Hang Son Doong Itinerary – Day 1

I start my journey to Son Doong with a flight from Seoul to Hanoi Thursday July 24th where I’ll spend the night.  I got on an early Vietnam Airlines flight from Hanoi to Dong Hoi where I will be meeting Oxalis and starting the tour.  Over the next few day I have scheduled posts to give you updates with Oxalis’ planned itinerary.  I can’t wait to share my photos and journal from this amazing trip with you but for now here is a fairly uninteresting Day 1.

Day 1 – Friday July 25th
[Arrive in Dong Hoi, transfer to hotel in Phong Nha, orientation]

All days start with breakfast at about 8am and departing camp about 9am.  There is no rush and times are flexible according to the group.  The tour is spectacular, so there is a lot of time for photography and to enjoy the cave.

5.30PM Briefing with guides and safety experts.    Checking of clothing/equipment.  You will be asked to pack your things for the porters after the briefing.  This will be taken to the porters for packing and returned to you at the first camp site the next day.

7.30 Dinner

Birthright – Israel Outdoors the Arrival

While I was attending Brandeis University, a technically non-denominational school with predominantly Jewish students, most of my friends attended a program called Birthright.  Some even went for a 2nd round and staffed this free all inclusive 10-day trip to Israel.  I knew that I wanted to go but never had a chance to in college.  I was told you can go from 18-25 years old so when I turned 24 I started applying for Israel Outdoors.

Israel Outdoors fit my mold; I am not particularly religious and love hiking, biking and being outside.  I was wait-listed at 24 only to apply again at 25.  They wait-listed me a second time but let me know I could still apply at 26 too.  Fortunately enough when I was 26 I was given a slot on an August trip with 39 others.

A few of us joined a Facebook group and chatted online but we didn’t really meet until early August at John F. Kennedy International Airport. We found Mollie and Ari waiting for us in Israel Outdoors shirts before checking bags and getting our boarding passes. Along the way I met Jay and Ben in line before gradually finding everyone else at our gate.

We mingled and discovered that we had a lot in common (outside of Jewish family history).  Most of us were recent college graduates living in the New York area.  A suprising number of teachers were in the crowd as well as a number in finance, in law school, med school or another graduate program. Before long Mollie and Ari came over for our first ice breaker that had all 42 of us sitting in a giant circle. That must have been quite a scene for security and anyone that didn’t know us! Paper and pens were handed out and we were asked to write down 1) our name/where we are from2) what we are looking forward to in Israel and 3) an interesting fact about ourselves.

Around the circle we laughed and “awed” at everything from “I want to ride a camel, swim in the dead sea, meet Israelis” to “I love my  dogs more than most of my friends, I play with swords, and I have the perfect cartoon sneeze-laugh” Before we knew it the boarding call for our Swiss Air flight came and we found our seats.

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A stop in Zurich, Switzerland and roughly 13 hours later we found ourselves at Ben Gurion Airport and quickly met Einav, our tour guide for the trip. He doled out cell phones that were pre-ordered, introduced our bus driver and we climbed aboard our home for the next 10 days; the bus.

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Anyang from Korea!

Ever had a birthday and someone asks if you feel a year older but you feel the same?  Well that’s kinda how I feel about being here. I feel like I should be bursting at the seams with excitement having just arrived in a foreign country, my home for the next year, but I feel just the same as when I left.  I think that’s a good thing? Or perhaps exhaustion.

It is confusing not being able to read street signs or have any conversation with my taxi driver. But, I lived in Boston for 4 years so street signs are irrelevant and how many New York cabbies can you really understand?  Had a minor incident in not figuring out how to turn on my AC and the hotel repair guy didn’t speak English. Turns out the thermostat is useless and I just need a remote so we got by on hand gestures and a double facepalm.

The flights went swimmingly well. Only hit turbulence a few times and enjoyed an assortment of food and drink.  Didn’t sleep too much but that should help with the jet lag, especially after nearly 26 hours of travel.

I’m in a hotel tonight and tomorrow and about to head to bed.  2 coworkers met me at my hotel and helped check me in. They were exceptionally nice and that bodes well for the workplace.
They are coming back in the morning and taking me to the school to meet everyone and show me around town.

There really is Wi-Fi everywhere so far and the nighttime cityscape looks pretty sweet.  Good night for now!

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