How Hallett Happened

If you vacation with me, we don't sleep in.  I've got limited time off, so I've got things to do. Places to be.  Things to see.  Get your lazy butt out of bed.  

Luckily, I didn't have to do much persuading with Marc and Michael...they were just as eager to get on the trail!  By 6 am, we had parked at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and had started on our way.  On the itinerary for the day: Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, the Loch, Timberline Falls, and Sky Pond.

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BroSis 1.0

The beginnings of great adventures come in all forms.

For my recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, that beginning was extremely unexpected.

It all started last December, when I emailed my brother, Marc, to start brainstorming ideas of what to get our younger brother, Michael, for Christmas.  After we both had ideas for Michael, I directed the same question toward him.  "What do YOU want for Christmas?" I asked.

I couldn't believe what he wrote back.

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Great Walls of Water

My dad started us early with the water skiing.  Around age 10, we were bobbing with instability in the lake, barely able to keep the tips of the skis upright.   

We had seen our dad ski so many times and it looked so easy.  He would zip across the lake and lean against the boat's pull to spray up water, recovering at the last minute.  And so, despite the initial wipe outs and frustration, our efforts were relentless--we wanted to ski like dad!  

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Brooklyn Bridge to Bierkraft

We woke on Sunday with our sights set on Brooklyn!  

Being the crazy tourist that I am, I snapped a million photos of the Brooklyn Bridge while trying to not get run over by the disgusted cyclists barreling across the pedway.  I loved how the cables stretched across the blue sky, how vivid the buildings on Manhattan appeared, and the little notes written in permanent marker on the bridge's beams.   Below are some of my favorite images. 

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Tea at the Plaza

Brigid's request for our weekend in NYC was to go to afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel.  We made our reservation at the Palm Court via Open Table about 6 weeks prior to my visit, which allowed plenty of time to get excited!  After our ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, we hurried back to the apartment to shower and dress in more appropriate attire.  Walking into the Palm Court is to step into a world of luxury and ladies who lunch.  

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An Afternoon Wandering HCM

Walking back to the hotel, the realization hit me.  My trip was over.  The planning, the tickets, everything that I had obsessed over for the past few months was just...over.  It's silly to say, but I felt a loss and mourned the end of the adventure.  On the flight home, I couldn't decide if I was ready to go home in order to (a) relax, or (b) start scheming up something new.

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Cu Chi Tunnels

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong had a stronghold in the Cu Chi District, where they could take advantage of their intricate underground tunnel system. The tunnel digging actually began about 20 years prior to the Vietnam War, when the country was fighting for independence from France.  By the time the Vietnam War was in full swing, however, the tunnels had expanded to stretch over 120 miles and were key in the Viet Cong's strategy.

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Farm Visit & Cooking Class

Sad to say goodbye to Cambodia, our group bus-ed from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.  You have lots of options for this route, but we chose the Mekong Express.  At ~$13 for a one-way ticket, it's the most expensive bus option but the reliability and relative comfort was worth it.  Plus, 13 buckeroos buys you an on-board TV, featuring 6 straight hours of dubbed 80's love ballads.  If only I was feeling well enough to rally for a good round of karaoke.  On our last day in Phnom Penh, my stomach staged a revolt and I was struggling to enjoy myself.  If my cocktail of 7Up, white rice, Cipro, & Pepto Bismol didn't work, I'd get better by sheer willpower. Something was working because, by the next day, I was feeling marginally better.  This was good timing, as we had a day full of food on the docket!  Leaving the chaos of the city behind, we headed out to the Cu Chi district for Chef Tan's HCM Cooking Class.

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S-21 & Khmer Rouge Killing Fields

In January, Chase and I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and I found it to be an incredibly moving experience.  Visiting the S-21 prison and the killing fields in Phnom Penh evoked similar emotions. Prior to our trip to Cambodia, I knew that the government had recently and crudely killed its own citizens (*shudder*).  What I didn't understand was why.  Luke Walker from the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies wrote a brief synopsis that captures what we learned by wandering through the memorial sites in Phnom Penh and talking to our bike tour guides in Siem Reap:

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Paddy's Fight Club

When we rode our bikes through the Angkor temples (in case you missed it), we met two Phnom Penh residents--an Australian girl and her Swedish roommate.  They were so friendly and gave us various recommendations of what to do when we rolled into Phnom Penh.  One of the things that they suggested was...wait for it...kick boxing at Paddy's Fight Club. A few days later, on the long bus ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, we all agreed that kickboxing was just what we needed to let off some steam and lift our spirits.  Plus, with a name like Paddy's Fight Club, how could we not go?!

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Phnom Kulen National Park

On our third day in Siem Reap, we wanted to get out.  Perhaps the prior day's trip to Beng Mealea had affirmed the good times to be had when you step out of tourist central.  Or perhaps it was the thought of cooling off in a waterfall. ;) We used our hotel, the Golden Butterfly Villa (full review here), to arrange a car for the day.  Our destination: the waterfall in Phnom Kulen National Park.  Ever since Ryan (also with us on this trip) organized the trip to Havasupai Falls in 2012, I'll admit that I've been a waterfall chaser.

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Biking Through the Countryside to Beng Mealea

On our first day in Cambodia, we biked around the Angkor temples, but our second day was arguably my most favorite of the entire trip. We hired a guide (again through Grasshopper Adventures) to lead us ~40 miles into the Cambodian countryside to visit the far-flung temple of Beng Mealea.   We met our guide early in the morning, signed our lives away, then got situated on the mountain bikes that would be ours for the rest of the day.  The day was already hot, slated to reach around 95 degrees Fahrenheit that afternoon.

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Angkor Temples by Bike

As I left Thailand, I prepared myself to be a unnerved by Cambodia. I shouldn't have gone through the effort, though, because Cambodia calmed me from the start.  First, it was the friendly people.  We flew into a rinky-dink airport and were greeted  by a man with a smile and a tuk tuk.  The hotel had sent him.  He loaded our bags into his tuk tuk (a motorbike with a passenger cart hitched to it), smiled at us some more, and then motored down the road to our hotel.

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