After feeling pretty good following a 10-mile run on Saturday, despite the chilly and wet weather (I really just wanted to stay in bed all day), I feel pretty good about my prospects for turning in a PR come March 2, so I put my money behind my legs and registered for the Napa Valley Marathon. It's an easy course, and it's usually ideal race-day weather at the beginning of March. I'm psyched!
Now, I just have to find a little time to train. I'm going to Hawaii and likely going to NY in January, and we have finally scheduled our Washington D.C. wedding celebration for February, though I'm pretty used to that amount of travel. My dad will likely be hospitalized for the month of February as he undergoes and recovers from his stem cell transplant, but I'm now used to the hospital routine. Looks like my training program this time around won't be too much different from the past three attempts at turning in a decent marathon time. There's nothing like added challenges to make things really interesting.
I'm supposed to be running a marathon in two months. I type that sentence while sitting on my growing behind as I savor a piece of chocolate. Hmm. I've been out running a couple of times, and I've been feeling pretty good, though it's been tough to get motivated, with the weather being on the bone-chilling side for my fragile California-bred body. I suppose if I can manage to complete a 10 mile run this weekend, I'll feel confident that I can work hard enough over the next two months to turn in a decent time by the first week of March. Though really, all I seem motivated to do these days is sleep. I haven't even gotten around to writing more details of our big trip... I promise, commentary and photos are coming.
Sure, the airport is a great place to sleep and all.
But, I'm referring to the goodness of my real home. It was great to drink tap water, do a few loads of laundry, and lounge in our bed. We had been filthy. The next photo is of some sink water after we had rinsed out a few articles of clothing. It's not a doctored photo, and the water did start off clear in color.
We've now pretty much recovered from jet lag and are continuing on with our regular lives. I'll post more photos and recaps of our trip, but wanted to let people know we did survive and had a great time.
We are enjoying the cleanliness of our hotel room. Having both showered, we feel reborn. Jeremy is sleeping quite soundly, and I don't want to disturb him. Our train last night left at 8:15PM, but we were sharing a cabin with two locals who stayed up and chatted for a little while, though once we turned in, they soon followed. The train stopped a number of times, waking us up, as we were both sleeping with one eye open in case of attack or robbery. I was awake at 11:15, 12:21, 3:25, 3:53, 4:15, and finally about 4:30 when we pulled into the station. Having nothing else to do so early in the morning, we decided to walk back into the Old Quarter of Hanoi. This proved to be an interesting experience, since we didn't really know where we were going, we were limited to the maps in our Lonely Planet guidebook, it was pitch black, and we both really needed to use the restroom. While it was somewhat tranquil to not hear the constant beeping of horns (they were sporadic), it was a bit unnerving to know that we were walking blindly through the filth of the streets, sometimes walking on the sidewalk and sometimes walking next to it, feeling wetness or squishiness with a few of our steps. I let out a shriek when I stepped on a stick - I thought I was being attacked by a rodent.
With the help of a few kind people, we made it back to our hotel and enjoyed breakfast. We then wandered and looked at backpacks. We were interested in buying one, but I guess we spent too long at one store examining our many options, for the proprietor waved us away and grabbed the bags from our hands as if we were disgusting creatures (perhaps she has a keen sense of smell) who had just sullied her merchandise by being in its presence.
We were able to get an early check in, and we quickly broke into action, wrapping up the truly vile clothing, figuring out what was wearable, and determining what needed a wash so we could use it during the next 48 hours. We washed out a few items, and I'll later post a photo of the wash water, for it was so surprisingly gray I had to take a picture of it.
Jeremy is stirring. Perhaps I'll soon be able to convince him to venture out of the hotel (we can come back!) to get some lunch. Many of the tours we've booked have included our food, which isn't the way either one of us likes to eat.
Jeremy entertained himself so much coming up with this title that I wondered whether he wet his pants. That would have done them a favor.
We're standing in the lobby of the Hanoi Elegance Hotel #2, our tiny space of sanctuary, as we wait for our room to become available. We have just spent the last three nights and two days traveling by two overnight trains, enjoying the terraced rice fields of Sapa, and spending time with some of the local tribes (among them the Hmong). The trains make the ~8 hour journey in the middle of the night, so we arrived back to Hanoi at 4:30AM. Jeremy had done a little sniff check last night and concluded that his clothes are potent weapons of mass destruction. I don't know why that would be the case. We only hiked in the direct sun, in 90 degree weather, through dust and mud for 15 km, visiting a few local villages and their pigs and water buffalo before riding in a packed van with others who had done the same, sharing air space with nasty fuel-related fumes along a windy road to the Vietnam-China border before getting on our sleeper train. But, we have a plan. I will shower while he calls in the Hazmat team to contain our clothing. We believe war will be avoided.
I feel like I'm not that bad off. Sure, my clothes feel as if they have a bit of a sticky dried sweat coating on the inside, but my shirt actually doesn't smell too bad. Nonetheless, we're thankful that we splurged on the Hanoi Elegance Hotel #2.
Talk about romance, here's a photo of our overnight train car that we shared with two locals.
Modeling the shirt of mass destruction.
For earlier in the day, we hiked for hours in the sun on our Vietnamese safari.
I had forgotten how popular the phrase, "same same but different" is here in Vietnam. Our bitter and talkative Cu Chi Tunnels tour guide screamed at us during our indirect route to the tunnels. We had to stop at the boat dock so they could try to upsell us on taking the boat to the tunnels. He said we'd get there more quickly, though everyone was to meet in Cu Chi to tour the tunnels together. Same same but different. A little more expensive. A lot faster in transit, though the end result being the same. And no mention of the fact that you'd get to avoid the free tour of the handicraft center along the way, which is probably the real cause for the transit time difference.
A traditional romantic honeymoon versus one spent sleeping on beds as hard as concrete slabs, with my husband taking one for the team by sleeping on the side that had more of an ant infestation - same same but different.
Pictures of us photo-shopped together because we can't trust anyone with our camera versus an actual photo of us together - same same but different.
Here are our attempts at self-couples-photography.
Jeremy does have long arms, and the camera's flip around screen helps to make sure we're both in the shot, but these were not ideal honeymoon shots.
We traveled to Hanoi yesterday, arriving at just before midnight. I had emailed City Gate Hotel because it was a Lonely Planet pick. They had a room for us, though the rate was higher than the one listed on their website. They sent a driver to pick us up, even though we didn't want one. The proprietor didn't bother to respond to my emails asking why the rate was so much higher than that advertised on his website. At nearly midnight, we just decided to take the car ride, even though we were being charged a premium. The driver said that the taxi rates just went up in December. It's possible, though as probable as our Halong Bay tour's price going up tomorrow, which we also heard. When we arrived at City Gate Ant Farm, we were told that the rates online were incorrect. So we're paying a little more - same same but different.
Here's a picture of Jeremy stomping on the ants in our disgusting City Gate room.
City Gate was disgusting. Do you hear me Lonely Planet authors? Disgusting. And by the way, they are selling illegal copies of your book for $4 in their hotel lobby. Same same but different? I didn't think so.
Jeremy wants to go to bed now. We splurged on a good hotel, so hanging out in the room is not a disgusting thought. Tomorrow, we're off to Halong Bay for two days followed by Sapa for three.
Ho Chi Min City is stuffy today. We ventured out, looking like tourists in our wicking, quick dry clothing. I stripped down to have a massage, storing my shirt with a hidden pocket of money, in my backpack for the hour that I was walked on and battered, only to find that my shirt quick dry shirt was still damp with sweat after my hour of massage.
We decided to do a half-day tour of the Cu Chi tunnels tomorrow, and we're on the late night flight to Hanoi. I'm excited. It's further north, so I think it will be a little cooler in climate. And, neither of us have been there yet, so it's new territory to conquer.
We arrived in Tokyo yesterday afternoon. Our flight was good in that we were able to eat eel and Haagen Daaz ice cream while drinking sake, watch some movies (many of which I have already seen thanks to lots of time in the air), and play a little solitaire using the airplane's entertainment system. Because of my status on United, we were also able to gain access to the Red Carpet lounge, where Jeremy ran into a good friend from business school with whom he had lost touch, and I got to snag us a few granola bars for our trip.
When we arrived, we explored the airport as we waited to meet Yuriko, Jeremy's "Japanese sister." I was excited to see a Citibank ATM machine, since the only reason I've kept that account open is to access money around the world. The machine kept rejecting my card. Turns out, it expired 11/07. Grrr. So, we're paying money exchange fees when we use our credit cards, and we're paying a premium when exchanging traveler's checks.
I first experienced the washlet, an incredibly fancy toilet, in Narita. I sat there and played with the many features, which included different spraying options and a button you could push to simulate the sound of flushing in order to mask bathroom noises. There was even an extra deodorizing option if needed. I hadn't needed any of it, since I was simply relieving myself after having had a lot of water on the flight, but that didn't stop me from sitting there and trying every combination of options.
The trip to Saitama (where we are staying) took 2 hours by bus and cost around $26 from the airport. We enjoyed a lovely meal and a nice visit with Jeremy's Japanese family. The real treat came at the end of the evening when I used the family's washlet. The whole family got into the toilet closet to explain the different buttons on their machine. I think we got some good photos that I'll post once I'm back in the US. I sat on the throne and was in heaven. The seat is heated! And there are different pulsing actions with the water, and even a little dryer, though I can't figure out how long you're supposed to sit there with a fan blowing on your hoo-hoo, so I usually hav it blow a little and then just wipe again. Being able to spend some quality time on the washlet is the best reason I can think of to eat a lot of fiber.
Yuriko had to explain how to use the washlet.
She's showing me the different squirt and dry options.
But even she was confused with the meno of delights, so we had to bring Otoosan in to impart his wisdom.
During the past two weeks, I've logged 16,000 flight miles. Just flew from New York to San Francisco last night, on a flight that was delayed, as usual. I call in my sushi order at Ebisu's SFO location from my cell phone once I land, and Joe now answers the phone, takes my order, and says, "Christina, right? See you soon."
And the flying isn't done. After a 12-hour layover, I am returning to SFO, my second home. Jeremy and I are finally going on our belated honeymoon to Japan and Vietnam. We leave for the airport in 45 minutes. I'm not dressed. I haven't eaten. I haven't finished packing. But I've been through this enough to have the confidence to sit here and type for a few minutes instead of freaking out. That moment will come in about 40 minutes.
People are congratulating us as if we just got married, and I explain that we have rescheduled our honeymoon three times, thanks to me wanting to choose what I hope to be the two most dead, inactive weeks in the stock market to travel. I was concerned about being out of touch for so long, when my boss's boss offered up the option of turning on the international roaming plan for my blackberry. He said to consider it a weddding present. I told him that I was quite sure my husband would want to return that gift, if he could.
Nonetheless, roaming email service will help us stay in touch, so I'm in favor of it. I'm not the type of person who enjoys completely escaping. You can run, but you can't hide if something is blowing up. I'd rather know about it. And, some of my dad's test results will be coming back next week. My mom has informed me that my dad has no intention of being sick again. I hope stage 4 cancer listens.
I'll post photos after the fact, but hopefully I'll be updating the blog regularly during our adventures. Fingers crossed that the GPS system will work; I've had only moderate luck with it in Boston and no luck in Manhattan. If during the next two weeks you see a 5'5" woman swimming in a black fleece Sony jacket that's a bit too big and taking pictures throughout Tokyo, Cu Chi, HCMC, Hanoi, and Halong Bay, it's very likely me. If she pulls out a blackberry, especially when her travel partner has his back turned, and is typing feverishly (I have highly developed thumb skills), it's definitely me.
I'm spending the next months in San Francisco, NYC, Washington DC, Hawaii, Tahoe, Japan, and Vietnam, and I?ll remember exactly where each incident occurred, thanks to the Sony GPS system. Read about my adventures and get a peek of my experiences.