A week to go — Singapore Thoughts, Malaysia Dreams, Thailand Wonder!

Its Monday morning here at my home base, the very nice LaLune Hotel in Phnom Penh. I turned in my laundry to the nice folks down the street and then visited the latte stand where I go just about every morning for an iced latte that is made so well! Today a bit later sees me going to the Joma Bakery in Phnom Penh for a late brunch type thing and walking around with the camera to capture some things I have not yet downtown. The Joma bakery is the same shoppe that I enjoyed so much in Hanoi in the old quarter. Menus are the same, quality is the same, and its really a nice place to stop off for a toasted bagel and cream cheese and a hot latte. I can sit there for awhile and meander mentally which is part of the joy of a coffee shop and bakery.

The real thing though is leaving for this city-state called Singapore in a week. I have not been back there since 2011 and I still have a few friends that live and work there so hopefully will catch up with them. Singapore is one of the places I rate highly as a limited or short term visit like Japan. Its a powerhouse economically but the beauty of the city streets, the multiple cultures that call it home, shopping, and technology make it a very nice visit. There are also zoos and gardens and museums and all kinds of stuff to see so I am looking forward to walking the city. I’ve thought often about going back since Singapore once formed a highly important part of my work life but even more than the past is the city itself I think about. Its a safe, beautiful, wondrous place to wander day or night. Then there is the food! One hotel I used to stay in when working out of Singapore had a really nice hawker center right next to it and these restaurants in a row by the hotel. But the best was the Royal Plaza on Scotts right off Orchard. I could wander out from there and reach so many places. I have Singapore for a week so there are lots of things to do both do and think about this last week before the doing of it. Being able to be free and just wander the city without some of the baggage in 2011 will be nice. Then I leave on the bus for 90 days in Malaysia!

I have these dreams about Malaysia and the places I’ve chosen for this trip. Its the chance to see so many different visions of Malaysia. I’ll start with Kuala Lumpur for three weeks spent wandering in every direction I can go. Then I catch a bus to Malacca for a few weeks to see a wondrous historic city with so many interesting ties. Then back to the north a bit for a few weeks to Port Dickson. Finally, I fly from Kuala Lumpur to Penang for a month. I am really looking forward to all the places but Penang and its city, food, cultures is something I have dreamt over for awhile. In 80 some days though I leave and catch a flight to Thailand!

I designed the Thailand trip not to try see it all but to pick places I wanted to see and experience from the beaches at Phuket and Krabi to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I have 60 days to experience Thailand after a visa extension there and will finally end up flying back to Phnom Penh on 14 June for two weeks.

Dare I mention that after those weeks that I go back to Vietnam for 2.5 months? Yep! Back to a place of wonder to wander some more. I’ll get to see Ho Chi Minh City again, Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island for the first time, then my all time favorite city Da Nang and finally Hanoi. Then back to Phnom Penh but only for a few days because then I fly to Lao for three weeks.

2019 is almost full!

I will have a few weeks in Phnom Penh after Lao to renew my retirement extension of stay but then I will depart for the fall and winter time for months in Taiwan and the Philippines coinciding with Christmas this year. This fills up the travel bucket for the entire year and the only flights not booked yet are those to Taipei and Manila and on.

Its 2019 but thinking about 2020 is fun! I really will want to get to India and China in 2020 and also strive to get outside the envelope a bit and visit Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Dubai and other places I can reach. Maybe a trip back to the states then will form up for awhile.

The real thing is the freedom I have to go as I want where I want or stay longer. I’ve thought about staying longer in Vietnam by getting a year long tourist visa and living in Da Nang for some of it, Hanoi for some of it, etc. It may be a thing for me!

With the travel almost 90% booked for 2019, I will also approach my one year on this adventure the end of February. I flew to Japan on 1 March 2018. What a year it’s been! A wonder of slow travel that I encourage others to do especially if retired or considering it. Nothing should hold you back and you should not look back until you want to look back. I think the two main places to consider are Vietnam and Cambodia. You can find a quality and wonder of life in these two places which will keep you coming back for more. Vietnam has so much to see, the people are wonderful and genuine, and the country has great infrastructure for travel and its cheap. Cambodia has so many different looks and feels. You can visit Kampot for some laid back vibes and great food or go find Siem Reap for all the history. If you want a second quieter yet fun adventure check out Battambang. There is always the big city Phnom Penh to reach back to. You can do bus and flights throughout the kingdom.

In the end though its a first step to Singapore for me coming up! Its gonna be cool to get back and remember the older thoughts and then dream and wonder at my life traveling so slow but living in Southeast Asia.

Travel Planning and Workflows

For awhile I used Ulysses for just about everything that involved text or notes. My travel notes were in pieces and relied on google calendar, the websites like booking.com, sky scanner, trip.com, etc. I realized with the trip coming up next that I needed something better so decided Ulysses was simply not the best choice. I settled on primarily cross platform applications so if I moved to an Android phone, I was not locked in to IOS and MAC systems. Here are my apps and how I use them now.

OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is a very nice and capable note management solution and how it handles sections and notebook pages are really nice. I needed something that would allow better management of cutting and pasting from websites like the airline reservations or hotel names. If you receive those emails in gmail often they get inserted into google calendar, but the real thing is that google calendar is not a repository. OneNote is a repository. So I decided to create my own repository for travel. I needed a basic format for a note that would capture the dates in a place, airline reservations, hotel accommodations, and bus or cab or other reservations or needs. But I also wanted something more freeform so if I wanted to add a note, I could easily transcribe a note. It was also important to have the same experience on iPhone and my Mac laptop. The OneNote app on both does this and its free on both. You can create a basic workflow like I did below easily.

Screen Shot 2019 01 12 at 2 46 06 PM

The important things with the workflow are a few. One is to limit separate places for the travel information and make use of the graphical experience that OneNote has. Check out the screen capture of my Singapore note. In the elements are a table for destination and dates, a section for flights and hotels, bus or cab needs, and any notes on notable sights to see. Now instead of relying on each website or using tripit or some site which only allows me to send information and not really control the layout or makeup of the page, I can make use of additional fields of information as I need.

A second important thing with the workflow is that it succeeds in bringing together all the information into a single place so if I want to see the hotel I will be staying in while visiting Singapore, its right there. So is my bus information and my flight information from Cambodia.

The last thing is this information is presented in completely different websites with different formatting and being able to have a single note page with the details means I can be more productive and make better choices with the information or if I decide to make a change.

Day One. As a casualty of the Ulysses changes I decided to move to Day One for diary and journalling. I am a big believer in creating a daily journal with personal information, diatribes, emotional stuff, etc. Its my scratchpad of life. This is another one of the tools which are cross platform. The beauty of the app is its dedicated to journaling and diary building and it syncs to my devices and also has location information embedded so if I want I can see where I wrote a thing. If you write a daily journal or diary, I still believe writing freeform text has an advantage in that you can be writing and use MarkUp if you want to format but Day One is just nice for its features and the fact I can migrate if I want to another mobile OS and phone.

There you have it!

So there you go. If you travel or just want to control information from disparate sources and be able to view the data across laptops and mobile devices, its worthwhile to find apps that let you experience and use the data and that data should synchronize and let you always see the most updated data based on editing on whatever platform.

Both of the apps answer a basic need I have. OneNote provides a very nice and free note taking and management platform which lets me copy web data from a variety of booking sites into pre-determined fields I want to control and always see; but it also lets me add more data below or above. Formatting of the data lets me insert tables and graphical elements that I can see right away so I built a template note for traveling that I copy and paste to a new note.

The beauty of a basic workflow for travel really is ensuring you use it to centrally manage all the little bits of information you receive when you travel. You get email about flights and hotels and bus services and tours that confirm your purchases. Its all there in your email but to me email and a calendar app is not the best choice for distilling the information into a usable and modifiable source. If you travel like me and have travel plans for sometimes months at a time visiting multiple countries over 5 months, the devil is definitely in the details. I found I made mistakes in booking travel for hotels because I got dates wrong with no workflow or central repository.

I hope this helps a bit. It took me a few days of editing to create the notes and then harvest or mine the data. Try it out on a trip and see what you think!

Tuk Tuk Driver to the Future!

As I was sitting drinking beer, perhaps getting a bit drunk this evening downtown, it dawned on me a few facts:

I am pretty lucky! I was riding the tuk tuk through downtown Phnom Penh when it dawned on me perhaps through some beer and inebriation states that life is pretty good. Here I am riding a tuk tuk through downtown Cambodia on a Friday night after drinking more than my fair share of beer downtown for a reasonable price. The light is ebbing and the sunset is going red in the city. How I translated so many years of pain and agony from 2009 to 2014 to this is amazing! So yes. I am pretty lucky.

Life is pretty good! Yes. Life is pretty good. Again, riding that tuk tuk away from the riverside area with its bars and restaurants made me realize that life is pretty good. Here I am in a place that I never thought I would see. In a retirement that 10 years ago I only imagined. In a moment that seems so unreal. Perhaps its the beer talking tonight but wow! I mean wow. Riding the tuk tuk through a cosmopolitan city like Phnom Penh with a beer buzz on and seeing the city turning to evening with horns honking and people yelling and traffic going. So yes, there is the lucky thing and life is pretty good.

My days are forever graced! There is no way I ever imagined that the days I have now would be the way they are when I imagined them years ago. I never knew how well life would be retired or moving to this beat. Life is so good now! Tomorrow is not going to be like today and that is okay. Tomorrow I will go to other places and see them and walk them with the camera. It is all good. What I realized today is that these moments are graced and life will turn itself around for me in a week as I fly to Singapore.

So perhaps the beer is talking tonight. Perhaps the moments have all come together and let me see how totally fucking cool life can be when there is no end state. No place to have to be or things to have to do. No goals or milestones or responsibilities. Tomorrow undoubtedly will be a day of beer hang over and hopefully sleeping late. It does not matter though because I found out a seminal thing today. This place, this day, this reality does not matter. I have another one cooking up. Maybe that one does. But the real truth is none of them do and it is the moments of each that really matter. That creates yet another beer drinking event for me this evening.

Interesting Times Between This and That

I had wondered about getting done with the 4 months of exploring some of Cambodia and then getting back to Phnom Penh for a few weeks. I spent a month here in September seeing the city but this time is different. I have a set of things I want to do around the city. Like today I’ll get my hair cut and beard trimmed at the Tokyo Barber Shop after visiting the Aeon Mall for awhile and then walk back to the hotel in the afternoon. Tomorrow I’ll get over to the camera shop to see my friend Johnson there and then visit the Central Market for awhile and also see the neighboring shops and stores. The area around the market is a huge shopping zone here in the city and there are upscale shops, little neighborhood stores, souvenir places. In case you are wondering, there are lots of food and coffee places too. Many people stop while investigating the market for a latte or frappe or a smoothie or something or carry it with them through their shopping tour. I went to the Russian Market yesterday which is smaller but yet so diverse on what it offers. Both markets are fun to visit and there may be some overlap in that you can find decent clothing or backpacks at both but since the Central is bigger the chances are you will find more shops that have certain things. For food, I like the Russian Market better inside. There are some really good food stalls to stop at there!

The Tokyo Barber Shop to me is the place I would always go in Phnom Penh to get my hair cut and beard trimmed. I just trust them and they have a really nice customer ethic there. It costs a bit more but I feel like I’m worth it and I enjoy the time spent on the massage, the hair washing, detailed cutting and beard trimming. From there I’ll walk home which will take about an hour so should get back in the later afternoon and will have a few hours until dinner. Last night I had beef fried rice down the street which is always good. The meal with the beer was $3.60. Tonight it may be Dumplings down the street or BBQ. By tomorrow, I will probably be ready for a dinner downtown somewhere. Perhaps pizza at this place I know or even Mexican food. Its easy no matter what to get a Grab tuk tuk to wherever.

I don’t have a set agenda or places I have to go so the time is spent more in relaxing and unwinding and doing less besides the walking each day which is not optional. Phnom Penh is one of those cities of neighborhoods where one is almost without tourists but if you go down a bit you will find tourist zones all over and ex-pats lining the restaurants with their drinks and stories. I’ve met a few now and again. I did meet this person at the hotel which no matter how I tried I could not get him to go out to eat at a local place. He would only eat the food from Pizza Hut or the hotel or a place that does dumplings down the street. I had wanted him to go to BBQ his last night and enjoy something different but he feared getting sick. He is leaving today and I feel sorry for him more than anything else. It must be terribly hard to travel in Vietnam and Cambodia and not eat the food or be continuously fearful of eating. He told while in Vietnam he would not eat at smaller food stalls or even established restaurants that had Pho or Bun Cha. I gather he would only eat at hotel restaurants or upper class places. He also would not try the coffee in the coffee stalls for fear of the ice in the iced drinks. I can respect it all and understand. Its his life though and I think when people get older (like me) they get more fearful of change or trying new things and it can really limit their experiences in places like Southeast Asia. You don’t have to just do street food however when I got back to the hotel I did do their vision of Banh Mi sandwiches which were good. I don’t do street food day after day though. I like to have changes so will eat different foods depending on how I feel. 

I hope he travels safely to Australia if he goes there. I would not wish to be like him but I understand it. Its another reason perhaps that its better for me to be on my own when I go places. I could never limit myself that far. Its easier to just deal with me since I kinda know what I want and not what another person could possibly want or not want.

Photography in the City…

I won’t be doing photography of each place I do as I did before so no real photo albums although I may share the day to day adventures I have as I do them. I like to take the camera with me most places but I also enjoy not taking it at times. I’ll try to post a few photos a week on here of the places I end up when I take the camera.

As I mentioned the neighborhoods here are fun places to observe so when I go tomorrow to the Central Market area, I will take the camera to capture the locations and people around the area. I will also end up most likely downtown by the river by weekend so will take the camera then. Its a nice place for people watching and photography and there are nice blocks and parks to see there to walk.

Today on the Walk…

By about noon today I will get a tuk tuk to the Aeon Mall and spend an hour there walking around the shops and then walk over to the barber shop which will take about 30 minutes of walking. From there I only have to really walk one major street to get close to the hotel and that takes about an hour. I may stop and look at some of the smaller shops for a baseball cap since I would like a second one that is higher quality than what is sold at the markets.

So between the days and the food and beer and visiting with my friends at the hotel, time slowly ticks by here in Phnom Penh and since I don’t have a place to get to most days its much more relaxing. The walking is more about the lefts and rights and not the destination unless like today I am walking back to the hotel. This is a different kind of time than the month here and weeks there type thing. I’m glad I take the time to do the in-between things. I think come 21 January I will be busier on the road seeing Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Five months seeing the countries will probably go fast and slow at the same time I am thinking. It seemed seeing the places that in Cambodia some days were remarkably slow as I sat in the room with the same drink I enjoy here from one of the coffee stalls.

I hesitate to use the term travel for this because it really is not. I feel like a better term is vagabonding or hoboing between places and even though I have destinations and hotels booked, the between times walking some city like Penang or Kuala Lumpur matter more than the transit times on planes or buses. Singapore too will be so nice to see again. Its been 8 years since being there last.

That’s about it for now. Hope your New Year is gonna be just fine!

2018 – The Year Ending and the One Starting

It seems a blogger must publish a retrospective blog post at the end of the year or on a blogging anniversary and often if you are more socially minded on so many followers or page views reached. I stopped caring if I ever did about how many people follow this blog or page views. But the end of the year deserves something I think. It deserves a statement of a life spent doing something that took almost a decade to reach. I won’t go month by month and will spare you the boredom of all the little things that occurred along the way. Here are just a few recollections or thoughts from my 2018. Perhaps yours are completely different and more meaningful. Mine are simply mine.

  1. The year 2018 was the year of finishing work for me. I reached the point in February where I could work no more even though I was asked to stay. I told my boss I had no more gas in the tank. In truth the previous 4 months of the project had exhausted me and took out any desire to continue doing program management. I told my manager this and he laughed and agreed that I should do what I wanted. On 28 February, I left working forever and on 1 March I left the states for Japan.
  2. The year also saw me realize that while it took 10 years almost to get through the pain of divorce and terrible debt and a lot of misery that 2018 was indeed a capstone of a thing which sealed up all those years of misery in a time capsule of sorts and buried it away. I had finally done a thing in 2018 which had been imagined and dreamt and wondered at. In the dark days before, things just seemed out of reach and so far away that however I stretched I would not grasp. Now I know what it feels like to grasp that reality because I’ve been living it for almost a year now. It feels both awesome and almost a fantasy at times. I realize that the year gave me a gift that was slow in unwrapping and had surprises still for me that the world of slow travel and vagabonding would be so interesting and exotic and different. My few locations ensured that. Vietnam and Cambodia have been that royal mix of things which have kept me stable for months at a time. Never rushed to reach another shore or for that passport stamp. Never working or taking one of the other titles like digital nomad and never needing to.
  3. Finally, the year marked a coming of age in other ways too. I was able to finally see the end of so many years of self imposed hell on earth caused by debt. The final debt for the car rolled off my shoulders in January and I gave my car to my daughter on 28 February on my way to the hotel by the international airport in SF.  There is a last material thing there which is the sum total of that coming of age.  A small rubbermaid container is all that remains of a life spent both in heaven and hell for years. Things that departed in the coming of age were things like goals and tasks and responsibilities. What remained was a free life of moments to see and walk and take photographs and travel slowly.

Someone asked me if they could do this. You cannot do what I did. What I did was mine alone. It was my 2018. What you can do may be better or different or perhaps you will decide to do nothing at all. If you punt though and you are sorry later the only blame to levy is at your house. When given the chance to grab life by its moments you may have decided its too risky or difficult or demanding. Perhaps what you would do is. What I did is not.

Goodbye to 2018. A wonderful year for the most part spent not working, not being responsible, not creating more tasks and goals that I would have to defer on. If you are getting close to a next thing perhaps you can find it on the road. I would have never found it back home. I was haunted there by failure and lack. Vietnam and Cambodia have given me so much in return. Perhaps your return is elsewhere. That’s why you cannot do what I did. Yours may be better! I hope so. 

Welcome to 2019. Hopefully a year for the better for all of you. Mine is.

Start to the day in Battambang – Coffee Culture at its Best!

Its another beautiful day here in Battambang. Every day just seems to get nicer and warmer. I guess its because its the dry season here so there is no rain, lots of warm temperatures, warm breezes and a bunch of coffee stands that need my attention. Every morning, the coffee culture shines here in Battambang. You can expect to find a cute little coffee stand like this almost down every block.

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These all provide a variety of coffee services and you can get a nice iced or hot drink for about $1 US or $4k Riel. The stands are usually really nicely decorated and have a line of local folks and others waiting for a drink at many. You get the drink to go normally and the only really bad thing is the amount of plastic which is given along with the drink. I wish that they would not give the plastic take away sacks by default and I usually ask them to not give one. Its part of the culture here though which while I understand I don’t like because plastic garbage can be found at beautiful places like Otres Beach in Sihanoukville. 

The coffee stands though are the main thing here and I really like how they provide so many different drinks and if you’re concerned about the language thing, I have found that “latte” is “latte” and after you visit one a few times they get used to you and will know what you want. The one down the street from my hotel has a nice family that owns it and they always tell me good morning and know the drink I want. 

This type of thing does not exist in the states at all that I know and once you see how it pervades the culture here and in Vietnam with takeaway coffee shops that have windows on the street, you can understand how big a deal coffee is here. Of all places though, its Vietnam for coffee. I enjoyed the coffee culture experience all the places I went and they pride themselves on the service. From a little local place serving Vietnamese Phin coffee in Da Lat the day I was leaving, to beautiful coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City, coffee simply rules!

Its easy to simply find the local coffee stand in whatever city in Cambodia and just head there and get in line with the locals who all smile and say hello! Everyone enjoys the blast of coffee but one thing I’ve noticed especially in Vietnam is that coffee shops will sell iced coffees a lot more than hot. Here in Cambodia you can get the hot lattes but in places in Da Nang and Hanoi a lot of places did not do hot coffee at all. 

If you Travel here or Vietnam…

Be sure to do the coffee. In Vietnam its Egg Coffee and its home is Hanoi. Forget the clickbait posts that tell you the five best places. Just find a local shop and order. They all do it. But if you want a recommendation; try The Note by Hoan Kiem Lake in the old quarter in Hanoi. I don’t like recommending places because what’s good for me is bad for you but The Note is a fun place to hang out. You will understand why its called that once you go :-). If you happen to be in Da Nang and you should end up there for so many reasons, check out Wonderlust by the riverfront. I stayed just blocks from there and it was my morning stop. Their French Fries are good too! There are bakeries there. In fact, Da Nang has just about it all and its all there for you to find. Best way? On foot of course.

In Cambodia, the coffee shops often have food but I have found that the best bet f you want food is a bakery. There are a number I enjoy but most have very fresh baked goods. Just look on Google Maps if in Phnom Penh for Tous LeJours Bakery. You can get freshly baked goods and coffee there.

So that’s the start to many a day in Cambodia now. The nice little coffee stand down the street where you can grab one to go and even chat with the locals who are always fun to talk with. Coffee is a big deal here so the culture of how its done, served, sold is very important and its fun! 

Christmas Day in Battambang

Its Christmas morning here in Cambodia. I’m spending the morning in the hotel room watching BBC News and planning out the next few days here which is all I have left. Christmas here has restaurants with buffet lunches and dinners and there are decorations out in the shopping centers with Christmas trees up. Many of the coffee shops are dressed up too with decorations.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the last year in retrospect and all the things which have come about and the things to come in 2019. In some ways it seems like a dream after waiting so many years to have it happen. Back in 2009, life did not seem so good and it took 9 years to get through the bad times to reach the good. Now with a simpler life, blessed with few possessions, no debt, no credit cards, no car and a life spent slowly on vagabonding; I’ve reached a goal of sorts. I think I’ve found the method that I looked for so many years and when I used to travel to Asia, I would want desperately. 

Of course its all different after the intervening years but the nicest thing I have to admit is not working this holiday. For the last two I had large projects which seemed to occur over the holidays and be due right after so it meant long work days. Last year or year before I sat outside a convenience store in Mountain View on a WebEx call right before Christmas and worked up until the day itself on some emergency stuff for the project that had to get done. Its something to put all that down and realize truly that a year has gone by without working and I am so thankful for that.

Another thing I am quite grateful for is figuring out how to do this and then making it happen. It is not such a complex endeavor to leave forever it seems in retrospect but leading up to it was something in January and February this year. I had felt that the time would come but it seemed almost a fantasy when it did. To actually leave with a backpack and knowing that I was leaving a clean slate behind has meant the difference to me.

Perhaps when I look back at year’s end this year it will come to me what a wonderful, unique, and sometimes challenging thing this is to wander the world as I want. There’s always a story to be told of a thing I think. A tale or two which have escaped and not been related and after blogging and doing retrospectives in the blog many times, this year is no different. I’ll not be in the United States to celebrate Christmas as I used to do with my daughter and son but as the time has gone on I’ve learned that we all change and the things we hold or that are dear to us change too. 

I also kinda think back to work colleagues of the past, friends still there and some gone and I am thankful even more for what I have and have been able to do the last year. Some have told me that they could not do this because of fear as they retire. I understand that because I felt the same fears but I also knew if I did not take this on, do the thing I wanted for so long, that life would simply slip by and I would find myself sitting in some McDonalds eating a breakfast sandwich wondering where it all had gone.

So as the year comes up and Christmas comes and goes, I do think of my kids a lot. They are always there but the reality changes and both of them take on life completely differently now. Both are unique and special and I hope they have the best of holidays but I want them to know we all have the dreams and dreams are not limited to youth. Everyone finds a dream they wish to take on. It may be risky or challenging and it may take awhile but without them we are less.

So Merry Christmas to you all wherever you may be. Have a wonderful holiday and look at the things in your life and see where they meet. Don’t forget your dreams and ideas. I never did.

Saturday Evening Travel Thoughts

I’ve just about completed the travel through Cambodia I had setup back at the end of last year in my room in Newark, California. I had known I wanted to travel through Cambodia for 4 months or so and see a different city each month. I did not know then I would be going on to Singapore in January and then on past that and would also make 2019 a full travel year. Now I’m at a week left in Battambang and have only a few things to get done. One is an all day tour in a Tuk Tuk I bought for $25. I get to go to points north and south of the city all day long to see temples, the bamboo railroad, and other things. After that I have 4 days to wrap things up here and get ready to get back to Phnom Penh for about 1.5 weeks. I’ll see my friends at the LaLune Hotel again and will hopefully talk them into going to dinner with me in the city a few times. Then its off to Kampot for 1.5 weeks as well before leaving for 5 months. I have a number of places to revisit there for food and beer including a great burger place or two.

I was thinking this evening walking back about the travels thus far in Cambodia and the pace. It pretty much has reaffirmed that I am doing things the right way for me. The slow travel gives me so much time to see things. Still amazes me sometimes I spent 3 months in Hanoi but I would never trade that time. Hanoi is worth that long easily.

I will also get back to Vietnam later in 2019 for almost 3 months. I really never want to say I am done with Vietnam. Its this place that has so much to offer but I cannot simply live there. There is no place I simply want to live. I want to find a place that has a retirement visa that I can get with no problems and then leave as soon as I get it. Cambodia is so perfect for that for me. Having the year long visa here means I can get back with no questions asked when I am done traveling each time. Very cool!

This trip has seen me reach Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Battambang; but I also made it to Kampot. So an extra city tossed in. I have to say that Cambodia has just captured me and really fits well with what I want out of my life. Its a simple life with no real challenges each day. Every thing I need just comes. The days seem to be so long sometimes compared to when I worked those 16 hour days with Gantt charts and milestones and vendors and network and data center challenges. People yelling at me and vendors telling me a thing could not get done yet we did it. I don’t miss any of that. It was a hell life but like a told a friend there, I would never have traded the time there because it gave me yet another thing for which I am grateful.

So I’ll leave you with this. If you decide to make it to Cambodia; go slow. Each place has a thing to offer. Siem Reap and Angkor Was, Battambang and the slow and gentle pace of life. Kampot and the easy pace of things. Food is everywhere and like someone told me,

If you are hungry and in Cambodia, something is wrong.

I’ll leave this here for now. My kindle is beckoning and the evening slows down to a pace I like. Food is done and the evening slows to the pace I like. The AC hums along and I can hear the block outside my hotel window already quieting down. Battambang is a quiet city at night and I like it.

Moving on from Instagram

After some years and two different Instagram accounts I’ve decided to delete both of them for a variety of reasons. Here goes:

  • There are whole bunches of features that will never come to make it a true photo sharing resource. I don’t think we will ever see folders or nested folders or replying with an image.
  • We will never see a desktop client. It means I have to send the photos to the iPhone first from the camera and then share them. I would like some choice and would like to have the images on the sdcard mounted on my MacBook.
  • The application’s commenting is clumsy and I don’t think it adheres to a conversation view real well.
  • The app does not treat images well and always wants to resize or crop them. I can only share however many as well.
  • Location sharing is always iffy. Sometimes it cannot find a place that Facebook can.
  • I would like a true community of users that I can join. Perhaps a Fuji x100f community.

So many things that make it a step back from a community site like Flickr. When I consider what I want Instagram does almost none of them. I guess if you are looking at it social media and followers and getting a business or other agenda going it’s cool. I don’t think it’s really made for camera users at all. If you use a phone camera it’s all good.

So on 1 January I’m gone. I shared my last image there today. I’ll be sharing on google photos to Facebook and twitter and will be on Flickr with a subset of images of my travels to share.

So long Instagram. You were underwhelming when it mattered.

Big Day in Battambang!

Every 30 days I have to renew or topup my data plan at one of the Smart Shops here in Cambodia. Last time it was in Siem Reap but now its here in Battambang. The shop is a 10 minute walk from the hotel I am staying in. Here in Cambodia it does not appear you can top up or renew early and must wait for the last day. Since I upgraded the plan now I have an app on the phone that tells me when the time is up, how much data and talk time I have, etc. One thing with Smart is that you can get service for almost free if all you do is call other Smart subscribers. That does not work well for hotels, tour guides, and shops I may do business with so I buy $5 of talk time every few months which lasts me for a long time. 

On the data side, I over buy the data plan because sometimes I also hotspot the laptop to the phone and want to ensure I don’t run out of data. For 30GB I spent $8 last month and also upgraded the service plan for free so I can use their really nice IOS app. This will be the last upgrade I do here in Cambodia for awhile since I leave in a month and will be getting a SIM card next in Singapore for a week and then on to Malaysia and ‘Thailand for phone services.

I seriously don’t know how people can be here and not have a 4G data plan. The use of an app like Grab or Google Maps is just a basic thing for me to use and rely on in any of the countries but here in Cambodia its been really useful since I walk all over the place. I also use TripAdvisor sometimes when I’m out and about. I guess a lot of people though have locked phones and cannot just add a SIM card. My iPhone 7 plus happily accepts any old SIM card which is nice! 

The second real thing is that Smart does not block hotspot so in a case where hotel or public wifi does not work or exist, I can get online on the laptop if need be. This has come in handy a few times both here and before in Vietnam on viettel. I’ll just put in a positive word for viettel as well. If you are going to Vietnam, look no further than that service. Its rock solid and really well done and you can top up easily in many places like small shops or stores or markets but I always went to a Viettel Store. I just prefer the stores for both Viettel and Smart because they talk English for the most part and will explain what I need or want and its costs. 

So the other part of the big day here is to walk in yet another direction after breakfast across the street and a visit to the Smart Shop in town. I have not walked that way yet and it will take me down the river walk area for awhile and then back to the downtown area. Its nice to have a place like this where I still have three different locations I have not explored yet and a day tour in-between all that. 

Next Saturday I get on the bus for Phnom Penh for almost 2 weeks. Time to get my haircut at my fav place there and go to the Central and Russian Markets for whatever I don’t really need :-). I really prefer the Central Market because the walk back to the hotel is really a nice walk by government buildings and Mikes Burgers. I also will go to the Aeon Mall once and will probably eat at the riverside area at least once. 

Finally after 10 days in Kampot to do less and less and just kick back a notch and wander again the city, I fly off to Singapore. Then I’m gone for 5 months! I’m getting pretty excited about leaving but I also have completed the travel just about I wanted to do in Cambodia. There are places I would go back to and there is one I would not. After 4 months here, I’m glad to have settled and picked Cambodia for a home base location. Its much more centrally located than my other pick which was the Philippines. The inability to ride a bus or train or easily commute to another country is a major disadvantage to home basing there while I travel around. I may end up there end of next year for the holidays but I would never just give up the retirement visa here for theirs.

Well, gonna go have breakfast across the street at this nice little coffee shop and then get going for my big day in Battambang!