc.

I won’t do a business plan for my blog so by December I view the time and space I have to be dwindling to a point where I have to make a choice. I’m calling on you WordPress to make storage available by itself so we can upgrade as we need. Capturing and sharing photographs is a primary thing I like to do. I have no qualms about downloading my backup/export file and moving to DigitalOcean and installing wordpress from scratch. I don’t really want to leave the wonderful community here and I enjoy reading all of your blogs. WordPress is not supporting those of us who are photographers or image editors whatsoever though.

I’ll wait and see and then comment on this post when I hear something. I want to continue sharing my travels here but I won’t just hop and skip through different plans. Storage should be a cheap upgrade without changing the plan itself.


Hi all. I have a few options on wordpress.com which I don’t believe will work. I can upload my photos to another site like flickr. I take on the average of 100 photos a day and I only share a few out of concern of storage space. Then I would have to consider what my cost would be to upgrade to the business plan. That would be almost twice the cost and I would then have features I would never use.

So, long story short; wordpress.com is not going to work after about December when I reach about 70% of available space. I am going to migrate the domain to a self-hosted installation on a cloud provider by end of the year instead of renewing my account.

When I first started the blog here on wordpress.com, it seemed then it would be a great deal for me to ease back into blogging. What has happened is that now I am traveling with new demands especially for sharing photography. I could see uploading 20 to 50 photographs a day from my camera and sharing. At that rate, 13gb of space will go rather quickly but 80gb of data will last me awhile and then I can simply buy more storage.

I think for the  majority of people that the personal account is good if you share a few things every so often. I’ve faced the same issue before with hosted providers and have stopped at one place and then moved to another. I really like the community here but the travel and the photographs have demands that I don’t mind paying for if there is a path to pay for it.

I can re-point the mikesplaces.blog domain to my own registrar at google domains pretty easily and then bring up wordpress. You may never run into issues but I have plans for this blog in serving up my photography on a daily basis.

Thanks to you all for following me and reading along as I go through Asia slowly. I have some months before moving things but now I know there is not a path forward at wordpreess.com besides buying the business service for which I would only use the storage.


Rainy Day in Hanoi Today

I went this morning to the Mint Coffee Shop because its filled with really nice people that like to talk to me each morning about my activities. One of the waitresses knows what I want so she always asks me “the same?” She comes over and does the innocent flirtation thing which I really love. She is like so many of the people I have met.

Yesterday after walking and giving my Fuji Camera some exercise, I ended up back at Hoan Kiem Lake. As I sat there, a boy in the 6th grade came up to see if I would talk to him. An amazing exchange then occurred. He spoke just about flawless english, understood the abstract stuff which can be difficult, and teased me about his ability to fly and do magic like a warlock. We talked music, Hanoi, shopping, eating, his favorite things a few times. His mom sat their quietly smiling as we talked. After over an hour we ran out of steam and just sat there quietly. He turned to me and said,

I just got back to the bench. I was sitting up in that tree for awhile

He laughed and told me he again he had magical abilities. Like learning to speak english since the first grade.

To Today…

Today after coffee I could tell that the weather would turn but I left anyways and got soaked. But happy. The cool rain knocked degrees off the temperatures and the kids reminded me of those children in Chennai when it rained. Suddenly in shorts and t-shirts they would come out and play because it was wet and cool and they were kids. Here people still do their daily chores. Some seek refuge in the million and one coffee shops. I did not. I just got wet and felt good. I walked down streets, turned left and right, got lost and finally ended up at this other lake which has become a landmark of sorts for me. Much like the historic water tank, I know how to get back when I start seeing the buildings around that lake. The sky darkened quite a bit so I headed generally back and took a lot less photographs.

Here’s a few from the day out.

Still an amazing day out! I’ve come to realize in every place I go that the rain brings out a certain mysterious and other worldly character to being out and seeing things. Building lights turn darker and the streets of Hanoi suddenly have tarps and huge umbrellas. The coffee shops are inviting and the people gather. The government buildings look darker and the skyscrapers are brushing the low clouds.

Just yesterday it was a beautiful day to wander. Today was no different. Beauty can be a host of things in Hanoi. Rain and clouds are one element. The beneficial part is the temperatures and humidity go down and the coolness sets in. Rain soon falls most of the times at a gentle but continuous pace that will render you wet. At least me it does.

But I’m happy! Clothes can dry out and having some time in the room to read and consider things is good! I’ll go out later and get a bowl of Pho I think down the street. Its tastes superlative on a rainy day!