The Hobo’s Realization – Travel is not the means or the end

Its been four months since I retired and have left the states. All told I’ve been to Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. In Japan, I visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka and was fortunate to ride the Shinkansen Nozomi Line since I had pre-bought the tickets prior to leaving. In Hong Kong, I only had about three days to wander around. Then there’s Vietnam. Way back when I decided to spend six months in Vietnam. I wanted to start out in Hanoi and then travel south on the train but also do shorter trips here and there combined with my walking and photography hobby. I spent three months give or take a day in Hanoi and also did a few day tours and then longer trips to Halong Bay, Hue, and Hoi An. Each place has something that I will remember. In Halong Bay it was the first day’s sunset and sharing a beer with the tour manager as we watched the sun go down.

In Hue, it had to be the history and wonder of the palace and the day tour I did to see the three tombs I got to see. I also found some really good local food plus had one of the best Indian dinners and a burger there.

In Hoi An, it was walking in the evenings in the city with the lantern and lights going full force. It was nice not having a lot of scooters zooming around but in retrospect I could have done something else and been satisfied. I liked Hoi An but I was not after getting a suit or clothing and that’s really what its about there.

Finally Ho Chi Minh City. Initially I decided to spend three months here but then changed and decided to go to Da Lat which is in the central highlands and have cooler temperatures and spend my last few months in Vietnam there. I redid my travel plans a few times to what I wanted. Cancelled airline tickets, found a hotel in Da Lat to stay in longer term and then started doing the shorter trips out of Da Lat again.

I was thinking back on how things have gone because a friend asked me how I could possibly be gone forever. There is a certain mindset to traveling solo in the way I am doing it which is completely different than the usual tourist or RTW or digital nomad or gapyear person. Its not that I don’t have goals or things I want but I found a few things which I just take for granted now that took me a bit to get to.

The first thing is losing the sense of rushing. I don’t want to rush to places only to spend two weeks and move on or a month or whatever. Rushing through a place leaves you with a memory that is rushed. You don’t recall that day where you did not have an agenda or a must or shall do. I lost the sense of purposeful travel with goals and places and things I must do.

The second thing that took me a longer time was not working. I never thought it would take so long to sink in after so many years that I do not have to work! I never have to work again. My life is encompassed in not working at all and just taking the steps and the wandering each day provides.

Another thing was minimizing things. I am not a minimalist and will never be. But I did get rid of things, donated things, selected the remaining things that I thought would work. Some things did but others were left behind or tossed or given away. I had to redo a few things which seemed like good fits like how to charge devices and have my ex-wife ship me new things. Clothing was another one. I thought at first that jeans were the way to go. Do not take jeans to Southeast Asia. You will burn! So I minimized and re-bought things in Hanoi which seemed better. Things of mine now should fit into a Tortuga 45L outbreaker backpack and a fake North Face duffel. And they do. So just proclaiming I am a minimalist is not true. I have never been one. What I am is a realist. I cannot pack two laptops, 5 phones, 14 t shirts, and a expensive set of toiletries. All that goes bye bye.

The final thing is finding value. Sometimes its best when you think there is no value to consider what it is that you have instead of what you don’t have. Its worth re-thinking on that after a beer or a big Vietnamese dinner at the homestay. What is it that is valuable in my life? What are the things that I find value in and how do I get them? I have to say that the things with no value were left behind much like I donated those shirts with collars, ties, shoes, socks, whatever it was. I was left with things I do value. Between this one and the one above, I think you find the golden mean.

Traveling is not this…

I’ve dealt with a few ideas since I retired. One is traveling. I’ve come to realize that what I do is not traveling. I don’t have itineraries and plans and agendas or real bucket lists although I did write down things I had to do in Hanoi. Traveling seems to have a meaning of getting to and from a place. When I traveled for business before, there were expectations and requirements. Must do things. The company wanted things from me if they paid for travel. Rarely did those things and what I really wanted line up.

So I tossed out the idea of traveling on 28 February. But tossing something out and not being reminded or feeling grabbed by it are universes apart.

I’m left with what this is. Upon reflection this is that purposeless wandering with camera in hand I have always wanted. The steps taken each to find a thing and the tired feeling in the legs after doing more steps. The taste of that one cold beer or ice cream at the Vincom Center or wherever. The random steps ensure that this is purposeless. I am empowered to be random. I can turn a direction. Go down one of those mysterious Hems in Vietnam and see the guard smiling and waving. See some of the mystery of the Old Quarter in Hanoi and District One in Ho Chi Minh City.

All these things separate me from the traveler. Trying to put them into words with someone on a schedule of 30 countries in 45 days is hard. If you are hitting the road, perhaps you should read what Robert Louis Stevenson said about travel,

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

Its the moving that counts folks. If you move with purpose you may miss the little random life things that are tossed up at you. My advice?

Try to slow down. Don’t just be a minimalist because it explains away things. Be a realist. Can you pack the 10 pairs of shoes and 20 t shirts and jackets and all that in a carry on bag? Look at your expectations when you hit the road and dash them all to bits. Start with a clean slate and don’t re-think them all. Forget the goals. Delete the bucket list. Be that random person you know you can be.

Most of all; slow down. That side street may not wait for you.

Coffee Sense in Vietnam and a look at Ho Chi Minh City

Today started out at a brand new coffee shop. My challenge is to find a new one every day and try their food if they have food. Some shops do not have food and specialize only in coffee. Today I went to the Workshop Coffee Shop and Restaurant. I believe that this place is favored by the digital nomad crew here in Ho Chi Minh City. I saw a few of them take up long stay residence at this long table and one of the staff brought out additional surge arrests. Now that’s a handy thing and you can tell that the place most likely caters to workers and nomads. Prices were kinda high too but to me I don’t really care here. I don’t buy dinner any more and don’t have to get laundry done. The homestay deal is pretty good all in all.

Anyways, I’ve read that Hanoi is really the coffee center for Vietnam but this place is no slouch and I have found so many different coffee shops and restaurants for my morning blast for everything from classic Vietnamese coffee to latte to americano. They do favor it iced so I have to remember to always ask for it hot.

The coffee scene here in Vietnam is incredible folks. If you come here and you should if you want to stretch those dollars a bit, I would try coffee here. You have to try the egg coffee. Its a bit rich but it has an indescribable taste. Cannot tell you what its like exactly. Its a taste you have to try. I don’t think there are places back in the states or elsewhere that can approximate it.

The real thing though I wanted to write about is the social and cultural scene of the coffee shop in Vietnam. I think coffee shops are hubs for people. Its a meeting place definitely of all ages and free wifi figures prominently. You don’t have some “brain dead” one hour limit like Starbucks does here in Vietnam. The worst was one Starbucks here which did 30 minutes. Seriously?

Then there is the ex-pat and digital nomad thing that I think Ho Chi Minh City has going for it. People find places where they can work and invite partners or customers or whatever either in real time or in virtual rooms to join. Coffee shops here are naturals for this. They kinda blend the act of coffee and the act of relationships and culture together and the idea of the coffee shop here has translated far away from the Peets or Starbucks in the states. Its more than the most delicious coffee. Its the joining together of people, ideas, fun, young and old, traveler and local. People like me as well. We all re-experience coffee at a few levels and learn that its completely different here in Vietnam.

Try it out when you come. And I think you must come here and experience the food, the people, the country, the culture. And the coffee! Don’t forget the coffee culture! 🙂

Today was more exploring…

So today was more exploring after coffee. I just walked by the river and am alway amazed at the differences in blocks. One block is a Japanese store and hotel block One has an Irish pub and small cozy restaurants. Another block has banks and international trade and ventures. Amazing place!

Today I decided to only shoot with the Camera on F/11 all day. I also shot with Auto ISO and I only shoot JPEGs so whether the photo is good or not, its mine. Since the Fuji has these different funky and fun film simulations, I shot only with the standard one called Provia.

And Ho Chi Minh City did not disappoint. Here are a few photographs from the walk today to check out.

Note that the weather today was a mix of sun, clouds, then thunder as soon as I got back to the homestay and after my ice cream treat. The walking was around the city center area because that’s what I felt like today. I still have about two weeks left here to adventure and do walks to other places and there are so many places on the map that require exploration!

So between the coffee shop exploration and finding a new one every day and the walking exploration, I feel that the city slowly shows me new wonders of so many kinds. The slow travel really pays off I think. I can move at a pace like I did in Hanoi. Find things which I can experience and return to because every day doing travel and street photography is something new. The way the sun glints off the Opera building. The way shadows fall when it clouds up. I’ll be walking around in the evening one of these nights soon to see the city at night. Cannot wait to see the skyline lit up here!

So that’s my report on coffee and hobo’ing around the city today!

Ho Chi Minh City is Enthralling, Captivating and Mysterious

Another day on foot wandering this city. A new coffee house this morning for a few vietnamese coffees and some eggs and toast. Then I was off on foot for the day.

The usual thing of turning left, then right and left again was the usual goodness but I guess I am learning my way around a bit better because I see certain landmark things like this co-op store and I kinda sorta know where I am without the google maps. But it really is so handy having the cell phone service! Yesterday I topped up the service and got a discount so I am good for another month here in Vietnam. I really use the service a lot not only walking around, reading in coffee shops, but also tethered because sometimes the homestay wifi gets bogged down so I switch over to sharing my LTE connection. Works like a charm!

Anyways, here are a few things from the walk today. The sky started darkening a bit so shooting all day at F/8 with autofocus if you’re interested.

Just as I was a few hundred feet from my homestay, the sky started darkening considerably and I could feel a few rain drops testing my mettle. I did not have mettle with me so I went back to the room.

All in all, a really nice day capped with smiles! The darker sky really creates some nice moments when taking photographs I think.

Small things for the vagabonder in you

Here’s some minor things to consider when traveling. Not the big things but some stuff that has either got me and I had to fix in Japan or Vietnam and some things which I took care before I left. Here’s a starter list of things which I think are really important to consider when hitting the road internationally.

Power strips and adapters are the unsung heroes of the road or they are the things you curse in the hotel room at midnight. Here’s two alternatives.  See what you think!

Source: MakeTech Travel Power Strip

The nice thing about this device is the size. If you look at it, you will find two AC plugs and three USB chargers and its rated at 110 to 240. I’ve used it in Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam and it works really nicely and its easy to pack.

The second part of this to consider is the wall adapter. This has a US grounded plug and some Vietnamese plugs do not have the ground so you must find an international adapter. After some degree of hunting around, the one I am using now is this one.

Source: Flight 001 4 in 1 adapter

I like this one because its smaller and the plugs all fit together. That being said you may find one that works for a lot of places but not India or another place. I’ve had to go out to the local electronics stores and get one. In Japan, its pretty easy to head over to the Akihabara or Yodabashi Camera and you can find camera and electronics stores easily in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city as well. I feel this one works pretty well though and I like the size and component part of it. It fits the first device perfectly!

Remember that this is not a converter. Its only a plug adapter so be careful with devices.

I plug into the above two things a variety of things like a MAC laptop power adapter. One minor rant. Who in the ever loving world ever decided to build MAC power adapters with that size? My gosh. The thing is huge! Anyways, it goes into one side of the Mastech where the AC plugs are. In the other side, I can plug in my camera battery charger to charge batteries outside of the camera.

Then in the three USB powered adapters I can charge my iPhone, my camera, and my portable charger, kindle or whatever. You will need the cables so don’t forget them. I forgot the micro USB cable for whatever reason and had to get one in Japan and then my lightning cable started acting weird so I got two new ones in Hanoi plus the charger for the laptop started acting kinda strange so I bought a Apple charger in Hanoi.

So for the three USB chargers I normally only use two but I have charged something in the third port and it was fine.

So these are just little things which I have collected to help in hotel rooms, hostels, homestays. Always check the power ratings on things you buy especially when traveling to Asia and remember to get things that charge other things with correct power ratings or things could go boom!

I hope this has been useful. I always find that there is a thing I bought that when I look closer it just won’t work. I started with another device that I thought was perfect for travel but it ended up not supporting the 110 to 240v requirements so I found these things which have great reviews on amazon for their use. Bear in mind that the colored and cute little plug adapter may or may not work everywhere. I don’t particularly like the big round ones with all the plugs coming out because they are hard to pack and I have had them break at inopportune times.

I’ll publish another once in a week or so that focuses more on internet and cellular service since that has been another area which has been a learning experience but thankfully now in Vietnam I have it pretty well figured out.

An Interlude to Consider – photography learning and practicing

A little camera exploration today because I am still learning how to do things. Luckily the FujiFilm X100F is very forgiving and since I walk slower I can take a second photograph if one seems strange.

I shoot primarily on aperture priority with auto ISO enabled so when walking around the city I don’t worry about setting too many things. The goto F stops I use around the city are F/5.6 and F/8. I think these are the sweet spots for doing urban photography or street shots of moving people and stuff. The primary difference between the two is available light. I think F8 is one of those things like the famous photographer said,

F8 and be there.

If you can manage to be there and set the camera to F8 you are likely to get a good shot of a thing. I really think that it offers the best especially for learning. I think when learning photography you need to practice one thing and not have too many intervening variables. As an example to me, I could not suddenly be trying to set the ISO as well as decide what aperture I should be at. Its easier to just let the camera do that most of the time.

But what I am interested in is setting the camera to manual focus and then focusing on a zone at F8 say a thing that is 10 feet away and sitting still as the scene unfolds. I have not done this for awhile but I practiced it in Hiroshima at a mall. It would be harder to do this on the move I think. Maybe better photographer have a method and quickness but for a novice learning a single thing and then practicing that thing seems easier. So tomorrow I will find a place and practice manual focusing at F8 and do that for awhile.

I think its important to try to learn both techniques but I have to say that simply using auto focus and then deciding on the available light whether its F5.6 or F8 is pretty darned easy and the return is good.

Its also easier to practice in a dynamic environment where there are people, cars, buses, signs and benches to practice the manual stuff on. Today I felt pretty good getting out around the city and just practicing. Its fun and profitable how the walking I like to do goes with the photography I am learning to do. Its like they go together at a cosmic level and I like that.

I also have the two lens for the X100F that I got on eBay. The telephoto and wide angle lens which I have not practiced that much at. Soon though I will be breaking those out and learning. Each thing takes time for me though. I need to feel that the basics are in place with the “naked camera” before going out and doing other things.

I’ll post an update later this evening to this with a few of the frames I took today. It was a good day even if it rained ;-).

Walking in District One – Malls, shopping, restaurants, and all the other stuff too…

Today I wandered primarily in District One (I think). I had decided to spend a day downtown and see the malls, the city center buildings, the post office and that kinda stuff. It was a pretty good day except for some continuing rather sad personal news of a friend I worked with previously. There’s nothing good that comes out of divorce folks. I’ve tried mightily to not say much about it here if anything at all besides maybe a passing bitterness. In my own case, I have left so much behind but in all honesty divorce is never-ending. You do not just wake up one morning and say,

well so much for that. New start. Gonna take care of some new stuff

At least it was not that way for me.

So I thought a bit as I walked the city about my friend. Then it dawned on me there are actually two people going through the same thing at the same time. So I guess I count my lucky stars that I was able to get through that, reach a point where I could retire, and then hit the road forever. The path to get to the retirement is always interesting but what really is unique I think for each person that leaves forever is how they did it.

I thought about that walking in the Vincom Mall and having Ice Cream today. Thought about it over Vietnamese Coffee and banana bread this morning around the corner from my home stay.

Enough said on it. Too bad I cannot do that with the thoughts that come.

I do want to say some things about the downtown area where the huge blocks are, with malls and banks and small blocks with restaurants and little shopping districts. Ho Chi Minh City is unbelievable folks. The idea you can walk a block or three and go from local shops to mega-malls, upscale restaurants I would never eat at is amazing but has to be seen to be believed. Then there are the backpacker millennials, the old guys like me, the urban socialites and a whole bunch of Japanese people suddenly like a mixed salad and tossed together. Combine that with a hearty dose of beautiful architecture, wondrous places to stop and examine like the Post Office, and the government buildings and you have this city that is truly amazing to spend more time in.

Each day after the morning coffee wherever I go, I can decide on a basic direction that my walk will take me but it never ends up that way. I alway find myself down other streets, looking at the street food stalls, saying hello to friendly young people and kids and taking pictures of security guards all over the place.

If you are gonna travel Asia and are casting about for a place to go, may I humbly suggest a few weeks in Vietnam? I would set an itinerary to cover at least:

  1. Hanoi. You must see Hanoi so you can see the differences between it and Ho Chi Minh City. But go to Hanoi and exit the old quarter. Get yourself to other places and see what Hanoi really is. I was always amazed by the change in walking just a few blocks there.
  2. Hue. You must see Hue. Take a day tour of the tombs of three of the emperors and see the difference in how they lived and prepared for the after life waiting for them. Eat the local foods in Hue. See the forbidden city and palace. Also walk the non touristy parts and see the genuine people that live there. Fascinating and wonderful and such a glimpse into the imperial past of Vietnam.
  3. Hoi An. I would say this place offers a few things. If you want clothing made it could be that you should wait and get there. But most of all go there for the nights when the city is lit up. You must see it.
  4. Finally, Ho Chi Minh City. I think you do this last because it will assault your senses and make you question all the other places. What a mix of things! A beaitful skyline, small shops, wondrous restaurants, a true international flavor.

I’ll finally put a plug into walking. For the most part I walk the cities. I do this because with a camera in hand, you stand the chance of seeing things completely missed on tours, on buses, bikes, cars, or tractors or whatever. Foot power is the most basic of methods to see it all and be a part of it all. You are at the level of everyone else and smiles, hello’s, places all come alive.

So there in a nutshell you have my recommendations for some weeks in Vietnam. You can tie this all together in many ways. The truth is that Hoi An and Hue are close to Danang. You could just add Danang and use it for a base of operations for a few weeks. Maybe you need a month in Vietnam. Don’t hurry. Take your time. So much to see and you will see more if you travel slow. Remember to bring your appetite. Because eating and drinking here are the things! And you so want to be a thing, right? 😉

Unfolding Days and Reasons to create – see what you think!

While here in Ho Chi Minh City have been staying in a homestay which is a rather fun experience. I have a room that I think is pretty nice with a great AC which is really appreciated. The cable TV gets some English channels. Then there’s the food. The home owner believes I just do not eat enough food because she fills my plate up numerous times with homemade Vietnamese food. I cannot tell her “No” really because it just happens anyways. So I eat! She sits and talks with me. Sometimes she asks me where I went that day because I told her I walk every day with the camera.

The homestay experience is pretty cool since you live in a real home with the family there. Boys, girls, parents, etc. Its an interesting experience. I think if you want to experience what its really like, the homestay thing is good! She also does my laundry every day. I’ll be setting out one change of clothing she will do and return to me in a day for free.

There is plenty of privacy here too. Once I go upstairs to my room, that’s it. She gets back to her husband and kids and mom and I watch some TV, perhaps look at my photographs for the day and start deciding what I should do the next day.

A fun thing here has been finding a new coffee shop each day that has food. I found a great one today but its a bit of a walk so tomorrow there is one basically around the corner which I will try. I do have a few which I really like a lot. I will probably go back at some point to them but there are so many here that I can be here 30 days and not really go back to one.

Sitting at the K Mart and thinking…

It seems some days I stop for water and perhaps see a thing which strikes me and I will sit on the curb and watch people going by, take photographs of what I see, think about things. Today was no exception. I was thinking through what I’ve done since I left the states. My time in Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong. I started this whole thing on 1 March leaving the states after retiring. I had wondered what it would be like to stay longer in a place. For me, longer is three months to a year. I am not interested in racking up the countries and stamps in my passport. What I really want to do is live in a place and settle down a bit. I did that in Hanoi. Its worked well for me.

Then I can do the shorter trips like to Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue. I get to get away to a place, see the sights there, do the same stuff I like doing but during shorter getaways. The trip to Hue was a great one for that. Soon after that trip I was leaving for Hong Kong and then I would ride the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

I will do short trips in Da Lat when I get there as well. I already have two planned.

So what this has left me with is a consideration of how things have worked, what my expectation was, whether I would want to ever do something more with the blog, and whether I would want to. For how things have worked, I’ve not made many huge errors. I understood how the visa process worked here and knew I had to leave for a visa run. I also had an idea about what I would do in Vietnam and the places I may want to go. Some places I added later.

Then there’s the final question about the blog and its place. I asked this question because I was reading a blog post over on Lets Vagabond and they mention turning the blog into something more than a travel blog. Perhaps a resource for the vagabonder to understand the ways and means they employed to break free. But I think there is even more than that. People are genuinely curious about what it takes from a planning perspective I think. What to do about things like mail, banking, phone service, US phone services. I think what is probably needed is a resource type site which can provide a deeper level of information for people departing their current situations and perhaps taking on the wanderer role. On top of that, there are the ways and means to get around in a new country, ways to plan the travel and maximize the resources that are provided for travel in Asia. I sometimes think a spreadsheet or table type thing that would let people browse the choices and make decisions that they may end up changing later but the resource base is there.

I have never seen a resource site tailored to people leaving forever. A life spent wandering sounds romantic and carefree and fun. And it is. But my belief is that you cannot leave the things at home to happenstance. The plan for leaving must be as good or better than the one you designed for the new place.

I also think there is a danger of over planning where you try to satisfy all the uniqueness by answering the question one woman asked me at a Pho place in Hanoi,

Where will you be a year from now?

I had no idea.

Getting back to this blog…

Now getting back to this weblog and some closing thought since I have been rambling on for awhile. My blog, Mikes Thoughts, is not meant to be a travel blog even though I blog things about my walks and places I go. It really is meant to encapsulate the life of this Mike. Goods and bads, Thoughts from a one time anthropologist and archeologist and program manager for large IT companies to a retired old guy that gets his kicks wandering roads that turn vigorously left and right. I don’t have ambitions for this blog to be anything more than it is. I want to be able to use it to communicate and create and if you choose to read it, good! If you don’t, I really don’t write this assuming you will read it. I do this more for myself. Perhaps I am the blogger cut from the old threads. Back when I started, bloggers created content. We did not have the monetization, branding, affiliates, ads to concern ourselves with. We simply wanted a place I believe to create. And it becomes like I’ve said before the 5 pound chicken and the 10 pound egg thing. You get constipated and upset and irritable if you don’t create. Its not so that 500 people will like your blog and follow it. Ask yourself, what is the real reason you do this? List it out. I have always done this to create and put words next to each other. The wandering thing and leaving the states happened to come along after I started the blog on wordpress.com.

So those were the thoughts during and after the walk today and perhaps some have been percolating around for awhile. I wanted to create a post that is not about my wandering so no link to photographs today folks.

Give it some thought though why you do this thing. Do you know the history of blogging and perhaps you’ve read some of those founders so to speak of the platform. Its come so far and its so different now. But for me, its the same. I write these things to create and place the words next to each other. I will leave it up to others to lift them higher an create resource content that can be used to help or guide or even transmit the knowledge. I just like to create the words. If you choose to read them, welcome. If not, I don’t really care. I don’t do this for you. Sorry.

The Hem in the Nick of Time in Ho Chi Minh City

Today was something different in Ho Chi Minh City. I decided to go for a longer investigation and get completely lost but I also wanted to find the “hems” or alleys of the city and see them. I also did this in Hanoi. The hems are fun places which are microcosms of the bigger city. Small shops and people come and go. Children run down the alleys laughing and smiling and I can hear the echoes of their “hellos” as they duck into a small shop to buy something or to find friends. I saw similar things in the small streets of Tokyo and Hiroshima. The alleys and small streets are cultural dynamos with people and things coming together in wonderful ways.

Finding a hem to explore is fun as well. You never know if one will end or if there will be connecting alleys that have even more surprises in store as you wander. I wandered one north of the old quarter in Hanoi where it ended and as I was walking back, one of the people sitting out in front motioned me to turn right. She was smiling I think knowing I wanted to explore the hem.

So today in Ho Chi Minh City I found one as well turned out to connect to another street that, in turn, connected to a street I wanted to get back home. I don’t like just taking the iPhone out to check Google Maps without trying to find my way. As I exited the hem today, the other thing I was wanting became evident. A Circle K store with ice cold water waiting for me. Ahh! To sit on the side of the street on a chunk of concrete or a step and drink that water. I felt renovated and continued on but the hem I found would not be repeated today. I don’t know what district it was in or where it connected or started. I also don’t know where it ends because as I turned away it continued across a major street.

So I got away today and got lost but got found. And in the work of doing both I managed to take some photographs of my voyages down a hem and other streets in Ho Chi Minh City. A wonderful day spent with steps and camera. Its like the thing I enjoy more than anything when venturing forth in a place.

Here is a link to the photographs from the day’s explorations. Its just updates to my shared Google Photo album but contains the “today” photos you can view. I will be going back tomorrow to something new or perhaps something old. Perhaps a museum tomorrow or a walk along the District 1 streets or a visit to the market may call me.

Capturing the Day — Another wondrous exploration of this city

Today I set forth late as usual to see this city. My goals were quite simple actually. Get to a street that looked good, power up the camera, walk some steps, and then start taking photographs of things which interest, puzzle, or make me laugh. Truth be told HCMC is a city that makes it easy to be that urban or travel photographer. Its a wonderful transition from quiet blocks to seeing the American Embassy to the Hard Rock Cafe. Then down to the riverside to look at the signature skyline of Ho Chi Minh City. I will go at night one of these nights and capture the scenes then as well but today was a day tour brought to you by my feet and my Fuji X Series camera.

Here are a few images in lieu of uploading to google photos which seems to be a problem now.

A beautiful city to wander in, find yourself, and then get lost again! Tomorrow is a repeat of today just in a different direction with no real purpose to it all.

Just a beautiful day out to experience the city folks. I got my steps in and took my photographs and then got back to my home stay place for some home cooked Vietnamese food. It was all good! Today was good and the reward was the seeing of things along the path I chose so randomly.

Tomorrow, more of the same. A different direction and focus perhaps. I don’t know. Tomorrow has not arrived yet. Tonight I will sit in my room and think about the things I’ve seen and how this slow travel has been so beneficial to seeing Vietnam.

Tomorrow comes along when it does!

Cheeseburgers and Fries in Ho Chi Minh City – Oh yeah!

So normally I write about my walks and the places I see, perhaps share some photographs of those places. I did have an interesting day today and visited a museum and a palace here in Ho Chi Minh City.

There is something else I want to write about and its food. Food on the road. You can imagine in Vietnam or Japan or Hong Kong, that there are restaurants galore. I have to say in Hanoi there was never a lack of places and I am finding my way around Ho Chi Minh City and there are the places as well. But I can only eat so much Pho or Bun Cha or noodles or sticky rice. My system craves something else. So every so often, I must cheeseburger and fry. Its not terribly difficult finding those places. In Hanoi it was S&L Diner. I met the American owner a few times there and we discussed eating in Hanoi and how the ex-pats and travelers visited. Unfortunately it was not always a positive sum game for him. I guess no matter how much you do, there is always someone who wants more.

But way back in Chennai I had a place too called Sparky’s Diner. It was a wonderful mix of food and the chef Thom coming out and talking with the guests. Lemonade was bottomless, the shakes were good, and the place had old signs all over the walls. As you walked downstairs it was like instead of getting out of the auto you had instead entered some kind of time machine and found yourself in a typical American diner.

Here in Ho Chi Minh City I found Chuck’s Burgers. I went tonight and it was everything I could expect. Great burgers and fries! I crave this sometimes I tell you. I have to have a burger and French fries. Why? I don’t know. I think that no matter how far I’ve gone there is still a stub left in me crying out for that one food that I truly love. I can eat local foods at street food stalls, restaurants, small places that only do Pho or Banh Mi. I love all that stuff. But it comes down to wanting a thing.

Like tonight it came down to desiring no steamed rice and veggies and stuff. I wanted the basic cheeseburger the way I like it. I don’t like Mayo or super secret sauces. I like the burger with tomato, lettuce, dill pickle and onion. I like the Fries all crispy and I want a thing of Catsup that will douse them liberally. Then I want to feel like its not a stretch for the place I choose. The fine folks at S&L in Hanoi always made the food the way I asked for it. Thom sadly now deceased knew that the grill in Chennai was an ex-pat and traveler favorite and cooked the same way. The Chucks Burgers guys in Ho Chi Minh City are the same. Its that understated thing with a burger and fries. You are not looking for some kinda big statement. Its that diner fare that satisfies and leaves you happy.

I don’t need it all the time or even most of the time but I know when I do. Its that feeling that a bowl of Pho or Bun Cha just won’t do it. I am craving that food. That one food which I can always find at a place like Hong Kong or Tokyo or Vietnam or Chennai India.

If you vagabond the world, sometimes you need the thing that takes it back home. Maybe just for that one 30 minutes to an hour and the owner from S&L would stop by and chat about eating and food and his happiness at bringing American food to Hanoi. I have the same feeling from Chucks Burgers. Its the case where the burger is just a thing but its the feeling it invokes that makes it more.

Now I’m back in my home stay and my tummy is happy and I feel that tangible satisfaction from giving in to that urge that comes over me for that burger. Another one is Pizza. I will find a good place to do Pizza because Vietnamese people simply love to eat! I had my favorite place in Hanoi for Pizza too. Not often but sometimes after walking and then sitting at Hoan Kiem Lake, I knew.

And that’s the best thing. Food brings the world closer together and I can find that one typical diner dish so common in America. And find the place where the people love to bring it, love to talk about it, love to see people eating.

Thanks to all the places that have fed me. But tonight I am in my happy tummy spot thanks to Chucks Burgers.