90 days in Vietnam – Thoughts of the time spent on the road…

A day of transition awaits me today folks. I decided to take it easy today, enjoy my last day in Hanoi with some breakfast at Joma’s Bakery in the old quarter and generally get ready to go. Its dawned on me that I have lived here in Hanoi for three months give or take a day. I’ve been on this slow vagabond since 1 March when I first left for Japan. On 16 March I left for Hanoi. In the spirit of recollection and memory, a few of the highiights of the last months in no particular order:

  1. Japan! Japan was definitely a highlight. There is something about the country and the places I went this time which were magical. I truly love Tokyo but being able to visit Osaka and Hiroshima was key! Also wandering each city for 5 to 6 hours and thousands of steps with the Fuji camera was great. The weather was kind of transitional for Japan but about what I expected. Springtime is cold, rainy, sunny, windy. In other words like it is when you go outdoors! The walking in Japan was really good and a few I remember was walking to the Akihabara down almost deserted city streets and then coming upon the electric lights of technology town! Another memory were the two times I stopped for beer and lunch in the Lion Beer Hall in the Ginza. I have been to that place since the 1970s so its special. Another big deal was seeing the Atomic dome and park in Hiroshima. There is something that is key there folks. A thing we have to remember. These weapons are not meant for diplomacy or bargaining. They are terrible things and the power unleashed will destroy us. Yet another thing was riding the Shinkansen trains on the Nozomi Line which is the fastest and most express line. Traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima was just cool! A final thing was Osaka. Its so big that 4.5 days does not do it credit. But yet I am not sure I will get back any time soon.
  2. Vietnam! I have to say that Vietnam is a special place in so many ways. Its people are kind and generous and fun. They love to eat and drink. Socialize in the afternoons at coffee shops and in the evenings at Beer places. The highlights had to be the daily walking of Hanoi. Rarely have I seen a city day after day for months like what I have done here. Usually in the past its just been a day or two. This stay was a longer excursion on a daily basis. Very cool to just set out with camera in hand and go a different direction. Another highlight were the side trips and tours. I loved seeing Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue plus the day tours I’ve done. But the big thing is I am not done with Vietnam. I’ll get back and get more highlights and things done.

Someone would say what about lows or things that were negative. There have been those things. I have been scammed with clothing a total of one time here and do not like the nature of some of the high pressure tactics of those selling rides, tourist doodads, and other things. I think they do a disservice to the tourist industry here in some regards but on the other hand, the same things happen in other places so its a mixed bag. Nothing else notable on the negative side has happened. I did not ever get food poisoning or even sick here.

Now how about some key enabling things which have made my trips better? I think one of the things is always getting a prepaid SIM card in each place. In Japan, getting the NTT Docomo data card meant a lot of freedom from the constant hunt for wifi. Having pre-bought the SIM for Japan meant it was ready for me when I landed. A second thing was having the Shinkansen tickets already. Much easier to navigate the amazing Tokyo Station with the tickets in hand.

Here in Vietnam, I think the same kind of things with a few differences since I am staying longer. I bought the Viettel SIM card which renews every month with plenty of data on it plus a real phone number. I have used the number one time here and tend to use WhatsApp or the Hushed App these days on my iPhone. Also having the initial room booked here was a good thing and also working on booking the side trip tickets on Vietnam Airlines was key. I would highly recommend two travel booking sites. Those are Agoda and Booking.com. Both work very well here! For Asia travel, I recommend you looking at 12go as a combination travel site throughout Asia. Its made it easier to do some farther out planning for Cambodia and also buy bus tickets when I wanted to ensure I could get tickets to different places there.

Summary Thoughts and Ideas

I’ve come up with a few. Be sure if you can to have a single source for your plans. I tend to create notes in Ulysses but the primary app is Google Calendar for me. It gets booking emails from the agencies and airline companies, lets me put in holding dates for things, and do attachments. The beauty of Ulysses though is the richness and ability to transfer information from a journal or inbox or idea to the blog folder or group and create a blog post like this one in mere minutes. I can also work offline if need be.

Another thing which is good for me but may be bad for you is traveling slowly. By slowly I do not mean two weeks in a place. I mean months in a place. The requirement is to do your Visa homework and ensure you understand the legal ramifications and what you need to do to get that long stay Visa. As an example Vietnam requires a departure after 90 days and then I get the rest of the time. Other countries may have different requirements. I suggest getting an account on ExPat.com and checking out how the fora work there and reading the excellent posts by long term ExPats in the places you may want to go. I have understood a few of the vagaries of the Cambodian Visa process and my ability to easily get an retirement extension of stay thanks to that community.

To stay long in a place does not require a plan for the day to day. I believe you stay long in a place to not have a plan for that. What you want is the freedom to declare a direction to walk, a place to go, a thing to see. I also believe others that may be RTW type travelers or backpackers cannot do this. Their time is limited or perhaps they have a more extreme set of needs for seeing places. All of this is about your needs and expectations though but also with some baseline research done on whether what you want to do can be done in a place.

For me, and I am but but an experiment of one; the long stay vagabonding and living in a place like Hanoi has set the stage and proven out what I expected. For me, this is the way to go!

Enjoy your time on the road. Be the best vagabond you can be. See you in Hong Kong!