Adventures in longer time

A camera makes it possible to see a moment, and not just the seconds as they happen. I have recently bought a proper tripod and filter for my camera, and now that we are living in the Dolomites (Did I mention we moved to the Alto Dolomites for the summer?) I have so many beautiful waterfalls to make images of.

These ones show the difference between 1/25 of a second and 2.5 seconds.

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Down the mountain from there, after a huge hike that climbed 730m, we found this waterfall as a beautiful oasis on the way down the mountain. This was at the 16th of 18 kilometers, and sorely needed because we were so sore. Another 2.5 second exposure capturing how water moves if you don’t.

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Finally, a giant photo panorama with a lake. If time is longer, the water becomes like a polished glass surface and the colours extend. I like to look at this photo as a glimpse into the longer, nonhuman time of nature and the mountains.

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More long exposure time, please!

Bia Hoi Pub Crawl: Authentic Hanoi for Under a Fiver

Is this the cheapest pub crawl in the world? Maybe. Is it a great way to see ‘real’ Hanoi and be ‘authentic’ in the city? Definitely.

We woke up on Saturday, our first weekend day back from the Colorado holiday we took over Tet. Russ said, “Do you think the Bia Hois are all on Google?”

We decided that they are, and then we decided to try a Bia Hoi Pub crawl.

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First, some history. Bia Hoi is a very light, fresh lager-style beer that is made in Vietnam. The name of the drink is synonymous with the name of the place that one can drink it. A “Bia Hoi” is a small or large place that serves the fresh beer and some type of food to have with it. Most places are indoor/outdoor, local, and have tiny plastic chairs to sit on.

Bia Hois are the local pubs of Hanoi. It’s a great place to hang out and watch the world go by, and the beer is around 3% ABV. Keep this in mind as you count up how many glasses we had (!). Don’t worry, you can walk between them and sample the local beer all over Hanoi without stumbling around.

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Believe it or not, this was before all the beer!

We detailed our tour, with directions so that you can go for yourself! All the photography is black and white because, well, Hanoi in February is very Noir.

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Please note that the brown part is our route on the UBER home! Redacted for our privacy.

If you want to do this on your own, first walk down to the bottom of Thong Nhat Park (Lenin Park) below Hoan Kiem Lake (assuming that you are a foreign tourist who is staying in the Old Quarter). This is a 4.5 km walking tour. 

The first local pub you’ll want to find is Bia Hơi Hiền Bảo Khánh near that park. This is our local Bia Hoi and where we started.

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If you are two people, you’ll want to master saying, “Hai bia hoi!” so that you can order two glasses of the stuff. Handy Guide:

Three bia hoi = ba bia hoi
Four bia hoi = bốn bia hoi
One million bia hoi = triệu bia hoi

It’s frothy, light, and cold. The traditional glasses are the standard.

This Bia Hoi is a great place to watch the traffic on the big road, Dai Co Viet. At rush hour it can be pretty insane. Once you’ve had your fill, you can either follow the road to the next place or walk through Lenin Park (you’ll need to pay a ticket price for the park, 4.000 VND per foreign person).

Price: 36.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer ($1.58)

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Next up, we’ve got the beautiful views of a lake and train tracks from Bia Hoi 302.

This is a nice lake to walk around, in a neighbourhood without many tourists. It’s a great place to see people walking their dogs and to use their nice bathroom. It’s nice by Bia Hoi standards, with toilet paper and a dedicated female toilet!

If you stay for a bit, you’ll be able to see a train going on the tracks near the lake. This is a great Bia Hoi for watching the trains and traffic.

Price: 41.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer and two packets of nuts ($1.80)

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Now you’ll turn north and walk toward the Old Quarter, but stay on the side of the tracks where Bia Hoi 302 is found. You can walk straight up the tracks, through a local neighbourhood. This is a district where there are many furniture artisans, and you can lose yourself in the alleyways. It looks a little dodgy to the untrained eye, but it’s safe.

If you follow the tracks, you’ll eventually start running into more and more people who are posing for Instagram selfies on the tracks. This is how you know you’re near Ga Hanoi (the Railway Station).

Find your way to a major intersection just south of the station and you’ll be at the third stop, Quán Bia Hơi Cường Nga.

This is a really busy Bia Hoi. We arrived right around rush hour, and sitting right near the traffic made me physically dizzy! They speak English and are very used to tourists.

Price: 60.000 VND for 6 glasses of beer ($2.63) 

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Once you cross the traffic safely, you can walk across to the next Bia Hoi we stopped at, Thien Nga Restaurant. It’s at the top of Lenin Park. This is the only Bia Hoi in our pub crawl that doesn’t serve Bia Hoi Hanoi (they serve Viet Ha).

Don’t miss the beautiful old tree out front. They offer fruits and incense to it daily.

Price: 42.000 VND for 4 glasses and two packets of nuts ($1.84)

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Now you’re up in the centre of town. You’ll see a lot more tourists and it’s going to be a lot busier.

Walk along and find the massive, sprawling Bia Hoi called Thu Hang beer on the corner. This is my favourite of the day, because it is so clean and lively. One of the great things about the Bia Hoi in Hanoi is that when you walk in, it can feel like a German Drinking Hall during Oktoberfest or even an ancient tavern. I love the energy of the places.

Since you will definitely need to wee at this point, know that they have a great toilet. It’s Asian-style (thank god) and they keep it clean. It’s a tiny bit more fancy than the other ones that we visited, and had a beautiful peach blossom tree for Tet.

Price: 45.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer and two packets of nuts ($1.98) 

We were HUNGRY at this point. We walked into a new place, which turned out to be awwwwwwwsome. Bít Tết Ngọc Hiếu is a Hue-style sizzling Banh My restaurant. Just go. It’s amazing.

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Re-fueled, we finally walked to the last destination on our pub crawl. There are several beer places in the same neighbourhood, including one of our favourites the Hoa Vien Czech beer hall. This time, though, we went to the Bia Hoi. The best part of the night was the guy who works there, who was supremely friendly.

Price: 40.000 VND for 4 glasses ($1.76)

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Watching someone pull out of a parking spot directly toward us like…

From here, you can easily walk back to the Old Quarter. You could also hail an Uber.

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$12 for two people, $6 for one including 13 glasses of Bia Hoi (£9 total, £4.50) 

There are guided Hanoi pub crawls that you could pay for, but they are around $9-12 per person and don’t include drinks! Why pay for that if you have the chance to go to the Bia Hoi? We spent about six hours on our pub crawl, but we are definitely on Hanoi Time. You could walk this in 2.5 hours if you pushed the pace and only had one beer at each place.

This is a great walking tour of some areas that you won’t necessarily see in Hanoi if you just keep to the guidebooks. Grab some friends or find them at the Bia Hoi. People will be friendly and you’ll be living like the locals.

If you want a real Hanoi experience, try a Bia Hoi pubcrawl.

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A Bladerunner-Inspired Pop of Colour for you!

 

Flyover

Yesterday (and the day before, thanks International Date Line) we flew from Denver to Hanoi. Our flights took us:

  • Denver –> Dallas Forth Worth
  • DFW –> Narita Airport (Tokyo)
  • Narita –> Noi Bai International (Hanoi)

Because we flew to Dallas first, we had to backtrack over Colorado to get to Tokyo. This means that about six hours after leaving my parents’ house in Louisville, Colorado….

We flew directly overhead! I couldn’t get a photo of Louisville because it was literally right under the plane.

Here’s a view of DIA from the 787, just a couple hours after we flew out of there.

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And here’s the I-25/Northwest Parkway interchange that we drove through at about 3:30 AM Mountain Time that morning.

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Here’s Boulder Reservoir and Longmont in the distance. I could also see Greeley, where my brother lives. IMG_1859

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Me at the Reservoir, three days earlier

And here’s Long’s Peak.

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Here’s the view of Rocky Mountain National Park that I made the panorama of just a couple days ago. Impressive even from above!

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The light brown patch in the upper right corner is where I took the panorama

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It was super-cool to see that the planes flying over Boulder really are going all around the world in some cases. What a great finale to our Colorado holiday!

EDIT: Here are the photos that my Dad took of our plane, flying right over them! They were tracking us on FlightAware and saw that we were going right over them. EDIT EDIT: Actually, these were taken by my mom. The close one is through the sunroo on the car, as they drove down the highway.

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Yes, you can have a relationship as a long-term traveller

It’s Valentine’s Day. Happy day to all you with or without partners, straight, gay, not sure, not interested, and too young to care.

I haven’t been writing much about travel and life, in part because the 2016 Election made me so sad and angry I lost creative edge. Part of the problem, such as there is one, is that I feel travel blogging has been done and done and done to death. I can’t compete with people who make it their life’s mission to create content and who seek out the highest views with strategies I can’t imagine. Instagram travel is breaking the world of travel as we know it. I’ll write about that soon. I promise.

In light of the sappy lovey happy day that at least some readers will be having today, I want to break you all up with a traveller’s myth. Bloggers who travel long-term often include it in their musings. It’s a pervasive myth that may even harm people who believe it. It’s a myth that people who meant well when I started travelling in 2009 have constantly said since then.

You can’t have a long-term relationship with a person so long as you have a long-term relationship with travel. 

Well, I’m living proof. It’s not true.

solsticeIn fact, I’d have never met my life partner without having an established long-term relationship with travel. If I hadn’t ever travelled solo before, I wouldn’t have been comfortable enough to take the Seoul Subway all my myself and get on a bus all by myself to go hiking with a group of people I didn’t know. The man who sat down next to me is now sitting across from me at my parents’ kitchen table, nearly six years later.

We’ve travelled MORE as a couple than we did separately. It helps that our passports don’t match and so we have to keep moving around looking for ways to live in the same country. Graduate school for me in his native London. Working in Shanghai together. Travelling throughout India, Korea, China, Vietnam, and the USA. Living two summers in remote Iceland together. Living in Vietnam now, saving to move to Montenegro this summer.

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From the moment we met, we started going on adventures. The day we met I struggled up more than 800 steps on Ulsan Bawi with epiglottis. For our wedding, we travelled blind to a venue we’d never seen in a country we had never been to with homemade meade in tow. On our honeymoon, we went into Vatnajokull’s ice cave. A few years later we climbed the Great Wall of China together. We walked more than 7km underground in Paradise Cave together.

Our adventures together are every bit as intense, life-affirming, and challenging as my previous adventures alone. Sure, it changes things from solo travel. But we also have twice the ingenuity and twice the ideas about what would be cool to do. We work together as a team. We watch each other’s backs. Now that we’ve been travelling together for six years, we’re pretty aware of how the other person works and what is likely to get under their skin. If I travel alone and fall ill, who is there to help me?

More importantly, we have changed one another for the better in terms of travelling. I never thought I was able to hike very well, including on the day that we met (I told Russ to just stop being so nice and leave me behind on our way up the mountain). Now we hike together every possible opportunity, and we go farther than I would ever go alone. There’s no reason that I can’t discover more about myself while sharing a breathtaking experience with my husband.

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We enjoy good food and drink together around the world, but Russ has also encouraged me to go minimalist. I have fewer possessions now than ever before, although I’m still not to his guru level of detachedness.

Recently, Russ took up digital photography. After years of watching me do my own as my hobby, he bought a DSLR and is rapidly improving. Just last night we travelled on a microadventure together to Pawnee National Grasslands in Colorado, where we spent 90 minutes freezing our extremities off and excitedly photographing the stars. Together. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to drive to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night alone.

The myth arises from people who think that travel precludes relationships due to the impermanence of the lifestyle, but in my experience the problems run deeper. Long-term travellers want freedom and do things sino por cadena (one thing just leads to another naturally). It’s easy, on the road, to convince oneself that travel is only one way (think ‘elephant pants,’ heavy drinking, drawn-out philosophical conversations about nothing in the hostel bar, Instagrammable moments), and that relationships just can’t coexist with the behemoth.

It’s easy to listen to everyone asking, “When are you going to finally SETTLE DOWN?” and take it too literally. It’s not as if having an established relationship suddenly bolts one’s feet to the floor in a suburban wasteland. The prevailing ‘wisdom’ is clear; relationships and travel are mutually exclusive.  I have seen so many of them convince themselves that they have to make a permanent choice between the two.

I have to tell you, I made that choice myself. I started travelling when I was in a relationship. It tanked after I changed and then tried to ‘come home’ unsuccessfully. My then-boyfriend made it clear to me, along with his whole family, that I could not travel and have him in my life as a partner.

I chose travel, and then my life-affirming relationship found me a couple years down the line as a direct consequence of my choice to keep travelling. It wasn’t that travel prevented me having any long-term relationship. It was that my previous long-term relationship sucked all by itself! It was doomed to begin with. Travel just helped me to chuck it out the door in a timely manner so that I could be my true self sooner.

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This is us honouring Pachamama (the Earth) as travellers during our wedding

Love, marriage, and family life are all possible as a long-term traveller. It’s true that you may not have a mortgage, a car of your own, or much in the bank. Frankly, long-term travellers who are in a long-term relationship probably have a better idea about what being a life partner is really about. Travel strips us to the bare necessities; a relationship borne of true knowledge about what is actually important (coupled with the self-knowledge travel tenders in a person) is surely superior.

Long-term travel is not mutually exclusive to a long-term relationship. If you are incredibly lucky like we are, you might even be able to write it into your vows:

“I promise that I will walk next to you through the world

I will follow you to the ends of the Earth

You are my home.” 

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Exploring the Universe. Together.