Monday, August 29, 2011

Duluth Trail Fest

A old co-worker once asked why I ran and biked. Jokingly I told him I am trying to kill myself slowly. He said it actually sounds like you are trying to kill yourself quickly. An example, this weekend my aunt and I did 3 runs in two days. Two on the 27th, Park Point Beach 5k run in the morning and Chester Tester Hill Challenge 5k run at night. Then the following morning, Superior Hiking Trail 15k. The runs were part of the Duluth Trail Fest. It was a challenge!! Ran on sand during the first race, a very nasty hill that I practically had to climb up on the second one and the third race was my favorite, it was a trail. I totally recommend the runs!

My times:
30:54 - Park Point Beach Run
38:48 - Chester Tester Hill Challenge
2:15:42 - Superior Hiking Trail

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Laos - July 20th

July 19th was the last night for 11 people on the tour. We said our 'good-byes'. Only 3 people plus tour guide left. Before heading to Laos, I took the morning to explore Hanoi a little more.

Ho Chi Minh's wished to be cremated when he passed in 1969 but instead a mausoleum was constructed to house his body, his frozen body. It does not cost anything to go in. They will give you an informational paper, it costs money and does not have many information. Do not take it. They do take your camera before you enter and give it back to you at the end. You have to walk on a red plastic rug and there is a guard every foot. You cannot talk, have to keep your hands at your side and keep walking. The mausoleum was built to look like a lotus flower.

Hanoi Hilton

On our way to Laos!!

Vietnam - Hanoi

After a short bus ride to Hanoi, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed off for lunch. Walked around afterward for a bit, I came to the conclusion that Hanoi was definitely more crowded than Saigon, the building were more compacted and people seem more indifferent. In Saigon, the ladies are willing to haggle and if you walk away they yell a lower price at you. Not in Hanoi, no haggling and if you walk out you walk off. While eating lunch our tour guide was telling us things to do, he kind of blow off the water puppet show, he said it was corny. Well, I had read Adventurous Kate's posting about it and decided to go. I thought is was cute and not something you would see in the states.

More morning glory for dinner and I tried Biere Larue

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vietnam - Halong Bay

Halong Bay was beautiful!! It was just like the pictures in National Geographic magazine!! We took a boat cruise around the bay. Stopped at a house boat that was also a fish hatchery. interesting.... The best part of the day was kayaking for 45 minutes around the bay, the guide took us into two cove areas. I kayaked in Halong Bay!! Then we stopped on an island and explored some caves. They are not worried about safety like in the states.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vietnam - Hue

We were in Hue for just a little over a day. Everyone but me went out drinking last night after the motor scooter ride. I'll have one drink at night but I prefer waking up refreshed and early. My roommate for all of Vietnam was a 29 years old female from German. We were the oldest ones in the group. Everyone else was 25 years old or younger. Luckily for me she was not a all-hours-of-the-night drinker either and liked getting up early. Saturday July 16th, we were the only ones who got up early and explored the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

While walking around the grounds, I tried to imagine was it was like back when. The earliest construction started back in 1010. In all it's glory, it would have been amazing. The dynasties, servants, armies. The gardens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vietnam - Hue

There was a time when Vietnam was split into north and south, this use to be the border crossing between them.

After we got into Hue, we took motor scooters through the city and visited two main sites. We were a biker gang, fifteen of us! This is the Thien Mu Pagoda.

My driver!

Biker gang!

At the Emperor's Tomb

Driving around rice paddy field

Trying Huda Beer for the first time. It's a local, very cheap, beer!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vietnam - My Son Ruins

Vietnam - Hoi An

Hoi An was my favorite city in Vietnam. Not as many motor scooter. We rode bikes around the city without being afraid for our lives.

Cau Lau is a specialist soup only served in Hoi An. Delicious! Like pho but with less broth and noodle and more fresh vegetables and crisp noodles.

I did get something tailor made!! A black mens' inspires blazer with 3/4 length sleeves. It was only $50!! I spent a lot of time in that shop trying to pick fabrics, cut and style.

Every full moon, the city celebrates with a Full Moon Festival. For $.50 you can buy a paper lantern from a children on the street. It was beautiful!! All the shops, restaurants and house along the river turn off their lights.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vietnam - Nha Trang

Train station in Nha Trang.

The beach was beautiful!! White sand and beautiful blue water.

After walking along the beach, I got a taxi and headed to the Mineral Mud Springs. It was wonderful and cheap!!! Order of operation: first mineral water shower, mud bathe, sun bathe for 10 minutes while still covered in mud, rinse of in the mineral water shower, relax in the mineral water sauna for about 15 minutes then head over the the pool. AMAZING!!

The next day, July 12th, we took a boat trip that included snorkeling, drinking and visit a private beach. It was what it was, a booze cruise. When heading back, I saw this fishing boat.

Another train, on our way to Hoi An.

Vietnam Day 3 & overnight train

I ate a lot of morning glory and rice on this trip.

As a group, we went to Cu-Chi Tunnels. Our guide was a Vietnamese who fought on the south side and was a translator for American troops. The tunnels were used by guerillas fighters during World War II against American troops. I knew a little bit about the war but being there made it feel more real.

We got to go into a portion of the tunnel, it was widened for tourist. I was only able to go through a portion on the tunnel.

Train ticket to Nha Trang.

We had a four people sleep room in first class. I really like trains. Pretty much sleep the entire time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vietnam Day 1 & 2

I got back yesterday from a 26 day trip ("holiday") around southeast Asia. Went up through Vietnam, over to Laos, down to Bangkok, Thailand then a quick 4 day tour to Siem Reap. AMAZING!! The food, MMMM, I miss the food!! The sites and sounds were overwhelming at first but then after about a week, it becomes the norm. It now seems too quiet back here in Minnesota.

I landed in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon on Friday July 8th at 11pm. I was freaked out, worried. No one I know has been to Asia before, no one. I did not know what to expect. All the blogs and websites talked about how amazing the countries are. I also heard about the crime and purse snatching. There were tons of people outside the airport doors. All waiting. I found a taxi and paid $15. It is crazy how they drive over there. Really no concern for the painted road lines, no blinkers, motor scooters everywhere and lots of them. I held my breathe for most of the ride. I got the to hotel just fine and in one piece. Went to bed around 1am and woke up at 5am. For about the next two weeks of the trip, I was only about to see until 5am everyday.

I didn't meet with my group from Gap Adventures until that night for dinner. I got a map from the front desk and decided to walk around. I could not get a good picture of how many motor scooters are on the road and how they drive.

It was crazy!! To cross the street, you wait until there is a little break in the traffic then just start walking. Walk with intent and slowly. People drive in front and behind you. It's really scary at first. I felt like frogger. A couple times I waited until someone else crossed and followed them. I followed little children and old ladies.

For breakfast, I got pho at the Ben Than Market. Delicious!!!

Then walked around the rest of the day. Going back to the hotel room a couple times to relax and 'collect' myself.