This has been an interesting walk for me. Over the past 1.5 years I am unsure how many thousands of miles I have walked since starting out February in Japan and then six months in Vietnam, 4 months in Cambodia, 5 months in Singapore, Malaysia, and the short trip to Bangkok (which I hated and cut short). Now I am in Siem Reap after bailing on Bangkok and Thailand in general.
I’ve been through a variety of sets of clothing but started with jeans in Japan but it was March then and a jacket and jeans felt pretty good most days. March is kind of unsettled across Japan so you can expect rain, wind, sunshine at random moments in time. By the time I got to Hanoi it occurred to me that the thick US t shirts and jeans were just wrong so I bought cheaper knock off clothing and t shirts that I did not care about. I’ve replaced these any number of times from markets in Cambodia and Vietnam. I also have a few shirts from Malaysia and one from Singapore.
The one thing that I could never find that perhaps suited me were walking shoes besides the Merrill Moab shoes I have bought. I tried sandals from a market and they started breaking down in a month. I tried a pair of branded Arizona sandals from Birkenstock. These lasted all of two months of every day walking 7 to 9 miles and then started disintegrating. I will not buy cheapo sneakers or another pair of cheap sandals just to see them wear through or break after some months. I did buy in December a pair of Chaco Z/Cloud sandals to give them a try but due to some mixups with sending via USPS (don’t do that ever especially to Southeast Asia), they sat in the post office in Phnom Penh for months until my friend Katy got them for me. I have no real hopes that they will last any longer but we shall see. I did buy a second pair of Merrill shoes in Malaysia after finding them in a sports shop and have hauled them around in my backpack for some bit of time. I had decided to trash the Merrills now since they are falling apart and I had to get one of the shoes fixed here when it ripped along the side. Luckily this nice young Khmer guy fixed them up for me for $2 so I can wear them a bit more comfortably my last week and days here.
Here is what I learned from my experiment of one. You can buy cheaper shorts, socks, underwear, t shirts, belts, hats. All of these just work. But there is one thing that touches the ground millions of times and its shoes. If your plan is to walk longer distances in a hot climate and across cities or parks or up and down temple steps, get a shoe you believe in. Just because the press and millennial reviewers says that “tevas or chacos or arizona sandals are best” don’t you believe it! They may be the best for a pair of feet not your own. Maybe you do have a pair of sandals or shoes that work for you. What I have found at some point they will give out and the chances of finding a replacement are not so good if you want the same shoe. I don’t like skimping on shoes since I tend to walk every day just about everywhere I go and enjoy taking walks through cities with the camera. I can’t just head to Ben Thanh Market in Saigon and buy some shoes. After repeated attempts at finding cheap shoes, the shoes will fail, fall apart and sometimes disintegrate on my feet when straps come off, etc.
Just don’t do it. If you buy cheap local clothing and backpacks great. I do that too. I don’t care if they are ripoffs of the brands. My North Face Surge backpack is over a year old now and I got it in Saigon and its a sturdy, well made backpack. I don’t walk on it though but it does go through a lot of hotels, airbnb, airports, etc with me. Shoes though. Shoes are different beasts. I am now convinced I will just have to pay for shoes from the US to really take the place of the Merrill Moab Version 2 shoes I now will be wearing when leaving Siem Reap. I am hoping to get six months out of them in every day wear for 7 to 9 miles walking. In my experience Merrill shoes are good! No shoes I have had will last for years though. I think anyone that says that has some feet that are not my feet or walk differently than I do. It will be interesting to try the Chaco Z/Cloud sandals and see how long they last. I am betting less than a year. If they last longer than 6 months, I’m impressed. If I need to buy Merrill shoes again, I will be able to get them in January 2020 in the states or have some shipped to me in October.
I have not found a sandal or a shoe that matches the Merrill shoes for comfort, daily use walking the miles I do. Perhaps I am just an old retired guy slightly bigger than a young millennial stud or studette or I walk funny or whatever. I believe shoes start to disintegrate the moment I put them on my feet. Gone are the days of ever buying another pair of Birkenstock Arizona Sandals. I did read reviews that said people wore them years and years. I doubt it really if they walk like I do.
Anyways, we shall see with the Chaco sandals. I’ll have them in a few weeks since they are waiting in a box for me at the hotel in Phnom Penh. I’d like them to last for a year. Highly doubtful. I do know I need or have to walk every day. There is nothing for it but to do it. It has become my daily mantra and meditation and thought process. The Cambodian sun beating down, sometimes higher humidity before rain storms, puddles to go through. Uneven pavement and even things that may snag the shoes and rip them. All are there but walk I must and I shall. What shoes I wear are constantly being narrowed down to the same shoes I left with in 2018. Its just a hassle getting them sometimes.
Such is life for this old retired guy that has to walk each and every day.