visa extension joys

One of the major things was extending my 30 day ordinary visa to the retirement extension which gives me a year. I can enter and leave as I want. Take off for Vietnam or Malaysia. And run around Cambodia. There are places here to go as well. Like Kampot and Battambang. Cambodia is rich with culture and history.

Traveling around the country is mostly done by bus. Most buses will go from Phnom Penh to any of the other places. Maybe the best way to organize bus service is Giant Ibis. The best way to plan a more complex trip has to be 12go.

But to really go with freedom is to get the visa extension. For about $300 I get a year to just go. No need to worry about visa runs or evisa issues.

Flying from Phnom Penh to Saigon is easy too. 55 minutes and I get there. Cambodia is located in a wonderful spot in ASEAN to just go.

Right there next to Vietnam and Thailand. Close to Malaysia and Singapore. Laos around the corner.

and asia just opens up

With the right visa, all of Asia opens. An old time expat told me to,

have an escape and a base to get back to

Cambodia is more than that but it needs the visa. So this Friday I get that. Doors open. Vietnam beckons. Asia awaits.

In a year who knows? A year is a long time for an old retired guy wandering the edge. Being back means freedom. I love doing just what it is to bring me happiness and joy. I think we spend way too long at the other end of existence. Like my ex wife would say,

misery is optional

That’s so true. Maybe one of the few things she was so on about.

Today’s Little Adventures

I have a few things to get done today so I will just pack this blogpost with me since Ulysses is kind enough to sync the writing on iCloud and let me pick it up again. First though a few little places to go. One is kind of needed today since it requires a passport to do it. I have to get a new SIM card which carries a phone number here in the kingdom. To do that this morning I will walk down the Quay to where there is a SMART Shop and either get a physical SIM card or a eSIM that I can recharge or top-up online or with scratchers. Prior to that though will probably stop at this breakfast spot I saw and test it out. I like breakfasts. This place looks to have international food so I wish to try it.

I still feel a bit jet laggy but gonna go for a nice walk today and do my other stuff to get back to whatever normal is. I have until 1 October in Phnom Penh and then I catch the bus service to Siem Reap. I’ll be living there longer term so I will start looking at apartments once I get there and see a few friends. Not too worried about finding a place there. I think there are lots of western apartments that will fill my need for a reasonable price. By reasonable I mean about $250 a month with free wifi, cleaning once a week, furnished. I have to pay for first and last month rent and sign an agreement for a year. Once I get those things done, think I will work on my trip to Vietnam in December. Need airline tickets from Phnom Penh to Saigon to Hanoi and then back the opposite way. Maybe will just go on from Phnom Penh after and visit Kampot for awhile. All that is too far out there and it hurts my little brain cells to consider it too much now.

So let us move this post along to breakfast next or whenever I decide to continue to writing this on my iPhone.

Back to the riverside. Just a new and nicer restaurant. Decided to just make myself happy with food and fun choices. Had scrambled eggs with ham and cheese and a coffee. I think I need another coffee.

So I got my prepaid plan. 8gb data, calls and text for $8 a month. Then I walked over to Wat Phnom.

Nice place to walk with no scooters. Just kinda relaxing at a park bench. Maybe walk down to independence monument after a bit. Will I? You will have to wait and see 🫠

Well I did not walk down to the Independence Monument so I will probably do that at some point later. I did walk the riverside down to where the birds gather for whatever reason. For years of visiting and living in Phnom Penh, the birds always seem to come and the kids love it. Even some grown up kids. So what did I accomplish today? Good question. I did get a SIM card and a data plan on it. Same one as before. I confirmed I will be meeting the visa agent tomorrow to get an extension to my visa to a year long retirement extension. That gives me Cambodia again as a home. When I was getting my SIM card, the customer service agent asked me,

how long will you stay in Cambodia?

I let her know forever. She just laughed and got me signed up. I never really know what is gonna happen and I’m very happy being back in the Kingdom of Wonder. So forever may be a year.

Segue to evening

Now it is turning to evening and I came back to the room to escape the afternoon rain and thunder show. I’m going to go to this Vietnamese place because I seem to want pho again for dinner. I have not seen the places here offering quay and the pho is pretty good but there is no way it is like what I got from my favorite little Pho place in Hanoi. My friend Duyen can make some mean Pho too and she is a chef that teaches Vietnamese cooking in Hanoi. If you happen to be going to Vietnam and want the best cooking class in forever plus a market tour, she is your person.

So that is how I reach the evening. With class and style! Say goodbye Mike.

goodbye

For now.

Enter Phnom Penh

So the last day or so was spent flying. It is a long haul from San Francisco to Seoul Korea. Takes about 12 hours. I was pretty lucky that no one sat next to me on the first flight. Once in Seoul I just had this wondrous complete feeling like my life had become full again. I spent some time chatting with two young women from Singapore on vacation in Korea. I wandered Terminal 2 at Inchon Airport a little bit just taking it all in. Terminal 2 is quite pretty.

I had about 2 hours until my connecting flight to Phnom Penh Cambodia. This flight was quite full but no one was sitting in my row of seats so I could stretch out. Very nice! I got in to the airport at about 11pm and get the visa I needed by 1115pm because I paid for express service. That was another $5 which seemed reasonable for being able to sit and wait and 5 minutes later got the passport back with a visa in it that lasts until I get the retirement extension for a year.

I chatted with the custom police officer about retiring in Cambodia and he asked if he could come along and have some beer with me. Nice guy. The whole process took about 10 minutes if that. Busy too! There are people coming as tourists to Cambodia now which is nice to see.

Then I found the driver I had arranged on the bookmebus service. Really nice service if you need a private taxi or to find different services in Cambodia. The service has a mobile app too. Anyways, he was holding a sign and spoke decent English so I just told him to take me to this bar by where I am living. Spent many evenings drinking cold draft beer in the past there and my airbnb is very close.

Sleep seemed rather interesting and at first elusive but I ended up getting 8 hours of really hard sleep. I’m sure I am jet lagged just a bit but today will get back out, see this city I have not been in for some years, eat some food, and just wander around again.

I am so happy to be back in Southeast Asia. I just feel like this is where all the things come together for me and I can live this life I truly enjoy. I really loved Merida Mexico and I’d go back to stay longer with Silena and her family but it is not the place for me. The place is anywhere Southeast Asia. The edge.

Now I think will get a shower and find some coffee and maybe a bowl of noodles like Pho or something. Thanks for reading along.

let’s transit

I checked in on Korea airlines to my 12 hour flight to Seoul Inchon. Very polite and patient airline staff on this airline. Since I’m not leaving Inchon airport no entry requirements for me.

Now I can look back at my leisure with 0 nights left. With no responsibilities and nothing needing done. I particularly hate responsibility but I also dislike tasks and todo items. I only really had three here in California. Go to meet my buddies Sean and Art. Go see my daughter and drink beer and eat American bbq with her. Finally find a pharmacy with the omicron booster I wanted to get. All three happened. The first two were easy. The last one took some calls and searches and some minimal side affects.

Now it’s the airport. My friend Van messaged me wanting me back in Vietnam for the Tet holidays. That is in February or so. It’s a week of food and drink and family. I have all three in Vietnam. My limitation is the length of tourist visas. With only 30 days only so much to get done. It used to be I just got the 90 day visa letter and I went as I pleased. Now it seems to require one of those P words I dislike.

planning

I hate all to do with those words. Their muddling inconsistencies and variable efforts. So when Van asks what day I would be in Hanoi to celebrate my birthday this year I’m befuddled. I think of saying,

oh some day or another

She gets more vocal and wants to know what day that is. So we have a bargain. I will come when I come. We will celebrate then. I’ll just push all that off to when I reach Siem Reap to live. Shhh. Don’t tell.

now though I go

And it’s a relief. I had my California and I had a wonderful year in Mexico. Mexico particularly was fun. Now though I feel the window has opened and Southeast Asia wants me. Someone asked me about when I will come back. Seems like a trick question and another P thing. I whisper that I don’t do those things. Now it is 🇰🇭 and then 🇻🇳. Enough I say.

And it is. San Francisco airport is just a marker for me. A place where the planes take me to other places.

Like Asia.

Bye bye. For now. The blog gets new things about my days living. Photos the iPhone 12 Pro wants to take. Times to gently rest and watch the mighty Mekong river hit the Tonle Sap. Hear Phnom Penh bustle and sigh. The language of cities and tuk tuks. Pretty Khmer women and a never ending thing with no P words or R words.

Yeah. I like that.

Chapter 2 of how the times go by

Later in the day. I got the latest Pfizer booster with the Omicron goodies in it. That took a little work to find a pharmacy which had it since it was just released last week but fear not. CVS about 10 miles from my hotel had it but only a few appointments today. Made it with no problem thanks to Uber.

Then I took the Bart train over to the East Bay. Mission? Meet my daughter for BBQ at Smoking Pig bbq. But really is was about drinking some beer with her. Talking. Some time had gone by since I saw her. So we sat the bbq place and the wonderful Mexican waitress came by and we talked to her between ordering more beer. I told her I had just come from Merida. She asked how it was and I tried describing it.

But we drank some beer and ate some bbq and talked about the times. We did a FaceTime with her boyfriend who had wanted to join us but had to work. Nice young guy! Then we talked more on the times and her work and how things had changed since the last time I had seen her. It was last year.

The beer was cold and the time just wandered on and we had more beer and talked more. There’s a joy to having a beer with her. Delightful times.

Then we walked back to Bart and she went home and I rode the subway all the way around the Bay back to San Bruno. I had also picked up a few boxes I had shipped to her. Got new walking shoes and a new Kindle Paperwhite. Good stuff! Just in time to fly for hours. I cannot take reading on my iPhone.

And then my day dwindled down to a walk this evening to enjoy the 60 degree temperatures and just see a little of the city. Back home. Last night in the US. No big time feelings besides feeling quite happy to have done the things. Met my friends for lunch and beers and then my daughter force today. It created a lot of joy and happiness in my heart and soul to have done both. Also a slightly sore arm from the booster.

All is good. I don’t have really side effects from the vaccines. The last booster bothered me for a day. I figure tomorrow it will kick in a bit and I have to fly at noon.

I’ll be writing a little something tomorrow. I don’t feel like more words now.

times go by

Friendships and memories seem constant.

We had a great meal finding all the times between then and now. Tomorrow I leave for Asia.

Today another wonderful set of things. See my daughter for a late lunch and a beer. I came back for the few days to see all these special people in my life and to get the second Covid booster shot. The vaccine booster and my daughter set for today.

Little of this and that

I got into San Bruno last night at about 8pm. Really nice set of flights from Merida. Mexico City was as tumultuous and chaotic as ever. I got a really nice dinner on the last part of the flight.

Now it is morning in San Bruno. Today is a few things. I am gonna have some breakfast at this american breakfast place down the street and get back to some eggs, bacon or sausage, and potatoes. Now it is Keurig coffee in the room actually watching TV news. I am not a TV watcher normally but just seems like a thing. I have a few things needing done.

  1. Breakfast!
  2. Covid booster with latest omicron booster shot down the street
  3. Go for walk after breakfast and check out area in daytime
  4. Meet old friends for dinner!

The last one is probably the highlight but I think the covid booster shot is important too. Tonight I meet two friends from the way back machine when we all worked together at Linux startups together. One of them I worked with at the GAP before and he left to start this little Linux services and support business named Linuxcare. The other worked with the GAP in a sales and services role but then moved to Linuxcare. He and I would end up traveling to Austin Texas to work with Dell or IBM. Often!

So there you have this and that. Not a lot of words to be said about being in the US. Just gonna enjoy the moments and do a fe things to prepare to fly out Friday. Tomorrow is a big day for me getting to see my daughter for lunch. I just need to ride BART over to the Fremont BART station.

One thing which is so strange here is finding actual convenience stores that sell Beer. In Mexico we had Oxxo stores and others like local markets and stores all over that sold beer, soda, food items. Here? Not so much.

Okay. Time to send this along the line. Have a good day.

Korea Airlines from SFO to Cambodia

In some days I travel from San Francisco International to Phnom Penh Cambodia with a stop for a few hours in Korea. The entire flight takes 17 hours but is broken up by a few hours in the airport in transit status. There are some requirements if I wanted to leave the airport and get a visa for Korea. I need to pre-register via a website and it was the case a antigen or PCR test was required. All this based I think on vaccination status. I will get the last booster shot Wednesday and it is the latest booster being given. Already arranged at a Walgreens pharmacy in California close to where I’m staying.

Anyways, the flight now leaves at 1240pm Friday and gets in 7pm on Saturday. Another day lost :-). Then I wait two hours and head on out the last five or so hours which means I get to Phnom Penh Cambodia at 11pm. A lot of hours to make it to Phnom Penh!

Once in Phnom Penh, I have three weeks to idle in the city. I hate hurrying anything so I will get a SIM card, get the visa extension I want, hopefully see a few friends or find them in Phnom Penh.

On 1 October I board a minibus to make the six hour journey to Siem Reap. That is sort of the final destination for me for awhile. Just like I spent a year in Mexico, I’ll spend a year in Cambodia. There are some differences. Places I can go once there! I can reach Malaysia and stay 90 days. Can get to Thailand if I want (I don’t), and get to Singapore for a few days. Laos is very possible as well. I saved the best for last. Vietnam. I have this sense of both wonder and dread going back. It has been a year and some months when I board the flight. My friend Van wants me to just stay through Tet which is Vietnam’s lunar new year celebration which goes for a week at least. Yeah. It is party and food time then! I can’t do that though. Vietnam says I can only stay 30 days at a time. If I want back, I must do a visa run and then get another 30 days. Many people do this. I won’t be doing it. I only want back to Vietnam twice I believe. Once to Hanoi and a few days in Saigon and then a second time to central Vietnam to visit Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An. It used to be I would just go for three months and do it all. They are not doing three month visas and no one knows when they will start again.

So all this happens with a single thing. Well actually two things. Flying to Korea and then Cambodia.

To do that I must fly the day after tomorrow to SFO. That’s easy from Merida airport but it gets frustrating in Mexico City airport because that airport. Crazy town.

I just check my bag for both but I cannot check my excitement and joy of going to Asia. I left a year ago or more and now I get to reach it. I’m tired of life here. I need the sea change of life there. The totally random joys of life in Asia. That Edge. What I’ve realized is people can come and go. Some people don’t wish to see me again in Vietnam. I’m good with that. A year has changed everyone’s perspective and desires. Mine too. I will get to see those that matter and who better to spend some moments with.

All from a flight or two or four. Love it.

E SIM cards, Ubers, and more

In a few days I get the first of two E SIM cards for my few days in California. Then later in the week will get a second for Cambodia so I can have data when I get there. I will go with Airalo for both. I get a week with 1gb for $4.50 compared to no deal at all with T-Mobile for the e SIM card they offer. For going like this, these electronic cards are so easy. I buy the plan and when I connect in the US and activate it, I have the plan so I will have data. In Cambodia it used to be SIM cards were available at the airport. I am not sure these days and I get in rather late and after 17 hours of flying, I don’t think I want to futz with it. Easier to find a SMART store and buy a regular card when I get to Phnom Penh. That card will carry a month plan for so many Gb each month which I then top up using Ding. I could just find any one of the thousands of local places that sell scratch cards or top up using one of the SMART stores. I’m just lazy and prefer to let it get done once a month. I’ve used Ding for years to top up cards in Vietnam, Cambodia, and now in Mexico. Just works well and no hassles.

Truth is I guess I could get just a data plan in Cambodia because most of what I use is stuff like Google Voice, WhatsApp, Google maps, etc. These things are not expensive in Asia compared to what US cell services charge. I can get 6gb a month plan with texting and calling for about $6 in Cambodia. No contracts and renewable.

These are my last days using Uber thankfully. I really prefer Grab and the PassApp in Cambodia to get ride hailing done. In Cambodia I just get a tuktuk on either service where I wish to go. Cost may be $1 and Cambodia takes US dollars as long as they are not old and torn. I’m old and torn but I don’t have to worry about that at all. Grab is just so much better and one app does it all where Uber does food but I guess it is better with Uber Eats. Then there is this other app I installed but never used. DiDi seems nice but Uber is easier I guess. My last few times using Uber will be to get a ride on Tuesday to the Merida airport and then from SFO International terminal to my hotel and then back to SFO three days later. Then I am done with Uber stuff and the apps go away.

Finally when I booked my flight out of Merida I used this app called Trip. It is okay but sometimes it does weird things. Not this time really but somehow I booked business class for both flights back to SFO. I am pretty happy with that since the longer flight is true Premiere class with free meals, wifi, stuff. I only have three days left here and in two days I can do the check-in using the Aeromexico iOS app which is very good.

I also booked the flights to Cambodia on Korea Airlines using Trip. I wanted a flight which left at a regular time after years of flying to Singapore at 1am which always seemed terrible to me. This flight leaves at 1240pm on 9 September. It takes 12 hours to make it to Incheon Seoul Korea and then a connecting flight a few hours later takes 5 hours to Cambodia. It takes a long time to GTFO of these places. I’ll take it. I am already tired of the US and I have not been there yet this time.

I was thinking that the next time I fly is in late December when I visit Vietnam for a month. I have to go to Saigon first to see my friend Tom there and then fly up to Hanoi for about three weeks. I don’t care for Saigon too much but I know a nice hotel in District One I can spend a few nights at. There’s nothing else in Saigon for me. Then I fly to Hanoi but then back to Saigon and then back to Phnom Penh. If Tom only lived in Hanoi again there would be no need to visit Saigon at all. So that is the “more”. Little pieces of this and that which I have thought of a few times over the months of having a nice life in Merida. Honestly, when I came back in March after a week in Houston that seemed like a year, I could not imagine the 170 some days going by. Yet they did.

Now I’m ready for a second coffee this morning. Perhaps some pastries and a banana. Because I deserve and I accounted for all the little things right here in this blog post.

Mexico times

I’ve been here in Mexico now for just about a year. I published a post before on the places and people and what I found here. Mexico has been more than just places and people though. It has been moments for me. I took a time out I guess from the times in Asia because honestly in July 2021, I was done. I could not go anywhere else. I felt like I had failed at things without being able to launch my startup there and missing by only that much. It especially hurt that I got the paperwork done, deposited venture capital that Vietnam insisted on, worked on business and management plans, engaged with Vietnamese tech and entrepreneurs around the travel and tourism industries, but then fell down.

Based on that, I left Vietnam. More though I left this comfortable Edge of life that had kept me, made me happy, gave me family and friends. I felt I thrived and not just survived in Hanoi. Like all the little switches were turned to the on position in my life there. Each day I walked, did yoga, meditated there and I felt more of Hanoi both showed itself and hid itself away from me. It is one of those cities to go wander in, write about, find charming, desolate, wondrous sights. Many become personal memories in my Day One journals and others became my works here like Xin Chao Vietnam.

So this was the backdrop of leaving and then bumming around months on Amtrak heading east and west which I have also written about on the blog. Mexico though was more than just people and places. It was the moments I wanted. Asia exhausted me in some ways and I wanted to see if another life could be found perhaps traveling to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama. Even living in those places awhile. My intention through my times in Puerto Vallarta which was September to December 2021 was to leave in March after a short trip to Houston for Panama. A few things came up with the moments. One was Puerto Vallarta itself. I fell in love and lust with the city and beauty there.

Then the winding little side streets captured me. Small cafes, friendly people, wonderful food. Cold beer. Moments!

I just loved the meaningless vagabonding around Puerto Vallarta.

Come December, I had decided to go to Merida because the soul and spirit of the city attracted me. Little did I know I would simply fall in love there too with all it offers. It is not just some big city. It is a city of neighborhoods and districts and one can walk through them if desired with camera in hand. It creates timeless moments of sights and sounds.

There is this timeless soul to the city that created this wonder and desire to just come back again. I have to be honest though. I could not stay in some small fishing village. I need big city things and history and culture. I guess I like taco stands and wonderful malls and international restaurants for my moments. Merida delivers on all this for me.

Then in March as I was thinking of coming back, suddenly Cambodia opened. I booked flights back. I found an airbnb, called a visa agent there, made arrangements to stay. Then the whole thing closed again for getting a longer term visa. I decided to return for the entire time to Merida. I am so glad I did because a number of things would not have happened like these.

La Paz trip. I think the La Paz trip took me from the Yucatan to the desert and I loved the city so much. It had all the wonderful things but in a completely different setting for me. Wonderful restaurants, cold beer along the beach walk, friendly people. There is this cool mix of history and culture and then the beach areas. The historic downtown really got me though. I simply loved the buildings and signs and how it all transformed so gradually to the Malecon or beach walk.

So La Paz was a lot of fun for a week. My airbnb had everything in it I could want. Breakfasts were a blast. The city was walkable and I got to roam the moments each day as I wished.

Yucatan Tour. I would then go on this rather cool yet expensive tour I decided to really end my times with. The tour took 7 days or so to visit archeological sites, beautiful beaches, and this one place. Bacalar. It is a magical town but so much more. It has this timeless essence to it. Like a rest stop for the soul and spirit.

So first the archeological sites we got to see astounded me with their complexity and yet access. We could climb all over them.

Then at the end of the day exploring, we would find ourselves back in the land of lagoons of different colors. I have to say, if you want a place beyond people and place, pick Bacalar. Just don’t go with hurry or rush in your soul. You will not find happiness if you carry with you that American tool called impatience. Instead Bacalar delights with its mañana approach to all things.

I felt like the moments had given me pause. Like Bacalar was this rebirth of moments of no consequence at all. Mexico basically has many Bacalar type places I think but none are like the real thing.

Back to Merida and Leaving

So the year kind of came about and left and if asked, I could not put a finger on where it went actually but sure enough it has left and I am now watching the closing moments of being here slowly dissolving. A few days in California. See an old friend from the .com days and my wonderful daughter. Board the plane again to get back to the place I had left just about.

Cambodia welcomes me back with nice visa policies and a relaxed lifestyle that I just fall back into. First Phnom Penh to get my feet back into gear with this edge and then perhaps a new home in Siem Reap. Even an apartment after a week or so of playing around.

I don’t have some plan leaving besides a Uber to the Merida airport and some sadness as this wonder place slips away. But I also know this post has been about the moment and not the places or people. I have moments to find and moments are much better than how we account for time.

Back to Asia. Dare I whisper back to Vietnam? Well Hell ya. Because in all this, Vietnam has forever whispered to my heart and soul. Telling me it loves me. Needs me. Sometimes perhaps pouting because I left but understanding. It also transfixes me sometimes with the thought of being so much closer. So much easier to simply fly an hour and be there. Like so many times I ran away to Vietnam for a week, a month, a bunch of moments.

I’ll be blogging daily but my moments skip away like the stone effortlessly bouncing the far and deep water before sinking in yet another spot.

That’s this report. This post. My year in moments in Mexico.

Take care all.