Some last minute thoughts of life on the road – consider maybe

I just landed in Ho Chi Minh City for one night and got to my airport hotel which is about 2km from the international terminal. The room is decent for what I paid. I don’t really care any more about what I pay for a thing if I get a thing of value back. I tried for months to track my expenses. It was like,

  1. Bowl of Pho Bo. That was $1.73 US.
  2. Spring Rolls. That was $1.39 US.
  3. Bottle of beer or water. That was around $.50 US.
  4. Lodging. That was about $400 a month or less.
  5. Travel or Tours. Different costs and it depends whether its worth it.
  6. Other. I have other expenses. I don’t know what they are.

So all this went in a google sheets spreadsheet which tallied up the costs per week and showed me what I was spending. Cool, eh? I could then look at the expenses for Hanoi by the month. If I wanted, I could do graphs and stuff for what the expense looked like for a trip. I could track everything and provide output and share on twitter and astound everyone.

The only thing? I stopped caring. The truth is it costs what it costs for food and ice cream and beer and lodging. Its X amount. Its never much really. I could spend more on lodging and have nicer places. I read one account where a person budgeted about $600 a month. This would be a nice place in Vietnam or Cambodia. I decided to spend less and have less nice. Truth is I only spend evenings in the room most of the time. What the hell does it matter? Only line drawn is no hostels with dorm rooms. I don’t like sharing snoring and bad manners and people coming in drunk on their butts and deciding its time for a travelogue session or a discussion on the relative merits of the Banh Mi down the street at midnight. I also spent 8 years in the Army in their version of a hostel called a barracks. Never again will I willingly subject myself to life in a barracks or a hostel. If you do it to meet one of the things above, great! Have a good time with that hostel life. I can find rooms or an apartment and spend more perhaps but when I come in at the end of the day craving a bit of solitude and quiet I get that.

I read more than my fair share on twitter because the travel community is quite nice about people asking about various aspects of travel. There are the people that count countries and continents. There are the gap year and gen X’ers that are after something else. There are then others that only travel weekends or during vacation breaks. There are fewer that just travel forever or as close to forever as they can. I don’t see many retired people doing this same thing but I have no doubt they are out there. Truth is with regular income and some good planning a retired person can hit the road easily and find a home or just travel very slowly wherever. The money will go farther. Your times will be happier. Places to be seen can go slowly by. Maybe there is more of value out there than sitting in a room in Milpitas California wondering how you will pay all the bills.

So my peaceful advocacy on Quora and other places is don’t do that if you are retired. There is a life out there somewhere else that you can find and enjoy. There are friends out there that will value your experience and what you have learned. You can hit the road and not look back until you are ready to look back. Its a small rock out there with a lot of little places you can stop and study. Consider traveling slowly through the places. Why count the continents and cities when you can slow down and count the moments?

Anyways, with my one night in HCMC, there is nothing to really do. I will perhaps find food soon and just relax and enjoy my last night in Vietnam. Think back on the months I’ve spent slowly seeing places, meeting some quality people, taking tons of photographs. Perhaps kind of preparing for my next port of call which is Cambodia for 4 months. I’ll tour 4 cities there and see some things I have wanted for decades. But its the slow movement that wins out in the end for me. Perhaps the more purposeful and planned yet completely unplanned and random musings of streets and places and nature. I have months to do more of that in Cambodia.

Now though, I’ll find some food here by the airport. I think tomorrow since my flight leaves late I will wander all around here and leave my stuff at the hotel for awhile. I was noticing a lot of interesting streets and coffee shops. Another day tomorrow of wandering Vietnam. A last day to see something and then fly out peacefully exhausted after walking all day.

Bye for now. Changing locations and countries next!

Today this and that – Last Day in Da Nang

Today was the final real day to wander Da Nang. I started the day with a few Banh Mi sandwiches and a coffee. Had to find the post office and mail some gifts to a friend in Da Lat Vietnam. Luckily the post office was just down the street so took the gifts in and they got a box for me, packed up the stuff, and then put in the mail service for me. Vietnam Postal charged me 80k VND to mail and package up the gifts. It will reach Da Lat in 2 days. Not too bad.

Then I stopped for some more coffee and decided to walk over the bridges I love here and just take photographs of whatever it was that I saw. Unfortunately, I cannot upload images to google photos today due to some kind of network issues here so I will wait until I get to Saigon tomorrow and try again.

After walking, picked up my laundry from the hotel and started packing. The amount of stuff I have has gone down so packing is pretty easy. Used to be that the Tortuga Outbreaker was used up for space. I also have a Tripod that I got for free when I bought the camera so that went in the backpack. I had started with 6 changes of clothing but I went down to 3 changes plus the ones I wear. Means I can still go a week since I wear the same stuff more than once. I could also wash stuff in the room and have a pretty good process for that but I’m lazy and prefer to pay the few dollars a week to have my laundry done.

I’ve changed things around a few times now for gear except for the backpack which I really like. I have a fake but pretty good quality North Face Surge backpack which can hold a bunch of stuff and is a great carry on personal item that fits under the seat. I got rid of a camera bag, a small duffel bag, and a daypack that simply was not big enough and felt cheap.

I’ve also wimped out and check my backpack now since I am flying single destinations with no connecting flights. Means I do have to wait for the baggage but I am in no real hurry to get to a place. If it takes another 30 minutes or whatever, it really does not matter.

So now its almost evening time here on my last night in Da Nang. Tomorrow is my last night in Vietnam. Wow! I will fly out Sunday for Cambodia and get the 30 day regular visa and then extend it for a year in a few weeks. The rest of this year is pretty well planned out for destinations in Cambodia. I think I posted for next year I’ll go to Singapore and then up through Malaysia for 90 days and then Thailand for 60 days. Finally back to Cambodia and “home”. Then about a week later will fly back to Saigon and voyage down to Con Tho to see a friend there and do a tour with her of the Mekong Delta. I will only stay 30 days this time in Vietnam and then will most likely head off to China or somewhere else.

So those were the things I did and some of the things that came up today. Vietnam is close to being done after 6 months. Cambodia is on the horizon with travel throughout and then using my multiple entry retirement visa to travel and return to Phnom Penh as I need.

Perhaps I will write something tomorrow in Saigon as I sit at the airport hotel. Its an interesting time as I leave Vietnam and all the great times here.

Sorta Kinda Retrospective – Vietnam ends and Travel to Cambodia Begins!

I’m kinda preparing to leave Vietnam after 6 months. Spending the last few days in Da Nang walking the city, getting lost, and eating. Today I met my friends Sunny and Andre for lunch at a wonderful pizza place where we leisured for about 2 hours talking. Sunny is Vietnamese but listening to her speak English you would not know it. She has the the teasing stuff down, has fun teasing in English, and also knows the colloquial stuff. Andre is fun as well being from Germany.

As the time slowly ticks down, other friends throughout Vietnam have weighed in on my plans to return. From a friend in Hanoi, they want me to not just visit Saigon but come up to Hanoi for some time next year. A friend in Can Tho will take me on a Mekong Delta tour for some days.

I have also been learning more with the new camera walking each day. Its a great camera, this FujiFilm XT2. It has these capabilities and super powers which takes awhile to learn. Even with the XT3 out, I see no real reason to upgrade. I could have settled on something less and spent less but I wanted to find a camera I could grow into and also feel that the camera represented an investment down the road.

Now the time slowly ticks down and tomorrow is Friday. I have tomorrow night and then fly back to Saigon for one night and then off to Phnom Penh for 30 days. I am pretty convinced I am doing this the right way. Thirty days in each place lets me settle in but its not so long where the routine gets boring. The retirement visa I will get in Cambodia in a week or so will let me do multiple entries and will last a year. This means I can just travel but home base in Cambodia as I want. I could also get a retirement visa in Thailand with no real effort but I think Cambodia is better and the living expenses are less.

I don’t know that I will write a regular post again before Cambodia but I will create a post that has all the links for all my photo albums in Vietnam and share it out. I had planned on writing kind of a retrospective of Vietnam but I think I’ve done that. Now its a matter of traveling to the next place and seeing the things I want to see. In January, I’ll fly off to Singapore and then travel north basically for 5 months and end up back in Phnom Penh in June. At that point, I’ll have two weeks and then fly back to Saigon for a month.

I have not thought through what happens after but I think China is sounding good. I will probably figure out the final part of the year as I get into next year. I know I have to be back in Cambodia to extend my retirement visa for another year.

So, in a few days Cambodia and then 4 cities in four months! I am looking forward to each one. Each has a thing it offers that’s unique.

Take care all. More to come!

Posed versus Candid Street Photography – Da Nang is great for both!

I remember a recent discussion on Twitter regarding posed versus un posed pictures on the street. I do both and enjoy people that hail me down or ask here in Vietnam to have their picture taken. Usually there is laughter and smiles and waving and its a mutually enjoyable moment. The people know they will not get the shot. Take this one.

I really liked the smiles and the fact only two of the three wonderful ladies looked back at me as I took the picture. It lends some mystery to the third person. It also lets the three participate in the shot.

Then there are the candid photographs one finds. For some reason, I enjoy black and white for those. These are the unplanned and unposed photographs that are found as I prowl the streets. People are more themselves and are engaged in their behaviors. Check out this one.

This brings another element of a person and a paper fully engaged in his life. Its a moment of a stranger’s life that I will never know or participate in yet I have him reading. I think of him as a day worker taking a break to consider the news on a day. The paper may have good or bad or both kinds of news but he is engrossed in the act.

Both of these were shot with the Fujifilm XT2 camera and both have a certain core value to me. Shooting pictures of people whether candid or posed introduces you and them to a scene unfolding. The camera and the photographer are unknown for the street photography. Its a life of a person captured at just a moment.

The posed picture shows three beautiful women yet one is not looking. It creates the sense of mystery but the smiles illuminate the moment completely and you get a sense that these three are workers too; perhaps taking a lunch break and talking.

Of course, one is in color and one is in black and white. I shoot in both but the black and white photography seems more intense to me. It introduces a mood either sombre or joyful or shadowy.

Oftentimes for either you only have a moment to decide on what you want to do. No time to fiddle with a telephoto lens, change lens, adjust this and that. Its you and the people or person and its a moment. The XT2 and Fuji cameras in general make you a master of the moment. No intrusive lens sticking out more than a foot. You can set the camera to f5.6 or f8 and be on aperture priority and also auto ISO and you can grab the moments. I never want to be fiddling with different camera settings because you may lose the moment and curse yourself. The women may get bored or the man may get up and see you. For one picture, the women are key and the smiles important. For the other, its the candid moment of the man, the paper, his cigarette.

What do you think?

The wonder of Bridges

I went out today and walked and looked and enjoyed a day that seems to have the weather transitioning from really hot to cooler days in anticipation of rain one of the restaurant owners of the Aroma Pizza place told me as I walked past today.

I usually pick a direction to walk on the spur of the moment; however today I wanted to revisit this walking only bridge across the Han River. There is something about its quiet and solitude which got me the last time. You see, I love bridges. I love the tapestry and feeling of a bridge. The fact it takes you from here to there and back again if you so wish. It also has a character and mood and feeling.Some bridges stretch across great waters while others cross the sky like the Golden Bridge in the Ba Na Hills in Da Nang. Yet other bridges are small and cross little dirt backroads and let you see how much history has gone down as you carefully traverse.

Many cities I’ve been lucky to visit are bridge cities. Hiroshima, Osaka, Vancouver, San Francisco. All have bridges. Some are utilitarian and allow commuters to go from here to there. Others like the bridge today are quiet affairs that allow foot traffic only. Then there is the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi. Bombed and rebuilt numerous times, it juts out in the city and you can walk it if you choose. Only motorbikes and pedestrians and the train are allowed on it now. You can tell though as you look at its span you are seeing some history. The old foundations have drawings and murals depicting the construction. History of it discusses the many times it was bombed out. Yet there it still is. I wonder how many visitors to Hanoi have seen that bridge. Its out of the way and you have to know what to look for. If you walk to the historic water tank you are close. Go north of the Hoan Kiem Lake and tourist central on any road. Maybe have cellular data on one of the networks to help you along. You will start seeing the bridge foundations and may find the historic water tank first. From the bridge you can walk all the way. Its kind of a scary walk at places so I turned around half way.

I have found and loved other bridges. In Hiroshima, there are small bridges with lights on them at dusk to help guide the way. These become somewhat mysterious and alluring as night falls. You find yourself taken by their soft spell. The lonely stone abutments form the foundations and you see sometimes a person walking the bridge. Not big bridges but they take a person from here to there. Bridges in Hiroshima are these neighborhood affairs.

I love bridges! Big bridges that carry payload and small bridges that carry dreams. The dragon bridge that lights up Da Nang skies at night and makes the evening even more photogenic. The footpath only bridge I walked today with its quiet moments. You can feel its history too. Lines painted. Moods absorbed. Time does not stand still and water courses below. Sometimes when I lived in California and would get over by the Dumbarton Bridge at golden hour, I could hear the bridge talking and whispering as the evening wind blew. It was the song of cars and steel. Other bridges carry people and you know those talk differently.

Walking a bridge gives the walker a different feeling. You are taken up and over a barrier or a railroad or freeway. Its can be utilitarian or ceremonial. A thing of beauty or a thing of concrete and work.

Next time you see a bridge, give it some love. It does a lonely job and lets you perhaps wander in thought and deed over its path.

Wondrous Vietnam – Not a bucket list just a list

Today is the last real Saturday in Da Nang and my last week in Vietnam. Next Saturday I fly back to Saigon for one night which I spend at an airport hotel and then fly to Phnom Penh on Sunday. Its been six months here and sometimes it seems the days have just flashed by. A Vietnamese friend asked me my most memorable city and experience. I think the most memorable place has had to be a few so I cannot nominate just one:

  1. Hanoi. I have come to realize that Hanoi is a city to experience in different ways. If you travel the thin corridors of the old quarter, you will miss the other parts. Only stay around Hoan Kiem Lake and you will not see the bigger West Lake. Travel to the historic Long Bien Bridge and it opens a new vista for you on the history of Vietnam. You can walk from the bridge to West Lake and then on to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and park if you like walking. Probably would take you 30 minutes but you get a view of a city that opens up with tall buildings, still crazy traffic and government buildings where armed security guards tell you “no photographs”. Anyways, I think Hanoi is to be experienced and to do that you have to be on foot. Buses or motorbikes take you at another speed. Walking the city gives you another view of its wonder, sometimes strangeness, and expanse.
  2. Ho Chi Minh City. I think this place has to be seen to be fully valued and perhaps shocked at sometimes. Its just huge. To walk the city’s myriad districts is to take in multiple cities with old buildings giving way to crowded little streets and Hems that take you through to the old Saigon with the little shoppes and emporiums and places you will wonder at.
  3. Hue. The imperial city! The home of a palace and outlying tombs. You can wander the palace grounds and get completely lost they are so big. You find yourself in gardens and beautiful buildings and wondrous art.
  4. Da Nang. I list Da Nang not only for the city but for the wondrous Ba Na Hills and the Golden Bridge, the tour to Cham Islands, the beauty of the riverfront, and the nice beaches a stones throw away. I wandered all over Da Nang or at least I think I did :-). Its a nice town with very nice people, great food and bars and warm temperatures. If you come here expecting cool sea breezes you may be disappointed.

You will notice Hoi An is not on the list. I was not that taken with Hoi An. I liked it at night but there is not the depth of difference of the ancient town compared to the other places I feel. I would not go back to Hoi An. I would return to the above four. I guess if you want a romantic stop or a trip to the beach you could do Hoi An but honestly, Da Nang has more to offer with its riverfront life, downtown areas with cheaper restaurants and nice bars. I also did not list Da Lat as a favorite. I did enjoy tremendously wandering Da Lat, the tours, the natural beauty and the varied and different lifestyle in the highlands. Its just not a place I would return to.

Other places I went were Nha Trang and Vung Tau. I liked both for getaways but I would not return to either. Nha Trang is too touristy and the food is expensive. Vung Tau is pretty but Cham Islands is much nicer.

Closing out…

Since I will be closing out my time in Vietnam, I was thinking of a blogpost with all the links to all the photo albums on Google Photos next week before leaving. I have so many different albums I’ve maintained. Thank goodness Google Photos is free!

That’s about it for now. More to come the final week when I go to Marble Mountains for a day and my final days of wandering the city. Probably one more beach day too since I can walk there.

Friday in Da Nang – Food and beer and blogging thoughts

Its Friday night here in Da Nang. I went out for a really nice American breakfast this morning at a place called the Happy Heart Cafe. Hearing impaired people work there and produce some really nice food. I had the American breakfast this morning. Then I walked the city taking photographs which I won’t share because I am still practicing with the new camera. For dinner tonight, I walked over to Banh Canh Nga and had a bowl of Banh Canh and the fried dough called Quay. The Banh Canh noodles are different than the normal pho or other noodles. They seem almost al dente in their taste but have this rich flavor. The soup or broth is probably a family secret much like Pho. Its really a great noodle dish and having the Quay bread dough fried up with it lets one dip the bread sticks into the soup and the result is great! As I sat there this evening, a Vietnamese man and wife joined me at my table. We shared no common language but the language of food prevailed. They ordered more Quay and we shared another order. We all laughed at trying to eat the Pork with bone in. The husband went to get a fork which seemed easier. I just used my fingers. I don’t think there is an approved way with many Vietnamese foods of what to use. Vietnamese people seem to just want to get the food and beer into their systems and don’t care about propriety or methods.

So we sat there and laughed and they ordered more of the Quay. They put all of it on my plate and I divided it up into half and gave half back to the husband. He smiled and immediately attacked it! It was a fun moment in a local restaurant and the employees there were happy to see me. The waitress showed me the English menu and prompted me to order the Banh Canh. So of course I did. But there are meat choices so I went with Pork. The entire meal came to about $3.50 I believe. I think the Vietnamese man and wife paid for the extra order of the dough sticks.

If you get something like Pho or even Bun Bo Hue, get the bread sticks too. They make the meal very nice and are served hot. If they don’t have them ready they will not serve cold ones.

Then, after…

Then after was a stop along the riverfront for beer. I sat at the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant and as usual talked with one of the waitresses who told me about her growing up in Da Nang and wanted me to stay longer so I could come back for more tall Tiger draft beers. She tells me that life in Da Nang is good but that a lot of the workers are from other places in Vietnam. She’s a warm, funny, and I have to admit rather cute young person so I enjoy flirting a bit with her and making her laugh. I will sit there and watch the evening settle over the Han river and the dinner boats ply up and down the river serving their expensive dinners and drinks to probably the Korean and Japanese tourists.

So I sit and drink and probably get a bit shit faced. Its okay because that’s what the Vietnamese do on Fridays too. I found this one place next door to a restaurant I went to that I have to visit where the beer flows and food comes out and the guy rushes around serving people six packs of beer iced up in buckets. I may have to talk my Vietnamese friend from here to go there before I leave.

So that was my Friday. Now I sit in the room with the fan and AC going and I can hear the evening traffic motoring by. Life has become so different it seems and perhaps its the cans of beer I bought at the market talking. But I told someone on twitter that life has become real since I left. Traveling with no end becomes something completely different and I’ve found a large community of like-minded people on twitter. I think the travel and vagabonding community is well integrated and communities are easily grown and chats spring up that I really want to do.

One of the sidelines always is blogging. People there want to have successful blogs and produce something of value. They want to create. But creating is not enough. They want readership and comments and uptake. It used to be called authority way back when when blogging was in its youth. People now blog and write posts on instagram and tweet and reference all of them. Its an interesting revolution to observe and how people wish to communicate. Simply writing blogposts is not enough. Having 30 ads and writing product reviews will not avail. The folks on twitter that write the blogs are way ahead of you. They already know about how to create and market and sell and produce value.

But all of that is fine for them. My line is drawn on the blog. I don’t want ads or product reviews or partners or any of that. This blog has the pure words. Nothing separates them. Its like it used to be way back in the day when blogging was something else and we all did it to link to another blog and show our interest. Go back and look at blogging Ca 2000 or so. You will see a different reality. Did it evolve?

I wonder sometimes after reading some blogs on wordpress.com.

Another Day Spent Walking this city

As the days go by in Da Nang and I wander the city, the same thoughts as so many times before when doing the same come across. I used to evaluate each city that I took walks in when I was on my twice a year vacation. I was lucky my last few years to see San Diego and Vancouver BC. I would go back to Vancouver again because it has this certain elegance and beauty. The city and the False Creek and the parts combine to make more than the whole. I wandered there for 3 days or so and got to see different districts like Gastown and north to Stanley Park. Walking there was a joy. The city is so well managed it seems to me that pedestrian tourism flourishes with the the way the city was designed. Blocks and squares and easy to remember landmarks.

Now in Da Nang, I face the same thing. I will have wandered here for almost 30 days and have done the things I wanted save the Marble Mountains and one more museum. I will likely do Marble Mountains next week and do the museum on Friday this week and return to have another of those great American breakfasts at the Healthy Heart Restaurant here. The museum is just past the restaurant so its an easy reach.

I have been adding in photographs to my Da Nang album and would like to provide the link about right here for how Da Nang looks to me. In a word, the city is beautiful! During the daytime, get this! Traffic stops at red lights. Even motorbikes. I was amazed when they all just stopped when I had the crosswalk. Very cool. Walking the city you get to see the touristy areas and then soon you are out of that and you see small shops, side streets with beauty salons, and nail parlors all waiting patiently for the neighbors to get their day started.

Farther you get to quiet residential streets with beautiful wrought iron gates and little parks where kids run and say “hello” as I walk by. Older people wave and smile and nod. Young Vietnamese girls and boy will smile and laugh and I hear the hello’s echoing down the street as I go. Sometimes a businessman will walk with me and with pretty good English ask where I am from, if I am on a working vacation, or what has brought me to his city.

So the last question is the big one. What did bring me to Da Nang? I think the same things that have taken me to Seattle and Portland and Tokyo. Its the people, the city, the terrain and the taste of the city. Each city has this particular feel to it and as you walk them you somehow get attuned to it. Da Nang is no different. It has a taste and wonder that sometimes lay hidden around a corner. Maybe the camera will capture it and let others see a moment of majestic mystery.

Lets face it, traveling through cities and their parks and memorials and skyscrapers and lakes and rivers; you see the life blood of a city sometimes. Its not those things though. Its the people. And the people of Vietnam have a rich and wonderful outlook on life. Meeting them is always fun whether its in a bar or a park. They are genuinely interested as to what brings you to Da Nang.

So me having the same question of course is relevant. What does bring an enterprising old retired guy to a city? What am I, this old wanderer and vagabond, looking for through the camera lens and the talk and the eyes?

I think its both simple and complex. Its the touch of the morning air and the laughter of children. The zoom of the motorbikes and slower ebb and flow of people making their way to coffee shops. You see. In the end its not the museums or buildings. Its the people. I enter and leave though and then move farther and the city becomes important a lesser level for more personal reasons. Is not just a city to cross off the list. Its a passion and feeling of walking each day. Knowing I will never see it all or even the major part of it. All of the cities of Vietnam never yielded their secrets even though I walked the beautiful big blocks of Hanoi that a lot of 5 day tourists don’t know about. No, the secrets are still safe with the cities and I decide whether I should ever come back. Some cities I quietly say “no”. I would not go back to San Diego. I would go back to Kyoto. I would see Ho Chi Minh City more than twice again and most likely I will.

So, here we have a wonderful city by the sea and river that has a warm climate and wonderful restaurants and great bars. Places where locals and the travelers gather. It has the ingredients that make it more. There is a keen zest for living and I have thought people here are proud of their city.

Now as I have a week left, I’ll wander a bit more and see a few more streets and know that down one of the alleys is that mystery that will never unfold. If you can, be a walker of cities sometime. They unfold and become real and yet mysteries before your eyes.

Well worth the effort I think!

Cham Island Tour Thoughts and Next Steps

I took a day trip to Cham Islands yesterday. Interestingly, I was the only western participant. Everyone else was Vietnamese. I sat next to three different people who all spoke English at different levels.

Person 1. 12 year old school girl that spoke very good English. She told me all about her family, her cousin, and her creepy but lovable little brother that she made faces at or teased all the way. She translated for me what the tour guide would say since he would not say anything in English at all. She was fun to talk to and wanted to see pictures of my daughter. The red hair that my daughter had then really got her. We also talked about her life at 12 years old in school and what she had fun at, what she did, and her friends. Very enlightening and a lot of fun and she spoke English very well.

Person 2. Mid 20s I would say traveling with her Mom and Dad. I studied them a bit and the Mom seemed very friendly but did not speak English. The dad was very quiet. The woman was quite good at English and told me she lived and worked in Saigon. I think they were in Da Nang to “mend fences” . The daughter seemed like a rebellious sort to me and the Mom I think wanted to have time to spend with her. Just my take though. Its always interesting to study people and try to figure out with the non-verbal cues what they are doing together. She was pretty friendly and I have to say simply beautiful.

Person 3. Early 20s because I asked her. She was finishing university or had and we walked all over Cham Island to different villages, to the market, and she told me a lot about why she was there. She was from north of Hanoi so we discussed places in Hanoi we had both been like Hoan Kiem Lake and then I showed her the pictures of West Lake. She was rather amazed that there was a lake that big in Hanoi. She was with her brother and sister-in-law and I think she was a bit intimidated by them. Her entire mood changed in the afternoon so I think her brother probably talked with her about going off walking with some strange American. We did become friends on facebook which is a standard thing here.

Then there was the tour itself. It was with the same tour company that did my excellent tour to Golden Bridge and two Pagodas. This time the tour guide did absolutely nothing for either the Vietnamese or me visiting. He would not talk in English and someone there that did speak English had to translate for me. We were left to our own devices for lunch and what to do on the island. We were not told the sequence of events for leaving or doing activities. Just a poor tour in some regards but when you are on Cham Island its okay I guess.

Anyways, here is the link to the photographs I took of the island. I thought it was simply beautiful there and very peaceful. One of the guys in the village said I should remain behind and rest and party there. You can see Person 3 in a few of the pictures. Very happy young Vietnamese woman!

Going Forward to the last week or so…

Interesting that I have about 1.5 weeks left here and really no more tours to go on. I may take a Grab up to Marble Mountains next week. I could see the entire place in a few hours of walking and some climbing up stairs. Its really the last place away from Da Nang to see for me.

After booking travel for the first six months of 2019, I found out I have to go back to Saigon in June for a bunch of reasons. I will book a round trip ticket back in June and travel to Can Tho for a week or so to visit some friends there. I may go somewhere else in southern Vietnam as well. That will leave me 5 months remaining or so in 2019 and I will still have three months of my initial retirement visa in Cambodia left.

The next thing is the flight back to Saigon on 15 September and then leaving Vietnam on 16 September. I’ve been here very close to six months so I am going to really miss the people, the friends, and the places I’ve been. I guess I have friends scattered here north to south.

Cambodia in 4 months should be lots of fun since I am still going very slowly and spending time in 4 different places 30 days at a time. My goal is not to just see the stuff and count the country but to live there, experience it, spend day by day there. When I leave in January for Singapore and that part of the travels, I will not be returning “home” to Phnom Penh until June. At that point I am going to see how early I can renew my retirement visa there and plan the remaining months out. My feeling is that India has been waiting patiently and I think China is lurking somewhere.

Tours and Photography – my thoughts and a new project!

Taking tours has been an interesting approach to seeing things here in Vietnam. At one level, the tour can take you to a place you may not see and provide all the support and services. You get the ride there, hopefully a knowledgeable guide that can explain the history or art or city or pagoda or temple. Often you get a stop for lunch and a chance to visit with the other people on the tour.

Today I did the Cham Islands tour and my take is mixed on it. We were left at the island with no real explanation on where to go or what to see and our guide did not even explain or invite us to lunch. Kinda left to our own devices to get things done. So, I took off with this young Vietnamese girl and we walked up this hill at the island and over to the main part of the village. It took us a few hours to see the areas and also find the community market and other things. Of course, as we were leaving one location we stopped at the same exact spot. I opted to stay on the speedboat in the harbor.

It did bring up some questions on the goods and bags of the tours. The best tours I have done are those that I spent more money on and I was the only one. In Da Lat I opted to visit the waterfalls and pagodas the way I wanted. In Da Nang, I went to the Golden Bridge and Ba Nan hills plus a second pagoda at my pace. Of course all that costs more money since you are exclusive to the tour guide and the driver. Who the hell cares though when its some place you may never get again? I was able to visit the Golden Bridge not once but twice and remain as long as I wanted both times.

I have also done better arranged group tours where there are more than one guide that helps. This seems to lessen confusion. I have a few Vietnamese friends that run tours and I think larger numbers frustrate them.

I would prefer I think to have a mix of the tour. Be able to explore on my own but also be told when lunch is going to be and what is around the area. Today I was the only American or Western tourist but I sat next to this rather incredible 12 year old girl who told me just about everything about her family, her brother and cousin and how irritating yet cute her brother is :-). I remembered my own 12 year old girl and watching her let me remember just what an age that is.

So the jury is out on the tours and whether group tours actually work. I am going to talk to my friend Lily about it since she also does tours here in Vietnam and find out her thoughts.

Photography Experiment and Project

I’ve been thinking about a new project with the new camera for the travels coming up. What I’ve done in the past is capture every day on the walks pretty much. Its been a lot of fun to just capture whatever it is I see but I do end up with lots of photographs to upload to Google Photos. I also watched a photographic challenge on youtube last night where a Fuji XT2 photographer and a friend would go out and take only 24 frames of trees. Its amazing what you can see before, above, beyond and the colors that all the trees impart to lakes, hillsides, mountains, rivers. It also meant he had to carefully plan the 24 frames and capture the greatest compositions possible with the limitations.

To him, the Fuji XT2 was perfect for this since its just a workhorse camera that can do so much out of the box. You don’t need monster lens but he did use a tripod. One of the things I noticed was the disagreement he had with himself over some of the potential shots he could make. He got frustrated with the composition because it was not what he wanted. Not that it was imperfect because he noted everything was. Not over or under exposed. And not RAW files either. He shot all JPEGs which means you have to focus and look and be creative at the moment.

This brings me to the project. I’ve decide to get better I have to shoot less at the places I go which also means I have to take a better look at the composition and what I have. I will not shoot RAW files because its too much work and I lose the feeling and soul of the JPEGs out of the camera. What I will do is measure more the shots and thus hopefully have less. My goal is to only shoot between 25 and 50 photographs a day but post the best of the group to google photos. I will only post 10 photo’s a day going forward but will back everything up to the external drive. What I think this does in the project is force me to be more selective and exercise creative control over the shots. I have to learn the camera and the different film simulations and all the affiliated quality settings more. I also have less images to deal with uploading.

I will start the new project and challenge once I go to Cambodia in a few weeks. The walking and time spent seeing the sights does not change. I just want to exercise creative control over what I end up with and a smaller number of uploaded images. Maybe this will get me back on Instagram too.

Anyways, that was the day spent on the tour and then considering what I could do to make changes in the photography I do traveling. I want to try the less is more credo and see. In reality, I only really do photography for myself. I will always want to reminded of a place and then share the places with a few friends here and there the ask to see them or the albums shared out here or on social networks. Less should be easier!