Wednesday in Hanoi – Chance of Scattered showers!

We got more than that today. I got soaked so I headed down from the Imperial Citadel to a friendly coffee shop I spied. The young waiter welcomed me with big smiles and let me see their menu which was in english so easy to order. But I already knew what I desired. I wanted a coconut coffee. A wonderful elixir mixed different ways in different places. Here is mine.

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Yes!  A thing of indescribable joy and wonderful taste that I made last until the rain decided to stop and I could then walk the few miles home or so. I kinda know Hanoi so I don’t need the map as much. I had hoped to get to the Mausoleum today walking and then over to West Lake but that did not happen. I still have a few days to reach some places by walking that are farther away. I think there are two or three to get back to:

  1. Temple of Literature. Turtles and beautiful architecture and a very nice walking area to see. I love visiting the temple. Last time there were students graduating that visit for luck and fortune. If the turtles look up its good times and if they look down its bad times. Of course they are in stone so the students probably visit both because life is made of good and bad times and to know good I think you have to get through bad.
  2. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, park, and gardens. I love the Mausoleum area here in Hanoi. Its a wide block very accessible and then there are the gardens and park areas to wander through. One can spend some hours seeing the sights there if desired. I like walking to it because its a good walk and there is no real reason to not walk in Hanoi if one is careful and watches the traffic (motorbikes).
  3. Last Look at West Lake. I do not know when I get back to Hanoi so I will get to West Lake but truth is I can get there from the Mausoleum by walking. Its a decent walk from the Mausoleum park to the southern part of West Lake.

I hope the weather holds out part of each day to let me get these things crossed off my would like to visit list. I have seen all these before and in some cases numerous times but they all form a different Hanoi to experience than the cramped Old Quarter.

Next Steps…

After Monday I am back in my part-time home in Cambodia for a week. I want some down time there and to be able to see some expat friends and have a few beers along the riverfront, visit the museum, and just enjoy being back around the Khmer people.

I will leave for Laos on 2 September and be gone three weeks so that is the next thing. Once done with that I have a few weeks back in Cambodia to get my retirement extension redone and then on 18 October I leave for about 7 months. I’ll be seeing Taiwan, Philippines, the good ole USofA, and wonderful Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and Dubai. I’ll get back to Phnom Penh around 10 June 2020 and then will spend a month getting a new passport and deciding what happens. I have really considered getting a year long tourist visa for Vietnam and spending longer times in Saigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi. I think Hanoi could fall off the list though. I don’t have as much reason to return to Hanoi.

It will be something to go back to the US again after two years. I think it will be culture shock in a big way. My friend Lauren I met here told me it would be. She’s a fellow American living in Southeast Asia. She was troubled, uncomfortable, and lonely back in the states. I only have three weeks there but I think I will have trouble there acclimating to how life is.

Finally, if you have ever wondered if you are an expat or retiree living elsewhere, I was able to renew my California driver’s license online and have the address be a Texas address. I got the forms yesterday at my mail service in Houston and they scanned the letter into PDF and I can download it and see what is what. So I got a new driver license online this morning. Its ID I guess so its good. I’ll have it shipped to my ex-wife’s house when it arrives at my mail service.

That’s about all that’s fit to report. Days are ending in Vietnam. Mix of good and bad feelings. Will miss some wonderful people here. Many things have happened which have let me question 2020 more. Perhaps more on the questions and answers later. Some are incredibly personal to me so I probably won’t reveal those.

Hanoi Walking, Beer, Food and a Cautionary Tale

I have not been here in Hanoi over a year but there are places that key the memory.  A lonely synapse fires and I remember sitting at the place by the lake drinking beer and watching people go by. Or perhaps its the winding streets of the old quarter with the people bustling, tourists wandering, and just the busy parts of life that is Hanoi.

Hanoi is like so many other cities with different places that all are glued together. There are quiet parks, busy streets, and always the hustle. Amidst all that I walked today. I got to see a bit, drink a coconut coffee, wonder a few wonders, wander a few ways. None of the big time things to see here like the Mausoleum but perhaps a picture of the Hoan Kiem Lake which is a tourist endeavor. There are also a few pictures of life on the street and the wonder of those small side streets that always stoke my fancy and imagination.

So here are a few things interspersed among other things. Undoubtedly small things which may lead your curiosity to see more or perhaps you will just rush off to read the regular travel blogs and not walk the streets with the camera to find the smaller things that are always there. Check it out and see.

Now the cautionary tale part of things. Please, please, please drink sufficient water if you visit Southeast Asia. Do not just drink coffee or juices and think its all okay. Hanoi Vietnam will fool you with its cooler temperatures but in reality, Vietnam is a stinger with heat. Drink plenty of water to the tune of multiple 1.1 liter bottles. I say this because today a young German tourist collapsed in a bar and the medics had to be called. It turns out he had drank no appreciable water and had drank coffee at some point. Don’t do this anywhere in Southeast Asia. There are plenty of stores like Circle K, 7/11, VinMart to buy water. Just do it. Protect yourself. The Vietnamese health and medical authorities are good but why tempt the fates? Drink the water and eat good food.

Tomorrow more wandering the city with no clear direction or focus. Its part of the whole thing for me. The days all blend together but that’s the way I like it.

Thursday Morning Hotel Thoughts – Da Nang to Hanoi

Its my last morning here in the hotel in Da Nang. A really nice room with beautiful windows that open to let the sun and breezes in if I want. This morning the sun comes streaming through the window and its both a welcome and a reminder I only have hours left in the city. The flight to Hanoi lasts about an hour from here but I could have taken the train as well and it would have been overnight or all day. I did the train before from Hanoi to Saigon and it takes 30 hours. No bullet train there! But the sights one sees, people met, and the beauty that unfolds is on a different level. This time though I don’t have the desire to ride the train and I already booked airline tickets for the entire trip with Vietnam Airlines. Its really inexpensive to fly around in Vietnam and they have a number of carriers but I prefer Vietnam Airlines when possible.

So here are some thoughts from the hotel to the airport. From Da Nang to Hanoi. Two vastly different cities. Da Nang is a wonderful city for just about anyone to visit I think. The people are welcoming and open, restaurants are charming, night life bustles. It also has the other ingredients to make a visit successful. There are beautiful tourist attractions like Ba Na Hills or you can go to Hoi An. Also you can reach so many beautiful temples and islands. The city is situated by Da Nang Bay which is a deep water port and can handle ships of a lot of sizes. Crossing over the city’s Han River are beautiful bridges that are walkable and then the ocean is right there too. Its just a city that has so many moving parts and its one I shall live in for awhile.

Then there is Hanoi. I spent three months in Hanoi last year and it was a remarkable time in the city of the north. There’s a beauty to the almost random nature of the old quarter alleys and roads. Small Pho stands and Banh Mi restaurants. Street food all over the place and the local beer places where they tally up the score by the chalkboard and you buy their fresh beers and visit. Then the coffee shops are all over and so very popular! Then right close by is Hoan Kiem Lake which is one of the tourist draws and very popular with the group of people that buy packaged deals. They close the roads around the lake down on the weekends and the kids come out with bikes and little cars and tractors that are motorized and drive up and down the roads. Even the ever present motorbikes are not allowed although some sneak in. The police are right there though and I’ve seen them writing tickets. Away from the lake to the north if you walk about a mile is the historic water tank which is a marker for me. I use the tank and its location to get to places north. You can go from the water tank to the historic Long Bien Bridge which has a storied history if you care to look it up. Then you can also walk along a main street and arrive at West Lake which puts Hoan Kiem Lake to shame as far as size and beauty goes. From there its a walk to the Mausoleum, gardens, and museums. You will find nice tree lined blocks but a lot of the streets house government buildings and the no camera sign is up. Its too bad because the buildings are simply beautiful and most are French Colonial buildings or built after that style. You can also walk away from the Mausoleum and end up back at Hoan Kiem Lake and see a part of Hanoi perhaps others do not see. There are winding little streets with shops, product guilds that separate specialty by street or neighborhood, lots of interesting little shops that sell just about everything imaginable. And of course… Coffee! Coffee is the fuel that keeps Hanoi going I think :-).

There is no real comparison between the two cities and if you do photography you will find a completely different reality in Hanoi. The city is just about made for street and urban photography. You can capture markets and stores and people working, playing, drinking, living on the streets of Hanoi in vast numbers. I walk the streets with a smaller camera like the FujiFilm cameras because I like to do street photography and capture moments of life that are candid but I also like the scenes of the streets from small signage to alleys that suddenly end and I have to re-trace my footsteps. Da Nang has so many obvious areas and things to wander with a camera around. Beautiful history and bridges, culture, diversity, history.

Its worth it to visit both and compare them but its all still Vietnam and to me there is a trending beauty to the crazy old quarter traffic in Hanoi, the beast that is Saigon, and the beautiful setting that is Da Nang. If you throw in Can Tho by the Mekong Delta, you get a completely different view of the vastness of life in Vietnam. Each offers a view of life. Some will say that people from Hanoi are not so friendly as those from other places. I don’t try to evaluate where I have met the most friendly or least. In all places, I have been fortunate with the camera to be at a place, in a moment, that lets me do what I love.

Whether its street, urban, natural photography, landscape photography. Call it what you will. I think if you love photography and particularly sharing what you have taken, you will find Vietnam charming, fun, sometimes provocative, other times challenging. Meet some Vietnamese people and become their friends. They like that! I will say that across Vietnam its the people that matter. You can take Halong Bay or Hoi An or any of the places you will tourist or backpack to; but to me its the people of Vietnam that really make it shine. Those beautiful smiles, greetings, open and accepting nature. I find the same thing in Cambodia where I have lived and wandered there. I have not found this in many other places besides Southeast Asia.

So there’s the hotel thoughts for the day all wrapped up in blog ribbon for you. You should visit Vietnam because you can and perhaps you want to. Eat some Pho. Drink a cold beer or iced coffee. Have a Banh Mi from a street stall and smile back at the owner. Its all there for you. It is the people though that make Vietnam what it is.

The Last Day of Wandering Da Nang

Been here 10 days and walked a few directions. I saw a few of the tourist and backpacker joys here this time and last time I was here. I decided though I would finish up with trips to places like other day to the 50 year old pedestrian bridge hidden right there in the city and then yesterday from the Da Nang Museum to the suspension bridge that crosses Da Nang Harbor.

Today it was a neighborhood I had kinda walked through before. No big tourist things. No museums or bridges. Wonderful small streets though with friendly people that would stop what they were doing to say hello. Many standing inside coffee shops waving and smiling. There were also the small alleys or side streets I so enjoy walking down. They are microcosms of life with life going on, people going into beauty salons or shops, and always a small coffee shop. Coffee is just so important to Vietnam!

So here is the last day for your review. Hours spent walking down charming small streets and avenues. Take a look.

This is the part of Da Nang away from the river and beaches but no less vibrant and wonderful and very welcoming. Its always the small things that lead me to the next place and these streets did not disappoint.

If you want to find the things that are not the instagrammable moments but perhaps show you what life is like, its all there for you. Leave all the twitter and instagram moments behind. Get lost with the camera down a street or two where you don’t know how to get back. Let yourself go. You may find more of worth and beauty, quiet and solitude, and moments to consider than on those 5 day travel blog inspired tours. I venture to say that this is Vietnam as well as the other places but perhaps a view of a city or town not tinted by tourism.

Now I am done this time in Da Nang.  The city is welcoming and warm and hospitable wherever I’ve wandered. I’ve met some other things which have turned out so well for me with friends here that have let me see that there is a corner to turn and life does go on and I can find people that matter here in Vietnam. That’s been particularly wonderful for me at a few levels.

The next step is Hanoi for 11 days. I’ll meet my friend Cat the very first day for coffee and talk. She is well versed in english and tourism and has a wonderful sense of humor tinted with sarcasm which I enjoy immensely. Tomorrow I leave for Hanoi but I know I’ll be back here to stay longer. Da Nang and I have this connection.

Wrapping up Da Nang – Off to Hanoi

Its interesting when I reach the end the stay at a place that I like. Like a signal or flare after 10 days of just roaming the city with no real goals but realizing I did complete a thing of more importance and significance. I got to see parts of the city and the rivers and bridges perhaps you would not see visiting. I ate and drank here and there; sometimes to excess. I made it to the Da Nang Museum which is also where the old citadel and fort were and you can still see the remnants by walking the grounds of the museum.

There is a such a magnificence of diversity of the city that if I proposed the 5 things or 3 days or tours of this or that place, it could not cover the things well. I also learned more about the little things that perhaps make myself tick and those things that make others tick too.

So today is it for me and I bid adieu to Da Nang yet again with mixed feelings. I do know now that I will be back here for longer but not until next year. After this time in Vietnam other places claim me for months. There are fair winds and wondrous currents that carry us where we might. I have felt for two years that by simply wandering as I will that the little things that I could capture and then present back in the blog and to myself in my journal would create yet new maps of things yet to be seen. I have realized that traveling 30 countries in 26 weeks or seeing the 5 instagram moments leaves out sometimes the most stunning yet overlooked things and I’m glad I don’t do that.

Instead on this farewell to Da Nang I have come to realize that cities and nature are not made of the 5 best things but hundreds of small things that you touch or that touch you. An old bridge hidden. A farther walk that takes you to a place where other feet rarely go. Being selective and finding the quality in people and realizing that friendships are not about the chaff and I can meet hundreds of people that don’t rise themselves to the bar I set. Those people that were. Those I met on social networks long since deleted. Those I may have worked with in decades doing IT. You were either the wheat or the chaff. Many have just bidden goodbye and I understand how it works now after reflecting on it over my longer walk yesterday.

Walking serves so many purposes. Its our longest way of getting around but it also engages the mind in disruption or creativity or capture. So if there is a single thing of Da Nang from this time, it must be the sunsets and the beauty and the moments I managed to capture here that I give back freely to you all.

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This from an iPhone 7 Plus on a day when the clouds split the skies and the sun favored only some.

On to Hanoi!

Tomorrow I fly to Hanoi and see a friend or two there and also do completely different kinds of photography. Hanoi is a street photographer’s best friend. Its a rough and tumble world of old quarter meets fashionable restaurant and small streets find Cyclos pedaling madly to a different beat of life than elsewhere in Vietnam. For 11 days, I wander that city and present my ideas and images back to you.

The FujiFilm X-T30 is ready to do service. The prime lens says its time. Vietnam Airlines will take me away for almost two weeks to the beautiful, wondrous, and crazy big city of the north. Hello Hanoi!

Wandering alone

I’ve been on this wandering trail for almost two years. I’ve met a few memorable and some not so memorable people. Sometimes though a person comes along to your life unbidden that becomes important. Not looking perhaps makes finding that much sweeter. So it is with Linh. And life has become ever so much richer and Ho Chi Minh city much more important to me.

Here’s to you Linh. You may never see the blog or read the words. And that’s ok too.

Technology, Security and Passwords

I’ve written about technology choices and alternatives before but there is one area you should consider. Or perhaps two. lets see how I go:

  1. Password Management. Hopefully you don’t use the same password for your valuable identities and you make use of a tool to help you. It really comes down to only remembering one password versus trying to jot down tens or hundreds of them. I guess it is simpler if you use the same one but its can be damned destructive. So consider a password management tool out there that runs on all your favored devices and on your ecosystems. I used LastPass for years but after some strange things with the master password I had enough and move along to something else. I think the best solutions are open source solutions because the companies engaged have a vested interest in maintaining, making it better, and working with the communities. My choice was to use Bitwarden on my MacBook and iPhone over LastPass. I like the philosophy better and the premium cost is much more friendly to your pocketbook if you go that way. And you should. Companies that sell open source software want to make profits and then pass along that to their employees and also give it back to customers in the form of upgrades of features, functions, and approaches. What you want out of all this is something secure but something that gives you access. Lets call it reasonable protection. It should not be so secure where you cannot use it. A friend once lost the password to a Linux server that was key to its use. As my friend told him then its very secure now. Even you cannot use it. So use reasonable security and protection. This is especially true if you find yourself in hotel rooms, guesthouses, coffeeshops, train stations, etc.
  2. Security. People will say its pointless to use VPN and I say to them “right”. You never know what’s pointless or useless until someone does something to you because your enter passwords in the clear at a Starbucks. Why even take the chance? I am really an advocate for VPN security too. I use ExpressVPN a lot going here and there. Its not cheap but its valuable to me and it works on all my ecosystems. It also allows me now to use certain sites which do not work for whatever reason in Vietnam or where I find myself. If you don’t believe its useful or protects you, have at it. Do your thing. I will always use and pay for VPN security services. An IBM architect once told me “don’t be stupid. VPN”.

So there you have a few tips. Use or not as you will. I will say if you vagabond around like I do both are incredibly useful. Having a password management tool besides a spreadsheet or pad of paper means not entering your password in the clear each time. It also means you don’t have to remember thousands or hundreds of them. Good ones will also generate new passwords which are powerful and then apply them to the “vault” of passwords it manages for you.

Technology is some powerful stuff for vagabonds. It will let you create value, content, connect to things like your wordpress powered blog. Just be careful out there. Be happy vagabonding and seeing the new places or like me revisiting a beautiful place like Da Nang. Here’s a little something for you of the beauty of the place. Get here if you can.

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It is so worth it!

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City!

Yesterday I did a bit of movement. First off in a cab to the Phu Quoc Airport. Then a turbo prop plane to Can Tho. Cab to see my friend Lily for lunch and beers. Then a bus ride for 4 hours to HCMC (lets not say Saigon).  Did not really sleep all that long but such is life and now will do some breakfast and hop a GRAB to the airport by 930am for my flight to beautiful and wondrous Da Nang. I get to stay in Da Nang for about 10 days and the only real thing to get done is to get my laptop keyboard fixed tomorrow and then go over and pick it up in two days with a brand new “butterfly” keyboard that hopefully lasts until I get back to the states and decide if I do a iPad instead.

So today later back to the walking no matter the weather in Da Nang. I’ll get a poncho and new umbrella on the cheap there and get outside after I check in. I feel the need for some movement and walking always takes care of that. Walking down the Han River will sure be nice again! Not sure what I will do for dinner tonight but so many choices there.

I’ll be posting daily photographs of the things my camera decides are worthy and blogging the days with the usual reflections of a life spent wandering slowly this way and that with no real goal. You won’t see lists of things to do here or great tours to do. Its not the way I roll. Instead I offer honest reflection of life and times and how it is to wander a few great countries and find the methods to a bit of happiness and joy.

You can find the other bloggers that offer your travel fix pretty easily. I do think its so cool that my buddy Mikka is walking the Camino again. He captures his days on the trail, reflections of the times spent and beautiful photographs of the journey. Here are a few places easily reachable to see his journeys. On Twitter he is here and then his blog which also is a repository for his images and stories is here. I really enjoy the daily introspection he offers when he walks the long walks. He also posts videos which you can find off of twitter and he’s very active on Mastodon.

So see you all on the flip side of a hour flight to the wondrous and beautiful pearl of Vietnam.

13 years with wordpress.com

An interesting perspective is that I have had an account on wordpress.com for 13 years now. I never realized when I first signed up there. I had so many other providers and hosts and services I’ve lost count. To say its all changed is an understatement. To ask if its changed for the better is a valid question. My answer is that it has not. I loved blogging years ago with the folks then that put words together out of love and desire to see them stand up next to each other. I won’t venture an opinion on what’s wrong with blogging now. I’ve said it before and you know what I think.

When what really matters was the same thing that mattered 20 years ago when i started.

It is content that matters folks. If you blog for travel, adventure, fashion, lifestyle, or just like me to write whatever the hell I want to write; its the words next to each other. Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 12.14.33 PM

Try to not write clickbait blog posts. Try to write what you see, feel, think, desire, despise, want. Do you want to blog for 20 years? 10 years? Don’t know? Its all good if you have words. You have some of those, right?