Walking the Cities – There is no means to this end

For the last six months I’ve been walking with the Fuji camera for about 5 to 7 miles each day. I have a basic goal which is to get over 10k steps and have a simple pedometer app on my iPhone to help me along. Truth is most days I do more. Yesterday I went about 6 miles walking and Monday it was over 7 miles. I really don’t notice though because I’m doing this as part of my mission to see the cities I am living in by walking them. Instead of doing photography out of a bus or train window or whatever, the walking to see things lets me also stop along the way at interesting or unusual stops. I really admire my friend Mikka Luster for walking the Camino walks the way he does! Linking to his German Hiking Blog which I shamelessly have chrome translate. Please read his blog on his travels and walking. I find it very interesting and wonderful how he combines pictures and words into a compelling story! Thanks Mikka!

I think the main thing for me though is the movement each day that I do. I don’t have some challenge to overcome and I have taken days off after longer walks. One day in Hanoi did almost 10 miles in a day which was a bit much for me. Now normally its about 5 to 7 miles a day. I also most days only eat dinner as a real meal though I may have a smaller breakfast or some days go a bakery or pastry shop which in Vietnam is really well done! Dinners here are usually cheaper Vietnamese food although last night I had an interesting Pad Thai dish that was a cross of Vietnamese and Thai. I do succumb to burgers, pizza, and other stuff here because believe it or not across Vietnam it is very easy to eat all kinds of food and not just the Pho or Bun Cha or whatever. I’ve had a variety of other foods too here and especially in Hanoi where street food rules and coffee holds court!

I wanted to discuss though that the real way to see a city and get the sense of it is to walk it. Take a direction, find a map, get your smart phone camera or your real camera all charged up and just go. If you get lost, you can get found again. The touristy areas in Da Nang are nice at times and I admit to enjoying a beer out at some nice bars. But seeing the city streets, hearing the greetings from young and old make you realize that there is more to seeing a place than walking the tourist haunts. Almost like believing all there is in Hanoi is the Old Quarter. Each city, like I’ve said about Ho Chi Minh City, is a city of cities.

Walking though brings you to another level with the city. You get to see it around you and you can stop, watch things, take photographs and continue. The best camera is the one you have for this. There is no real need to buy some expensive DSLR that pokes out 5 feet with its awkward telephoto lens to be unobtrusive and try to blend in so you get real photographs of real people doing what they really do. I like capturing the photo’s with the FujiFilm X100F but if I did not have it, it would be my smartphone camera. I saw this one guy in Saigon taking street photos with the huge lens on his Nikon or Canon or Sony or whatever. I always wonder why people do that. But, hey, each person to their thing I guess.

The walking though lets you travel through the life of a city. Its like arteries and blood flow and resources and stuff. Consider that streets are like the arteries of the city. They are small and narrow or broad passages from place to place. Sure you can travel on the tour bus and see a stop or two but the best way is to get off the bus, get some comfortable shoes and clothes on and go. I would not recommend jeans except perhaps in the central highlands like Da Lat. Its way too warm here. Just get cheap knock off North Face cargo shorts for like $7.50 per pair if that and go. Shoes are important. They are the layer between your cute little feet and that ground below. I would not wear flip flops on long walks. Sidewalks are uneven, sometimes it rains. Oftentimes you are navigating places where shoes with a grip are important.

Also find yourself a backpack which you can use to securely hold your stuff. Do not flash smart phones or expensive cameras or hold in them in your hand. The camera should go around your neck on a strap or across your body. The phone should only come out when you are sure of the security of the location. If you are out walking a city, do NOT TAKE WALLET AND PASSPORT! I put this in caps because its important. Wallets and passports can be lifted no matter what city you are in. In Vietnam there is no requirement to carry your passport. Leave it hidden away or locked up. Same with your wallet.

Finally, book a day tour when it makes sense to book a day tour. Some things like in Da Lat I had to. The gain from that was immeasurable for some personal reasons which perhaps one day I will try to write about again. But gauge what you will accomplish with the tour. If its just to drive city streets what is the point? I also stay away from the motorbikes because they only take you where they think you want to go. I prefer riding in comfort seeing places anyways so I pay more. Its your time though so go forth and enjoy.

Walking the last six months has meant the difference in so many ways to experiencing the cities up front and personal. Its the most basic method to transportation we have. It gets you out into the world and you see the bridges, people, roads, stores at a new level. One foot in front of the other. The world opens up and lets you see a new view of it hidden when driving or on a bus.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.