Morning coffee and croissant

Here in Vientiane there are lots of French restaurants and bakeries. I have found a number of really nice places for the late morning iced coffee and pastry. I am at Annabelle Cafe now. It’s right by the riverside. A peaceful spot to enjoy a Sunday morning.

It’s a good morning here. Nothing to do and all day to get it done. Retirement is tough folks.

4 More days in Vientiane

I have another 4 or so days left here in Vientiane and then I go to Luang Prabang for a week. I will be doing a tour there one of the days to see a waterfall, a few traditional villages, and cruise the river. Vientiane is an interesting city but its peaceful and quiet and people mostly go to the Riverside Night Market in the evenings for some lights and action. I went there last night to get some gifts for this cute Khmer girl I know. The Night Market is different since it seems to focus on electronics and shoes a lot. I saw more stands selling phone gear and shoes but there are a lot selling clothing but not touristy type stuff. I finally found a stall that sells touristy t shirts which is what my friend wants. I will go back before I leave because I accidentally got her two t shirts which say the same thing but in different colors. I need to find a yellow t shirt for her.

There are a lot more French people living and working with restaurants and shops here than other places and I think a lot of people here speak French. Some streets have French names and French named coffee shops and bakeries are all over. Last night I went to this restaurant for dinner and had a really nice pepper steak with mashed potatoes because I felt like something a bit different. I paid about $10 for dinner which in comparison to my lunch was a lot seemed okay to me. I paid about $2 for lunch yesterday which was chicken fried rice and a nice melon shake at a small restaurant I happened across while walking. They were delighted to serve me and the food was really good!

So today I will try to find a place where I can see some different tourist type stuff during the day around the downtown part of the city. I am hoping that there are places to buy souvenirs or t shirts that say stuff like “Visit Lao” on them. Here are a few things though I got to see yesterday during my walk.

In way of explaining, one is the every present tuk tuk that can take you just about anywhere in the city. You can also see a few black and white photographs of the Vientiane Center area with new development occurring. Temples are all over the city and most are in good shape although I have seen older ones not so well preserved. You can see a few here. Finally there was a park with a statue of a past King. The park was a very peaceful spot to stop and sit in. Kind of like the rest of Vientiane actually. The city is very peaceful and quiet at night. I have not heard a siren or loud voices or anything here all the nights here.

Now its breakfast time on a Sunday morning. I am getting tired of the asian breakfast foods. I wish somewhere here had american style breakfast. Some potatoes would be so good! Back in Phnom Penh there are places to get something a bit different but I am not really complaining since the breakfast comes with the room.

Time to go forth and conquer the breakfast! Will post some more photographs tonight perhaps of my day spent wandering shopping areas here in search of places that sell t shirts and trinkets for tourists.

Patuxay Park in Vientiane – a walk, a look, and a day

Today was a good day for getting out and seeing another direction in Vientiane Laos. I made it to a beautiful park and monument called Patuxay Park. On the way up, I saw this and that along the streets. Not big things mind you. Just the small stuff I get completely caught up in as i walk.

After the Park, I walked another way home and saw some things. Again not truly instagram moments but since I don’t post pictures there I am safe. Here’s some of my day captured with my FujiFilm X-T30 camera with the 18-55mm kit lens and the F2 35mm prime lens. A good day was had by old retired guy and camera today.

Another day in Vientiane spent wandering the city with no set goals. Tomorrow more of the same. Tonight I will have a hamburger and fries at a western burger joint I found.

 

Its Wednesday in Vientiane – What did I do?

Vientiane is a different experience. There are nice restaurants and really nice bakery shops. Lots of French restaurants but also a number of international places. Its quieter here at night. Peaceful. Siagon is rambunctious. Phnom Penh is frenetic. Hanoi is kind of different still. I will remember in Hanoi forever the woman Grab driver offering me “boom boom” as I walked back to the hotel. Here, things just quiet down and people sit outside with their beer talking. The warmer day comes to an end and the tuk tuk drivers settle down in front of their haunts looking for the elusive fare. People start coming out for dinner and drinks. There are a good number of tourists here but there are also people living here.

During the day its rather peaceful too. Traffic for the most obeys the traffic lights and stop signs. There is notably less garbage on the streets than just about anywhere else. Small shops and restaurants are all open catering to the needs of locals, visitors, and just about anyone. Coffee shops are like coffee houses anywhere. I have been warmly invited in on Phu Quoc Island even though its a local coffee place and then was served my favorite iced coffee with milk and to sit outside is a joy with it. Other places like Siem Reap last time I had my favorite coffee shop and they would greet me every morning with smiles and hello’s.

No real difference here. Vientiane has more historical and religious sites than other places I think and they seem to be very well maintained. I have spent two days walking the city in different directions and its been good. Tomorrow will strike out in a different direction to explore.  Here are a few things to look at.

You can see that the mighty Mekong River runs right by the city. There are lots of statues and beautiful temples which I will get around to taking pictures of in the next few days. I have another week here to get to the places  I want or find others. You can also see the presidential palace in the last shot. That was as close as you can get.

I have been using my iPhone 7 Plus for photography lately. Its just easier and I like the photography it does with the Halide app. I am not sure whether I will use the FujiFilm camera again or find a home for it in Cambodia when I go back. I am just very satisfied with the quality and the ease of use of the iPhone.

The next days are just xerox copies of these days. Breakfasts at the hotel and then coffee somewhere. Walking the city in different directions to find and see things. I will leave a week from Friday for Luang Prabang for a week. I have a tour there for all day one day to see waterfalls, caves, and villages.

Then back to Phnom Penh and its time to take care of my retirement extension for another year and prepare to leave Southeast Asia for about 8 months. I won’t be back after October 19th until June 10th 2020.

Lots left to see here though and food and beer to drink!

 

 

Vientiane Laos for 9 days – no goals and just go

I got in to Vientiane Laos last night. My hotel is right by the Mekong River and there is a nice park where people gather at night to drink beer and eat. I tried looking up places to go here and there is the usual assortment of blog posts about the itineraries and cultural sites and history. I read a few last night over a big Laobeer. None of them really do what I like though and each one ends with whatever a Pinterest Pin is. So I will go off and find my own Vientiane the next days.

I was talking with a friend in Phnom Penh and we both think that there is a city that is vibrant and cool and different right next to the same city that travel bloggers write about. Its like its hidden in plain sight and not hard to find. Hanoi has it down the side streets and alleys. Phnom Penh has the places away from the riverside where the small shops and coffee stands and restaurants that spill out onto the streets are. Every city has it but what we look for and what we find are so different. Da Nang has a vibrant neighborhood where you see no tourists that I would love to live in. Beautiful little coffee shops and restaurants, nice shops. Very nice people.

We all know that cities are made up of things. Not just concrete jungles but spirit and emotion and love and hate and time and moments. Cities are more than just where the people gather. They are mile markers of life. Lets face it. The real treasure of a Vietnam or Cambodia is not Angkor Wat or Halong Bay or wherever you go in search of natural delights or history. The real treasure are the people themselves. You can brush right by them in your rush to the next temple but they are there.

So my mission if I have one and I doubt it is to find Vientiane the next days and record just a bit with a camera of what I find. Its a journey to get lost and found and see the little places that somehow all combine to make bigger ones. Consider when you go to a place what you seek. You may find the things along the way you discard or ignore. Khmer people have beautiful smiles. Vietnamese children go out of their way to say hello. Don’t ignore the people for the monuments and instagram moments. Life is more than those. I took a few pictures my last few days in Phnom Penh of the beautiful people.

Beautiful smiles, laughing people. A dad that wanted a picture with me and then I got a picture of his beautiful family. The friendly Khmer women working that took a break among a lot of laughing to let me take their photos. That’s what is really in all the places. The people folks. Its the people.

And that’s what I will see along with temples and parks and things. Its the people.

Transition to Laos

Tomorrow is a travel evening (not day). Nothing is so far away in Southeast Asia that it takes a day to get there. But off I will go to Laos after a week here in Phnom Penh Cambodia. A friend asked me what I accomplished here. Nothing. I did nothing but drink beer, eat good food, and meet some nice Khmer people. One of them has graciously accepted going out for dinner with me when I get back. She knows American food which is fun but she also knows Mexican food which is a blast! She told me all about quesadillas and tacos and how she loves to eat them.

The three weeks in Laos brings me basically to the point of renewing my retirement extension of stay here in Cambodia. It not a difficult process and the agent does the heavy lifting but I have to surrender my passport for two weeks or shorter if I want to pay more. Once I get it back I will have a shiny new retirement extension good for a year of entries and exits as I want. It just fits my lifestyle really well and it lets me always come back to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap or wherever I want to touch down.

Laos will be fun I think and I get to see a new place through the lens of my Fuji camera and iPhone. I had planned the trip for awhile so to see the time coming up for it is really cool. I don’t know what I will do there but I’m sure there is food to eat and a few places to walk to there. No matter what, wandering works for me. I could go anywhere or back to anywhere besides Thailand and it would work. Thailand was just miserable and I will never go back again unless to see Chiang Mai which I hear is different. Bangkok sucks rocks.

So just perhaps next time you read a post here it will be me in Laos unless I decide to write something tomorrow which is always possible. I could write some subterfuge tomorrow I guess :-).

Stay tuned. Its wandering time!

The Ten Thousand Steps…

You perhaps have read the reports about walking daily. There is a number they say to hit. Its about 10k steps a day for some kind of return on the effort. I wanted to write a blog post about walking for a few reasons but to explain and discuss the why and how of what I do and the differences its made in life and the quality of life for me. See if you can find yourself in this.

First a little background. I am not good at sports at all. I cannot do the usual ones like golf, tennis, raquetball or handball. I also am not good at the endurance ones like jogging or running and I don’t do the strength building things like weight lifting. I don’t care for swimming either and could not do it everyday. I think many of the sports would just bore me beyond belief. As I searched around over a decade ago, we had a Golden Retriever and we were told the dog needed daily exercise. So out we went! We started at 15 minutes a day and then made it to 30. She was so happy to be out! She would make it to this park and chase bunnies, make up with people especially kids, and she was also the neighborhood dog that everyone wanted to meet. Kids would come over and ask if Misty could come out to play. She wanted to walk and run and play with the kids. Retrievers are like kids for a long time. Our vet said give it 5 years and she will grow up somewhat. Somewhere around the second year perhaps she started having problems getting up from laying down. It soon became painful for her to walk longer distances so she dropped out of the walking. By that time we were up to 30 to 45 minutes each day that we would time. Soon she had to sit the walks out and the misery on her face was torture. Playing with the kids in the neighborhood became more difficult too. Chasing a ball or frisbee became difficult. She became a sad house dog and lived that way for years.

I continued to walk though. I walked through rain and winds and desert heat. I walked through divorce and very unhappy times. I walked to walk but only by myself. Going out with my soon to be ex-wife was torture and I still lived at home while things were going down. That’s another story though so I won’t go there. Anyways, I was up to over an hour a day of timed walks and i would have an app time my walks and give me the route. I was looking for times around the 1 to 2 hour range each day. I widened it to walking in various cities like Vancouver, Seattle, Kyoto, Sydney, San Diego. You get the idea.

I did both kinds of walking for a few years. The timed and distance managed walking and then the free form city walking for hours a day. The city walking was much more interesting since I also took my camera and was able to walk for around 5 hours per day. I also did not time it or look at the distance. I still had for a long time a pedometer app that gave me stars if I reached a goal.

In 2018 I would retire and the whole thing changed. I went for a last walk where I timed it around 27 February 2018. It was in Union City California and I went for almost 1.5 hours jamming to music and just going.

Now walking was gonna change to the second form. You see I found two forms of walking:

  1. walking times and distances with an app to tell you things and goals to be set.  This type of walking gives you the day of walking and I would do it every day after work around Mountain View or at home. I received goal reports and distance and gps reporting.
  2. city walking with no distances and gps measurements. This is what I call free-form walking and you just go every day. I have done this just about every day now for the two years of retirement. There are no goals or distances. There is the day and the walking and the camera and things to see.

So what is better? Some more competitive or wishing daily reporting may need the first one. It provides compelling goals and lets you see your path and distance. It lets you time the things and get feedback on meeting a goal. Perhaps you need that. For me the second form of walking is the best. I don’t do goals or records or responsibilities and I don’t accept challenges. I get out every day to only walk with the camera or iPhone to take pictures and here in Southeast Asia I have walked in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Other places I have walked have been Hong Kong and Japan.

So what do I get from it? Its indescribable and basic and metaphysical and wonderful and frustrating at times. Its the way I live and each day is spent seeing a place by steps and frames of a camera. There is nothing to reach so I don’t. There is no goal so I don’t miss or attain. I can say because the Apple health app tells me I walk about 5 to 7 miles a day and some days more. I have walked up to 10 miles but its a bit much for me.

If you are casting about for something and want a thing that will lift you up to see the thing in front of you and let you find places and things even in familiar surroundings you may never have seen, I don’t believe bicycling or running or other ways lets you see the familiar and the unique and find the unique in the familiar like walking. Its the most basic ways of transport. Hunter-Gatherers were good at it. We are all good at it or we can be. Its our two legs and our minds and our moments that kind of bend together and let us see both the familiar and unique in a single glance.

For me, its been my best friend, problem solver, and it lets me see what is next to me and on the horizon that much better. Sometimes it frustrates me. It always gives me a glimpse and a taste of the road and perhaps the road less traveled. Walking in cities in Southeast Asia soon takes you out of the touristy and backpacker areas and you may find yourself waving at kids in Da Nang, talking with a nice couple in Saigon, or trying that street food in Siem Reap. Its all there for you. One step at a time.

Welcome to Phnom Penh – Keep your arms inside the tuk tuk at all times

Its pretty nice to be back here. Last night we went out and got moderately shit faced at this bar and talked the evening away. Phnom Penh is a really nice escape and I like where I am staying now for ease in getting around. I met this charming young Khmer girl that works at the bar who has decided she wants to do coffee with me. So tomorrow we shall go out and have coffee before she works at this restaurant. I actually met her before and we would talk about life in Cambodia and her family a bit but last night she told me a lot more about things. Some kinda disturbing, other stuff funny, yet other things sad. Its the spice of life though folks. Over here in Cambodia, there is real life out there. Not the distilled and clean San Francisco version of a bubble of people that all happily coalesce sometimes. Here in Southeast Asia, life can be a gritty and painful business for people. I heard some of the pain and grit last night and I think she was close to crying part of the time.

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the things I saw yesterday in my wanderings. Walking in Phnom Penh requires attention and being alert to those tuk tuks and motorbikes whipping around the streets. Tuk tuks can be dealt with but motorbikes I think cannot. They will just go wherever. So anyways, I take care and caution bringing you these photographs from my Fuji camera. Hope you enjoy.

Here you can see the riverside area, the “wet” market with fresh foods, the Central Market and its unique dome and sundry things of the city.

Today I am leaving in a bit for a walk around somewhere. I don’t quite know where. I have some things to ponder and walking is good for the act of pondering.

Enjoy the moments in beautiful and unique Cambodia. The kingdom of wonder.

In Phnom Penh Cambodia for 7 days

I flew out of Saigon today at 4pm and the flight as usual takes about 35 minutes to Phnom Penh. Hardly time to get a glass of water but the heroic and valiant flight attendants try. Vietnam Airlines is really a nice airline!

So now in my sometime home for awhile. I have a few things I want to do here next days I am here. I want to go shopping at the Central Market tomorrow for some new cargo type shorts and also look for some things for my daughter from here. I will also meet a few friends here and there for dinner most likely along the riverfront because we all like to go there, watch the sun go down, drink cold Angkor beers, and talk about travels. Its the stuff I guess that the expat retiree experience is made of. We don’t discuss the 5 places you should go or the tour you should do. We tend to talk about the human side of it all. Our friends, the things we do each day, the feelings that the friends and the things bring up. I would call it less clickbaity BS blogposts that people do to fill up the empty spaces on their blogs and more about the real everyday experiences of living life moving around in Southeast Asia.

I’ll be posting a few pictures of things as I wander this city which always surprises and delights me. Phnom Penh is one of those cities where the people stand out more than the buildings. Khmer people are engaging, friendly, authentic and love to eat and drink. I’m staying this time much closer to downtown yet not in the noise of tourist drinking, eating. Its a peaceful hotel where the mornings and evenings are quiet and one can take a moment. I had breakfast at the hotel this morning which was nice. They make a nice American breakfast with eggs, toast, bacon crispy, and three different kinds of fresh fruit with hot coffee and fresh juice. All included in the hotel price.

breakfast

I think I will walk to this coffee shop in a bit and have an iced latte and sit there awhile.

Hang out with me in the busy, sometimes strange, but always wonderful city of Phnom Penh Cambodia. Here for a week give or take. Then off to Laos.