Its a Happy Thursday!

Its morning here in Bangkok. About 10am and listening to the news. I went to the delightful local coffee place where the very nice Thai woman now knows what I want each morning. Her Latte is always the best! I also stopped at 7/11 to get some pastries for cheaper. I think by 11am I will be leaving for the BTS to ride to MBK Center so I can catch the bus tour for the day. I have a few stops I want to do today. There are two museums and a temple to see and maybe more. I will still have one more day to see things on the tour which I could do tomorrow or Saturday.

Turns out one I sign up on the tour, I have to do the second tour the next day. So tomorrow I am off again on the tour. Today I did the heritage tour part of the way. I went to the Siam Discovery Museum which was kinda cool and then did the National Museum was was f’ing awesome! Its in a number of buildings the cost is pretty reasonable. You get artifacts from the prehistoric periods through Khmer times and up to the present day in a beautiful set of displays and information. I spent about 2 or 3 hours wandering the museum today.

I could not find where the bus tour would pick me up so I hopped a tuk tuk and as usual they want to start at about $10 USD. These guys are one of the reasons i dislike Bangkok. There is no real reason to charge me that much for a few mile drive. In Phnom Penh, I would be unhappy to pay over $1.00 for a ride to the riverfront area on Grab. Its just a ripoff and they know it. The first guy started at 300 baht. I said 200 baht. He said 250 baht. I said 200 baht. He would not waver. Lets just be honest here. 200 baht is about $7 USD. That is not cheap for a few KM ride but its what I paid to get back to MBK Mall and then catch the BTS home. I bet Thai people don’t pay like that. Its just one of the many things that piss me off with Thailand and why I’m glad to be leaving. Some folks think we are just giant dollar signs with legs. Others would prefer to ignore a person even when they are in an establishment to eat or buy something. Perhaps they are looking for the markup in cost. Somewhere along the line Thailand lost its soul with how to manage the tourism industry and I hate it. Tuk tuks are just one piece of it. Small and large businesses are the other. If you take all of that and magnify it you have what Bangkok is. A city with no soul, character, mood. Just a big city with lights and skyscrapers and malls. KL has it all over Bangkok for heaven’s sake. In the end, I leave in a few days and I am glad. There is no country of smiles here. If there is one sign I will always remember about Thailand its,

MASSAGE

And that’s it. Genuinely and honestly, that is about it for Bangkok.

Oh how the Days Tick on Down

I have a few things to finish up with my stay in Bangkok left. I decided to get the two day Siam tours hop on/off bus tour and start tomorrow with the historic and museum route. The idea is to ride the bus from the initial stop by a BTS Station to the Siam Museum and then hop off and walk from the Museum to a few temples and finish up at the National Museum after. I am going to only do two museums here but the ones I chose were not within easy distance to BTS or MRT stops and I refuse to ride the rip-off tuk tuk drivers. The other values to the tour over other ways of getting around are that you get to jump back on where you want and intersect the other tours and then take those through the shopping and central business district routes.

Since I bought the tickets for two days I will probably do the second day either Friday or Saturday and go back to the weekend market on Sunday since I really liked that market. Monday is my last full day here so will get some things done, clean up the airbnb condo a bit, pack up and be ready to leave earlier Tuesday morning since I have a flight to Siem Reap at 10am. I will probably leave by 7am so I get to the airport by 8am and can check in.

Camera Things…

I’ve been using my new compact camera the Panasonic Lumix LX10 that I bought in George Town a lot and I really appreciate the form factor and the flexibility of being able to shoot in program mode or change to aperture priority. The camera has a nice set of features and I have been thinking a lot about the whole concept of travel camera and what is really needed to fill my use cases. I doubt I ever really needed the FujiFilm cameras even though I enjoyed using them but that lets me summarize some of my uses. See what you think for travel:

  1. Portability and size. I think the primary thing when traveling with only a 45L backpack and a daypack is how portable things are. This starts with things like my laptop and also includes the camera. The idea of carrying multiple lens or camera bodies seem to run counter to the goal. A travel camera should be pocketable in case you encounter rains.
  2. Flexibility of use. The camera you choose should not be limited to automatic or program modes. You should be able to shoot in manual or semi-automatic modes to liven up your creative juices and to have even more fun.
  3. Fun is another thing and perhaps should be the first thing on the list. Lets face it if you are not having fun with your choices your creativity is sure to be threatened. If the camera is not fun to use you probably will not use it long term.
  4. Accessibility. The camera should be imminently accessible. It should not be challenging to use. An example perhaps. The Lumix LX10 camera is small. If your hands are big this camera may be challenging to use. It is rather slippery or slick at times and even though it easily fits into one hand, when taking images one should cradle the camera in both hands. Accessibility may be important when you look at the other uses above and below this one.
  5. Film effects or simulations are important. Perhaps not so important if you shoot raw photos but I don’t do that. I don’t plan on sitting around for hours in a boring and complex piece of software to tweak curves or light or shadow. I don’t particularly care for how some photographers take an image and apply such a level of post production to it, its obviously been “photoshopped”.

When you roll all these up into one thing, you may have a bit of a definition of a travel camera. A small camera, flexible to use, that is fun and easily accessible with great film effects. It should be easily changed to Program or Auto modes by a dial and the film effects easily applied.

Another thing that perhaps you have not thought of but could in the future is shooting 4k video. Who knows if that will be a fun thing you want to do in Angkor Wat or Kuala Lumpur or Singapore? It could be. If this flexible and useful travel camera that is small and offers good JPEG images can have 4k video you may find another level of fun to emerge.

A final thing for me is reading many reviews of different cameras and seeing that a number of people subscribe to the idea of carrying multiple cameras. One DSLR and a compact camera. Different kits for different uses I imagine. I believe if you need that you will do it and it will fit your use case. I don’t need that. I don’t intend on selling images or being a professional or even avocational photographer that is in training for something else. Mainly put, I am in all this for fun and perhaps some learning. The images are meant to be able to share and record my journeys and vagabonds only. Friends ask sometimes if I went to place X or Y. I have google photo albums of the places. That is perhaps the final thing for me is the repository of the photos. Google Photos provides the best of organization for me and the cost is good. Namely free.

Siem Reap Things…

Its soon gonna be Siem Reap times. I cannot wait! I fly out next Tuesday and go back to the land of beautiful historic sites, wonderful food adventures, and cheap places to sit and have that well deserved smoothie after a day of adventuring. My goals for this trip to SR are not to go in a different direction each day and try to see what the city and surrounding area has to offer. I’ve done that already. Now the walking will of need change to be more of walking for the love of it and the camera comes along because of course it is a travel camera and I don’t need lots of room for it. It all works so well.

Having a month there means no rush to do things and get to places and I get to enjoy the restaurants, bars, cafes, and coffee shops I visited last time. I know though that soon the times in Cambodia will pass and I will be boarding the flight to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam for 3 weeks there again. Ho Chi Minh City exploration is a wonder to me. Its probably one of the most fun cities to set out and explore and see. Eat and drink and wave at Vietnamese people and see the kids saying hello and smiling and waving as I go by. A wonder of places that I get to call home.

I love it!

Back to Ulysses for this kid …

It’s the beginning of a new day. For awhile I played with using a variety of productivity and personal apps like Day One for journaling, the WordPress app for blogging, and IA Writer for creating content. This approach while providing app developers livelihood really segregates the content into little buckets.

So this morning moved everything back to one tool named Ulysses. Much easier when all the content and notes are under one roof besides my dedicated travel plan which is in google spreadsheets.

I can write a blog post, create text based diary posts or work on longer content all within a single app. Much easier!

Last days Exploring Bangkok Central Area

Today I went to Central World area which is a group of malls and shopping centers and a nice market or two thrown in. All of the BTS rides are free today due to the coronation holidays. I wanted to get to one of the markets to get a new T shirt and a cap to protect my old retired head. Things are usually cheaper or at least you have choices. T Shirts were pretty good prices and I found a new cap so I can toss the two I have.

I spent an hour or so walking through the dark aisles and it reminded me of entering something like the Central Market in Phnom Penh. Aisles and miles of all kinds of stuff. Stuff you don’t even know you need like screwdrivers and locks and metal doodads and things. Some of the stalls were closed today due to the holiday but a lot were open. If you don’t want to go to the weekend market which is a bit out of town, this market called Pratunam Morning Market is a nice one to visit. Its also located kinda close to the BTS so you can get there by riding. After an hour or so down the rather warmer aisles looking at clothing and seeing all kinds of wrenches and tools as well that I don’t need, I went to yet another mall. This one has big clothing and fashion stores andI think the fashionistas must shop here. I went for the AC primarily and to look in the windows at how the upper class spend their days shopping at the nicer stores. Bangkok has a lot of these but I think Kuala Lumpur has more and I personally think that the KL malls are more sophisticated and accessible. I did like the above ground walking corridors to keep you away from the crazy tuk tuk and motorbike drivers. That was cool.

I am not really enamored though with Bangkok and it seems sometimes like the city has no real soul or feel or guts to it. Its just big. Big for no reason or for money reasons. KL is big and sprawling but it has soul. I think its just better because of the culture and history that is Malaysia. But I won’t go bashing Bangkok because I’m leaving in less than a week and I will still enjoy my remaining days here. A friend mentioned on Twitter I should visit Chiang Mai and that I may like it. I may have to go there next year for a week or so and see.

Here though is what the downtown area by Central World looks like. Pretty nice, eh?

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Siem Reap Awaits…

I got my airbnb reservation for the month in Siem Reap and also arranged to have the tuk tuk come and get me at the airport. My home is located right off one of my favorite roads and neighborhoods in Siem Reap called Sok San Road. Its a bustling road of restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee shops. You can reach Pub Street easily. I also told the Airbnb host to prepare a few tours to Angkor sites for me. I want to visit Bayon again. Bayon has to be the nicest archeological site in the park so I want to spend more time looking at the faces and puzzling over their smiles and mysterious looks. If you have been there you know their inscrutable looks.

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I spent hours wandering these sites last time I was there. This time I will buy the longer Angkor Wat pass and spend more time at a few of the sites so I asked the Airbnb host to prepare a tour with a tuk tuk for me to the sites I want to go to this time.

I will also go back to the Angkor Museum and study up again. I like that museum.

Then there is the eating and drinking in Siem Reap. Have I mentioned the eating and drinking there? The foodie adventures in Siem Reap are amazing and I cannot wait to get back to the Red Piano Lounge on Sok San and renew my friendship with the $0.75 draft beers and their food which is a bit more on the cost side. There is also the fantastic Missing Sock Laundry Cafe with the best waffles ever and the guy that won national awards as a barista serving up my latte in the mornings. Finally, the mornings not spent over waffles or at a bakery will include numerous mornings at Sister Srey Cafe. They have this hashed brown potato breakfast!

So for a month I will just live in Siem Reap and enjoy the idle tourist time in a wonderful historic, archeological, foodie preserve. I cannot wait!

Flying to Siem Reap Next Week Instead

I went out and had dinner tonight here and had been thinking of changing my travel plans. I’ll be honest. I don’t particularly care for Thailand and I don’t care to stay here any longer than the 14th of May. So in looking at the cancellations for my two airbnb homes, I could get almost all the money back. I lose out on some non refundable flights but what really matters in all this is the happiness of me. I am just not that happy in Bangkok and I don’t think I would be any happier in Phuket or Chiang Mai. I won’t list all the reasons but suffice to say that Thailand is disappointing. I read that its the land of smiles. I don’t see this at all. I read that people were genuine, friendly, and good natured. I don’t see that too much. There are not many smiles even in the non touristy areas. Food is cheap but I don’t really care for the food here that much over the food in Malaysia. Getting around Bangkok can be a ripoff with tuk tuks trying their best to make you pay 300 baht for just about anywhere you want to go.

So what do I get with Siem Reap? I get back to one of my most favorite places in Cambodia. A place where there is food aplenty and I will revisit the Angkor park again. I also will just be happy and enjoy each day spent in Cambodia.

I don’t like reaching a place and not liking it after awhile but it happens. One thing I would not do is extend the unhappiness. Part of the joy on my getting around Southeast Asia is going wherever the hell I want to go and I felt over dinner tonight that this place does not satisfy me at all.

I could not and will not name the reasons. I also know I will not come back here again. I will make it back to Malaysia. I feel Malaysia is a much better tourist destination with a fascinating history, culture, and foodie mentality.

I’ll be happy to get back to Cambodia. Sister Srey Coffeeshop has been waiting for me to have some of their delicious coffee and breakfasts!

Easy like Saturday night

I went out for a nice breakfast this morning at Coffee Club. Had an omelet, bacon, potato and some nice toast. I caught the BTS from the nearby station which is handy. I had decided to go to the weekend market over by Mo Chit BTS station. Its immense! I spent a few hours wandering the market, eating some pork satay, considering that I need to come back next Sunday and get some T shirts before leaving. Then walked to a Wat I wanted to see, to a park, and then caught the BTS back to the station closer to my airbnb. The whole BTS will get one spoiled I think :-).

Then back in the room I watched some old black and white movies on YouTube and went to this little cafe for some nice seafood with garlic sauce and rice and a Singha Beer. I had started looking at tomorrow for some things I want to do as well and looked at the map at the cafe over the dinner and relaxing a bit with the beer. I know the general direction of things and it happens to fit very well with having breakfast tomorrow at Starbucks. Handy how that works!

Now I’m back in the room because I’m kinda lazy and I feel like I got done what I wanted to do today. Now its apple music and reading a bit and considering I only have a week and days left here in Bangkok. Its really amazing considering I left Phnom Penh on January 21st for a week in Singapore. Then I spent almost 90 days in Malaysia and finally now here in Thailand. Now I’m approaching the tail end of time and will be leaving again for the home base on 14 June. Getting back to Cambodia will be nice because things kinda slow down there. I have dinner around the hotel with friends either ex-pat or Khmer, drink beer out front at night, gossip with my friend Katy, and watch the flow of the evening. Having two weeks in Phnom Penh this time means I can also make it to the Tokyo Barber Shop and get a haircut and beard trim and also see my friend Jonathan that owns a camera shop down by the Central Market. I will also catch numerous tuk tuk rides around Phnom Penh and will probably end up by the riverfront for beers and cheap food at my little dive bar. I hope the beer is still the same price :-).

Saturdays really bring out the reflection I guess. Music and a few beers does not hurt. I think about the last year and then some. Good times all. Even some simple mistakes made with booking travel that I corrected. Someone on twitter I know is a solo traveler and she always seems torn between the travel and doing it solo. I think she wants a boy friend but then she would not have the same things. Some other people are digital nomads and will post about their times figuring out how to make money in a location independent way. I read yet other people that do RTW or gap year things. Its dawned on me I am none of those. I don’t need to work. I am not limited and I don’t need a gap year. But the badge of digital nomad is so wanted by so many people. I hope they get what they want and that somehow blogging and Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook groups are their salvation.

For me, though…

Its all for fun. I don’t need the things that any of those have or want. It creates a disconnect in some ways for me since I do have followers on twitter that are solo travelers, forever travelers, whatever travelers. Maybe instead they are vagabonds. I’ve lost track of the titles and labels and which one suits them. I do read their blogs and it always amazes me what blogging has descended to. It surely is not the way it was when I started back in 1999. Someone asked me my most memorable thing with blogging. I have to say its the downward trend in quality and content in favor of sponsored posts and ads and advertising. I still am here to read the words this Saturday night folks. I realize that my blog has a pretty simple theme going for it. I strived when I activated the 2019 theme to make it simple. I don’t want a bunch of BS between you and the words. I like writing the words. I love writing the words. Its another thing if you read them. I don’t count followers or Pin things or ‘gram things that should be ‘grammed. I do have a instagram account but it only has about 120 followers. And that seems okay too this Saturday night.

I’m here in Bangkok. I don’t have lessons learned or the 5 things you should do or the itineraries. Instead if you read this thing, I will strive to not create borders around the page and the words. I think you come here for the content and pictures.

Saturdays are just this way for me.

Off the beaten Track works

I had decided after an Iced Latte this morning with some pastries from 7/11 to wander over to the ferry pier and catch a smaller ferry that goes up and down the river to one of the stops today, hop off and go exploring. So I got to the ferry and asked one of the operators for the boat that would take me to the Memorial Bridge ferry station. The boat was just leaving so off we went. It was a fun ride with some Japanese tourists yelling as the water splashed out and about. In about 15 minutes of riding, they let me know we had arrived at my stop. I was the only one departing so off I crawled and started walking the city. The Memorial Bridge is cool and has some beautiful artwork and I just happen to love bridges so of coursse this became a highlight for me.

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Then I decided to walk over to Old Siam Center and the Mega Plaza. Old Siam is a conglomerate mall with lots of fashionable stores so I spent just a bit of time cruising around. I was more interested in finding Mega Plaza because of its reputation as a digital toy haven. P1000569

I saw a few different temples today but the one that struck me the most was the beautiful, ornate, and very peaceful Wat Suthat. It is, I guess, off the beaten tourist track so I did not see any other tourists there but for a few. The monks were out strolling and I basically had the run of the place. This has to be one of my favorite temples due to the quiet and peaceful nature there.

Off the Beaten Track Means On the Right Tack

I think that this brings up a good point in seeing places. Here in Bangkok but in so many other places I’ve been, a few steps away from the main tourist zones like the Palace and the shopping streets can yield an appreciable difference. I had looked at the map this morning when i decided to catch the ferry service and saw this basic path I wanted to walk. I wanted to see not everything but a bit of this area which seemed to have a variety of things like shopping malls, temples, and smaller markets and less tourists. This overall is what happened today for me. I saw very few tourists out and about so I think if you have the time, try taking Google Maps and looking at places which might be interesting and that you can reach using some kind of transit system. Here in Bangkok, the surface streets are forever crowded so walking, taking the BTS, or riding the cheap water ferry system works wonders. You can get a ferry boat for just small amounts and tell the operators where you want to go and they will get you on the right ferry and then get you off where your stop is. Its a lot more fun to ride the river ferry system and there are no crowded streets, red lights, motorbikes, cars, buses, etc.

If you get to the less traveled ferry stops you can reach the areas on Google Maps easily. If you take BTS you can design a day trip to the less traveled spots and use the system as your personal transit system to get around. This Friday I will get myself a day pass on the transit and spend the day wandering the BTS system since there are two of them.

My main goals with the last week and change here is to feel I gave it a good shot walking the city, seeing the areas I can reach, and even taking a tuk tuk now and then when it makes sense.

Try the trick with Google Maps though to click on the transit options. It works very well here in Bangkok to go from a known spot to a place you may want to spend time exploring.