Angkor Museum, History and Thoughts – blogging and thoughts too

Another day in Siem Reap beckons. Today’s plan is to try a new bakery this morning and then head out to the Angkor National Museum for a few hours. Its a 30 minute walk from here give or take and that’s if I go in a straight line. I may decided to take a few extra turns.

I went down to Pub Street last night and walked back the longer way after getting a few tacos at this street food place. Yes tacos! They were really good and I enjoyed them on the walk back. I then stopped at this convenience store and got some chocolate chip cookies which also were quite good.

If you have not been to the Night Market or Pub Street in Siem Reap, its kind of unique I guess. The Night Market opens at night of course and there are stalls of people selling goods, a lot of food stalls selling just about every kind of street food including different fruit and ice cream concoctions, and a cast of characters that will hold your interest. You can stroll around for free and shop for clothing, souvenirs, or other stuff. Its not really like the Old Market in town. Its more of a arts and crafts and food thing. The Pub Street is a bunch of restaurants and bars, food stalls, massage parlors and yet another cast of characters. There are some prostitutes that ply the street and some of the massage front people are a bit more persistent. All in all, its just a fun place though. I don’t go often to Pub Street or the night market. I prefer this adjacent street called Sok San Road. The restaurants there are many but its a little quieter.

A nice thing wherever I have been is sitting out under the stars and eating and drinking. In Da Nang most of the restaurants along the riverwalk had tables set out outdoors so diners and drinkers could enjoy the evening. In Kampot it was the same. Here in Siem Reap the restaurants also have tables almost on the streets. Nothing like Hanoi where the streets were the dining areas for the most part. There, little plastic tables and chairs sprouted up on the streets at night and everyone wove around them, the street vendors selling Banh Mi or whatever, the shoeshine guys trying to damage your shoes first and then fix them. For a price of course.

One of my fav places is Kuriosity Kafe on Sok San. It has this elegant yet kind relaxed vibe. The menu is international and food and beer flows quickly. Beer is cheap and mostly tourists and ex-pats visit.

Update… Back from Museum

I had decided to wait to post this blogpost until after the museum today. After the bakery, I walked the longer way around to the museum. The Angkor Museum costs $12 to get in but I think its well worth the museum and its beautiful artifacts and history presented. The museum is divided into halls of different periods of history like pre-Angkor and Angkor and the carved stone artifacts, lintels and stele are just beautiful. These are all real artifacts from the various temples around Siem Reap and even farther to Vietnam and Thailand now. It gives you a view of the pre-Angkor period but the best part has to be the presentation of the Angkorian period and how Angkor Wat and its style. It may be better to go to the museum before, but I don’t think it really matters if you can read the displays at each of the sites. I got more out of the museum displays after being able to correspond a specific temple like Bayon with a style. Bayon temple is a intricate masterpiece of a temple with some of the most beautiful and stylized stone carvings. You get to see artifacts that were either lost to other governments including the US and those found during rescue archeology or ongoing preservation.

Since the museum is split on two floors, you can choose where to start but the museum interns gently guide you to the second floor first. In one of the displays are over 1000 figures of Buddha. Simply breathtaking and complex.

It’s difficult to present history in a compelling way. I dealt with this awhile back working at museums in New Mexico and California. What the anthropologists and historians think is important can be confusing to the visitor. Just presenting lineages or culture temporal frameworks means a lot to the studying professional and perhaps even to the avocational but visitors are more visual. This is where, I think, the Angkor Museum shines. There is an attention to detail which separates out the technical details and gives it back gently so you can grasp the significance of the 1000 years or so of history and even prehistoric information.

So my take is that this one of the nicest museum properties in Cambodia and should not be missed. There is a richness of display and the sweep of time is explained well. Its all reinforced by physical artifacts that depict how the different chronological ages relate to the historic sites you may visit on a tour.

A last thing…

You probably have realized it but this blog has no ads or content that someone else has purchased. I don’t do that. I think you come here for the words. The precious words that tie the thoughts together. I put some time into writing the words that then become content because it gives me pleasure to create but it also seems to be a need I have. I enjoy the creation of words and watching how my travels have moved across time and space.

If you blog and sell your content and write sponsored posts and have ads, good on you. If you create content that is then hard to read because of the ads or sponsored content, chances are you will get complaints. You are free to do as you please and I’m happy if you have found a path to blog profitably. Others have the same right to complain. Don’t confuse a privilege with a right.

Blogging has assuredly changed and someone from the old days that has stopped asked me,

why even continue?

It is really simple. Because I love to. And I have to. Its like the 5 pound chicken and 10 pound egg thing. I feel compelled to write words that become content that you may choose to read or not. This blog will not go away with zero followers. It simply does not matter to me. You can comment or follow or not. It is all okay by me. See a picture I post that you like? Just take it. You want to use it or to say you took it, I’m good with that. Its all a creative outlet for me and the photography I am still learning.

That’s about all I have to say about blogging for profit. I won’t do it and you can. No judgement given or taken. I wish you luck with it. Don’t complain too much if people ask questions about your ads though. You chose them. You live with them.

Day in Siem Reap Between this and that

I have two more weeks give or take a day in Siem Reap. I’ve done my temple tours and had a blast seeing the 10 temples spread over 3 different tours plus the morning at Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is a fun city to live in folks. My hotel is a little away from the downtown area. Walking to downtown takes about 10 minutes and you are at the old market and the Siem Reap River. From there you can reach shopping centers, restaurants and bars, Pub Street if you are so inclined, and other places like the Night Market which is fun to cruise through.

Down one street, Sok San Road are lots of restaurants and guest houses and so-called residences which look like more expensive hotels. The number and variety of Khmer restaurants is amazing down this street. I’ve found food for about $4.50 including two beers, noodles or curry or a dish like Amok or Lok Lak and rice. There are also very nice multi cuisine places where for a bit more you can get get western dishes. I could live for a long time on Khmer food but I do get the need for a burger or a plate of ribs or pizza. As far as pizza goes, right down the street is a small vendor that makes custom pizzas from a little stall. She has 9 different kinds of pizza and you stop there and order then visit the next coffee shop and get a smoothie or fruit shake. I don’t think there is anything comparable in the states to the food scene like in Vietnam and Cambodia.

In two weeks I go to Battambang which is the second largest city here in Cambodia. I’ll spend two weeks there and then go back to Phnom Penh and get some things done there I want like a haircut at the Tokyo Barber Shop and visiting a friend at a camera shop that got my FujiFilm camera fixed in Singapore.

My time is slowly ending for the touring around Cambodia I had decided months ago to do. I think the overall plan worked out well. I was able to get my multiple entry extension of stay retirement visa for a year in Cambodia. That was a huge deal for me. It provides the stability of always being able to re-enter Cambodia on the visa for a year.

In a little under two months I’ll leave for 5 months as I travel through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. That will get me through the first half of next year. By March, I will have the final part of the year scoped out and decided. I may go to Vietnam for three months in July and then come back and renew my retirement visa and then take off for China. I need to be back in Phnom Penh to get the Chinese tourist visa.

Anyways, just a grab bag of things which I’ve ben thinking of lately with the traveling between different cities here in Cambodia. Siem Reap has been a lot of fun and there is a lot to see and do here. I don’t think you would be bored here for a week or two. If you like food and having that occasional beer, there are much worse places. I have to admit though that Kampot really owns me now. I will get back there for a few weeks before leaving for Singapore in January.

Sitting here kinda watching the 2018 year come to an end, it has been interesting to see this first year of travel also come to an end. While I have not seen 30 countries and 3 continents in my year, I have felt very enriched by visiting the places in Vietnam, seeing Hong Kong again, getting to Japan, and finally Cambodia. The highlight for me has to be the time spent here in Cambodia and the time spent in my second home in Da Nang Vietnam.

The next few weeks I’ll be visiting more of the city, walking the streets and seeing local life here each day. Doing the usual camera explorations of city life, parks, and people. I never really have a plan on a place or thing to see. Usually its me and the feet and the camera.

Stay tuned though if you like reading my rambling and introspective approach to this slow travel mantra of mine. More to come!

Ankgor Wat – the Archeology and the Feelings

The final day of Temple Tours was upon me this morning at 430am. I had decided to get out to Angkor Wat temple then to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, the weather had clouded up a bit so the sunrise was not so glorious. But lets face it folks. If you can choose a place to be and one of them is standing next to Angkor Wat at 5am, that is pretty damned cool!

I spent another 2 hours exploring the temple. Its an excellent and unique place but its not the best. I think Bayon Temple is the best with its unique carvings and foot trails to see the different sights. Its also under active restoration so you end up seeing efforts to stabilize the temple walls, the higher levels, and even the ground structures. I think it gives a good idea about how active archeological preservation is with historic monumental architecture.

When I did archeology, it was prehistoric sites in the desert and mountains and southern plains and a dash of the Great Basin. These sites were completely different so restoration and protection was too. But some things remain constant at least to me. One is the work cannot impact the site more than natural forces. You cannot allow the restoration work to make the site appear different than what it was naturally intended. This takes more money and resources and talent. You need to measure and do science and ensure that the site’s material remains are correctly recorded and that perhaps the hardest thing is the thought and philosophy of the site. You cannot intrude on what the makers thought! When we protected rock art sites in the western Mojave desert it was not enough to simply cordon off an area and say “no entry”. The entry may have been a problem but the other problems were combinations of natural and social forces that would act on the site in a negative way. It always comes down to the twin forces of nature. Erosion and deposition. They are the hammers of life. Its not whether some force says protect them. It’s those forces folks. They act in so many ways to protect and damage the things of value.

So seeing the sites today and their protections by Chinese and Indian agencies under the watchful eye of UNESCO made me feel good. But never imagine that a site protected today is protected a decade from now or even next year. Budgets and people and feelings change. If I diverge for a moment to our current political environment, we have a president who denies climate change but asks about the weather. Probably the greatest deleterious impact to our natural and cultural resources and revenue is Trump. He simply seems dolefully ignorant of how a thing can affect other things. Our precious natural and cultural resources could be hampered or destroyed because Trump does not understand how climate change, not weather change, will negatively impact us, our cultures, our environments, and our natural and cultural resources.

It’s sad really. But its what we have. Nothing waits perennially for change. Cultural resources like Angkor Wat and natural resources like the Colorado River all require our protection. All of these things form a delicate balancing act between what we were, what we are, and what we shall become.

And in the final analysis, when you see Angkor Wat at sunrise or Chaco Canyon or the Grand Canyon or a myriad of other places, remember the none of these could be protected much longer. Do you want your legacy to see these things?

Visit the temples at Angkor Wat because they’re there and they may silently call you. A message across time and space. A whisper across the eons. Its the connection between the you now and the you to come. Don’t ignore it. It’s at your peril.

The Weekend Days in Siem Reap – Nice Hotel, Nice Walk

Today was more of a down day for me. Decided to pass on the breakfast at the hotel in favor of some pastry and hot latte down the street at a French bakery. I get tired of eggs each morning whether fried, scrambled or an omelette. Tomorrow being Sunday it may be time for another waffle at the rather nice laundry coffee shop down the street. The waffles are the real thing folks and they serve them with some butter and syrup and a nice cup of coffee.

Since was not a temple day or a tour day or a anything day at all; I decided to stroll the river farther than before and see what I could see. Its fun along the river because as I’ve mentioned previously, I really like bridges and there are any number of nice little bridges that cross the Siem Reap River. Each one has its own character whether its utilitarian and functional or beautiful and decorated. Pedestrians can cross on any of the bridges. So I walked down the river walk area past the usual tourist spots to more of the local community. At some arbitrary bridge, I decided to head back and get a Strawberry Smoothie at the Bangkok Cafe. Its a nice little place where you can rest, look at photos or read the news.

Finishing up after an hour it was the 0.5 mile walk back to the hotel from the river area and thinking about dinner. I am still looking at restaurants down this one street where there are lots of residences or hotels or long stay places. Lots of western and European places, lots of Khmer places that I keep finding more of like last night. I had the Cambodian noodles with beef, spring rolls, and two beers for $4.00. Cheapest yet I think for all that food. Tonight I will head further down the road and either do Indian food, a burger, or Khmer food at another place I found on the map. Since the places are next to each other and they are all next to really nice bars, its easy to find a place to sit for awhile after and nurse a beer or three and watch the people and also watch the waitstaff watching the people.

Tomorrow is the same kind of day but I will probably cross to the other side of the river and walk around over there for awhile. There are lots of streets with businesses, local rural areas, and shopping areas I have not seen yet. I also always seem to end up at the Old Market. Its probably one of my favorite markets since they have just about everything and if you are patient you can find it. Like I found this nice lady that sells better walking sandals that helps you fit them, gives you advice on sizing, and bargains a bit. I paid a decent amount for a second pair of sandals and my take is why buy some that cost $100 and then have them mailed if I get six months of wear for a pair of $20 sandals that I then need to buy again in Phnom Penh or Malaysia or wherever I happen to be. Unfortunately, my wonderful Merrell Moab shoes are approaching their end of life. I’ve worn them every day just about for 11 months now and walked lots of miles every place from Japan to Vietnam to Hong Kong and finally here in Cambodia. They are wonderful shoes but its the same deal with buying them as the expensive US sandals. I buy them then I have to have them shipped here which costs. By the time I’m done, the two costs equal 7 pair of sandals here. You can kinda figure what I go for 🙂

Monday is Temple Day…

This Monday is a very early day as I will go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat and then see three other temples that day. That’s it for the tours of temples here. I will have seen 10 temples all told here. I think that’s enough.

Its been wonderful also reading up on the temples on wikipedia and reading the conservation signs and pamphlets at each site to understand the reasons for building, when they were likely built, and their function if known. The temples are a major thing here in Siem Reap and the groups that manage the access, do security, and help tourists are excellent. Very professional people that take the job very seriously. Its a major archaeological and historic trove of information that is so well preserved in some places. Simply amazing! If you make it to Cambodia you should stop here for some time and see the temples. I opted for two packages but you could do one and see the major ones. Since I have a month here, there is no real rush but the issue I have is that the passes are only good for limited days. I bought the 3 day pass which I have to use in a week after its issued. Monday will be my last day on the pass.

The downward side of times in Siem Reap and then Onward!

When Thursday comes along, I’m on the downward side of things and will leave on December 15th for Battambang for two weeks. After that its a quick blur to when I go to Singapore and travel on for 5 months. I have not been back to Singapore since 2011 so it will be nice to see it again. Its expensive but so nice and I have friends there as well.

I’m pretty happy with the Cambodia adventures over the past months! Kampot was a good part of things for me. I may try again to go to Phu Quoc Island but not until I have the 90 day tourist visa for Vietnam already.

So this Saturday will wind down and it will be dinner time and then reading and relaxing in the AC room after getting my daily walk in. The steps become so much more to me each day. Each one takes me to a thing or place or park or nice city street where I can see a new thing, revisit a thing I have seen before, or just let it all go by and not focus on anything at all. Any of those are acceptable.

Siem Reap Temple Thoughts and Dreams

Today was my 5 temple tour day here in Siem Reap. To manage and control the photography, I have a simple control sheet that works for me quite well. I use the Ulysses App on my iPhone but you can use google docs or a text file or whatever as well. The main idea is if you are gonna visit multiple places in a day where there may be a bit of similarity you want some control over the images coming off the camera. The easiest way is to create a simple text document and include the name of each place and then note the starting and stopping image numbers. You may have to remove the SD card since when you export images as I did using the FujiFilm Remote app, the names get munged to new names. Its easier to just remove the SD card and mount it up or look at the images and do simple math. If you have a lot, its easier to remove the card and mount it. I use a nice Type C dongle that lets me see each image.

But lets talk about temples today. The 5 temples I was privileged and excited to see today were:

These temples are kinda scattered around so it’s easier to get a friendly tuk tuk driver that knows his way and get him to haul you around. It was a beautiful day for temple sightseeing today. Temperatures in the low 30s with some clouds. I don’t mind sweating since I seem to do so much of it walking the cities and trails here. Today I did about 6.4 miles on temple patrol!

Here’s the final outcome of my wonderful day. I have the album sorted earliest first so you can see each of the temples with the ordering above. Each of the temples and the last temple complex has unique features and subtleties. One has amazing waterway courses you walk over on a wooden sidewalk or path. Another has elaborate staircases to climb to the top. Yet another temple has carvings of intricate figurines and animals. There is no way to apply a standard measurement and you would have to spend a day at each one with more detailed photography to really appreciate the subtlety and differences. Tours and tuk tuks are not meant for that.

So what did I learn? All of the complexes were built within about a seven hundred year period and represent multiple chambers with outliers in smaller buildings. Some are preserved and others are not. The building style varies greatly and the last was almost a maze of access where you walked through numbers of small passageways to reach the next gate.

To give you an idea about each temple’s setting, I linked the temple to the wikipedia entry for each one above. This should help you get the historic context for each temple. But what about a personal favorite? Everyone always sees a place perhaps like Chaco Canyon or the Grand Canyon or another natural or historic site and has a favorite. My favorite from the day is the last temple complex. I include the word complex because it is. It is the only temple I went to that has entry and exits in the 4 directions. I did not really realize this until I got lost trying to find the exit I had entered. But the real thing is the complexity of the temple and its beauty. It is intricate with carvings and smaller outlier buildings and then a foot trail to let you see it all. It makes the Preah Khan temple the best for today for me. I also felt that it had command of the geography and produced a view of river moats, statuary, and beautiful buildings which did not compromise. My subjective feeling is that this temple demanded obedience to reach its interior grounds. Walking its internal pathway leads to numerous low and high barriers to entry much like other Wats. You have to want to get in.

Those Instagram Moments…

One of the things that was frustrating were those folks grabbing their instagram moments. Young men dressed down and their companions dressed up posing at various places, holding up the progress of people behind them, the women having to get to just the right spot with hands outstretched, sitting on a temple wall. The men with their big old Nikon or Canon cameras adjusting the pose, getting her to be just right for that one moment where you get the 900 likes. I just get the feeling of frustration with these folks. Its not the temple they are there to see. Its the moment of posting it in a coffee shoppe on Instagram and seeing the attachment rate. For me, I could care less what I post on Instagram. If you don’t like it, don’t follow me. I just share my photos there. I also share out my entire albums of JPEGs straight out of the camera. I don’t edit stuff. Some end up good. Some bad. It’s the way of it.

Closing Temple Thoughts…

If you visit the Siem Reap area, I think you should get to the Angkor Museum first to get a sense of context and who the rulers were and what they did but the Angkor park does a nice job of giving you information when you are there. Some of the temples take some walking but they have done a nice job of restoration and providing access for most people. Photography can be tricky of course. My rule was to set things to automatic where I could. I used Auto ISO and will always use aperture priority to around F/5.6 to F/8 given the light available. I just let the XT2 decide which it thinks the shutter speed and ISO should be. It does better than me and I was going from darker to lighter but I felt that f/5.6 was a good sweet spot for the type of photography. If I moved to more distant shots like at the last temple I changed to either F/8 or F/11 but kept the camera on auto ISO.

Perhaps I am not a purist but what I want are the remembrances and memories. I don’t shoot photography to please anyone. I do it to learn and be happy myself with the results. There is no final goal or picture being sold. If you like one of my works take it. I don’t really care.

My closing thoughts for the day are that there are way too many temples and I will still see 4 more on Monday. Angkor Wat at sunrise and then three more. These are huge complexes so I’ll spend more time cruising them on foot. I am still going to try to limit the photography since it’s easier to manage.

So there you have my closing temple and photography thoughts after a few hours of wandering. I walked a total of 6.4 miles today to see the temples including getting lost at the last one. That was fun!

Its gonna be time for dinner soon here. Tomorrow no places to really be so will go exploring again in the city.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018 – some thoughts and recollections

Thinking about a few things on Thanksgiving Day here in Cambodia. Not a holiday that is celebrated here; however a Khmer festival has been running for a few days called Water Festival. So its handy to have our Thanksgiving along with the Water Festival here where long boats take to the rivers to celebrate the reverse of current from the Tonle Sap. End of the wet season and beginning of the dry. Our Thanksgiving where we give thanks. A nice combination of holidays.

Speaking honestly, the last few years the holidays have become less for me. This is, however, the first holiday season where I did not have this huge project which hung over me and meant that I did not get the days off but sat on phone calls, in meetings, on my company cell phone with some network engineer and cloud architect in Colorado and Florida. A wondrous reprieve and perhaps a thing to be thankful for. Sometimes its a “pinch worthy” thing to remind myself that I do not have those things hanging over me any longer.

I also listen to people and read their blogs and accounts on twitter of their desire to travel the world, to be vagabonds, to find ways to become digital nomads, or perhaps to retire as an ex-pat in some foreign land. Another thing for me to be thankful for. While retirement income is no panacea and will hardly take you anywhere in the US, the truth is that if you want a change you can live comfortably and perhaps even well somewhere else. There are some things that I hesitate to call challenges. Cultures are completely different and how people act and react are different. Money means a lot in a cash culture like Cambodia. You have to get used to dealing with changes in how things as minor as your unlocked cell phone work. You have to find ways to get things done that are different and perhaps require a bit more work or at least different work. For food, there is no real challenge. Vietnamese and Khmer people simply love to eat and drink. Some boundary of a country drawn on a map does not impact what a person thinks of Fish Amok or Pho Ba. You may have to get used though to a different diet.

Travel may be different but it is cheaper. Hopping a tuk tuk to a place or flying is cheaper once you are here. Finding decent accommodation is easy once you are here. Finding ways around a city are different and learning how things operate in your new city or the one you are currently in are different.

Happiness is different as well. What used to make you happy may have been a house full of possessions, beautiful stereo equipment and large format TV, wonderful services a phone call away. In another land, these things are not what generates happiness. Its a simpler life where you gave up those things willingly to have something else. Happiness not tied to material possessions.

So all in all many of the things are so different but yet we are all human beings and we all share in some of the joys of being one. The smile that the Khmer children give me in the mornings and waves hello. When the Vietnamese gentleman in Saigon posed for me as I walked a small alley. Children in Hanoi shyly waving on the streets but wanting their picture taken. Beautiful young people in all the places saying hello, talking, laughing and finding the same basic joy in living. I had missed all that in the US. Something there was broken for years for me. It was the job and the stress of divorce and the aftermath. It was losing my friend Freelan and dealing with not knowing sometimes if I could leave. Then it was knowing in November of 2017 I would leave leave when I gave notice. As February rolled around and I knew that I would wake up on 1 March and not owe anyone anything, it was the supreme moment.

So all of this has made a difference and as I think back on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 it makes me realize that no matter where you are, you can make something better. Perhaps its not traveling slowly or finding a new country to kinda call home. Maybe it is. Maybe you are like me in some ways and want a sea change in your life. If not, it’s not a deal. You have a thing you want. You perhaps can see it glinting in tomorrow’s sun. It can be yours.

Then perhaps you can find the path to being happy. Life is not about sacrifice or giving everything away and adopting some minimalistic lifestyle which I happen to think is bogus. Its more about finding the path and then knowing what it takes to follow the path. If you have too many possessions, be a realist. You cannot pack the TV and the car and clothing as you go. So being a realist means they have to go. If you have suffered through the pains of a previous set of life events, they can be dropped but it takes so damned long sometimes. Nothing happens in a day and I’ve read that it can take years to get through all the stages of loss. So be prepared for that too.

Finally, chart your course and know that I have found the way to be happy on this Thanksgiving day in the Kingdom of Wonder. Its not a delicate path or one that requires huge amounts of work. There is nothing special to be done besides the goal you have to make a difference in your life.

You will notice I said nothing about friendship. There is a thing about friendship to me that sets the bar. If you want my friendship, I can be a loyal yet demanding and sometimes demented person. I am very egoistical, selfish, perhaps narcissistic. Those could be my better traits. I feel that a person must meet me at a place and give something of value and that the place I go to and the thing of value I have to give back is commensurate. To me, friendship is bartering a thing of value for a thing of equal value. You give me love. I give it back. You give me dedication, its back at you. You give little; don’t expect a lot from me. You don’t offer anything, its not friendship.

I’ve made and lost friends over the years because I have a set of requirements if you want in that palace. I have a few that are there but many have dropped out. They were not able to meet me at an equal place. It’s fine really. I don’t wish them any less of a happy Thanksgiving.

The reality is that I have found a thing I value and I know how to get from where I was to where I am now. Its not so much of a climb and you don’t have to sacrifice. You can find your warrior and move forward and become both less and more. Some of the things above were met and some I still am challenged by. A friend asked whether I wanted someone else in my life. Someone to share the holidays with. Someone to travel with. The answer is no. For the decades I gave to it, I gave to it. I reached the end of that rope and that climb.

So I’m thankful for what I have and have not. I’m thankful to never have to work and worry about money ever again. I’m thankful for the walks I do every day and the people I see. For my few friends, I am thankful for them. Life for me has again become something to be thankful for. I miss sometimes my boss Lee and his boss Payman. Both were friends and both helped me in so many ways realize my final goals which they really did not know until November of 2017 when I gave notice.

So if you want to chart a course and whether its down the street or flying to Asia, I’m here to tell you that with retirement and basic planning you can be happy too. I only talk about those retired because its my current path. There is no real secret to doing it. No special character or values you need besides the ones I elaborated above.

Mostly be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day 2018 for your have’s and have not’s. I am.

Siem Reap and its Temples – sites to see and places to go!

The Temples in Siem Reap chronicles began today. Very exciting to start touring the various temples and took a long tuk tuk ride through the country around Siem Reap as well. All told I will visit 10 temples over 2 days coming up. I bought the 7 day pass for three visits so I have to use the card before next Wednesday. So the temples are just all over the place and I think there are more than the ones I will see but I am gonna give it my best shot to see the variety including next Monday at Angkor Wat for sunrise. I have to be up ready to go at 5am that day.

I may do one additional tour to Tonle Sap which takes some hours via a car to do. I would like to see it. Its a biodiversity preserve and recognized by UNESCO. So what to think of the temples? They are magnificent and the ones I’ve seen are in good shape and some are being restored that have had issues. I am hopeful that the government can protect the land surrounding the temples and not let construction or other projects occur close to them. I’m looking forward to Friday when I get the second tour to see 5 temples and then on Monday when I see the final 4 temples. Its all good!

When I’m done with the tours of the temples, I am definitely not done. I still have two weeks left here to hang out, eat good food, wander the city and finally prepare for my trip to Battambang. The year is winding up and it is hard to believe it is gonna be Thanksgiving weekend in the states soon. I’ll spend Christmas in Battambang and New Years in Phnom Penh this year.

I’ve been considering a bit about creating something on the so-called written page. I’ve had a few ideas flit about. I started working on one but it felt like it was not a thing to go forward with. The best way for me to start is to start creating ideas on Ulysses and then start building new sheets are I see things which I want to write on. I’ve mentioned Ulysses before but it really a writer’s and notetaker’s tool for sure. I have it sync’ing in iCloud so I can use the mobile app as well. My problem is that I don’t use the IOS app at all it seems like.

The remaining parts of the year will be interesting since I will be getting back to Phnom Penh and then back to Kampot before leaving for Singapore. I hope to see some friends that live and work there but we shall see. If not, its not like there is a dearth of things to do in Singapore. I’m excited about the travels for next year but Cambodia is just a lot of fun for me now. This is the place I wanted whether its in Phnom Penh or Kampot. I do think its one of those two places. But even staying there longer is not living there. I will only stay to get things back together before leaving again on another slow perambulation somewhere.

That’s about it for now. Thanks for reading along. Its been fun being in Siem Reap! The food and coffee culture here are very nice! People are friendly and the sights to see are good

A camera, a tuk tuk driver, life adventures in Siem Reap

An adventure with a camera, a bus, a tuk tuk driver, and the great hotel owners was had today. My XT2 camera was shipped from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a bus line. The camera shop told me the name of the bus service but little did I know there was more than one office where packages were received. Of course our first stop was the wrong one and they had no idea where my camera might be. Finally they checked in some database and found it was at the other office. So off we went in the tuk tuk again. It was a few kilometers from the first one. Once there everything was done by my cell phone number so after showing the number to the package person, he produced a little box with my phone number on it and my tuk tuk driver took me back to the hotel. The driver only wanted $4 for the entire thing but of course I gave him more money. Without him, I would not have figured out what to do and when I did, it would have taken twice as long. He just came into the shop and talked with the first office manager who only shook his head but the tuk tuk driver would not let it go. Finally they confirmed we had to go to the other office. So off we went. There I was able to get the camera and then return to the hotel.

Another amazing Cambodian life adventure completed! Usually everything all works itself out but the methods to get there are different. It helps to find someone like the wife of the hotel owner who speaks very good English to help navigate the stops with the tuk tuk driver. But the hero of the day was the amazing tuk tuk driver and he walked into each shop with me, talked with the bus company people, and ensured I was able to get things done.

The camera made an amazing journey on its own I figure. It went from Phnom Penh to Singapore where the Fuji center there fixed it. I believe the camera owner may have picked it up when he went back to Singapore and hand carried it back to Phnom Penh. Then it was boxed up and put on a bus and sent to me here in Siem Reap. It cost me $5.00 to have it shipped here on the bus. Now I have the camera back and the shutter button feels great! I think they replaced the whole top housing part of the camera in Singapore.

This was thanks to FujiFilm US who saw my post on twitter and organized it to be fixed in Singapore which was not in the warranty. It should have gone back to Vietnam and the service center there but I declined that. I wanted it fixed the way I wanted to do it and the camera shop in Phnom Penh was there for me. Those guys are photo warriors! I’m glad to have that association when I return every so often.

Tomorrow is another amazing adventure! I bought a set of tours that begins tomorrow at 830 and will go for two more days through the hotel with tuk tuk rides to the different historic parks. I am so excited to go! I have wanted to visit for a long time and tomorrow is the first of three. I get to shoot the temples with the XT2 camera which makes me very happy!

Then tonight after getting the camera taken care of I had decided to have a burger but the place is closed until next week so I had a bowl of this delicious Angkor stew with some great spices and chicken in it served over rice and with two cold draft beers. Really good! And it all cost $4. Made a great end to the day and now I can sit and relax in the hotel room and dream about temple complexes and archeology and history and also having my XT2 toy back.

Shopping and Walking and Living…

I also have been able to replace all of the things I wished to here in Cambodia. I got new t shirts, socks and two pair of comfortable sandals which I had thought I would not find but after searching the old market more carefully there were at least 5 stalls with shoes. Socks were interesting. While the mall had shoes, they had no socks. I found this little clothing store down from my hotel and paid $1 a pair for socks. I still cannot find shoelaces. Strange. I keep on thinking there is somewhere that has them but still have not met with success.

I also went for a nice walk today and just took aimless photos of just about everything I saw. In other words, what I usually do. I stopped at this Cafe Amazon and met the entire staff there. All very nice young Khmer people who wanted to know where I was from, whether I liked Cambodia, and they were quite excited to hear I lived sorta kinda in Cambodia. I really like the young people here. Very friendly, lots of smiles.

Living here in Siem Reap for a longer time is not really difficult. You find the places that will do laundry, where you can buy essentials like hair shampoo, bar soap and toothpaste, where the latte stand is. Most of all what is the best Cambodian market in town. The markets are social hubs too and you can take care of lots of errand type stuff at one. I visit the old market just about every day and its fair to say I find something new most days by carefully wandering around with an iced coffee.

Anyways, that’s a wrap on an interesting yet fun day in Siem Reap. Thanks to the hotel and the tuk tuk driver and just the kindness of the people here it all worked out pretty well for me.

Its the day by day thing folks – Travel well and go slow!

Today I took care of a final step to get my FujiFilm XT2 camera back from the Camera shop in Phnom Penh. They helped me get it fixed by hand carrying it to the Fuji Center in Singapore. Then they had Fuji ship it back to Cambodia  when it was done.

Now the camera sits in the camera shop in Phnom Penh and I had to deposit $10 US in a bank account that the owner has to pay for shipping to me in Siem Reap. The camera will be shipped via a bus transportation service and I will have to go to the bus station and most likely present picture ID to get the camera. The only thing I have is my passport so that will have to do. It works for everything else here so its good enough :-).

I was going to go to Angkor Wat on Tuesday but now I want to have the XT2 camera back before I go. I really want to use that camera for the visits and tours to the temples here. Since I have a month here, there is no real rush to get a thing done and I can wander the city every day and never get tired of seeing it. The XT2 just gives me a better feeling but I also don’t trust it. I worry I guess that the same thing could happen again to the shutter button and who knows where I would be when it would happen. I’m thankful that I met the camera shop owner in Phnom Penh and he helped me so much get the camera fixed. When I get back to Phnom Penh, I will go see him at the shop and give him monetary thanks for the help!

Life Daily in Siem Reap…

The daily life of this Mike is about the same here as in other places where I spend a longer time. It seems like the first few days I’m in a rush to do things but soon that feeling kinda leaves and I settle in knowing I still have three weeks left as of this Thursday to see the temples, museums, the city and the people. It creates a different vibe for me when I realize I can slow down and not feel the rush that comes with only having 4 or 5 days here. I don’t like traveling that way. In retrospect, I could have not done Hoi An Vietnam at all and added the time to Hue Vietnam. I liked Hue a lot more for the history. I probably could have spent even longer in Da Nang Vietnam. There was something about the city which just appealed to me. If I do go back, I will probably spend longer in Da Nang and shorter in Saigon and Hanoi. I can get the three month tourist visa and spend the most time in Da Nang I figure.

What I guess it gets me to is how the amount of time just works for me on my slow travels. A month just seems to be perfect for most places although Otres Village was kind of stretching it and Kampot was kinda short. I could have done three weeks in Kampot and a week in Otres and called it a done deal.

So when I measure the daily life in places and try to see the quality I enjoy, I always seem to have that rushed feeling at first and then I slow down. It has taken me about 5 days here to realize there is no real rush to doing a thing like seeing the Wats here. I can go at a slower pace, enjoy daily walks with the camera in the city and by the river, go through the markets here, and just enjoy the days at coffee shops, nice restaurants, and strolling.

I’m really thankful in the end for not having some rushed life where I allocate a few days to a place that I then look back on and wish I could have spent longer. I have made the mistake of staying longer in a place though and wishing I could have traded the times around. Truth is I am not done with Cambodia and will do more traveling in the country over the next year. Daily life goes on here in Siem Reap and it will go on in other places.

Balancing it Forward

There is a feeling I get about the balancing of the way I travel and how it seems each time to take a bit to get balanced and to feel not in a rush. I think by the nature of traveling we equate a beginning and end and often the time is days. Perhaps we have it bred in to ourselves to expect shorter times at destinations when we travel. When that whole thing breaks down because time has slowed down and space is wide open we see a different reality. Its a day by day thing in a place like Saigon or Siem Reap. Suddenly each day becomes longer and perhaps has less meaning. The steps I take today and tomorrow become less meaningful in themselves but what becomes very significant is what I see and how I feel and how good the Strawberry Smoothie tastes when I’m done.

So if you can, try to balance the travel forward. Try to be less about the number of places and more about the quality of the moments. I think if you can do that and spend longer and lose the sense of day counts and tours taken and get back to the basic thing about the city, the sights and sounds, the camera; you lose that other sense that time marches on and you have to as well.

No you don’t. You can choose a slower mode of travel and not see the 3 continents and 45 countries. What if you balance it forward and you only see 3 countries in 90 days? You have not failed! You have found the you in places and may find that small side street in Tokyo that beckons you to explore without the tour bus or the alley in Hanoi which is mysterious and only allows bicycles and people?

It is all there when you can balance the travel and you. Perhaps then you come out the winner. Give it some thought. Break the time sequence and embrace the moments.

First Week in Siem Reap — food, fun, places to see

My next week activities in Siem Reap will be on one of three tours through the hotel. I’ll be able to visit almost all of the major temple historic sites starting this Tuesday. Since you have to buy a pass at the gate of the historic site, the hotel recommends a 3 day pass which will cost about $70. I may do a tour a week with them which will get me through the end of my stay. I think the main thing is to go slow through the tours and also be able to see more of the city in-between times.

I’ve had a good first week in the city. If you come here the coffee and food scene is very nice here. You can find international restaurants, very nice coffee houses, and the little latte stands that I really like here. A freshly made latte will set you back about $1.50 and its pretty good sized. The price for a decent Khmer dinner is about $5.00 which includes a beer. I splurge a bit and usually get two entrees since I only eat breakfast and dinner. Getting around Siem Reap if you don’t like walking is pretty easy with a Tuk Tuk but I prefer to walk everywhere so I plan a day of walking each day. Its hot here so I am usually drenched in sweat when I get back but its the same thing as in Hanoi or Saigon or wherever. Perhaps I’m used to it by now.

Shopping Notes and Nots

If you need things here or want things here, try the Old Market by the river. Its a big and rather complex market but I wanted a few things. First I wanted some extra T shirts which is quite easy here. Just about any stall has cheap T shirts and they all seem to have XXL size which is nice! Secondly, I wanted some cheap walking sandals. That required me to search a bit more in the market but right about dead center in the market are shoe stalls where the lady let me try on different sizes to determine luckily I wear a common size here. Finally, I needed new socks. But try as I might and I tried twice, I could not find socks in the market. I ended up down the street at this little clothing store where mostly they have used clothing but in the front were socks in my size for $1.00 a pair. Cheap! I may end up getting a new belt and that’s easy too in the market. Not sure how much belts run here but I’ve seen some nice ones in a few stalls.

So I would say you can find about 90% of what you may want if you are on the road in most of the markets in Cambodia. It may require some patience and perseverance; but it’s definitely doable. Its also worthwhile to haggle and offer something kinda low at first after you hear their price. I got the woman with the shoes to drop $15 off each pair which was nice.

There is really no reason to buy expensive stuff if you are just gonna wear it to walk through the rather hot Cambodian sun and see stuff. The shopping malls cater to a different world of people than me. I saw clothing for some amazing prices and would not buy the types of clothing I wear which is t shirts, lightweight cargo shorts with lots of pockets, socks and decent shoes. After looking around yesterday in a few malls and shopping centers, the prices are better to buy things like toothpaste, shampoo, bath soap in either the market or a small mini mart or local shop. I would say the local shops have the best prices of all.

Next Steps and Stops

So next up is Angkor Was and some of its other sites this week! I’m pretty excited about going since its one of the main reasons I came here. I want to be able to leave in 3 weeks and feel I got to see a good sample of the historic sites and the Angkor museum which I can walk to tomorrow before going to the historic site.

I also have areas of the city still to see and a whole bunch of restaurants, coffee shops and pubs left to sample. Its all fun and my time winds down to 15 December when I leave here for Battambang for two weeks. Siem Reap has been one of the most fun cities but I still like Kampot more. Its a slower pace, less people, but still really good food choices. The riverwalk there is a slow amble. Here it’s a faster tourist stroll. I don’t think I would choose to live here compared to a place like Kampot if I were to decide to stay longer in a place. It is possible that I could stay somewhere for months on my retirement visa.

So, anyways, it has been a good first week and the time as usual goes by a bit faster than what I think it will. Each city I have been to has had a set of things that recommend it or that I find interesting and fun. While I would not go back to Sihanoukville, I would come back to Siem Reap. I guess that’s saying something!

I’ll be writing some words of wisdom later in the week once I get the first tour under my belt and am able to see some amazing history here.