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Triathlon Tour Guide: Tour Of Southeast Asia

Head to taiwan or vietnam for a unique race experience and stay for a mix of luxury, adventure and cultural immersion.

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Head to Taiwan or Vietnam for a unique race experience and stay for a mix of luxury, adventure and cultural immersion.

Taiwan

FLY: Taipei is easily accessible from most major U.S. cities. Fly into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, then onward to Taitung on a one-hour regional flight from Taipei’s Songshan Airport.

STAY: The Dandy Hotel in Taipei’s Da’an District provides cool metropolitan comfort as well as across-the-street access to Da’an Park, the city’s hub for outdoor activity. A loop of the park’s soft-surface perimeter path nets you 2.2K and a prime people-watching vantage point. In Taitung, the new Fish Hotel (slated to open fall 2013) is your best bet for finish line proximity and luxury pampering, or stay at any number of B&B’s for a more authentic Asian experience.

DINE: Din Tai Fung is now an international brand with restaurants in Australia and the U.S., but the flagship location on Taipei’s foodie-focused Yongkang Street is a can’t-miss. Stuff yourself silly with spicy soup, rice and noodle dishes, sautéed greens and signature steamed dumplings by the basket-full. In Taitung, explore the city’s winding streets for truly local snacks—think smoky roasted sweet potatoes, red bean paste stuffed buns and an array of fresh fruit and juices.

A Dose of culture
A day in Taipei can easily include stops at several of the capital city’s cultural gems. The National Palace Museum (Npm.gov.tw/en/) houses the world’s largest collection of Chinese art, with exhibits spanning from giant bronze bells to miniature jade sculptures to ancient calligraphy and ceramics. Longshan Temple, in the city center, is a bustling hub of worship welcoming numerous Eastern religions as well as the public—spend 10 cents on a pack of incense with which to leave your personal prayers within the temple walls. Or take things modern with a trip to the top of Taipei 101, the world’s second tallest building boasting breathtaking views.

Exploring nature
Although a small city, Taitung is all about the outdoors, nestled behind soaring mountains and flush with forests and undeveloped seashore. It’s a perfect playground for visiting triathletes to swim in Flowing Lake (a crystal-clear manmade lagoon), ride the Challenge Taiwan coastal highway bike course, tour an abundance of bike paths and run the converted rail trail that loops for miles within the city limits.

Travel tip
You’ll taxi anywhere you don’t walk or ride in Taiwan—an easy solution since cabs are cheap and plentiful. Be sure to ask your hotel’s receptionist to write your destination address in Mandarin characters, the best way to ensure that you and your driver (who might not speak English) are on the same page.

Race it!
The Challenge Family pulls out all the stops in terms of athlete-centered racing, and Challenge Taiwan, the first Challenge series event in Asia, offering half and full long-course options as well as a relay division, is no exception. You’ll be equally wowed by the personal attention provided by race staff as by the natural beauty of this unique course that has heat, humidity and spectacular ocean views that rival Hawaii.

RELATED – Dispatch: A Day In Taipei, Taiwan

Vietnam

GO: Monsoon season typically lasts from September through December in lush central Vietnam, with April tallying the lowest rainfall.

STAY: Hospitality is priority No. 1 at Laguna Lang Co, whether you stay at the Angsana Lang Co hotel or splurge on a private villa at the Banyan Tree. Either way you’ll enjoy deep soaking tubs, daily fresh fruit deliveries, kimono robes and even private infinity edge pools—before ever leaving your room. Onsite at Angsana is a meandering pool that totals 800 meters; or enjoy a stunning beachfront swim or lounge session.

DINE: Moomba is Angsana’s main hot spot, with a beach-casual vibe, international tapas menu and cocktails galore. Post-race the patio turns into an all-you-can-eat barbecue and social meetup. The Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, sits atop a hillside with sweeping views of Lang Co Bay. Try the “Orchid Set” prix fixe meal for an abundant array of gourmet Thai cuisine—at 900,000 VND per person (about $40) it’s one of the more expensive meals you’ll eat in Vietnam, but well worth the extravagance.

Walk about
Spend a day in the port town of Hoi An, one of three Unesco World Heritage Sites within a short drive of Laguna Lang Co Resort, to find take-home trinkets and custom tailoring, or simply to stroll the architecturally preserved old town streets. A 17th-century Japanese covered bridge sets a focal point along the Thu Bon River, with countless cafés and the town’s Central Market spreading in either direction along the water’s edge. Don’t miss Reaching Out, a retail outlet exhibiting goods handmade by local disabled artisans and focused on fair-trade business practices (Reachingoutvietnam.com). Tourists are welcome to visit the artists at work in the studio next to the store, or enjoy a refreshment in the nearby Reaching Out Tea House. If hands-on is more your taste, try a cooking class with the chef at Morning Glory restaurant. A half-day lesson runs $27 and includes an excursion to the local market and preparation of a traditional Vietnamese meal. An added highlight for health-conscious athletes: In 2012, Hoi An joined the country’s smoke-free city campaign.

Get a buzz
Request a Vietnamese coffee and you’ll get a full-blown caffeine fix with potent flavor. The coffee is altogether intense and served inch high in a clear glass—likely to emphasize the impossibility of seeing through it.

Give back
Vietnam is teeming with energetic school children—nearly half of whom suffer from water-borne illnesses. Pro triathlete Chris Lieto’s organization More Than Sport partnered with Laguna Lang Co on a clean-water project to benefit local elementary schools along the race course. It’s an ongoing mission and everyone—whether visiting athletes or fans from afar—is invited to help.

Race it!
With a warm 1.1-mile ocean swim, a 38-mile jungle and rice field-buffeted bike course, and a 7.4-mile run through the resort’s golf course grounds, the Laguna Lang Co Triathlon is well-suited to build on the legendary status of its sister race, the Laguna Phuket Triathlon. The 2013 inaugural event drew the likes of Chris McCormack, Chris Lieto, Belinda Granger and inaugural champions Massimo Cigana and Radka Vodickova, all eager to sample the sights, sounds and sense of Vietnam adventure.

RELATED: More Than Sport In Vietnam