Vietnam thoughts, Blog Themes, Other Cool Things that do not go bump in the Night

I’ve been pretty consistently writing on this blog since I left last year. It seems amazing that a year ago I was in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and that’s where I am going back to in a few days. I’ll swing through Vietnam for about 2 months give or take a day or something. I could have stayed longer but I designed the trip to Vietnam for a shorter time since I already spent 6 months there and went basically north to south then. Now I am going in reverse and will not go back to a few places that I went before. I won’t see Da Lat again or Nha Trang. I will see Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island. I have not been to either of those before. Then I will jet off to Da Nang which is my favorite place and end up to see a few people in Hanoi.

I already know what I shall eat my first night in HCMC (trying valiantly to not write Saigon). I will have Pho. Down the street and around the block is this little Pho stand I shall visit where the broth is steamy and its a nectar of taste and wonderful sensory overload. For three weeks, I’ll walk around again in the beautiful, crazy, sometimes wierd city of HCMC and its districts. I’ll visit the Ben Thanh Market and try not to buy anything and take pictures with my iPhone. Talking about the iPhone, I am working on my second report on explorations with it and should post it before the weekend.

I don’t have a set itinerary there in HCMC. I will get back to Vincom Center and have Bud’s Ice Cream. I mention this because only time did I feel down or depressed being alone in the last 1.5 years. I ended up eating ice cream in the Vincom Center Mall at Buds. It was a moment where things swung around and I saw so many people walking, talking, some arguing. Those lower feelings soon dissipated and I have not felt that way since. Perhaps I am just built for solitude but I remember what someone said once,

Loneliness is being alone and hating it. Solitude is being alone and loving it

I don’t know that I’ve lived those words but I have come to realize that I am not a terribly social person. I have bad traits. I am selfish, narcissistic and I set a high bar for friendship. Perhaps all those things have combined to make the last years mean even more and some of it is destined every so often to come out in blogposts which let me revel in the backwash of 20 years of blogging or so.

Blogging or so…

It has been over 20 years of writing these things. Most people I met doing this have moved on in many ways. Others have stormed in. What once was a means of expression and creation has become something else. Perhaps it serves those new bloggers in some way. I am a dinosaur though. I still write these things for the joy of creation. Someone could offer me a kazillion dollars to write a sponsored post and I’d decline. I’m just not that willing to set such a low bar for myself to accept money for something I love to do.

In other moments of blogging, since getting the business account, I have been trying themes but not many plugins. I am now on the free Twenty Sixteen theme that Automattic does. I like the theme. Do you?

I think it looks pretty nice on mobile devices and its simple. I don’t like themes with lots of grids or boxes with featured images or themes made for small businesses or lifestyle blogging or selling things or ads or whatever. I want a theme which does a thing well and what it does well is show my content. I don’t need it hidden behind READ MORE… or kludgy boxes. I want you to see all the crapola I write so you can decide whether its worth to read. I don’t really care if you do or don’t but I do enjoy you finding something perhaps that strikes a chord in your life.

I also read a lot of blogs. Okay. Maybe only a few. I try to read the blogs that like my blog. I am not good at following and I apologize in advance. I hope though you do find something in this stuff that lets you see that living life at a slower pace, seeing places with no itineraries or instagrammable moments, or ads is something you maybe like. I like throwing it out there whether you do or not.

Wrapping it all up…

So now I do what I usually do. I wrap all this up for you in a few concise or not so sentences. Life has been damned good for me traipsing all around in slow motion. Ive found ways to enjoy the day to day which was so missing before. Someone asked me once if I missed all that work. My question is,

what the F is work?

I have forgotten. Hahaha.

International Foods, Local Foods, I love all foods!

One of the truly fine things (and there are many) about Cambodia is the food. If you are a foodie, appreciate international scope so you can spread the love but also want a taste of American comfort food, Phnom Penh is a nice destination. I found today another place that I never knew existed. Today while wandering around the Russian Market, which is kind of an oasis of shopping, food, specialty shoppes, and coffee, I found Carolina BBQ. No sooner than I got in and looked at the menu I met Drew from South Carolina. We talked for a long time about food and how it is to run an American restaurant in Phnom Penh. Its interesting he had first thought about setting his place up in Siem Reap but there was competition there in the form of another American BBQ house. I don’t know that place there and I have a feeling I would have found it or heard of it from other expats. Anyways, I am glad he settled for Phnom Penh, because I was able to find him today and have the truly American BBQ plate! I had pulled pork with coleslaw on it, great french fries, and a coke. The food was wonderful and sometimes its the American touch that brings it all back and being able to talk with a fellow American and foodie about our great foods in the states. Finding this place with wonderful menu made me realize how truly lucky and blessed I am to find places by wandering that satisfy in so many ways.

Back in Hanoi it was the S&L Diner which is American owned. In August, I will get back there too and I hope it has not changed. Their hamburgers and breakfasts were really good. It stretches back to Da Nang for me too. Back to the Happy Heart Diner with their wonderful American breakfasts and their social mission to help young Vietnamese that are hearing impaired find work and learn hospitality and food preparation and serving. Even farther back was Sparky’s Diner in Chennai India. This truly was an oasis for the expats that lived and worked in India. I went numerous times and met the owner who would come out each evening and visit. Unfortunately in 2010, my last visit to Chennai I would find out he passed away shortly after my visit.

In each case, finding a touch of home has made being away a bit easier. As Drew mentioned today, its nice and fulfilling to eat the Khmer foods, the Chinese or Korean or Japanese foods. For many of us Americans though, finding that place to sit and feel comfortable with food that you know so well is such a nice thing. I’ve had burgers that were served in Siem Reap that were very good. Burgers in Phnom Penh that were very good. Pizzas and Mexican foods. All kinds of food. Had Fish Amok and Lok Lak and Khmer Curries red and green. Had a lot of stuff. Finding a simple thing as I live in a place and slowly wander it, makes the place and my wandering seem so much more worthwhile.

So I am glad to have found Carolina BBQ and Drew. Its a mark that the cities of Southeast Asia truly cater to all restaurants and tastes. There is room for everyone to enjoy local fare as well as the foods sometimes your soul may wistfully wish for. Today, I found that and it was wonderful. I also love the fact that without wandering around, its highly unlikely I would have found it. I think a fair percentage of places to eat I have found by walking cities and towns. Places that may have been a blur in a taxi or tuk tuk.

Now they became mine for a moment of time. I was enriched and I had comfort food. I thrived and I’ll remember. Thank you Phnom Penh and thank you Drew for making the place your home and serving us all.

IMG_3565

And there you have it. The final proof is in the picture. Wonderful!

Word about Night Markets

I love visiting Southeast Asian markets whether they are day or night markets. Tell the truth, the best markets I have found are in Cambodia as far as diversity, bargaining or haggling, and finding things. At the Central Market here in Phnom Penh one can find everything from batteries and car parts to the “wet market” and then on to jewelry, clothing, backpacks, and even small locks for doors. Its just a bunch of stuff that would take hours to see if you patiently went at it. I usually go with a few things I need because most of my beautiful wardrobe is purchased from markets. I buy the cheap Cambodian t shirts and underwear, knock off shorts that are most likely not North Face, and often socks. I can find decent belts too that will work. Most of these things cost just a few dollars each but you have to go to the Central Market armed with patience and perhaps an iced latte. Being hungry does not hurt either since there are lots of food stalls to find some noodles or chicken bbq or whatever.

Down the street though from where I stay its different. This is a neighborhood market with the vendors lining the street itself selling their stuff. I wandered down there tonight really wanting fresh fruit and already having decided to get some dumplings down the street a bit where the good dumplings live. Its a fun, frenetic, happy street in the evenings with everything from street food pizza to chicken satay to fresh fish and clothing there to look at. I did not spend a lot of time but did see a bit strolling up and down the street, saying hello to numerous Khmer people, looking at various foods that I will come back to try and finding a nice fresh fruit stand. Here is what it looks like in the evening.

Lots of stuff. Major amounts of stuff of all different kinds and everyone hits the streets to shop for clothing, eat, find something to drink, and kinda party down. Its a lot of fun and pretty much open to whoever walks down the street wanting to buy stuff.

The markets across Cambodia are so cool and different. You can go to another market like the Russian Market and find slightly different things or visit the non touristy Orussey Market and find even more things but with no tourists shopping. The isles and corridors are much smaller and the market is a bit confusing with the aisles running in all directions. I spent some time awhile back at the Orussey Market to get a sense what it was like too.

I have to say though that the open air and street evening market is totally cool. Its a blend of people, the ever popular and somewhat frustrating motorbikes, and just about every kind of shopping experience one could want.

If you ever get to Vietnam or Cambodia check out the markets. Particularly in Ho Chi Minh City, the Ben Thanh Market is very cool and here in Cambodia I shop regularly at a few in Phnom Penh and the Night Market and Old Market in Siem Reap. Just a lot of fun folks and its a distinctly Southeast Asian experience.

Busy Street 257

This is busy street 257 in my neighborhood in Phnom Penh. Lots of tuk tuks, kids, cars and street food stalls. Plus the evening starts settling in. People done with work and out to eat, have fun, join the races on the street. One must keep an eye out for the traffic because pedestrians have no rights here but the evening coming knows not.

Another day in Phnom Penh

Today I decided to walk from the hotel to Central Market down Russian Boulevard which is the home of a lot of government buildings. I don’t think they really want people taking photographs there so I did not. I reached Central Market and then found a cheap little restaurant where I had some chicken basil spicy and two Fanta Orange drinks for lunch. It was quite good and the cost the chicken dish, steamed rice, and two Fanta Orange drinks was $4. Not too bad! Tonight I will have pizza at Romano’s Pizza. Have not been there yet. Will have to catch a Grab tuk tuk there and back. Its down where I was walking today and by my friend’s camera shop.

Anyways, here are some images from today. A few were slightly edited in Snapseed for fun and kicks. I walked back another way to the hotel and all told did about 7 miles today walking. Good day!

The fourth image was taken in HDR on the iPhone camera. It captures both an HDR and non HDR image. The non HDR image had blown out the sky colors to white. Glad I am using HDR auto on the iPhone 7 plus now. The first two images I edited gently in Snapseed and I cropped the last image a bit. Most or all of these are just taken as I walk with the camera. I don’t have any creative desires other than to see things which look interesting, capture them, and then continue.

Its so much easier now with only using the iPhone. Pretty happy that one smartphone has lasted longer than 4 cameras. Kind of an amazing yet frustrating statistic.

Anyways, gonna leave pretty soon for the pizza tonight. Tomorrow am going to another market called the Russian Market first and then will walk to Independence Park for awhile and perhaps have lunch downtown again. Tuesday I will go to Aeon Mall first and then get my haircut and beard trimmed at the Tokyo Barber Shop. Its my favorite place for the haircut thing and its some “me” time I enjoy doing. I’ll be down to 1.5 weeks in a few days. It will be nice to get back to Vietnam and spend time there. Will really enjoy the food there! Ho Chi Minh City is no slouch for things to see and do as well and I have three weeks there to do absolutely nothing besides go day by day.