A camera, a tuk tuk driver, life adventures in Siem Reap

An adventure with a camera, a bus, a tuk tuk driver, and the great hotel owners was had today. My XT2 camera was shipped from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a bus line. The camera shop told me the name of the bus service but little did I know there was more than one office where packages were received. Of course our first stop was the wrong one and they had no idea where my camera might be. Finally they checked in some database and found it was at the other office. So off we went in the tuk tuk again. It was a few kilometers from the first one. Once there everything was done by my cell phone number so after showing the number to the package person, he produced a little box with my phone number on it and my tuk tuk driver took me back to the hotel. The driver only wanted $4 for the entire thing but of course I gave him more money. Without him, I would not have figured out what to do and when I did, it would have taken twice as long. He just came into the shop and talked with the first office manager who only shook his head but the tuk tuk driver would not let it go. Finally they confirmed we had to go to the other office. So off we went. There I was able to get the camera and then return to the hotel.

Another amazing Cambodian life adventure completed! Usually everything all works itself out but the methods to get there are different. It helps to find someone like the wife of the hotel owner who speaks very good English to help navigate the stops with the tuk tuk driver. But the hero of the day was the amazing tuk tuk driver and he walked into each shop with me, talked with the bus company people, and ensured I was able to get things done.

The camera made an amazing journey on its own I figure. It went from Phnom Penh to Singapore where the Fuji center there fixed it. I believe the camera owner may have picked it up when he went back to Singapore and hand carried it back to Phnom Penh. Then it was boxed up and put on a bus and sent to me here in Siem Reap. It cost me $5.00 to have it shipped here on the bus. Now I have the camera back and the shutter button feels great! I think they replaced the whole top housing part of the camera in Singapore.

This was thanks to FujiFilm US who saw my post on twitter and organized it to be fixed in Singapore which was not in the warranty. It should have gone back to Vietnam and the service center there but I declined that. I wanted it fixed the way I wanted to do it and the camera shop in Phnom Penh was there for me. Those guys are photo warriors! I’m glad to have that association when I return every so often.

Tomorrow is another amazing adventure! I bought a set of tours that begins tomorrow at 830 and will go for two more days through the hotel with tuk tuk rides to the different historic parks. I am so excited to go! I have wanted to visit for a long time and tomorrow is the first of three. I get to shoot the temples with the XT2 camera which makes me very happy!

Then tonight after getting the camera taken care of I had decided to have a burger but the place is closed until next week so I had a bowl of this delicious Angkor stew with some great spices and chicken in it served over rice and with two cold draft beers. Really good! And it all cost $4. Made a great end to the day and now I can sit and relax in the hotel room and dream about temple complexes and archeology and history and also having my XT2 toy back.

Shopping and Walking and Living…

I also have been able to replace all of the things I wished to here in Cambodia. I got new t shirts, socks and two pair of comfortable sandals which I had thought I would not find but after searching the old market more carefully there were at least 5 stalls with shoes. Socks were interesting. While the mall had shoes, they had no socks. I found this little clothing store down from my hotel and paid $1 a pair for socks. I still cannot find shoelaces. Strange. I keep on thinking there is somewhere that has them but still have not met with success.

I also went for a nice walk today and just took aimless photos of just about everything I saw. In other words, what I usually do. I stopped at this Cafe Amazon and met the entire staff there. All very nice young Khmer people who wanted to know where I was from, whether I liked Cambodia, and they were quite excited to hear I lived sorta kinda in Cambodia. I really like the young people here. Very friendly, lots of smiles.

Living here in Siem Reap for a longer time is not really difficult. You find the places that will do laundry, where you can buy essentials like hair shampoo, bar soap and toothpaste, where the latte stand is. Most of all what is the best Cambodian market in town. The markets are social hubs too and you can take care of lots of errand type stuff at one. I visit the old market just about every day and its fair to say I find something new most days by carefully wandering around with an iced coffee.

Anyways, that’s a wrap on an interesting yet fun day in Siem Reap. Thanks to the hotel and the tuk tuk driver and just the kindness of the people here it all worked out pretty well for me.

Its the day by day thing folks – Travel well and go slow!

Today I took care of a final step to get my FujiFilm XT2 camera back from the Camera shop in Phnom Penh. They helped me get it fixed by hand carrying it to the Fuji Center in Singapore. Then they had Fuji ship it back to Cambodia  when it was done.

Now the camera sits in the camera shop in Phnom Penh and I had to deposit $10 US in a bank account that the owner has to pay for shipping to me in Siem Reap. The camera will be shipped via a bus transportation service and I will have to go to the bus station and most likely present picture ID to get the camera. The only thing I have is my passport so that will have to do. It works for everything else here so its good enough :-).

I was going to go to Angkor Wat on Tuesday but now I want to have the XT2 camera back before I go. I really want to use that camera for the visits and tours to the temples here. Since I have a month here, there is no real rush to get a thing done and I can wander the city every day and never get tired of seeing it. The XT2 just gives me a better feeling but I also don’t trust it. I worry I guess that the same thing could happen again to the shutter button and who knows where I would be when it would happen. I’m thankful that I met the camera shop owner in Phnom Penh and he helped me so much get the camera fixed. When I get back to Phnom Penh, I will go see him at the shop and give him monetary thanks for the help!

Life Daily in Siem Reap…

The daily life of this Mike is about the same here as in other places where I spend a longer time. It seems like the first few days I’m in a rush to do things but soon that feeling kinda leaves and I settle in knowing I still have three weeks left as of this Thursday to see the temples, museums, the city and the people. It creates a different vibe for me when I realize I can slow down and not feel the rush that comes with only having 4 or 5 days here. I don’t like traveling that way. In retrospect, I could have not done Hoi An Vietnam at all and added the time to Hue Vietnam. I liked Hue a lot more for the history. I probably could have spent even longer in Da Nang Vietnam. There was something about the city which just appealed to me. If I do go back, I will probably spend longer in Da Nang and shorter in Saigon and Hanoi. I can get the three month tourist visa and spend the most time in Da Nang I figure.

What I guess it gets me to is how the amount of time just works for me on my slow travels. A month just seems to be perfect for most places although Otres Village was kind of stretching it and Kampot was kinda short. I could have done three weeks in Kampot and a week in Otres and called it a done deal.

So when I measure the daily life in places and try to see the quality I enjoy, I always seem to have that rushed feeling at first and then I slow down. It has taken me about 5 days here to realize there is no real rush to doing a thing like seeing the Wats here. I can go at a slower pace, enjoy daily walks with the camera in the city and by the river, go through the markets here, and just enjoy the days at coffee shops, nice restaurants, and strolling.

I’m really thankful in the end for not having some rushed life where I allocate a few days to a place that I then look back on and wish I could have spent longer. I have made the mistake of staying longer in a place though and wishing I could have traded the times around. Truth is I am not done with Cambodia and will do more traveling in the country over the next year. Daily life goes on here in Siem Reap and it will go on in other places.

Balancing it Forward

There is a feeling I get about the balancing of the way I travel and how it seems each time to take a bit to get balanced and to feel not in a rush. I think by the nature of traveling we equate a beginning and end and often the time is days. Perhaps we have it bred in to ourselves to expect shorter times at destinations when we travel. When that whole thing breaks down because time has slowed down and space is wide open we see a different reality. Its a day by day thing in a place like Saigon or Siem Reap. Suddenly each day becomes longer and perhaps has less meaning. The steps I take today and tomorrow become less meaningful in themselves but what becomes very significant is what I see and how I feel and how good the Strawberry Smoothie tastes when I’m done.

So if you can, try to balance the travel forward. Try to be less about the number of places and more about the quality of the moments. I think if you can do that and spend longer and lose the sense of day counts and tours taken and get back to the basic thing about the city, the sights and sounds, the camera; you lose that other sense that time marches on and you have to as well.

No you don’t. You can choose a slower mode of travel and not see the 3 continents and 45 countries. What if you balance it forward and you only see 3 countries in 90 days? You have not failed! You have found the you in places and may find that small side street in Tokyo that beckons you to explore without the tour bus or the alley in Hanoi which is mysterious and only allows bicycles and people?

It is all there when you can balance the travel and you. Perhaps then you come out the winner. Give it some thought. Break the time sequence and embrace the moments.

First Week in Siem Reap — food, fun, places to see

My next week activities in Siem Reap will be on one of three tours through the hotel. I’ll be able to visit almost all of the major temple historic sites starting this Tuesday. Since you have to buy a pass at the gate of the historic site, the hotel recommends a 3 day pass which will cost about $70. I may do a tour a week with them which will get me through the end of my stay. I think the main thing is to go slow through the tours and also be able to see more of the city in-between times.

I’ve had a good first week in the city. If you come here the coffee and food scene is very nice here. You can find international restaurants, very nice coffee houses, and the little latte stands that I really like here. A freshly made latte will set you back about $1.50 and its pretty good sized. The price for a decent Khmer dinner is about $5.00 which includes a beer. I splurge a bit and usually get two entrees since I only eat breakfast and dinner. Getting around Siem Reap if you don’t like walking is pretty easy with a Tuk Tuk but I prefer to walk everywhere so I plan a day of walking each day. Its hot here so I am usually drenched in sweat when I get back but its the same thing as in Hanoi or Saigon or wherever. Perhaps I’m used to it by now.

Shopping Notes and Nots

If you need things here or want things here, try the Old Market by the river. Its a big and rather complex market but I wanted a few things. First I wanted some extra T shirts which is quite easy here. Just about any stall has cheap T shirts and they all seem to have XXL size which is nice! Secondly, I wanted some cheap walking sandals. That required me to search a bit more in the market but right about dead center in the market are shoe stalls where the lady let me try on different sizes to determine luckily I wear a common size here. Finally, I needed new socks. But try as I might and I tried twice, I could not find socks in the market. I ended up down the street at this little clothing store where mostly they have used clothing but in the front were socks in my size for $1.00 a pair. Cheap! I may end up getting a new belt and that’s easy too in the market. Not sure how much belts run here but I’ve seen some nice ones in a few stalls.

So I would say you can find about 90% of what you may want if you are on the road in most of the markets in Cambodia. It may require some patience and perseverance; but it’s definitely doable. Its also worthwhile to haggle and offer something kinda low at first after you hear their price. I got the woman with the shoes to drop $15 off each pair which was nice.

There is really no reason to buy expensive stuff if you are just gonna wear it to walk through the rather hot Cambodian sun and see stuff. The shopping malls cater to a different world of people than me. I saw clothing for some amazing prices and would not buy the types of clothing I wear which is t shirts, lightweight cargo shorts with lots of pockets, socks and decent shoes. After looking around yesterday in a few malls and shopping centers, the prices are better to buy things like toothpaste, shampoo, bath soap in either the market or a small mini mart or local shop. I would say the local shops have the best prices of all.

Next Steps and Stops

So next up is Angkor Was and some of its other sites this week! I’m pretty excited about going since its one of the main reasons I came here. I want to be able to leave in 3 weeks and feel I got to see a good sample of the historic sites and the Angkor museum which I can walk to tomorrow before going to the historic site.

I also have areas of the city still to see and a whole bunch of restaurants, coffee shops and pubs left to sample. Its all fun and my time winds down to 15 December when I leave here for Battambang for two weeks. Siem Reap has been one of the most fun cities but I still like Kampot more. Its a slower pace, less people, but still really good food choices. The riverwalk there is a slow amble. Here it’s a faster tourist stroll. I don’t think I would choose to live here compared to a place like Kampot if I were to decide to stay longer in a place. It is possible that I could stay somewhere for months on my retirement visa.

So, anyways, it has been a good first week and the time as usual goes by a bit faster than what I think it will. Each city I have been to has had a set of things that recommend it or that I find interesting and fun. While I would not go back to Sihanoukville, I would come back to Siem Reap. I guess that’s saying something!

I’ll be writing some words of wisdom later in the week once I get the first tour under my belt and am able to see some amazing history here.

Now Sihanoukville; next Siem Reap — a day between travel days

Last day in Sihanoukville so am kinda resting while its cool in the bungalow this morning. I have only a few things to pack for the flight tomorrow so its a good time to relax in the room with the decent wifi and listen to music and reflect on things a bit.

Last night went to Happy Pop’s Pizza in Otres Village for some of their great freshly cooked BBQ out front of the restaurant. The restaurant has a huge menu and pizza is not even noteworthy on the menu. The Khmer and BBQ foods to me are. I met a man and wife from Switzerland and we talked over our food and beers afterwards about traveling, places to visit, food to eat. We all agreed that Kampot was a very nice place to stay in and we all hope that the un-managed construction never happens there. Its too pretty a town to have casinos and shopping centers that ruin its vibe. We also talked a lot about Vietnam and some of the places there I think struggle a bit with development. Da Nang could be the sister city of Kampot. They both have this international flair and tourists visit from all over to enjoy the slower life in Da Nang as well as Kampot. We finally talked about leaving Otres and Sihanoukville and we agreed that this is not a place to come back to right away.

This morning I wandered down to the latte shack and talked with the lady that makes my morning iced latte. I always get the same thing but this morning I gave her a tip. She was flustered having not received many tips from customers. She gave me half of her baguette and insisted it was my breakfast. Her morning coffee is simply the best here in Otres and I really enjoy her smile and always waving at me as I walk by.

Today there is not much to accomplish for me so I may or may not go for a walk to reach my own goal. I could just relax and read on the kindle, do some writing, and then head over for dinner tonight at the pizza place I’ll spend my last night at here in Otres. Packing this time is with the backpack and everything since tomorrow morning I fly out of here. Its an hour flight to Siem Reap from here so once I get in, will get a tuk tuk or taxi to the hotel and check in and relax a bit and then go out and wander with the camera. Often the very first day is the best to get a sense of where things are. There are always the basic things I need like laundry services, where I can top up my SIM card, and restaurants and stores. Walking the local neighborhood is always good for that.

Once there, I signed up for three rather expensive tours which lets me set my own pace to see the sights or sites depending on where I go. I did this on purpose because I hate being rushed at a place like Angkor Wat or the other temple complexes I will visit. I did the same when I went to the Golden Bridge in Da Nang. I told the tour company to charge me more and make it my tour and I designed the places I wished to go. They provided the vehicle and guide. The money part does not really matter. What matters is being able to see the places at my pace. Spending more ensures I get what I want.

I have 30 days in Siem Reap which is the constant I book time at in a place which has a diversity of things to offer. I like the daily wandering with no big things to see so I can see the daily life of people, the streets and businesses. I like the no rush coffees in the morning and deciding then what I’ll do.

That’s about it for a day in-between travel days for me. Tomorrow its flying from here to there for a month. The year is going by and I’ll be ending the four months I set up to see some different parts of Cambodia. I changed things at least once and went to Kampot. If I had it to do over, I would have stayed in Kampot and came to Sihanoukville for a few days.

Next blog post from Siem Reap!

Time to Transition – Kampot to Sihanoukville and on…

Transition Kampot to Sihanoukville. What a difference. In all honesty, I am going to be glad to leave Otres Village and this area. I don’t think I will be back here again. Tonight though I will enjoy a BBQ dinner at this one restaurant down the street that I like. Tomorrow I do an all day 3 island boat tour which should be fun but most of all it wastes away my last day here to nothing. I’ll probably do a little on the tour but not much. I really want Thursday to get here so I can fly off to Siem Reap for a month.

Budgeting, Finances, Tech Toys, etc…

I read a lot of blog posts about budgets and finances and how to allow yourself so many dollars a day so your money will last the trip. Perhaps you give yourself $50 a day to include lodging. Maybe meals in a place like Vietnam come in at $15 a day of that. Lodging in a hostel comes in at something that cuts some more out of it, and then there is having fun. Somewhere people can exist on $50 a day. A friend on twitter asked me what I budgeted. The truth is I really don’t know. I just spend money on the things I want or need. If its beer and food and a t shirt, that’s what it is. I also splurge on hotels every so often to ensure that I’m feeling good about the experience. In Siem Reap I will spend more money on a hotel so I can have some air conditioning, free breakfasts, good location, etc. When I look at trying to budget things, I get upset. When I get upset, I don’t have fun. So in the end I looked at the money I have across the board which is XX amount. I look at what I get in retirement each month which is YY amount. I never spend YY no matter what. There is always money left over. That money just accumulates in a checking account each month and gradually goes up. So I reach a point at a place where I say,

time to have fun! Time to splurge! Time to eat a burger or an expensive western dinner

No guilt there folks. I just do it. I also don’t keep budgets or finances because I want to be happy. I did look at how long the money would last me that I have given what comes in and what I could allow myself to spend. I have enough money in retirement and savings and two checking accounts to last me more than a decade and that’s freezing the retirement after a set number of years. The truth is that the money continues at its rate and I don’t spend the savings. And therein is the happiness equation. I can simply live forever given what I have and spend time in so many countries in Asia. I could visit Egypt and Dubai and other places too.

I’m not saying this to lord it over anyone. My real goal is that other retired people can do the same thing. There is no reason to barely squeak by in the states. Find a country you like somewhere. South America is cheap and good I read. Just find the place and then do the math. What is the quality of life you want from the adventure? Do you want to travel slowly and see things perhaps denied you earlier? You can do it! There is no magic. Its fact and truth. Money goes farther where things are cheaper folks.

I have a friend in Germany that has changed his technology ecosystem to Android, Linux, and Chromebook systems from some years of using Apple gear. I had been thinking of getting an iPad Pro for awhile but I could not really justify the purchase here in Cambodia. Then my friend made me an offer of his complete kit which includes the keyboard, pencil, the charger, the iPad Pro 10.5 and whatever other goodies. I already have the iPhone 7+ and the MacBook 12 inch 2017 model so I will add a more portable solution for airlines and buses and stuff. Its an LTE model but I doubt I will be able to use that function too easily here.

End Game here or so…

The end game here in Otres Village fast approaches. Tomorrow and Thursday is it. I stopped and talked with my friend that works in a coffee shack that I would buy Latte from each day. She is a very sweet person and I’ll not forget to get a picture of her before I leave.

The rest of this year kind of waits on the 30 days in Siem Reap and then the days in Battambang and back to Phnom Penh. Then I’ll leave for the 5 months of a trip and come back for a month and get my Chinese Tourist Visa. Wheee!

Consider your choices when you get ready to retire. Why just stumble along in the states where the cost of living will forever make a mess of your life. You can live better, easier, and have some fun. I figure when I retired, I had worked the required years and sacrificed and gave to that system. Now work is nothing but a memory and each day is my day and the moments are mine to do with as I want. Don’t you want that for yourself too?

End of Days here, Retirement Things, and Next Places

Its the last day here so went for a walk and decided to buy some T shirts. The 0ld market here sells cheap T shirts in many sizes for $3 each. At the beginning I was shipping shirts over to Vietnam because it was very hard to find the XXL size western there. Here in Cambodia, the shirts are easier to buy and I can just buy and discard them as I need. Don’t feel really bothered tossing a shirt that only cost that much. They are also lighter fabric and dry more quickly after a day walking in the hot sun and sometimes humid temperatures here.

Tomorrow I board the Champa Mini bus which is a good and bad thing. The bus packs everyone in to a point where the backpacks and suitcases overflow and so do the people. Its a 3 hour bus ride and we get one stop for food or a rest break for 30 minutes. The Champa station in Sihanoukville is a nondescript little shop where there is no real sign. Luckily when I left Otres, the tuk tuk driver knew the bus station and took me right there with no google maps or questions. Now going back to Otres for two nights, I’ll just grab a tuk tuk and pay the $10 to get back to the bungalow. Tomorrow night I will do bbq at this place that cooks some really nice steaks or chicken. The final night will do Pizza at one of the better pizza places I have been to in Cambodia.

I wanted to mention a thing about food throughout Cambodia and other places. If you want Khmer or Vietnamese food, it’s all over. Easy to find. If you want western food, Mexican, Italian, German, French; it too is all over and you can find it. You may end up paying more. I went to this place American owned last night for one of the best burgers ever and the dinner was $6.00 for a huge cheeseburger and a draft beer. The good thing there was the talk though. Tonight, I’ll try this other restaurant I scoped out for dinner that is not so far.

So the big message here is that food is no problem in Cambodia. Street food? Other food? Nice restaurants? Smaller local places? It’s all here.

Retirement Visas and the Long Stay Question

I’ve been considering the long stay question for awhile since getting my retirement visa here. For a year, it costs $290 and I can enter and exit as I want. I don’t need to deposit any money or show I make so much. Its just given and I get it in 10 days and I’m on my way. I do not think there is a comparable deal anywhere. I’ve looked at Thailand and the Philippines. Thailand’s deal is not so good. The Philippines seems better but I would need to deposit USD $10k and then prove I can make $800 a month. Neither of those are problems for me but the real question is the value. Given I will not stay there and will continue to travel slowly in different places, why should I pay the deposit and have it frozen in the Philippines? I cannot think of a reason.

The other question is whether I would settle down and stay longer in a place. By longer I mean longer than 3 months or so. It is possible that I may decide to stay longer in a place which has a certain thing it offers. Here in Cambodia I would stay in Kampot or Phnom Penh. If I chose Vietnam, I could only stay 3 months at a time and then would have to exit and re-enter. I could get a 1 year visa there as well but would have to leave every 3 months, get an exit stamp and then come back. If that were the choice though, I would stay in Da Nang. I would not choose Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

If you are considering doing what I have done, consider the regular costs like food and lodging and travel but also factor in how visas work. You may decide to find a local person to marry and more power to you. I think a lot of people make that decision because it the whole thing changes then. I am not interested in marrying a Khmer or Vietnamese person whatsoever. I spent 23 years in a relationship that ultimately failed and perhaps I am still damaged goods.

Its really easy though to travel slowly and pick places you can stay. There are a number of countries with good visa policies. Just remember to check out how you renew, if you have to maintain a balance in a local bank, etc.

My advice FWIW is to pick a place like Cambodia. Its easy to live, people are friendly, most things work like you want except cheaper. You can exit and enter as you want so other countries are open to you.

Finals…

Finally, I am off to Siem Reap on Thursday by air. I’ll spend a month there and tour a different temple each week. I’m still putting the finishing touches on the tours I want but I want my own tours done my own way and its easy with Cambodian tour companies.

I’ll be blogging soon from Siem Reap and its exciting!

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.

Picking a Home Base for your Long Term Travels

There are some essential services and needs for the long term traveler that swing places to become the home base. I’m not specifically talking about how a digital nomad would use a place but perhaps there are some that meet up. I don’t like writing the 5 things but it works here for listing out the things I feel are needed to find the new home base in Cambodia.

  1. Transportation services. The best location will have a variety of transportation hubs like buses, trains, airlines within a reasonable distance. Since I travel months at a time in places, I will never have to worry about arriving and then leaving in a week or two but the ease of getting to an international airport or connect on bus or personal taxi service is key. Give it some thought if you are gonna be staying at a place. It cannot be hard to enter or leave the place and you should be able to get around easily in the city via taxi or grab or tuk tuk or bike. For me, its walking which leads to the next thing.
  2. Walking to places to eat, drink, and somewhat socialize. I am not a big socializer but eating and drinking are good! You don’t want to spend all the time at the hotel or hostel or guesthouse or even in the tourist zone or on the bar street or whatever. Its nice if you can walk to a place that is different and find restaurants and pubs or bars that will suit you. Ideally the streets should be somewhat maintained and a sidewalk every so often is nice! You should also feel safe but take adequate precautions when out in the evening. Don’t carry the passport and wallet. You only need cash dollars in Cambodia or VND in Vietnam that is sufficient for the time at hand. Also don’t get slammed drunk and walk in the street. No one wants to hit you but be sensible out there.
  3. Laundry and phone services. You should be able to find a local place to get laundry done for $1 USD a KG. Thats the normal rate around Cambodia and they should give you a receipt for the service and tell you when its done. For phone or SIM card services, you will want to top up the service and for me its important that the people speak English and can tell you what it is you get. The last time in Otres Village the woman told me very clearly what the deal was and what service I should get and then did the verification and activation step. I won’t recommend one but just know how to top up the card for internet and calls.
  4. Groceries, Convenience Stores and Cambodian Markets. These are all handy things to know how to find and use. I always use an established store because the prices are printed on the door and grocery stores are even easier to use since they have a variety of goods. The classic Cambodian market can be used to replace everything from T shirts to shoes if you need. Be prepared to negotiate and don’t get mad. It’s a game. Also expect that these markets will not be super malls. They are traditional stores with lots of little stalls. Find one that has it all and you will be good!
  5. Printing and Computer Stores. This is easy in Vietnam but a bit harder in Cambodia sometimes. For document printing, find an Internet cafe and put your document on a USB flash drive. If you don’t have the flash drive, you will need to find the computer store.
  6. Exchange Services. Big deal here folks. Find a place to exchange or get smaller currency. No restaurant or coffee shop wants to see your $100 USD for a sandwich or latte. I feel guilty about $20 so try to only have $10 at a time. I also carry Riel with me since for smaller purchases, its easy to figure out the 4k rate and just use the currency. Try to also have USD singles since many things like a bottle of water will cost $.50 or a beer will.

There are so many other things like understanding how to get around, having google maps on the phone, finding landmarks that will help you get back. For me walking all the time in each place, I find a landmark like the Hanoi Historic Water Tank. When I get turned around or lost, seeing where the landmark is and understanding where its positioned compared to the hotel or shopping center or museum is nice!

Finally, the big one. How do you select the location for home base? Is it all the things above or is it the flash of sudden insight when the significant number come home to you? I think as I found Kampot, its that esoteric feeling that there is the right combination of things. Perhaps not all are met but there are some ways to get things done like finding a decent taxi service to the airport. Look at the things you expect from a home base. How many do you have to have and can you satisfy things if you find that the place seems to have that esoteric feel? In my experience with Kampot I found it to have the right combinations of things plus having the natural beauty and the keen feelings I get from having a city to wander in each day for hours. I don’t care if I walk the same blocks twice. What I care about is the sum total feeling of being there.

When you find a home base, you don’t have to be some kind of digital nomad or work if you are a long term traveler. What’s important that you feel good each day being there and its a long term feeling of goodness that simply cannot be traded until you find the next one. For me now, it’s Kampot Cambodia. For others it may be somewhere else.

Maybe you don’t need a home base at all but my take is having a place to cool your jets and perhaps do some planning. Its easier to do the planning with some of the core things met above.

Kampot Cambodia could be a home to me!

So took the bus from Sihanoukville to Kampot today and I discovered something. Kampot is it for me. Its the city to be a home base for me and is close enough to the airport at Phnom Penh but it has this wonderful vibe and charm. Its called online some kind of sleepy little town but in reality there is an amazing coffee culture, food and beer thing going plus the river front and bridges that I so love. There are not the 5 things I could name like some blog about the things Kampot does well for me. I don’t like writing blog posts which name a set number of reasons to visit or things to see. I’ll say that its the city and the feeling of the city and how the people are more than a set of things to go see. To me, Kampot has the necessary attractions for someone that likes doing photography across a city.

Its not all torn up like Sihanoukville and the traffic is not so busy as a Phnom Penh or Saigon. Its in the middle and being in the middle means that someone like me gravitates to it. So by making it my home base means I come back here for a week or two as I need to refuel, get some things done, rest up, before the next trip. I only wish an airport was closer but its all in the planning as they say.

I changed my Battambang stay to two weeks and will spend two weeks here in Kampot instead and then head to Phnom Penh for a week. That is unless I find a way to get straight to the Phnom Penh airport from Kampot. If I find a deal on a mini bus I would carefully consider staying in Phnom Penh and probably change my plans.

Finding this city was a big deal since the last time I felt I had found a place was Da Nang Vietnam. The cities are not so different all in all but Kampot has something that Da Nang even does not. It has this laid back and sleepy charm but yet with all the stuff I would need to be happy. I could never just adapt to a place like Sihanoukville to do that. There is just not enough there and I don’t feel there is a charm to the place or a feeling of a vibe and culture.

The other thing that occurred to me after only one day is that I could live here longer. That’s an amazing thing for me. Its that different than all the other places. While Phnom Penh has things I like it is missing the unique charm thing that Kampot seems to just have. I saw it in on the riverfront and drinking draft beers at the hotel bar. It was this funkiness and wonder thing seeing the river flowing past the city and the lights on the bridges. It could be this longer term home for me if I ever needed it. Its a wonder that a place could have that when I thought no place could.

If you get a chance visit Cambodia but definitely stop at Kampot. Kind of off the beaten track but you will find enrichment and joy and culture and history and natural wonders. Plus the food! The coffee! The quiet beauty of the city.