Parts Unknown by Phu Qui Nguyen

Been thinking about Uncle Tony all day. Even if I didn't know him personally, many of us would spend 45 minutes with him once or twice a week to catch up on his latest adventures. Even though I haven't sat down with him lately, he's still like family you see every so often and somehow he imparts knowledge that you can be sure is rough all the way around, dimpled in the flaky crust over a very humble tender slice of pie.

I had no idea what traveling through life was, what experiencing the people around a hemisphere and filling a lifetime with experiences and relationships. Who knew. He kept it real for us at home in a not a world not generally accepted for reality. Uncle Tony experienced worse things growing up during rougher times, only one could imagine and be thankful that someone went through this in order to give us some insight at the end.

People are saddened by some loss due his physical well being fading into the airy existence. I like to think of him as that Uncle that is out adventuring, finding the next best thing. Don't say boo hoo, he owes anyone anything -- he paid his lifetime of dues as a father and creator. Just glad he's still enjoying the hunt elsewhere. Thanks for all those good trips around the world all these years, Uncle Tony. May your family find some peace in this all. Cheers.  1956-2018

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New Year, New Camera, New Me-- February! by Phu Qui Nguyen

February 18, 2018 It's been a quick minute since (2 months to be exact).  What a close to 2017 and entrance to 2018 of life changes, new relationships, and places to discover.  Never one to be afraid to cross bridges, but these days, I'm okay with burning them down.  Don't let your time go to having to cross the same bridge.  Make new paths.  The world is a big giant place.  Something I realized that it's good to have your loyalties but don't be afraid to reach out to others and spend time to better yourself.  New heights.  Your loyalties will bring you up just as well.  Being loyal should also go both ways and there's always respect whether it it's to a person or craft.  

Latter year, I spent shooting with the Fuji X100f, after making a departure from the Canon family for the better part of 4 years.  Sometimes giving up the things you know most are toughest.  The departure from the DSLR left me with empty shutter sounds, and lost auto focus.  But it's all about adjusting and adapting to what we have right?  Well, the bad and good did happen.  If some of you follow my IG, I had been washed away in the holy crossing of a Maui tide pool.  Unfortunately I was only left with the aftermath as my friends quickly tried to save me. 

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While there's no turning back time, there is time to learn.  I did end up getting a new X100F to replace the emptiness in my heart.  But I also learned that this camera isn't enough for the terrain that I wanted to shoot.  I ended up having an A-HA moment and gear acquisition syndrome was all over me.  I ended up trading her for a XT-2 with weather resistant properties.  Much more suited for those Hawaii 5-0 rip curls!  At the end of this, I'm not as smart or perfect as I think.  Making mistakes along the way.  Expensive and treacherous, possibly life threatening at times.  While it's not always worth it, maybe it'll make for a good story or two.  Keep on, keepin' on.

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Eye of the tiger by Phu Qui Nguyen

Looking for some fresh snaps?  Let Gabe Dominic Photo make your life that much more awesome.    Reach out to Gabe for on-location shoots, magazine style edits, product media, and afterwards, you can talk about the latest food hype.  He does it all!  

Game recognizes game ;) Drop by his spot to find some goooooold https://www.gabedominicphoto.com/

Photo c/o of Gabe Dominic Photo. "She Run These Streets"

Photo c/o of Gabe Dominic Photo. "She Run These Streets"

The chase for fall colors by Phu Qui Nguyen

I didn't grow up in a town with 4 seasons.  Basically in southern California, we have hot, less hot, and lukewarm.  Some evenings get chilly, but I've had others (from out of state) visit during wintertime in their T-shirt and shorts.  So we often have to go elsewhere to chase the seasonal appearances.  This time, we found ourselves in Alabama Hills, located in Lone Pine, CA.  It's an out-of this-world rock haven.  Even though it was a busy weekend, camping spots could still be found whereas I've found trouble getting a space in Joshua tree if I didn't show up Friday mid day.  Spaces are spread out and we were able to have a whole corner rock stack to ourselves with the best views of the Sierras.  We journeyed through the Mammoth Lakes, hiked up the Mt. Whitney trail, dipped into the Lone Pine Lake and took the smokey views of fires in Lion Meadows Trail.  It's the best to explore for change in seasons at the moment.  The colors are the most vibrant in the season before the leaves start to descend.  Don't wait, the time is now!

Stupid tent blocking the Sierras, Oct 2017

Stupid tent blocking the Sierras, Oct 2017

Bama Hills, Oct 2017

Bama Hills, Oct 2017

Silver Lake, Oct 2017

Silver Lake, Oct 2017

Around Mammoth Lakes, Oct 2017

Around Mammoth Lakes, Oct 2017

Lone Pine, Mount Whitney Trail, Oct 2017

Lone Pine, Mount Whitney Trail, Oct 2017

The view toward Lion Meadow Trail.

The view toward Lion Meadow Trail.

Pray for rain by Phu Qui Nguyen

Fire, fire, everywhere in California.  What the heck is happening?!!  Unfortunately it's been an extremely parched season.  Even a tossed cigarette or cars sitting in traffic next to dry brush can have some strange effects when introduced to nature.  When two objects collide, a sudden, spontaneous spark of energy manifests and it's not exactly the power of love. 

On Monday, we were in a mandatory evacuation zone due to the fires spreading too quick to contain.  We did our best that we could to get family, neighbors, and anyone that needed help.  I'm thankful to witness local authorities were working hard to get everyone to safety.  

Thank you to the Anaheim Hills Fire Department, Anaheim Police Department, Orange County Fire Departments, Orange County Fire Authority, Helicopter Transport services, and and all those involved with their blood, sweat and tears to get these fires put out.  

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Big rock in the middle of the sea by Phu Qui Nguyen

And from inlands, I was headed out to the islands!  I know it's nothing special to most people, but we decided to do it local style,  spend time with family, dance party in the car, hike out to some special places, do some fishing, fish for avocados, wait what? Just watch!  

Along the way, we got out of the sun and up for a trail run on Waihee Ridge to round things out.  

All in all, keeping things different and fresh all the time will grow the mind.  Sometimes doing things over and over will put you in a rut.  Change it up like you change your underwear and see what happens. 

Whoa Whooaaaa by Phu Qui Nguyen

Hold your horses.  I should update more.  Been busy being outside where you should be too!  I'm starting to MLOG aka music log my trips these days.  Although I can't highlight everything there are some great moments and who wants to hear my funny voice anyway?!  

Earlier in July, I was invited to spend a few days driving with some of internet's finest Toyotas in Moab, UT.  You can follow along to the Top of the World and Seven Mile Rim Trail.  Thank you to Dev, Mas, Lau, Deb, Chr, and Pre (names shortened to protect the innocent) for making this a memorable trip.  Even with the troubles along the way, catastrophic axle failure, the team was able to venture on and enjoy the rest of the week.  

What a beautiful place on this Earth.  Where anyone can go, but sometimes you need a good ol' 4x4 to bounce and climb over land.  Thank you for taking us in Moab.  

Good and ready! by Phu Qui Nguyen

Bon appetit! Itadakimasu! Maany deuseyo! Let's eat!

These days I'm in no rush to get to the computer and post.  It's a whole new different video logging era and people feel the need to do it daily.  Don't worry, I won't be offended if you decide to wait to share stuff.  A year late, but memories are alive and I can still taste the food as if it were just yesterday.  Cheers!

Taken December 2015 in Istanbul.

Gear Review: Fuji X100F by Phu Qui Nguyen

I had an unboxing party for a new toy this week.  Actually it was just me, my cat, and my new Fujifilm X100F.  I'm downsizing a lot of my gear for future endeavors.  Sometimes having too much equipment can be a blessing and a curse.  It's amazing what you can capture with what you have available.  These days, professional equipment has certainly changed in function and form.  You can go oversized, packed with a slew of features or miniature, minimalist with the necessary goods.  These days, technology moves fast and always provides options for many different types of fellow photographers.  I wouldn't hesitate to place this camera in a range for professional use. 

Does that sound silly?  If so, you can interject or be in denial of this powerful compact that has now upgraded it's internal sensor to meet the demands that professionals have been touting for awhile now.  Canon and Nikon aren't the only ones in the game.  Whether you spent time around cameras or you're a new fresh budding artist, there's probably no doubt you've heard of Fujifilm, the same Fujifilm that produced some amazing film.  These days, the younger generation may have only heard of their film preset filters and it's not sad at all.  At least the new millennial pluses were exposed to some of the influences Fujifilm had on the world.  

X100F with JB Camera Designs hand grip. 

X100F with JB Camera Designs hand grip. 

Fujifilm is one of the few companies that listen to their audience and not just shove the camera in user's faces with reckless abandon.  As a fourth iteration, each model specifically became better through user ergonomics, adding and removing, buttons, rearranging layouts, improvements in the electronic view finder, improved sensor technology, and fast auto focus.  Some things never change though, they've had the same fixed Fujinon 23mm F/2 lens on the X100 series for their life.  For good reason, it's a reliable and simple setup.  With a leaf shutter planting itself in history from a land beyond time, SLR (single lens reflex) cameras such as the digital ones, are only a technology of the late 1800's. 

Now, we're not ones to leave our cameras naked.  Many times cameras aren't the most ergonomic but still highly functional.  Why not make some additions to add to the pleasure.  Pictured above is the JB Camera Designs X100F Grip in rigid polyurethane.   Not only for the body but for your lens as well.  Pictured below is a  JJC Lens hood  and B+W 49mm clear MRC nano filter as well. 

Now, on to some samples.  H'ordeurves for now.  Shot in "Astia/soft color" preset filter with no edit to the jpg file. Stay tuned for more shots as we get a feel for this little pocket rocket!!

Doing things a little bit different by Phu Qui Nguyen

Happy New Year!  I regret the lack of updates and posts.  I am more active on IG at the moment but only because I like sharing pictures with you.  Sometimes I want to do it all and get sidetracked.  Life gets real, real quickly and you know how the story goes.. 

I just wanted to touch on a thought today.  I recently thought why are we always reading someone's review and taking notes on the next best thing to emerge from that location.  Whether it's a location to shoot or best place for your favorite food, we tend to read reviews which results in a deliberate plan of action.  Unfortunately, it doesn't allow us to think out of the box.  

Recently I thought about all the travel blogs and reviews I read about, make some plans around that, and give it a go.  Well I consider that a little bit bad for any of us that are trying to find some originality.  Like a wise man once said, "There's nothing new in this world. There's only a different arrangement of things." (1)  As I pondered what I was going to do, I decided to scrap my plans which would have me doing exactly as someone else, gathering the same points of view.  On this day, I ended up hitch hiking around the city to get to my destinations.  Something some may not recommend.  They might urge you to take a taxi.  In my case, I have had more bad run-ins with taxis than I did locals.  

I'm thankful for these lucky choices.  I would be missing out on some very beautiful memories, otherwise lost to convenience and someone else's ideas.  The thoughts I was preoccupied with, trying to be somewhere, I decided I'd make it work around me. 

Hiking around the city to get to Amapura to see the sunset over U-bein Bridge.  I missed catching the boat to see sunset along the bridge horizon but came upon beauties I would have missed otherwise.

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(1) Henri Cartier Bresson on The Decisive Moment

Travel photography? by Phu Qui Nguyen

Pictures are different for everyone.  Please take this post with a grain of salt if anything.  My personal photo journey has led me to a not-so-simple, but dedicated set up.  You might not feel the same and that's okay.  It takes a few travels to find what you like for yourself.  As long as you're able to capture what you want for your use, that makes me happy! 

Current gear
Canon 5D Mark 3
Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC
Canon 50mm f/1.2
Canon 85mm f/1.2

I decided to nix the zoom lenses unless I'm in studio or on a job.  Unfortunately they are too much to carry daily.  Don't get me wrong.  A 135 or 70-200 might really capture a great portrait, but try carrying that, along with my backpack.  It's not happening, but I commend anyone that is willing to go through the trouble.  Also shooting for night time conditions is an absolute must.  Even going indoors, an extra stop of light can really help with your exposure or even keep you from missing a great shot. Something my phone camera can't always capture.  It's just impossible due to sensor size capability. 

My holy trinity of primes: 35/50/85.  
35mm is one of the best wide angle primes to consider having in the arsenal as it makes every scene look perfect in a cinematic way.  Any wider, may grab a whole scene, but tends to look overly distorted.  It's just the nature of the lens design. 35mm happens to be the perfect length for myself.
50mm keeps everything in perspective.  It's nearly similar to what the eye can see. Thus it makes one of the best lenses to convey what the photographer is feeling.  The $100 nifty 50mm 1.8 was and still is one of the best buys that anyone can have in their gear arsenal.
85mm is a medium telephoto.  Without going any longer and having such a long lens to carry, The 85mm can do double duty by nailing a portrait or taking a step back to take a landscape. Although these days I carry around the f/1.2 which is heavier, but I can shoot in near darkness.

What I would do differently:  Sometimes finding that sweet spot for a lightweight set up.  I don't want to preach on why to shoot prime lenses.  I'm sure there's enough of that on the internet.  I think the practicality of not having to search all over between a wide range.  You're bound to miss a shot here and there.  Partly why I find it hard to watch when others trying to find the perfect focal length while the scene is unfolding, firing off 20 shots in a prayer that one of the focal lengths just matches.  I know that's a real pain and I know that you can just choose the "perfect" shot later.  But try this, simplify.  Look at the various shots you chose and at what focal length.  You'll often see patterns of what works best.  Eventually I'll change to fixed camera, similar to a phone camera (because digital zoom *cough* don't do it).  Since traveling and shooting is necessary to my end goals, it's something I've considered thoroughly. Well, you don't have to take my word for it...

 

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Pack Light by Phu Qui Nguyen

So many people prescribe, whatever fits in the suit case, we'll take with us.  Or we have to make space for it because we use this at home..  but is it really all that necessary?  I'm going to go over my packing and how much it actually weighed.  Pros/cons.  Hopefully more pros for myself and you reading.

Traveling or Vacationing?  This makes a difference as well.  So many times, I'm packing like a vacationing.  Nobody told me the difference and as such, I've always brought more than needed. Even on a vacation, why would you want to bring a ton of things?  You're trying to get away from your everyday routine life!  Always remember that you can purchase what you need abroad. In some cases, it may be harder to purchase, but if it's important, choose wisely and make space.  My mistake in forgetting some small items like dental floss which are much harder to locate while traveling in a rural area, far from city locale. 

My items:
Lowepro 45L Whistler backpack
1 Neck pillow
1 Pair of Jeans
2 Pairs of Shorts
4 Pairs of Underwear
4 Pairs of Socks (maybe make one of those pairs dress socks?)
3 T-shirts
3 Tank Tops
1 Long-sleeve Athletic Shirt (for layers)
1 Outdoor Vest
1 Dress shirt (I didn't know if I was going anywhere nice so just some consideration)
Camera Equipment: 3 lenses, 1 body, flash unit, remote, batteries, battery charger, tripod
Misc: Universal adapter, Sunglasses, Phone, travel book, medicine, toiletries, belt, trekking pole

Total Weight:  28.2lbs!

 

For myself: I was backpacking 2+ weeks around NY and Myanmar, I had to stay light and mobile. Ever see the lucky people drop their bags at the check in and wait at the conveyor belts to receive their luggage like cattle at the troughs for feeding time.  It's an arduous and slow process.  I packed enough clothes for several days, about a week and was able to hand wash or pay for hotel laundry daily when I felt I was going to need something.  Easy peasy.  My undergarments are usually a quick dry, polyester or sport dry material.  This will help as cotton tends to hold water well and take a long time to dry.  
I'm not a rich man, but the value or having fresh laundry, possibly saving on check-in fees, etc, overshadowed carrying too much luggage.  While in Myanmar, average washing was 300kt (kyat) per item.  For 20 or so items of washing, it came out to less than $5 US.  21 items came out to $4.80 exactly.

What I would do differently next time:  As much as I've been trying to compromise on my bag, I realize it's a bit too much and too heavy for travel.  It's meant as an adventure backpack that's used for cross country skiers and the like.  The weight and suspension system isn't designed as well as other backpacking systems.  Also, definitely, bring extra under garment items.  I washed some clothes one evening but was in such a rush, I left it drying next to a fan when I went to run after a morning bus.  Being short on underwear is no joke!  

So now that I considered, tried, and tested my two week pack, I decided it was plenty for me.  I could probably consider less if I wasn't going through different climates.  In NY, I saw 4-12*C/40-53*F.  On my stops to China, I saw even colder.  At my destination, it was about 25-35*C/77-95*F.  I'm glad I brought a little bit less than needed.  I always had space to bring back more throughout my trip, so next time consider lightening the load.  

Cheers

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all my family and friends!!! (even if you're not in the US, I'm still thinking of you and thankful for your presence in my life)

Photo cred to fellow traveler.

Photo cred to fellow traveler.

Is something better than nothing? by Phu Qui Nguyen

I just got in yesterday from NYC after a 2 day hiatus from Myanmar.  It's amazing how effective jet lag is in keeping awake and asleep at all the wrong hours. 

I didn't have my laptop with me during this trip, so logging in with my smartphone was incredibly worse than a slow dying death (I assume).  Internet is really a new introduction to Myanmar.  6 years ago, it would be difficult to find cellular connection or internet booking.  Imagine the 90's and "free AOL" and what it would be like to unlock Pandora's box to the wealth of information.  In the past few years, Myanmar has leveled up in the internet ages and they've thrown out those old Encyclopedia Brittannica for Wikipedia!  These days, all hotels are connected and you can purchase a sim card to do so at the airport, but don't do that... at the airport, they'll scam you just as bad as the scammers outside.

I have lots of subjects to touch on.  Packing for such a trip, how to pack (for myself).  Being a travel photographer, what gear did I bring?  Watching out for certain scams, what happened to me and what did I learn?  How much money did I really spend on this trip?  All will be revealed.  Stay tuned!

Next time your friend tells you he lives in the Valley, make sure he means what he says...

Coming up... Myanmar 2016 by Phu Qui Nguyen

Things are getting real as my take off time rapidly approaches.  I haven't even booked my hotels yet!  But good thing, there's sweet trusty internet.  It seems like rooms are abundant, but November is busy season... so I guess we'll find out who's lying!  

I'll post my travel set up this time.  I'm going in hot.  With only one carry-on backpack, my trusty 45L adventure/camera backpack, no check-ins, and fewer items.  I don't know why, but traveling lightly seems like a better direction.  If I have space, I'll pack luxury items, but I mean that I can buy everything over there right?  This might be a hit or miss! Stay tuned to see if I made the right decision or not. 

Doing the Golden Circle of Myanmar, Yangon -> Bagan -> Mandalay -> Kalaw -> Inlay -> Yangon. I'm keeping this update short.  Pictures to come shortly of what I'm working with. 

Lastly, check out my IG for my latest work!  If I can't write about it here, it's going up on IG.  We just had an amazing session over at Black Velvet Pole Studios where we were able to one-on-one with Aerial Ginger  http://www.blackvelvetdance.com/  Ginger and all the ladies there are extremely dedicated to their art.  The focus and strength required was absolutely inspiring. Thank you for sharing your passion Ginger!

Guess who's an Uncle again?!!! by Phu Qui Nguyen

Hey friends! I'm an uncle once more! My sweet cousins, Frankie & Sandy just had their adorable bundle of joy, Nolan. And sometimes with good and very beautiful things comes conditions.

I'd appreciate it if I know you somehow, someway, some shape or form, that you could send some love my cousin's way.  Even the smallest bit or some encouragement for Nolan. Thanks for the support! 

Help Baby Nolan!  https://www.gofundme.com/helpforbabynolan

Help Baby Nolan!  https://www.gofundme.com/helpforbabynolan

What food tells us about ourselves by Phu Qui Nguyen

There's something to be said about the food that we eat.  Many times cultures rich and deep rooted with culinary pasts rise to the surface with such reverence.  The provisions to such a spectrum rivals that of tropical wild skittles.  It's all over the place, the goods ones at least, and for many delicious reasons.  To think of it, I have not been to a country where their culinary tastes, hopes and dreams are not also representative of their nation's pride and history!

One's love for food, is also love for the fellow man.  Just like we're all the same color underneath our epidermis, culinary delight binds us, prep to line cook to chef to patron.   Maybe that is why mother's cooking is always best?  It's the love that goes into each slice, sprinkle, and dash.   

This is why when you happen to get food artisans mucking up (more often than not) a truly blessed offering from the food gods, purists or just lovers of food will be angry.  Don't reinvent the wheel.  Be innovative but err on the safe side that someone probably did it better than you and still does it better than you.  Food is always a great equalizer.  Even when it's only tasted with a teaspoon, a master can be humbled in a second.   

Thus I present to you some favorite droolers.  Evolved over time but yet to be ruined by over thought and creative mess.  I'm not sure what is worse, my writing or my pictures.  Please excuse my pictures, not a food blogger by any means.

Crispy duck with bao bun (Jiao bun )

Crispy duck with bao bun (Jiao bun )

Chicken Gizzard skewers & satay

Chicken Gizzard skewers & satay

Mi Quan (Siamen Noodle)

Mi Quan (Siamen Noodle)

Lau Lau Pork 

Lau Lau Pork 

Turron (plantain wrapped in rice paper with drizzled honey)

Turron (plantain wrapped in rice paper with drizzled honey)

Back to Istanbul by Phu Qui Nguyen

Although I kick myself for not exploring more of the country other than Istanbul, I do have every intention of going back.  It was a volatile time in the history and bombings were rampant.  Seeing emergency vehicles rush past inside Taksim Square and narrowly missing the bombing at the Blue Mosque square didn't make it much easier, with an unnerving feeling.  But I wouldn't give up the experience for anything in the world.  Not that I was chasing danger, but somehow, it was just the right place at the right time.  

I was visiting a friend over there and he had told me about what to expect, how people were, and be prepared for some awkward interactions.  Not that I didn't see where his perception was coming from (we both grew up together) and what he said held some truth, but there was much more.  We discussed the politics of the people, the current natives and neighboring immigrants interaction, the general misconception of brotherly love (men hold hands and kiss in a platonic way, but much closer than the rest of Europe in my opinion).  There's just a fourth dimension to the Turkish people of this three dimension world.  You can see it when you're walking down the dark desolate alleys, surfing through crowded bazaars, and studying the individuals in mid-conversation while rolling a tobacco cigarette.  They will look up, give you a nod and smile, as we're friends that all belong... not just beings in this world, but belonging.  I know I should be afraid going down the alley ways that don't look welcoming at all to a single soul, but as I explored, it just opened up other beautiful skies of Turkey. 

Upon landing in Turkey, I had to collect my bags.  The Ataturk airport managed to lose my luggage and they would have to get back to me.  Hmmmm, sketchy already Turkish Airlines!!    After hailing a cab, I must admit, the airport rides are much more relaxing than the city taxis.  City taxis won't understand our broken directions and half the time won't give us a friendly help to locate where we need to go.  Finally I find my way to Nisantasi, which is similar to Beverly Hills in Istanbul, ritzy and expensive shops surrounded by what is like the rest of downtown Hollyhood and old Los Angeles.  I went to visit my friend. He would be my contact in Turkey, home base, emergency call to in case anything would happen.  Thankful for times like this as exploring with friends can bring you to some cool places that you didn't think to or wouldn't have tried to get lost in.  And most people in Turkey don't speak English, so don't expect them to be ready to help you if you look lost.  But if you smile and give them a, "Merhaba" (hello), then they just might respond back.  Hellos and thank yous go a long way.

I won't bore you with the play by play.  There were lots of food to be experienced in my tummy, so that was happening a lot.  I apologize, I'm not a food blogger, but I definitely try to capture some spirit of the kitchen.  I don't know where I'm going with these posts.  Perhaps the next post will be some interesting folks I ran into or some lessons learned.  

Chestnuts Roasting, December 2015

Chestnuts Roasting, December 2015

The Real Pizza Vegas? December 2015

The Real Pizza Vegas? December 2015

Lahma Cun, Not A Pizza, December 2015

Lahma Cun, Not A Pizza, December 2015

That one, that one, that one, that one....  December 2015

That one, that one, that one, that one....  December 2015

Firsts by Phu Qui Nguyen

Remembering my first time in the San Gabriel Mountains...  September 16, 2011, I returned to sunny California.  I had just came back from working abroad for the year in South Korea.  Home sick, hopeless direction in life, and a break in relationships at the time.  I had more questions about life than I knew where to look for answers.  Where do I even begin searching?  

There wasn't an easy answer, not one that I could find retracing my steps.  I realized when I was slaving at work, I was making money, I had no time.  Now I had time, but not the most money.  I had sparked an interest late in my life for hiking and yearning for adventure.  With little money, what could I do?  My friend lived by the San Gabriel Mountains and suggested that we take a hike down Chantry Flats.  By no means is it a challenging hike, but we were looking for something more than just our responsibilities of adulting!  

That day, we walked down the 1.8 mile path to Sturtevant Falls was defining for my future.  The simplicity of a small stream running along the path, overhanging trees shading us, and fellow beings taking in a breath of fresh nature air.  I am still not sure if I answered any questions that day, if only to open my eyes.  I do know that life is just more than the tiny bubble we live in at times.  It starts as a path,  into a forest range, builds up to a mountain of rocks and then the rest of the world. 

I had brought a single bottle of water on that warm October day.  I was out of water on the way back and walking up the steep path, panting and begging for breaks.  From that first hike, the breaks became less an issue and more of where-to-next!  Crystal Lake, Mount Baldy, Wilson, my world blew up in best possible way.  Since then, I've come to adventure to other mountain peaks, but I'll always return to San Gabriel National Forest.  

The saying that you don't have to go very far to experience life pulled at my heart strings.  The friendships created, bonds forged, roads to be explored and dust that has yet to settle.  I'm eternally grateful for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.  

 

This is regards to the San Gabriel National Monument blog contest.  

https://www.nationalforests.org/who-we-are/regional-offices/california-program/blog-contest

A crab in Sturtevant Falls?!!

A crab in Sturtevant Falls?!!

Here I am learning about what the trekking poles are actually NOT used for.

Here I am learning about what the trekking poles are actually NOT used for.

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About Istanbul by Phu Qui Nguyen

Although when people see Istanbul, modernized and globalization might come to mind, but in a population of 14 million they're still catching up with the rest of the world.  You can see it in their everyday life.  Old and young partake in selfies along the Bosphorus divide, a sea of vendors delivering chai tea the old way, bazaars full of people, and their native culinary so delicious and untainted by Western taste buds.  You do have your conglomerates moving in slowly, and Turkey's Got Talent on the tele, but it's far from ruining their beautiful culture.    

Luckily I was able to see a different side of it, multifaceted due to it's natives and the many immigrants that have taken refuge, while that danger is still a very threat.  The country is still very much a nation-in-progress and behind the time due to social political issues.  Once upon a period, the country was bountiful with peaceful times and as a developing nation, they were on their way to a European Union for the past decade.  But due to interfering politics and a current "President" that supports fundamentalism in their nation, they are really reverting backwards.  While I was there, the potential threat for harm was high and being alert for caution was necessary.  

All the while, the people are as happy as can be.   Welcoming and inviting into their culture.  Friends have told me that south-eastern border, where the Syrian refugees are crossing, has allowed many appreciative human beings.  In all the ugliness of current events, you'll find a very colorful and vibrant heart beating in this country.  

Planning by Phu Qui Nguyen

I've been a wee bit busy getting plans together and booking some flights.  I was actually wanting to explore SE Asia again.  Behold!!!  Okay, it's not that exciting.  I ended up finding cheap tickets to Myanmar.  It's my first time back to SE Asia since.. 2011 and I'd hardly call that SE Asia.  SE Asia reminds me of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, but I was in South Korea, where everything is developed and it's one of the power economies in Asia.  Some of the best ways to explore is sometimes add stopovers to certain places.  Although it's not a stopover exactly, but I planned to fly out of JFK instead of LAX for a change and making a stop to visit some good friends makes it even more worthwhile.  Also along the way, I have a couple stops in China that give me a day to explore.  I thought I'd give it the ol' good college try!   

I don't think I'm any worldly traveler.  I'm just finding out that many things can be achieved with some research and decisive decision making.  Learning how traveling with credit card points and mileage has been a headache, but I hope to be able to share that with some of you all.  I'll be roughing it at lots of these spots and considering backpacking if I can pull out my sleeping bag somewhere.  But we'll see.  I'll be updating my travel gear.  Normally I have all my camera equipment, but I'll be traveling lighter and packed for only a couple days at a time.  New and scary is O-KAY!  

Meanwhile, let me update my trip from Istanbul this year in my next post.  It was somewhat hectic around the holiday schedule and I was lucky not to get caught in the crossfires of the socio political strife that has been occurring there.  And if you've been following the news, it was a hotbed of attacks and the recent coup attempt by the "rebel military".

More on this scoop soon!!