The art of traveling light

If you are planning to travel in South East Asia (or in China, Korea, Japan in spring and summer), you don't need to pack much. Over the years, I have been trimming my bag as I discover new fabrics, technology etc. This is my current arrangement.

Most important is the bag. The brand doesn't matter as long as it is somewhat waterproof and sturdy. Mine is "Product No 98" by Ichizawa, a Kyoto based canvas bag maker. I like it for its simplicity and utilitarian looks. 

The stuff inside - clockwise from 12'o clock

  • The black zipper bag contians one or two change of clothes depending on how long my trip is for.
  • A notebook - doubles as storage for tickets, maps etc.
  • A Kindle - I often carry books set in, or from the countries I am traveling to - makes a good conversation starter
  • A transparent mesh bag for toiletries (some airport security like to able to visually inspect stuff)
  • The small green zip bag contains quick relief for common ailments - paracetamol and charcoal pills for stomach
  • A soft foldable hat - it is waterproof
  • Swimwear and a small ziplock bag for when the trunks are wet. 
  • A water flask
  • In the middle we have a small black zipper bag with a charger/cables, a power bank, and a burner phone (good to have these for charge longevity, I usually slot in a voice only prepaid sim from my home region or a region around me with cheapest roaming rates), and a small lock for guesthouse lockers.

A phone and a small wallet go into my pocket. I usually get a inner pocked stitched on my trousers for the passport, some cash and a spare bank card. I am quite used to typing long text on the phone. If I need to use a computer - I usually raid the guesthouse computer, working mostly on Google docs. I have the Google 2 factor authentication enabled.

Light, quick drying clothes are my favourites. Uniqlo's easy pants and Muji's Indian cotton shirts complete the sartorial department.

The bag with all the stuff inside weighs about 2.5 kilograms. Carrying a small bag makes you more mobile, you can get in and out of the flights, trains faster. If I need anything beyond this, I usually buy then locally at a supermarket. 

New Years beverage

This  kombucha (dried seaweed) tea comes looking like shishi- mai (獅子舞) - the lion dance lion. You drop him in a cup, pour hot water and wait for a couple of minutes. Your patience will be rewarded with kombucha and a small chewy snack

Hiding places, Anh Cafe in Saigon

I miss cold war movies. There would often be a scene where some western agent would be interrogating a soviet spy. The spy would be tortured, asked to reveal his hideout. Groaning with pain, yet resolute, the comrade will mumble "Nyet!! kapitalisticheskaya sobaka - never!! capitalist pig!!". Well, you don't even have to tickle me - or play k-pop in endless loop, I am happy to reveal my hideouts. This particular one in Saigon is called Anh Cafe just behind the Ben Thanh Market. Spot a building trying to one up the Bitexco tower, it may not have the hight but is probably more carbon neutral with the green wall. The entry is hidden away, a narrow walkway between two shops with the walls decorated with photos. Hike up the staircase into my well appointed hideout. If you see me, say the code phrase "Привет, незнакомец", the coffee will be on me.

Stories in Saigon

The future of learning is already here. It is called communities. We had an interesting bunch - Travelers, educators, tech folks, readers and Writers sharing stories of their recent adventures.

Nostalgic food from all over

Random food and beverages from my several homes. Growing up in parts of India, you often come across the Jamun tree. The fruit has a purple bitter sweet flesh. This drink from India tries to capture the flavour for urban people who miss jamun picking. Next is a popular rice cake from Hanoi, North Vietnam (thanks to childhood friend Trang for getting it for me). This cake is made by a family business in the Hang Than Street - that had many similar rice cake shops. Nguyen means origin, and Ninh is derived from the name of the hometown (Yen Ninh) of the original owner of the cake shop. Last is a well being/health drink from Indonesia, contains honey and several herbs. You can buy these sachets from convenience stores or small shops across Indonesia.

Will miss these in Musashi-Koyama

I am still not over the loss of Hanoi's Zone 9, and one more of my hangout is falling victim to "development". One station from us is a neighbourhood called Musashi-Koyama. The dozens of unique small shops next to the station - eating places and bars are shutting down, being replaced with a construction project. Perhaps, we should invite the little shops to our Meguro. Japan Times also laments the loss of such community spaces.

Conditions for my home

I am often asked, why I have so many homes? Well, my conditions for accepting a place as home are very simple. As long I can get free food, and if my phone remembers the wifi password, I am home. One additional condition is the presence of a library or a second hand book shop. One such place is my hideout in Phrom Phong. 

Today's readings - a book on the history of Assam published In the 1930s and a book of Vietnamese legends. Now I know that when I see a beautiful girl, I should remark "she is probably from the land of bliss" 

And do you know that my neighbourhood houses a North Korean restaurant. Many years back, there used to be one in another neighbourhood, went out of business around 2007. We used to go there and talk to the staff - girls who used to sing and dance, and spoke good Chinese. Still remember the song "내이름 묻지 마세요"

Cosplayers in Ikebukuro, Tokyo

Sunday noon stroll in Ikebukuro is always colorful.

The camera-man is the No Eiga Dorobo character, a character from Japan's anti-IP theft campaign. (thanks Gen Kanai) 


Finally, a decent swim tracker - Misfit Speedo Shine

I have been looking for swim trackers for a while. I tried the app on the original Pebble smartwatch - it worked sometimes, but often missed laps. I tried the app again on the Sony Smartwatch 3 (the only waterproof Android wear device at the moment) and it failed to synchronise the swim data every time.

Earlier this week I bought the new Misfit Speedo Shine device. After three days of trying it out, I can say that this device is perfect.

Back in 2013, Misfit folks gave me the original Shine to try out. I liked using it, until it decided to jump out of the hoop and hide while I was on a Saigon - Hanoi flight.  I like the fact that you don't have to charge this, that is one cable less to carry.