Three Days left and Two things to do – will this Mike do it?

Its raining right now here in Ho Chi Minh City. I just got back from a day of wandering around in no set direction with the camera doing what I basically love to do which is taking frames and then sharing with all of you fine people. As I lay here on the bed in the homestay, the rain is really coming down now but I bet it will be done in about 30 minutes. I may walk out tonight and get a few beers and bring back. There is a friendly Circle K about 200m from my homestay.

I basically have two things left to do and three days to do them. I decided to get to one additional museum called the Revolutionary History Museum which is a walk away and then I will go to Chinatown. I am not clear on what day for what. Perhaps tomorrow some clarity will come over morning coffee.

Now the rain has stopped so its time to share a few photographs. I hate sharing when its raining outside. All my stuff gets virtually wet :-).

I don’t have any running narrative for these few photographs. Just take them as y0u will as the evidence of a person that turns left, right, and repeats it over and over again. I will say that this city is so very welcoming to this old retired guy and his camera. I get so many “hellos’ and smiles. By the end of the day though, my legs are tired. I guess because I am old and I cannot do the 20 miles or 30k steps per day and really have no desire to.

Here, in no particular order and with no more diversions are a few things I saw today. Get your popcorn and cold beer ready!

And if that’s not mysterious enough, here is the second one. Vrooom! Ready for a ride?

Finally just perhaps to show you how beautiful the city streets are here. This is a block I was walking down and these streets always grab my fancy. Its not isolated in this city folks. I see city blocks of quiet beauty most turns I take.

Now to a few serious things. It seems to me walking each day that thoughts propel themselves through and often come with little or no warning. I stop for the 1.5 liter bottle of water and the break sitting on the street corner and even more things come unbidden to me. Its like a thought factory opens up and launches never ending streams of fragmented things which I sometimes note down in Ulysses to think about later or to write a journal post or a blog post about.

Often times the things become this blog post but I have a little workflow in Ulysses that lets me work on the things, perhaps define them a bit more, and then on my iPhone I start seeing where they should go. I developed this awhile ago where I have an inbox which leads to stuff to do and then ideas which are developed into stories. A story can be a blog post, longer static content that perhaps on a down day or when I feel like developing it will become thing else, or its personal and private and it moves into my journal.

I have to say that Ulysses is the best app I have found on the Apple ecosystem for this kind of thing. There are others like byword and you can use Google Docs for it as well depending on your platform of choice. To me, the one app that holds diaries, notes, blogposts, workflows is just so good! It also holds travel notes and I attach PDF files and images to my travel plans. I used to use Tripit but I prefer to have the notes in freeform or markup so I can export when I want to PDF or whatever.

Is there a tool you use that’s your baseline, your must have? For me its Ulysses on the Mac and my iPhone. I’d be lost without it. This blogpost started being formed as I walked today but I did not capture it. Sometimes the ideas come fast and furious and Ulysses gets tapped into on my water break or when I stop for ice cream or beer.

Do you work, travel, record like this? Do you have a central repository where you keep everything? A central tool? Others use a set of integrated tools like Day One for journals, Byword for writing, perhaps something else for travel planning. I tried this before. I much prefer the one home for the creation and management of ideas, text, writing, recording of things.

Your thoughts?

Ben Thanh Market, District One HCMC, and some street art! What a bargain for you!!

The last weekend in Ho Chi Minh City prompted my desire to not wander far. That, and the weather seemed to be ready to get a good rain going. Here’s what it does here though and you can tell when its gonna rain. It clouds up first. Then the wind picks up a bit and things get dark. You start seeing rain drops often ahead of you. Then it either really starts with a torrential downpour or it just stops and the sky gets all clear and pretty again. Today it decided to do the first thing so I was kinda glad to not be wandering farther away.

I also went to the Ben Thanh Market which may be the best known market in Vietnam. You can find just about anything you may want. I wanted a leather money clip because I don’t carry my wallet when I go out for the day. I found one in about 10 minutes and spent 5 minutes in a good natured haggle with the shop owner. We reached a point and both were laughing so I told her she won and I got the money clip. Its a handy device on the road because you can more easily carry a daily allowance of cash in your front pocket and not be concerned with it too much.

My final place to get to is China Town which I will do either tomorrow or Monday. I have 4 days and there is a museum I could do as well one of the days. Wednesday I have to make ready to leave Thursday morning early on the bus to Da Lat so I will be packing and going through my stuff.

Luggage Thoughts

I still have the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L backpack but I also have a North Face (fake but works good for me) duffel. The duffel is good for shorter trips since it fits in the overhead or even under the seat. The Outbreaker is also carry on. I’ll get rid of the duffel when I go to Cambodia and travel only with the Outbreaker and the daypack as a personal item. The duffel cost all of $15 USD after haggling for it for awhile in Hanoi.

I think the Outbreaker is a great choice for travel since it does not pack top down and opens like a suitcase. I never liked the packs that pack top down and prefer to have everything easily reachable for either short or long term stays.

Next Stop is Da Lat

Da Lat is my final longer stay place in Vietnam. I wanted to change things up and had originally planned on spending longer here in HCMC. I feel though I have done what I set out to do here and tromped across the city and captured it via the camera so now will go to Da Lat. I have two side trips planned from Da Lat to Nha Trang and another beach place. Each of those lasts 4 days I take a bus there and back.

So now that my time is wrapping up here and I don’t have a whole bunch of destinations left I want to do, I can just wander around with the camera and do what I really like doing. I like just exploring and capturing what I see with the camera. Today I saw a few things and took lesser photographs. I’ll be sharing out the final album for my 30 days here soon and its been a lot of fun walking the city and capturing what I think are the daily highlights. Here are a few pictures from today.

This was some street art I saw walking around District 1 today. Th0ought it was pretty cool!

I liked how this image was framed by the flowers. I took this by Ho Chi Minh Square.

Life has been pretty good of late here in HCMC. Ive enjoyed the homestay experience immensely and my host is a very nice person plus a really good cook who insists on filling my plate up with rice and veggies and food twice. I think if you come to Vietnam you should check out the homestay experience. It really lets you get to a personal level with a family, see how they work and live each day, and also have some really good food. I paid $360 for the month and got all my meals, my laundry, free bottled water and just the family part of things. Really made things nice!

Wandering City Streets here – the things I saw

A week left in the beautiful Ho Chi Minh City. I have a few destinations to still do and some days to get them done. I’m going to get over to Chinatown one of these days on the bus and am also going to get one more museum. I don’t have a bunch of other stuff so I will continue exploring the city each day with no real goals since I seem to do better that way with finding random things to capture on the camera.

It was good today out. It seemed that today had to be one of the most beautiful days we have had yet here. I got out this morning for some classic Vietnamese coffee and a croissant and plotted and dreamed and figured out a way to go. It never really matters if I have been close the same way before. Everything is new to the lens of the camera and I am still practicing with different types of photography to figure out my style. I believe what comes the closest is a mix of street and urban photography but its pretty free flowing all in all.

Here are a few frames from today’s fun travels for you to check out.

This shot was in black and white use the Acros + Red custom film simulation on the camera. I love the richness of black and white photography and the Acros simulation is so rich and deep!

I like urban and city things I happen across. Not looking for a lot of context. More things to capture as I walk!

Just a Pho place!

I also saw this raptor today!

Pretty cool! I am not sure what the story was since it was sitting out on the street but look at the size of that bird!

I’ll be more focusing on street photography next few outings since there is so much to capture of every day life type things here. All in all, a great day for wandering and doing what I like! Getting lost and taking photographs.

Take care you all!

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?

New Directions in Wandering in Ho Chi Minh City!

Prior to going out for the day, I was sitting downstairs at the homestay when Grace came in. Grace is the daughter-in-law I believe and she’s good with the English and loves to talk. She told me about her busy weeks working at two jobs and also doing a fitness thing. I told her a bit about my adventures.

I had decided to visit a coffee shop around the corner which has some of the best banana nut bread and service I have found. I sat there for awhile and watched mostly tourists come and go. I always kinda surreptitiously wonder what the people’s lives are like. A young couple came in holding hands. They had nice breakfasts and drinks. They left. Then a family came in with at least three kids, the man, and his wife. I lasted longer and got there before them all. I ordered a second americano and sat longer.

After about an hour of enjoying the atmosphere and elegance of the coffee shop, I started looking at google maps to find how I wanted to get to a new walking area and plotted a basic trip. I had looked at the map for where I wanted to go and it seemed that there was a walking trail by this canal or river and numerous bridges that I should see. I also had never gotten there before walking so really wanted to get there. The walking there ended up being really nice with this beautiful walking trail right by the water that I could follow. Bridges were great and came in old and new. Walking there was low stress. No guys trying to sell rides, no shoe shine guys. Nothing. I did see a few people out and about walking on the walkway but it was pretty quiet and its really kept up well.

I got done with the walking by the water part when I reached one of the bridges and checked google maps. I wanted to visit a park and get some water and rest for a bit so I went in that general direction. The weather was kinda iffy today by any standards and before I got to the Vincom Towers for some ice cream it rained. I took shelter in this closed building alcove where some chairs were left. It rained for about 15 minutes and then I could continue my walk.

Ending at Vincom is always fun since I like Bud’s Ice Cream a lot there and the prices are reasonable. I always sit and look at the frames on my camera and start thinking about what I want to do the next day. Usually its around a different direction of walking or perhaps a museum to see.

So, one of the better days of wandering since I saw something brand new and felt really good doing it. I got back and dinner is right at 630pm and is always interesting in a good way. Then I saw Grace leaving again for work.

The day’s photographs were good today too. Finding a new path and a new thing makes taking photographs that much better. I gotta say that Ho Chi Minh City is no slouch with places to find to practice some city photography or urban type stuff. Its also really good for practicing since none of this is so far I could not get back. The chances are though I will not walk that path again.

Here’s the link to my photo album so y0u can see how beautiful it was today!

Day Two at Vung Tau – Wandering the city streets

This was my one full day of exploration and I could have done the tourist things like the light house or Jesus statue. I did not do those things. Instead I wandered the downtown areas and the small neighborhoods. I wanted to get a full day of walking in here and see how people live here. I started at what is called the Front Beach which is less of a tourist thing and more industrial. The beach is not so clean and has a lot of rocks and less sandy beach area but people still come and walk by the beach walkways. Its almost opposite in Vung Tau from the Back Beach that I went to yesterday.

Its pretty easy to get around here walking. The streets are pretty nice but not many people. Not many besides Australian and New Zealand expats. I was totally amazed at the number of expats here living. I am guessing they spend six months at a time here and then fly out to clear their Visas and then start it all over again. I thought through how it would be to simply stop traveling in Vung Tau. While I like it here, I think I’m more of a vagabonder than someone wanting a place to stop. I just want to go slower. Vung Tau would be fun to stay awhile but I don’t see a compelling thing. I would be leaving to go to Ho Chi Minh City or Danang or other places because I like to explore big cities. One of the expats told me they fully expect to meet expat ladies here as well during their stays or find local women. I did see a few expat women while out and about. Its an interesting cross section of people. There are the older retired expat types that are staying here longer. There are the younger backpacker types that are traveling through and may have biked or taken the ferry here for awhile. I think there are also those that have found a Vietnamese lady or  man to have a longer term relationship with. I think if people are happy with a choice they make to stay here its all good! I like this place. But I have other places to get to. Stopping here would not work for me at all. I just want the slower pace so I can see places like Vung Tau and wonder over the people I see on a few days here.

Only day for wandering…

This was my only day here so I wanted to do a full day of walking my own way and see the other Vung Tau. I doubt I would come back again here. Its a way station for me on a long, slow wandering. I’ll leave tomorrow for the city and get back to a week and days of seeing Ho Chi Minh City.

My photo album was updated with the day’s wandering. Here’s the link again if you want to see the city and the beaches.

Now I’m back in my room and relaxing. Legs are tired and that’s good. Its early afternoon and it dawned on me walking today that giving myself permission to simply stop has been one of the hardest things to get done. I sometimes find myself pushing to see the next road or visit the next pagoda or take the tour. Its against the metric for my wandering though and its been tough coming to grips with it. I don’t think I have yet come to grips with the ability to say “mañana” to things or not push a bit.

Tomorrow I’ll catch the ferry back at 2pm and get back to the homestay for another week and days. More things there to go see. More places to report on!

Thanks for reading. I hope you find a thing of value but if you don’t I’m okay with that too 🙂

Vung Tau – Day 1 the Ferry Ride and a bit of wandering

This was the travel day if you can call it that from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau. What this encompasses is riding a water ferry along the Saigon River and then out on the ocean to the Vung Tau. The water ferry is a very modern vessel which skims along pretty well. The first part of the journey was calm but when the ocean waters mix with the river, the whole thing gets frisky so it turns into more of a ride. A few of the kids got sea sickness and others were yelling and screaming with excitement and parents were laughing. It was just fun to see how the river and the port and boating all meet on the river. I had no real idea how big and sprawled out the city is. It seems to go on for quite some time and there is a lot of building going on.

So after two hours, we arrived at Vung Tau and I hopped a cab and came over to the hotel. The front desk manager was one of the nicest and funniest people who insisted on telling me about her experience trying to get a Visa for the US. She tried five times to visit and was turned down or delayed.

After checking out the room and relaxing for a bit and discovering that the wifi is very nice I decided I needed to see the Back Beach area and do this big loop around the city which looked pretty good to walk.

The Back Beach is quite pretty and while it looked like it might rain for awhile, skies cleared and it turned into a nice day for the beach goers. The path I decided to do was a really nice walkway all the way around this big loop and it brought me back almost to my hotel.

The city area is going through some growth and there are more hotels perhaps as the tourist business grows here. I kinda liked it today. There were no shoe shine boys, only a few scooters wanting to take me places, and no cyclo’s.

Reasons for Going…

The main reason for going is not being tired of Ho Chi Minh City but instead it seemed like the ideal getaway that I could do on a water ferry for really reasonable rates and then also stay somewhere different, do some different walks, and take some different pictures of things.

I will be doing those things through Saturday and then I head back to Ho Chi Minh City on the ferry and have about 1.5 weeks left before going to Da Lat.

Instead of sharing a few individual pictures, here’s the album I started to record my travels here. I’ll be updating that album for the next few days with my photographs from Vung Tau. The album has some shots from the water ferry trip as well as my wandering here today.

The Fine Art Museum in Ho Chi Minh City – try to visit if you can!

The Fine Art Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is spread over three buildings. Each building focuses on a. Specific period of art and history so you can work backwards or forwards as you want. The cost to see the entire museum is 30k VND which is more than reasonable. I found that the displays are more organized and contiguous in the first building and there is more contextual information for that period. Each of the buildings has three stories with the most beautiful interior architectural components. Part of the fun and enjoyment is seeing the beautiful home to the art work. There is no AC since they are older colonial buildings so I stopped afterwards for some water at a minimart across the street.

In no particular order or trying to preserve how I visited, here are a few pictures of the exhibits and the wonderful architecture. I stopped taking photographs after awhile to more enjoy the displays but some I think deserve to be showcased since their display was done so well.

I got the feeling that the museum is being actively developed so some areas seem well done while others are in the process of being complete. As an example, contextual history for the prehistoric artwork collection is not as comprehensive as the revolutionary or modern periods.

If you have the chance and are staying in District One, you should get to a set of the museums here. I will try to publish some kind of guide on the blog for the ones I saw as I get ready to leave the city. There is just so much to see here that if you only have a limited time you may need to pick things carefully.

The 30 days here is winding down to only a few weeks left. The remainder of this week before I leave for Vung Tau I will be working on seeing more museums and galleries and stuff here and also doing my daily walks and seeing the sights. I also am still finding new coffee shops every day to get to which is fun!

Another place I must get to next week is Cho Lon or China Town here. I am going to go one day next week for a day trip there by riding the bus there and back. More on that later!

Coffee Sense in Vietnam and a look at Ho Chi Minh City

Today started out at a brand new coffee shop. My challenge is to find a new one every day and try their food if they have food. Some shops do not have food and specialize only in coffee. Today I went to the Workshop Coffee Shop and Restaurant. I believe that this place is favored by the digital nomad crew here in Ho Chi Minh City. I saw a few of them take up long stay residence at this long table and one of the staff brought out additional surge arrests. Now that’s a handy thing and you can tell that the place most likely caters to workers and nomads. Prices were kinda high too but to me I don’t really care here. I don’t buy dinner any more and don’t have to get laundry done. The homestay deal is pretty good all in all.

Anyways, I’ve read that Hanoi is really the coffee center for Vietnam but this place is no slouch and I have found so many different coffee shops and restaurants for my morning blast for everything from classic Vietnamese coffee to latte to americano. They do favor it iced so I have to remember to always ask for it hot.

The coffee scene here in Vietnam is incredible folks. If you come here and you should if you want to stretch those dollars a bit, I would try coffee here. You have to try the egg coffee. Its a bit rich but it has an indescribable taste. Cannot tell you what its like exactly. Its a taste you have to try. I don’t think there are places back in the states or elsewhere that can approximate it.

The real thing though I wanted to write about is the social and cultural scene of the coffee shop in Vietnam. I think coffee shops are hubs for people. Its a meeting place definitely of all ages and free wifi figures prominently. You don’t have some “brain dead” one hour limit like Starbucks does here in Vietnam. The worst was one Starbucks here which did 30 minutes. Seriously?

Then there is the ex-pat and digital nomad thing that I think Ho Chi Minh City has going for it. People find places where they can work and invite partners or customers or whatever either in real time or in virtual rooms to join. Coffee shops here are naturals for this. They kinda blend the act of coffee and the act of relationships and culture together and the idea of the coffee shop here has translated far away from the Peets or Starbucks in the states. Its more than the most delicious coffee. Its the joining together of people, ideas, fun, young and old, traveler and local. People like me as well. We all re-experience coffee at a few levels and learn that its completely different here in Vietnam.

Try it out when you come. And I think you must come here and experience the food, the people, the country, the culture. And the coffee! Don’t forget the coffee culture! 🙂

Today was more exploring…

So today was more exploring after coffee. I just walked by the river and am alway amazed at the differences in blocks. One block is a Japanese store and hotel block One has an Irish pub and small cozy restaurants. Another block has banks and international trade and ventures. Amazing place!

Today I decided to only shoot with the Camera on F/11 all day. I also shot with Auto ISO and I only shoot JPEGs so whether the photo is good or not, its mine. Since the Fuji has these different funky and fun film simulations, I shot only with the standard one called Provia.

And Ho Chi Minh City did not disappoint. Here are a few photographs from the walk today to check out.

Note that the weather today was a mix of sun, clouds, then thunder as soon as I got back to the homestay and after my ice cream treat. The walking was around the city center area because that’s what I felt like today. I still have about two weeks left here to adventure and do walks to other places and there are so many places on the map that require exploration!

So between the coffee shop exploration and finding a new one every day and the walking exploration, I feel that the city slowly shows me new wonders of so many kinds. The slow travel really pays off I think. I can move at a pace like I did in Hanoi. Find things which I can experience and return to because every day doing travel and street photography is something new. The way the sun glints off the Opera building. The way shadows fall when it clouds up. I’ll be walking around in the evening one of these nights soon to see the city at night. Cannot wait to see the skyline lit up here!

So that’s my report on coffee and hobo’ing around the city today!

Ho Chi Minh City is Enthralling, Captivating and Mysterious

Another day on foot wandering this city. A new coffee house this morning for a few vietnamese coffees and some eggs and toast. Then I was off on foot for the day.

The usual thing of turning left, then right and left again was the usual goodness but I guess I am learning my way around a bit better because I see certain landmark things like this co-op store and I kinda sorta know where I am without the google maps. But it really is so handy having the cell phone service! Yesterday I topped up the service and got a discount so I am good for another month here in Vietnam. I really use the service a lot not only walking around, reading in coffee shops, but also tethered because sometimes the homestay wifi gets bogged down so I switch over to sharing my LTE connection. Works like a charm!

Anyways, here are a few things from the walk today. The sky started darkening a bit so shooting all day at F/8 with autofocus if you’re interested.

Just as I was a few hundred feet from my homestay, the sky started darkening considerably and I could feel a few rain drops testing my mettle. I did not have mettle with me so I went back to the room.

All in all, a really nice day capped with smiles! The darker sky really creates some nice moments when taking photographs I think.