One To Nothin'

#OTN Travels: Sapa (the last one!)

*This is a continuation of my travel journal from my solo trip to Vietnam. See part 1 here & part 2 here*

Guys, this time last year I was gallivanting around Vietnam all on my own, so I thought I should finally press publish on this post that's been patiently sitting in my drafts for 12 months. Enjoyyyy. 

DAY 6

After a restless night on the train car of waking up just about every hour (our car was RIGHT next to the bathroom), I woke up around 5:30am when a horn let us know it was time. I didn't even end up brushing my teeth because I didn't want to fight to get into the tiny bathroom, so just picture a very tired Kens with stank breath still wearing the jeans she slept in (and wore the entire day before). Normally she'd be a cranky butthead, but this time around she was in pretty good spirits because ADVENTURE.

I had a hotel booked in Sapa that I found way ahead of time--I picked a fancy 4-star number because I figured by this time in the trip I might be a little worn out and in need of some fancy views--but check in wasn't until 2pm. I learned my lesson in Hanoi on day one, so I knew I needed to find something to do until then. My bunkmates told me they were going to the once-a-week market in Bac Ha, so I decided to follow suit. I hopped on a bus, asked for some coffee (because coffee breath is better than sleep breath), and promptly made friends with everyone else (like 10 other people) crammed on the bus. This was the first time I found other American tourists, one couple from Philly and another from West Virginia. Not gonna lie, it was pretty fun for me listening to them shit all over Trump on that bus ride, but I think holding a conversation over those windy, bumpy roads for so long (I think the bus ride was about four hours) really took it out of me. By the time I arrived at the market, I was incredibly overwhelmed.

First thing I did was buy a donut--it was delicious, more croissant-like than sweet--but the more I walked around, the more I wanted to run back to the bus and hide. This is the market that supplies ALL the things to the people who live miles and miles around, I'm talkin' batteries, toilet paper, clothes, meat, spices, anything you could need. There's no Target or Walgreens for when you run out of tampons, man, so everyone was here and it was a lot to take in. Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely beautiful. Families working, shopping, chatting, bargaining... but some things I saw I wasn't used to. Like pigs, buffalo, and even dogs (lots and lots of mangey dogs) all squealing because they're about to be dinner kinds of things. I think the overstimulation and slight (hypocritical, I might add) disturbance over these animals about to be slaughtered combined with hunger and lack of sleep made me want to break down. 

I almost started crying, in fact I might have shed a couple tears, but then I just ate some pho (it wasn't very good because I went to a less crowded area to try to chill out, which didn't help the situation) and walked until I found a little shaded area with a great view of the hustle and bustle with coffee and juice for sale. I got an iced coffee, sat down, and calmed myself down. It was close enough to the action that I didn't feel like I was hiding or missing out, but far enough that the young boy working the coffee stand asked me why I was just sitting there. He was probably like 15 and practicing his English, but he straight up told me to go see the buffalo. I laughed, finished my coffee, and went to go see the damn buffalo. And just like that my entire mood changed. I was excited to pick out souvenirs for my family and loved the jewelry, elephant pants, and art everywhere.
I ended up spending all my money on gifts and making my first international atm withdrawal--big moves, guys. I enjoyed the rest of my time at the market and eventually made my way back to the bus to go to Sapa. I arrived, checked into my hotel, which was so big, so cheap, and had the most amazing view of the rice fields. I was so lucky because the other folks I met on the Ha Long Bay cruise started their journey in Sapa, and the fog was so bad they couldn't see a foot in front of them, but it cleared out by the time I arrived. I immediately took a loooong shower, brushed my teeth forever, and took a nap. Then I woke up, went to dinner at a restaurant called A Moment Romantic where I ordered a special that had about four courses. It came with rice wine, which the super sweet waitress warned me was crazy strong, but I thought I could handle it. I was wrong. She noticed I wasn't drinking the fire water, so she asked if I wanted something else, to which I said, "Can I have a coconut, plz?" MUCH BETTER (and would've cost $18 in SF).  
After dinner I thought about exploring, but the fog had already started rolling in and I was still exhausted, so I went back to my luxurious hotel room and watched Blades of Glory. Literally obsessed with Vietnamese TV programming, y'all. Did you know they censor violence on TV? At first I was weirded out because, like, how dare you?! Then I remembered how we censor out words like "sex" and "weed" in songs here in the states and thought hard about how much better life would be if everyone was occasionally exposed to marijuana and sexy times instead of guns, blood, and purposeless violence in movies, video games, and the top 20. Raise your hand if you'd rather catch your high schooler with a joint than a gun *raises all the hands* /end rant
DAY 7
I knew day 7 was going to be dedicated to trekking, so I woke up super early and met up with the Greek ladies from my cruise. We went on a guided hike to three different villages, slip-sliding through the mud while the young, tiny, and incredibly agile women of the villages kept our clumsy asses from sliding down the muddy hills. I definitely still managed to get my shoes entirely covered, but unlike a few of the tourists hiking with me, I never actually ate it. We learned a little bit about each village and how they make hemp into textiles for clothing and purses--the types of goods I saw for sale at the Bac Ha market. Our tour guide was a funny and charming young man who answered all my questions and even demonstrated how to play the bullhorn, an instrument played in the H'Mong village--the single men used to play it to attract a date (who needs Tinder when you've got one of these?) We stopped by a school where we saw the children practicing an awesome (and elaborate) dance routine. 
Once I got back to the hotel, it was late afternoon, so I showered, napped and decided to venture out farther for dinner this time. Unfortunately since my Nikes were covered in mud, I wore my only other pair of sneakers, which just so happened to be brand new, bright white adidas... I thought it would be fine because every other night outing ending in me back in bed shortly after, but this time was different. I went to the Good Morning Vietnam restaurant that I found on TripAdviser (I got the chicken curry cooked IN A COCONUT--it was incredible). Since the restaurant was packed inside, I sat outside waiting for a table to open up, but since I was by myself I just went ahead and ordered. Meanwhile, there was a group of dudes waiting outside for a table as well.
They struck up a conversation when they saw my epic coconut filled with curry, and I soon found out that one of them was born and raised in Livermore, CA (that's in the Bay Area 'burbs, and I lived there for a year... so bizarre), and they invited me to join their crew. One of them was celebrating his birthday, so dinner turned into a hookah bar, which turned into buying a bottle of whiskey from the bar, which turned into roaming the VERY foggy, multi-color-lighted, abandoned streets of Sapa with a bottle of Jack Daniels. Yeeeea. So needless to say somewhere between dinner and back to my bed, my beautiful, fresh adidas turned into a muddy mess. They still haven't recovered. 
DAY 8

I think I'll just skip over this one. Let's just say I should've listened to my Australian friends from the cruise when they told me to stay the eff away from liquor. I was very, very sick all. freakin. day. I checked out of my hotel at noon and hated my life until I went to sleep in the train back to Hanoi that night (I took my Advil PM this time and I was OUT). The highlight of the day probably should've been the foot massage I got, but considering I was praying to the gods that I wouldn't puke on my lap the whole time... the highlight was probably when ladies at the hotel fixed me fried sweet potatoes to keep me from dying. Yep, that's about it. 
DAY 9 

MY LAST DAY! Ahh sweet Hanoi. One last day to explore. I went back to Gia Truyen first thing in the morning for one last amazing bowl of pho (still the best I ever had), then went to Giang coffee and tried the matcha egg coffee this time--it tasted like magical matcha ice cream that somehow doesn't destroy my insides. So delightful. I spent most of the rest of the day walking around. I walked around the lake listening to an audiobook (Turtles All the Way Down), bought a few more knick-knacks at various stores, and walked all the way to Bun Cha Huong Lien so I could eat the same Bun Cha that Obama and Anthony Bourdain enjoyed together when they visited. It was delicious and hilarious to see all the photos of the two of them plastered all over the walls. Even the wet napkin said "As eaten by US President Obama." *Sigh* The good ol' days...
Eventually I made my way back to the Golden Moon Hotel (where I stored my luggage and stayed every night I was in Hanoi) to get a taxi to the airport. The manager there (the one who got me coffee on my first day) gave me a goodbye present! The sweetest. The last thing I expected after all their help and attentiveness was a gift. It was a decorative plate, and it lives on my dresser with all my jewelry now. I looked out the window the whole cab ride to the airport, taking in the motorbikes, the foggy sky, the beautiful food everywhere, slightly dreading the long journey back to the states, but mostly feeling proud of myself for doing something that, frankly, scared the shit out of me. 

Then it set in. The rush of doing, for the first time, something I know I'll keep doing for the rest of my life.

This was my first solo trip, but I assure you, friends, it will not be my last. 

Thanks for joining me on this long-winded travel log. Hopefully I'll be back soon with more. 
Where should I go next?
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All About Self-Care, Sis (plus, a giveaway!)

Sup, fam? It’s been a minute. And by minute I mean months and months--the longest blog hiatus I’ve had since starting this thing seven years ago. Whoa. Anyway, I’m here to talk to you guys about personal aesthetic.


I’ve been struggling with some personal stuff, which I’ll hopefully be able to bring myself to write about eventually, but for today I’m keeping it light. I only mention it because I’ve weirdly found comfort in upkeep. My nails, hair, skincare routine--all the stuff I’ve always enjoyed but recently have been taking to the next level has been my form of self care, which presents itself in many different ways. In the past it’s been clean eating/cleanses, strenuous workout challenges/marathon training, blogging (ahem), baking/doing puzzles/rewatching The Office all the way through for the 65th time/etc.


These days it’s all about the aesthetic (and easing my way back into a fitness routine because my sanity depends on it). Maybe it’s all the work trips to LA, or the inspiring women I’m surrounded by every day at work, or the incredible Sephora products we’re gifted on a regular basis, but I’m more motivated than ever before to establish, maintain, and rock my own personal style. So without further ado, here are some of the ways I’ve been changing my lewk lately:


Get Your Nails Did


I used to think getting my nails done was the BIGGEST waste of time and money. I’d save it for special occasions, like a sister date or an upcoming wedding, but after getting one of the best gel manicures of my life a couple months ago, my attitude changed. I noticed that I felt more put together without any chips in my polish, and with a strong coat of gel I wasn’t able to pick at my nails (or skin for that matter)--a bad but very real anxious habit I have. Then as my nails got longer and longer, I realized I could actually shape them. Usually the default when you go to a nail salon is a square shape, and although I’ve never been fond of the square-shaped nail, I thought that was just part of it unless you got acrylics (which are not my cup of tea). I showed a lady a photo of the shape I wanted and she crushed it. Ever since I’ve been SO happy with the way they look. My fingers look longer and more elegant--I actually want to wear rings now! I know it doesn’t seem like nails are that big of a deal, but for whatever reason this small change has boosted my confidence and made me want to step it up in other areas as well.


I Do My Hair Toss

A few weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t had proper bangs since I was six years old. I’d been noticing them on trendy gals walking down the street and admiring them in trend reports for months, but I never considered that I could get them until I was in LA and mentioned the idea to some of my coworkers. They were into the idea, and I booked the appointment right away. Again, I brought photos (there’s incredible bang-spiration on this IG account) with me to the appointment, and told the stylist that I had natural waves, but they don’t come out unless I have layers or humidity to work with--neither of which were accessible to me at the time. She gave me the fringe and the layers knowing my goal was to be able to let it air dry while still looking interesting (instead of the limp mess it would’ve been), and no joke, I’ve never gotten so many compliments on a haircut in my entire life. Like, the past two weeks have been SO validating, and somewhat uncomfortable *shivers* #introvertproblems BUT I’m stoked, I’m grateful, and I’m so into the 70s vibe they’re giving me. Shout out to Marquee Salon in Oakland for giving me the exact look I wanted--I had never even been there before, but I will definitely be back (probably sooner than I’d like to be considering how fast my hair grows).


Skin So Fresh & So Clean, Clean


Ever since I started working at Sephora (and rapidly reaching the end of my 20s…) skincare has become my thing. I’ve also noticed that any time I post about skincare routines on Instagram I get a LOT of questions from my other late-twenties buddies, so I think I’ll do an in-depth post about it with all my favorite products later, but for now, here’s a quick rundown of my skincare routine, which is half signs-of-aging prevention and half meditation because the actual act of layering these luxurious-feeling, great-smelling products onto my face and neck is truly a massage moment (PSA: I have combination skin that’s not acne-prone, and my concerns are fine lines, dryness, texture, and visible pores).


Morning:
Cleanser, vitamin-c serum, under-eye cream, moisturizer (I am OBSESSED with this exfoliating moisturizer right now, sunscreen with UV and pollution/blue light protection (this one is basically a primer--seriously, it feels like velvet, isn’t greasy, and makes my foundation go on smoothly), foundation and the rest of my makeup routine. I also have a powder sunscreen so I can reapply SPF without messing up my makeup later in the day.


Evening:
Cleanser (double cleansing with a makeup-removing oil balm if I’m feeling extra), a retinol-containing serum (brightens and reduces fine lines), under-eye cream, and a thick, super-hydrating moisturizer.


Weekly extras:
Usually once or twice a week I’ll do a hydrating mask on my forehead and cheeks and a pore-clearing (usually containing charcoal) mask on my nose and chin. I’ve also been really into overnight masks lately (they dry down like a serum, so no worries about pillow transfer or any of that), so when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just put on an overnight mask after cleansing and rinse it off in the morning (this one smells amazing) Aaaaand when i’m being good, I’ll do a peel once a week, whether it’s an AHA/BHA-packed mask like this one or peel pads like these guys . I know acids and “peels” can sound intimidating, but TRUST they won’t burn your skin off, they’ll just make your skin smoother and brighter by sloughing away dead skin cells (yum).


If My Body Had A Say


Finally, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at remembering to moisturize the rest of my body. I’ll spend 20 minutes on my face and let the rest of my skin dry out like a prune, but recently I’ve been trying to be better about it. This cream is definitely helping because it smells like lying topless on an isolated beach in Kauai drinking a pina colada feels and supposedly it helps get rid of cellulite (yes, please). The other moisturizer situation I’m into lately is gradual self-tanning lotion. Not even the fancy stuff, I’m talking Jergens . If I put it on as a moisturizer every time I get out of the shower, I don’t look like my skin is see-through, which is an actual concern for me.


Let Me See Your Grill


Finally, and most excitingly, I got an email from a representative from Smile Brilliant a few months ago, and they offered to send me a super legit teeth whitening kit. I enthusiastically agreed because I always want my teeth to be brighter (cough, daily coffee and tea stains, cough), and I’d never tried anything more professional than drugstore whitening strips. They sent me this kit that has everything you need to create a mold of your teeth--you combine these two playdough-like molds together and bite into it, let it harden, and send them back to the lab in prepaid packaging to have the retainer-type trays made. Within a few days they were sent back to me, and I’ve been using them ever since. They sent me syringes of tooth whitening gel and even threw in a bunch of desensitizing gel because I mentioned that was one of my concerns--my teeth are just as sensi as I am. They are super convenient and effective, especially the more consistently you use them. You can keep them on for 1-3 hours depending on how quickly you want results, so I generally put the tray in after dinner before working out, showering, reading, or binge-watching Netflix. Afterward you brush your teeth and fill the same trays with the desensitizing gel and wear for about 15 minutes. Check out the before and after photos:
These are a game-changer. At first I was concerned about the amount of time I’d have to dedicate to it, but it’s so easy and gratifying to know that while you’re washing the dishes or waiting to switch the laundry, you’re also getting whiter teeth. Thanks so much for sending over, Smile Brilliant!


If you're interested in getting your own kit, enter the giveaway here--it's for a $149 Smile Brilliant credit and open to the US, UK, Australia and Canada!

Plus, you can use the code onetonothin15 to get 15% off!

I honestly never imagined that taking care of such seemingly insignificant things could boost my confidence so much and help me keep it together. Sometimes when things are imploding, it’s nice to feel like you can control something, even if it’s just how nice your hands or teeth look. When I just want to crawl under my covers and have a good cry, it’s nice to go into the office and have someone notice and appreciate the effort, kind of like dressing up when you feel ill. Fake it ’til you make it, baby.


How have you been practicing self-care lately?
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My City By The Bay


This post is sponsored by Good2Go but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of California, but lately I've been advocating hard for the East Bay because I live in Oakland, but not today, friends. Today I want to talk about San Francisco, the city that originally stole my heart and made me love this place. My current job is the first I've had since moving here (happy five-year Californiaversary to meeee!) that has an office in SF proper, and the chick who wrote this post would be VERY stoked about this.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still fully in love with my job and the Bay Area, but the fact that the ferry building (shown above) filled with locally made trinkets, all-organic-vegan-free-range-baked-today-omg-smells-so-good food, with a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge and ALL the water is a half-mile walk from my office is clearly a thing I take for granted since I haven't even mentioned it here.
There's even a giant farmers market that pops up in front of it every Tuesday and Saturday where I once met a Top Chef contestant and picked out ingredients with the founder of Baia Pasta so he could make us the most amazing pasta dish (while we drank wine and learned about the complex process of making pasta). But on this particular Tuesday, my coworker and beautiful friend Ashley and I just walked over at lunchtime and played with the fresh veggies and bought kombucha (am I assimilated or what?).
While we walked around the ferry building, I checked out the new GOOD2GO app, which is an SF-specific service that points you in the direction of the closest *nice* restroom around and provides you with a QR code that unlocks the door and even automatically opens them for you (this would've come in SO handy when I was nannying and trying to maneuver a giant stroller and two kids under 3 years old who seem to have to pee every 10 minutes). 
It told us to go toward the Embarcadero Center just 0.3 miles away from the farmers market, so we headed that way and played in front of this used-to-be fountain on our way over (water conservation FTW). Unfortunately this bathroom was actually a *future* location, so I didn't manage to find it on this go around, but I ventured out toward SOMA a couple days later and took advantage of the Peet's Coffee location, shown below.
How cute is this sign?!
It was super convenient, and you can get a free trial right now, so if you're planning a trip to SF any time soon, first of all, call me so we can get oysters and bubbles together, but secondly, download the app here so you're never stranded without a bathroom (trust me, there are plenty restrooms you'll want to avoid around this city).

Sooo when are you coming to hang out?

Thanks GOOD2GO for sponsoring this post! 

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Stay Golden




I just had the best weekend, guys.

I may not be able to stand up without groaning today and I might not have sleep nearly as much as one should on a weekend, but waking up at 4am to run 13.1 miles in San Francisco yesterday was totally worth it. My beautiful and inspirational BFF, Eva, drove down from Oregon so we could enjoy some Type 2 Fun--a concept coined by Eva that perfectly describes the agony and pure joy that is completing a super challenging task, in this case running for over two hours straight. Type 2 Fun is the sense of pride and warm fuzzies you feel AFTER the fact even though you're miserable and asking yourself why you'd ever pay money to torture yourself while you're doing it.
Type 1 Fun is great too, don't get me wrong. It's impulsively eating a donut, drinking rose or golden beer on a sunny afternoon, or hugging your best friend when you haven't seen her in too long. Our weekend was full of Type 1 as well. We explored adorable shops on Piedmont Ave, drank Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, ate all the things we couldn't eat during the Whole30 last month (including boba tea, of course #runningonboba), and caught up on every last detail we've missed out on by not being able to physically train together.
But Type 2 you gotta work for, and that makes it that much more satisfying. It's the reason hiking Mt. Whitney was the best thing I've ever done even though I wanted to chop my legs off on the way down. It's the reason I ran a full marathon down in Southern California two Novembers ago even though I'd see the full-ers run past as I finished my 13.1s and thought to myself, "god, I'm so glad I'm finished and not doing another one of these," every single time. It's the reason I didn't eat sugar or bread for all of March, and how I started reading so many books a month.
It's why I signed up for a Spartan Race in June (AGHHH) and it's why I always have things like "go sky-diving" and "hike half dome" on my bucket list. I love challenges, and the harder it is, the happier I am after the fact. The San Francisco Rock 'n Roll half marathon was my seventh half I've completed, and still at 6:15am, shivering in the dark waiting for our turn to start, my stomach quivered with nerves and I wondered for the bajillionth time, WHY DID I DO THIS?!
Then we started running, the sun came out as we ran over the Golden Gate Bridge, and I only went over my personal best time by about two minutes--and there was my answer. 
Thank you to Michelob ULTRA for sponsoring this post. Check out their new golden brew made with organic grains here

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Mood & Wine Pairings

Friends, Grocery Outlet is having a massive sale on all the wine right now, and they challenged me to come up with some pairings found throughout the store. I found all kinds of good stuff, but instead of just pairing the wine with food, I thought I'd pair it with the moods or phases, if you will, that I tend to cycle through. Go ahead and press play... you know it's gonna get weird.


First up is my fancy, indulgent side. She's usually celebrating something and drinking bubbles, like this sparkling rosé. She's pretty into fancy goat or sheep cheeses, cured meats, and keeping her pinky up when drinking. 

Next up is my hyper, nostalgic side. Every once in a while my inner sorority girl just wants to make everyone do shots, but since we're grown ups now, it usually presents itself as the occasional mini beer pong game and the not-so-occasional Solo cup drinking device for Chardonnay. At the end of the night no one is more grateful for microwave burritos than I am.
Then comes my health nut phase. The one who subjects herself to 30 days of sugar, gluten, grain-free diets and 6am Mon-Fri workouts. She doesn't always drink, but when she does it's usually something light, low in sugar, and with plenty of veggies on the side. 

Finally, there's the high anxiety, low motivation version of myself who wants to wallow in chocolate, binge watch Netflix and drink all the red wine. It's a somewhat unfortunate but fully necessary state in which I am simultaneously recharging and being completely useless.

Which wines do YOU pair with your different moods?

Thanks so much to Grocery Outlet for sponsoring this post. Be sure to stop by one of their stores to get 20% their entire wine selection until Tuesday, April 3. Plus, click here to get $3 off any purchase

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