Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ruck Review: GoRuck Challenge Class 1165

Hello again! Sorry for this late post, but you knew that I had post a review about my first GoRuck Challenge ever! On September 12 Jill and I embarked on our very first GoRuck Challenge in honor of the fallen heroes of 9/11. Although I had made many training promises right after our GoRuck Light in July sadly I didn't do any of it. :( I don't want to say that I went to this event "cold," but let's just say I heavily relied on my crossfit training to get me by.
I was a bundle of nerves when Justin dropped us off at the mall. But we had to take a selfie beforehand. The calm before the storm if you will ;)

At first we didn't see anyone, but as we walked closer to the Smithsonian castle. We saw them. Hundreds of people all anxiously awaiting the cadre and their instructions.

Of course with any GoRuck event we kicked off with the "welcome party." A series of PT drills to get the night started off right. As soon as we began the first exercise I knew that this was nothing like the two GoRuck Lights I've done in the past. We quickly found out the Challenge is definitely not double the duration and intensity of a Light. After a hearty round of PT which included the ever famous "tunnel of love" and centipede push-ups (I still can't get the hang of those!) we split off into groups and were assigned a cadre. Ours was Cadre Luke, a fellow University of Maryland alum. :)

During a GoRuck event, you have to get to certain locations within a time cap. And of course when you don't make it to the destination in the time allowed you get penalized with PT. Obviously our first mission to the White House ended in an epic fail since we were still figuring out how to work as team. 
Flutter kicks in near the White House gates? Why not?
Next we headed to the Lincoln Memorial where we did a series of partner sprints and of course more PT for those who weren't sprinting.

Serving up a boss...

We had to make our next destination so we did the last sprint up the Lincoln Memorial stairs as a team.
Now I'm not going to tell you about everything we did because each event is different and each cadre is different. And even if you get the same cadre twice, you'll still get a different experience because it all depends on what kind of mood he's in, LOL. But! I will tell you my favorite thing during our challenge was when we had to "veg" up Marine recon style ;)
And of course with every challenge, you gotta get wet!
Just flutter kicking in the Potomac River...nbd...

A shot of me dumping the water out of my ruck! It was the easist way to get all the water out without taking the backpack off.

Before I forget I must give a huge shout out to our shadow, Aaron Wyche. He followed our group from beginning to end and he was the perfect shadow! He took these amazing pictures and was always there to offer help when needed (i.e.: "Can you watch our stuff while I jump into the Potomac?"). Thanks again! :)
As the night turned to day we crossed into Virginia to visit the 9/11 Memorial by the Pentagon and then back to DC...

Carrying various team weights along the way...
Jill is always surprised how often she gets carried at these things!

We stopped by the World War II Memorial for an awesome group shot!
We were on the home stretch...

But we weren't done yet! When we got back to the starting point it was time guessed it..more PT. Here are the shortest girls doing log lifts (which of course includes my sister and I). By this time I had a permanent "poopy face" on (as Cadre Luke called it), but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I definitely wasn't going to quit now! 
Photo credit to Nick Schrein
When we finally got our patches, I was exhausted, yet happy! In my bleary-eyed sleep deprived state, I realized that this was the hardest thing that I have done in my life so far. It was difficult at times and I can't tell you how times I thought about quitting, but I'm glad I didn't. 
To conclude, my sister Jill said it best on her Facebook page: "I wouldn't have been able to endure the 19 miles over 12+ hours without my team to embrace the suck with me. We suffered in silence in honor our fallen heroes who would give anything to have the ability to even feel pain. Never thought I'd be grateful for pain until now; it means you're alive. I'm not gonna lie and say it was fun, but it was good livin'!"

PS...people have asked me when I'm going to do the next one and I must say I haven't signed up for another yet. But let me know if you want to do one, I may just join you for the action ;)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour: Thailand - Bangkok

Wow, I can't believe it's the final installment of the Brioni Southeast Asia World Tour! We splurged in Singapore, traversed through Malaysia and relaxed in Ko Samui. Now we were going to experience the large metropolitan city of Bangkok. Because our flight was so short (under an hour), we arrived in Bangkok with plenty of time to check into our hotel for the night and grab a bite to eat. With plenty of restaurant options nearby, we just walked down the street and  decided on Suk 11, which had outdoor seating.

Here's Justin about to dive into our Thai dinner...

Here's a view from the Aloft Bangkok. As I had mentioned towards the tail end of my last post, we had to fly to Bangkok instead of taking a the train, as was initially planned.  As a result, we arrived a day ahead of schedule, which required us to get a hotel for the night. The Aloft Hotel in Bangkok definitely wasn't as nice as some of the other Aloft Hotels that we had stayed in during other trips, but again it was only for the night.

This Aloft also had a breakfast buffet, which is something that helped get our first official day in Bangkok started off in the right direction. Like the other Aloft that we stayed at in Kuala Lumpur, the buffet offered both Western breakfast options and local breakfast options.  More dumplings please!

And my plate full of fresh fruit, which included one of my favorites--dragon fruit (again!)

They even served cappuccinos, which I thought was a nice touch

After breakfast we left the Aloft Hotel and checked into the hotel that would be our residence for the rest of our stay here in Bangkok--the Maduzi Hotel.  A cute boutique hotel right in the city center, the Maduzi Hotel offered more of a condo-type accommodation, with all the amenities and perks that a hotel regularly offers. Because they had no regular rooms available when we arrived to check in, we got upgraded to a suite--score!

The mini bar was stocked with complimentary beverages and snacks each day.

After checking into the Maduzi, we headed to Chatuchak Market, which is this huge weekend marketplace in Bangkok. Considering that our hotel was conveniently located within walking distance to both the nearby Skytrain and the MRT stations. we decided to use the Skytrain to get to the market. When comparing Bangkok's metro system to DC's Metro, it was amazing how organized and clean the Skytrain was!

When we arrived at the market, there was a ton of people that created an environment of bustling energy that we enjoyed. They literally had everything you could possibly want to buy! Justin and I got several items, such as vintage looking Asian beer t-shirts, dog accessories for the boys, a silk bedspread, handmade wooden frames, and even new suitcase so we could use to bring back all of our goodies! Can you believe they had a pet section at this market? Although the dogs for sale were cute, the sight of seeing them there made me a little sad (it was so hot!).  A weirder sight to see at the market was a lady selling "pet" squirrels in little outfits. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture because there was a sign she posted, which did not allow for photos :(

All of this shopping was making us hungry, so we indulged ourselves in some of the market food items. They had a makeshift "food court" where you could sit and grab a bite to eat. The nearby carts would then cook your food and deliver it to your table. As expected, we got some pad thai, but we also tried these "meatballs" on skewers that had a really weird consistency to them!

That evening we just went back to our hotel and relaxed! The traffic in Bangkok is no joke and the rain didn't make things any better!

The next day we were going to hit up a bunch of the temples...WARNING! Excessive temple photo alert, LOL! ;)

A quick selfie before the full day of sightseeing ahead!

First stop, the world famous Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)!

An alter to make offerings

I thought the mother-of-pearl feet were the coolest part!

Some up close shots of the feetsies. Look at all that detail!

This statue was huge!

 Some shots of the other side of the Buddha

Next we headed to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)

Some shots outside of the Temple. It was beautiful, but very hot!

You weren't allowed to take pictures inside of the temple where the Emerald Buddha was (it was actually pretty small compared to the Reclining Buddha), so of course we took a bunch of pictures outside.

Outside the main temple there were several smaller temples with lots of golden Buddha statues inside.

After seeing these two temples, it was time for a bite to eat! We stopped in at the cafe in the Navy Wives Association building. Here I am quenching my thirst on some fresh coconut juice. I noticed that most folks in Southeast Asia aren't too keen on drinking Gatorade and other sports drinks. Instead, they rely on fresh fruit juices that are actually much better for you!

The last stop of the day was the Grand Palace, which was the largest/longest stop of our day. As you can see from this picture, there was some military presence.  Regardless of the soldiers scattered throughout the area, it was business as usual. Nothing like the martial law that Thailand was under a few months earlier.

Before we entered, we had to dress in the appropriate attire required for visiting the premises (pants for Justin, a long skirt for me).  Covered legs were required to enter into the Palace grounds, and the Palace offered visitors the option to rent these articles of clothing for a refundable deposit (i.e. you get your money back when you return the article of clothing when you're finished touring the Palace grounds). Here's some signs outside of the clothing rental area. I get that people just want to make a buck, but there were swarms of swindlers outside the palace grounds just waiting to prey on naive tourists.  There were even a few times that Justin and I were approached by men claiming that they were police, telling us that the Palace was closed.  These guys would then propose an "alternate plan" for our sightseeing needs, often requiring us to hop into a cab that they would personally hail.  Like announcements that blared from the speakers of the Grand Palace warned, we did not trust anyone, and proceeded into the palace without any of the issues these guys spoke of.

On the Palace grounds...not sure if that is Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) in the distance.

Now on to the temples! Within the Palace gates there were several temples with very ornate decorations.

All the gold inlay was truly stunning!

I loved the colored tiles because they reminded me of jewels!

Some pictures of Justin and I in our long pants and skirt that we borrowed for an hour or so...

The shape of this roof was common amongst the Buddhist temples.

Statues all around the temples

What is this? A temple for ants?! Haha..just kidding. It was just a model of a temple. Extra brownie points of you got movie reference. ;)

Seeing double!

The Thai guards immediately outside of the Palace.

A monk taking pictures, then getting in the picture.

After touring the Grand Palace, the last thing we had left to see on our list was the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). We were told by the concierge that the easiest way to get back to our hotel was to take a longboat tour to Wat Arun, which would then drop us off at the nearest Skytrain station. We had to get the longboat tickets at the market, and it was there that we saw these...durian! Because Justin and I had never tried nor bought durian before our trip, we decided to purchase a piece to try later (see clip below).  The seller triple bagged the stinky fruit, which didn't help at all when I took it out of my purse.  For a few hours, I had a purse with a distinct durian smell...

We boarded the longboat and strangely we were the only ones on board. We didn't mind the privacy, and it allowed for us to pick whichever seat we want on the boat. The "tour" took us though most of the Bangkok waterside neighborhoods.

Here's a clip of us on our tour!

In the video clip I said, "Biggie and Puffy...speedboating!" I was referring to the intro of this video...haha...not quite ;)

We also stopped by a floating market where a woman was selling some sodas, beers and snacks. She showed me this boat woman souvenir that she was selling, so of course I had to have it!

Then we circled around the Temple of the Dawn to snap some pictures right as the sun was setting.

A "We Survived!" selfie!

After grabbing some dinner, we headed back to the hotel for some down time while we planned our next move for night.  Because our hotel's location was very central to everything, we figured we'd make a visit to one of Bangkok's famous red light districts--Soi Cowboy.  Despite its reputation for the many strip clubs that line its streets, there were also plenty of regular bars located there as well.  Coupled with great outdoor patios, and cold beer, Justin and I figured it would be perfect spot to people watch and take in the unique atmosphere.  As advertised, the place was filled with friendly women (Justin thought they were all lady boys) ready to mingle with any guy that came across their path.  The most interesting thing we saw was the number of families (parents and kids) that were making the stroll up and down the street.  Although we didn't have the "real full Soi Cowboy experience", it was still fun to watch even the ugliest of guys take home a girl, and make jokes about a handful of others that made their visit to this area of town, solely for reasons that were not related to getting drunk, people watching, and making fun of these people. Either way, I'll try not to judge too much.

One of the best food courts in Bangkok was just a mere steps away from us in the Terminal 21 mall. In the food court, you would load up a card with money and then eat 'til your hearts desire. Justin and I made it a point to try a wide variety of foods and each plate cost under $2!

I got some Singaporean/Hainan chicken as well as some curry wrapped up in an egg "blanket"...

And of course Justin got his wide noodles while I tried some marinated pork dish that was cooked in this huge vat with eggs. It was really good and I dont' know what it was called. You can also see the rechargable card in the right hand picture.

There was a crossfit box right near the Skytrain/MRT station closest to our hotel, but sadly I didn't get to visit it (i.e.: I avoided it, LOL)...

On our very last night, we decided to check out a Chinese restaurant that Justin's cousin recommended that we try called Four Seasons.  Below are a few shots of the Chicken Lo Mein and Dumplings that we ordered, along with a few other dishes not pictured.  Most likely, we finished each of the other dishes before I thought about snapping some photos. With all the Thai food that we had been eating during our stay in Bangkok, we figured Chinese would be a nice change-up, considering that good Chinese food is hard to find in Washington DC (unless you're in the Falls Church, VA area).

Overall, our trip to Bangkok was the perfect ending to our long journey of Southeast Asia. After all the inconveniences that we experienced earlier in our trip, it was great to continue to the relaxed vibe that began when we finally arrived in Koh Samui.  When it came time for us to fly back to DC, we were more than excited to return home.  We had a lot of fun on this trip, but we also missed the conveniences and comfort level that being in the US brings.  On top of that, we also missed our dogs :)