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Yes, I know it’s a silly title. But (shh!) the secret is that as much as I train and joke about snot rockets and peeing on my bike, deep down I really, really like being a girl. I like pretty clothes and makeup and hair and smelling like things other than sweat and chlorine. But sadly, when training monopolizes most of your free time and you need to go straight from the pool to the office to the track, femininity sometimes takes a backseat.

Over the years I’ve picked up several tricks and tips to streamline your “gettin’ ready” process without sacrificing precious gym or office time. So here, I present to you my top 5 tips for training your butt off while still looking and smelling pretty:

 

 

1) Pack everything the night before:

I know this is probably a “no, duh” tip, but without fail I pack my entire gym bag the night before. In it goes work clothes, towel, shower supplies, makeup, and gym clothes. I also have all my food for the day lined up in containers on the top shelf of my fridge. That way I don’t have to think about anything else in the morning other than “coffee, let out Kaipo to pee, grab bag, GO!”

 

2) Triswim products:

Hands down, this is the best beauty product I own. A staple in my gym back, Triswim is a line of body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion that neutralizes chlorine and makes your hair and skin actually look healthy. It’s also safe on color treated hair. Because Triswim is a major supporter of Rev3, I am fortunate to get their goods for free, but I would absolutely pay full price for this line. It really is worth every penny.

 

3) Headbands, ponytails and braids:

Who wants to mess with a blowdryer? Think about what else you could do in those five minutes to ten minutes you spend drying your hair: you could run an extra mile! Do an entire core set! Read one of my latest blog updates! (equally as valuable, of course!) When I had longer hair, I would regularly throw my wet hair in a braid to make it “work appropriate.” Now that my hair is shorter, I throw it into a low ponytail and slap on a business-appropriate headband to make my hair look “polished” (or so the beauty magazines tell me).

 

4) Workout friendly makeup:

I know makeup is a personal choice, but without it I look like I’m 16, so I wear makeup to work every day. Since I often go straight from work to more training, it’s important I wear makeup that is “workout friendly.” A few years ago a friend introduced me to one of those “mineral” lines of powder makeup, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I also have one of those eyeshadow trios that involves very little thought and/or coordination to put on. Combine that with some mascara and all-day lipstain, and I have a 3.5 minute makeup routine that stays on all day and doesn’t drip off with my evening sweatfest.

 

5) Compression friendly skirts and pants:

Have you ever asked yourself “can I wear compression under this?” I have a whole arsenal of skirts that are just long enough to hide compression shorts, and I pair them with boots that are just tall enough to hide compression socks. I also have several pairs of pants loose enough to hide all things compression. Because the last thing you want is your coworkers thinking you’re rocking spanx all day.

 

 

I’m always looking to add more tips to my arsenal. What are your favorite tips on how to train like a beast but still smell and look pretty?

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Did you hear that it’s technically spring? Because apparently New England hasn’t gotten that memo. But despite the cold temps, I must get my butt outside and train. Why? Because it’s the start of the 2014 triathlon season!

After finally having everything come together at Rev3 Cedar Point last year I am ready to see what my body is truly capable of this season. Unlike previous seasons, I’m starting off the season at a pretty good place. Since my offseason activities involved cycling across Southeast Asia I’ve maintained a pretty decent level of fitness. Additionally, since I finally got “my” race, I’ve got that fire inside to push me to train and race even that much harder.

Before this season began, I spent some time reflecting on what training strategies worked and what didn’t. I thought about my strengths and my weaknesses and made a list of concrete things I could do to improve, and what things I’d like my coach to help me work on. Since I’m a list person, I found this very reassuring.

As always, my biggest challenge is with my running. It’s been very frustrating watching myself essentially go stagnant with pacing over the years. After talking to several people, I think that I do have the speed in me (since my track and tempo times have been improving over the years), but I’m lacking the mental strength to truly suffer. So the goal this season is to tap into that suffering side on both the run and the bike. I’ll be doing weekly TTs hosted by the fabulous Providence Bicycle and will try to tag along with the big boys for more rides. In fact, we had the first TT last night and it was awesome to push myself into the red zone. My coach was also in town so we had some mutual suffering:

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Our beast mode faces

For running, I’m going to continue my track workouts with my amazing run group, but I’ve switched to a day when the group is bigger and even faster. I’ve also decided to do regular (one or twice a month) 5 or 10k local road races, since nothing pushes you harder than chasing down fellow competitors.

All of this training will hopefully lead to my best season yet! I’ve already identified my major races for this season. As you can see, it’s a Rev3 Lovefest:

May 18: Rev3 Knoxville Age Group Championships: 1 mile swim/ 40 mile bike/ 10 mile run

May 31-June 1: Rev3 Quassy Revolution: Olympic on 5/31, 70.3 on 6/1

June 15: Rev3 Williamsburg: 70.3

August 24: Rev3 Maine Relay (probably do the swim)

September 7: Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6

 

I am so excited for what lies ahead: may the fun and games begin!

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February 3, Day 12: Somewhere in Laos to Phonsavan

“The mushrooms in that soup were delicious.” “Those weren’t mushrooms, that was intestine.”

Knowing we had a 10km climb at the beginning of our ride, we headed out at first light. It was cold–almost too cold–but since we knew how hot it would get later we tried to enjoy the cool. Almost halfway up the climb my rear derailleur stopped working so now I had only one gear to work with. On top of that I realized some sort of bastardized washer/screw combo was holding on my rear wheel and that wasn’t seated properly. So now I had no rear brake, one gear, and a rear wheel that looked like it was about to fly off. Needless to say, I was a bit stressed.

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Trying to fix my bike mid-climb

We saw what looked like (on the map) a modest village about 30km ahead and decided to try to find any sort of mechanic to work on my bike. Bicycle shops were beyond scarce, but almost every major village had some sort of motorbike mechanic. We pulled into town and mimed a mechanic. Eventually we were pointed in the right direction. When we pulled up there was a flurry of activity and a dozen guys came out. I mimed my rear brake and they fixed it pretty quickly. I then pointed to my wheel and they dug up some spare parts to secure the wheel. The gears, however, posed a problem. Three guys were simultaneously working on bike and spouting Laos as they tried to figure out how the derailleur worked and how they could fix it. About ten minutes later, I proclaimed it “good enough” and then we thanked the mechanics and headed off for a late breakfast. After gorging on sticky rice, fried eggs and beef stirfry, we hit the road–only 30 km left to Phonsavan!

As soon as we started back up again I realized my shifter hadn’t really been fixed, but the brake and the wheel was fine, so I determined the morning a success. As we pushed on with the thought of BeerLao dancing in our heads, we fought the intense mid-day heat and sun. We had most definitely left the mountains and entered the plains. The temperature was almost unbearable. In fact, this leg of the trip nearly broke Robert. We took a lot of extra hydration and cooling stops and slowly made our way towards town.

We finally pulled into town around 2:30–early compared to our previous days–and checked into a guesthouse. We did some laundry, took a shower, and went out to explore town. We finally found the holy grail–a bike shop that sold baskets! We were able to rig up an attachment involving old, questionable zip ties. We then found an internet cafe, spent an hour doing work, and then headed off for dinner and BeerLao. We then returned to our guesthouse, found a TV channel in English, and traded back massages while we sipped more BeerLao, nibbled on papaya, and forgot all about our struggles of the day. Ah, the good life!

February 4, Day 13: Plain of Jars to Muong Khoun

“I think I see worms in this water. Perhaps we shouldn’t swim?” “Worms? I don’t see any worms. I’m going in.”

We again woke with the sun to hit the road. We decided we would spend the day visiting the Plain of Jars: a Unesco World Heritage Site of 2000 year old burial urns. We grabbed breakfast on the way out of town of eggs and sticky rice and eagerly looked forward to a leisurely cycle out to see the old ruins. We were especially happy because we could transfer a lot of weight from our packs into the new baskets on the front of our bike.

Our happy feeling was short lived, however, because we turned off the main road onto a dirt road that was pocked with craters and riddled with rocks. Oh yeah, and every 2 minutes a truck went by completely encasing us in dust and making the visibility zero. We pulled our bandanas over our noses and mouths and soldiered on–nothing was going to get in our way!

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Because the roads were so bad it took us over 2 hours to travel 15 km. It was brutal. We weren’t sure what to expect when we got to the site, but all the guidebooks made it sound like a breathtaking site. Don’t get me wrong; it was really amazing to see the old urns and the surrounding hillsides, but was it worth a 5 hour round trip bike ride across soul crushing roads and getting dust over and in every part of your body? Hell no. I hated the bumps. I hated the dust. I hated that we kept snapping precious zipties that held our baskets together. I was grumpy, grumpy, grumpy.

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Halfway through this grumpfest we stopped at a “waterfall” which was more like an area of cascading rapids. No one was around so I changed into my Rev3 shimmer suit and cooled off in the water. It was awesome.

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By the time we finally left the dusty road it was after 3, and we hadn’t yet eaten lunch. We grabbed a quick lunch of Pho and then decided to hitchike to the next town since we were both in such bad moods from our ride. It took us over 45 minutes, but we managed to find a work truck with room in the back for both our bikes. We hopped in and enjoyed a scenic ride throughout the farmland until we got to Muong Khoun.

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We got dropped off in the middle of town and went off in search of a guesthouse. We found one, but they wanted 80,000k a night ($10). Robert was able to talk them down to 60,000. We rinsed the dust off our bikes and scrubbed our bodies as best we could.

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Since the map indicated the next 200km or so might be similar road conditions as to what we had just encountered, we tried to find someone who spoke English to give us a better idea of what we would be riding over for the next few days. We learned that people here don’t have a lot of experience reading maps, as they looked confused whenever we pulled one out. But after some miming they assured us the rest of the route would be flat and smooth.

We then grabbed a delicious dinner washed down with (surprise) more BeerLao, then headed back to our guesthouse for more massage swap. We headed to bed early, eager for the next day of our adventure.

 

February 5, Day 14: Muong Khoun to Muang Mok

“What’s this I’m eating?” “Like tiger, but smaller.”

We woke again with the sun. I had a rough night of excruciating stomach cramps, but thought after one bathroom event I was fine. We ate some melon for breakfast and then hit the road. We were blessed with immaculately paved roads and were in heaven.

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That quickly faded, however, when we got about 20km in. Suddenly, the road turned to dirt and was rockier than the previous day. And to top it all off, my stomach started cramping again.

We decided to pull into the next village and try to hitchhike. Right away we lucked out, as a man had stopped for gas and was headed in our direction. We threw in our bikes in the back of his truck and hopped inside the cabin. He took us as far as he was going and then we got out and gave him a few dollars in return. We then had a difficult challenge ahead of us: the road we were on had almost no traffic but it was impassable by bicycle and we had no idea how to get to the next village. We walked to a gas station to ask a motorist if they were headed in our direction when we suddenly heard “Please, come!”

We looked to see a table full of a dozen of Laos men who were surrounded by empty beer bottles and visibly drunk at 2 in the afternoon. Right away they passed us some beer and encouraged us to drink. Since my stomach hurt so bad drinking was the last thing on my mind, but I took tiny sips to be polite. One man spoke English–he was the English teacher at the local school–and told us that hardly any Westerners come through this part of Laos. He explained the roads were very bad and under construction. He also said that it would be impossible for us to continue by bicycle because of the road condition and because we would be crossing mountains.

We began to get upset, and my stomach pain was not helping the situation. His friends offered to drive us to our destination for $100, but we knew there was no way we would spend that kind of money. So we sat. And waited. And waited some more.  Eventually we flagged down a truck and found one headed to Muang Mok! Even better, one of the drivers spoke English! He told us we were nuts to try to attempt this route by bicycle and ahead of us lay 60 km of horrible road conditions. He wasn’t kidding: the roads were so subpar that it was almost impossible for our truck to navigate it.

We began to slowly navigate the rocks at 5-10 km per hour. Meanwhile my stomach pain was getting worse and worse. We stopped so they could get water from a waterfall, and that was when the first (and second) wave of my GI distress hit. Using SAT vocabulary (that’s how Robert and I decided to communicate when we were around people who understood English) I told him I was sick. I was in so much pain as we kept driving that I was clenching my jaw and pinching my arm to distract myself from the stomach pain. We were driving through amazing scenery, but sadly I couldn’t enjoy it.

Eventually we pulled up to a queue of cars. “We wait here,” our driver said. He explained that they close the roads until 5pm due to the construction. As this point it was only 3:30, so we had a lot of time to kill. I was desperate to try to relieve my pain, so I grabbed my sarong from my pack and laid it out like a blanket on top of the red dust. The next 90 minutes consisted of me lying down and moaning and jumping up every 10 minutes or so to have more waves of GI fun.

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I told Robert I would probably want a photo to document the moment of the worst pain on the trip. I was right.

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The line of people waiting for the road to be opened back up

Eventually the bulldozers appeared and began packing down the hillside to make the “road” for us. We piled into the truck and hung on for another long and bumpy ride. The afternoon light made the mountains unbelievably gorgeous. Eventually we pulled into town. Our driver showed us the road we would take to hitchhike the next day and then dropped us off at a guesthouse. Of all the nights, of course this is the night we end up with a communal squat toilet–the night I’m sick. I was still in absolute agony so I skipped dinner while Robert went out in search of dinner. I was able to take in some coconut water before bed and turned in early in hopes of feeling better in the morning.

February 6, Day 15: Muong Mok to Kang Vieng

“There’s no taxi to Tasi”

I woke feeling like a whole new person–the sickness had passed! Now that I was feeling better, the logical side of my brain kicked in. How the hell were we going to get out of this village? Since our guesthouse didn’t turn on the power in the morning I got ready by headlamp and headed to the market for breakfast. I was wary of putting anything complex in my stomach, so I found some doughnut-like balls and ate them to test the intestinal waters. We then headed to the edge of town with a main mission: find a hitchhike!

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Where we waited all morning

After almost 4 hours of waiting only three trucks passed us. One was going only 2km up the road, and the other was full. The third kept telling us “no, no, boom boom!” (we later found out they were carrying explosives to the construction site) At noon we decided to head back to the village to try to get more information. We stopped in some government offices, which proved useless, and then headed back to find the person who had given us a ride the previous day. He owned a wood shop in town and mentioned that another village was only 25 km away. He explained that the roads were terrible and all uphill so it would take us at least 4 hours if we wanted to attempt to go by bicycle. Faced with no other option, we grabbed a quick bowl of Pho and decided to go into beast mode and just get to the next village no matter what it took.

We stopped at the edge of town to put on sunscreen. Right then a truck pulled up. We flagged it down–it was headed to Kang Vieng and it would take us! Inside were two brothers who spoke limited English. They told us their family owned a guesthouse in the village. They dropped us off at the guesthouse, refusing our offer of money for the ride. Robert and I then decided to explore the village. We headed off on our bikes.

We made it less than 5 minutes when we heard Karaoke. We decided to investigate. As we got closer we heard “please, come!” so we headed in. There was a group of a dozen men surrounded by beer bottles. Before we could even say “Sabaidee” there was beer in our hands and we were toasting and drinking. A few of the men spoke English. They all seemed pretty tickled by the fact a Western girl was in their bar and we were having a blast. We sang Karaoke, drank copious amounts of Beer, and stuffed ourselves to the gills with fish and sticky rice.

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But the real treat was when they found out the following day was my birthday. They made me an omelet, called it cake, stuck a candle in it, and sang me happy birthday. It was quite possibly the best birthday celebration I’d ever had–sitting in a remote Laos village, surrounded by beer, food, and the laughter of strangers and friends. The village children had even begun to gather to explore us.

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What a truly amazing day–one that had started out with the potential to be miserable, but ended up turning into one of the most memorable days of my life.

 

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January 31, Day 9: Luang Prabang

I woke at sunrise and again headed out for a run–this time with the Lao student.

IMG_1870He took me on a route I otherwise wouldn’t have gone on and took me to another bamboo bridge. On the way back he pointed out vendors to buy food from. After the run I did some laundry in the bathroom sink, said goodbye to the American (he was headed North) and went off for breakfast. I got a mound of sticky rice for about 25 cents and meandered through the city, as I killed time before Robert arrived.

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Robert was returning from a 20 day kayaking trip with another friend, and we reunited in the lobby of a travel agency. After we met our mission was to find a bike. I had several leads from the previous say that we went to explore. The first set of bikes we saw were in our budget (~$100) but a complete mess. The bottom brackets were loose and they needed new cassettes and chains. The second set of bikes were much better. One was clearly better than the other, as the sub-par one had a stretched chain and finicky derailleurs. But they were the best we could find and we were eager to hit the road the next morning. We talked the price down from $200 each to $160, and proudly declared our bike hunt a victory. We then finalized our cycling route with a local and headed back to the guesthouse for a major gear sort. Robert and his friend had a lot of gear to pack up. Since they were both continuing off on their own trips, they were dropping their kayaking gear at a self-storage facility in Bangkok. While they sorted their gear I lubed up the bikes and mounted lights and our mini-pump.

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We then stuffed ourselves silly with hot pot and then headed to the night market for coconut pancakes. We ended up getting back to the guesthouse extraordinarily late but full of adrenaline for the start of our bike journey.

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February 1, Day 10: Somewhere in Laos

Holy cow. How do I even begin to describe my experiences from this day? Well, to give you an idea, I’m writing this from a floormat of a village home where I ate dinner with Robert and the village chief’s son while dozens of kids stared at us in wide-eyed wonder. But let me back up a bit.

Today was day 1 of our cycling journey. With our new (old) mountain bikes and heavy backpacks in tow, we headed off full of energy and excitement.

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We grabbed a breakfast of sticky rice and pork and watched as the hustle and bustle of Luang Prabang faded to rural Laos. About 20km in we stopped to get sugar cane juice from a roadside vendor and spent 20 wonderful minutes playing with the children.

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From there we began our big climb: 1000m over 10km. We knew the climb would be hard but underestimated just how much harder our packs and the full sun would make it. (Plus, our flat pedal bikes with gears that liked to jump were not making our lives easier. My bike only worked in either the smallest chainring or the largest. If I tried to use the middle it would just click-clack and make no forward movement. Plus, shifting from the small to large chain ring required 2 hands and about 30 seconds of patience. So yes, our bikes were not helping our cause.) The climb took an eternity.

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By the time we got to the top I was shaking from bonking and dehydration, as we were 4 hours into our day. We were beyond elated for the exhilarating descent. We sped through villages and kids ran out to yell “Sabaidee!” and high-five us. At the bottom of the hill we had a village boy direct us to a place where we could “Kin Kao?” (eat).

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We ate at an equivalent of a rest stop: rows of squat toilets, a hand-crank petrol pump, plus some food. We asked for food and was served sticky rice, green papaya salad and beef jerky.

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We started thinking about our upcoming climb, 2km long and 1600m high, and realized we would likely crack ourselves and hate each other if we tried to climb it. So we decided to cheat and hitchike. Because a car came by about every ten minutes, we thought we had a decent shot. Robert laid down to take a nap, and I was on truck duty. Eventually I saw a truck on the horizon. I ran to the road, stuck out my hand, and put the biggest hopeful grin on my face. The truck stopped and I pointed to my bike: “okay?” they nodded. I then mimed a mountain and indicated to be dropped off at the top. They also said “okay.” I woke up Robert and we hauled our bikes and ourselves up on the back. It was a large truck with a wench in the back and we sat with the workers.

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As we climbed the hill we realized we had made a smart decision as there was no way we would have been able to climb that hill and stay in one piece. We jumped off at the top and carried on our journey, stopping to play with children we encountered in villages. As the sun got lower on the horizon we realized we needed to consider housing for the night.

Robert had used homestays while he was in Northern Laos and thought we could easily find one for the night. The first village laughed at us. The second gave us a very emphatic no. By now the sun was dropping fast and it was starting to get dark. At the first village we initially got a no, but Robert persisted and eventually an English speaking man came. He told me that homestays in his village were difficult. I asked him why. A lot of Lao was exchanged among the women and the men and then he said “I’m sorry you cannot sleep together because in my family we believe in spirits.” We reassured them that we were just friends and did not want to sleep together. Eventually the man relented.

We followed him to his simple concrete house while a large group of kids tagged along. He led us inside to a straw mat and told us to relax while he prepared dinner. The kids all stood in the doorway, staring at us. I took out my iphone and then the fun began. Nothing engaged kids more than selfies!

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We then ate dinner outside with the man while villagers surrounded us and stared and giggled. We learned this man was the village chief’s son and was a secondary school English teacher. He was excited to practice his English with us, but we were exhausted from our first day on the road and didn’t last long. He offered me his room to sleep in (again, a straw mat) and he and Robert slept in another room. He offered us “special water from his village,” which was cloudy water from an old oil container, so I graciously accepted and then surreptitiously treated with my Steri-pen once out of sight. I settled in for the night amazed that I already experienced so much on day 1 of my trip–who knows what the next days will bring!

February 2, Day 11: Somewhere in Laos

We woke rather late and didn’t hit the road until 8. We said thank you to our gracious host and offered him some money, which he initially refused but accepted after our insistence. We then stopped at the next village for some noodle soup and ran into two British women cycling the reverse route. After a leisurely breakfast it was time to hit the road again, and we continued until the next main village of Phou Koun. There was a market so we stopped for food. We decided to pass on the grilled lizard, chicks, frogs and squirrel and instead went with the fried bananas, sapote, grilled chicken and sausage. We filled our bottles with water (nam) from the communal barrel, which of course we treated with our Steri-pen.

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At this point I realized my rear brake was malfunctioning and I didn’t have the proper tool to fix it. The next village with any sort of mechanic was about 2 days away, so I decided to disable my rear brake. But I was in good company because earlier in the day Robert lost his front brake. So between the two of us we had one fully functioning bicycle.

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The hills were pretty impressive. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and we were covering some pretty impressive climbs.

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Between my bruised back (from my pack the previous day) and my crotch that was not used to riding so upright, I was in a lot of pain. I decided to go a gear evaluation and unloaded some weight–I tore out the pages I needed from my Lonely Planet book and left the rest of the Thailand tome behind, plus I dumped some hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and extra toothpaste. I also took the bungee cords out of my pack and strapped them to my bike, and split some of the “collective cycling weight” (Powerbar, cycling tools, etc) with Robert. That made my pack a bit more manageable.

We forged ahead, Sabaideeing with all the kids in the villages we passed. At one point a moped passed us with my Lonely Planet book! The driver thought I had accidentally left it in the previous village and was trying to return it to me. I used body language to explain that it was too heavy and he could keep it. That’s just a great example of the Laos hospitality.

Late in the afternoon we stopped for some sugar drinks and played a version of badminton with the children–their birdie was made out of woven banana leaves and chicken feathers. After another long climb followed by a screaming descent, we tried to find a place to stay. A lot of villages told us no (we assumed it was because they thought Robert and I were an unmarried couple), but eventually we found a place. We stayed in a village right along a river and when we arrived people were bathing in it–men in their underwear, women in a sarong. We decided to fit right in (well, as much as two Westerners can in a rural Laos village!) so I pulled out my sarong and Robert stripped to his tighty-whiteys and we marched down to the river just like we belonged. We got a lot of giggles but we just laughed along with everyone. It was my first real shower in almost three days so I was happy to wash the nasty off of me. We then went back to our home to relax before dinner. We ate a dinner of noodle soup and headed to bed early, exhausted from our day.

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IMG_1814January 27, Day 5: Pak Chong

I planned to go for another run this morning, but since the tour guide expressed shock that I wasn’t mauled by dogs the previous day, I decided to play it safe and stay in to wash my hair and shave my legs (seriously–since we had no hot water and it was quite cold at night, I hadn’t had a proper shower in nearly three days). I then spent the early morning finalizing travel plans and headed out for a private tour of some nearby caves. When the tour guide the previous day found out I researched bats, he told me he would take me to a special place.

We drove to a nearby monastery and some monks came out. A long exchange of Thai ensued, followed by “please, follow me.” A monk led us down a very primitive wooden ladder into a deep cave. We spent two hours exploring the network of caves and watching the bats. Although most were high at the top of the cave, we did manage to get close. We crawled on our hands and knees into a small opening–there, a mere inches from our head, was a Rhinolophus–a noseleaf bat.

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I am absolutely fascinated by these bats since unlike the bats most Americans know, the noseleaf bats produce sounds in their larynx and emit them through their elaborate nose structures. Getting so close I could touch it was such a treasure. The guides were just as excited as I was, since they had never been in that cave before.

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After our bat expedition I went back to the lodge to quickly rinse off the dust of guano covering my body, then scarfed down a plate of pad thai. The rest of my day was going to be a mystery. I knew I could get to Chiang Khong from Pak Chong via a network of buses, but no one knew the timetables of the buses. My job was just to show up at the designated stops and hope for the best.

The first leg was a very easy 90 minute ride. But the next leg, a supposed 16 hour trek from Khorat to Chiang Rai, had the biggest chances for missed buses and spending the night in a Thai bus terminal. When I pulled up to the station, a man asked me where I was going and helped me find the right ticket counter.  I learned my bus was leaving in 27 minutes (score!), my trip would be 13 hours (double score!) and it had a toilet (triple score!). But the best part? Only 660 Baht (about 20 USD).

I got my ticket, loaded up at the market for “dinner,” found my seat on the bus, settled in, and we were off!

 

January 28, Day 5: Laos and the Slow Boat

At 5am, we finally arrived in Chiang Rai to a deserted bus stop. I got off and asked the driver for Chiang Khong. He just stared blankly at me and talked in Thai to the other riders. I could tell something wasn’t right, but no one could communicate it to me. I took a seat at the station and tried to summon my “be calm and wait” mantra. A few minutes later someone came up to me speaking broken English. After a lot of map pointing I learned I was at the wrong bus stop. A tuk-tuk driver offered to take me to the station. As it whisked me away into the darkness I prayed I could end up where I needed to go. He dropped me off at a station that had considerably more people, and I saw signs for Chiang Khong. Phew. The right bus station.

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I waited an hour till our bus arrived then boarded a very basic bus to Chiang Khong. Since it was so early I was trying to decide whether I should stay in Chiang Khong for the day as planned, or just continue into Laos to take the slowboat. After I met several Europeans headed to the slowboat, I decided to bump up my itinerary and head to Luang Prabang a day early.

We got dropped off in Chiang Khong along the side of the road and after several minutes of confusion learned we needed to take a tuk-tuk to the border crossing.We crossed through the Thai checkpoint, getting our passports stamped, then boarded a bus to cross the bridge to Laos. There we filled out a mound of paperwork and hesitantly handed over our passports where they were taken out of view. A large line had formed and there seemed to be no organization as to how they were handing back the passports. After my name was called, I forked over the $40 US for the visa, and then I officially crossed into Laos.

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The tuk-tuk ride to the border

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The border bus

 

From there things got a bit chaotic. We heard the slowboat left at 10am, and it was 9:20. A van driver told us he would take us to the boats for a hefty fee. With no other options, we reluctantly agreed. The driver sped through the city streets and after about 10 minutes dropped us off in front of a rickety storefront and said “ticket here.” A woman came out and asked for our passports. I was yet again terrified to hand over my passport but had no other option. Someone immediately ran down the street with our passports. “Uhh….passport?” I asked the woman. “One minute, one minute,” she said. I tried to pass each nerve wracking second by stocking up on water and food for our two-day long trip down the Mekong River. The clock ticked closer to 10–were we going to make it?

Eventually a girl came back up the street with our passports and tickets. We hurried down to the boat–just in time! (or so we thought)–and settled into our wooden seat with a tiny cushion. Turns out a 10am departure is very loose in Laos–we didn’t push off from the dock until 11:45. Apparently they wait until the boat is entirely full before pushing off.

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The boat itself was very simple, and our seats horribly uncomfortable, but the but had a toilet and I had the great company of European travelers. Our ride down the Mekong meandered along the riverbanks for 7 hours. We passed by clusters of thatched huts and kids playing by the river, herds of water buffalo, and plenty of other boat traffic. Eventually we made it to our overnight destination, Pak Beng, around dinnertime.

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Once we docked it was utter chaos of 100 passengers disembarking and scrambling for our luggage (which they simply threw out on the dock) and small kids tugging at your clothes and begging for money. Once we got all our bags it was another mad scramble to find a guesthouse. We realized rooms were not as cheap as in Thailand (since Pak Beng’s economy revolves solely around the tourists on the slowboat), so we decided to split rooms. I ended up splitting a room with three other people: a Polish girl and Irish boy in one bed, and me and a Frenchman in another. We reassured the guesthouse owner that we were all married and slipped her an extra 50 Baht to keep her happy about packing the room. We then had a lively dinner fueled by Beer Lao and punctuated by shady characters trying to sell us pot and heroin. We settled in rather early as we had the second leg of our boat to catch the following day!

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Chaos of disembarking

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My roommates in Pak Beng

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January 29, Day 7: Luang Prabang

I woke up relatively early and negotiated some markets for breakfast before the boat took off. Of course, there was confusion boarding the boat. I eventually chose the last seat on the boat–right up front–and we took off for our last day on the Mekong.

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Pak Beng

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Main street of Pak Beng

Right away I started chatting with a fellow American who was visiting Laos for research related to environmental social justice. Once we realized we were both scientists, we knew we would be chatting for the whole time. Meanwhile, the boat periodically stopped at remote villages to let locals on. They all piled by my feet with livestock in tow. We even had pigs and chickens on our boat.

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Do you see the chicken?

Some of the locals thought the American and I were married and we spent about 10 minutes of hilarious body language trying to convince them that we weren’t married and were each traveling alone. They made us hold hands and then a whole lot of Lao was spoken followed by a lot of laughter. I’m pretty sure I might have gotten married at that moment.

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Eventually the boat driver pulled up to a muddy riverbank and told us to get out. Umm, what? We were all confused because we were clearly not in Luang Prabang. We remained seated. The boat driver looked confused because we weren’t budging. Eventually they just started offloading our luggage which of course made us get off. Chaos then ensued. One tourist on the boat spoke broken Thai and helped translate that yes, this is the place we were supposed to get off at and we needed to take a bus into town from there. We were all irritated because we had to spend money on the bus and we thought we were getting scammed yet again.

We crammed into a tuk-tuk to travel the last 10k into town. We got dumped off at the main city center and I buddied up with my new husband to find a guesthouse. After unsuccessfully trying to track down ones we had read about, we started asking locals. We learned that since it was Chinese New Year almost every guesthouse was full. After a lot more searching we got a tip on a sign-less guesthouse that might have room so we headed there. We asked–and they had one room left for about 8 bucks a night. We happily took the room and headed out to the night market in search of major calories since we hadn’t had a proper meal all day.

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Our simple room

We filled ourselves at the market, washing dinner down with Beer Lao, and then wandered the market admiring all the goods that I could not fit into my 30L backpack. We eventually crossed the Khan River via a bamboo footbridge and ended our night sipping Beer Lao Dark from a riverside cafe.

January 30, Day 8: Luang Prabang

Excited that I finally found a place to run, I set my alarm for early and eagerly took off at sunrise. I had a fun time exploring but kept running into the procession of monks receiving alms and out of respect wanted to avoid that. I looped around the city, again crossing the bamboo bridge.

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Bike tubes for lashings!

After my run I headed out with the American in search of breakfast and had noodle soup along the road. We then found a cafe with some wifi and chatted with the cafe owner. He gave me some leads on bikes (my mission for the day: find a secondhand bike to buy!) and I headed off. The first place was a dud but they recommended I walk around and talk to bike rental shops. I spent the next four hours wandering all over the city asking people if they had secondhand mountain bikes to sell.

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Says (at least what they told me!) “I would like to buy a secondhand bicycle”

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Most places wanted 200-300 US each, which was WAY more than I planned on, but I found one place willing to sell for 100. The bikes were in pretty horrific condition so I told them I might come back. I eventually ran into a man who told me his brother’s friend might have one to sell. He took down my guesthouse information and promised he would call later. I was optimistic, but also thought the chances were high he wouldn’t call.

I then found an internet cafe with computers to use and caught up on a few hours of work. I returned to the guesthouse at dusk and had a beer with a Lao college student who worked at the guesthouse. I talked to him about my upcoming trip and he kept saying how amazing my trip was going to be and how jealous he was of me. My excitement level for our cycling leg kept rising and rising.

Once it got dark I headed off with the American for dinner and had the best green papaya salad and Laab Gai of my life–along the river in a tiny family-run restaurant with the kitchen in their house across the street. But the best part was that we ordered everything entirely in Laos!

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I got back full and happy. Sadly, my bike connection hadn’t called. But Robert was arriving the next day and I knew together we would come up with a plan of attack. I went to bed weary but with a huge smile on my face.

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January 25, Day 3: Pak Chong

Yet again, I woke early as today it was time for me to leave Bangkok and begin my journey to Pak Chong. I took the skytrain to the Moh Chit BTS station, but then still had to make my way to the Moh Chit bus station, which was a ways away from the BTS station. I hailed a taxi, and then asked the driver, successfully, in Thai, take me to the bus station. I got to the bus station and then headed inside to buy a ticket.

 

The guesthouse I was traveling to told me to buy a bus ticket from window 4-50. Most places in Bangkok had English as well as Thai on signs, so I thought I wouldn’t have a problem finding a window in which to buy a ticket. When I showed up, I realized I was wrong.

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After staring for a few minutes, a man approached spouting Thai. I just said Pak Chong, which was the town I was headed to. He ushered me to a window. Again, the lady spouted off in Thai and I again said Pak Chong. She then showed me how much (150 Baht, less than $5) and a timetable. I bought a ticket, grabbed a quick breakfast, and boarded the bus.

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My ticket: yep, I totally understand this…

The bus itself was more luxurious than I expected- plush seats and an interior that curiously had a repeating Statue of Liberty pattern.

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There was also a toilet on board and they passed out water and snacks to the passengers. When we left the station the bus was nearly empty but as we pulled into stations north of Bangkok it began to fill quickly.

After attempting to leave the bus of the wrong station, I finally arrived in Pak Chong. The station consisted of a ticket counter and a few bucket seats along the main road. I handed over a piece of paper that had the Thai translation of “I need to call this number so they will pick me up.” A woman used her cell phone to call for me and I was told to wait. Five minutes later a driver picked up and took me to the lodge.

The Greenleaf Guesthouse, listed as a top pick in the Lonely Planet, is located right along the busy highway, but the simple rooms are in the back along a peaceful garden. For 200 Baht I got a private room bathroom with electricity, a fan, and cold water.

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After I checked in, I had lunch at the lodge restaurant and then met other travelers in our group: four Englishmen, one Canadian, one South Korean and myself. We packed into the open air back of a truck and then headed off for a half-day tour.

 

Our first stop was at a spring for a swim, an area that was packed with locals. The women were told that it is Thai custom for women to swim with aT-shirt over the swimsuit, so I jumped in with my shirt on. We swam for about 20 minutes (I sculled the whole time to try to squeeze in a workout!) then headed back to the van.

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After a long, dusty ride, we reached a monastery. Our guide explained that there is a cave here that the monks used. We excitedly descended into the cave and were greeted by a giant Buddha. We spent nearly an hour there and saw three species of bats as well as spiders, centipedes, and other cave creatures. I was in a biologist’s heaven.

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Noseleaf Bat

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Bat guano!

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Scorpion spider: I’m told it’s not venomous

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After the cave we got back on the truck for another long, dusty ride.

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We were headed to the entrance of the cave that housed over 1 million bats. We arrived just in time. As we were walking our guide shouted “they’ve started!” We looked up and saw a line of bats overhead. Suddenly the sounds were nearly deafening. The whoosh of the wing beats of thousands upon thousands of bats permeated the sky. Opportunistic hawks swooped in and out of the river of bats, plucking individuals with their claws and taking them to nearby trees to devour. The bats moved with the wind and it was utterly fascinating to watch the bat ballet. We watched for nearly 20 minutes as the stream of bats ebbed and flowed and danced across the sky.

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And then, suddenly as it began, it stopped. We made our way back to the lodge and I dined on green curry with fellow travelers while we drank beer and swapped stories. Just a truly amazing day.

 

January 26, Day 4: Pak Chong

Having not run one bit since I came to Thailand, I was beyond antsy to pound out a few miles. Figuring the major highway would be calmer in the early morning, I decided to give it a go. I set my alarm early and anxiously waited for just enough light to hit the road. I began on the major road and then turned up side road. It reminded me a lot of Hawaii- roads where if you think about it you realize that if you died no one would find your body for days, but if you didn’t think about it becomes a peaceful experience.

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I slogged out four easy miles and happily returned to the lodge for breakfast before departing for our daylong tour.

 

We boarded the same open-air truck as the previous day and drove to the Khao Yai National Park. Since it was a weekend, it was packed with locals- more crowded than I expected. We drove to a lookout site to snap some photos, then headed to the interior for some trekking. During our multi hour hike we saw Macaques, a Blue Bearded Bee-eater, Great Hornbill, Black Giant Squirrel, and a White-lipped pit viper.

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Our tour group

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Great Hornbill

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Giant Squirrel

 

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Midway through our trek

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A common area where elephants gather

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Our lunch break spot

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See the white-lipped pit viper?

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There it is!

 

We ate a simple lunch on the trail of rice, vegetables and tofu that the guesthouse prepared for us, then continued on our journey. We stopped at the waterfall but were underwhelmed by the combination of crowds of tourists and lack of water (I guess that’s what you get for visiting a waterfall in the dry season).

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We then drove around a few more hours trying to find elephants but were unsuccessful, and ended our day with dinner and more beer at the guesthouse.

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Dinner with our group at the guesthouse

I had to figure out how to get from Pak Chong to Chiang Kong, my destination before crossing into Laos. After a lot of discussion with the guesthouse staff, and nearly booking a ticket for Chiang Khan, which would have put me in a very different part of Thailand, I finally determined my route: 1 hour bus to Khorat then a 16h bus to Chiang Rai and then a 3h bus to Chiang Kong.

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The “technology” we had at our disposal to figure out the bus/train schedules

I stayed up late giving biology lessons to some of the guides and made plans with a guide for a private tour of another Bat cave the following day since my bus didn’t leave until the afternoon.

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Impromptu science lesson for the tour guides!

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IMG_2372Going into this trip I had high expectations. Usually, with things such as this, my expectations are set too high and I end up disappointed. But on this trip, the reality far exceeded my expectations.

 
Over the past six weeks I have traveled throughout Thailand, Laos and Cambodia: half solo and half on a cycling tour with my dear friend Robert. My travels taught me to be more fearless, patient, self reliant, tolerant, creative, frugal, and most importantly, more adventurous. I must credit most of this to Robert; without his invitation to “take an epic trip” and without his prior travel knowledge I never would have the initiative to take this trip and I never would have the balls to pull into a random rural village and request a home stay by asking “sleep here is possible?”

 
From getting drunk on my birthday with the Laos army to getting into a fight with a Cambodian woman over a watermelon and everything in between, this trip is full of amazing memories that I don’t want to fade over time. For that reason, and to do my best to take you along on my journey, I decided to document my trip in as much detail as possible. In addition to photos I maintained a fairly detailed daily diary of my trip. My hope is that you can glean just a fraction of what I experienced from my writing and that this may motivate you to one day take such a journey on your own.
Sawaddee- Ka!

 

January 23, Day 1: Bangkok

I arrived at the Bangkok airport at 1:30 in the morning. After navigating customs I made my way to find the taxi line of over 50 drivers that were waiting for customers. Despite the sign assuring me that all taxis would turn on their meter, the driver started leaving without turning on his meter. I had read that this is a classic scheme in which the taxi drivers try to scam tourists, so I asked him to turn the meter on. He made a little bit of a fuss but turned it on. As we pulled into the city was a lot quieter than I expected. Thirty minutes and 350 Baht (about 10 dollars) later we pulled down a side street and I saw the sign for my youth hostel. At this point I had been traveling for over 50 hours so I was very weary and checked in and made my way to my room as quietly as possible so as not to disturb my dormmates. My head hit the pillow at 3:30 AM and I was out cold.

My hostel room

My hostel room

I then woke at 6:45 to the sun and the sound of my dormmates stirring. Wanting to stay one step ahead of jetlag I began my day. After a much appreciated cold shower I headed to the hostel lobby where I had some coffee and toast. I met some other travelers including several photographers who had come to document the Bangkok protests. They helped me circle areas on my map of the regions I should avoid due to protests.

 

I was itching for some exercise, so I decided to take the skytrain and then walk the rest of my way to the main tourist area. Not five minutes into my walk I encountered a major intersection with what appeared to be a concert. Since this wasn’t an area I was told to avoid, I decided to keep on walking. I saw row after row of tents. As I got to the end of the area I saw guards in some sort of uniform that were clearly not police. Barricades had been set up, apparently controlling who went in and out of the area. They looked at me quizzically and I just smiled and nodded my head and kept on walking.

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The edge of the protests

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Many main government buildings had barriers of barbed wire

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After navigating several terrifying eight lane intersections with no pedestrian walkways, I was approached by a Thai man speaking English. He told me I wasn’t safe and needed to not walk in the direction in which I was heading. My gut told me not to trust this man and I was likely about to get a one-way ticket to scam town. He asked me where I was going and I said I was headed to the river for the public boat. He flagged me down a tuk-tuk. If it weren’t for the protests I would have ignored him, but I decided being scammed out of a few bucks was worth the alternative. The tuk-tuk dropped me off at a pier, but as I approached I realized it was not a public pier. A woman approached and tried to sell me a ticket for 2000 Baht. Knowing the public fare was closer to 20 Baht, I realized I had been scammed and I got up and walked away. I had no idea where I was so I made my way to the main road and then found some landmarks that led me to the public boat.

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Boarding the public boat

 

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On my way to the Grande Palace

I took the boat to the pier closest to the grand Palace and hopped off. Instantly I was taken to Thai Disneyland— tourists as far as the eye could see. I reminded myself that I, too was a tourist and went with it. I reluctantly parted with 500 Baht for a ticket and fought the crowds to see the grand Palace. Yes, it was pretty, but no, I don’t think it was worth my time or the money.

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After I left the I meandered my way through the Bangkok Streets–eating lunch from a street vendor, eyeing the goods in the amulet market, watching the sunset over the Wat Arun temple from a rooftop bar, and enjoying a dinner of chicken laab and beer from the night market near my hostel.

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My first street food: lunch of pad thai

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Night market near my hostel

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Inside the dining area

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Chicken laab

January 24, Day 2: Bangkok

After a disappointing first day in Bangkok, I was determined to have a good time on my second day. I had read about a good market north of the city so I woke early determined to track it down. It took almost 90 minutes of travel by the skytrain and boat, but I eventually made my way to the big produce market in Nonthaburri. The market was a huge maze of all things imaginable, and I was the only Westerner as far as the eye could see. I had breakfast of grilled bananas followed by sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, and then I haggled for some fried mung beans and candied tamarind.

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On the boat en route to the market: Wat Arun

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Loving the activity of the market!

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Sticky rice

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After spending a a while meandering the market and enjoying the sights and the smells, I headed back to the boat to make my way to the Forensic and Parasite Museum. The museum was in the hospital, across the river from the main part of Bangkok. It took me a while to find it, but it was well worth it. The forensic museum held murder weapons from famous crimes in Thailand, and also had a display of mummified famous prisoners (sorry no pictures allowed).  The museum also had an exhibit on fetuses with different abnormalities, and human organs that had various diseases. After the forensic museum I went next-door to the parasite museum, which had a pretty grotesque exhibit on all the various parasites you can contract while in Asia. Obviously this museum is not for the squeamish, but my inner biology geek was squealing with delight the entire time.

 

After the museum I headed to the Jim Thompson house. This beautiful house/Museum displays the home of a former silk magnate who created a beautiful compound out of traditional Thai wooden houses. The whole museum is set on beautiful, peaceful grounds and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

 

After the Jim Thompson house I headed for my very first Thai massage. I paid 500 Baht (about 17 dollars) for a two hour massage. Needless to say, it was quite the experience. My masseuse did not speak a lick of English so I just sat there like an obedient puppy as she contorted my body into various positions and gave me a no-holds-barred intense massage. I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable, but I left the massage feeling a lot looser. I got back to the hostel just in time for dinner, and spent the rest of my night with a British traveler and an American cyclist who just finished a tour of Laos and Cambodia. I shared my planned route with him and he told me how jealous he was of my upcoming trip. He shared stories from his journey and got me even more excited for my cycling trek.

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I am now just at the halfway point of my cycling adventure, and finally in Cambodia! Things are just so amazing: experiences beyond my wildest dreams. Hard to convey what’s going on, but again I’ll post my detailed journal when I return (sorry at internet cafe now so I can’t post any pictures yet!)

Here’s the quick and dirty:

1/31: Run with Laos law student. Met Robert. Bought best crappiest bicycle we could find. Got gear ready.

2/1 (Day one of cycle): Villages. Laughter. Children. Everyone running out to the road to yell Sabaidee! as we passed and high-five. Hitchiked in a worker truck for the brutal 20k climb. Homestay in house of village chief son. Everyone watched us eat dinner, then played with children.

2/2: More gorgeous hills and villages. Experimented with weird meats at the market for lunch. Stayed in a woman’s storage shed. Took bath in river with the locals.

2/3: Bike broke. Fixed bike. Bike broke again. Bike now called “little f*cker”. Group of Laos men tried to help me fix. Good enough. Stayed in guesthouse. Real shower and laundry. We smell and look like streetkids.

2/4: Visited the plain of jars world heritage site. Roads complete shit. Laura grumpy.

2/5: There’s a reason no other cyclists took our route: roads under construction and closed during the day. Oh yeah, this was the day I also had food poisoning. Miserable day, but at least I looked skinny!

2/6: Took us 5 hours to get a hitchhike out of town because roads were nearly impassable by bicycle. Came to fun village where we were told no westerners go. Got invited to an Army party. Celebrated my birthday with the Lao army: beer, karaoke, and even a “cake” (an omelette) with a birthday candle and singing of happy birthday. Amazing way to turn 31.

2/7: Technical off roading but gorgeous riding through primary forest. Took advantage of a long hitchhike and gained an extra 140k that day.

2/8: Longest day of cycling yet (10 solid hours), but gorgeous terrain. Made it in time to catch overnight bus to Cambodia border.

2/9: Still on bus till mid-day, crossed border around 2pm. I was sick again so cycling was hard. Found an amazing homestay: slept on straw mats of a family of 7. They spoke no english and we spoke no cambodian so it was a lot of body language. Fed us amazing rice and fish and vegetables.

2/10: Breakfast with family, then headed off to Stung Treng to try to track down internet to make more plans for the rest of our trip. Beautiful day of cycling.

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As promised I am doing my best to keep you guys updated on my journey. I managed to find an actual computer with internet (woo!) and I have a day to kill so I’m catching up on work. I am keeping a very detailed travel diary and will post it all in chunks when I return along with photos, as the internet connection is too slow here to upload photos. In the meantime, I’m trying to post photos on Instagram (frayed_laces) so make sure to follow me to get pictures! But for the quick and dirty, here’s a summary:

Day One: Bangkok. Did the tourist thing. Got scammed only once. Hated the crowds and not trusting people.

Day Two: Bangkok: woke early to head to market far outside of city. Only Westerner. LOVED IT. Went to parasite and forensic museum. Saw mummified bodies of Thai rapists who were executed. Dinner on street with other travelers.

Day Three: Morning bus to Khao Yai. Did a group tour where we saw bats. Lots and lots of bats. In complete heaven.

Day Four: First run of my trip. People don’t run here, especially girls. Got funny looks. Day long tour of Khao Yai forest. Saw lots of animals, did lots of trekking. Drank at night with tour guide and bartered biology lesson for private tour of bat cave.

Day Five: Morning private tour of bat cave. Guide took me to monastery and monks in robes led us to cave. SO MANY BATS. Got face to face with noseleaf bat. Overnight bus to north of Thailand. Again, only Westerner.

Day Six:Got off at wrong stop since no one spoke English. Put trust in tuk-tuk driver at 4am. Made final bus and crossed border to Laos. Boarded the slowboat with 150 other travelers on the Mekong. Stopped in Pak Beng for overnight. Shared bed with a Frenchman I just met. Was offered heroin by street kid and moonshine from cook. Welcome to Laos.

Day Seven: Back on slowboat. Even more chaos. Met other American scientist. Talked geek for hours. Sat up front with locals and livestock. Locals taught me to count in Laoatian. Pretty sure old couple married me to the American. Lots of laughter and finger movements and then the motion for pregnant. Landed in Luang Prabang. Chaotic tuk-tuk to town. Partnered with American to try to find last available guesthouse since it was Chinese New Year and town packed. Snagged a room where we each paid $4.50 a night. Food, beer, market.

Day Eight: Another run. Love Luang Prabang. Breakfast, then mission to find a bike. Spent 5 hours searching and found one company willing to sell me 2 old rentals for $110 each. Other places demanding 200-300. The guys all laugh at me when I tell them I’m cycling to Cambodia. Met guy named Tikki. He told me his brother’s friend might have two bikes to sell for under 800,000 KIP each (100 US) and he will call the guesthouse tonight. Keeping fingers crossed….

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Hello everyone! As promised I am doing my best to keep you guys updated along my journey. As I type this I am sitting at a rooftop bar drinking a beer while I watch the sun set over the river and a temple. I have already consumed my fair share of street food (and yes, already tapped into my supply of Imodium) and have avoided being scammed twice. This morning as I was walking I was told I was heading to a demonstration area. My gut told me the guy was full of shit but since I had just successfully entered and left a demonstration area I didn’t want to risk my luck anymore. He flagged down a tuktuk for me who promised he would bring me to the public boat dock, but I suddenly found myself dropped off at a private company wanting me to charge 100x as much what a ticket should be. I turned around to leave but my driver was gone. I had no idea where I was but just started walking and thankfully eventually found my way to where I imageneeded to be.

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As most of you know, they have declared a state of emergency here in Bangkok. Although that sounds scary, it really doesn’t feel dangerous to me. I unknowingly walked right into the middle of a big demonstration this morning, so learned that I cannot do my typical “walk around and discover a city.” Unfortunately it means I’m chained to public transportation, which I despise. I’m glad I’m getting my Bangkok experience, but after less than 16 hours in this city I’m ready to go.

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