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.

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.


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!

A bit of this and that — Ex-pat Lifeways and Friendships

What I’ve learned being on the road about the retirees and ex-pats in Cambodia is interesting. I’ve met or seen more than a few and there are centers or locations where they gather and live. I think Kampot is one such place as is Phnom Penh. I have not been to Siem Reap yet. That comes next week but I’ll spend a month there too so I have no doubt in my slow travel method I will see what the retirees and ex-pats do there.

In the hotel I stay in here in Kampot there is a sizable percentage of older travelers. People do not stay long in this hotel since the cost is higher. Its a short stay vacation type place although the property to me is just beautiful and the obvious attractions like free breakfast and a nice patio bar always win out. There are cheaper guest houses and if you are gonna stay longer probably you will find a room or apartment to take. There are costs with that as well. You have to have power and water and internet. These are monthly charges. As you settle in you have to buy food since eating out over the long haul may not suit your purpose but I have to admit if you eat local or street foods you can get by pretty cheap. I only eat a meal a day so I tend to just buy what I want and not really worry.

The other thing is I don’t think people travel much to other countries once they settle. Its a long term relationship between person and city and there is the community of retirees and ex-pats that will welcome you. Most cities have get togethers or meets to get the group together and socialize. I’m personally not into that and I don’t fit the mode since I don’t want to settle down because there is so much left to see out there and the slower travel mode I have adopted and adapted makes it easy to taste both short and long term stays in places. It also opens the door on getaways on buses or trains or even flying to a neighboring country like Thailand or Vietnam.

Meeting Others?

As I mentioned there is a larger population of ex-pats in many of the cities of Cambodia. Its not really a hard country to live in but there are differences one has to adapt to. I think the ex-pat and retiree groups kind of bond together to get others familiar with the differences and provide some bonding for new and long time members. I am not a social person and really don’t do well meeting other retirees and ex-pats on the road. I’ve met a few and there are so many obvious differences. One is that they all smoke. I cannot stand cigarettes or the smell whatsoever and restaurants here often allow smoking throughout. The other is there is a social bonding by being a member of the group that just being an American on the outside does not give. There’s not a private club but I think a lot of the ex-pats tend to want a recognizable thing so the weekend events are better than just meeting another person at a restaurant or bar. I met this person from an ex-pat forum in Phnom Penh and while he was interesting there is not a lot of mutual interest because I don’t intend on stopping or staying in a place long term. The visa to me here is an instrument of flexibility. If I did not have this one, I would find another place that offers a similar one like the Philippines. Staying put, like many do, does not provide a lot of familiarity to me.

I guess the other thing is the solo travel. I am very content to travel this way. I don’t need to be surrounded by a social group of ex-pat retirees on weekend visits to restaurants to meet, eat, and drink. I also don’t intend or want a local lady friend which is quite easy to get here by all accounts. Age disparity is just accepted here it seems like but its not something I want or need.

Finally, meeting someone on the road is different. Paths may never cross again and perhaps its okay. I don’t really want someone’s contact information or have a desire to friend them on facebook or follow on twitter. Its like the two ships crossing paths. Momentary greetings but soon the ships pull apart and each goes its own way. Some would say its a lonely existence but I would not accept that. There are those of us that cannot thrive in a solo adventure and then there are those that can. Meeting people at hostels or hotels or even meeting local people is not a big goal of mine. I have met a few Vietnamese people that are friends.

Final Note on the Butte County Fire

Sad to say an old friend that I have lost contact with over the past few years got burned out in Paradise, California and escaped with only a car full of things and his older daughter. I think his life there is over and he will hopefully not return because the city looks completely destroyed. I have not talked with him for years for a variety of reasons and how we would define our friendship could be questioned. But no matter what, I’m glad he’s safe whether he is in a good mental place now or not.

Will we ever talk again? I don’t know. I don’t feel like there is a pressing need. He has things he needs to do now. Being in Cambodia there is not a lot I could do anyways and we drifted apart for a number of reasons. The reasons are still valid to me and while I could give him a hug and tell him I’m glad he’s safe I don’t think I would want him back the way it was. I feel leaving the US forever kind of signaled that there are people out there I left behind for reasons. He is one. I wish him good luck and hope he finds some happiness and I’m glad he’s safe. But there is not much else there for me for him. I guess I am broken too with relationships. Perhaps the last thing with retirees and ex-pats for me is building any kind of meaningful relationship with someone or even not a meaningful one. I just don’t care any more.

I know I sound jaded or cruel or egotistical. Guilty on all fronts. I also am critical, somewhat obnoxious and selfish. Sorry folks. Those are my good qualities. Hit the unfollow button if you like. Won’t hurt me a bit.

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.

Walking the cities of Southeast Asia a step at a time

Walking my way across Southeast Asia little piece by piece…

I end up walking each day with the camera whether I see a thing or not that captures my fancy or makes me laugh or cry. I’ve walked cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong and then so many in Vietnam and now Cambodia. It used to be about the steps themselves. I would measure the steps in California and get a walk of so long in with the music going on my phone. On Fridays it was a longer walk and then some beer and a few movies and a pizza or something. But it was always the walking folks. The walking was key and its changed as I have. When in cities with so much to see the walking is the only way I see things. I will walk with the camera for sometimes 5 or 7 hours in a day. Stopping for water bottles. Sitting under an awning in Saigon when it rained. Talking with a Cambodian storekeeper when the sun was hot and I was sweating.

Its always been the walking though and its dawned on me how its changed my life. Now I do not feel good each day without it. Miss a day and I am out of sorts, less than positive, extremely unhappy. So I try to not miss a day. Each day a pedometer app still counts my steps and tells me the miles. I get about 5 to 7 miles in each day. And it goes on and on. Sometimes like here in Sihanoukville there is not a city to see so I walk the distances more. Other times like Tokyo or Hong Kong there is a sprawling city to capture me. The turns left and right matter not as I go. I may not see a thing others do but perhaps I see things they do not.

Down sleepy little streets in Shinjuku is value just like the alleys in Hanoi. Tour buses cannot make it there so you see a reality that is so different. I’ve considered a few times the walking way and what its meant to me. How its evolved from the GPS and distance to now seeing a city and not measuring so much but knowing as the day goes on I have done what I needed. The camera captures things I find. Not all instagram moments or tweets of the day. Silent little things which remind me of the walks and the moments therein.

How do you see your cities and places? Mine are a step at a time.

And I like it that way.

Technology doodads, gadgets, and ideas for the long term traveler

Traveling with Technology is both the reason and the bane of existence on the road. You have to track all the cables and plugs and adapters and while I really like my 12 inch MacBook the charger is something else. Whoever dreamed up the bricks of chargers for Mac laptops… There are replacements for power over USB that are smaller and I’ve been tempted to get one simply because the weight and size of the original and limited space for techno goodies when I move from place to place. For the slow traveler like me, I think we have different core needs than the person in a place for 3 days and then another place for a week, etc. What we need is more of a balance for charging things.

What I have found that works the best is this thing.

The nice things about the Mastech charger pictured above are a few. One thing is there is an AC adapter on each side plus three usb charging ports in front. This thing lies flat on a desk and the size is rather nice. The other thing particularly for the apple charger is that it plugs in and sits flat on the desk or table as well and I have room for my camera charger on the other side.

This is a type of device really made for the slower travelers I think. The longer power cable is common sense because how many of you have been in a room where the electrical power outlet is here and your desk or bed is there. You need something with a longer cable. This has worked for me about 90% of the time very well. Where it has not worked is where the budget hotels I spend time seem to think we all travel with 10 foot long extension cables. The other thing about working or not, is that this is not power transformer type thing. It will not adjust the power down. Hopefully by now you have all read the power requirements for gadgets and doodads and have it covered.

The second thing is an international plug adapter. I’ve tried the wall wart kind with 1000 usb plugs and one ac adapter that makes the plug fall out of the socket every time. Useless folks. My advice is do not buy one of those especially if going for a longer stay. Not that I have found the best but this one seems to work pretty well in Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

It kinda plugs into itself and I have not found a place (yet) where it won’t work. But places like India I have my doubts so its probably gonna be time when I get there to have a friend take me down to the electronics zone street in Chennai so I can get something. I don’t know about China either. But if I could not find a plug in China, I would probably give the whole thing up.

Combining things for long stays…

So these are the two things in my bag of tricks that just work. The other thing you should consider is a portable charger. I have one that has meant the difference for me on buses and trains more than once. Mine is very small and portable and fits into a pocket on my daypack. Truly a life saver at times!

When you combine all things above into your backpack or daypack, you are looking for things that add value and not weight. Things that can be used for a multitude of uses. Count how many devices you want to charge at the same time. Do you have the requisite cables either Type C or lightning or microUSB? I never charge my camera from USB because its stupid especially in countries that may have some questionable power to start with. Take the battery out and charge it separately. It will go faster! Other things you may want to charge at the same time are phones, kindles, laptops, etc. Count them and see where you are.

Bringing the kit together and leaving

Then its packing the kit up. I have a cheap little zipper pouch that carries it all for me. You may have something more elegant or refined. My bag costs about $7 on amazon and you can find similar bags or pouches in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. Just consider the footprint of the kit and what you will end up carrying. Do you need a laptop and a tablet and a phone? Maybe. I would not mind having a tablet as well. But perhaps you don’t or you need more stuff. Whatever you decide will have an accompanying weight and cost.

If you are good with that weight and cost go for it! Be happy on the road. Forget the minimalism stuff folks. Its just telling you to get rid of stuff but you already knew that if you are a realist. But most of all be happy with your choices. If it adds a few ounces to weight and you are good, no one is gonna pronouns a sentence on you. For the longer term traveler perhaps the devices make even more sense. Consider staying for a month in a place or three months. What is your expectation for comfort and use and technology?

Maybe not mine at all. And that’s good. This post is just about getting you to thinking about how you do a thing. My examples are just that. Now go out and get traveling. Just do it slowly and savor each place for what it is.