Aeon Mall 1 in Phnom Penh and new ways to see this amazing city!

I went through some thoughts on how to change my method of seeing the city since I’ve spent a number of days roaming around the local places. I think I have a new method which is fun and profitable for me. I have these locations saved in google maps for “want to go”. Many are 3 to 6km away. I did one today which was the aeon mall which I captured here. So the new method to be able to see things like malls, markets, and parks or historic sites since my hotel is located a bit distant is to tuk tuk there and then walk back. The farthest distance I would have to walk is about 8km which is no real problem for me and I would get to see a very nice cross section of the city. Riding the tuk tuks is no big expense for me. Couple dollars here and there and I have a method of seeing the city which will ensure I can reach all the places easily since Grab tuk tuks use google maps for GPS and you add in the destination in the app and get the price up front. Most of the drivers speak some English and today the guy was really good.

My few hours at the Aeon Mall were interesting. The mall is about 5 stories I guess with a bunch of stores, a pretty nice food court, and pretty good access from this road that runs nearby. I wandered the mall and saw a Burger King, Krispy Kreme Donuts, and a bunch of coffee and bakery places. Really a nice mall and the AC blasts so if you are a bit uncomfortable from the heat the mall is good. The heat really does not bother me that much any longer. I guess the times in Hanoi and Saigon kinda got me ready for Asia heat and humidity.

Tomorrow I will do Russian Market which is about 4km distant and then will tour around the market and look for a few things I would like to have and then walk back to the hotel.

Next week I will pick out other spots I want to do and extend my reach in Phnom Penh. I am gonna spend some time finding the places for the day trips and also restaurants at night I want to do. I don’t really care if I spend for the tuk tuk twice or not or if the restaurant is close to where I go. I want to see the city the way I want to do it and this seems to be a great way to look around and also extend the distance I can go.

Next Friday I do a dinner cruise along the river for a few hours and will have all food and drinks paid for on the tour. That sounds dangerous :-). I should have the remainder of my time pretty well scoped out for places but will always include some randomness around the hotel since the area is a tightly knit set of blocks which I think should be seen.

I’m hoping by next Wednesday to have my passport back from immigration with the date extended. Once I get that done, time is pretty much mine and I can take as long as I want or define new trips with a return flight always to Phnom Penh.

That’s about it for a pretty nice day of wandering. Cambodian BBQ tonight on tap down the street from the hotel. I am hoping to try their steak and veggies cooked at the grill on the table. The cost is about $5.00 for the food.

Wandering Phnom Penh – life, money, and time

Another day wraps up for me. Its been a good two days learning about this fascinating and busy city. I walked today with almost a destination in mind. I wished to see the Olympic Stadium but more wanted it as a landmark so I can get to other places walking and know how far it is to get home.

I have lots of places to see and I feel like the city is this huge area of wonderful sights still unexplored. I also have a few things I have to get done. One is I need a haircut. I found a place which does them for $4.50 and includes a beard trim. Its past the Olympic Stadium. The second thing next week is I have to get my visa extended to a year multiple entry here. That will take them a few days to get done and its costs $290 for the year. Once I have the year extension, things become more gradual the remainder of my stay. Its day by day seeing the city, finding restaurants at night, and doing the usual photography things.

Since I like wandering cities and seeing people doing their stuff, my initial photographs of Phnom Penh are city and street shots. I’ll be going to some of the tourist things next week and perhaps then the National Museum. Here’s the start of my photo album for Phnom Penh.

I also am going to work on sharing out all the photo albums from Vietnam pretty soon. I have numerous albums of the places and things I saw there.

Changing of the Routine Too…

My routine now has changed since the hotel serves free breakfast every day. Now I get up earlier and have breakfast up on the roof of the hotel and see Phnom Penh every morning. I get a few cups of coffee and enjoy the time relaxing in the cool mornings. Then back to my room for a few hours of relaxing and reading or watching news. By 11am I’m out the door and usually am back by 2pm. Sometimes I decide after breakfast some direction I want to walk. The city though is there for me to go anywhere I like. I don’t feel cautious or uncomfortable walking any of the cities. I understand how the traffic works and its pretty evident how busy the city is.

By about 1pm its time for some water for me. Today I stopped at the City Mall and set on a bench and this young girl came up and told me hello. The mall is an interesting place. Kind of a mix of a classic mall and the asian markets you may know. I went in because it has a very nice grocery store that I wanted to see. That’s where I got the bottle of water.

Then I kinda decide that I should head back or see something else or whatever it is that strikes my fancy. After awhile I’m back to the room and tend to relax reading and writing until about 6pm when its dinner time. I find a new restaurant because at this point they are all new. Tonight its Cambodian BBQ down the street.

Money and Time

Now since I don’t buy breakfast, my expenses have dropped a bit I think. I am spending about $4.50 a night for dinner with beers. I don’t really care what the cost is but its fun to see what the food costs and that everyone will take US dollars. I normally carry $20 and some singles and local money but when I pay in local money I get a combination of currencies back. They will pay me in US dollars an Riel back so I have to stop and think what the combination is and what I am getting. I guess for the small things like a bottle of water for $0.40 and I pay a dollar, I don’t really care. I will have to exchange a $100 bill for smaller bills at the hotel. I won’t carry that much since its not needed or necessary here.

Time has changed to. I think its slowed down. I feel like I have more time to spend on things here in Cambodia. I will stay here longer but also will travel out of Cambodia once I have the annual visa. I realized early on I needed a home base of sorts that had really good visas for retired people. I was considering the time being on the road now for 7 months. Nothing seems the same time wise. It used to be a march of schedules and tasks and milestones. I don’t have those any longer. That feels pretty good!

So maybe that brings you up to date for a day on the life of me. I have no complaints. I travel slow. I stay longer. I go where I want. How could I complain there?

Posed versus Candid Street Photography – Da Nang is great for both!

I remember a recent discussion on Twitter regarding posed versus un posed pictures on the street. I do both and enjoy people that hail me down or ask here in Vietnam to have their picture taken. Usually there is laughter and smiles and waving and its a mutually enjoyable moment. The people know they will not get the shot. Take this one.

I really liked the smiles and the fact only two of the three wonderful ladies looked back at me as I took the picture. It lends some mystery to the third person. It also lets the three participate in the shot.

Then there are the candid photographs one finds. For some reason, I enjoy black and white for those. These are the unplanned and unposed photographs that are found as I prowl the streets. People are more themselves and are engaged in their behaviors. Check out this one.

This brings another element of a person and a paper fully engaged in his life. Its a moment of a stranger’s life that I will never know or participate in yet I have him reading. I think of him as a day worker taking a break to consider the news on a day. The paper may have good or bad or both kinds of news but he is engrossed in the act.

Both of these were shot with the Fujifilm XT2 camera and both have a certain core value to me. Shooting pictures of people whether candid or posed introduces you and them to a scene unfolding. The camera and the photographer are unknown for the street photography. Its a life of a person captured at just a moment.

The posed picture shows three beautiful women yet one is not looking. It creates the sense of mystery but the smiles illuminate the moment completely and you get a sense that these three are workers too; perhaps taking a lunch break and talking.

Of course, one is in color and one is in black and white. I shoot in both but the black and white photography seems more intense to me. It introduces a mood either sombre or joyful or shadowy.

Oftentimes for either you only have a moment to decide on what you want to do. No time to fiddle with a telephoto lens, change lens, adjust this and that. Its you and the people or person and its a moment. The XT2 and Fuji cameras in general make you a master of the moment. No intrusive lens sticking out more than a foot. You can set the camera to f5.6 or f8 and be on aperture priority and also auto ISO and you can grab the moments. I never want to be fiddling with different camera settings because you may lose the moment and curse yourself. The women may get bored or the man may get up and see you. For one picture, the women are key and the smiles important. For the other, its the candid moment of the man, the paper, his cigarette.

What do you think?

Another Day Spent Walking this city

As the days go by in Da Nang and I wander the city, the same thoughts as so many times before when doing the same come across. I used to evaluate each city that I took walks in when I was on my twice a year vacation. I was lucky my last few years to see San Diego and Vancouver BC. I would go back to Vancouver again because it has this certain elegance and beauty. The city and the False Creek and the parts combine to make more than the whole. I wandered there for 3 days or so and got to see different districts like Gastown and north to Stanley Park. Walking there was a joy. The city is so well managed it seems to me that pedestrian tourism flourishes with the the way the city was designed. Blocks and squares and easy to remember landmarks.

Now in Da Nang, I face the same thing. I will have wandered here for almost 30 days and have done the things I wanted save the Marble Mountains and one more museum. I will likely do Marble Mountains next week and do the museum on Friday this week and return to have another of those great American breakfasts at the Healthy Heart Restaurant here. The museum is just past the restaurant so its an easy reach.

I have been adding in photographs to my Da Nang album and would like to provide the link about right here for how Da Nang looks to me. In a word, the city is beautiful! During the daytime, get this! Traffic stops at red lights. Even motorbikes. I was amazed when they all just stopped when I had the crosswalk. Very cool. Walking the city you get to see the touristy areas and then soon you are out of that and you see small shops, side streets with beauty salons, and nail parlors all waiting patiently for the neighbors to get their day started.

Farther you get to quiet residential streets with beautiful wrought iron gates and little parks where kids run and say “hello” as I walk by. Older people wave and smile and nod. Young Vietnamese girls and boy will smile and laugh and I hear the hello’s echoing down the street as I go. Sometimes a businessman will walk with me and with pretty good English ask where I am from, if I am on a working vacation, or what has brought me to his city.

So the last question is the big one. What did bring me to Da Nang? I think the same things that have taken me to Seattle and Portland and Tokyo. Its the people, the city, the terrain and the taste of the city. Each city has this particular feel to it and as you walk them you somehow get attuned to it. Da Nang is no different. It has a taste and wonder that sometimes lay hidden around a corner. Maybe the camera will capture it and let others see a moment of majestic mystery.

Lets face it, traveling through cities and their parks and memorials and skyscrapers and lakes and rivers; you see the life blood of a city sometimes. Its not those things though. Its the people. And the people of Vietnam have a rich and wonderful outlook on life. Meeting them is always fun whether its in a bar or a park. They are genuinely interested as to what brings you to Da Nang.

So me having the same question of course is relevant. What does bring an enterprising old retired guy to a city? What am I, this old wanderer and vagabond, looking for through the camera lens and the talk and the eyes?

I think its both simple and complex. Its the touch of the morning air and the laughter of children. The zoom of the motorbikes and slower ebb and flow of people making their way to coffee shops. You see. In the end its not the museums or buildings. Its the people. I enter and leave though and then move farther and the city becomes important a lesser level for more personal reasons. Is not just a city to cross off the list. Its a passion and feeling of walking each day. Knowing I will never see it all or even the major part of it. All of the cities of Vietnam never yielded their secrets even though I walked the beautiful big blocks of Hanoi that a lot of 5 day tourists don’t know about. No, the secrets are still safe with the cities and I decide whether I should ever come back. Some cities I quietly say “no”. I would not go back to San Diego. I would go back to Kyoto. I would see Ho Chi Minh City more than twice again and most likely I will.

So, here we have a wonderful city by the sea and river that has a warm climate and wonderful restaurants and great bars. Places where locals and the travelers gather. It has the ingredients that make it more. There is a keen zest for living and I have thought people here are proud of their city.

Now as I have a week left, I’ll wander a bit more and see a few more streets and know that down one of the alleys is that mystery that will never unfold. If you can, be a walker of cities sometime. They unfold and become real and yet mysteries before your eyes.

Well worth the effort I think!

Cham Island Tour Thoughts and Next Steps

I took a day trip to Cham Islands yesterday. Interestingly, I was the only western participant. Everyone else was Vietnamese. I sat next to three different people who all spoke English at different levels.

Person 1. 12 year old school girl that spoke very good English. She told me all about her family, her cousin, and her creepy but lovable little brother that she made faces at or teased all the way. She translated for me what the tour guide would say since he would not say anything in English at all. She was fun to talk to and wanted to see pictures of my daughter. The red hair that my daughter had then really got her. We also talked about her life at 12 years old in school and what she had fun at, what she did, and her friends. Very enlightening and a lot of fun and she spoke English very well.

Person 2. Mid 20s I would say traveling with her Mom and Dad. I studied them a bit and the Mom seemed very friendly but did not speak English. The dad was very quiet. The woman was quite good at English and told me she lived and worked in Saigon. I think they were in Da Nang to “mend fences” . The daughter seemed like a rebellious sort to me and the Mom I think wanted to have time to spend with her. Just my take though. Its always interesting to study people and try to figure out with the non-verbal cues what they are doing together. She was pretty friendly and I have to say simply beautiful.

Person 3. Early 20s because I asked her. She was finishing university or had and we walked all over Cham Island to different villages, to the market, and she told me a lot about why she was there. She was from north of Hanoi so we discussed places in Hanoi we had both been like Hoan Kiem Lake and then I showed her the pictures of West Lake. She was rather amazed that there was a lake that big in Hanoi. She was with her brother and sister-in-law and I think she was a bit intimidated by them. Her entire mood changed in the afternoon so I think her brother probably talked with her about going off walking with some strange American. We did become friends on facebook which is a standard thing here.

Then there was the tour itself. It was with the same tour company that did my excellent tour to Golden Bridge and two Pagodas. This time the tour guide did absolutely nothing for either the Vietnamese or me visiting. He would not talk in English and someone there that did speak English had to translate for me. We were left to our own devices for lunch and what to do on the island. We were not told the sequence of events for leaving or doing activities. Just a poor tour in some regards but when you are on Cham Island its okay I guess.

Anyways, here is the link to the photographs I took of the island. I thought it was simply beautiful there and very peaceful. One of the guys in the village said I should remain behind and rest and party there. You can see Person 3 in a few of the pictures. Very happy young Vietnamese woman!

Going Forward to the last week or so…

Interesting that I have about 1.5 weeks left here and really no more tours to go on. I may take a Grab up to Marble Mountains next week. I could see the entire place in a few hours of walking and some climbing up stairs. Its really the last place away from Da Nang to see for me.

After booking travel for the first six months of 2019, I found out I have to go back to Saigon in June for a bunch of reasons. I will book a round trip ticket back in June and travel to Can Tho for a week or so to visit some friends there. I may go somewhere else in southern Vietnam as well. That will leave me 5 months remaining or so in 2019 and I will still have three months of my initial retirement visa in Cambodia left.

The next thing is the flight back to Saigon on 15 September and then leaving Vietnam on 16 September. I’ve been here very close to six months so I am going to really miss the people, the friends, and the places I’ve been. I guess I have friends scattered here north to south.

Cambodia in 4 months should be lots of fun since I am still going very slowly and spending time in 4 different places 30 days at a time. My goal is not to just see the stuff and count the country but to live there, experience it, spend day by day there. When I leave in January for Singapore and that part of the travels, I will not be returning “home” to Phnom Penh until June. At that point I am going to see how early I can renew my retirement visa there and plan the remaining months out. My feeling is that India has been waiting patiently and I think China is lurking somewhere.

The Rush of Time is not Real

Sometimes one must reach for the quiet times. Walking the cities often includes busy streets, rushing cars and motorbikes. Lots of pedestrians each going a certain way that you may not be going. Traffic often moves at a pace far quicker than you may want but you have to fit in the pattern. Crossing streets here like I posted is not a thing you do to stop in the middle. One must go.

But sometimes a person needs a quieter moment and Vietnam aims to please there too. There are quiet neighborhoods where the dogs bark, the children sing, the people sit over coffee at the small shoppe. There, you can hear laughter and perhaps talking the gossip of the day. Down the street is a nail parlor where the beautiful young lady sits on the porch admiring the day. Customers will come I bet for her but she takes a moment to admire the handiwork of the universal creator. If you don’t like the word God I’m good with that.

Quiet neighborhoods are all over. One must just know where to look. Down that side street ahead are groups of smaller streets. Each holds promise and mystery. Perhaps one will show you the greatest discovery of all time. But I can tell you the greatest discovery. Its to have time. Time in a day to see a street that has no blaring horns or motorbikes or tall buildings. Its the serenity that perhaps you have missed in your flight to the places. We seem to take the rush of time to see the museums, the galleries, and pagodas. I have done this too. It doesn’t help that Vietnam is full of wonders and some work best with a tour package. Often though what you need is the unplanned moment. Perhaps you find a street curb or building closed to sit on and watch the slow progression of another kind of life.

Maybe you see something like this around you.

Just a quiet block where the hurry has not reached. A moment of time you have to slow down to the speed of the street you are on. All the countries and continents matter not. What matters is what you have seen in each one. The rush of travel the rush of the tour, the rush of the dinner. The rush. Time seems to spiral downward to a least common denominator which is not enough of it.

We seem to lose track that time is not really real as James Taylor pointed out. We just use it to try to understand something so big, large, and complex that normal ideas just don’t work. So we create these things. Time and space. We need them to place ourselves down that small block.

What happens if you stop though? If you move slower than the cosmic race. Suddenly you fall outside and you are a wanderer like me. Time ceases to be important. Days are not units of time divided into seconds, minutes, hours. They are bigger. They are moments to use and when you run out of one another shows up. How about if you when you travel you slow down? What will be the harm at only seeing two countries instead of fifteen? Lesser passport stamps and Visas. Maybe when you get back people will say,

you only saw two places? You had three months. What’s up with that.

Then you have some hard explaining to do. You have to tell these well meaning but harried friends that time did not count there. The watch spring unfolded and stopped. Time and space became immaterial and the days in Vietnam unfolded as they should instead of according to the rush of the hour.

Give it some thought. Perhaps you have more time than you think. Or maybe time really could care less and you are the one imposing your own limits. If you want to be the round the world traveler; how about starting with a single place seen and reported on and tell me about the people you met. I have met a few here in Vietnam that have enriched my life a few fold. Its meant the difference as a solo traveler. Would I have accomplished the same on the rush to meet time and space? I doubt it. It took a different method of counting and it took slowing down to a pace where hours and minutes and seconds were not the force. Neither are the countries I have seen or passport pages used up. Instead of your twitter profile saying

45 countries in 180 days and three continents

What if it said

five countries where I met a person that mattered in each one

Give it some thought. You have time.

Explorations Continue in Da Nang – another bridge walked to today!

Today I walked to either the first or the last bridge along the Han River depending on your perspective. I walked until I could not go any further. Its a holiday here in Vietnam so the streets are quieter but most restaurants and coffee shoppes are open. Once I got away from the touristy areas I did not see any more visitors. The walkway to the bridge I wished to see is pretty nice but people just are not out there. I guess because there are not restaurants and bars and markets. Its kind of a solitary place with fishing boats and a small marina with faster looking boats.

The enjoyment part is always getting away from the downtown to find places that are not popular. I had walked today in the downtown area and took a street at random and walked it until it ended. I was still learning the new camera so I wanted to take a variety of photographs with different light and shadows, with people and regular things like windows and bicycles and buildings. I shot most of the day at F5.6 with Auto ISO so I could just focus on the shooting and not worry about all the configurations and settings. I also used two or three of the film simulations just for fun and personal profit.

The FujiFilm XT2 is completely different from the X100F as you can imagine. Its bigger yet when you hold the camera it seems to meld itself to your hand. I felt that the X100F was small and light and was easy to stash. While the XT2 is not huge like some Nikon or whatever, its still heftier and you know you are holding a camera that has some weight and feel to it. I also have the 18-55 kit lens which seems a very nice lens for travel. I think its a great starter lens and if I want to go to something else, I can always pick up another lens. I just don’t see the need for what I do. I don’t do big time landscapes or wildlife. I like to do the street type photography but what I call urban photography which focuses on the cities and people and roads and buildings and stuff. Since I am always walking when I do the majority of the photography, the 18-55 lens seems adequate to me to capture the events I see around me. The last thing I really want is a hugeonormous camera bag with lens popping out. I went to Fuji cameras because I wanted a single thing but since moving to the XT2, I wanted a single thing with a lens that would also be a single thing. I did quickly look at a second lens and I could go get one at the camera store because they have lots of great Fuji gear. I just cannot see a need given what I do.

After this really nice walk today I ended up with a peach smoothie since they taste really good after walking and sweating in the heat here. I sat there and watched the folks that work in the cafe having fun and laughing together and their manager just smiled and shook his head. I sat for an hour or so with the smoothie considering that the next walk I do will be across the bridge toward the ocean. I’ve seen all the stuff on this side of the river I want to see now. Tomorrow I will have breakfast at a new place and then take off for the beach and spend the day there. I may go to this burger place for lunch tomorrow that I heard about on twitter. Not sure.

One additional note for you folks that like to see notable things. The Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills will be visited on Monday all day on a tour I got. This was one of the reasons I came here so will see it and a pagoda the opposite way on a day tour on Monday. Cannot wait to take the camera and get pictures of the bridge.

Here’s the link to my Da Nang photo album if you want to see what I’ve done thus far. Its been fun learning the new camera and wandering on this side of the Han River the last week. Tomorrow off in a different direction to explore!

Camera Woes, People Highlights, Vietnam Astounds Me!

Sometimes being human really irritates me. Today while packing my backpack to move to another place, my beloved Fuji X100F fell out of the bag and onto concrete about 5 feet below. This camera has been rained on and soaked and had condensation and gone to places with me here and there. But it would not power back up. I replaced batteries, left the battery out to hopefully let it do a cold start, but nothing revived it. Facing my daily walks with no camera was not a good thing. Part of the routine of this Mike is photography for my own edification and learning. I don’t want to just take photos with a smartphone. There is no learning there. I find something with the iPhone and snap away. Its all good. I want the learning. Like:

  1. How does light affect the triangle and what should I set for an aperture on a cloudy day but with mist, a blue sky day, an evening at the golden time. With no camera I cannot experiment with light.
  2. How does setting an ISO besides auto ISO affect the images? I am still experimenting and learning to move off Auto ISO
  3. When and where to use exposure compensation? Another thing which requires experimentation and play.
  4. Finally when to shift the camera to manual focus and zone focus on an area and then wait at a market or store or park and let people come to me.

Here are my needs and then I will tell you what I did. I need a camera that I can learn on but is configurable, fun, funky, and has soul. The X100F had all those things for me. It was very forgiving of weather, condensation and fogging, and rough treatment in a carry on bag on the road. I also need a camera that will do travel photography. So what in the world is travel photography you may ask? I believe its recording the sights, places, people you come across when traversing a city, park, whatever. I want to do street photography at times. I like capturing people at their essence. So a Nikon with a 12 foot long telephoto lens will just not work. I want to be unobtrusive and not have the LED light over my head saying ‘TOURIST AHEAD. Finally, I want something to grow into. I want to feel that the camera represents a move ahead for me. I want to find things that challenge me and make me read about how it works.

So enter another camera. I bought today a new FujiFilm XT2 with the 18-55 kit lens. This camera is a step up to a new place on the stage for all the photography I like to do while remaining consistent with Fuji’s design philosophy of making a camera that’s fun to use and learn. Its a bigger expense but I judged it to be worth it. I will get years of enjoyment from it traveling and vagabonding the world. It gets me away from the soul free iPhone photo taking approach. Grab a selfie stick, snap away. Its all good.

The XT2 also has interchangeable lens so if I ever wanted something other than the 18-55 kit lens I can do that too. The camera shop here in Da Nang treated me well and tossed in a tripod, a bag, extra batteries, an SD card. They are a nice group of people. Hit me up on the contact page if you want their information. They also provide the standard Fuji warrantee and offer discounts and the guy did everything for me including upgrading the camera firmware to the latest and showing me all the knobs and dials and made sure I was happy. Even with all this, the price of the camera was on par with the states and I think I got the best post sales support ever from these guys. My salesman wore the FujiFilm team shirt as well as the camera shop logos. He knew the camera really well and used one to take a picture of the sale.

So now, I have something new. A thing to start learning on like from the start and I have weeks in Da Nang to wander and learn and have fun with it. I will never edit images, will never shoot RAW files, will never get Lightroom. It simply is not worth it. If you cannot produce an image from the camera that you like, why go to all that to get something from some editing process you may like? For me , I do photography for my own benefit. If you see an image and you like it great! If you don’t, sue me.

The Fuji X system produces some of the most beautiful JPEG images with the fun and funky film simulations and now I have a camera with inter-changeable lens if I want. I probably don’t. While in Da Lat I talked with this amazing young guy who does street photography and spent weeks touring Vietnam north to south doing that with the XT2, and he only had the one lens. But having the freedom to experiment and learn is priceless.

I gave this thought today while eating at a wonderful place my friend Ha told me about, meeting her best friend, and then arranging to have that person be my friend on facebook. It was all so much fun and spontaneous. Smiles and hugs and welcoming me like a long lost friend to the restaurant. I sat there and considered how it all works. How my workflow or lack of one works. I want immediate photo gratification. I want to switch on the Classic Chrome Simulation or Acros or whatever and see the result. I don’t wanna pour over the images in Lightroom. Its immediate gratification for me!

There you have it. I’m just a rank amateur but I know what I want. Photography is not some mystic science of arcane applications that take RAW files and transpose them. Its an active thing. Its you and the street and the scene unraveling before you. The building with the wonderful shades and shadows that you know would look great with Acros+Red because of its contrast rules. Or the beauty of the waterfall done in Velvia.

Then there’s the other things I discussed. The other things important besides spontaneous travel photography with no editing. I want a few quality relationships that tide me over long distance on the road. As it happens sometimes, the people in your blood family are not the ones that fulfill it. I have a philosophy and belief about that. I personally think we are meant for greater things than blood families. The ties that integrate us are bigger webs that stretch sometimes sight unseen into new worlds and places. So the other thing has slowly become something more. But I also want the solo travel. The no demands travel where no one captains my ship and tells me which way to turn on a day. The days I want solitude, I want it. If I want Pho and she wants Bun Cha and we cannot have both at the same restaurant, I am not the captain of my ship. So, what happens instead is you keep the treasured family but you add more people to an extended family. Here in Vietnam, I’ve found the keys to that in the long, slow travel I do. I’ll put in a final plug for the second thing. Consider staying long in places. Get the longer visa. See the places a month at a time if you can. If you only count the countries where are the people? Nothing will change in September when I move to Cambodia. That will even be slower because the visa laws are different and I automatically qualify for a retirement visa for multiple entries for a year.

So there are the things to recap. Enjoy what you do to capture your moments on a camera whether its a phone or something else. If that enjoyment means editing RAW files and you are really into photography for a more serious reason, great. But, if you are like me, and the photography is only a personal statement, that is good too. In one case you have yourself and perhaps others to satisfy. In the other, you have only yourself. I’ll be honest though. What I hate to see are photographs that are obviously highly edited to bring out something in such a significant manner that its overwhelming. Sometimes I think I can spot these quickly. I guess people feel that by bringing out the blue in the ocean to an overwhelming level, putting a bison in a photograph that was not there before, adding curves to sharpen things to such a point that its obvious, is the way to go.

The final recap is the personal one. Be the way you want. I am a solo traveler first and foremost. I travel not to arrive but to see. I move slow because I can. A day in Da Nang can be wondrous at this level. I sit here now in my bed in a cheap hotel room, listening to the horns honking on the streets below. There is no place I have to be. But… I also have this new family thing which has become just as an integral part of things. Its this quality of Vietnam I feel. It has a certain characteristic of people and belief that makes me happy to have found it. Then there are the wondrous and open and funny and friendly people that make it up. All of this meant that I have made friends from Hanoi south. Many are on facebook with me.

So, in rather lengthier blog, there you have it. Camera, travel, people. Each one touches the other I think. My final advice? I have none. Sorry. Not my day to give advice.

Danang City during the daytime and sunset – simply beautiful!

The heat of the day and the cool of the evening in Danang requires some beer drinking to be happy I think. Today I walked during the daytime over one bridge and back over the other. I stopped and took photographs on the other side of the Han River from my hotel and enjoyed the views of everything from a couple getting marriage or engagement photo’s done to just the pace of people and the beauty of the scenes I happened to find.

Danang is a pretty city folks. It has the Han River and then the ocean and beaches. I have not seen that part yet. Everything comes in time and my way of doing things is to walk gently to places, record them with the camera, and then plan out the following walks to see even more.

Today was good during the daytime and evening and I managed to capture both for your vicarious thrills. This has to be one of my favorite cities. I know, I know. I said that about Hanoi and Hue and Ho Chi Minh City. But this one really has this wonderful view with lights at night, bars and restaurants along the riverwalk catering to those that wish to indulge, and carts of street food all over. Then there are the horns honking and drivers almost daring you to cross the street. Of course, I do and dare them back. No one wants to hit a pedestrian but the motorbikes have their way on the streets and sidewalks. The best way is to just go and have it in your mind to cross the street no matter what. I have done this in every town and city in Vietnam.

So now, back in my lair and planning tomorrow in a completely different direction to a city park and then to see the downtown parts of Danang. No riverwalk tomorrow and evening views. I’ll leave them here for you all to see the beauty of an evening along the Han River.

Hello Da Nang! – Gonna walk your streets and feel the beat

Today was a transit day. First a cab from the hotel in Saigon to the airport and then a nice flight on time on Vietnam Airlines. Shameless plug! If you want to fly around in Vietnam or even outside, consider Vietnam Airlines. They work hard at being on time. Its a no frills type of thing but frills ain’t needed on an hour’s flight.

Once getting to the Da Nang airport there were lots of choices but I admit to just taking a cab to the hotel instead of the shuttle to the city center and then walking in the 36C heat to the hotel. I paid the entire three weeks and some up front for the room I have. The room has some advantages like being a block from the Han River, the bridges and great walking paths. The bad part is wifi. Wifi just dies randomly so I pretty much know I have to share the network with my iPhone. Thank goodness I have the rock solid Viettel LTE SIM card and plan. This one thing has been the best thing for access and sharing internet yet. I share it with my kindle too so I can download books I buy.

But back to Da Nang. The city during the day is pretty warm and then right at dusk, the lights come on, the people come out and stroll by the Han River and gaze at the dragon bridge. I will take some evening shots tomorrow night and get those shared in the album as well. Da Nang is much different than something like Nha Trang. Not so touristy but still has these great restaurants for both local and western food depending on what you want. Tonight I splurged again and had this amazing burger and two tall Tiger draft beers.

Tomorrow, I will walk perhaps to Vincom Center or some other direction across some bridge. I love bridges! Each one gives a great view of Da Nang. Here’s the start of my photo album for Da Nang. I’ll be adding stuff to it every so often.

Tbis is my last city in Vietnam and I have until 15 September in Da Nang to see the city, walk the streets, drink some good beer, and eat. Nothing really changes with the photography.