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Lake Placid Winter 2013-Day 4-This Ain’t Disneyworld!

The day started off at -12 F. Cold, but only just the beginning. We enjoyed a healthy breakfast in and relaxed a bit. We took a walk down the road to the nearest trailhead, popped on the snowshoes and headed into the woods for a quick jaunt. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to get our fix in the woods. I brought my DSLR and tripod along with hopes of getting a couple images. There was a mostly-frozen stream that paralleled the trail and I managed to get some images of that. Nothing amazing, but something to wet the whistle a bit.

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We had lunch at the apartment and I headed down to Mt. Van Hoevenberg for my afternoon skate-ski. Denise decided to hang in and catch up on some reading in lieu of skiing. When got to the ski lodge the wind was whipping and the snow was falling. The snow was very tiny dense flakes that almost resembled a mist. By the time I got out to ski it had calmed a bit. I made my way across the large stadium field towards the East Mt. Trail. The large puffs of my breath that eminated from my mouth resembled that of a large locomotive rolling across the plains.

The stiffness from the previous days exertion was very present and I pushed on with the hope that eventually it would go away. The cold disappeared on the uphills, but made its reappearance on the downhills. It was like I had just ingested a large bowl of ice cream very quickly and my sinus passages in my screamed for mercy. I retraced the previous days course with the exception of the Ladies 5k trail which I added this day. Most of it was closed, but it added an additional 1.5 miles. I stayed out the entire time, fearing that going in would cause much of my clothing to get wet with sweat and returning out would freeze up. I ended up doing about 9 miles in an hour and a half, which was plenty.

We headed over to Cafe Rustica for dinner. I ordered the Bruschetta appetizer which was a meal in itself. It also had a Red Pepper Hummus which was a nice addition. For dinner, I broke the rules a bit and had a pizza. I got a Magherita pie, light on the cheese, and added some Arugula to help oxygenate the blood a bit. All-in-all a good day out despite the cold. Supposed to be colder tomorrow, so I may need to make it a rest day.

 

Tour of Toronto…

I got up early on Friday morning and headed out for half hour run around the neighborhood near our hotel. We then got cleaned up and headed down for our complimentary hotel breakfast. I had some waffles with syrup and it ended up wiping me out. I got back to the room and had to take a nap. Definitely not used to eating that kind of crap anymore. We eventually got going and headed into Toronto for the day.

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As you can see from my Garmin track below, we put on 10 miles of walking around the city. I even forgot to start it up a couple times so it was probably more than that. We checked out a good part of the city and hit Kensington Market, Chinatown, and the Entertainment and shoppping districts. The TIFF film fest was going on and that area was quite crazy. We enjoyed lunch and dinner at the Fresh restaurant on Spadina. It was so good! Amazing how tasty healthy plant-based food can be.

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We walked around most of the day and did some shopping in a couple outdoor stores. Sometime after 4pm we headed back down to the waterfront for the Vegetarian Food Festival. The festival was pretty good with stands from the China Study, Vega Foods, and lots of delicious samples. Rich Roll was also supposed to be speaking there on Saturday and Sunday, but we had to head up to Huntsville after this. We had thoughts of eating at the food festival, but we decided to catch the bus and head back up to Fresh(on Spadina) again for dinner. I had quinoa onion rings and a “buddha” bowl which consisted of thai peanut sauce with marinated tofu cubes, tomato, cilantro,cucumber, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, herbs & spices.  I was still pretty full from lunch so I could not even finish my meal.

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After dinner, we headed back down to the car and made our way up to the Deerhurst Resort up in Huntsville, Ontario. It took ~2-2.5 hours to get there, so we did not get into our room until 11PM. When we pulled in they already had alot of the gates up for the transition area and the bike and run chutes.

 

Chirunning Workshop at Kripalu

Kripalu2010-2439This year has been a bit of a metamorphosis for me regarding my running. As I mentioned before, I had never thought of myself as a “runner” even though I have attempted this many times throughout my life. The IT Band issues I incurred around 10 years ago I thought sealed the deal on that. After reading Chris McDougall’s book Born To Run, I had stumbled onto the Chirunning method developed by Danny Dreyer. I read the book and started implementing the different forms or postures in order to get to a proper body alignment for running efficiently and pain-free. While this made a HUGE difference in my running, (went from running 3-4 miles and being exhausted to eventually running upwards of 16 miles and feeling good afterwards) I still felt like I didn’t quite have it totally correct. So, when I saw a Chirunning workshop being help up at Kripalu in Western Massachusetts, I thought it would be a great opportunity to hone my technique a bit. The other thing was my wife has always wanted to go Kripalu for Yoga as well as learn Chirunning so this looked to be a great opportunity.

The workshop was lead by Kathy Griest, who is a Master Chirunning instructor and has worked with Danny Dreyer from the beginning. Kathy was assisted by several other instructors(Ann Margaret McKillop and Michael Krushinsky to name a few.) and instructors-to-be which complemented the team perfectly. There were over 40 people in our workshop, but with all the instructors it was a perfect ratio to get the necessary attention for all the students. This workshop allowed me to start from the beginning in order to polish up the techniques I had learned from the book and DVD. The personal aspect of the workshop also added some different ways of implementing the techniques that you cannot get from a book or video. The weekend consisted of a total of 6 sessions of around 2.5 hours each. The final session consisted of reviewing a video of each student Chirunning where Kathy and the team pointed out the positives and what to work on in each persons technique. I was amazed that they could remember specific issues that each person was struggling with throughout the week and how they were able to correct them by the end. The biggest thing I learned is that Chirunning is a life-long process that you will continually work on during your running. After my first run this morning since being home from the workshop, I feel that I have improved my leaps-and-bounds. If you want to learn to run efficiently and pain-free, I strongly recommend learning Chirunning and if possible, a workshop as well. The techniques and postures learned are also useful in many other activities.

Lenox Loop run map

Kripalu 5 Mile Out-and-Back run map

Kripalu2010-2423 Besides Chirunning at Kripalu, I was also able to enjoy my first Yoga class, meditation classes, great healthy food, and some open-water swimming in the lake. The weekend seemed very busy going from one class to the next and fitting in some meals in between. Although I was busy, I still felt extremely relaxed and a bit renewed after the weekend was over. It definitely opened my mind up to an alternative type of vacation in the future. Parking my phone, laptop and wallet for the weekend played a key role in the unwinding. The only thing we really had to worry about was showing up at the different sessions and for meals. The accommodations reminded me a bit of a dormitory in college, but we really weren’t in our room enough to hang out in there anyway. When we did get back to our room, we just crashed and then it was back up at 6AM again for a run.

The weekend was just superb from all aspects. I am definitely looking forward to In addition we met some really great people that I hope to keep in touch with over time.

 

 

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Trip Diary – Lake Placid Spring 2010 Day 1

While Lake Placid is a typical destination for us, we have never been there during the early Spring. We decided to make the trip up this time of year with the intention of some triathlon training and fly-fishing. I always use the excuse that I don’t fly-fish as much as I used to since I have been married, so Denise said that she wants to learn how so that we are both able to do this together. Our base camp is located right on the West Branch of the Ausable River and River Road which is the heartbeat of all endurance-related training in the area, so we will be perfectly located for our intended pursuits.

iPhone-0397 The ride up went pretty smooth. We took the Honda Fit in an effort to save some gas. The Fit worked well, but wasn’t quite as efficient as it usually it with the extra load of gear, two road bikes on the roof, and the increase in elevation. We stopped in Albany, NY at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Blue Spice Thai. The last time up they had closed the doors on their previously location across the street which we didn’t realize until we pulled up to the door. Fortunately this time they were open. The food was still quite good, but the less than accommodating waitress left a bad taste in our mouths. Despite that we still ordered several orders to-go for eating in during the week.

While driving through Keene, NY we noticed that the former natural grocery store had reopened as the Green Point Foods so we made a U-bee and checked it out. A young couple from Brooklyn had just moved up here and opened up. They were a little sparse right now, but were gearing up to have fresh soup, sandwiches, and baked goods. If you are going through the area, it may be a good place to stop by and enjoy lunch on the nice deck our front.

Upon arrival to our “base camp”, we were greeted by our friendliest of hosts, Dan & Wendy. After catching up for a few minutes, we unpacked, settled in and enjoyed our Thai take-away dinner. After dinner, we set out for a short walk along the river to discuss the weeks plan of activities, then off to bed for a good night sleep.

Sunday, May 16th 2010

Sunday morning we got up at decent hour and off to our favorite breakfast place Chair 6. A party of 12 had beaten us to this tiny place, but we patiently waited since we were on vacation and not in any huge rush. Anyway, it is always worth the wait. Denise had her Salmon omlette and I had sourdough French Toast. Yum! After breakfast we headed to Jones Outfitter’s Fly Shop for licenses and the latest scuttlebutt on the fishing in the area. The river was still cool and  most activity was still sub-surface, so I loaded up on some nymphs and streamers and we were on our way. I headed out for my first road ride of the trip. I made my way down River Rd to Rt. 73, then up and back on Rt. 86 to Wilmington, NY and back. The ride up to Wilmington was a nice downhill grade, but the road was bit rough. The way back the same road was exactly opposite on both accounts.

iPhone-0400 LP- Wilmington Loop 5-16-2010, Elevation - Distance LP- Wilmington Loop 5-16-2010

After returning from my bike ride, we headed down to the Iron Bridge on River Rd. for Denise’s first fly-casting lessons. She got the jist of things despite my ability to break things down to basics. No fish were caught, but that was not really the goal of this outing. An older gentlemen below us had yanked some large trout out on a spin real and some garden worms. He gave me a bunch but I kept losing them trying to false-cast then out to the fish. There were some large fish sitting under the bridge, but it was a deep slow pool and hard to get a fly down to them in order to tempt them. We decided to head home, clean-up, and head over to Desparado’s for some Irish-Mexican for dinner. “Despy’s” were a bit crowded so we opted for Caribbean Cowboy instead. The Cowboy is really good, but they had jacked up their prices a few years ago so we tend to limit our visits there. We got a few looks from the other couples dining there when we entered. Not sure if it was our extra-casual appearance or if it was our obnoxious Flyers garb. I had the Jerk Chicken platter which is always great and Denise had a Salmon special which was good, but didn’t “knock her socks off.” A couple LP IPA’s topped off this culinary delight. Post-dinner we bolted home to catch the Flyers first playoff game versus the Canadiens on CBC. Flyers did not disappoint. Flyers 6, Habs 0…Sweet!

Stay tuned for the rest of the weeks adventures…

18 Things You Don’t Need on Your Packing List : TravelBlogs.com

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Some helpful packing tips. Although I don’t agree with the suggestion on jackets and towels. I usually bring a good breathable rain jacket, which serves as rain gear as well a windbreaking shell. Couple this with a good fleece and you are good to go down to around freezing.

 

Some of my favorites…

  1. Keen Newport Sandals – These and a pair of flip-flops were all I took for 2 weeks in Thailand and 9 days in Costa Rica. That includes 3-day jungle hike with full backpack, mountain biking, white-water rafting, and kayaking. They are the ultimate adventure travel shoe. 
  2. Ex Officio Boxers – A couple pairs of these are all you need for any trip. Dry one pair while wearing the other.
  3. Osprey Kestrel 48 – The ultimate carry-on. For the ladies, try the Talon 44. About same capacity and alot lighter.
  4. REI Multitowel – I don’t agree with the towel comments in this article. This REI towel does not take up much space and performs very well. I also use it for my daily swim workouts when I don’t feel like taking two bags to work.

18 Things You Don’t Need on Your Packing List : TravelBlogs.com

Costa Rica Volcanoes & Surf 2009 – Trip Recap

Every time we go on a trip somewhere, people always ask me “would you go back there again?” and my reply is usually always that there are so many other places I want to visit that I may not get back around to go there again. Well, I guess Costa Rica has become the exception. Our first trip there was in some ways disappointing, although looking back on it now there were a lot of good times in that trip. The less than expected resort and “shady” guide didn’t totally ruin it. I know so many people that just rave about Costa Rica, so we thought we needed to give it another try. And I never got to surf the first time there, so that would be the focus of this trip. I found a trip with GAP Adventures, called Costa Rica Volcanoes & Surf, that was just what we were looking for. It looked to be the perfect mix of what Costa Rica has to offer, and it did not let me down.

We were arriving in San Jose a day early, so we had researched the city a bit before going and determined that there wasn’t that much that interested us. So instead we booked a class III & IV whitewater rafting trip on the Rio Picuare with Adventuras Naturales. They picked us up first at our hotel early on Saturday morning and all the other people on the trip. This van ride gave us enough of a view of San Jose to say we saw it. Our guide, Pascquel, had been a WW raft guide in over 18 countries in his lifetime and claimed that this river was his favorite. Our trip included a nice breakfast stop at a local establishment and then off to the river. Our crew included another couple from Colorado, who were at the end of their trip, and two young girls from San Jose who didn’t speak any English. The river lived up to its reputation, a perfect mix of beauty and adrenalin. The river contains continuous rapids with not much slow water in between, so if you are looking for a easy joy-ride float, I would not recommend it.

After getting bused back to our hotel, we quick showered and met our GAP Adventures group in the lobby of the hotel. GAP had told us that there were only 5 of us booked on the trip when I last checked, so I was surprised when I saw there were 6 people sitting in the lobby when we arrived. After meeting everyone, our guide Annika took us to a good local restaurant where we had Casadas, Arroz con Pollo, Imperials 🙂 and some other local dishes while getting to know everyone.

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The next morning we met our transportation that would take us up to La Fortuna/Arenal where we would spend the next two days. The drive up there had good views of the Costa Rican countryside and we also stopped at a local park that someone had carved different animals out of the shrubbery.  La Fortuna would be our base for the next two days for canyoning/repelling, Hot Springs, Mountain biking, and Hiking around the volcano. Unfortunately, I developed a sore throat the first night and missed out on the canyoning the first morning. My wife was able to go and it sounded like they had a fun time. Some of the others on our trip did some caving, where they explore water-filled caves, which they said they really enjoyed as well. After some chicken vegetable soup and a nice dinner at Don Ruffino’s, I started feeling better.

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We headed up to the northwest side of Arenal volcano for a hike with a naturalist. He explained some of the history of the volcano and then we headed into the woods. Didn’t see too much other than an owl and couple Howler monkeys which were too far away. After that they took us to a place where we were supposed to be able to see lava. We pulled off down a dark road and had pizza and beers while we waited for all the clouds to clear. Then also had some local whiskey which we did a few shots of. Pretty tasty stuff. I think they give you that to help you SEE the lava! 🙂 We waited for sometime and did eventually see some lava for about two seconds when the clouds cleared, but very short-lived. I had setup my camera, but missed it anyway.

After the lava viewing, we headed to Baldy Hot Springs to soak in some of the volcano heated water. They had over 20 different pools to soak in and each one got hotter and hotter as you went up the hill closer to the source. Some of them even had sit-up bars in them and one had a TV with the Stanley Cup playing. I met a couple of younger guys from Lower Merion that were watching too. The drinks at the springs were outrageously expensive too. The best pool at the springs was the one with the three water slides. The middle seemed to be really crazy because everyone came flying out of there at really high speed and they also would let out some crazy screams midway through. I started out on the easy one which was kinda lame and then worked up to the middle one. It was totally dark inside the thing so you had no idea what was ahead of you and then the incline in the middle was so steep that it felt like the bottom dropped out. It was awesome! I did it like twice more.

The next morning we were taken to Lake Arenal and took a boat to start our mountain bike ride toward Monteverde. Due to heavy rains, the first part of the trail was washed out so they had to boat us to the starting point. The ride was mostly doubletrack, fireroad but had nice views and was pretty challenging in some spots. It was almost like home with wet, rocky conditions. I enjoyed chatting with our guide Alfredo during the ride. We discussed some of the similarities and differences of both of our cultures, which was rather interesting. My wife was getting annoyed cause we were holding them up sometimes. Stopped about midway(~ 4 miles) for some fruit and replenish our water. Some of the group decided to get on the boat for the rest of the ride, since it proved to be a bit much for some. We eventually met up with them and the van and headed up to the town of Santa Elena which would be our base camp for the Monteverde activities.

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We arrived at the Historias Hotel in Santa Elena where we would stay for the next two days. We were greeted with a nice rainbow after we settled into the hotel.  My wife and I decided to have a night out by ourselves after our tour leader told us about a nice little restaurant, Sophia’s, which was right accross the road. The rain started that evening along with some heavy winds so it worked out nice that we didn’t have to travel very far. We arrived early and were not real hungry, so we decided to sit at the bar and have a couple fruity drinks. There were a bunch of young ladies practicing for an upcoming jewelry and fashion show while we were there, so that entertained us while we sat at the bar. We eventually worked up an appetite and got a table. Food was well presented and pretty good. I ordered my filet medium-rare and it was more like rare when it came out so had to send it back. Other than that everything was quite good.

The next morning we were off early for a cloud forest nature hike and then off for ziplining. On the way to the cloud forest, someone spotted a female Resplendent Quetzal in a tree, so we all piled out of the van and snapped a bunch of pics. Conditions and lighting were not great, but I did manage to salvage one picture out the bunch.  The cloud forest hike was very wet and the naturalist guide said that it was very odd for this time of year. We saw a lot of bugs but nothing too major.

Ziplining was a blast. The fog and rain really made things interesting. Some of the lines made you feel like you were zipping into oblivion which was a bit eery. The wet cables also made it particularly hard to brake when coming to the platform. Several of the people in our group were not really enjoying it too much. We were planning on doing another zipline called “Extremo” in the afternoon, but everyone else bailed so I didn’t want to go by myself. Bummer. There was also a “Tarzan Swing” on the zipline too, which was so awesome. I tried to video my turn on the swing, but the guide would not let me hold it in my hand so it just swung. The swing is really cool because it makes you feel like your stomach is dropping out.  My wife and I made our way into town in the afternoon for a late lunch. The sun came out and made for a nice afternoon. We ended up having some appetizers at “Trio” which is were our tour leader was taking us for dinner. It was really good, so we looked forward to our dinner. Dinner was fun with the group and we had a bunch of laughs. The next morning we had to get up really early to catch the public bus from Monteverde to Puntarenas to catch the ferry for our trek to the Zopilote Surf Camp. By the way, the roads up to Monteverde are really rough, dirt roads so the public bus was quite a ride. I heard that they keep the roads in that condition to help limit the amount of “touristas” into this area.

 

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We arrived into Puntarenas a few minutes too late and missed the 11 o’clock ferry, so we had some lunch and hung out for the 1 o’clock. Ferry was nice and they served beers which always helps.  We hopped on the ferry, which took us about an hour and fifteen minutes. Our tour leader, Annika, gathered us up a little before we reached the dock so that we could be the first ones off to catch the bus to Santa Teresa. The bus fills up fast and takes about a two hours to get there. Annika checked to see if we were willing to fork up some extra bucks to get some other transportation, which would be much quicker and we all willingly agreed. After we got off the ferry and walked to the bus, she had managed to arrange a taxi for an extra five bucks each all while walking to the bus. I didn’t even realize she was doing it…it was quite slick. Anyway we shaved an hour off the time to get to the surf camp which rocked.

We unloaded our stuff at the surf camp and the head guy, Simon, showed us our options for sleeping quarters. My wife and I settled on a open room in the main house. The rest of the group settled into the two other huts on the premises. The bunkhouse was really cool and totally open in the front you could look out on the ocean. After we settled in, it was time to get our first 2 hour lesson. Two of the guys from the house then gave us an initial debriefing and then gave us the boards to use which we then waxed and combed.

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After we prepped our boards, we made the long haul up the beach to an area that was free of  rocks. When we got to the area, they showed us how to pop-up on the boards which we practiced for some time on the sand. After they felt we had that, we made our way to the water. The instructors helped us get up by holding our boards for us and eventually we were able to get up. The surf and current were really intense and they said it isn’t usually like that. This made it that much more challenging for us beginners to get up. Fighting the current really takes it out of you. I was able to get up once or twice the first time out, so I was psyched about that. I was pretty tired after the two hours, so I was looking forward to the next morning when I would be fresh again. On our walk back to surf camp we saw the most beautiful sunset…I was bumming since I didn’t bring my camera. Maybe tomorrow?

That night we had an awesome dinner at surf camp. It was some of type of goulash/chili/beef sauce over homemade pasta. It was a bit delayed since the power went out, but so worth the wait. Power never came back on until later the next evening(Things move a bit slow in Costa Rica), but it wasn’t too big a deal. The next days surf lesson went a little better and I was getting up a lot more than the previous evening. Surf was still ripping and sun was so hot that we didn’t quite make it the whole two hours. We hung out in the camp most of the middle of day because it was so hot out.

The power came on that evening so we jammed some Bob Marley off my iPod on the camp stereo. We had some cocktails and some good laughs. “Pepo” the camp squirrel made his rounds too, which included my head. Dinner was curry chicken that night, which was just as excellent as the previous meal. I had seconds. :)  Rain had also started in the afternoon, which became a downpour like I had never seen before. It lasted well into the night too. I was thinking, if it rained like that at home we would have flooded the whole Lehigh Valley because of the development and paved areas.

The next morning the sun was out and we headed out for our last try at surfing before we started heading home. This time I was able to get up pretty regularly, which was cool. Our friend Sue from Switzerland , was teasing me the previous day because every time I got up on the board I would wipe the water out of my eyes. So each time I got up I would yell over to her and act like I was fixing my hair or something. It was funny…guess you had to be there. Anyway, I started gaining some confidence and tried heading out to the bigger waves. Well, it took so much effort to get out past the break that I was wiped out when I got there. I found one to take but wiped out because it was a little different that the whitewater we were riding before. I tried a few more times, but the current took it out of me. It left me tired, but wanting to do it again. Hopefully I can try again down the NJ shore this summer. I usually am not a big fan of the beach, but I do want to do this again.

After we got back to camp, we had to pack up and get ready to catch the bus in Santa Teresa which would take us back to San Jose. Sometime after surfing my cold started up again and I got really congested. Good that it stayed off until then, but the trek back home was surely miserable. After a long taxi, bus, ferry, and a bus we got back to the hotel in San Jose. We had our last group dinner and said our goodbyes. That night I didn’t sleep very well in the hotel in San Jose, and we had to get up really early to catch our taxi to the airport. Our tour leader Annika was waiting for us in the hotel lobby at 5AM too to say goodbye. She was a GREAT tour leader. We were her last trip with GAP Adventures. They had better sign her up again! She even took all our cameras and downloaded everyones pics and made CD’s for each us..she rocks!

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The trip home was pretty smooth, except for me feeling worse as time went on. I was afraid they were going to quarantine me for swine flu or something. We eventually got home and I ended up really sick all week. I am still suffering from what I call the post-GAP Adventure blues. Coming home from these trips is such a shock. You go from doing one fun activity after another and then get home it is total dullsville. Eventually it goes away. Oh well that is a small price to pay for another great adventure vacation. See you after the next one!

 

Pura Vida!

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Thailand Hike, Bike & Kayak Trip Recap – Part I – Getting to Bangkok

I thought I should do a recap of our recent trip to Thailand before I forget most of the details. Denise and I decided on Thailand due to our love of Thai food and we wanted to go somewhere in Southeast Asia. We only had two weeks to travel so we decided to go through a tour company instead of independent travel. This would eliminate the usual long hours we spend planning our trips and we could sit back and enjoy. Since we are turning 40 during this trip we needed to relieve a little stress too.  G.A.P. Adventures was rated the best by Nat Geo for their dedication to responsible travel. In determining which of their Thailand tours to do, The Thailand Hike, Bike, and Kayak(ATHB) stood out amongst the others because of the higher activity level and coverage of the country. And the price was also reasonable too. So we booked it well in advance and eagerly anticipated the trip months before. During the time leading up to our departure we did spend a lot of energy trying to find the perfect backpack that we could carry-on the plane and still hold enough of our gear for two weeks in Thailand. We finally settled on the Osprey Kestrel 48(Me) and Osprey Talon 44(wife) and they performed perfectly. No issues with carrying on and even had enough room to bring a few souvenirs home too. After we purchased the packs we made multiple trial runs of packing and unpacking to get the proper fit.  Finally October 24th came and we were on our way.

The flights over were not too bad considering the total travel time of ~30 hours. The flights consisted of Allentown to Atlanta(2 hours), Atlanta to Seoul, and Seoul to Bangkok.  The Atlanta to Seoul flight was 15 hours, but went pretty quickly due to the personal movie/game/tv players on each seat. Denise had the window, I was in the middle and nice guy from Atlanta, who was working in Seoul, was on the aisle. He was at the stewardesses station table playing cards most of the flight so we could get up and walk around as we wished. I slept a lot on the first two flights according to Denise.

Arrival into Bangkok was a piece of cake. No checked bags to pick up and customs was a breeze. The dossier from G.A.P. said to go past the officially dressed limousine people and go to the queue for the regular taxi’s which we did. This was good advice. Much cheaper even with the extra airport charge and much easier too. Our taxi driver was real nice and tried to speak a little bit of English, but we soon ran that to its limit. It was around 9-10PM on Saturday, October 25th at this point. Highway was kind of empty for a Saturday night I thought. We finally got to the Trang Hotel Bangkok after about a 1/2 hour and the taxi was around 450 Baht not including the 2 tolls.

We checked into to the Trang Hotel and made our way up to our room. The hotel was not as nice as what the web site  portrays. The hallway to our room was missing pieces of the ceiling and had patches of mold especially over our door. Fortunately our room was a bit nicer than the hallway, but looked nothing like on the web site. It had two single beds, tv, fridge, and bathroom which is all I really needed. We dropped our bags and decided to head down to the hotel restaurant for some dinner. We had some curry dishes and I had a couple Chang Beer’s  before heading back to the room to get some sleep.

We had our first day in Bangkok to ourselves, except for meeting our group in the hotel lobby around 6PM, so we decided to head down to Khao San Road first to start our day. Denise had spent time there before so we thought it may be a good place to start. Upon exiting the hotel we were hounded by a persistent tuk-tuk driver while trying to cross the busy street in front of the hotel. We finally gave in to him and got a ride down to Khao San Road for 30 baht. We found somewhere to eat breakfast that had a bunch of ex-pats so we figured it would be ok. This was my first introduction to the different translations of breakfast items. I got french toast but the syrup was honey and there was no butter. Coffee was ok but obviously pressed. After breakfast we made our way up and down the road and immediately got sick of constantly being hounded by vendors and tuk-tuk drivers. We stopped in a cafe to re-hydrate a bit and read over our photocopies of the lonely planet travel book. The book said that if you go a block away from Khao San Road that there is more local type shopping and less hassling of tourists. They were correct! We went a block away(north) and it was like a different world. Plenty of vendors, but they weren’t constantly bugging you.

Wandering around we ended up over by the park and old fort off of Phra Sumen looking at a map. A overly nice guy that spoke excellent English stopped to talk to us. He was asking where we were going and said that there was a special deal going on with the tuk-tuk drivers today. He said that the tuk-tuk drivers could not charge more than 20 baht today and they will take you anywhere. During this time a young tuk-tuk driver showed up. He also said we should go see the "Lucky Buddha" temple which is where local Buddhists go to pray for winning the lottering and other things associated with good fortune. Since being home, I realized that this is the usual tourist joke since there are numerous different temple photos that claim to be the "Lucky Buddha" temple, none of which are the one we went to. Regardless, the place he recommended for lunch was really good and was definitely a local hangout. Our driver just sat outside and waited for us too while we ate. Denise had  a fish dish which wound up being the entire fish and I had chicken and cashews. After that we went to the Lucky Buddha temple. A guy in the temple praying asked how we found out about this Wat(temple) and that tourists don’t usually come there. Was he in on it too?? After that, our driver kept taking us to these suit and gem stores acquiring more free gas cards from each. Eventually we said that was enough and he took us back to the hotel.

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