Not Ho Chi Minh City – Tokyo Japan

Last year I wandered around Tokyo Japan for about a week. I loved seeing the skyline, the beautiful parks and taking the Tokyo Met Subway. I also rode the Bullet Train to Hiroshima. But before that, it was those days of wandering the city. Sometimes a brilliant skyscraper village other times this.


So many different looks to that city.

A short distance to a minor deviation

Catchy subject eh? I am a master of creating subjects or headers with no real basis in what I am gonna write. Call it my particular skill or irritation and frustration point. Perhaps you have stopped reading already. I’m totally cool with that. You will miss a minor deviation from all the wonders of Ho Chi Minh City.

Taking Notes on Mac and IOS – my 2019 and onward revisions

I like taking notes and then being able to edit said notes on my iPhone or my MacBook. Its a thing I do sitting in the room in the mornings and then when I’m out eating lunch or having coffee or over dinner. There is always something more to take note of. I also enjoy applications which sync flawlessly using iCloud between devices. I want the same info and roughly user experience between the devices and if I pay for a subscription, I expect to have gratification from the application developers.

To reach there, I’ve tried any number of Notes apps like OneNote, Apple Notes, Evernote, Ulysses, and on and on. This is all leading me to the app which now has my attention and is actually a joy to use whether in the room on the laptop or on the move. That app is Bear. So what about bear keeps this old retired guy enthralled and using it and not hunting a new app? Here are a few reasons I can think you may want to consider to try or not try:

  1. Its fast. The syncing action is not a sinking action on the MacBook and my iPhone. Everything happens in really fast time and my notes are there when I need them.
  2. The UI and its beauty and simplicity. I do not need a thing overly complex and I really enjoy the use of tags to split or join notes and see them in various sections. I also enjoy linking to another note by typing two left brackets and seeing the existing notes show up. If I am in a tag area like #writing and I create another note it maintains that tag. Cool beans and it lessens workflows to get things where I want them.
  3. Linking notes to other things. You can link between Bear and other apps. By coping the Bear Notes Link it will open from the other application on the MacBook or my iPhone. There is a nice collaboration at work there.
  4. Subscription Models work. I believe it’s a value thing for subscription models and application developers will create value if they see you have skin in the game for the long term.

My Diary on MacBook and IOS in 2019

I’ve gone back and forth on an app to do this. There is a separation line between the blur of consciousness stuff I want to record like a conversation for my future self or a thing to clear from my mind or a frustration or a vent and a note that captures a thing to me.  The note is often undated while the journal entry is not.

So enter Day One for the diary. I use this app on both my MacBook and iPhone too and it has some of the same rationales as above. Its a joy to use and it tags the location and keeps track of where you are and will bug you to create journal entries. I need that sometimes. I don’t have a list of reasons because many cross over. What I expect from a diary app is crispness and a clean interface that lets me get right to writing these time and thought based blurs of things. If an area  demands more exploration or explanation or links of thought, I create a note in Bear and link it as mentioned before. If I start something Bear and I want to reference it in a Day One journal post (like about travel ideas) I can create that linkage.

Combining it all into one thing

That’s impossible and I no longer want a single thing like for awhile i did with Ulysses. I appreciate the closeness but separation of well-designed applications with different UI and purposes is very cool and a desired thing. I want to have my travel notes reference the detailed list of things I keep in Google Sheets but be separate. I want to reference diary posts in Bear. Easy peasy!

Finally, I want to bring it all and find it all on my devices. For me the whole Apple Ecosystem just works the best for me. For you it may be Google Docs. I used that for a long time and its closely integrated. If I moved to a Chromebook particularly with an Android phone, I would export and move.

That’s the final thing for me. I want the ecosystem integration but I also want a way to bail if the time comes. Both of these apps offer attractive and advanced ways to export information and I’ve tested both with a different journaling app that resides on Google Drive.  I cannot see myself leaving though.

What I can see is upgrading in 2020 to a new MacBook or getting the 2019 iPad Air device with the smart keyboard and bidding adieu to laptops completely. It would be easier to travel with just the iPad and iPhone I think. Charging and maintenance, weight and size, comparable use and applications would be ideal!

Give it some thought in your experiment of one. I have not found the final end point. I have found a way station stop along my path that lets me integrate my notes and diary entries. Does it make it all worth it? Perhaps. It does make the trip more fun and keeping detailed notes on travel in Bear is the best! Day One really lets me focus and create thoughts and talking to my future and sometimes past self. I think both are important and finding ways for me to tie them together thoughtfully has been damned good.

Travel Photography — Needed a place for awhile…

So I have tried to use Instagram a few times but I tend to get frustrated with it. Its not really meant to be a photo sharing site at all I don’t think. Its really a microblogging site which has photography sharing. So for a time I used primarily the blog and Mastodon to share photographs of things. Then I happened upon a passing conversation on twitter about Trover. Those folks did not want to use it  because I think they want something to gauge followers as a method of engagement so they can up their social media creds. Anyways, Trover sounded very interesting because what its about is travel and photography and that’s it. People share photographs. You can comment on them. You can follow others, create lists and then meet photographers or travelers with your interests or those that diverge completely. Its not about putting photographs up that are those instagram moments and there are no stars or giants. There are just photographers who share moments of travel. Trover calls them discoveries. You can instantly find other discoveries because of its excellent discovery stuff. You can follow people easily and you get notified when people like your work or comment on it. That’s it. No social media engagement, no instagram stars, no idiotic interface with no desktop application. Trover is simpler and kinder to me with a web application that works to upload photographs and a nice IOS app which does the same. It can also upload to Facebook and Twitter if you allow it. It basically can become the hub of photo sharing and let you share your travels from the hub. You only upload to a service a single time to share and it works!

For me, its far beyond what instagram could do or would do. I’ve found this thing I wanted which was to share photographs with other travelers, see their places and then they see my places. That’s it. No one counts followers like on twitter. No one complains about engagement levels. Its just photography sharing without the frills and stupidity. Its made me feel good about finding services out there that just work.

Transition to a few things of today…

So from that, I return to sharing on the blog which I love to do. The blog is a great central medium for sharing of images and discussing hopefully deeper and better things than the clickbait 5 things I did in Ho Chi Minh or the itinerary for 10 days in Stockholm. I want to create more value of what life is like; the goods and bads. Its not about doing so many things or visiting so many continents, countries, cities, and UNESCO sites. Its about finding one continent I could be happy in, with countries that amaze, cities that astound, and heritage sites which keep me coming back for more. Southeast Asia has become a home to me but not just some tiny corner of it. I want it all. And when I feel the need to head back to Malaysia or Singapore or Vietnam or even farther, its all possible. So, without further discussion, a few things that today brought my way.

Explaining a few of the things. The first picture is of the clock tower of Ben Thanh Market. Its the public market where most tourists and backpackers will shop, eat, and bargain at. Next is the central square where the statue of Ho Chi Minh, the people’s committee offices in stately French colonial buildings, and the beautiful and rather interesting twin Vincom Towers.

The Riverside Hotel is a beautiful building right along the Saigon river and then you see some pictures of the river as it flows down the city and finally two buildings that just captured my eye and I don’t recall where I took them.

Summing it all up…

Its also the end of my second week so I am moving into my last week here in HCMC. I will explore the city every day, take my morning coffees at a coffee stand or bakery, walk the steps and see the sights. HCMC does not ever disappoint in those endeavors. Now that I found something of value to share my photographic moments I can let some strange desire to use instagram fade away.

In a week, I am off to Can Tho for a week and then will fly to Phu Quoc Island for a week. Vietnam is also ticking by. 2019 has been an interesting wandering year for me but I think 2020 is gonna be different. I leave in October for Taiwan and then the Philippines and then back to the USofA for a short visit. Then the real adventure kicks in. More on that later :-).

It was a day of things!

Like reflections, a lonely bicycle, Fujifilm Ad for the X-T30, and some YOLO going. We are having beautiful weather here each day. Its been wonderful weather for city explorations and walking here. Cooler mornings, days warm up nice and no rain lately. Just gorgeous!

I’m also moving some of my photo sharing to the Trover app which focuses on travel photography. I think its something I wanted that Instagram never could give me. There is community, groups, photography, and lots of people sharing.

Today was an Apple Reseller and a Walk to Nowhere in Particular

I noticed the other day that the Type C power cable to my Macbook was looking pretty bad. The plastic outside had worn completely away showing the wires underneath. I think that this particular charger and cable was about a year old and been through repeated packing, using, twisting, etc. I decided first off after a leisurely breakfast and talking with the very nice front desk woman to find an Apple reseller close by or not so close by to replace the cable. If I were to replace the whole thing, if I remember right it was over $100 in Vietnam a year ago. This time though, it was just the cable.

So off I went to the Apple reseller I found to buy the new power cable. I took the old cable as well just in case there was a language issue but the nice young guy there understood immediately and showed me the 2 meter cables which come in at about $35. I had decided to not buy a cheaper type C cable here because I am never quite sure what it is I get from some of the stores. In Cambodia, I will only shop at a few electronics stores like the UFOstore because they sell quality gear and back it up at any of the stores. I bought a lightning cable in Siem Reap and they assured me if I had problems I could take it into the store down the riverside in Phnom Penh. I keep those kinds of receipts  always.

Anyways, after getting that done, I decided to explore a different area of Saigon. I am not sure if I walked there before. So off I went and I managed to see a few interesting things along the way.

Just to set the stage, I walked through a park and happened to meet this mom, daughter, and younger daughter picnicking in this park. The mom waved and said hello and then her older daughter that spoke better english came over smiling. The mom did not want her picture taken at first but we agreed if I visited for awhile I would be able to take a photograph of them all. The older daughter understood it all and was smiling even more. The young girl was busy trying to master food containers. Here is that image and a few more from the day spent doing absolutely nothing again besides having fun.

All in all, a fun day with some minimal things to get done, interspersed with a nice walk and the very friendly Vietnamese people I always seem to meet. I had a quick lunch at a Lotteria fast food place and then walked on back to the hotel.

All of the images are taken with the prime lens still. The lens is very easy to just leave on the X-T30 camera. I don’t think I have swapped it out for the 18-55mm kit lens yet. Its that easy and fun to shoot with plus auto-focus is a dream and image quality is nice. The aperture ring also has the clicks to it instead of a soft aperture ring that does not show the F stops like on the kit lens. I do think that the F2 35mm lens is a great prime lens for all around use around a city, taking photographs of buildings, people, things. It also is an out of the way and somewhat unobtrusive lens much like the rest of the camera when compared to some Nikon or Canon monster camera. If you are a beginner or just wanna take images and not futz or fuss with them, I really think the FujiFilm X-T30 is a great choice. Price point, quality, size and weight. Great little travel camera!

This City is a city of so many looks

Ho Chi Minh City is one of the best cities to wander in. You can see so many different skylines, the mixes of old and new, wonderful people that like to have their pictures taken, children waving and saying hello, and just the differences as you go step by step. This visit has not been about seeing the tourist or other sights. Instead I just pick some direction each day and perhaps wander there with the camera. The city is so big one can never exhaust the looks and feels. Then there is the stop for lunch or a iced coffee or just a smoothie.

Wonderful today! And here is what I saw. I hope you get to see that HCMC is full of so much variation and its worthy of a longer stop than mere days.

Again today was a day of exploring with the prime lens on the X-T30 camera. Shooting anywhere from F5.6 to F8 with a variety of the film simulations.

Nice day out with a very expressive set of clouds that careened around the sky that you can see in a few of the images. The black and white photograph is with Acros+Red. I have always loved its edge and punch and contrast!

Another Play Day with the FujiFilm X-T30

Today just spent the day walking around shooting with the Fuji camera and the prime lens which is the rather sharp and fast Fujinon F2 35mm lens. Here’s some stuff from play time today out and about in the city. There are worse places to play with a new camera. Ho Chi Minh City has so much going on most of the time you can just sit in a place or walk the city streets and find parks, buildings, people. All the good stuff to capture and have fun with.

Just for some details; I shot most of the images around F5.6 but the last image went to wide open to get some basic bokeh going for fun. I also shot a few images with F4. Most or all were taken with either the Provia, Classic Chrome, or Acros+Red black and white film simulation. All are just JPEGs right out of the camera.

I’m going to continue this week playing with the F2 lens. I am really liking the ability to get an auto focus so fast and have the smaller size with the lens. I have to use sneaker zoom which is okay.

I have been thinking of a second camera body lately that would let me use the lens I have with it. I don’t quite feel like spending the money for an X-T3 and I think its more of a camera than what I need. I do like the X-T20 camera body which is the generation before as a backup. The X-T2 is possible too since you can find it discounted these days. I would not buy another camera body until I am ready to go back to the states and would have it sent to my ex-wife’s house so I can just pick it up there.

Anyways, that’s the story from today. Pizza tonight!

Sunday in Vietnam

Here it is Sunday in magical Vietnam. I had some nice Vietnamese Beef Stew last night for dinner after wanting Bun Cha at a particular restaurant but it was closed for some emergency. Today I will venture forth camera in hand to further test and have fun with the new F2 35mm prime lens on my X-T30. I can say if you are looking for a good combination of travel camera, prime lens, and kit lens; consider getting the X-T30 with the F2 35mm prime lens and buy the camera and 18-55mm kit lens together. The cost is very competitive and you will get the same innards as the world class X-T3 camera. FujiFilm does this a lot so I thought I would offer my own take on the value of this camera for someone like me that moves very slowly in places in Southeast Asia.

  1. size and weight. The heft of the X-T30 is excellent for travel related activities and when you bundle it with the kit lens you get something which is not outrageous size wise. It will fit in a smaller over the shoulder bag you can find easily. I would consider though getting one of the smaller prime lens for day to day use. The F2 35mm prime lens is a perfect size and reduces the heft of the camera. So if size is a prerequisite for travel but you still want interchangeable lens at a good price, this camera size with the prime lens is nice.
  2. quality. My goals are to never edit photographs or take RAW images. I simply do not want to be bothered with the editing and time it takes. My goals are to find devices which work to meet my needs not for me to adjust to meet their needs. The quality of Fuji JPEGs is legendary and with the wonderful film simulations available like Provia, Classic Chrome, and Acros, you get different takes and abilities at quality to get the image with different effects. Wonderful for lazy people like me!
  3. price. Lets talk price. You can find the X-T30 body only for under $900 and you can find deals on the body with kit lens at decent prices hovering around the 1k mark. I don’t do links where I make money when you click. Go use a browser and view them at amazon or something. The second price is for the prime lens. I paid $369 for it here in Vietnam at the FujiFilm Style Store downtown. That’s pretty comparable to prices all over internationally and its backed by Fuji. So you can get the whole works for less than the cost of the X-T3 camera body only. Wow! A camera that captures the essence of the X-T3 in a lot of regards for less. Give it a look price wise.
  4. fun. This stuff is supposed to be fun folks. If you are not a professional photographer or believe yourself to be one or you are like me and just want a way to capture images to share, you will want something fun. I use an iPhone 7 plus for photographs as well as the X-T30. Both are fun but lets be honest; a dedicated camera has more knobs and dials. I like to play with knobs and dials. FujiFilm cameras have them in abundance and they are retro style so you look plenty cool as you mess around. Finally its supposed to be FUN.
  5. learning and education. Photography can be an expensive habit. Look at me. I went through a number of experiences mostly bad with cameras. I am hoping that the X-T30 lasts longer because along with FUN I want to learn. Not composition and the rule of thirds or light and shadow. I could care less about those things. I want to learn more about the places I go and then capture them so I can refer back or share them good or bad. I’ll take a few good images but many more bad ones and for me its all grist for the mill. I rarely delete photographs since Google Photos lets me upload them for free. I have found that by not deleting images, I can go back later to my albums for my two weeks in Japan and find things there I simply don’t remember taking.
  6. Finally, sharing! Sharing is what I enjoy doing at a few levels. I want to share the photographs so you can perhaps get a sense of a place but I get to choose the mechanism and the places. I don’t do Instagram or Twitter because I find no value in either of them. Instagram honestly is a joke to share photographs. You cannot even comment with an image of the same place or a different place. There is not even a desktop application for the site. What the Hell is that about? So its a joke really and its full of people self-promoting, taking scads of pictures where they are in each one (perhaps to prove they were there) and then writing the vapid captions which are the real purpose of the site. Lets just call it micro-blogging with basic photo sharing. Twitter is not much better in my book. It is full of a bunch of bloggers who do the same self promotion, pompous sponsored posts, trying to gain followers to the other social sites like Pinterest or whatever and its monolithic. You cannot find a photography community on twitter because all there are are hashtags. In the final analysis for me, neither site works so I share on the blog, Facebook (which is actually better at photo sharing than its bastard cousin Instagram), and the wonderful and focused Mastodon instance I belong to. That’s where I share the photographs. I choose the sharing and you choose to visit the blog and see them and read what I write.

So it is Sunday in Vietnam and the camera awaits some pleasure I will find. First will do the morning coffee somewhere and gather the moments before me like the net thrown out in Mekong Delta that the fisherfolk use. The moments always illuminate the places to me and I can capture with the camera the things and people and the places that either matter or don’t matter.

Welcome to Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City! Come on over. It’s a wild, wonderful, magical place where you can find a measure of things you may seek and a few you do not.