The many skylines of Ho Chi Minh City – a small tour

I thought you all may enjoy what the skylines look like here from a few vantage points. I did visit a museum also today but photography was difficult and it would have gotten in the way of actually seeing the amazing historic artifacts. I’ll wrap things up in the post with some thoughts about the Museum of History here in HCMC.

Here in a montage is the city for your enjoyment.

You can see that the sky was kinda threatening looking today as I ventured around the city. It rained a few times this morning but the rain here is interesting. It will rain heavily for about 30 minutes and then stops for some time. Usually I have enough time to get to a place for ice cream or a beer and then it starts up again. Now its raining again and I just got back to the homestay. Cool timing!

Museum Notes

I went to the Museum of History today and really enjoyed it. It covers from the prehistoric to historic periods really well and the artifacts are amazing! I guess being a past archeologist, I really like to see the stone working and carving the most but the ceramics were just beautiful too. The rooms were darkly lit but light played across each artifact so it created an interesting view but hard to take photographs of. I don’t think they favor cameras there so I just stopped. I think that this is one of the must see museums if you come here. Its easy to get to and the hours are like other museums and historic sites. They open until 1130am and then are closed until 130pm for lunch break. then they are back open again to 5pm or 6pm.

I would say that if you are a history buff and want to get around here you have to see the Independence Palace, the City Museum, the War Remnants Museum, and the the Museum of History. They are all located kind of close to each other so you could do this in a few days. I like to spread the museum visits out a bit so I enjoy them more.

Other things, thoughts, ideas or whatever

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about solo travel or vagabonding. Since I decry the term travel I will say “Solo Vagabonding” instead. I’ve read a lot of blogs from people wanting to try it, asking questions about it, wanting a way to find out if its for them. I think a bit about it since I’m doing that and its come to me there are no yardsticks for it. You could do 10 test trips in Europe or the United States and come to Asia and it may not work for you. Things are just so different here. There is no way to know if you are gonna be good at it. But lets be honest here. If you are by yourself, who are you worried about impressing, making happy, etc? What do you think the biggest challenge is for solo travel or vagabonding? Could you do it for the rest of your life? If you found yourself able to chuck it all behind and leave forever; could you do it? Lets just say that all barriers were removed and those were financial, family, organizational, functional, technological and you were given the opportunity to leave but it had to be by yourself. Could you do it and never come back?

What do you think would be your obstacles and what would you gain? Forget about being lonely or having a downer day once in awhile. I have those. Some ice cream and a beer and a crowded mall often work. This is more basic. Could you do it? And if you could would you?

Unfolding Days and Reasons to create – see what you think!

While here in Ho Chi Minh City have been staying in a homestay which is a rather fun experience. I have a room that I think is pretty nice with a great AC which is really appreciated. The cable TV gets some English channels. Then there’s the food. The home owner believes I just do not eat enough food because she fills my plate up numerous times with homemade Vietnamese food. I cannot tell her “No” really because it just happens anyways. So I eat! She sits and talks with me. Sometimes she asks me where I went that day because I told her I walk every day with the camera.

The homestay experience is pretty cool since you live in a real home with the family there. Boys, girls, parents, etc. Its an interesting experience. I think if you want to experience what its really like, the homestay thing is good! She also does my laundry every day. I’ll be setting out one change of clothing she will do and return to me in a day for free.

There is plenty of privacy here too. Once I go upstairs to my room, that’s it. She gets back to her husband and kids and mom and I watch some TV, perhaps look at my photographs for the day and start deciding what I should do the next day.

A fun thing here has been finding a new coffee shop each day that has food. I found a great one today but its a bit of a walk so tomorrow there is one basically around the corner which I will try. I do have a few which I really like a lot. I will probably go back at some point to them but there are so many here that I can be here 30 days and not really go back to one.

Sitting at the K Mart and thinking…

It seems some days I stop for water and perhaps see a thing which strikes me and I will sit on the curb and watch people going by, take photographs of what I see, think about things. Today was no exception. I was thinking through what I’ve done since I left the states. My time in Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong. I started this whole thing on 1 March leaving the states after retiring. I had wondered what it would be like to stay longer in a place. For me, longer is three months to a year. I am not interested in racking up the countries and stamps in my passport. What I really want to do is live in a place and settle down a bit. I did that in Hanoi. Its worked well for me.

Then I can do the shorter trips like to Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue. I get to get away to a place, see the sights there, do the same stuff I like doing but during shorter getaways. The trip to Hue was a great one for that. Soon after that trip I was leaving for Hong Kong and then I would ride the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

I will do short trips in Da Lat when I get there as well. I already have two planned.

So what this has left me with is a consideration of how things have worked, what my expectation was, whether I would want to ever do something more with the blog, and whether I would want to. For how things have worked, I’ve not made many huge errors. I understood how the visa process worked here and knew I had to leave for a visa run. I also had an idea about what I would do in Vietnam and the places I may want to go. Some places I added later.

Then there’s the final question about the blog and its place. I asked this question because I was reading a blog post over on Lets Vagabond and they mention turning the blog into something more than a travel blog. Perhaps a resource for the vagabonder to understand the ways and means they employed to break free. But I think there is even more than that. People are genuinely curious about what it takes from a planning perspective I think. What to do about things like mail, banking, phone service, US phone services. I think what is probably needed is a resource type site which can provide a deeper level of information for people departing their current situations and perhaps taking on the wanderer role. On top of that, there are the ways and means to get around in a new country, ways to plan the travel and maximize the resources that are provided for travel in Asia. I sometimes think a spreadsheet or table type thing that would let people browse the choices and make decisions that they may end up changing later but the resource base is there.

I have never seen a resource site tailored to people leaving forever. A life spent wandering sounds romantic and carefree and fun. And it is. But my belief is that you cannot leave the things at home to happenstance. The plan for leaving must be as good or better than the one you designed for the new place.

I also think there is a danger of over planning where you try to satisfy all the uniqueness by answering the question one woman asked me at a Pho place in Hanoi,

Where will you be a year from now?

I had no idea.

Getting back to this blog…

Now getting back to this weblog and some closing thought since I have been rambling on for awhile. My blog, Mikes Thoughts, is not meant to be a travel blog even though I blog things about my walks and places I go. It really is meant to encapsulate the life of this Mike. Goods and bads, Thoughts from a one time anthropologist and archeologist and program manager for large IT companies to a retired old guy that gets his kicks wandering roads that turn vigorously left and right. I don’t have ambitions for this blog to be anything more than it is. I want to be able to use it to communicate and create and if you choose to read it, good! If you don’t, I really don’t write this assuming you will read it. I do this more for myself. Perhaps I am the blogger cut from the old threads. Back when I started, bloggers created content. We did not have the monetization, branding, affiliates, ads to concern ourselves with. We simply wanted a place I believe to create. And it becomes like I’ve said before the 5 pound chicken and the 10 pound egg thing. You get constipated and upset and irritable if you don’t create. Its not so that 500 people will like your blog and follow it. Ask yourself, what is the real reason you do this? List it out. I have always done this to create and put words next to each other. The wandering thing and leaving the states happened to come along after I started the blog on wordpress.com.

So those were the thoughts during and after the walk today and perhaps some have been percolating around for awhile. I wanted to create a post that is not about my wandering so no link to photographs today folks.

Give it some thought though why you do this thing. Do you know the history of blogging and perhaps you’ve read some of those founders so to speak of the platform. Its come so far and its so different now. But for me, its the same. I write these things to create and place the words next to each other. I will leave it up to others to lift them higher an create resource content that can be used to help or guide or even transmit the knowledge. I just like to create the words. If you choose to read them, welcome. If not, I don’t really care. I don’t do this for you. Sorry.

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!

National Museum of Vietnamese History and wandering with no goal in sight

I had saved the National Museum of Vietnamese History to go to last but had forgotten about it in my last minute bucket list mania. Then I came across a note in Ulysses about the Museum. Drats! I don’t like going somewhere and not seeing the places especially museums. I simply love museums and Hanoi is a city of them. So today I fixed the lapse and visited the National Museum for a few hours or more and its simply beautiful.  You get to see Vietnamese history, prehistory, archeology done in one of the most beautiful displays I have ever seen. Its breathtaking and very quiet inside and you can take photos although the light sometimes is a bit diffused as with most museums I have seen.

So here are some pictures of the day’s fun and profits. i had a great time as usual wandering.

I also found that I did not have a plan to get to either the Museum of Ethnology or the Hanoi Museum. I fixed the first thing by getting a day tour which will take me to a few places and give me a free lunch. Its an easy way for me to get to see Hanoi in some comfort on a tour bus but I also get to see the Museum of Ethnology.

To start the day I visited my friends at the Mint Cafe and had coffee and some toast and talked with them. They are a bunch of really nice people and sometimes I go walking by and they are yelling “mike, mike! over here!” The people here are just the best to me.

Then I wandered with no real goal in sight and I somehow walked all the way around to the south of Hoan Kiem Lake and saw the museum and it dawned on me. So I looked at my older notes in Ulysses and encountered a note I had taken and somehow had not read. This is an argument for a centralize repository of notes when traveling and I use the Ulysses app for that which supports the Apple ecosystems very nicely.

Blogging Services

As part of this whole thing today, I had started considering whether i should upgrade to the business plan on wordpress when my subscription comes up. The price difference is significant. The only things I can see that are the features or services I want are;

  1. unlimited storage.
  2. upload plugins.
  3. upload themes.

So I started asking myself, for the $190 a year that wordpress wants is there a value or something that is worth the price? I don’t think so. I am not interested in ads, monetizing, removing the branding. All of that is fluff. The important stuff are the words. I think personally that ads and popups are annoying but a lot of people do them. I’m only here for the words folks. I like what you write. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your ads or branding. Sorry. If you make it hard to read your words and get meaning, the chances of me visiting are less.

Anyways, I found another hosting provider which shall remain nameless which promises unlimited storage for the incredible price of $4.00 or so a month. That is $48 a year and I can have the three things because I own the install. Except they hedge their bets when you ask them and want you to upgrade to a VPS instead of hosting. So we went back and forth in email about the language they use and the services provided. the end result is that I would not buy their service if they splash all over the internets that they do unlimited storage but then tell me,

oh, most people only use 1 to 2 gb. you want to be a good neighbor, right?

Yeah right. i am not paying to be a good neighbor. I am paying for services.

So the end result is that they basically tell you a thing in ad speak and then the reality is you are hamstrung and probably monitored if you go over the lower allocation they seem to think that the term “unlimited storage” means. The real result is that i will not renew on wordpress and I will not upgrade to the business account which is rather featureless except for the three things for me.

I will move along to a cloud provider I know which will offer me the storage and support for the themes and plugins. It may be a bit more than the business plan but the real thing is that the business plan on wordpress has no real compelling features. If they would offer storage enhancements like bumps to 30gb or 40gb or whatever and charge me a bit more, I would stay.

When I look at it, I could start with the cloud VPS provider i know for $10 a month and get 40gb of storage and have my own root enabled Linux instance tied to this domain. There is a lot more upside when I have a real Linux box I can SSH into and do strange things on.

Bucket List Number 1 – Vietnam Women’s Museum

The first bucket list item was visiting the Vietnam Women’s Museum. Happy to say i spent some hours there slowly going through about 4 floors of the current and historic roles of women in the history of Vietnam. Very interesting especially during the various bloody conflicts that Vietnam has had. Not only does the museum present the wartime but also family, marriage, how the historic roles of bride and groom and families once were. Its just reaffirmed my belief that Vietnam is an interesting, diverse, and fun country that even with its history is still young in many ways. It was difficult to take pictures in the museum so I did not try. I just enjoyed the presentation of pictures, art, and physical artifacts. I guess since I have done archeology and managed to work in a few historical museums, I know the work involved with a single exhibit. Its not just throwing the artifacts in the display.

This was done tastefully and with an eye toward the visual presentation. Lighting was subdued so it called attention to the artifacts and photographs. Walking through the museum is good for tourists because everything is written in Vietnamese, English, and French. Its easy to follow along and see what has happened in the history of Vietnam.

After the museum, I did the usual left, right, up, down the streets in order to get as lost as possible and get my walking in. I also wanted photographs to include in my project since I’m still doing things here which contribute to the walks and photography.

Here’s a few for you of what the city streets look like. I love the dynamic and fun nature of the streets and businesses.

Today I wanted to explore some side streets that looked bustling with small businesses because they always intrigue me. Its like the city spills over and the small tailor and beauty salons and leather goods find a neighborhood to thrive in. Of course, there’s always the coffee shop! This is coffee heaven I think.

Tomorrow is another bucket list day but I’ve been thinking about some ways to change things up. There is a hop on and hop off tour in Hanoi but the problem is I have seen all the places they go. I could just take the tour to the Mausoleum and then walk over to the museum I want to go to and then walk back and tack the bus back I guess. That’s more expensive than me talking to a friend at a coffee shop tomorrow and having her arrange a cab one direction for me. I would not mind walking back when I go.

I guess I am running out of days and I will need Wednesday to prepare my stuff, make sure, I have the clothing and electronics and camera gear accounted for, and do any last minute things to leave Hanoi. Thursday morning is an early morning. I get picked up at 6am and will get to the airport by 7am. Then I drop off the backpack at the baggage storage and get through customs and wait for my 930am flight to Hong Kong.

I also want to compile the photo albums from my journeys here in Hanoi and share the links out. So many photographs of Hanoi! Some good, some bad. Some pictures of my hand ;-). Since they are all in JPEG you get what you see.

I think tomorrow is another bucket list day for me and I’ll probably go back to see a Citadel and another museum which is the War Museum right next to the Citadel. I an walk there easily tomorrow. Either Sunday or Monday will do the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnography and plan on spending some hours there and then walking back.

I have to admit to thinking a lot about leaving Hanoi. Its been such a good thing for me staying here longer. I’ll miss the places I go for food and coffee and the people I’ve met. If you are coming to Hanoi, I strongly encourage you to get out of the old quarter as much as possible and see the city and the places beyond its borders. Its made all the difference for me in walking the city.

I also wanted to thank the folks that follow this blog and read my meandering posts herein. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do this out of wanting to optimize my SEO (whatever that means) or monetize or have ads or create a cult of followers. I do this only because I feel I have to do this. The act of words on virtual paper is therapeutic to me and I feel especially since March when I left the states, the blog has turned to a new thing which is a daily recording of a single life spent walking with a camera and traveling in the slow meandering and vagabond zone.

 

Vagabonding Ways and Means – There’s a way and means to do it

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal choices and how we do things or have to do things when we travel long term. We have to make choices about basic things and how we will manage our affairs if time finds us in Cambodia or Vietnam or elsewhere.

I found a few things that have come up in my experiment of one that were significant. Luckily there are solutions for these things with how the cloud operates to our benefit. See what you think about my things:

  1. Postal Mail Service. If you are gonna be gone what happens to your mail? Do you rely on family to help out with picking it up, sorting through it, finding things you need to deal with? Do you rent a USPS or UPS mailbox and let it go? Give that one some thought.
  2. Dual Factor Authentication and retaining US Phone Services. I have a need to have things like SMS and phone calls go to a US phone number but I am in Vietnam. I need to get the SMS authorizations to a number in the states. I also want to be able to send SMS as though they are from US phone numbers too. Secondarily I want to be able to make and receive calls from US Phone numbers and also have voicemail. What do you do about this?
  3. Debit and credit services while traveling. I believe you need to have two different accounts with different banks with different travel philosophies. I use BofA because its what I have used but in all honesty their travel stuff sucks rocks. So I also got a Capitol One 360 checking account and its debit card. I don’t use credit cards at all. They are evil incarnate. What do you do?
  4. Personal technology like laptops, cameras, phones and charging them. You need to be able to carry the devices with you easily but you need to charge them in a variety of rooms in a variety of countries. What do you do?
  5. Personal luggage solutions. Do you check your bags or carry on? What kind of bags? Does it really matter? Short answer is yes it does.

I purposefully am not posing answers to the questions because I am working on a longer document which relates how I have solved these problems which I will be posting as a story on my blog. I spent some months planning each of the things, looking at alternatives, and finding finalist things which now I use on a daily basis. Each one of the things is significant for traveling but remaining in contact at home and there are services you can find that will solve the problems for you.

I have solved every one of these and found the solution to be very easy to maintain. There are some prerequisites to them though which I will also be discussing.

The main goal with long term travel or forever vagabonding is feeling secure that your basic needs which still require some kind of presence in your home country can be solved. It may cost some dollars to get there but the goal is to find the services and products that will be the best fit. The second need is to find solutions which scale for you and identify whether you have to have things like two debit cards with completely different banks or institutions. The final things are around personal choices you make to hit the road. What technology, what bags, what choices do you make for your life on the road?

The difference can be wide as you travel to new places. Its one thing to let some randomness seep in and let things happen. Its another thing to not be able to get cash from a ATM machine in a new country. Do you wanna eat, sleep, need a SIM card? Basic stuff folks.

My Story will be…

Some answers to the questions and perhaps more questions to go explore. I will look at what I did to retire overseas and try to take care of the needs I had in the states still. I have not found a way around the need to have US based SMS and voice phone services even though once I thought a smartphone was the height of luxury and not needed. Forget that part guys. I hope also to pose questions about how you travel and what you do to prepare and do the travel. Finally the story will pose some personal tech questions and whether you will chronicle the voyages with camera, blog, journal and diary.

Stay tuned for the story on my blog. I hope that it may help answer or pose some additional questions on how I did things and the why of them.

The Day in Hanoi and a hunt for time wonderful time

One of the many things I realized after retiring is that I would have time. Precious time to do a few things which I did not seem able to when working. I wanted to read more on my Kindle and I wanted to do more photography on my Fuji X series camera. Both of these things were retirement goals. As I mentioned, I also set a private goal and project to walk the city of Hanoi each day getting in 12k steps but also doing more photography in the city. A final goal had to be creating more content on my blog. I aspired to creating new blogposts on a daily basis which would cover my day’s activities. Perhaps be mile markers to the walking and the photography.

But I did not want these things to be like the projects of yore that I managed with milestones and tasks and due dates. I wanted the project to be a flexible self guided thing that would have me wanting to do it every day.

For the blogging, I realized that there are lots of people who look to blogs for different reasons than I do. There are as many different reasons to blog as there are bloggers. I believe though we all do it at a basic level for self-expression and sharing of information. Perhaps that information is painful and its a recording of the hells of life. Maybe its more professional life and your challenges met. The reason you create this weird content is important but the real thing is that you do it. The final part of the blogging thing for me was the community I would find. A group of bloggers that perhaps traveled, liked history and anthropology, a dabbling in technology.

So circling back around to the realization of having time. Time is exquisite. For years I watched as the 18 hour days at work went by and even on getting to my room, my work cell phone would be ringing. More issues. More frustrations. Delays or problems. I heard that for two multi-million dollar projects for two years. I dealt with it. But moving on meant no more of that. I had sweet time.

Today I walked and these thoughts went cycling through. I started sweating because its warm or perhaps warmer. Sometimes its also humid and the sweat creeps down the back and on the arms. That 1.5 liter of cold water from the convenience store is like sweet wine. I sat today under a railroad bridge and felt that seminal feeling of time.

Now I can share the day’s album with you. My attempt to taking time and carving it up a bit to do things I want. Consider when you write these things what you are really trying to do. Is it making money or creating optimized blogs or are you wanting to reach out to others. Share with them an idea or two. Try to find a commonality or uniqueness in your experiment of one. Give it some thought when you write a blogpost.

Personal Project – Record the Streets of Hanoi. A Report

Since I arrived in Hanoi on 16 March, I’ve been doing a personal project to capture the streets of Hanoi with my camera. There are no real rules to the play and work except for these:

  1. Walk at least 12000 steps each day
  2. Photograph whatever I happen to see with my Fuji X Series camera
  3. Purposefully do not record the locations

The idea of the project is to be a visual undertaking of sets of walks in a variety of directions. The streets of Hanoi are full of change, people, cars, scooters, and activity. Hanoi is a dynamic city of old quarter, French quarter, West Lake, Long Bien. It goes on and on.

I’ll be continuing the project until 14 June when I leave Hanoi. At that point I’ll publish a blogpost with all the photo albums linked here and perhaps people will get a sense of just what a great city, how random it is, the places that can be seen by simply walking. Hanoi is a relatively safe city as long as you do common sense things. People may say that the traffic seems crazy but the reality is that there is a flow to it and you have to be part of it. There is a dynamism of the people and the businesses. Stately old buildings and consular offices. Government buildings. The beautiful parks and monuments around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. All of it can be walked to from most locations in the city.

I don’t know that will I continue to do the same project in Ho Chi Minh City but I will be walking with the camera each day recording things. I also publish separate photo albums for the cities and tours I do to separate them and more easily share with friends and family, twitter, Facebook, Google Plus. If you do use Google Plus I publish a collection of photos there that I update because its the easiest way I know to share photos.

I’ve taken over 1000 photos of Hanoi itself that I save off to Google Photos. Thank goodness its free! My photographs are done simply with no post processing, no RAW files, etc. I don’t have strong views on post processing of photos using Lightroom or Photoshop. If that’s your boat, float in it. I much prefer to use what Fuji gave me and make mistakes, try correcting them and immediately share the JPEG files. I may not be a photographer and I’m okay with that. What I am is a person that enjoys doing the act of it. The learning of it. But I really like the outcome and being to have a record of things.

The project recording the sights and sounds of Hanoi has been a lot of fun and its meant that my contributing goal of walking over 12k steps a day has been fully realized. I checked the pedometer app history and I have walked over 12k steps for 30 days in a row. That means I have also taken photographs with the FujiFilm X100F those same days.

Some good, some over exposed and under. Its all grist for the mill. I have been to some places numerous times and I still find new things, new views, new endeavors to record.

I would ask you all. What is it you expect to gain doing photography when you travel? Is it a record of the things you have seen or perhaps more of a personal reflection. Maybe you don’t share photographs at all. None is right or wrong except when you get involved at a level that it stops being fun and learning. Then it becomes some plodding duty and you feel that the effort is not worth the outcome.

I’ll be sharing the Hanoi albums in the next three weeks when I leave here.  I will really miss Hanoi. I’ve met people here that either I have typed my name into their Facebook account, met Vietnamese friends at restaurants and coffee shops and helping them practice English. Its all been good.

One final note with some sadness. My friend Mikka Luster has stopped maintaining his blog which was one of the few away from the wordpress.com community I liked to read. For a lot of reasons. His abilities at putting words next to each other, lovely photography, and the mix of introspection along with long hikes and reviews of tech will be missed. Thanks Mikka for the blog. I hope you can find a way to continue writing.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

Today in Hanoi I decided to wander…

I do this every day actually. I have breakfast at one of a few places and then leave from there. This morning it was Joma Bakery Cafe in the old quarter. I really love that place! The coffee and pastries and bagels and the place has it all over Starbucks.

I had also decided to consider whether I should stay at the current account level and make changes to how I share photographs, upgrade to the business account and get unlimited storage or just move to another provider.

The real issue for me is the sharing of photographs and there is no plugin or widget that will show current photographs in Google Photos. I have made an investment in Google Photos with literally thousands of images over the years and having it searchable, filtering for sharing, and being able to share subsets as I want are all things for me. And the number of images are unlimited. But then, I started thinking about the community here as well and why I came here in the first place. I have been doing the blogging thing for awhile and did not want to just start at a place and then decide I needed to move again. There is a loss in the community and sharing part of things when that happens and I value the sharing and community things here a lot.

So, I decided the best thing for me is to share the images as a link to albums I can easily create here and not upload the images directly to wordpress. By doing that, I get away from having to move. Upon realizing that I would be around to irritate and antagonize everyone here things were better :-).

But I digress…

Today I wanted to test some custom settings on my Fuji X series camera. The camera is nothing if not flexible and the JPEGs coming out can be altered in a number of ways. I can create more highlights, shadows, more color, and make images sharper. I can also drop the noise reduction to see what that does. Its all an exploration for me and I have been doing this for awhile since now I have no work to mess with my photography.

The settings I can modify are all easily reachable by what is called the “Q” menu. Perhaps that stands for Quick. It gives you immediate access to things you can change on the fly and its easy to rotate around to different settings and find things you like.

Without further ado here are a few photographs of the day today. I’ve changed the noise reduction downward, upped the color and sharpness some, and wiggled a magic wand at the rest :-). As you can see I am already providing a sharing link to Google Photos instead of uploading the images.

So what did I learn today? Well, I never changed the settings but did move from F/11 to F/8 depending on what I saw as the available light sources. The sky was brighter today so F/11 seemed reasonable.

I will be going again tomorrow to play with the same settings going north to the Long Bien bridge. I have an area I want to see up there tomorrow. And the city streets going somewhat north vary to more open and big streets with interesting little side streets to wander down.

Its all good!

 

 

One other note…

I am not satisfied or happy with how the accounts and storage space are computed on wordpress.com. There is no way to upgrade storage only and I have raised a support question. I will not upgrade to a business account to pay for a storage upgrade. Photo’s take a lot of room and yet there is no way to share photos with google photos which is my chosen photo management utility since it has applications and easy sharing to facebook, twitter, and google plus. I don’t like just posting links.

If I do not see a path by December to upgrade the storage, I will be forced to leave for . self-hosted wordpress.org solution on DigitalOcean. I mention this because wordpress.com has no real plan on upgrading storage only while keeping us on the same overall plan. That’s not good if you write a lot, upload lots of images, etc.

I won’t do a business plan for my blog so by December I view the time and space I have to be dwindling to a point where I have to make a choice. I’m calling on you WordPress to make storage available by itself so we can upgrade as we need. Capturing and sharing photographs is a primary thing I like to do. I have no qualms about downloading my backup/export file and moving to DigitalOcean and installing wordpress from scratch. I don’t really want to leave the wonderful community here and I enjoy reading all of your blogs. WordPress is not supporting those of us who are photographers or image editors whatsoever though.

I’ll wait and see and then comment on this post when I hear something. I want to continue sharing my travels here but I won’t just hop and skip through different plans. Storage should be a cheap upgrade without changing the plan itself.

Update:

Hi all. I have a few options on wordpress.com which I don’t believe will work. I can upload my photos to another site like flickr. I take on the average of 100 photos a day and I only share a few out of concern of storage space. Then I would have to consider what my cost would be to upgrade to the business plan. That would be almost twice the cost and I would then have features I would never use.

So, long story short; wordpress.com is not going to work after about December when I reach about 70% of available space. I am going to migrate the domain to a self-hosted installation on a cloud provider by end of the year instead of renewing my account.

When I first started the blog here on wordpress.com, it seemed then it would be a great deal for me to ease back into blogging. What has happened is that now I am traveling with new demands especially for sharing photography. I could see uploading 20 to 50 photographs a day from my camera and sharing. At that rate, 13gb of space will go rather quickly but 80gb of data will last me awhile and then I can simply buy more storage.

I think for the  majority of people that the personal account is good if you share a few things every so often. I’ve faced the same issue before with hosted providers and have stopped at one place and then moved to another. I really like the community here but the travel and the photographs have demands that I don’t mind paying for if there is a path to pay for it.

I can re-point the mikesplaces.blog domain to my own registrar at google domains pretty easily and then bring up wordpress. You may never run into issues but I have plans for this blog in serving up my photography on a daily basis.

Thanks to you all for following me and reading along as I go through Asia slowly. I have some months before moving things but now I know there is not a path forward at wordpreess.com besides buying the business service for which I would only use the storage.