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.

Daily Wanderings of the Diary Kind

I’ve been a Day One user for some years. I stuttered around before and used markdown files for journaling. These still exist and I can read them in Ulysses or IAwriter if I wish but they don’t offer the wondrous history and location and being able to simply see what happened a year ago. Day One has been the evolution of daily journaling for me and I’m approaching 500 consecutive days of writing which is good! I think the whole journaling thing has let me explore so many things at a personal level, find these things that bug the Hell out of me, think back and forward and be able to also just open up and write my things. The diary things are extremely personal so having something encrypted end to end is required.

The other parts that are important is I write in the journal where I am and I want to write on the iPhone when I want to. I could do that with Ulysses but to me its like trying to eat soup with a fork. It is possible but why do it. So anyways, back to my few reasons for keeping these days in Day One.

  1. Writing daily in a diary is important to me. I often start the day with music and looking at morning things. Big things. Little things. Mike things. It is the act daily of finding, placing, maybe a photo. I think a daily photo of wherever is important because it locks the location to a feeling and emotion.
  2. Reading backwards is delicious. I enjoy seeing that last year at this time I was in Puerto Vallarta Mexico and two years ago in Vietnam living. It gives me the past view of the writing daily thing. Preserved with all the innuendo, emotion, apathy I am capable of.
  3. I don’t skip on the emotions writing the journal. I blame, castigate, approve and hope and the words all are there. I think it has meant I can see just how human I am. How I’ve just gone and found or not gone and not found. Some days the emotion runs deep and others it is a shallow thing skipped over like stones tossed in a lake that skip across the surface. Both the deep and shallow are just as important to me.
  4. Finally and perhaps most important is the happiness and joy in using Day One. There are few apps which I have found that are end games to me. I tried Craft, Obsidian, Evernote. So many. None are end games. Many are frustrating kind of like different blog platforms I won’t discuss. This thing though is an end game. Words come here to start and then to finish a day of my little life.

If you don’t keep a journal, I get it. I would never recommend one for a person that would get none of the 4 things above out of it. It has become this marker for me of the going and never arriving. Contained with the faces of people in words and my own deeds. I don’t value goals or responsibility so I don’t set them to do some diary entry on some day. I don’t use reminders or lists either.

The desire to write in the journal and here is more of a basic thing to me. It has worked and sometimes not worked for me and many of the entries seem yearning or demanding or complacent or hating on a thing or people. Such is life in my end game.

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.

words working

It’s a Tuesday morning over coffee and a kindle. I think I’ve reached the regular. Chatting with a friend in Vietnam, considering my day. I will go walk and take time to gloss over the news. Now though it’s a morning. Sometimes Cambodia seems to take a breath. Like sit still and watch quietly. Coffee shop seems pensive or provoked into slow memories.

My friend on WhatsApp goes on. I admit to tuning out. There’s always a story waiting to be told and he seems to be on the cusp of it. It makes me wonder about the whole friend thing. Like how does someone earn that label in our lives? Do we just each wake up one day and remark,

oh him. He’s my friend

Do we share so much or so little? Are we so alike or different? I feel hard pressed sometimes to use that word with people that cross my path. For years I found, met, and lost people. Were they friends?

The person in Vietnam always relates to me with the name. But what is it really? It seems just a thing when we move past some other relationship thing. We are acquaintances or pals or buddies. Do we both agree to these powerful bonding words? Or they are just trotted out when we reach a milestone of time, feelings shared, sharing changes. I don’t know with him.

His wife though is different. She is Vietnamese and powerful, strong, resilient. My mom. She calls me at a moments notice to only say she loves me. That they miss me. Want me back.

And on it goes. Friendships and other people and I don’t understand any of it. Or perhaps want to. I’m not good relationship or friendship material. I am narcissistic and egotistic and selfish. Those are my good qualities.

Yet people come along and see something else and want some of me. Why? I don’t encourage them. I go as I please both in life and in matters of heart, mind and soul.

So I wonder and blog about it because the blog is the place where words wander. Where feelings talk. Where my life unravels just a bit to a morning in a coffee shop in Phnom Penh.

blogging on Sunday

There is an enjoyment factor I think on Sunday at the very close Starbucks with a latte close at hand. The words always seem to just come when the preconditions are met. Nice WiFi, hot grande latte, a pastry this morning. I read over on Rays blog some say blogging is dead. I remember people saying that almost since I started in 1999. Now I approach it as a statement I can make. On my own WordPress but with a cloud hosting partner. I found my balance to this writing thing. It comes alive with Ulysses but the thoughts are shaken and stirred over so many different pursuits. Out walking. Sitting in the evening. Eating. Moving along between points on my compass.

What I think is the primary thing for all this is making the blog right here the primary thing to express, share, build, create. I can create once and share easily but the thoughts and dreams, detritus and remains all percolate here.

It’s not losing mastodon or stopping being on a social network. It is creating the moods from here and then sharing. That way they are mine. From when I write in Ulysses to publishing on the blog. Tooting the post on mastodon. All starts not from some remote network. Blogging for me starts right here, right now.

On a Sunday in Starbucks what else could there be? From my iPhone to you.

being, going and doing

It always seems fun somehow to be getting ready to just go. Sometimes the going was across town like back in 2020 in Hanoi. I moved to another apartment in another district only a few miles distant.

Let me tell you moving in Hanoi is like shifting galaxies. My original apartment was in the wonderful and traditional Ba Dinh district. Hardly any expats (thank goodness), traditional markets all over. Small pho shops dotted my world then.

In the mornings I would walk to a pastry or banh mi shop and pick up some food to take to one of the Vietnamese coffee shops. These were small places often with tables outside where Vietnamese gathered to socialize, gossip, read the news on free WiFi or the local printed media.

I could sit with my food, drink a Vietnamese coffee. The owner would check on me and make sure I was happy. The food often took me awhile because I slowed down, found my cadence with the other customers, nodded at other regulars. But no expats or tourists. Ever. It made life this wonderful slow song. Often a policeman would stop and wave at me. We would exchange xin chao or hello and he would practice English. I told him it was okay or he would take me to jail. He laughed and told the owner. But what I want to leave you with is how slow and random Ba Dinh was.

I would move though to expat central because I wanted closer to Tay Ho or west lake. There were small cafes and pubs lining the lake where sunsets and people came together. The downside were the expats. So many. Some seeming so entitled. Others arrogant. But I persisted. Soon I met more people living on different floors of my place. As it turned out all Vietnamese and all spoke English. Van would tell me she asked whether a potential renter spoke English because uncle Mike needed to talk. If no English she dismissed them. Of course all this was a joke. But yet… I would meet friends to this day from that apartment complex. My friend Tom now living in Saigon but before we went for street food, talked travel, shared life’s sweet moments.

So what I hope to show is the going. The doing and being often quickly followed. I would just go every day for walks in Hanoi. It’s a magical and sometimes strange city to wander. Blind alleys going nowhere. Smiling kids touching my arm. Young Vietnamese women wanting their photos taken. The older man gently waving. I would persist with the going. Some thing I would then write a note on with the iPhone over a fruit tea from a shop originally in Taiwan. Each crafted or random note perhaps about some way of going.

Finally I found doing. This was the day to day expression of life to me. Not the long walks but short steps. How Hanoi just let me do. I could go and be and do. In Ba Dinh I found retired life to be this easy walk. Through small streets. Down alleys. Sometimes ending at the wonderful and unique Daily Dose coffee shop. There I was regaled with wonderful latte concoctions and delicious breads toasted just for me.

In Tay Ho more of the upscale and expat but Van would bring food for us and her son. Often from the Hue region. We would sit and talk and the expats dwindled away to this wondrous Vietnamese woman sitting next to me. This person who just took me into her family. Made sure I was happy. Helped me with crazy Vietnamese things. Made sure I could talk with the other guests.

It all stuck with me. As I left Vietnam I wondered if I would find things again like this. Definitely not in broken and badly bent America. But Mexico. Especially the Yucatán. There is this richness of going, doing and being but often with the realization none has to be done that day. Much like Cambodia getting my WiFi fixed once when the repairman asked me at 12pm what time the next day or so was good. I asked about later the same day and he probably thought “crazy barang” but only laughed and pointed out it was already after 12pm.

So WiFi waited. I did not. I just went to the corner bar and ordered a draft Angkor beer. I was crazy there too but I was buying beer.

So much for the being, going, and doing.

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.

Live in Siem Reap

Hi all. For a long time, both here in Merida and before in Hanoi I kind of focused on daily things. Going to coffee, finding a store, eating. I’ve felt the need for a new project or thing I can do to express some creativity, continue to blog here, but also find the daily beat of Siem Reap Cambodia. I decided to embark on this little project with a brand new category which I will do once I live in Siem Reap. The goals, if there are any, are to:

  • capture daily life in Siem Reap Cambodia using my iPhone 12 Pro to capture video and photos.
  • combine the video or photos with narrative here on the blog.
  • continue for whatever time I wish but I would like this to be more random and as it occurs rather than over a week or a period of time.
  • not do this on some other micropublishing outlet like a newsletter. Use the blog because I feel it is the most suited for writing on the go given my choices in publishing using Ulysses

I arrive in Siem Reap on 1 October and will kick it off that day by the 6 hour or so bus ride from Phnom Penh. My first weeks will be spent renewing my acquaintance with Siem Reap, meeting some friends there, and just going. Probably into the first week I will be looking at apartments to rent for a year and will decide on one before the 15th when my airbnb runs out there.

I decided to do this with a separate category on WordPress because it seems like it will fit well. I also want this to be more spontaneous than planned like a newsletter. The blog here makes that very possible but I can also combine the words each time I do a post.

Finally, using the iPhone 12 Pro lets me focus on both the writing and creativity since capturing street scene and daily life images and video is excellent on the iPhone and I also get the writing tools I prefer to use like IAWriter and Ulysses. Hauling around a digital camera does nothing for me and just makes it all more difficult. Being able to spontaneously create, write, and share is much easier with a single device.

I will also crosspost the posts to my mastodon instance so you can find them there too.

Looking forward to bringing Siem Reap to daily life.