Day 431 – Hanoi, Vietnam 🇻🇳, Marathon 123
The warm red colours of the sun touched only the tips of the buildings across the city in the early hours of the morning. Motorbike horns beeping, street traders hustling, and the city had woken up once more.
After a very attentive breakfast service with stunning views I donned my running gear for another 26.2 miles of glorious exploring. Still damp from Kuala Lumpur a couple of days a go, I pulled the smelly vest over my head, turned my socks in the right way, and generally got ready in my standard state of tiredness and partial awareness.
I left the beautiful La Siesta Diamond Hotel on Lo Su Street and headed west and then eventually north. I passed so many brilliant places today. First stop was a mini trip around Lake Hoan Kiem in the heart of the city, and then on to the much bigger West Lake. Two laps of the lake were enough to clock off the full distance.
I was accompanied by a symphony of horns and diesel engine fumes, as well as the small roadside fires with families preparing their food for the day, and the street workers jollily smoking away, with their feet up. Today was all about the faces and people of this incredible city.
West Lake was vast and mostly empty, but still a few fishing boats traversed the pan-flat water, leaving behind a gentle ripple. For the most part, the small road that clings to the water on all sides is very peaceful – no horns, no cars, no fumes, and no bustle. A great little snapshot of peace.
I even passed a brilliant cafe called Marathon Cafe. I went in and printed a photo for their charity wall. A great concept. Maybe we should have a marathon cafe in the UK – medals, photos, and more. What do you think? Well done, Vietnam. A warm, overcast day, and virtually perfect running conditions. Thank you.
Day 432 – Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 🇻🇳
With a bonus day or two in each of the Southeast Asian countries I wanted to make the most of the photography opportunities. It’s strange to think that I’m now taking such great shots that I really believe my Photography book of the expedition is going to be stunning – if I do say so myself! So many places, faces, memories and stories. Ahhh, I’m excited for the book.
Today was all about a long boat tour around the island of Ha Long Bay.
The huge cloud-like rock formations sprouted from the sea. Barely floating fishing boats bobbed around the islands with shirtless men rowing, seemingly to nowhere. The sky was grey and hazy but the views were still stunning. I was expecting to see King Kong hurl himself from peak to peak.
The vastness of this place is hard to describe. Around one corner was another corner. This led to another maze of more and more small islands, which led to more offshoots of waterways, these, too, leading to magical clear-blue waters. The islands are all tall, sheer and teaming with life – monkeys, birds and an array of green plants and foliage. The emerald waters below were still, deep and patchy, some spots a deep black and others a light, bright, greeny blue.
Today was long and full. To reach the bay of 1,600 islands I had to first travel 170km. A great little spa hotel in Hanoi hosted me for three nights. The room was comfy, the staff friendly, and they even arranged for me to join a tour group for the day. I’m not usually one for organised fun, but this was the only option. And I was pleasantly surprised. I met some nice people, slept on the way, toured a pearl farm and then spent 4 gentle hours cruising the islands.
The group and I kayaked for a while, ate lunch, prepared some veggie spring rolls and I generally spent the day snapping away with my new long lens. Oh, the joys of more photography gear.
Day 433 – Hanoi, Vietnam 🇻🇳 to Siem Reap, Cambodia 🇰🇭
Rice fields, a dragon, 500 steps and hardcore ladies paddling with their feet.
Today I said goodbye to the wonders of Vietnam. But before I left, I made sure I filled the first chunk of the day with adventure.
My flight wasn’t till 4pm and so I had plenty of time to go on a little adventure. I wanted to photograph the areas outside the city. Having ticked off Ha Long Bay, the next best spot was to climb to the top of Tam Coc. Two hours drive each way ate up most of the morning, but it was worth it. I pinched a pillow from the hotel and slept in the car on the way there. It was one of those journeys where you wake up feeling like little time has passed. And it was still only 5am. The area was dead and silent. No tourists yet. Perfect.
I am starting to learn that this part of the world operates much earlier than Europe. Temperature is part of this, but also (us) tourists just get in the way too.
500 steps later and I was peering down onto rice fields standing next to a long stone-built dragon atop a mountain. Surreal. I was dripping with sweat. This place is humid… Grey skies gave the place an eerie feel. The birds started to wake up, the small shack-like street side stalls were setting up and the village began to repeat its cycle of hosting tourists.
Before heading back I had time to take a trip to the caves. I’ve never seen such naturally occurring intricate patterns. The small wooden rowing boat paddled me downstream for an hour. We passed farmers, rice, lots of rice, towering mountains either side, and wide, spread-out land. Three caves were the focal point of the tour. They were pretty and a reminder that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.
A short flight later and I had arrived at yet another country. Goodbye to the land of the beautiful mountains and blue waters. I need to sleep now.
Day 434 – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 🇰🇭
Special thanks to @templationsiemreap Hotel
I didn’t run today. I gave myself the day off knowing I had two bonus days here. So instead I woke up super-early at about 4am and hired a tuk tuk to take me to the tourist centre to buy tickets to access the temples.
Tickets 🎫 purchased and suitably covered up for temple visiting, I lugged my camera gear to the foot of a lake and set up for sunrise. Even though it was early there were a lot of people here, everyone trying to grab the best shot. I just sat and watched the sky turn pink as the sun disappeared above us, like a balloon freed from a child’s hand. It’s such a spiritual place, and even though dogs, local stall sellers and hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists were already crowding the area, it was a place I’ll never forget. A must visit.
Post sunrise and after losing a good few kilos of fluid from sweat I headed back to the hotel for lunch. Running tomorrow, so time to stock up on the glycogen stores – steak, potatoes, lettuce, fantastic sauces and more. I was full to bursting.
My villa here is huge. Thanks to Templation Hotel for the complimentary stay and my team for organising. Both of the huge bathrooms are outdoors, but covered. Half in, half out, the kind that is only possible in hot climates. I showered with cold water post food, then had a dip in the pool before finding a spot to catch up on some much needed writing. This book won’t write itself.
I’m just getting into bed now after exhausting my creative juices and shutting the laptop in a brain-tired state. I now have a mosquito net around the double bed, the air con at a gentle temperature and the view of small drops of rain hitting the pool. Every so often I hear a distant crash of thunder as the tropical storm gets closer. What a great way to chill in bed before a run in the morning.
The birds asleep it’s time for the creepy crawlies to come out. Crickets, insects and all sorts of noises fill my ears. This place is so peaceful. My eyes are closing. Night, beautiful world. See you bright and early.
Day 435 – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 🇰🇭, Marathon 124
Run, breakfast, swim, eat some more, nap, and some admin – spot on.
Marathon 124: Run report
Hot, 35°C, with absolutely no breeze to cool me down – a hair dryer in my face the whole time. Even at 6am the humidity was crazy. I was dripping wet and covered in sweat within 2 minutes.
My run took me from the glorious Templation Hotel north to Angkor Wat, the world’s most visited tourist attraction. In the south a little way is the town of Siem Reap and home to the airport from which I’ll sadly be flying out of in a few days’ time.
I ran past five key temples today: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Neak Pean and East Baray. I paid for a three-day pass at a cost of US$62, which meant I could also run through and around each area freely.
Bright oranges, tree greens and deep dark browns were the colour palette for this morning’s run – be it the dust hugging either side of the freshly paved roads or the ancient rock of the temples. The views today were something from a film set. Famously ‘Tomb Raider’ was filmed here, and I can see why.
The roads were long, very long, and very straight. I’m certain that the stretch that ran north of Jayatataka Lake was the longest straight road I’ve ever run down. The Sahara desert doesn’t count.
After I’d turned right and finally right again to complete 3/4 of my loop I was heading south and back to my temporary home @templationsiemreap
A big thanks once again to the brilliant hotel here that allowed me several complimentary nights along with fantastic service and a super-luxury villa complete with two bathrooms, four rooms, a huge bed and a private pool with hot tub.
The pool was all that was on my mind as I headed home. The sun was high in the sky, the shade was fading, and my clothes were now leaving a trail of dripping sweat behind me. Some passers-by either applauded at my efforts or looked on with confusion and disbelief. Nobody was running or doing any form of exercise at this time of day. This is a very similar feeling I had with folk staring at me when I was running in Africa…
Day 436 – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 🇰🇭
Today was spent relaxing, taking time to reflect on the journey and, of course, writing a few more thousand words for the book. I have spent lots of today just sitting with my toes in the pool, listening to the birds, insects and the breeze in the trees. I’m hot and bothered – don’t forget it’s still close to 40°C in the sun with the humidity through the roof. My message today is this: Take time to be grateful for today, and don’t assume that tomorrow will happen. Life is precious.
This place is one of the most calming places I’ve been too. It’s also down to the hotel, I guess. Chilled is an under-statement. I’ll soon be back to four marathons a week after my next country, though. The remaining 56% of Africa is looming, and it scares me.
For those of you who don’t know, Angkor Wat ‘Capital Temple’ is a temple complex and one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Its overall site measures 162.6 hectares and was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.
WHY ❓ RUN 🏃♂️ A MARATHON 🏁 IN EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD 🌍
To raise £250,000 for Prostate Cancer UK 🇬🇧 – all for my great friend, Kev. Love ya, man!
To be the first person to run a full marathon distance in every country on the planet. And to set a world record in the process.
To live by Kev’s teachings – life is short, so do what you love, enjoy the world, and inspire others to follow their passion.
Can you help me reach my goal of hitting £250,000? Please donate using the link. Or just search ‘Nick Butter JustGiving’.
Day 437 – Angkor Wat, Cambodia 🇰🇭
My last day in Cambodia. Lovely food, more blue skies, chilled vibes and my thoughts turn to the rest of the journey – it’s going to get colder. I’ll miss the heat, I think.
Here’s a list of the upcoming countries and how you can get involved:
Myanmar 🇲🇲 23rd March
Laos 🇱🇦 26th March
Taiwan 🇹🇼 29th March
South Korea 🇰🇷 2nd April
Mongolia 🇲🇳 4th April
RUN WITH ME – I don’t run fast, I never run fast anymore. Maybe a sub-3-hour marathon if I’m really feeling it, but generally just a gentle plod with lots of stopping for photos and water. So no matter your pace or experience, please come and get involved. Just drop me an email at email@example.com and arrange something.
BUY A T-SHIRT – Through the expedition website or directly through Do Sport Live’s website (official sponsor) you can buy a t-shirt to support the journey.
VIRTUAL CHALLENGE – We have been running a virtual challenge for a while now. Anyone can sign up, and all you need to do is run a total of 196 miles, 1 mile for each of my marathons by the time I finish. You can run in small chunks or tick it off all in one go, if you dare.
DONATE – We always need donations. I’m a little disappointed that we haven’t raised more so far. If you can put your hand in your pocket and donate through JustGiving, your money will go to support Prostate Cancer UK. Ultimately this money will help stop men like my friend Kev from dying.
CLOSING EVENT – Invite only. If you’re interested in coming to the closing party it will be held the last weekend of March in 2020, in the UK, and will have plenty of drink, food, talks, videos, photos, and a load of friendly faces. Let me know if you want an invite.
SCHOOLS – If you work in a school, or go to school yourself, then maybe you’d like me to come and do a little talk, show some photos and share my journey. Get in touch.
TALKS – I speak at various companies, schools and clubs; if you want me along to hear the ins and outs of this journey, let me know. Details of the speaking tour in 2020 will be available soon-ish too.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
Social Media: www.runningtheworld196.com | Twitter @nickbutterrun | Instagram@nickbutterrun
Sign up to the Virtual Challenge: https://etchrock.com/challenge/buy-ticket/running-the-world-196
Promotional Video: https://vimeo.com/228583946