Little Days

Some days on the voyage are little days. Maybe most are little days. It seems in my life things change with alacrity yet they are things which I just accept or ignore or decide to live with. Last night I received an email from my friend here Ah Vy. She is a Khmer woman I met here years ago and we would go to malls, out for dinner, she would laugh and tell me time is not real in Cambodia. So we invented two kinds of time. AV time was whatever she wanted it to be and Mike time. Mike time was regular time or so. Really though when I retired I let the whole thread of time go so when she emailed me and told me she saw me out walking and could not call me I was happy for the end of yesterday’s little day. She is the one person I could not find my time here.

Since I’m living for a year in Cambodia I felt pretty certain I would find her but there are lots of Khmer people and I had no real idea where to look. Instead we will meet for lunch tomorrow at the same place I met her years ago and I get to have her back again as a friend.

The little days here go by and Saturday I will fly to Siem Reap and live there a month this time and get to see some retired expat friends there and just wander the city streets, the country, perhaps go back to Angkor Wat again for a day tour. I’ll really enjoy the slow little days in Siem Reap which is a lot more than some beautiful temples in antiquity. The city itself has this feeling to it like a small city but with exquisite restaurants and friendly people.

This morning though will be coffee soon and my new toy to take photos with and have fun with. The iPhone 14 Pro is all I could ask for in an upgrade. It has doodads and thingies I like. Most of all it is a fun toy and I like the photos it takes. I have not played with the ProRAW stuff yet so I don’t know about the 48mp photos. I would not take pictures of dogs and bicycles with it but I would try on more challenging things to see what it can do. The images are sufficiently larger so I am glad to have gotten the 256gb phone. I won’t try to save them but will get JPEG exports and save off to SmugMug.

And the little days go on

Now I can sit here and type this on my wonderful MacBook Air. It seems all my tech stuff comes from Asia. This laptop came from Vietnam and has traveled back and forth and around with me since 2021 early on.

I can’t even begin to measure the little days because they all seem to be little. Not manageable or with large events worthy of recording. Perhaps when I retired all things became small from those older days when all things seemed complex and required management to deal with. So glad that now I have nothing that requires that. All the days are little days. The walks take me to markets and malls and historic sites and temples or pagodas.

Let the days never become big. Small suits me more and I can move through them slowly with no purpose or method at all. Well, there is one thing this morning. Coffee gonna come from down the street and maybe some photos before I meet my friend Chet at 1pm. Perhaps we will decide to just sit at Starbucks and talk but I hope we hop a tuktuk and go to the Russian Market.

If not, I will be back in early November because my friend from Mexico Jason arrives in Cambodia then and we will wander around together for awhile. More little days.

Hello night mode on iPhone 14 pro. One of my very first photos of the end of a rainy day spent getting wet out walking.

Bye for now!

Part of the Joy of Living this way

It seems a friend will be making his way to Cambodia to live awhile early November. He wants to kind of travel around the kingdom for awhile to find a place he would like to live. The original plan was to go to Siem Reap this Saturday, find a place to live long term, and then leave again in December for Vietnam for a month. Now things have changed and I don’t think I will get an apartment since I will not be in one place for too long through the end of the year. I wrote down an idea. Not a plan. I don’t do plans and I copied it our chat on WhatsApp to see if it works for him.

Basically the idea puts back all the randomness of life I have had and loved for the last years over the rest of this year. I will come back to Phnom Penh in early November, meet up with him, spend a week here and then leave on the bus for Siem Reap. He will most likely stay for some bit of time there and I will stay there for awhile with him. I don’t know if I will come back to Phnom Penh after we get done in Siem Reap and just find an airbnb from November until late December when I will go to Saigon.

Half the fun is really having no idea where we will wander to or how long we will stay. Perhaps we will go to Kampot so he can check it out too.

This kinda left me wondering why I would rent an apartment if I would never be in the apartment longer than a week. I guess as November gets closer we will firm up the plan or lack of plan. Of course it could all fall apart and then I would do something else totally random.

Just like buying a new iPhone 14 pro

Totally impulse today to call Sokly Phone Store and ask if I can have the purple iPhone 14 pro tomorrow. They happily said yes and to bring my passport and debit card. I will get the 256gb phone and then come back and do all the fun steps setting it up. The iPhone 12 Pro goes to my dear friend Lily who has a phone that has problems so she wants the upgrade.

What I am looking forward to with the new iPhone is the photography playing. I am not a demanding photographer but I am very interested in seeing how the new main camera works and how the screen looks and just how much of a toy it is. For me, not being a photographer at all, the interest is in taking nice photos and then editing them just a bit with the tools like Raw Power or DarkRoom and sharing them on the blog and Mastodon. I also want to revel in the screen and island thingy.

Back to semi-reality

Now it is about 5pm here and it rained like crazy and the roof leaked so the airbnb host sent a Khmer girl up to clean the room. This is a developing country so things are always developing. Everyone gets used to things being same same but different and nothing really ever gets to me. I just have no expectations and it all works out well. Sometimes much better!

When my friend Jason comes over I am hoping he finds something he wants here or perhaps decides to leave after and go back to the Philippines where he will be living. This is just a visit. I met Jason in Merida Mexico last year in my first stay there and he left to work in the US for awhile truck driving. That wore on him so now he needs an Asian vacation or life.

So we will do something like a life. Travel a bit around the kingdom. See this or that. Get tired of each other and hopefully then he goes his own way. What it has all meant to me is that life has never meant to be tied down or setup some kind of regular pattern of living. Asia does not thrive with regularity or long term plans. And neither do I. I very much love the going or changing or finding the new element in it all and then living it. I’m sure late December though I will get on a plane bound for Saigon. Not my favorite place but there are things I enjoy there like this.

Opera House
Opera House

The Saigon Opera House always struck me as the big example of old and new since right behind it is the Viacom Center Mall. Not so far from this was the small bar down an alley somewhere that served up cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beers.

Let us all go and enjoy our randomness. Fuck the plans. The hell with schedules. Destroy timelines and lists and notes.

Last week in Phnom Penh

I guess I now have about 5 days left to go here. What was accomplished? Well, not much really. I did some walking, some beer drinking, some eating and got back to a few places I had not been here in years. At some point this week, will walk to Aeon Mall and perhaps one day walk this island. I guess the major accomplishment was the retirement visa extension which took me 3 days to get and lasts a year and is renewable. I could have stayed a shorter time in Phnom Penh, but I could not figure out why I would do that.

Today a bit later coffee is required. I don’t have a thing or things today I wish to get done. It is still the holidays here through today so many things are closed. One of the phone shops I have been to before will have the iPhone 14 pro in stock starting tomorrow. I may stop by there and check it out which means I may see if I can get one. I could also wait and get one in Siem Reap later. I’m pretty happy with the iPhone 12 Pro but I know I definitely want the new iPhone for the camera toys primarily and perhaps the screen.

I played around with Lightroom mobile and the Mac app. I don’t like it. I don’t like buying yet another storage plan and the tools seem obfuscated compared to the simple layout of something like the DarkRoom app. Of course, Lightroom does so much more. I am not sure what the More is since I mostly do not shoot in RAW format ever. I just take photos and let the iPhone figure it out. It seems to do a decent job figuring things out for my interests and fun. Probably it is the same with buying a digital camera. I would get bored and frustrated with it and it would break. They all break for me. Way too many FujiFilm cameras which never lasted in the climate and humidity perhaps in Asia. Yet the iPhones I have had made it through all that. I am not a serious or not serious photographer. I take moments I wish to keep and share and that’s about it.

So today is Monday folks. Monday in Cambodia. The sun is now shining so the room window is open and there is the hint of cooler breezes. Temperatures never really change that much here. I am sure when I visit Hanoi it will be cooler. It gets rather cold in Hanoi over the winters at least when I am thin skinned from living in Asia where it is always warm. I have been thinking of the dates I want to go and what I need to do. I want to go in December and I will need airline tickets and a visa. I guess I will do two destinations. One is Saigon for a few days to see my friend Tom there. Then it will be Hanoi for weeks to see people more like family to me. It will be before Tet and after the holidays in December which I do not observe, track, care about. I’ll have to return to Phnom Penh and then fly from here to Saigon, then to Hanoi. Then back to Saigon and back to Phnom Penh. Then back to Siem Reap. By then I will have an apartment so things will be more stable for me for a year.

And that is my last week in Phnom Penh plus some other deliberations. I think I will go ahead and publish this because the blog cries out desiring an update.

I liked this photo because it shows the solitary times along the usually busy rivers that coalesce in the city. I also thought the clouds were pretty yesterday. Take care all.

Sad Tales from old expats

Tonight I went to have dinner at one of the local Khmer places which happens to be open on the holidays. The food there is always good and I really like their fresh fruit shakes. I had chicken fried rice and a mixed fruit shake. Excellent! And reasonable in price for all the food. While there I talked with this German expat sitting out front who helps the owner with customers. We chatted a bit and then this American expat showed up. He did not look so good. Almost looked beat up which I could not imagine here because in all the years I have never been touched here by anyone. Especially Khmer people. It turns out this person has been living this vagabond lifestyle for some years. Hopping country to country where the visas live and he can extend them. For whatever reason, he had some problems and when he came back he found all his money in his room stolen. This was not like $100. This was over $10k. An amount I would never carry in cash anywhere. I’d never do $500. Most I take out here is enough to last a week or two. Say $200. He is in a tough spot because he cannot get to any of his money for some reason which I did not understand and he looked beat up. The reason for the look was falling face flat in his guesthouse.

Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand are all home for these wanderers. They don’t find a place to settle or a place with reasonable visa laws and just look to live in a place for as long as some tourist visa lasts and then they skip out elsewhere. Perhaps they come back. It is a life on the road but the road can be tough to them. For me, I will take the wandering but I want a country to be a home base that I can return to. This person lives at the moment and has no country where he can bail to. It creates this itinerant lifestyle which I have done before and it can be hard if you have issues. I have had minor things like one of my debit cards goes bad and I need a new one. I have a second debit card to fall back on. Or I need something mailed to me at some guesthouse somewhere or some airbnb or hotel. I have a mailing service. Perhaps I need to make a call as though I am calling from the US. I have Google Voice for that. These are what I would call coping things or sanity extensions. Most of all never carry $13k in cash in a room anywhere. I would never tell this poor guy he is stupid because he looked like life had already beat him up a few times.

He will probably move on to a Vietnam for 30 days. Then to Thailand for 45 days and just continue on. I did this for almost an entire year before. Perhaps it was 2019. I never did stay any place longer than 90 days but two of the places offer 90 days for free. Malaysia just gives 90 days and so does Taiwan. Singapore also. Now Japan is opening and they also give 90 days. It is worth it 1000% to understand all the visa requirements and limits and have what this old grizzled expat I met in Vietnam called,

a home base

Cambodia makes an excellent home base if you want to skip around. You don’t need a home because lots of people do the same thing. There is this forever lurch and movement of people mostly retired you would never know exist until you visit a small eatery in Phnom Penh on a Saturday night and hear the story. The southeast asian countries have been places that these retirees flock to because living is cheaper. Often visas are easier or they used to be. Now to simply wander is still hard. It is one of the reasons I took Cambodia and the retirement extension. It is probably the easiest visa extension of stay to get anywhere now and then to be given essentially the same rights as a Khmer person. But the hidden surface of all this are the retiree wanderers that live from short visa to shorter visa.

I’m glad to not be doing that and I feel for the person. He looked like life had already beat him up and losing the money was just another gut punch. The German expat and I felt very badly for him but there is really nothing we can do. He will go on or back or find something else and it is a lonely walk through a dark field he is working on.

The life of retiree expats in Southeast Asia is complex and often fulfilling, joyous but just as often painful when things happen you wish to take back.

morning and coffee

It’s been fun times finding new coffee houses each day. Today I visited Lagrace just down my street. I enjoy the mornings with a coffee maybe at a few places. Here they have wonderful pastries and the service is excellent. WiFi good and I can sit and write if I want.

I am going into my last week in the city soon. I came here to really get the retirement visa which grants me a year of stay, multiple entries, and similar privileges as a Khmer. I also wanted to just enjoy the city and see if it would be as wild as memory. Yeah. It is. But there is also the wonderful Cambodian hospitality and I also found the little neighborhood Khmer restaurants I lived for here in times past. The places that serve Khmer curries, rice dishes and noodles. Now they’re away from the riverside so exploring is fun no matter what. The city sometimes is a maze of little side streets, cafes and bars. The coffee culture here is strong too.

In a week or so I fly to Siem Reap. I have an Airbnb there for a few weeks before I get an apartment. I just don’t feel some rush to do any of the things.

Here it’s been walking, drinking beer, going as I please each day. There I will do this little side project which is my day to day wandering on the blog. I don’t know how much I will post to the fediverse. Maybe some.

Thursday just goes on albeit slowly and with my latte. Well I had to stop for awhile and do a second latte. Then out to walk in whatever direction I decided. The little sights are always best. I love the coffee stands in Cambodia. They are this rich diversion.

So as I walk I like finding the little things.

The side streets always seem full of things to go find. Nowhere besides asia is there this wonderful confusion of people, motorbikes, food stands and shops. I’ve been to a few places and only in Asia. It’s a delightful and riotous combination to the senses. And I think I need it. I need to feel the chaos and randomness of life spent finding it all.

Now I’m back to riverside. Editing this post at the Starbucks with a cold brew. Mostly wanting to just enjoy and even realizing I have my life back on asia standards I still feel sometimes disbelieving.

Then I snap back. Find that my moments did take me forward not back. There is no going back.

We are not going that way.

evening blog thing

The days seem to be going by in Phnom Penh. Mostly taken with walking, eating and drinking. I wanted to get daily walks in here but I realized they would not be like Merida. Too much of a difference. But walking is the same basic muscle memory. A step, direction, desire. Merida was much gentler and the Diaz Ordaz district was quiet and peaceful to just go. Traffic kind of non existent. People almost the same.

Here things are so different. There is a rush and chaos here. Traffic becomes a force of life. Walking here requires more attention to detail. I still go in any direction but here there is this movement forever. As I mentioned maybe before here, Phnom Penh is random and chaotic. Steps here require some attention.

It’s amazing though to go from the beautiful and colonial Merida with its upscale malls, and wondrous neighborhoods where most often peace reigned to this. Like a sorcerer waved the wand. Proclaimed let there be wildness barely contained.

Then there am I walking those streets. Part of my moments in Merida still and now I go to this beat of life I missed so much. I’ve realized I need this. I need this abandon and that peace. But now I need this. It’s a drug to my system. The face of Asia. The forever going. It’s the debitage and detritus of the writing. I leave behind this little record of incomplete wonder. Haunting moments and surrender to this world.

So this is the evening blog thing. Facets of wonder here in Cambodia. I’ll leave here too for a place to live in Siem Reap. I’m just a week and days. Then there will be here and the stories become those stories. A life spent just going. Not arriving ever.

What else could there be three beers into this evening? Why nothing but a evening blog thing.

morning coffee and birthdays

I’m sitting at this very peaceful cafe that I really love. There is a peace and solitude to it away from the hurry and rush of the city. Yet only steps away. It is like someone placed a wonderful cloak of solitude and peace. The latte always lasts and the art is beautiful.

Sitting here lets me find my morning. The miles from Mexico to Asia have fallen away and it seems often I first feel in a rush to find. Find what? I don’t know. It takes me a few days to simply slow down. Then the morning latte and the slow pace and the do nothing times conspire. I find time becomes so much less than real. Like my life spins out and the circles widen and arc like the circles of my coffee.

It is a friends birthday in Hanoi. A big celebration I am gathering although it seems Vietnamese people do less for themselves. My birthday in 2020 found me in Can Tho Vietnam. Eating all kinds of food with beer arriving faster than needed. For my friend it is a family he gained by marrying a Vietnamese woman. This tough, stubborn, resilient woman became a mom to me at times. Now I hear less and I’m closer and that is okay too.

My latte demands little. My time in the cafe takes sweet time and good WiFi. I can write here lazily. Watch words team up and combine. Find more time to read my kindle. There’s all this that meets up over my lazy Monday. Birthdays and lattes. I’ve realized also that this mere act of writing brings new chapters for me. My story shared. Maybe the latte is the fuel. Sometimes the evening beer gives me the sense of this city but away by degrees only is Vietnam or Malaysia or wherever. Silently waiting.

I give the toast I taught lily when drinking.

here’s mud in your eye.

She would laugh deliciously and look at me with those sensuous Vietnamese eyes. Mystery and wonder.

Perhaps that is what makes this little corner of the Edge. Built with chaos. Branded with mystery and wonder.

The latte and I salute the edge of my life. So nice to be back in Cambodia and doing nothing.

thankful and grateful

Sitting here at Starbucks. On Saturday. Wow. Not Sunday. But this coffee shop is 5 minutes for me from my Airbnb. From the time picking up my passport with the new visa extension which lets me just live here, have similar benefits in many cases as Khmer people, and enjoy a cost of living which probably lets me do as I please with food and drink, I’ve felt this sense of peace. Cambodia this time was a little bit of a wait. I tried to do this in March this year but the visa landscape changed at the last minute so I opted for six months in Merida. No sorrow there. Merida was simply wonderful for me. I knew what I wanted though. I wanted asia back. There is a warmth and peace here and a sense of just having this life of slow ease. Like the manana in Mexico there is the,

same same but different

In Asia. Life just seems to encompass the things I love. The randomness. The chaos. The pace. Here in Cambodia also the warm and friendly Khmer people.

So when I got the visa extension this time it dawned on me I was done with things needing to be done. Done with a single task that only took 4 days for my wonderful visa agent Kim. Coming to sit this day in Starbucks seems like the fitting time to simply say how grateful and satisfied I am with again being accepted in the kingdom of wonder. I’m not a world traveler or a backpacker. Or a digital nomad. Thank dog (kudos to TMO). No. I just go as I please and when I please. Now 🇰🇭 but soon 🇻🇳 and then more. Because Cambodia is not in isolation. It’s part of this larger world that I’ve missed. And I can go.

But I go with thankfulness and gratitude to the place which seems closer than ever to being home. As soon I reach Siem Reap. In two weeks again I stop. Find that wonderful essence of moments and experiences to turn to memories. Take a photo or two. Start a new project on the side. Change things a bit and make this blog the engine for me. I’ll be less present and active on mastodon. The blog instead will be the focus because it reaches and holds much better.

Down the road only slightly. But steps to take. Thanks to Cambodia for giving me a home.

casual wandering

Today I took time to enjoy some coffee, getting my Kindle Paperwhite going on my new book, and then walked over to Central Market. The market is the major local market of Phnom Penh. They have just about everything. Not comparable to markets anywhere else. This market sets the baseline to me of what a local market is in Asia. From flowers to suits to hair salons. Wet and dry market items. To wander the market is to be assailed with all the flavors of Asia. Spices and senses and the almost over the top sensation of it all.

This is one of those things that make Asia so unique I feel. And this market invites wandering down so many aisles and parts and sections.

Does not hurt that it was a beautiful day in the city today.

let’s talk wandering

Casual with no ties that bind. No destination to be found. Just one of my forever days of doing whatever the Hell I want to do. I’ve felt if you have a destination or a plan or goal or whatever you diminish the art and act of it all. It should be with no regard for constants and dilemmas. Wandering should only see the next street. The going. The doing. The being.

Forget the managing and achieving. Just let yourself go to what a place can take you to. Today for me it was the senseless steps in a huge public market in Asia. Then a stop for a Dairy Queen strawberry shake in the Soriya Lifestyle mall.

Then I reached some end but it was really just another beginning for me. I stretched these old legs out and walked back to the riverside and then down to the ferry boat docks. That last bit is a marked jogging and biking path. Not so long but just the fact it is there is nice. Often it is a quiet place where the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers run their course. And me? I just join in at my own course with no regard for ends.

I knew coming back to Phnom Penh I would find the nothing. The zen of nothing in my walks and mindfulness sessions. That instead of a life strewn with goals and patterns and guides, really what we all need is time away from it all. In other words, the casual wandering. Our spirits and souls need the time away from clocks and beepers and watches. I’ve not worn a watch in some years and walking or yoga has never been a goal in hiding. It is the act of it all and not what happens after. If you are argue what watch to wear to track your progress, perhaps you are missing the sublime part of it all. I will clue you in,

Life could give an F less whether you set goals or not or you fill your circles with effort

To me, that is all BS. We just do it because I think we sometimes are bred into competition against some mark or marker. We get mad or sad or angry because the circle of effort does not reach some goal but we ignore what all we put into our moments. Did we do something with no hint of reward? Something casual just for the act of doing it. Like finding our personal joy and happiness. That is how this casual wanderer, this itinerant spirit fills the moments. And I love the mere act of the going.

Wednesday morning blog time

I decided to try another new place for breakfast this morning. I could probably go all three weeks without a repeat for food and coffee in the mornings.

Reminds me of being in Saigon years before and deciding to do a different coffee shop every day. Wonderful experience in the land of coffee. I walked across the street and some miles to find a new place. Often though I would stop and get a banh mi on the way unless I happened to pick a place that had breakfasts. Most Vietnamese coffee shops don’t do food but everyone welcome to bring their choices.

Today though it was Museum Coffee Shop not too far from my Airbnb. A nice place for morning rituals like a latte

And then a Khmer local breakfast choice.

This was some grilled pork with saffron rice. Big plate of good tasting food.

Today is another day of nothing in particular. I have about 2 weeks left in the city before catching the bus to Siem Reap. The bus takes 6 hours.

I also have stopped reading most of the news. There is no upside to any of it. Each time I read some American news I am so glad to be gone. Being in Cambodia seems so far and I never get involved in politics here. This is not my country. They are kind enough to offer reasonable visa policies especially for older retired types. My part is to spend money into the local economy. Treat Khmer people with respect and kindness. Enjoy the culture and history here.

Also use it as my base to reach other places and it works well for that. Like I wrote before going from here in many directions in Southeast Asia is east.

Now back to my latte. This meandering blogpost has gone along. See the turns. Amazing how I can start with one thing and find a few others.

Just like my life.