Wednesday, January 20, 2016

PHOTO MOMENT: Morning run in January

Lake Leman in Switzerland

Most of the time, winter is rainy, foggy and depressing in Switzerland.  And then you have a moment like this.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Running the Angkor Wat Half Marathon

I wanted to run the Angkor Wat Half Marathon last December, but because I had gone a little overboard on my trip to Thailand in October, I couldn't make it happen for me financially. But 2015, I knew I was going to do it.

My friend and I waiting at the starting line at dawn.

My friend Rory was also up for the challenge. He had never run a half marathon, but the advantage he had over me was that he would be training in the same climate – hot and muggy. I was training in Switzerland where it was cold and I would be arriving the day before the race and hoping to pull it off, jet lag, heat and all.

On race day, we arrived at the starting line at 5 am. It was dark, but considering it was going to be 28 degrees by 8:00 am, we were okay with the darkness. The race was supposed to start at 6am, but naturally it was late. So it really began at 6:30am –and just as the sun was rising, we were off and running.

I think this may have been one of my favorite races to date. It was hot (really hot) and humid, which meant I had to run slower than usual. It also meant that it was not going to be a race where I would beat my PR of 1:47. I knew I was going to come in after 2 hours if I was going to finish feeling good and not like throwing up. (estimated 2:10; came in at 2:13 -- bad, but not too bad).

Accepting that I was going to suck was the best decision. That meant I wouldn’t feel the pressure of shaving off seconds and could take the take to stop and snap photos along the way. Rory didn’t bring his phone with him (how he can run without music amazes me), so I knew my shots would be the ones that “proved” we were there -- and we may only do this race once in our lives so I wanted to cherish it.

I was glad I did.

 The race took us around all the temples in the area. It was a blast running and then when seeing a temple, veering off to the side to snap a quick photo and go on. I wasn’t the only one doing this. Many of the runners were like me. They too were getting their tourist sights in along the way.

That’s what I really like about my Angkor Wat photos. It’s the runners who are in them that make them special as these are my peeps. They may be from all over the world, but we all were there on the same crazy, hot and humid quest.

For me, it’s not just about seeing the temples – you can see temples anytime, but how many times in your life will you get to run 21.2 km to see them?

Next marathon? Dubai in January!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pampered at the Golden Temple in Siem Reap

It’s always a little bit scary when booking hotels online in countries you’ve never been before. Not only do you have no idea if the neighborhood is going to be good, but you have no idea if you are getting a good deal for your money. Plus, sometimes places that come up as 4 or 5 star in Trip Advisor, really aren’t.

The Golden Temple Hotel and Spa in Siem Reap is not one of those places. It deserves its 5-star rating and beyond. We not only got our money’s worth, but we were pampered like celebrities. 

First of all they picked me up from the airport. After flying 18 hours and arriving exhausted in a super humid country, seeing a smiling guy holding my name up on an iPad was a great feeling. Instead of having to try to communicate with a taxi driver in a new language, I could veg out in an air-conditioned car and enjoy the sights. Yay!

And the place. Wow. Golden Temple is beautiful - from the lobby, to the spacious rooms, to the amazing pool. Everything there was exceptionally clean, tasteful and relaxing. They had colorful flower petals everywhere and the bathrooms were modern and chic. The place was so nice, you almost didn’t want to leave to check out the sights.

Then there were the perks of the place.

Every night they had Happy Hour from 7 pm to 8 pm. And their Happy Hour will make you really happy as it’s free drinks and free nibblies for an hour – whether your drink of choice is wine, tea or whiskey. In addition to the daily happy hour, we got one free dinner for two, a free massage, a free picnic lunch and free daily breakfast. Considering we were only there 3 nights, that was a lot of free stuff.

But the best part had to be the customer service. The team was always smiling and ready to help you hail a tuk tuk, arrange an outing or whatever else you wanted. We were there to run the Angkor Wat Half Marathon and had to be at the starting line at 5:30 am. They arranged a tuk tuk for us and the poor guy waited there while we ran the race to take us back to the hotel. They also arranged for a car to take us from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

Anything we asked, they were able to do for us and their little touches such as bringing you shaved ice with fruit when by the pool were always unexpected and touching. They made my first visit to Cambodia worth coming back again.