Team “Make America Grape Again” at the Half Corked Marathon

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One of our lovely team members modelling “the cap”—C.Helbig

A few weeks ago, six pals and I participated in one of our favourite events of the year: The Osoyoos-Oliver Half Corked Marathon in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. We pride ourselves on coming up with clever and current wine-related costumes for the 18 km walk/run through the vineyards. Some readers may remember us as The Real House Wines of Vancouver and The Walking Red. This year our good neighbours to the south provided the inspiration. We thank you. And, in Canadian fashion, offer up apologies if our mockathon antics cause any offence. Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Crazy Fun Stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments

Keep an Open Mind About Vientiane, Laos

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Patuxai at sunset—C.Helbig

In my last post I wrote about our high expectations for Luang Prabang with all its glowing reviews. In contrast, we arrived in the Lao capital of Vientiane with doubts. Many accounts of the city call it boring and lacking attractions. Lonely Planet describes it as “languid”, which gives the image of a lifeless place. They’re wrong. While Vientiane lacks the charm and tourist appeal of Luang Prabang, it has a lovely authenticity and plenty of worthwhile sights, activities, and places to eat/drink. The city has a warm and embracing feel, especially around sunset when locals congregate along the banks of the Mekong and around Patuxai.  I have very fond memories of our two days in this sweet place. Continue reading

Categories: Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

High Expectations for Luang Prabang, Laos

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Cooling off at Tat Kuang Si—C.Helbig

Described as “one of SE Asia’s crowning jewels” that provides “world-class comfort and spiritual nourishment,” there’s no wonder we had high expectations for Luang Prabang. The superlatives are largely true and a trip to Laos would not be complete without a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the things that stuck me most about our four days in Luang Prabang (not enough) was the diversity of things to do and see. From temple viewing, to pampering, to swimming under waterfalls, to shopping-til-you-drop, Luang Prabang can keep you as busy or relaxed as you desire. The one downside: the secret is out and you won’t have Luang Prabang to yourself. Continue reading

Categories: Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

100th Post: Ten Places that have “Stuck with Me”

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Skyline Ridge Loop at Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, British Columbia

I was going to continue with my Laos series when I noticed that this is my 100th post. To celebrate, I decided to do a post about places that have stuck in my mind and in my heart. It was a tough exercise limiting this to only ten (there are many runners up). I took a broad approach to the word “place” and the list includes countries, regions, and provinces. A few of the places are from visits that happened long before I’d ever heard the word “blog” or even used a computer, and I’m happy to be sharing these “old” favourites. Thank you for reading, for your likes and comments, and motivating me to keep at it. Continue reading

Categories: British Columbia, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Namibia, Places, Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Northern Laos Part III: A Perfect Day in Muang Ngoi

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Muang Ngoi’s spectacular riverside location—C.Helbig

We were loath to leave Nong Khiaw (see Parts I and II) and wondered whether Muang Ngoi, just an hour upstream on the Nam Ou, could hold as much appeal. It did, and perhaps even a tad more. Like Nong Khiaw, its riverside location and mountain scenery are stunning, but Muang Ngoi is smaller and even more basic and laid back. Mike and I agree that our favourite day of our travels through Cambodia and Laos was in Muang Ngoi: relaxing, hiking, caving, kayaking, and shopping for weavings (well, that last one was more up my alley).

Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Kayaking, Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 27 Comments

Northern Laos Part II: Hike to Phadeng Peak Viewpoint, Nong Khiaw

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At the Nong Khiaw viewpoint—C.Helbig

If you only do one activity while visiting Nong Khiaw (other than lying in a hammock admiring the view) it should be hiking to Phadeng Peak viewpoint. I heard lots of excuses for not doing it: it’s too hot, cold, difficult, steep, early, late…Mike used a combination of these to talk himself out of the hike. I remember the regretful look on his face when he scrolled through my photos. He hadn’t expected the views to be that stunning (nor had I). Don’t miss out on this activity when you’re in Nong Khiaw. It’s well worth the roughly one hour uphill grunt, and the effort needed is not nearly as bad as many reviewers make it out to be. Continue reading

Categories: Activities, Hiking, Laos, Places | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments

Northern Laos Part I: Nong Khiaw

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Looking up river from the bridge in Nong Khiaw—C.Helbig

We had many great experiences in Cambodia and Laos, but my favourite was the time we spent in northern Laos, in the small villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi. Coming from predictable, orderly Vancouver I enjoy the “chaos” of cities in SE Asia. However, the reality is I can only handle so much Bangkok, Phenom Penh, or even Siam Reap. The natural beauty and peacefulness of northern Laos made me very happy. Our visit to Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi was the perfect complement to a wonderful trip that was heavy on culture, history, and urban centres. Part I of my series on northern Laos features Nong Khiaw. Continue reading

Categories: Laos, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 34 Comments

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