One year on the road and retired

Today a year ago I retired from my job and packed the final things, got rid of some remaining things in my upstairs room in the house I shared in Newark, California and went to work the last time. I did a few calls that day, tried to reach my manager to say goodbye, turned in laptop and company smartphone, gave and received a lot of hugs, and left. I walked to the parking lot and drove my car for the last time to my ex-wife’s house in Union City, California. There I dropped off a rubbermaid container of papers and pictures. Basically a boiled down, reduced life in one smaller heavy duty rubber container. I gave my ex-wife the title to the car and signed it over to her. This would be the last time I would have to carry keys in my pocket for anything. I then walked to the BART station and rode over to a stop by the airport hotel I would stay in one night before flying to Japan on 1 March.

The blog details many of the things I found and did from 2018 until now. Its been a year just about of traveling, seeing, and doing. I have walked just about every day from about 5 to 10 miles. I’ve taken a whole bunch of photographs. Good thing Google Photos does not mind and has bottomless storage.

I’ve tried to document my travels on twitter but have given up pretty much on that platform. I deleted two instagram accounts and created a new one for kicks. I am still on facebook but have branched out to Mastodon as the social media expression I enjoy most. There are no ads and I love the federated and instance based approach to finding a site based on interests. I blog most every day and I journal my private thoughts most every day. I used OneNote for awhile for things but have since changed to Google Docs and Sheets for travel and personal stuff.

Its been a year. Quite a year. I miss some things but don’t miss the work at all. I miss some of the people but not all of them. There are many people when I leave twitter I don’t miss at all. Perhaps I will delete my account there again and just let it go. I don’t get travel value from the people there at all or any personal enrichment or fun or profit or anything. I am not looking to monetize my blog, add ads, do sponsored posts, grow my instagram following, pin it on Pinterest.

What I will do is to to continue to write on my travels primarily on my blog and post photographs on instagram and my Mastodon account.

Its been a year. What a year it’s been. Places and things and wondrous events have transpired. I cannot see myself ever going back to the States permanently to live. Everything is in a small rubbermaid container. I could not live in there.

Adventures in Chinatown in Melaka

Today I had decided to adventure around Chinatown which is a set of blocks and temples, stores and restaurants which kind of lead one back to Jonker Street. I set out after breakfast this morning with the camera to walk the different blocks, look at the architecture and shops and people and most of all try to find a sample of the area in the blocks I walked.

I think I was successful overall but as in most things the tapestry and looks of a thing changes even from the day to night but I do feel that I was able to walk some very entertaining blocks, see some interesting people, and also some very unique architecture. I have a thing for smaller business signs, windows, and architecture by itself which does not amount to much. With the FujiFilm X100F its easy to capture things like this since the camera is so small and easily carried. I’m forever thankful to have the Fuji camera as my travel buddy. Anyways, here are the days adventures so you can see what I saw today. Since I randomly walked the streets and alleys, I have no idea where I was at any specific time. For me, it makes the day more interesting and random. For you, it may not provide context. For that I’m sorry but its just the way I go.

Some basic comments though that you may find interesting about Chinatown.

Streets, alleys, side streets. These streets seem to run randomly through the blocks that make up chinatown. Many of the major streets end up either at Jonker Street or back at Malacca River and a bridge. The streets also kind of roam in a certain pattern which I suspect is not just random. When you walk the streets in Chinatown, you see alleys and side streets criss-crossing the area. Some are very small but yet cars go down them albeit slowly. The streets seem to not be one way but I only have seen cars going one way down most of them. Very interesting if you like streets and alleys like I do!

Shops and Restaurants. Dotting the streets are small shops selling pharmacy items, food, tea, kopi, artwork and souvenirs, and yet other shops which are small labor shops for metal workers, smithies of some sort, and family construction work. Very interesting when you look at the intricate storefronts and displays that advertise the shops.

Ads, Billboards, Street Art. There is a nice component of this as you can see in the pictures. There are nice signs for coffee and tea, a few signs of more abstract design, and then there are wonderful hand painted store fronts that emerge as you go. It really creates a dynamic and diverse yet consistent environment that you have to see. I believe if you have visited other Chinatowns you know how this works.

Temples, Shrines, Places of Worship. Lots of these including a Tamil church, many Chinese temples and shrines, and historic buildings and museums that may have been temples at first. Melaka is a very interesting historic town so you get a look at this in Chinatown all reduced to a set of streets and alleys, shops and restaurants and the arts.

I hope that helps explain the pictures a bit! It was a lot of fun today to explore. Now I’ll transition you to my evening because I own the words 🙂

Evening and Food and Beer

So I had decided to visit a Chinese restaurant tonight to eat that is a block away. Why? Because the Chinese restaurants sell beer and I like to have a few beers with dinner. Sure enough the one I chose had a variety of menu items and the folks spoke English so ordering was quite easy. I had a nice pork rib curry dinner with steamed rice and two small tiger beers. Its always funny both here and in Singapore that the beer costs more than the food overall. I paid about $2.50 for the dinner which was quite a deal but adding in the beer made the dinner cost a few dollars more. It does not really matter because after walking through Chinatown all morning having that cold beer and dinner really worked well! If you are coming here, my hint is to find a Chinese restaurant if you want beer. All of them I think sell Tiger beers or others. I just find the food to taste better with a cold beer.

Final thing or three…

I’m fast approaching my year living in Southeast Asia. I will be there in a few days. Its been an interesting time for me but I will be posting a retrospective type thing about how all this has come about, the places I have been so lucky to see, and my adventures going forward. I feel very fortunate to have this life now. I’ve been able to define the value and worth of my life. Its something for a long time I had wondered if I could. Now the days and hours and moments are mine. I can define what they are comprised of. Reading, walking, taking pictures, eating good food and drinking cheap beer. Its all part of the bigger thing which came about in 2018.

Anyways, stay tuned for that post. It will come up about 1 March or so.

A week and change to go until Port Dickson

Port Dickson is another place I have not been. But will spend just a few days there and then get back to Petaling Jaya for a few days to meet up with a friend I worked with at IBM for some years. We have tried to meet before while we both were working for IBM but our projects and timelines seemed to conspire against us. I decided to just spend a few nights there and get to see him and perhaps see a friend that lives in Singapore but works often in KL. On the 15th I’ll fly out on my last minute 5 day trip before going up north to Penang for a month. I’m pretty excited to be staying in Penang at a nice Airbnb place where I can have the entire condo to myself and not have the usual hotel things going on.

I don’t like coming up with lists of places I have to go but I also know if I don’t plan a few days at the end to reach a museum, a palace that was restored, and a Portuguese settlement I may miss it. So my last few days are the “must see” places. Up until then its the wandering around camera in hand I just like to do.

I did come up with a sorta kinda list though. Here it is for you link bait aficionados:

Food. You have to try the Nonya food here. There is a delicious pineapple prawn curry dish with steamed rice that is so good. Also get to the Muslim places and have some Tandoori chicken or roti or whatever. Also you must try the traditional breakfast of Half-Boiled eggs, toast bread, perhaps some chicken rice, and a cup of kopi or coffee either iced or cold. Also something worth checking out are the food courts or hawker stands or whatever you wanna call them. You can eat on the cheap and I mean really cheap! But yet the beer will cost more. So go figure :-).

Walking. Forget the day tours that you buy into. Get yourself some good walking shoes and pound that pavement. Melaka is a fun city to walk in. You can reach just about everywhere on foot. You do not need a Grab Taxi except to get back to Melaka Sentral to catch the bus.

Planning. Forget planning. Forget destinations. Forget lists except maybe as I do them at the end. Just go! Do the second thing with no plans. Strike out in a direction and see what you can see.

Length of time. That’s a hard one. I have heard some people here for three days. I kinda think what? How can you possibly see Melaka in three days but they do. Its like going to Siem Reap for two days. Yeah right. The ten temples you maybe saw are just a blur. You don’t know a Bayon from any other one. I have an idea. Give yourself a week here. Do the first two things. Forget the planning and give yourself a week. Slow down tourists or travelers. The hours in the day will expand and you will slow down and enjoy a place more.

Shopping. There is lots of shopping here you can do. At night the market starts up. I don’t particularly care for these markets as much as something like the Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City or the Central or Russian Market in Phnom Penh. I feel the ability to haggle and negotiate, find deals on the good fake stuff, and then see more of everything possible is a big deal at those markets. These markets in KL and here are more tourist havens with a few restaurants thrown in. If you wanna see the whole thing in some decadent fashion perhaps check out the Siem Reap Night Market with Pub Street next door. I have been propositioned by a variety of characters, found tacos, drank $0.50 cent draft beers and also shopped. So for me Cambodia and Vietnam are better shopping locales but check out the Jonker Street night market. See what you think.

Conclusions as it were…

Its tough to travel when you have a schedule and you have this desire to hit all those cities and countries. A stop at a place is a quick excursion to all of those things above but what stands out? I am not sure. I think people should slow down and stay longer, travel slower, become good at observing, living, participating in a place. If you go back to a place and I know a lot of travelers that do the round the world things would never go back, its not the same. You have changed and the place has changed. You may have taken thousands of photographs of the people, temples, buildings, restaurants but its different each time. Nothing stays static and what you see in Ho Chi Minh City one day will be completely different the next time. In evidence of this was when I spent a month there once and then went back for a day, I was amazed at the city all over again. There is a grit and a realism and a wonder that comes from walking those streets, finding those half-hidden pho places, drinking the coffee and walking the side streets. You may miss it.

Don’t let that happen. Be the person that stops and wants to see it more, see it different. Then do it all over again another time. You will not regret it.

Things were too set and defined I figured

I felt like I had this Malaysia trip pretty well thought out. I knew the three next places I would go. There would be finishing up here in Melaka, then Port Dickson, and see some friends by KL and then off to Penang for a month. No! It was all too easy. Lets change things and go somewhere else. So I did. I booked round trip airline tickets to reach out to Kuantan for a few days. Why? I don’t really know. I just thought a week in Petaling Jaya was too long. I went out on skyscanner this morning and found a round trip flight for about $75 and found a nicer hotel for a few days. What will I do there? I am not quite sure. Since I have never been there before I guess I will spend 3.5 days wandering around and seeing things and then fly back and the same day later fly up to Penang and my Airbnb.  I had to cover one more bus ride to the airport so I booked the bus from PJ to KLIA on the 15th of March.

So now I feel good about the travels down here. I’ll get to one more place and its only about the 10th change to the trip so far :-).

Meeting others is always interesting…

I have to admit that normally I’m a party of one and I like it that way. There is no disagreement about whether I eat local food or have that burrito in KL. Do I go to the Mall or the Museum? What if there’s time for both. Then there’s the turn left and turn right things. I don’t miss any of that whatsoever. Today I walked this road my hotel is on all the way down and around and back to the Malacca River. A glorious stroll that took hours with seeing nothing in particular. I loved it!

But… Last night I met this person at the hotel that is also retired and traveling. We kinda hit it off so we are doing dinner tonight. I think he has traveled alone for a long time and it seems us solo retirees doing similar things get set in our ways. We don’t want to have to explain our actions to someone else or deal with emotional or idealistic or rationalizations of a thing. So we will do dinner tonight at this place down the street. I suppose it’s good. I’m actually happy to meet someone else doing a similar thing because I get so tired of reading the BS on twitter and instagram from those RTW and gap-year and digital nomad types. I hate to bag on them but they are sure a bunch of following counting, blogging to make a buck, instagramming to gain audience types. I don’t spend much time on either platform but I do like posting pictures on both. Neither of the platforms excites me or makes me happy to be a member.

But now meeting this person, its like a step beyond the normal BS on twitter and instagram. Its a person to person contact and that’s different. If I never met one of the tweeps I’d be good. Once before I met a blogger in Siem Reap I followed and I thought that was cool. I had wondered then if our paths would cross in Cambodia.

This person is different than a blogger or a tweep or a “grammer” if you call them that. I am not sure what you call someone on instagram. So we shall step out for dinner socially and neither of us will be the same again :-). It was kinda sorta like meeting this nomad on the streets of Da Lat Vietnam one day. He was truly a vagabond and had stories he first haltingly told me about thirty years on the road and how his family had given up on him and he could never go home again or wanted to. The roads were his fellows and friends. The sunrise and sunset were his companions. Cities touched his feet and his steps found him crossing so many of them.

We’ll see how it all goes.

US Taxes, IRS, Social Security when living in Asia

Some of the most basic things become difficult when retired and living in Asia. Dealing with US businesses like my retirement agency was rather frustrating. Because of an error with input somewhere, my birthdate was wrong in the system so I had to submit a change. Normally you can just drop by a Kinko’s or whatever and FAX things or stop by the Post Office and send them along. Its not quite so easy when you live in Asia. Then there is dealing with the IRS and Social Security Administration. Neither agency is really made to deal with submittal of forms over the internet. They all want you to mail them back. They will give you PDF documents to fill out but for a variety of things like doing a change of address with the IRS you have to send the form to your local servicing IRS branch. Same with social security changes. I needed to send a form with my 2018 tax return to prove a change in income. Getting the 2018 state and federal taxes done were fun by themselves. Here are a few points I learned the last weeks:

  • Keep a PDF copy of your last years tax return in the cloud. Some cloud, any cloud you can reach and copy documents from. I use google drive for this stuff. This is important for a few reasons. If you are going to “e-file” they have to see your AGI from the last year’s tax return. It has to be an exact match for a line on your 1040 form or they will reject it. If you don’t have this, you will need to get a transcript from the IRS. They have rules for online submittals like verification of identity with credit cards, home or auto loans, etc. They also require a mobile phone number and it cannot be a Skype, google voice, or VOIP line. Blech! In my situation since I had HR Block do my taxes last year, they have a portal site to download PDF copies of your tax forms.
  • Find a service that will accept internet fax transmissions. Some are free and others charge just a bit. Just find one that looks reputable and bookmark it. You may need it! These services will accept PDF, DOCX, or other file formats for faxing. The better ones send you email with the success of the fax and stuff.
  • Find a good PDF editor for your laptop! I use PDF Expert on my MAC Laptop. It works pretty well. With this tool, you can edit and add text, images, redact things, etc. Very handy!
  • Keep a family member in the loop so just in case you cannot fax and really want it mailed from the states you can send them the PDF documents to send for you. This came in handy today since I wanted to send two things but neither can be faxed or submitted over the internet.
  • Just doing a change of address with the USPS does not mean federal agencies know. The IRS is one of them that will not just know. Remember when planning to look at your footprint with the different agencies at a private, state, and federal level.

Now probably in reverse order, what caused all this was trying to submit my taxes by e-filing them. You need to have the previous year tax return and you will need the W2 forms or the 1099 forms or whatever so be sure if you are going away that your cloud drive has the stuff you will need. Plan ahead! Scan and make PDF copies of things like taxes and any forms. Be sure you change addresses if you are going forever or for a long time. I would strongly advise to not burdening your family with your mail. Get a mail service! I can recommend one if you like that treats me very well.

You can do all this stuff being in Melaka Malaysia. I could even have printed out the forms and mailed them from here. Malaysia has a state-owned mail service and I believe its very reliable. I chose though to have my daughter help with printing out the documents and sending them for me from the states.

I would subjectively say that being a retiree in another country is not easy at times when dealing with US government agencies. A little planning though and having the right core services plus a willing family member to help out at times can help significantly!

Farewell Kuala Lumpur — Soon Hello Melaka

Its interesting that yesterday I went to the National Museum to see the prehistory and history of Malaysia. One of the primary interests for me was the wonderful history they presented of Melaka and all it has done for economy, trade, and finance for the country historically. Their pictures and story really make me glad to be able to visit the city and the UNESCO world heritage site for a few weeks. I don’t count the sites I visit like I see that some do. I do count as a lucky life that I have got to see as many as I have. In the interests of the photograph of the day feature, I decided instead to just share the entire photo album of my almost month spent here. It was a truly wonderful experience visiting the city and being able to spend the time I did. The area I stayed in was very close to KL Sentral as well as Little India and the choices to eat, drink, and wander were good here in my neighborhood. Also the walk to places like Chinatown or the Central Market were easily done on pretty good roads.

A key difference between here and Singapore I have to say is driver recognition of pedestrians. In Singapore, drivers of all kinds really respected the pedestrians and would wave them across even if the driver had the light. Here you have to exercise more caution and watch carefully. Also more motorbikes drive on sidewalks here. All that said, it still is a city that you can walk easily as long as you stay a bit alert. Its not like Cambodia or Vietnam where often traffic lights are suggestions. Most of the time lights are obeyed here in KL but one still must watch for the car turning or bus. I walked just about everywhere except for the last week when I rode the different transit options and also took the Hop On/Off bus for two days. You don’t really need GRAB here if you combine transportation and walk and take especially the LRT or Monorail or even combine the transit types and use a Touch N Go Card to get around.

A few words about the food. The food here is really nice! You get a wonderful mix of different flavors and if you desire the other foods like a burger, pizza, burrito (and who doesn’t at times); its easily found here. There are also fast food places and the transit stations have a great mix of choices. I don’t record favorites or write blog posts about some restaurant or hotel. I don’t write about the 5 places you should go in your 3 days here. I personally do not feel that my favorite 5 places or restaurants will be yours and you should just go on your own and discover. You will undoubtedly miss things and that’s okay too.

Many of the world travelers or RTW or others I have met seem to never return to a place once visited. I don’t understand that at all. I think instead of a specific place or a moment there, they want the counts and feel that time is of the essence in their travels. They must make it to XX continents, YY countries, and ZZ cities or else. Or else what? Do they change into something less than RTW travelers? What happens if they were to spend six months in one country investigating and only saw three countries instead of YY? I don’t know. I guess they lose the label of RTW on their bio on twitter or a blog that reads like a travel agency with only the isolated post about the feelings and thoughts and things and more about the sponsored trips and the 5 things done.

Anyways, today is it for KL for me so I say farewell. I hope you enjoy the photo album. Spending 23 days here was good! I’ll stay a month as well in Penang but at an Airbnb because I know comfort when I see it :-).