Friday, October 31, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam In Pictures

My week in Hanoi was wrapped up with visits to contemporary art galleries and bucolic parks and gardens. (All of these were steps away from an ulta chaotic traffic scene where crossing the street was  an adventure that I preferred to avoid.) The little visited Botanical Garden was a delight with the web of roots emanating from a 19th-century tree becoming a magnet for both people who want meditative solitude as well as those who just want to snap a selfie. The coffee culture is vibrant with whitewashed shops displaying edgy art, such as giant ants crawling up columns. A trip to expansive West Lake reveals a section blanketed by lotus blossoms as well as a shoreline mostly ringed by a pedestrian path. Pagodas and anchored boats acting as a combination restaurant, coffee shop,  and bar dot the periphery. And when I wanted to get above Hanoi's often frenetic vibe, I took the elevator to the twentieth floor Summit Lounge at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel. This short YouTube video slideshow provides a window into my one-week trip in Hanoi. 

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gear Review: Light, Mosquito-Repellant Clothing

Health and safety are always major concerns when I'm traveling alone around the world, but my month-long trip to Southeast Asia, including journeying along the Mekong River in Laos, presented some particular concerns. For one, I would be traveling during the rainy season which meant malaria was a big risk. Sure, I was taking medication -- doxycycline, an age-old drug with a long safety record -- as malaria prophylaxis. But I still needed to protect myself from other mosquito-born diseases, such as Dengue Fever, and preferred not to use any insect repellent containing DEET.

My second concern was that the weather was going to be in the high 80s with sky-high humidity. Because I would be visiting Buddhist temples and traveling to small villages where the local women dress modestly, wearing tank tops and shorts was not an option to stay cool. Whatever I wore had to be light, breathable, offer protection from insects and pack well because, of course, I wasn't checking luggage. Luckily Ex Officio came to the rescue.

I wore Ex Officio's Bugsaway Damselfly Lumen hoody with matching Bugsaway Damselfly pants that rolled up to mid-calf. Because both were manufactured with fabrics impregnated with Permethrin, no mosquitoes alighted on me during my entire trip. But the fabric also repels flies, chiggers, ants, ticks and no-see-ums. It was odorless and would last for 70 washings.

The pants have snaps so that I could easily roll 'em up. But with the mesh panels behind both knees, the pants provided plenty of ventilation even on the hottest, most humid days. The nylon fabric was extremely light-weight -- it was paper thin -- yet sturdy. (I snagged it on many a thorny bush or tree trunk when hiking and the fabric resisted it perfectly.) It easily wicked  away sweat and dried quickly.
I didn't need to wear a belt because of the secure Velcro closure. And, unlike so many adventure pants I've purchased in the past, these were stylish and fit my petite frame extremely well. I only brought two pair of pants -- only one was the Ex Officio product --  for my entire month on the road and actually ended up wearing this one almost all the time because it was so comfortable.

Constructed of a mesh weave, the hoody was cool and comfortable. Often I would wear a tank top underneath or, occasionally, when it got breezy at night, a light long-sleeve shirt. The thumb loops offered additional hand protection from the intense sun during the day. Whenever I washed it or got stuck in a rainstorm -- which was most afternoons -- it dried rapidly. The hoody itself was rather large but, given all the other fab features, this didn't detract from my love of this top. This shirt has a flattering cut and, like the pants, I wore it pretty much every day. 

I just returned from a one-week trip to Spain, where mosquitoes and intense heat and humidity clearly were not going to be a problem,. And yet I packed the Bugsaway hoody and pants in my carry on.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Laos In Pictures

Journeying along the Mekong River that courses through Laos, and driving along the rough roads that rise and dip through the lush interior, I found a wealth of treasures: riverside villages where women wove traditional textiles, wonderful coffee shops in Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage city, charming waterfront chalets and restaurants in the town of Vang Vieng that's noted for its adventure sports and much more. This short YouTube video slideshow provides a window into my two-week trip in Laos. 

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Gear Review: My Favorite Socks -- Blisters No More

      The stifling weather in Southeast Asia where I spent a month recently dictated the clothing I carried along in my carryon-only piece of luggage. And that included the kinds of socks. They couldn't promote blisters, especially because I'd be walking and hiking all day long. Since it was ultra hot and humid, I couldn't tolerate socks that warmed up my feet even warmer than they were from the ambient temperatures. Nor did I want socks that retained moisture, especially that I'd be wearing them all day long. I wanted something cushiony but one that didn't bunch up. Plus, I was only packing three pairs which meant they had to dry quickly when washed. I found the perfect socks that felt like a cloud on my feet: Balega.
       They fit my feet like a second skin which is, in fact, how the company described them. They were neither tight nor loose, with no sagging. The fabric was ultra soft and light, a blend of a synthetic that allowed my feet to breath, plus it wicked away moisture and dried quickly, along with mohair wool that was cushiony and blister-proof. Now that I've been home, I'm still hooked on these socks.

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