I learned my first lesson as a traveling blogger with an interest in photography and a penchant for digital technology: make sure you have a solid plan for back-ups, and never rely on the hope that you will find the technology you will need periodically in another country. The iPad is great for downloading photos and then updating your blog with text and pictures from it with Blogsy and, in my case, a Picasa account. But the iPad compresses pictures for display on its admittedly gorgeous screen, so how could I maintain the high resolution integrity of my photographs? Easy, or so I thought, I'll find a place to burn them onto CDs or DVDs. Now, that may be a sound strategy, and it does cost some money, but that's provided you find a place and equipment to do that and a way to check the results.
I found a place. I looked all over District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City for a place and couldn't find one. I walked past the Ben Thanh Markets on Le Loi Street and then a vision hit me: a vision of at least half a dozen photography stores, with windows bulging with the latest photographic equipment and all necessary amenities and services available inside. Big brand camera logos were festooned all over their awnings, and most were crawling with tourists seeking various services. I bought a 16 gigabyte SD card in one, and went to another to get the photographs from four other SD cards burned onto CDs or DVDs. I emerged two hours later with eight DVDs full of photographs for a total cost (parts and labour) of 800,000 dong – about AU$40. But then I couldn't check the DVDs in my hotel's computer, because its DVD drive wasn't working. Lesson learned: the hell with the weight factor.
Next time, I'm bringing my MacBook Pro for backup on the hard disk drive, on discs, and on an external storage device. At the very least, if I don't pack a Mac laptop, I should pack an external hard disk drive. Then I can download the photographs onto that with either a store or Internet café computer or the hotel one.
As soon as I can determine that the DVDs I have are readable and functioning, I can format the cards. I now have two 16 gigabyte cards, one 8 gigabyte card and one 4 gigabyte card that are full, and I need to use them again.