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When in Bangkok, spend a day learning Muay Thai

If you have every seen a game of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) at a local stadium somewhere in Thailand or even on the web or TV, you know how brutally destructive it can be!

When I visited Thailand recently, I realised that an increasing number of travellers to Bangkok aren’t content with merely watching the sport. Many like me want to get our hands dirty and experience Muay Thai.

And I did. At the Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy (RSM academy) in Bangkok and what if it was only for a day!

RSM academy is in the Thong Lor area close to the popular Sumkhumvit in Bangkok.
This academy is located on the 3rd floor of a shopping center called ‘SeenSpace’.

It is a large training area (approx 3500 sq ft)  with many instructors around.

So, what was it like when I entered?

The whole area was abuzz with some who looked like freshers (but with a bit more experience than I had), then were the intermediate and in the ring I saw a few who seemed to be training for a while. Let’s call them pros!!

It all began with warm up-like most sports and fitness activities. And the warm up was intense. Was it the Bangkok humidity or a mix of intense cardio and mobility work, I don’t know! But I was sweating.

Now, it was time to gear up.

The gear included first wrapping my fingers with a hand wrap.

I was told that hand wraps ensure that your knuckles and wrists are protected when you punch.

The coach who could only speak  a little bit English, gestured me that I should not  wear gloves without first wrapping hands.

It is believed that punch after punch can really take a toll on your hands.

 

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Preparing for my first ever Muay Thai Session with the coach! Butterflies!

While putting the hand wraps on, I immediately realised that your wraps should be tight enough to stay put. And you should not wrap them so tight that they cut off circulation. It is important that you should be able to move your fingers and thumb comfortably.

And then, I put on the gloves.

How it all started?

After learning basic footwork, punches and elbow attacks, I was invited to enter the ring.

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Inside the ring

 

 

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Learning the Footwork

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Observing the diagonal kick or Tae Chiang as it is called

 

After learning the basic footwork, the first kick  that I learnt was Tae Chiang. It can be done by swinging the leg diagonally upwards to attack against the target.

Tae Chiang was followed by Tae Tad. Tae Tad is in fact the most commonly used kick in Muay Thai also because many think it is easy ( well, I don’t).

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Trying to correct my Tae Tad

The correct movement for Tae Tad is that the defender must bend his legs a little and swing the kick to the area around the knee-joint or the back of the knee joint.

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And post learning a couple of kicks and practising those kicks it was time to learn a few punches.

The straight punch feels like a power punch. In Muay Thai it’s frequently used as knock out punch.

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Packing a punch!

 

Muay Thai’s secret weapon

Then finally, I learnt the secret weapon of Muay Thai-elbow strike.

Elbow strike is in fact a very unique weapon that makes Muay Thai different from most other martial arts. During events and matches, elbow strike has the potential to give very severe injury to the opponent as it is used to attack when opponent is at a closer distance. An elbow strike typically strikes the joints and areas around the neck and the face.

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Attacking the face using elbow strike

 

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Attacking the knee with an elbow strike

After learning a few kicks, punches, strikes and defence  techniques, it was time to apply all that I learnt in a a two-minute fight with the coach.

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Testing my reflexes

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Anyone visiting Thailand must at least take up one session of Muay Thai. It is fun, heart-pumping and also a great calorie burner.

Here is a bit on the fee structure.

If you wish to take a single session it will cost you 550 Baht. And if you are staying a bit longer in Bangkok then you can book 10 sessions which you can in fact use for 3 months at 4,950 Baht.

There is also a Weekly and Monthly Unlimited package through which you can go as many times as you want. Weekly (Unlimited) will set you back by 1,900 Baht and 1 Month (Unlimited) is at 5,400. But then you get to visit as many times as you wish.

The exact address of the place I went to learn was:

Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy, Seenspace 13 (3rd floor), 251/1 Soi Thonglor 13, Sukhumvit 55, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand, 10110.

And this is how you can contact them +66 2 185 2384 But, apart from Thonglor there are other centres you can visit too. Details of which shall be available on their website. http://rsm-academy.com/

 

 

 

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Things to know before you visit Icelandic Thermal Baths and Hot Springs

Last June, I had a chance to visit Iceland. And just like everyone else, I wanted to visit their famous thermal baths.

Bathing in thermal baths or hot springs has long been a part of the Iceland’s tradition and culture.

And many say that these hot springs are infact Iceland’s secret to happiness.

If you are planning to travel to Iceland sometime soon and wish to visit any of their amazing thermal baths then here are a few things you must know before you go.

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Enjoying the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall 

Now, when I speak to those planning a trip to Iceland, so many of them tell me how they must visit the Blue Lagoon. It is a pretty awesome place, yes! But there are a numerous hot springs all across Iceland and each of them has something unique to offer.

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Milky water of Blue Lagoon

Some are very fact, some very busy, some are more relaxed, some come with a package, some with a very high entrance fee, while many are free.

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Went to Nautholsvik geothermal beach which was free to use on my Day 1 in Iceland

Many of these hot springs require a booking before you go and many of the baths don’t;

A few of them are man-made, while some others are completely natural.

From this you would have realised that there is a lot of choice when it comes to thermal baths in Iceland.

But all of them have a common etiquette. Hence it is important to know a few things before you visit any of them.

1. Before you enter, you have to shower nude

Icelanders are very strict about hygiene. Hence, when it comes to bathing in thermal baths, you must shower naked without your bathing suit before entering them.

Mostly these are common showers without a privacy of curtains or cubicles. And of course they are same sex only.

Many a times you will see a few signages around the showers, which advise you to scrub properly  and scrubbing around intimate areas  is needed. Please stick to these rules otherwise you may get a local yelling at you.

And when it comes to showering, let me be clear it requires using shampoo, body wash, conditioner, etc. Many baths provide it close to the shower, but for a free public bath, it is advisable to carry your own.

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Showering is crucial before you enter any thermal bath 

2. Take your shoes off

Yes, you must leave your shoes outside the showering areas. Generally, outside the changing rooms there are dedicated shoe shelves where you can leave your shoes. Or you can even pick up these shoes and bring it to your locker in the changing room.

3. Get a locker

The most important thing that you do after entering the changing room is to get a locker. Don’t worry, at any paid bath or hotspring, a locker is included in the admission fee.  You can store your clothes and belongings there. The key for it is attached to an elastic band which you can put around your wrist or ankle which you can bring to the bath. Many a times the number of the locker is not on the key especially when it is a swipable bracelet. In such a situation it is crucial to remember in which locker you have kept your belongings and you will have to remember the section number too. Many huge baths have a plethora of lockers and you don’t want to be lost inside.

4. Bring your own towel otherwise you will have to rent one

At larger hot springs you can rent towels and slippers but it is the best if your bring your own. You can definitely save some money.

5. Get your slippers

I visited Iceland in June and it was cold!!! The biggest challenge entering a hotspring comes when you have to walk from your changing room to the bath and that too bare feet!! And the same applies when you are going back to the changing room. Hence, it is great to keep your slippers handy.

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Getting into the water from the changing room is a challenge

6. Do not wet your hair

Many say that hot springs have high amount of Silica, hence it’s often advised to avoid wetting your hair as it can become dry and tangled. I have faced this problem when I did dip my hair!

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Yes I did wet my hair and I had to deal with tangled, dry hair for the next couple of days 

6. Choose a quieter time to make the most out of your hotspring experience

Typically, coach tours visit hotsprings daily. But as you’re coming to a thermal bath to relax and rejuvenate, you may want to visit during quieter times  when there is less crowd.

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There was not much crowd when I was at the Secret Lagoon, but almost after one hour, it got really crowded

 

7. Book the transfer in advance

If you are not driving down, then it is best to book your transfer to and from the hotspring in advance along with your ticket to the hotspring to avoid any kind of chaos.

8. Drink lots of water before during and after stepping out

Staying in a hot thermal bath for a very long time can be dehydrating. Hence, keep sipping water before you enter the hotspring. Inside  a large bath such as the Blue Lagoon, you can swipe your bracelet and buy anything to eat and drink. And you can pay for it outside when you are leaving. And after you step out, don’t forget to have fluids on your way back to the hotel.

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Yes, I could buy some red wine too, using my bracelet

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Nothing compares to sipping some wine staring at the 11:30 pm sun!!! Yes, 11:30 pm is when this photo was taken

Final tip

When you enter a hotspring, you will realise that it is a bit hotter at the edge or the periphery of the bath as compared to the area in between. Choose what you like. I loved to stay in hot hot water at the edge in the cold cold Iceland.

Hope you enjoyed reading these tips and with that have a wonderful time in the Icelandic hot springs.

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Indeed, it was warmer at the edges and I spent almost two hours moving from one edge to the other 

 

Running in the rain

Starting June, the most common run related question I get is ‘how to run in the rain?’

Well, all I can say is that you shouldn’t be scared about running in the rain—you just need to be prepared to embrace it. And if you are prepared then running in the rain can be a delightful experience.

I hope some of these tips will help you run in the rain.

Wear Layers

To begin with, a light jacket is helpful if you intend to run in the rain. It gets windy and sometimes a bit cold even when you are running at a place like humid place like Mumbai. This jacket will also act as a great shield against the rain. Pick one with a hood to cover your head.
If you’re going for shorts, it’s a good idea to wear some compression shorts on underneath to prevent chafing.

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It is great to run in layers and a light jacket will help

Wear Bright colours

Pick up all those bright neons when you step out for a run. It gets a bit dark when it rains and wearing bright colours is the best way to stay visible especially if you are running on the road.

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Bring those Neons out

Carry your money in small waterproof purse

In order to avoid your money from getting wet, carry it in a small waterproof case that fits in your shorts’ or tights’ pocket.

Shoes for your run

When it comes to shoes for your run, take a look at the bottom of your go-to running shoes. If they’re smooth on the bottom it is going to be very hard for you to run without slipping. To be able to run in the rain, your shoes should have a good grip and also some grooves on the soles. A great way to measure is that they should be deeper than one millimetre. This really allow water to run through them and also helps the shoe get a better grip on the road.

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Wearing right running shoes is crucial

Wearing thin socks

Now most running shoes feature upper mesh to let your feet breathe. Because of the mesh, your feet are going to get wet for sure when it rains. Though there’s not much you can do about the mesh on your shoes, wearing thin socks, which don’t absorb as much water, will keep soggy feet from weighing you down. Socks will also help avoid blisters and shoe bites on your wet, numb feet.

Keep yourself hydrated

Now, when it is warm you tend to keep on sipping water at regular intervals. But, when it rains do not forget to hydrate yourself. You might not feel thirsty while you are running in the rain, but post the run you will end up feeling tired and dehydrated. To avoid this, keep on sipping water.

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It is extremely important to hydrate yourself well

Watch the road

The last thing that you want on your run is an ankle sprain. Keep a watch on the road for those puddles and open gutters.

Apply Vaseline

Applying Vaseline on your feet and at the periphery of your clothing is the best way to avoid wet clothing related rashes and blisters.

Avoid running on a tiled surface

Running on tiled surface makes you more prone to slipping. Hence it is best to avoid running on tiled surface.

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Tiles can be tricky during rains, be careful otherwise you will slip

There is nothing more beautiful and liberating than running in the rain. You feel child-like joy splashing water as you run while the rain water rushes down your cheeks. I hope with these tips will you will be able to experience this joy.

Running at KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and tired of working out indoor in your hotel gym or running on treadmill and are also concerned about hitting the busy KL streets for your run, then head to KLCC Park.

In the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers this green space offers plenty of shade, water bodies and about 1-1.3 km loop. And the best part is that it has a synthetic track for runners.

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The KLCC Park is in the shadow of the twin towers

The KLCC park is right at the city centre and easily accessible!

On my recent work trip to Kuala Lumpur, I was staying at the busy Bukit Bintang and this place was both a run and a cab ride away.

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The park was at a short distance from the very busy Bukit Bintang 

I preferred taking a cab in order to avoid all the traffic and the shopping crowd. And it took me less than 10 minutes to reach from Bukit Bintang to KLCC Park.

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It was a nice shaded route to run, even when I started the run a bit late

At any given point in time, whether it is night or day, this park attracts tourists. And to my luck I found a couple of them who could take good pictures!!!!! Yaayyy!!

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It felt amazing to watch and pass the twin towers, on every single loop taken 

Just because it has a synthetic track doesn’t mean it is a flat course. Nope! It gets a bit rolling in between, but not really in a tough way, rather, in a fun manner!

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There is a bit of elevation that you will notice when you run, but in a fun way! 

You can run here in the morning, during the day time and even till late evening. The park opens at around 7 am and is open till 10 pm.

If you come here in the evening, you will be a witness to the synchronised water fountain and light display. And post run you can have some time to chill at the orchestra theatre.

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The synchronised water fountain and light display if you visit KLCC park in the night

 

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Beautiful view of the twin towers from the park in the night 

Just to give you a background, this beautiful park was conceptualised by renowned Brazilian landscape artist, the late Roberto Burle Marx. It is a approximately a 50-acre urban sanctuary in the heart of the city.

About 6 loops and 8km run later, I headed back to the hotel for a quick meal, before getting on with work. A run at this park definitely made me wonder whether we can have a park such as this in my city Mumbai with a longish synthetic track and under the shade of trees!!!

 

 

Koh Talu-an unexpected and a very private affair

On my recent trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity of visiting a very unique island.

It was about 6 hour drive and a boat ride away from Bangkok. This is the private Koh Talu Island that I am speaking about.

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Koh Talu Island

The journey:

We took Bangkok Airways Flight from Mumbai and Landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. From there we took a van to travel further.

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At Suvarnabhumi Airport

After a few stops we went to the famous Hua Hin railway station which is in fact one of the oldest railway stations in Thailand.

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Royal Waiting room at Hua Hin Station

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Waiting for the train at Hua Hin station

After stopping for lunch, we moved to take a short ferry ride

Koh Talu Island Resort is a 20-minute speed boat ride from the coast of Bang Saphan.

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20 min boat ride to Koh Talu Island resort

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Boat ride to the Koh Talu Island 

A very friendly staff greeted us on board. As the ferry moved forward, the island started disclosing itself. And what we saw was delightful indeed.

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Finally, after a long journey we landed on the Koh Talu Island

Located on a private beach, Koh Talu Island Resort offers rooms with private balconies. It features a massage centre, a private beach and beautiful sea facing restaurant where we enjoyed our evening meal.

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Excitement to capture the sunset after landing on this private beach

The rooms were air-conditioned and spacious.

Next day, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise followed by a run that I enjoyed on the beach. Post breakfast, we headed for water activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling.

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Day started with delicious breakfast 

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Morning run on the island

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Off to dive

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Enjoyed a great dive 

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Post the dive, enjoyed some snorkelling 

After hours of diving and snorkelling we were welcomed by a warm buffet lunch.

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This dive was really amazing, saw many many beautiful creatures 

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On the journey back to the hotel for lunch

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Who likes some fresh crabs? 

Post lunch we went for another dive where we understood how the resort is taking efforts to save and restore corals.

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The Island’s Coral Restoration project

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These corals will be carried to the sea bed and restored again

The island also has a turtle nursery to conserve and breed sea-turtles.

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Met some beautiful baby turtles

The highlight of the day was a boat ride by the beautiful sunset. It was almost one hour long and we enjoyed every minute of it.

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Boat ride at sunset 

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A beautiful end to a beautiful day

This was followed by a sumptuous dinner with seafood and some delightful drinks.

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This was some meal and that too by the sea!!!

Koh Talu truly is a hidden gem. And if you want your time away from the hustle and bustle of this tourist magnet Thailand then this is an island to visit.

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How to start running? A few tips for those who want to begin.

runner's sigh

A lot of people often write to me asking how did I begin running. Well, my answer is simple-by substituting a few meters of my morning or evening walk with a slow jog and then getting back to the walk. That’s how I began! You can do the same. Begin with small 1 to 2 km walk-jog-walk routines that you can practice and bring to slightly longer runs over the weekend. And also here are a few easy steps that you can follow.

IMG_2911Start running today!!!!!

 

Take time out to follow a routine

First, take 30 mins of your time each day and start with run-walk-run, at least 3 times a week. As you get regular after a couple of weeks, try and increase this to about 5 times a week. You can also try one minute of brisk walking, followed by one minute of jogging, and repeat this…

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In images-why should you definitely take a winter break and visit Gulmarg?

I visited beautiful Gulmarg on new year’s eve and stayed there for a couple of days after new year. It was beautiful, peaceful and with very few tourists around. I got a good deal on flights and hotels while I stayed there and got utmost hospitality and attendance of the locals at restaurants, shops and hotels. But the most beautiful part about Gulmarg around that time was what I saw-with snow and without it too. And it was breathtaking. Here are a few moments captured through my mobile phone camera.

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Bukhara in my room at Hotel Nedous. Landed here with high fever and visited the local hospital the next day for a swift recovery. 

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Inside a Gondola, all the way to the top

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View from the top, after a short trek post the Gondola ride

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In the hotel backyard, while taking a short walk

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Most on the tourists explore Gulmarg on a pony like this one. I preferred walking and would end up walking at least 10-12 km each day.  

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Freezing at -3 degrees while I stepped out on the terrace at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa. This is the most sought after hotel to stay in at Gulmarg (slightly over priced) 

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Last sunset of 2016 was beautiful indeed! 

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And the sun finally hides behind the mountains! 

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Frozen river captured on one of the long walks

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First run of 2017 and then some yoga! 

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From scantily snow-clad land to land and rooftops completely hidden under snow! Complete change in scene within 12 hours! 

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And snowfall continues

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View from my hotel room

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roads and trees covered in snow

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Long road trips suddenly become very endearing! 

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Isn’t it gorgeous or what?