Time Drawing to a Close in Phnom Penh – only days left

I have one day left out of my 30 days here in Phnom Penh. I’m taking it a bit easy today and reading a bit and looking at my travel plans for next year in Malaysia. I need to flesh out those times a bit more after the initial 30 days in Kuala Lumpur. My basic plan is to head slowly north but also take in any places on the way. I’d end up by the Thai border at the end of the 90 day tourist visa in Malaysia. The area to the north around Penang and GeorgeTown look pretty good to me.

Once I cross over the border into Thailand I’ll head up to Bangkok and Chiang Mai for awhile and then fly to Phuket and Krabi for a week and then back. I have those tickets already booked and I have rooms for that trip. I don’t have any real sets of things in Thailand to get done either. I just know by June I need to be back in Bangkok to fly back to Phnom Penh and stay at the hotel here for a month or so while I arrange a Chinese tourist Visa. At some point I will book the round trip airfare from Phnom Penh to Beijing and then back by October so I can renew my retirement extension of stay here in Cambodia.

So, lots to try to define for next year even at some basic level. Since I travel so slowly the rooms I get area always for a month unless its a weekend or short getaway.

Other Stuff…

In the category of other stuff; I’ve met a number of people that are ex-pats now living in Phnom Penh long term. One lady that lives out by Siem Reap and some others when I’ve been eating or drinking downtown. The hotel here is good for meeting international folks as well. There is an interesting ebb and flow of people coming through that teach English work for a company here, or are just visiting.

I’ve had the FujiFilm X100F camera for a few days now and its really an easy camera to move around with. So much lighter and mobile than the XT2. Its size and weight make it really suited for travel photography. The last one I had wss really mistreated so I am determined to not put this one through the same weather rigors. If you’re looking for a camera that can be used for travel and a variety of other uses, the X100F is a great choice. Very powerful but all contained in a small and retro package that does not showcase the person too much. Hip shooting with the camera for the street is really good once you make some basic changes to the settings for aperture and ISO. I advise shooting on aperture priority and setting it to either F5.6 or F8 and forgetting it. Also set the auto ISO so you really do not have to worry about adjustments when you are on the move.

Finally, tomorrow I pack my backpack and then Tuesday morning make my way to the bus depot for my bus ride to Sihanoukville. All of this was planned and paid for months ago and I’m glad I do things this way. I had found the tickets and times much earlier and took care of booking the tickets. I’ll get in around noon to the bus station and make my way over to the Bungalow and be able to check out the town and beaches. I have a vision of slowing down by the beach, being able to work on my content for the story I am writing, and also doing my walks both on the roads that connect the different cities and beaches but also on the beaches themselves.

So there’s a few categories of things which have come up or that I decided I should capture and write about on the blog. I don’t know that I will write here again before I arrive in Sihanoukville on Tuesday.

Almost the weekend – Talks with family, places to still go and the Fuji X100F

I was able yesterday to pick up the Fujifilm X100F camera. I had really forgotten how ideal the little camera is for mobility. Combine the size with the wonderful fuji colors and its so much more for me. I am going to get the XT2 fixed but will be selling it to a friend in Vietnam. The size difference is significant for someone interested in small backpacks and daypacks and having a smaller footprint in my travels on buses and stuff. I read an interesting article and had commented on it before about the X100F being the 2018 travel camera. Primary among the things for me are its size and the fact by its included lens there is no desire or need to carry a whole bunch of other lens. You have a really nice camera that is self-contained. It has the beautiful film simulations and the wonderful retro yet functional look of the Fuji line.

So I am glad to have it back! In a way, even though it cost me some money, I am glad to have the camera back which gave me so many memorable trips and the one I picked up to learn on before. Since I am still learning the X100F I think is very nice for the novice photographer since its menu and options are easily found for the most part. I also have the manual in PDF format on my iPhone. I can always look up something with a few basic steps.

The other main thing with all this camera stuff is to find a camera shop that focuses on Fuji gear here in Phnom Penh. The owner is very accommodating and works to provide his customers with a great sales and post sales support environment. Since I am more or less living here, finding a place in my home base that will support my needs with the camera is very nice.

Last Weekend and Days…

Amazing that my last weekend is coming up here in Phnom Penh. I’ve had a wonderful time here and I think I got to see what I wanted including walking the streets with the camera, going to museums, parks, and palaces, and wandering the riverside eating and drinking. I probably spent a bit more money than Vietnam because I really enjoy the downtown part and restaurants. Since I don’t count or budget, its not a thing that stops me.

I had some breakfast here this morning and cooked my own over easy eggs which was fun. The hotel here is just a home to me in so many ways. I am exceedingly blessed and lucky to have found the La Lune Hotel and the wonderful folks that work here. Now since my favorite coffee stand is open again its time for some of her delicious iced latte and a few hours in the room before venturing out. I would like to find a small bag that could carry the camera and batteries and stuff so I will head over to the Central Market and wander around there later today.

The nice final thing was a 30 minute phone call with my daughter. I don’t blog much about family here but it was very nice to catch up with her. She is a unique individual who has her own life but sometimes still sounds like my little girl. It was nice catching up and then setting a regular time to call her. Things have not been so easy there for awhile but I think we got past some of the past tense things and moved on to her doing most of the talking and telling me about her life and asking whether I would ever return. I think she gets the reasons why I won’t.

To do all the calls and stuff though, its so much easier using a service instead of trying to do international calls on my SIM card. Most of my family does not do WhatsApp or Viber or whatever. So a service and platform is needed that bridges the gap. I use Google Voice on my iPhone and it now supports dialing without hangouts its truly a complete VOIP tool that can be used from laptop, tablet, or phone. I think the only real limit is you have to get the number in the states. Perhaps VPN will work to get the service; not sure. The real reason though to have it is the ease of voice mails and calls and texts and Voice will send you transcripts of messages and alert you to texts. The iPhone rings when I get a Voice call and the number is a US number. Maybe the last and greatest thing is its free. I can get the bank alerts and 2FA easily to it. But believe it or not AirBnb will not use it since its a VOIP number. I don’t use that service much. I don’t see the value when I can find the hotels I like on booking.com or Agoda. Maybe if you want a nicer condo or apartment or some kinda thing you use it. I’m interested in the cheaper places then what I see on Airbnb.

Closing this out

I kinda wanted to write a blog post like a daily activity log of what I do but the truth is since I am not a digital nomad and not on a year long gap year thing, none of those rules apply to me. I have no job to find a coffee shop to do or be concerned about. My days and my ideas belong to me. Its a wonderful thing to have the moments back.

Now its the morning in my hotel room with the iced latte and I’m considering the morning which stretches out before me. I have relatively few days left here and I accomplished what I set out. The Visa extension of stay, the touring around the city and its unique museums and palaces and the city streets and people. All have been so good for me. My next stop is by the beach so I will be able to work on my longer story content in the mornings with an iced coffee by the beach. Walking and investigating still takes primary focus for me so I will find places to investigate either along the beach or between different towns. I look at Sihanoukville as a different thing though so life will change and slow down by the ocean. Phnom Penh is a busy town, international in scope, lots of attractions and traffic in-between going and getting there.

I’ll close this out now and hope you all, dear readers, have a wonderful day or evening; wherever your timezone finds you.

The XT2 Camera and Replacements becomes the X100F camera again

So I’ve had the opportunity to contact the camera shop in Da Nang I bought the FujiFilm XT2 Camera from. Their initial answer is to return to Vietnam and take the camera in for an inspection. Not really possible nor wanted at this point. What I want is the warranty honored and to get the camera fixed or have the body replaced. I have only had the camera for a month for heaven’s sake!

I found the only Fuji dealer here in Phnom Penh and chatted with him on Facebook Messenger a bit. He will take the XT2 camera and get it fixed for me and then send it along to where I am or send back to the hotel and they will hold it for me until January. In the meantime, I am going to go back to the Fuji X100F camera. I had this camera before and I can get it for almost $500 less here. Its also a heck of a lot more portable and easy to carry. I will try to treat it better than getting it soaked in the rain storms. It takes excellent pictures and my first 6 months were spent with it. No complaints.

I know I cannot just leave here without a camera. Its a hobby but its more. Maybe an obsession for recording life on the streets, the monuments and people, and the urban sights I like to record. The other thing about it is that all my batteries just work with it too. That’s a huge thing since I have 3 replacement batteries. The final thing about it is the size of the camera as I mentioned before but it packs a lot of punch in use in its size. It is significantly smaller than the XT2 camera so it fits in a mobile lifestyle a bit better.

What I learned this time is that getting higher end camera gear repaired on the road is difficult no matter where you happen to go. With a smartphone, I would just go buy another iPhone 7 plus since I like that phone a lot. But the camera fulfills more of my desires and needs than a phone.

Why not just use the iPhone?

I heard that and thought it through. I don’t like taking pictures with the iPhone. Its just not the thing that satiates my desire to wander the cities with a small travel camera, record what I want, learn the camera and its film simulations, and feel that I am getting somewhat better. The iPhone just takes the photos and perhaps does a nice job. I don’t feel I learn anything when the phone camera does it all.

The second thing about just using the iPhone camera is storage. There is no removable storage from an iPhone. Images go into the apple photos album and then google photos uploads them for me. I cannot really manage the storage like I can with a SD card of images. I much prefer having a dedicated storage card to hold images and I have multiple storage cards to use as well.

So now I am without a camera since the XT2 will not function reliably. I had a friend in Vietnam call the photo shop as well and talk to them. Nothing really gained with that besides the rather stupid idea that I would fly back to Hanoi or Saigon.

Once I get the XT camera back in a month or three I will then decide what to do. I don’t want or need two cameras. I have a feeling that the XT2 will never be trusted again. What’s to stop it from having another issue with the shutter button? This is not some isolated issue either folks. Many, many people have reported the issue and the only fix is sending it back for repair. Of course that is easier if you happen to be in the US or Japan or perhaps Singapore.

So ends the camera voyage and while I’m frustrated I kind of acknowledge its the way of things that are digital. Laptops, cameras, phones. They all can stop and are prone to being damaged with travel. I know I will never buy some DSLR with 5 lens. I know I will never do RAW file editing. There are things I just don’t need on my travels. But there is one thing I do need and that’s a working camera. I’ll fix this on Wednesday morning first thing.

FujiFilm XT2 Camera Woes – A decision reached and steps taken

I recently started having problems with my FujiFilm XT2 camera. Basically, its a well known problem with the shutter button where it gets sticky or just gets stuck. It was getting that way for awhile so I started reading about the problem. Then I started searching local ex-pat fora for other fuji photographers that may be haunting them. I was given the name of a reputable shop.

I found the only Fuji reseller and service person in Phnom Penh yesterday and he worked on the camera for me for an hour and his appraisal is that it needs to be serviced. This would mean 3 to 5 weeks with no camera to speak of. No learning for me. I just don’t think I can do it. I am stuck in forever learning mode walking and having the camera with me.

His recommendation was to leave the body with him and get it serviced which means a new top cover unit where the button sits. That takes time. He further offered to sell me a new XT3 body which he will get today and at a discount. He will take the XT2 and get it serviced for me and return to either my hotel here or on the road where I am. The XT3 is the brand new camera body that Fuji just released in September. But before that I took another tack. I decided to try some DIY repairs. I tried the following things in roughly the order below:

  1. Toothbrush to clean. I tried a toothbrush to remove any grit or crap within the housing. While this worked for awhile the button still did not feel normal to the touch and would auto focus at the merest touch. Yesterday it locked completely down and would not release.
  2. Rubbing Alcohol and Q-tips. I did not try this although there is a pharmacy down the street and I could have gotten both there. I asked a Khmer friend that works at the hotel to accompany me just in case. At the last moment I bailed on this for the night and moved on.
  3. Tap water. I believed and I still believe that the problem is with grit, sweat, or crap from my backpack that got embedded in the housing and impacted the button. So given that the XT2 camera is water resistant, I tried some tap water to loosen any crap. I removed the battery, SD card, and lens and let water flow down on the shutter switch. It immediately loosened up and now it feels like when I bought it. Did it fix it? I don’t know.
  4. Service Warranty Repair. This will take weeks to a month to get done. I would be without a camera whatsoever except my iPhone camera. The shop would send me the camera back fixed on the road wherever I am. This led me to the final point below.
  5. Upgrade the body to the XT3. I can upgrade to the XT3 body tonight at the dealer and give the XT2 to him to have fixed and then send to me. It will cost me yet more money but seriously this is my only hobby on the road that goes with me walking my daily walks. The compelling thing though is that what do I get with the upgrade? A person on twitter does not feel its a compelling upgrade if I am not going to shoot video. I don’t do video and am after a camera for traveling that is also flexible, sturdy, and weather resistant. Either the XT2 or XT3 support that.

So I reached the decision point in this little story. What to do? Upgrade to the latest and spend the money which is not a big deal to me. Give the XT2 and not have a camera for weeks maybe months? Not good. I cannot just live with the iPhone camera. It does not satisfy me. Keep the XT2 until it starts doing the same thing again in some place like Siem Reap where the photography becomes important?

Here is what I decided to do and it is not a function of money or quality.

I am keeping the XT2 and not buying the XT3 camera body. If it fails or locks up again so be it. I also dropped the camera shop in Da Nang Vietnam a e-mail and asked them to provide a new body since I have only had the camera for a month and change. The shutter button I think is my own doing with some treatment or sweat with stuff in my backpack getting embedded. No matter, I can get it fixed. I would rather get a new XT2 body at some point down the road from the camera shop in Da Nang. I believe they will offer that.

This way also I do not spend money on a thing with questionable value that would replace a thing that now works okay. Maybe there is no right decision folks. Damned if I do or don’t. But I like the XT2 camera a lot. I just bought this camera on the recommendations of a few Fuji photographers who told me it was worthwhile for the type of travel I do. And it has been.

An interesting quest I think with a final decision which I feel good about. Lets see what happens down the road. Mistakes are human. Cameras can be fixed or replaced later. I believe I solved the problem. Refer to the mistake rule above 🙂

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.