Good Morning Singapore!

I rolled in last night to the hotel after a very nice flight from Phnom Penh. Singapore Customs has it down folks. It took me 5 minutes and the customs and immigration officer knew I had visited many times in the past and welcomed me back. From there it was to baggage claim and a scary moment or two because I checked my bag. My travel backpack, the Tortuga Outbreaker is within carry on size but I had decided to experiment with checking it in a few times instead. What happened this time was that the baggage carts did not arrive from the flight all together and only a subset of bags were delivered at first. Yet the sign on the terminal said all were done. Changi has airport ambassadors assigned to critical areas and that is a really fine idea! They speak a variety of languages and were able to help Japanese, Khmer, and English speakers understand they had to wait another 10 minutes. I have to say that Changi Airport also really has the whole thing down.

From there it was to the a money exchange stand that also sold SIM cards. I got some Singapore dollars and a nice deal on a SIM card which the person activated and switched on 4G for me. All of that done within 5 minutes of stopping! Having an unlocked phone is a necessity in Asia. I just don’t know how people travel and carry locked phones with them. Buy a cheap android phone and carry it folks! You don’t need state of the art. You just need something with google maps on it! My iPhone 7 plus has been very nice since getting that first SIM card in Japan last year when I left and then the SIM cards in Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Cambodia.

Off to the hotel in a cab. Here its by the meter in the cab so there is no ratcheting up the price or adding more to it. Most things just cost more here and cabs are no different. Got to the hotel, checked in, and headed out for dinner and a beer or two. Found a smaller food court where I got Chicken Rice and a Tiger beer. Chicken Rice is a big thing here and it was so good! Then I walked around the neighborhood getting my bearings a bit and looking for smaller stores like 7/11 or Circle K and restaurants that look cheaper. Found both!

Then off to zombie sleep land with some strange dreams and coffee in the room this morning and deciding what to do today. Its all about walking with the camera today so am enjoying first some moments with coffee in the room and looking at google maps for what I want to do. I want to just wear myself out each day walking and seeing the city again! I will do about 7 miles today and all days.

I’ll save this as a draft post and then add in my end of day thoughts on my first day in Singapore later!

Later that Same Day!

Now I’m back after wandering around Singapore for about 8.1 miles turning this way and that mostly around Bugis Junction, the malls, a number of interesting streets and seeing the wonderful sky scrapers and views I have been missing for awhile! Here is the start of my photo album on my wandering in Singapore. It sure is nice to be back. The city is so clean, people observe traffic laws and pedestrians actually do have the right of way here for the most part except for these scooter things that seem popular here now.

I had a great day wandering the city and catching this and that with the camera. The miles seemed to get me back to the things I truly love doing in a city. For the last weeks, I would walk in Phnom Penh at the riverside or Independence Park or by Central Market but it was not like the city wandering I love to do. It was a great start to a great week here.

More to come!

Battambang Photo Album 2018

Hello all. Here is my entire photo album mostly taken with the superlative FujiFilm X100F but some with the iPhone 7 plus because it was easier at the moment. 

Tomorrow I leave for Phnom Penh for 3 weeks and then on to Singapore. I’ll be wandering around the big city for the weeks because I never get tired of seeing any city over and over again :-). I will probably create a smaller album for the weeks spent there. 

See everyone on the flip side of a 3 hour bus ride to the city!

Moving on from Instagram

After some years and two different Instagram accounts I’ve decided to delete both of them for a variety of reasons. Here goes:

  • There are whole bunches of features that will never come to make it a true photo sharing resource. I don’t think we will ever see folders or nested folders or replying with an image.
  • We will never see a desktop client. It means I have to send the photos to the iPhone first from the camera and then share them. I would like some choice and would like to have the images on the sdcard mounted on my MacBook.
  • The application’s commenting is clumsy and I don’t think it adheres to a conversation view real well.
  • The app does not treat images well and always wants to resize or crop them. I can only share however many as well.
  • Location sharing is always iffy. Sometimes it cannot find a place that Facebook can.
  • I would like a true community of users that I can join. Perhaps a Fuji x100f community.

So many things that make it a step back from a community site like Flickr. When I consider what I want Instagram does almost none of them. I guess if you are looking at it social media and followers and getting a business or other agenda going it’s cool. I don’t think it’s really made for camera users at all. If you use a phone camera it’s all good.

So on 1 January I’m gone. I shared my last image there today. I’ll be sharing on google photos to Facebook and twitter and will be on Flickr with a subset of images of my travels to share.

So long Instagram. You were underwhelming when it mattered.

Battambang Fun Continues!

Today I walked down one of the major roads in Battambang to the provincial buildings and parks. Its a really nice area with large city blocks of older architecture and the city and province buildings including government, utilities, and other administrative offices. All in older buildings. Very cool! Here’s the beginnings of the photo album from here so you can see too.

What I really enjoyed today after some breakfast at the Tous Le Jours bakery which was quite good is the pace of life here in Battambang compared to Siem Reap. Life is just slower and easier. Sometimes Siem Reap seemed rather frenetic especially down in the tourist areas. Here you just wander around and find cool places to see without the pace of tourists and activities. More of a city that’s fun to wander in and see. I also get a lot of “hellos” from people especially kids. Smiles often come from older people here and people will wave to me across the street. Really a nice city to calm down in.

I have about another 1.5 weeks here give or take but I don’t haver a set pace like I did with the temple tours to get done. Each day here seems to just go on with a nice pace of walking and seeing things and the camera just captures the beautiful city and its architecture and temples.

I identified a few areas I want to see tomorrow like the markets. I was going to do that today but decided it was too nice out to spend the time hunting though crowded markets of which there must be 4 in the town. One day I shall do the markets!

Food here has been very good as well. Last night I found a nice Khmer place for chicken curry and rice. Tonight I am not sure. Restaurants here are a bit different but all are nice. You can walk down the road by the river and see different city areas that all have nice looking places to eat.

If you want to see a different side of Cambodia, I think you should see both Kampot and Battambang. Both offer a different view of a city here. Its a different view than the rush of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Since the days are slower now, I end up back in my hotel room for a few hours each day after about 2pm just relaxing in the AC perhaps reading or watching some news on CNN. I also am working on my story every day just about. I don’t set some goals for that but I write new content daily because it feels good. I don’t know the end game with it but I know how I feel doing it and it’s worth it.

Last thing is that it appears I will do Christmas in Battambang since its next week. Then I will do New Years in Phnom Penh because I leave here on a bus on 29 December for there. I don’t really have a strong feeling about the holidays any longer or observing any set holiday for some reason or other. I have seen Christmas decorations both in Siem Reap and here.

So its interesting that life here is at a much nicer pace and people seem to like it immensely here. The town appears older and the city blocks have a rather fun look to them with these streets and blocks that have small businesses and restaurants and coffee houses. I’ll take some photographs tomorrow of some of the city blocks because I think they are really neat.

Days to the Left and Right – Fuji cameras gone and around

Slowly transitioning from one city to another is not so difficult when you are the slow traveler anyways. I’ve been in Siem Reap for almost a month now and each day has built on the day before in some ways. In other ways though each day is unique. I wander in a different direction with the camera. It does not matter if I’ve seen the street before because to me each day with the people, the weather, the environment is different. That same tree or street looks one way on a beautiful blue day but when clouds come the street gets bathed in some shadows and the photography is different. Down goes the aperture and since I vary from somewhat light to somewhat shadow on goes the auto ISO. I just let the camera decide what works.

I have found on the FujiFilm X100F the sweet spots for photography are somewhere between F/4 and F/11. If you settle on F/5.6 or F/8 you are gonna be safe because these seem to be so dead on whether you wander in clouds or bright day and let the camera decide the ISO you will probably get a good shot.

This works wonders for me since each day is a bit different starting from a bakery to have some morning coffee and a nice donut or other goodie. I have liked doing the pastry thing since Vietnam. I’ll just say in Vietnam the bakeries were oh so good! Here I have found the smaller places for coffee that Cambodia seems to specialize in. Particularly the neighborhood stands. Kind of street food for coffee. I have one across the street from the hotel here and there was a delightful one in Otres Village when I was there. Unfortunately while I wanted to get a picture of her and the coffee stand before leaving, she was not there and the cab driver to the airport arrived early.

Anyways back to whatever the main topic was if there was one. Oh yeah… The days. The days with the camera and the wonder of each day and that which makes it unique. The city streets in Siem Reap are like others I have seen but then again not at all. There is the mix of older colonial architecture buildings, government and city buildings, stately hotels, and beautiful restaurants and bars. In Kampot the mix was even more delicate. Streets there were graced with smaller coffee stands, neighborhood pastry shops and then the older buildings. Wonderful! Each day I went with the camera was something new. How the light struck the river or how the boats looked at night running the river. It all seemed so different each day.

So I figured out that the slow travel, the wandering with no real purpose in sight and the slow camera things all figure in to what makes the mode of travel I do the best for me. Relaxing after 3 hours of doing the wandering and back in my room I realize that tomorrow is the countdown. I will only have a week left and then will get to the bus station and move along. I always ask whether I would come back and an equal question is whether I should revisit places. Should I go back to Vietnam in June or July next year? I spent 6 months there already. I feel it would all be different this time but I also look at the other places I could go with the same time. I could go to:

  1. China
  2. Korea
  3. Philippines
  4. Taiwan
  5. Lao
  6. India

So many places I have not really been to yet. I would like to get the last 6 months kinda defined for travel because I have to be back in late September to get the retirement visa extended or move to the Philippines and get their retirement visa. Truth be told, I don’t want that visa. I like it better here. Its easier to get the visa here and I can travel all I want to and its not an island where buses and trains simply won’t work.

But for now the next few weeks beckons. To Battambang and then back to Phnom Penh and finally to that lovely little city Kampot by the river. From there I fly off to Singapore and perhaps see old friends there (or not). Then off to Malaysia for 90 days and traveling in many directions. Its not everything in Malaysia. I hand-picked places like Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Port Dickson and Penang to represent different cardinal locations in the country. Each places gets weeks so I can explore with the camera.

Final Frustrations with the FujiFilm X-T2 camera…

Yes, that camera was so frustrating and anger and irritation producing. I bought that camera in Da Nang to replace my original X100F which had gone through rain storms, been dropped in a puddle, dropped on the floor, slammed around in luggage and still mostly worked. The X-T2 camera to me is a piece of crap. I had the camera’s shutter button repaired after only two months. That took effort. Then I get it back and it starts sticking again in two weeks. I have only had that camera for about 4 to 5 months folks. Cameras are supposed to last longer than that. I have no faith now in those camera lines at all. I also will never buy the X-T3 because of its proximity to the X-T2. The X100F just is the best for me. Its small and resilient and reliable day after day.

I am no photographer nor do I want to be. I don’t crave instagram moments at temples or desire to catch the perfect shot or composition. What I like to do with a camera is capture what I like. How a simple building looks with the sky and clouds. How a tuk tuk looks against the backdrop of a building. How the light crosses the shadow in black and white shots. My interest in getting better is not to be called a photographer (ever). I want to be able to express myself better with the camera but still only capture that silly building or the darkness and light vying for the building.

The X100F does all this for me and it has never had a problem with the shutter button. I guess there is no next camera for me in the FujiFilm line unless a camera is released that builds on the X100F tradition with a fixed lens.

This whole thing brought me all the way around and back to the streets I love to walk and the pictures I want to take. A famous photographer when asked how to do the best photography said,

F/8 and be there

I’ll add you have to have a camera that’s fun to use and be glad to be using it. With no camera you will not be there and a smart phone camera will never be the same folks. It will never let you have the experimentation or fun. Its too “been there; done that”.

So I still love the Fuji cameras and would buy another one. Just not that X-T line of cameras. I don’t trust them and I think their quality control and build is lousy. I also know that I am not the norm with doing photography. I am the person who gives a shit less and just wants to capture and see what I did on a day on a tour. I also never edit photos. If I cannot take the picture and save it off as a JPEG what’s the point? I don’t have the time or inclination to learn Lightroom or Photoshop. The Fuji cameras pride themselves on the quality of their JPEGs so why should I be different?

At the end of the day, its me, the camera and the world in front, behind, to the left and right of me. I make the choices. I capture the photographs. Its me and the street and the camera. The X100F. The camera that just works to capture the world there around me. To me, the best camera ever.

Siem Reap Temple Thoughts and Dreams

Today was my 5 temple tour day here in Siem Reap. To manage and control the photography, I have a simple control sheet that works for me quite well. I use the Ulysses App on my iPhone but you can use google docs or a text file or whatever as well. The main idea is if you are gonna visit multiple places in a day where there may be a bit of similarity you want some control over the images coming off the camera. The easiest way is to create a simple text document and include the name of each place and then note the starting and stopping image numbers. You may have to remove the SD card since when you export images as I did using the FujiFilm Remote app, the names get munged to new names. Its easier to just remove the SD card and mount it up or look at the images and do simple math. If you have a lot, its easier to remove the card and mount it. I use a nice Type C dongle that lets me see each image.

But lets talk about temples today. The 5 temples I was privileged and excited to see today were:

These temples are kinda scattered around so it’s easier to get a friendly tuk tuk driver that knows his way and get him to haul you around. It was a beautiful day for temple sightseeing today. Temperatures in the low 30s with some clouds. I don’t mind sweating since I seem to do so much of it walking the cities and trails here. Today I did about 6.4 miles on temple patrol!

Here’s the final outcome of my wonderful day. I have the album sorted earliest first so you can see each of the temples with the ordering above. Each of the temples and the last temple complex has unique features and subtleties. One has amazing waterway courses you walk over on a wooden sidewalk or path. Another has elaborate staircases to climb to the top. Yet another temple has carvings of intricate figurines and animals. There is no way to apply a standard measurement and you would have to spend a day at each one with more detailed photography to really appreciate the subtlety and differences. Tours and tuk tuks are not meant for that.

So what did I learn? All of the complexes were built within about a seven hundred year period and represent multiple chambers with outliers in smaller buildings. Some are preserved and others are not. The building style varies greatly and the last was almost a maze of access where you walked through numbers of small passageways to reach the next gate.

To give you an idea about each temple’s setting, I linked the temple to the wikipedia entry for each one above. This should help you get the historic context for each temple. But what about a personal favorite? Everyone always sees a place perhaps like Chaco Canyon or the Grand Canyon or another natural or historic site and has a favorite. My favorite from the day is the last temple complex. I include the word complex because it is. It is the only temple I went to that has entry and exits in the 4 directions. I did not really realize this until I got lost trying to find the exit I had entered. But the real thing is the complexity of the temple and its beauty. It is intricate with carvings and smaller outlier buildings and then a foot trail to let you see it all. It makes the Preah Khan temple the best for today for me. I also felt that it had command of the geography and produced a view of river moats, statuary, and beautiful buildings which did not compromise. My subjective feeling is that this temple demanded obedience to reach its interior grounds. Walking its internal pathway leads to numerous low and high barriers to entry much like other Wats. You have to want to get in.

Those Instagram Moments…

One of the things that was frustrating were those folks grabbing their instagram moments. Young men dressed down and their companions dressed up posing at various places, holding up the progress of people behind them, the women having to get to just the right spot with hands outstretched, sitting on a temple wall. The men with their big old Nikon or Canon cameras adjusting the pose, getting her to be just right for that one moment where you get the 900 likes. I just get the feeling of frustration with these folks. Its not the temple they are there to see. Its the moment of posting it in a coffee shoppe on Instagram and seeing the attachment rate. For me, I could care less what I post on Instagram. If you don’t like it, don’t follow me. I just share my photos there. I also share out my entire albums of JPEGs straight out of the camera. I don’t edit stuff. Some end up good. Some bad. It’s the way of it.

Closing Temple Thoughts…

If you visit the Siem Reap area, I think you should get to the Angkor Museum first to get a sense of context and who the rulers were and what they did but the Angkor park does a nice job of giving you information when you are there. Some of the temples take some walking but they have done a nice job of restoration and providing access for most people. Photography can be tricky of course. My rule was to set things to automatic where I could. I used Auto ISO and will always use aperture priority to around F/5.6 to F/8 given the light available. I just let the XT2 decide which it thinks the shutter speed and ISO should be. It does better than me and I was going from darker to lighter but I felt that f/5.6 was a good sweet spot for the type of photography. If I moved to more distant shots like at the last temple I changed to either F/8 or F/11 but kept the camera on auto ISO.

Perhaps I am not a purist but what I want are the remembrances and memories. I don’t shoot photography to please anyone. I do it to learn and be happy myself with the results. There is no final goal or picture being sold. If you like one of my works take it. I don’t really care.

My closing thoughts for the day are that there are way too many temples and I will still see 4 more on Monday. Angkor Wat at sunrise and then three more. These are huge complexes so I’ll spend more time cruising them on foot. I am still going to try to limit the photography since it’s easier to manage.

So there you have my closing temple and photography thoughts after a few hours of wandering. I walked a total of 6.4 miles today to see the temples including getting lost at the last one. That was fun!

Its gonna be time for dinner soon here. Tomorrow no places to really be so will go exploring again in the city.

Kampot to go!

Its Sunday in Kampot town! Tomorrow is my last day here and I walked over what is called the old bridge today to see the part of Kampot that is more rural across the bridge. I walked for about 3 hours and criss-crossed the area a few times on different roads and paths. It always feels good whether I decide to take photographs of what I see or not. Today I took lesser photographs. I then walked to this smaller bridge and walked back over to the old bridge and stopped at a mini-mart to get some ice cream and water. There is one in the city center area that I really like to visit because their water is always ice cold and the ice cream is not close to melting. After sitting for awhile at a table outside the store, its fun to watch others that either live or are traveling through. There are a lot of older folks like me here that I think have retired to Kampot to call it home. You can find a place to live here I think pretty easily.

If I were going to stay for longer periods than just a week, I would find a room I could rent for a few hundred dollars a month. I would not want an apartment because of the utilities and other charges. I would still eat all my meals out and also use free wifi at one of the many coffee shops or at the room. This is not what I want though. There is no desire to settle down for me. I just want to travel through the places albeit slowly and then leave. Just like I will leave on Tuesday for Sihanoukville. But my time even there is limited. On Thursday I fly to Siem Reap and begin a month there. That is going to be a highlight for me since it has so many historic sites to see and I would like to do one temple complex a week or something so will be asking the hotel to help me out.

I think Kampot has a bunch of stuff to recommend it if you are interested in finding a longer term place to stay. One of the things is that life is just slower here but there are things to do. Its a nice combination and the city is large enough to walk around if you want that kind of thing. The riverfront provides both the slowdown and the ability to see some beauty in the evenings. Another thing are the restaurants and pubs. If you want time out in the evenings, its easy to find a place to eat no matter the food you may look for. I’ve had some really good khmer food, Thai food, Chinese and tonight I will do a burger here. I think the food choices are another recommendation for Kampot. Another thing is while there is no airport directly adjacent getting to Phnom Penh is not so bad. It will take a few hours so if you are planning an international flight, you just factor in the need and let the guest house or hotel know your need. The Kampot Riverside Hotel, where I stay and will stay, will strive to help with transportation that you need.

Perhaps the final thing once you have the other things managed and are delighted by all the choices is the pace of life here as I mentioned on the slow down part. You can find a bench to sit on and read or take a walk or find hobbies here pretty easily. Many people enjoy an iced coffee in the mornings and peruse the phone. Cell services and wifi are pretty good here for the most part. There are some slowdowns even in the hotels but its kinda what you expect because its that way all over Cambodia really.

So, there you have it. If you are rushed to get to places, have a short time to find the 30 countries and the high level tourist places, Kampot may not be for you. If, on the other hand you have in mind a slower pace and perhaps want to get some time to really relax or just enjoy a different pace to life from a place like Phnom Penh this may be just what the travel agent ordered.

Give it some thought if you are considering a visit to Cambodia. You can do the Angkor Wat complexes and the historic sites here and there. How about a city that tempts you to slow down and stop counting passport stamps and entry visas? Kampot may be a thing to consider. Its an interesting and fun place and here’s the photo album just so you can get a feel of the place. There are other places to go as well. I will slowly see some of them. This time was about the city and surrounding areas for me and walking to see the city each day.

Kampot Notes, Photography, Fun!

I’ve been having a lot of fun here in Kampot lately wandering and taking photographs of buildings, markets, roundabout turns, and the riverside. The city is quite beautiful and sitting in the evenings with a few cold beers and just seeing the river and the lights on the bridges is. very peaceful and nice evening. Restaurants here are all over and offer international cuisine but I really like the Khmer food choices here the most. Just to get a sense of the diversity of the city, here is my photo album of Kampot!

Yesterday I wandered out the city road that eventually takes you out of the city and got to see how the city district transitions to more of a rural area. Fascinating views when you can walk out of a city and see things shift. I also walked to a few of the roundabouts which seem to be always decorated by statues or parks or even garden sites. Here there is one park area that starts at a market and runs blocks with sidewalks and small garden or open areas. Restaurants line the park areas and its also the tourist and backpacker area. Prices are very good for most things all over the city and smaller stores offer choices on water bottles, toiletry items, t shirts and clothing, souvenirs, and other stuff.

Initially I thought I would go to Ha Tien Vietnam but this is not to be due to an oversight perhaps my fault on the e-visa but there is no real time to fix it so I just will stay here for a few more days and then mini bus back to Sihanoukville and spend 2 days and leave for Siem Reap. I’ll be glad to leave Sihanoukville next week. Its kind of changing and not for the best. In Otres Village one hears the sounds of pile drivers and construction trucks all the through the night.

Photography Fun

There’s a sense when you read a lot of blogs and comments that photographers make that one must do certain things to become the photographer. The real truth is that there are no rules besides you can pay for your camera. The real thing is that it should be fun. If your camera drags you down or is so complex that you cannot actually do the things you want, then I don’t think you will use it for long.

Forget the whole method to doing it. If you wanna shoot your camera on automatic mode just do it. Gradually learn perhaps how aperture priority works which is what I use a lot on my Fujifilm X100F. I sometimes use manual focus if I am sitting still and zone focus on an area say 10m away or whatever. That’s a learning thing for me.

If you don’t want to edit RAW files, why shoot in RAW files at all? My argument is whatever slows you down will make things less fun. Take things in baby steps. If you never proclaim yourself as a photographer that is ok too. No one says to buy a camera you have to be one. I like to take pictures with my Fuji camera because its a fun and funky and retro style camera that is a great travelers camera. I think perhaps the best! I only shoot in JPEG and I use basic techniques like setting the camera to auto ISO in aperture priority mode when shooting busier scenes. I try to other times use an ISO setting which I think works but I will set the aperture for the amount of light from about F5.6 to F11. I think those are the sweet spots of the camera overall.

Finally if you camera gear weighs like 5 pounds and you are a walker like me in cities, you are gonna get tired. Tired of the weight and the backpack that drags you down. How about a smaller mirrorless camera like the Fuji X100F that can do your daily travel photography in a faster, easier way?

Getting Ready to Walk in the City…

Now its almost time to hit the road for some hours and end at a coffee shop for an iced coffee and people watch. Kampot is a fun city to just wander around and take photographs of things with no real regard for the things and just let the camera do the talking. Old buildings, fun roundabout turns, food, craft, and trade centers. It’s all here. Its another reason why I re-arranged my travel end of the year to get back here. I had thought I would hunker down in Phnom Penh for a home base but Kampot is much nicer for that. Its got both the small town feel plus a larger town environment.

Give it a shot sometime if you want a delightful, somewhat off the beaten track place with great food and friendly people and a whole bunch of nice places to stay.

My Sihanoukville 2018 Photo Album

Hi all. I’ve started my photo album for the month I spend in Sihanoukville. I’ll be wandering the beaches and the cities and villages around here. Here’s the start of the album. You will notice a lot of sunsets :-). My rule with the albums is that there are no rules. If you are looking for some kind of orderly progression of places, I’ve never done that. The camera is a discovery tool so you see things as I do.  Here’s the album! It will grow as I visit places. Look for a lot of ocean and small town stuff.