Half IronMan Weekend, Portsmouth, NH; South Berwick, Maine; and What I packed

Besides the 70.3 triathlon, I had a great weekend! Just kidding, I had a great weekend even with the race. I’m still in the glow of the moment of having completed this 70.3 miles of sweat and tears. I’ll get to the race in another post. The whole race still seems a bit surreal.

On Friday, we took it easy for dinner and some drinks at Pier 6 in Charlestown that gives you a lovely view of Boston from Copley to Seaport to Financial district. Probably my favorite spot to view the skyline. The food was okay, but it was 90 degrees that night and being on the waterfront has never felt more pleasant since I am easily cold.

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On Saturday I woke up bright and early to get a haircut just to learn, the salon near my house opens an hour later than I thought.

After chopping off a few inches of hair, because every ounce counts, I went to pack. Yup last second packer for the win.

What did I pack for my half Ironman?

In a summary, way too freaking much.

The main outfit

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I’m such a triathlon pro, that I didn’t even own a pair of tri shorts, luckily, I borrowed from a friend.

Swimming

2 pairs of goggles – main one and a back up pair

Swimming Cap – just in case

Ear drops

Wetsuit borrowed from a friend

Wetsuit spray

Biking

My bike

Helmet

Sunglasses

Patch kit/tubes/air

Air pump

Bike shoes

socks

2 water bottles

Camelpak

Running

Socks

Running shoes – Mizunos waveriders and Skechers flats because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run in racing flats after biking

Fuel

Nuun

3 Cliff Bars

3 packs of shot blocks

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Misc.

Garmin

Two Towels

Back up outfit

Swimming suit

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Jack was there to supervise the whole process!

Anyways after loading up and packing up more crap for half a day than I took with me for 3 weeks in South East Asia, I was ready to go. Had I done a destination triathlon, I would need 2 suitcases of baggage. This is not an efficient sport.

On the drive up we stopped by Portsmouth, NH that I’ve been wanting to stop by.

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I didn’t know much about it, but the highway signs always made me want to stop. The town looked cute with lots of little restaurants and historical buildings.

Tony grabbed a meatball sub from a deli to eat as fast as possible and jetted over to the Portsmouth Brewery at 3pm. They give free brewery tours that comes with a card to get 6 samples!

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For a brewpub that only does direct sales, they had a nice selection.

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Between Tony and I we had 12 flights. Since I’ve been so stressed about packing, I realized that I haven’t eaten yet. So of course, I ordered the healthiest item I could think of.

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Now that I had some nice liquid courage and my mind wasn’t thinking about all the ways I can drown, I decided it would be a good time to roll up and get my numbers for Sunday’s race. When I got to the race site, I freaked out. Here’s the thing, runners come in all size and shapes, that chubby kid next you, might surprise you and pull a 3:15 marathon. However, everyone around me, all these triathletes, were super fit looking with pure lean muscle. I instantly started regretting my nutritional lunch of nachos and beer.

Unfortunately, the pond wasn’t set up yet so I couldn’t judge what the distance would look like. I guess its good because I rather just not know until I had to swim it. My race packet came with a bunch of numbers that I had to stick to everything. I’m actually surprised it didn’t come with a sticker for my butt because there seemed to be one for everything else. Good, I always wanted to be photographed drowning.

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I did love the fall theme. Fall is my favorite season and there’s nothing I love more than pumpkin and the color orange.

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After freaking out some more about how fit everyone else is and how I don’t belong there, we drove to Dover, NH to our Airbnb place. Our host’s friend who was also there, has done several triathlons and gave me some tips about taking my time in transition. After reorganizing all my gear for the 10th time that day, I decided that I should probably eat something for dinner. Technically the nachos at 4PM could have been dinner, and I wasn’t hungry. However, skipping dinner would have left me starving in the morning which would have been a terrible idea. I’m not very good at eating well morning of the races so Tony and I set out to find something to eat.

We found the perfect place back in South Berwick, Maine. So we drove the 10 minutes over the state line to Thistle Pig. It was the perfect prerace meal. Actually, it would have been a perfect dinner, and I’m hoping to return another time when I’m more hungry to try more things.

They had this amazing veterinarian squash risotto.

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Tony got the heirloom tomato salad

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and we shared a jar of homemade pickles that we regret not keeping the brine from.

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My photos don’t do this place justice, but if you’re ever driving through Dover, NH/ South Berwick, ME definitely check out this place!

We also tried a glass of their white Sangria to help me fall asleep earlier than my normal bed time.

And before I knew it, I had less than 8 hours before it was race time.

Catching up and healing

I’m not sure what is worse, an accident injury or over-training injury. I guess both are accidents in a way and I have no one to blame but myself.

So I went to a shoulder doctor and found out what I did, to myself. I basically destroyed my acromioclavicular joint. How badly?

In a Type III AC separation both acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments are torn without significant disruption of the deltoid or trapezial fascia.[4] A significant bump, resulting in some shoulder deformity, is formed by the lateral end of the clavicle. This bump, caused by the clavicle’s dislocation, is permanent. The clavicle can be moved in and out of place on the shoulder. A radiographic examination, will show the results as abnormal. Pain with motion can be severe.

Basically my shoulder and collarbone will never be attached again. It’s okay, I think they can both more on. However, it will take about 6-8 weeks to heal.

For the most part, it won’t affect my daily activity with the exception of swimming.

Running

On Friday, 5 days after my accident, I went back to running and tested myself on quick 5k.

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On Sunday, Tony and I went on a hilly 7 miler, which felt really though. With almost two weeks of no real distance running, my body was happy and content being lazy. Taking just a week break makes me see just how easy it is to fall of the “wagon.”

We did start off the run with some deer sightings and ended with a bald eagle flying over us. Hard to feel crappy about pace, when you’re in nature on a beautiful road.

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On Monday, I was able to have a decent 10 miler with 8 miles at incline 3 at 7:43 pace. Just enough to regain some confidence for the Jamestown Half Marathon this Saturday.

Biking

Ahh, biking, will I ever be able to go down a hill without freaking out again? Only one way to find out. However, my bike is still sitting in my garage, waiting for a cleaning. However, my new helmet has arrived and is ready to go. I did sign up for two spin classes this week on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday class went okay and shoulder was only annoyed with me when I shifted too much weight on it.

The sad news, I learned that my cleats that I use for my road bike are not the same as the Spin bikes. Complete bummer, so now I’m adding another pair of shoes to my collection! Luckily, I had a citysports 25% off =)

I’m telling you, if you want a challenge, try doing a power spin class in the wrong spin shoes that don’t fit in the the sneaker cage, or the clip in part. Yea, I’m all about giving myself stupid challenges.

Swimming

This will be the stress factor of it all. As of right now, I’ve been away from the pool for over two weeks. I’m still taking Advil at least once a day to bring down the inflammation and freestyle strokes are not possible until I can put on and off a sports bra without crying a bit. The upward arm movement is what hurts the most.

Needless to say, my dreams of being a tennis pro are over.

I’ve been stressing over wetsuits as well. With my shoulder injury, I might need more flexibility and go for a sleeveless vs. full sleeve version. But then, what kind of buoyancy do I want? In my hips? In my chest? What brand? Should I just rent one instead? I could rent one for $50 which I personally still think is pricey! Or buy one for around $200.

On the bright side, I saw the time limit for the swim was raised from 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. I will take that as a sign that I am meant to do this. Injury, or no injury, in less than two months, I will be a half ironwoman.

Life in between

As for other things? How am I spending my recovery? Shopping!

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I love how I got this casual blazer for $19 vs original $130 at Banana Republic

Which is good, because I went and spent all my savings on make-up for my black eye.

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And let me tell you something, if you want to get a lot of weird pity looks, good to Sephora with a black eye. Ooo the looks the ladies gave me!

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Yes, I’m probably the only girl woman, who owned no make-up until now. What does weird me out a little, is that the other day, I went to a spin class and a sweaty 5K and my make-up barely moved. If we can create this, why can’t we cure cancer yet?

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Fourth of the July for the first time in however long I remember was a rainstorm. So we minimized grilling and instead made some tasty pulled pork and sides on Friday.

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Because of the storm on Friday, Boston moved it’s fireworks to Thursday night, only to move it up 30 minutes earlier than planned so we missed most of the show. However, it must have been perfect timing because it started to pour like crazy as soon as the show ended. Yay climate change!

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Over the weekend, we went to visit my parents in the Catskills (Monticello, NY)

Where more grilling and meat eating occurred.

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A few miles from them is this beautiful ranch on top of a hill with camels, llamas and all sorts of livestock!

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And across the street from it all, is the church of little green man! How weird is that! There’s some creepy/cool collection of bones in front for display too. Maybe its the animal graveyard? Ironically enough, this is also about 1-2 miles from a large cemetery. Creepy!

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and I got to visit this guy:

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He loves selfies way more than Jack Meower.

Maybe it was the weather, or us leaving early on Sunday, but traffic wasn’t as bad in the past. We made a highway pit stop in Hartford for dinner.

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And now it’s back to every day life. Working, sleeping and trying to get back on track of some healthy eating after a weekend of meats, meats and meats.

QOTD

What’s new with you? I’ve been fairly quiet lately and spending lots of time napping. I call it recovery, or maybe it’s this hot humid days of summer. I wasn’t lying when I say with the exception of the snow and my oil bill, I love winter.

Eugene – Oregon – Only the cool kids try to sneak into a track field

When I told people I’m spending an afternoon in Eugene, Oregon I either got a “why” or just a confused blank stare… with the exceptions of a few.

My brother, whose is also named Eugene and wanted to visit a city that shares his name.

And any running nerd friends out there; will know Eugene for its collection of elite runners. It is after all known as Track Town USA thanks to Nike.

So it is with no surprise that between me and brother, we had to make it a pit stop on our road trip.

Our first order of business was to find a brewery… because if California is known for wine, then their friendly neighbor to the north has the beer corner.

Eugene Eugene

We stopped at Ninkasi Brewing Company and immediately ordered one of everything!

Eugene Oregon Brewery

Which of  course left us starving. We hit up yelp and found a Korean place about half mile away. Since we have been sitting in the car for several hours. The drive from Crater Lake is long one, we decided to walk.

Eugene Art

The area was absolutely adorable with a Yoga place, some tasty looking bistros and cute little houses with little micro farms and wild flowers.

When we finally got to our destination, we realized it’s also a burger place. Korea food/burger place? Interesting combo, but Yelp reviews don’t lie? Chingu Burger Lovers, okay we decided to go for it!

Eugene Korean Food

I got the bibimbap, a mixed rice with veggie dish. My brother got brave and ordered a burger. Tony ordered a beef dish and we all ate happiliy as Who Wants to be a Millionaire played on TV. After being on the road for a week, it was our little home from home type of feel. TV and Korean take out. All that was missed was a couch.

After stuffing our bellies, I decided there’s no way we could leave for Portland without a visit to University of Oregon…

Eugene Hayward Field

I don’t know what I expected, but a field under bolt and lock was not it. Maybe Galen Rupp doing 400m repeats? Or the ghost of  Prefontaine? Either way, after walking around the field and looking for a way to sneak, or squeeze onto the track, i gave up and settled for a photo by the gate instead.

I wish I could say that one day I’ll be back to compete here, but we all know I’m getting too old and am far too slow for these dreams.

And with that, back to our car we went for our next stop was Portlandia.

QOTD

Ever been to a city with the same name as you? I would love to find the city of Liana out there.

Weirdest food combo? This burger Korean place is only beat by Kosher pizza/Chinese take out combo I always see in Brooklyn. 

48 Hours in Burlington – Eat up, drink up and watch the sunset

What can you do with two days in Burlington, Vermont? Besides of course running a marathon.

Well for one visit the Cabot Cheese Creamery for a factory tour and eat so many cheese samples that you’ll be good on cheese for weeks to come.

Burlington Cabot

Okay so technically it’s not in Burlington, it’s about 30 minutes away. But the drive from Boston is a long one so you’ll want to make a stop or two.

Our first stop was in Lincoln, NH at one of my favorite places Gypsy Cafe

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Burlington Vermont Gypsy

I got the Tuna steak, it was so big that I kinda just gave up on the bread.

After eating, then more eating at Cabot, we set up our tent, picked up our bibs, stopped by a corner store for wheat thins and wine and went abroad the Whistling Man Schooner for our sunset cruise on Lake Champlain.

Burlington shio

Burlington ship

Although it didn’t look that way, back in Burlington, it really was turning out to be a beautiful day.

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but then the clouds rolled in

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and things started to get a little scary

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and a whole lot more wet. It actually started to pour and get quite cold, so we cut the boat ride short and hightailed it to shore.

Back at the shore, it was still clear with a cloudy but beautiful view.

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Since wine a box of wheat thins is not a dinner for me, Tony and I went to Pho Hong because I was cold and really craving some pho!

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I got some spring rolls and a pho, Tony got a curry and everything was awesome.

After the marathon, the initial plan was to visit some breweries, but my marathon, finding the car and showering took all a little longer than planned so I had to pick one brewery to pick. I opted out of visiting Magic Hat and went for something a little smaller.

burlington beer

Four Quarters brewing just opened up tastings about 3-4 miles from downtown Burlington and although they currently have 6 brews on tap, they’re all light and tasty. I did try the Oyster one but it was a little to much for me. Number 2 was mt favorite! They also sell local honey, which we restocked on!

burlington marathon lunch

So marathon, plus beer equals a starving Liana! I really wanted to return to farm house tap and grill, but Tony said we should try something new, so I guess we should.

We decided to try out American Flatbread and got some pizza. I loved the way this was cut, that way I can eat all the yummy center and leave the crust pieces for Tony.

burlington tea

After lunch, or early dinner, we walked around with a stop to Dobra tea. I wholesomely believe that every city desperately needs a tea den like this one!!! Tony drank tea and I half napped, half nodded along.

burlington lake

After some tea, we walked around some more bike baths around Lake Champlain that I’m pretty sure I didn’t run on.

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And as you know, walking is exercise and exercise deserve reward so this

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And before driving back home, we watched our final Lake Champlain sunset.

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QOTD

Ever been to Burlington, VT?

Soft serve ice ream? What do you call it? They called it creamies in Vermont! I always called it soft serve.

48 Hours in Atlanta, Hotlanta, Georgia

Did you guys miss me? Or forget me? Regardless, I am back!! After being MIA for about a month with the exception of 2 days I spent in Atlanta, I’m happy to get back to my “writing.”

Writing a race recap takes up more time than I currently have available with Boston training and work, so instead, I thought I would share some snapshots from my weekend in Atlanta that wasn’t running those crazy, humid hills.

Sunrise

We took a 7AM flight which sucked waking up for, but we got rewarded with a flight full of screaming babies and a beautiful sunrise over the Boston Harbor.

Cuban 1

After checking into our Hotel, we decided we need food because being up since 5AM makes you hungry. We were actually gonna check out a southern place I found on Yelp, but when I walked by Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean, I knew we had to eat there! I love Cuban food! And yes, this place was one of my favorite meals in Atlanta.

pinkberry

 

On our first day, we tried to walk around Buckhead, except no one in Atlanta really walks around. It got hot, and we decided getting Pinkberry was a smarter option. A day later we came back with a rental car, drove around and gawked at all the mansions. That was a tad bit more fun.

BBQ

After the marathon, I felt like I could eat a pig, literally. So we went for some BBQ. Sweet Water Brew

We got some sample platter that we split at Daddy D’z BBQ Joint. It came with ribs, mac n cheese, corn bread, collard greens, pulled beef, pork and chicken. I think the tender beef was my favorite. And yes, all this meat was more than enough for the two of us.

Little Five Points

After packing in some meat, I showed Tony around some of the neighborhoods, I ran through just hours before.

Coffee Shops

Honorable mention is Little Five Points, which is called “Bohemia” of the south. They had a ton of really cute used clothing stores and I was widely impressed with their selection of dresses compared to the coldness and sweaters of the consignment stores here.

In the evening we visited the Westin, and took the elevator to the top of the Sundial Restaurant. They have an amazing view of what little skyline Atlanta has. Plus it was cool to see the old Olympic Park!

Sundial View

I thought the Ferris wheel looks a little out of place. It’s kinda just in a random parking lot out there haha.

As for dinner, we went to Alma Cocina in downtown Atlanta. I guess me and Tony prefer Latin food over anything else.

Latin 1

I want to jump into the photo and eat the guacamole now!

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Arugula salad, since after eating all that meat for Lunch I wanted some greens.Latin 3

Chicken mole for Tony

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Some creative ceviche for me!

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On Monday, we went back and walked around centennial park.

Olympic Park Me

The little area that was packed with runners 24 hours ago, was completely devoid of life as we made our way to the Georgia Aquarium.

Georgia Aquarium

There, I tried to explain to whitey the merits of why running is so much better than swimming.

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I love aquariums and marine life. Although I would prefer to be suba diving instead, this is as close as I could get in the moment.

Whale Shark

The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest in the world and houses a few whale sharks with a large amount of controversy. Entrance is also not that cheap, as its about $39 per person to enter and included a very cheesy dolphin show. Actually the dolphins are amazing, but the story line with the human actors is unfortunate at best. Either way, I decided that despite my internal confusion regarding animal life in cages, the aquarium was a worthy visit.

Mrs Mac's Tea Room

For our final meal in Atlanta, we finally forced ourselves to get southern food with a visit to Mary Mac’s tea room. I got grilled blacken catfish with fried green tomatoes and broccoli souffle that was absolutely amazing! I actually couldn’t finish it all, but I dragged it with me to the airport and it made just as stellar of a dinner.

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Tony got a burger with grits and potato salad. The sides were great!

So my final thoughts on Atlanta? It was a fun place to visit for a weekend. There were so many dining options that I wish I could carry a second stomach to try more things. However, I didn’t find the city very fun for walking. Yes, there’s sidewalks, but no one uses them and it felt like a ghost town with the exception of the weekend. I love the hustle and bustle of the crowd. We started the weekend with no car, but ended up getting one after doing everything we could within walking distance in a day.

A Weekend in New Orleans – Garden District and Mid-City

Although, we somehow found ourselves in the French Quarter on a daily basis, there is so much more to see in New Orleans!

For one, New Orleans has beautiful cemeteries! I regret not taking any photos because when I get cold, I become a failure of a blogger, but wandering through a cemetery is something that shouldn’t be missed. Many of the more touristy ones have been cleaned up since Katrina, but I’d say stick to visiting one in the day time since you never know who or what can lurk. Since the water table is high, most graves are not the traditional 6 feet deep you see elsewhere, instead there are some really beautiful mausoleums and crypts. Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District is one that’s been featured in countless movies, but we also walked by another gorgeous one in Mid-City that I forgot the name of. Either way, there’s something peaceful and beautiful there.

As mentioned before Tony and I stayed in Mid-City, a neighborhood next to City Park. I don’t know much about the history of it, but the house looked cute and the streets with the crazy trees were quite enchanting.

New Orleans

City Park, a park named for exactly what it is, is a beautiful urban escape. Had I not been completely sore, I would have gone for a run after the race.

City park 3

I like to title this one Tony and Liana and when Liana tells Tony to clean up after himself. JK =).

Dinos crossing

One day, we walked over to Parkway Bakery & Tavern for some Po’ boys. We got a shrimp po boy and a cat fish po boy. Both were delicious and now Tony wants to eat like a po boy all the time.

Po Boy

We drove by this artful switch-box

NOLA Art

A bayou by the po boy shop.

Bayou

Another neighborhood that we visited was the Garden district and Irish channel.

I stopped by Big Fisherman Seafood and got a crawfish pie for breakfast!

Crayfish cake

Afterwards we met up for another Free by Foot tour of the Garden District. Since it was technically winter, the gardens weren’t much to look at; however, the houses were still amazing. Also, since this neighborhood is on a slight incline, it of course wasn’t hit as hard by Katrina as the less affluent communities were. Sandra Bullock House

Above is Sandra Bullock’s home and it was my favorite. Garden District

Governor’s palace, we didn’t eat there, but I thought I would snap a photo of the blueness

Rum house tacos

Where we did eat was the Rum house. Those were my favorite tacos that I ever had. I got a lamb taco, a fried oyster, balsamic veggies and coleslaw. Tony got steak, fish, and pork taco with some polenta.

Rum House Tacos 2

We took a bus from midcity to the Garden district, but you could also take the Charles street Charlie, one of the oldest trolleys in the country.

Green Trolley

Another quiet street in the garden district at 11AM on a Monday

Irish Channel

Another morning we got some breakfast at Surrey’s in Uptown.

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I went simple with two eggs, balsamic veggies, and a biscuit

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Tony got a scramble with a biscuit and some cheesy grits.

Longest Bridge Causeway

And if you have an extra hour to kill and a car at your disposal? Check out the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, world’s longest continuous bridge! The longest of the two bridges is 23.86 miles, almost a marathon!

 

What’s your favorite bridge? I might be bias, but I love the Zakim bridge in Boston!

Weekend in New Orleans – French Quarter and Frenchmen Street

Hi! I’m actually back in Boston! It only took 12 hours of headaches and frantic flight changes and many new airports visited, but flight cancellations and snow storm couldn’t hold me back!

New Orleans was a blast! I’m going to break up the post in 2-3 posts because I just have way too many photos to share!

On Saturday night after visiting the expo we walked around the French quarters. Speaking of French quarter, anyone watch the Originals? If you do, you’ll notice some things looking familiar!

Bourbon street

It was around 4PM as we made our way around Bourbon street Margarita chugging, and brass bands blasting were in full swing. Since I had a marathon at 7AM, I stuck to my liter of coconut water! The flight, travel and expo dehydrated me, so hydration was key.

French Quarter Church

Jackson square and St. Louis church

French Quarter

Got some alligator jerky from the market as well.

French Market

On Monday night we went out on Frenchmen street, famous for its live music/jazz bars. As mentioned before, it was Monday night so things were timid compared to the weekend, but all the bands were amazing.

My favorite bar that we went to were the Three Muses.

Frenchmen Street

Along with some amazing cocktails, we grabbed dinner.

THree Muses cocktails

Lamb sliders, potato skins, and a beef rice bowl! The lamb sliders were amazing!

Lamb Sliders

We visited a few other bars, all of which had reasonable priced drinks and talented bands playing. We would just pop in which ever place sounded good for the moment and then go into a new place when our glass got dry.

Grapefruit IPA

Anyone every have this beer? I want a case of it! It’s an IPA with mild grapefruit flavor.

Since our Airbnb place was a few miles away, we traveled mostly by these cute trolleys. They worked pretty well for a few days but they would drive me nuts to commute on. There’s a trolley stop literally on every block, so a 4 mile journal can take you an hour! Since we rented a car on Monday, we did drive and had no issues with parking, but the weekend is a different story.

trolley

On Sunday night, we had a 7:30 PM free ghost tour with Free tours by Foot. After your tour, you tip your guide on what you thought the tour was worth.

Since we were once again in the French district we decided to stop by Pat O’Brien’s and get their infamous hurricanes before the tour. Besides I heard a rumor that being sober in the French quarter is illegal.

Hurricans

I’m not quite sure what’s in it, but it was quite tasty! They give you some pop corn as well, and if you return the glass to the bar, you get $3 bucks back. I guess they might have had a problem with people stealing the glass? Either way, I didn’t really wanna figure out how I wasn’t going to shatter the thing in the airport, so we didn’t keep ours.

At night

At night, the beautiful balconies turn into shadows and neon lights.

shadow

The ghost tour was about 90 minutes long and covered plenty of stories in less than a mile of a walk. One that many might know is the LaLaurie mansion that Nicklaus Cage used to own. Don’t worry, not all the stories were so gruesome and scary, some were sweet!real mansion

Do you believe in ghosts?? I get scared easily so I try not to think about it. I don’t even watch horror movies anymore. 

Inle Lake – Visiting the shops and the view from the top

Even before landing in Heho, the airport closest to Inle Lake, my camera was already filling up with photos.

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The taxi ride (about 25 USD) was a breathing taking hour ride through the mountains of the Shan state. We switched around as we made our way down to the lake.

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We drove by part of the lake, but only a small tease of what would see over the next few days.

We decided to try to bike around the lake, but the road doesn’t so much go around the lake, as it does around mountains, and vineyards and country roads. Sounds lovely, right? Only you’re still in a developing country, so your bikes are old cruisers, the road is an old country roads half crumbling, and you’re sharing it with trucks and tractors that blast past you. O and it’s really hot. It was lovely, but after a few hours we got tired and hired a boat man to take us around the lake.

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Tony negotiating. I tried to convince him we should just continue biking, but luckily he won. For $15 we had a boat for the rest of the day.

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Since we also had a full day of boating the next day, with ruins and markets, we decided it would be okay if we visited some tourist traps, I mean factories/shops.

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The first shop was a lotus making facility.

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It was actually a pretty cool sight to watch.

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Next we stopped by a metal works and watched some silver making.

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Afterwards we made over to the boat making shop where the tourist friendly price for your own boat was $3,000.

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Our final factory/shop was the Kayan women silk factory, which I found a little creepy.

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There are many ideas regarding why the coils are worn. Some anthropologists suggest the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men. Kayan women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas, and often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity (one associated with beauty). However, when it comes to Inle Lake, I think a large part of it has to do with the tourist revenue.

Final Tips

Boat rentals are easily negotiable, especially after 10AM when most tourists are already out on the lake. I heard people pay anywhere from up to 60USD for the day. We paid 15USD for a boat from 2PM til past sunset with just me and Tony.

Overall, if you have some extra time to kill, visiting the tourist factories/shops is a fun way to kill an hour or two, but the prices there are definitely 5 times higher than the normal tourist price you would get at the market.

Check out my other posts on Myanmar (with many more to come!)
Yangon –  Airport Rides and Botataung Pagoda
Mandalay – Mandalay Palace & Mandalay Hill

Yangon – Airport Rides and Botataung Pagoda

After our 36 hours of flying through 6 airports, we finally landed in Yangon, Myanmar. It took probably 2 hours to get through immigration because all information at customs was being entered manually.

Jet-lagged and delirious, the 10K drive from the airport to our budget inn took an hour.

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Compared to any other Asian city, you will notice no motor bikes and instead old 90s? 80s? Toyotas living out the rest of their lives. Motorbikes are illegal, and there’s various rumors of why. One version about the ban is that a person on a motorbike made a threatening gesture to a military general; another is that a motorbike rider distributed pro-democracy leaflets, and the third is that a general’s son was killed while riding a motorbike.

Furthermore, in May 2003, a ban on using car horns was implemented in six townships of Downtown Yangon to reduce noise pollution. In April 2004, the car horn ban was expanded to cover the entire city which is why in stand still traffic, on a hot regular day, it is still fairly silent.

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I heard that Yangon, had some colonial architecture, but compared to what I saw in South America, it was decaying at best. Although, I heard most of the property is being renovated as foreign investment grows. Maybe in half a decade, they’ll be colonial buildings worthy of a photograph beyond a depressing, neglected sight.

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The exchange rate at the airport was about 970 Kyats for $1 so when we exchange 100 dollar bill, we got 97 single notes, making Tony feel like a baller.

We stayed at Hnin Si Budget Inn. We paid about $27 for a double room, but the current rate is now $35 or maybe even more since we left in November. The room is bare at most, kinda like a box with a shared mixed gender bathroom. As mentioned before, lodging in Myanmar is disappointing at best where you have two options, a $300 hotel, or an overpriced (by Asia standards) simple guest room. We opted to save money on lodging so we could travel more.

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By the time we got settled in, the sun was already set. Walking around the barely lit streets was a challenge. There wasn’t sidewalks where we were, as much as just concrete slabs to cover up sewage, so instead you walk besides the cars, hoping that there’s way too much traffic for the cars to go fast enough to hurt you. We walked by this tree house looking thing that I thought was cool.

We walked around noticing, a high rate of donut shops around us, but besides that, limited eating options near by. While I can be pretty adventurous with food choices at times, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my trip in a bathroom so we opted for the most cleanest, western friendly place we could find. “Japan, Japan” was to be our dining of choice before we passed out into sleep. Probably our most disappointing food selection of the trip since we went in blind.

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The next morning we woke around 6, had some basic breakfast at the inn (fried egg and worst toast ever). I’m not sure if locals ever eat bread in Myanmar because the only thing worse than crappy wifi in the country, was the crappy bread. But it was free and with no food poisoning history, so I’ll take it. IMG_9589

It was around 6:30 AM and we walked over to Botataung Pagoda, about a 15 minute walk. Already, the locals were out and about. I guess there’s no such thing as lazy Sunday?

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Fun or sad fact, but the original Botataung Pagoda was actually destroyed in WWII, and this amazing structure we walked around is a replica.  Within the stupa was this hall of mirrors that also holds some ancient relics from the original pagoda. It might also hold an ancient buddha hair or something.

Entrance for foreigners is $3 USD, where you must walk barefoot and I scared together whatever clothes I had that covered my knees and shoulders, not an easy task when its already 90 and humid by 7AM.

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Above are just a few shots out of the 300 or so I took within the span of 2 hours we walked around. Although Botataung Pagoda is only the third largest in Yangon, it was the first one I saw on this trip, so everything amazed me. Even reflecting back on everything I saw during my trip, this was probably one of my favorite Pagodas that I visited.

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After the morning visit to Botataung Pagoda, we took a cab to the airport for another flight to Mandalay. Above and below are just some snapshots I took from the car as we drove.

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Besides buses, most common mode of transportation are pick up trucks.

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We got to the airport a little bit early so we snacked on some dim sum bites while we waited.

Mandalay Day 1 – Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Hills

One of my favorite parts of Myanmar were my two days in Mandalay, the second largest city and the last royal capital in Myanmar. Although compared to Yangon (the largest city), Mandalay appears almost sleepy in way.

There are buses that go between Mandalay and Yangon, but we were short on time and opted for a flight on Air Bagan. As much as I wanted to avoid giving the government more money, due to our time crunch, flying was our best option.

We learned the hard way that Yangon airport has two terminals, an international and domestic. How do you get from one to the other? You have an awkward 7 minute walk in the blistering sun. While the international terminals looks relatively modern, the domestic is quite a different story. The airline stands remind me of impromptu bake sale signs. There’s 2 gates, and since they don’t have or don’t use a PA system, you are kinda on the lookout for when your flight is being called. They give each passenger a sticker that lets the staff know which flight you’re on. Of course none of the flights leave on time, so all you have is a ton of confused looking white folks in a hot large room with a few giant fans.

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Eventually we made it to the prop plane that took us the 1-2 hours to Mandalay. The flight itself wasn’t too bad, they had some snacks, coffee, Sprite, things that you can’t even get on an American flight anymore. One was around $90 or so, so 99% of the passengers were tourists. IMG_9694 (2)

The ride from the airport to our hotel was about an hour $12. We drove by pagoda after pagoda, after golden towers and more, giving us only a small introduction of what was to come.

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Our hotel was next to Mandalay Palace, which is actually a lot bigger than it looks. We killed a few hours just trying to walk around it. We skipped going inside though since the original one was pretty much destroyed during WWII and what you see above was a replica that was made in 1990s (potentially with slave labor) and I think a large portion of the palace is off-limits to tourists and is being used by the military.

Behind it, you can see the grand Mandalay Hill.

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After realizing that our walk from our hotel to the hill was going to be a bit longer than it appeared we took a taxi to Shwenandaw Monastery known for its beautiful teak carvings.

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Shwenandaw Monastery is the single remaining major original structure of the original Royal Palace today

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After the teak monastery, we walked by Atumashi Monastery (no photo) another forced labor reconstruction project by the Burma’s Archaeological Department. The photo above is Kuthodaw Pagoda, which holds the world’s largest book. Since the sun was already setting, we had to run past it without time for much exploration.

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We wanted to watch the sunset from the top of Mandalay Hill, however, since we ran out of time, we ended up running up Mandalay Hill during sunset instead. The hill is 240 meters (790 ft) tall and is absolutely covered in beautiful Pagodas, and Monasteries. I tried to take some photos but most came out blurry as I snapped while running up the hill. On the bright side, since we were a little late for the sunset, we had the whole hill walk almost entirely to ourselves.

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Since the stairs are all part of religious temples, the whole walk was barefoot, so there’s my intro to barefoot running.

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As we scaled more and more stairs, each temple got more and more grand.

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They say it takes about 45 minutes to walk to the top. Tony and I did it in 20 minutes and barely had time so see the few remaining minutes of the setting sun.  IMG_9782

I loved being at top. Mandalay is the largest monk city in the world. I loved seeing the mix of traveling monks, local tourists and western tourist all enjoying the same beautiful sunset. IMG_9815 (2)

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At first, I felt a little shy photographing people leading their ordinary lives, but as we were walking around, we noticed many locals and monks taking photos of us. Once a family even asked to pose with us which was a little weird but okay. Western tourists for much of Myanmar is still a new and recent new thing. It was a delight chatting with locals about life and the temples and Buddhism.

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After exhausting began to hit us, we decided to head back to the hotel area and get dinner. I had the stupid brilliant idea of trying to walk down the hill, instead of taking a motor taxi. There’s two ways to get down, a long walk in pitch darkness, or on the back of a scooter. I was a little weary of being on a motorbike without a helmet. So I convinced Tony we should walk down the hill. Huge mistake, it was pitch darkness, with constant cars and motorbikes on the narrow road. Unlike the stairs, the road winds around and around the mountain, making it a longer journey that one would think when they took the stairs. So as we’re walking, Tony is ready to kill me, I’m ready to kill myself and a nice kind stranger offered to take us down the rest of the way on the back of his bike. At this point, I was over my fear of riding without a helmet because I wanted to be off the road. We tried to pay the guy, but he just left after dropping of us off and thanking him.

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Dinner was at a Thai place called Rainforest, where for about 3 dollars we got to enjoy some green curry and a refreshing beer around the corner from our hotel.

Ever have a stranger do something nice for you?