Thursday, 31 January 2013

Travelling with children: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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The view from our balcony at Aqua Boutique Guesthouse, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Our main reason for this 9-week-long trip in Asia was to spend time with hubby’s family in Cambodia. The extra countries (Thailand, Malaysia, South-Korea) were just extras, added on by me when I got a bit too caught up in buying plane tickets, and a bit too immersed in my memories of when I used to backpack around Asia. Additionally, I have since before I reproduced, claimed that travelling can be done with children, and I am damned if I will be proved wrong. 

So after a week in Thailand we arrived in Cambodia where we spent two nights in Phnom Penh catching up with old friends. I lived in Phnom Penh for three years, that’s how I met the hubby, and some of my old friends are still around.

We stayed at a great little guesthouse called Aqua Boutique Guesthouse where we paid US$45 for an apartment for three included breakfast. Can’t fault that. The more we are travelling, the more we appreciate the ability to shut the door to the bedroom. For all of us to stay in a normal hotel room is doable, but slightly inconvenient. And it also means that the kiddies won’t go to bed before we do. Being able to put the kiddies to bed and then go and sit in another room was a luxury we hadn’t had since we left home. The breakfast at the hotel was the normal fare. Eggs – fried, scrambled, or omelet – a side of bacon and tomato, two toasts with butter and jam, juice or coffee, and a small plate of fresh fruit. The staff was very helpful and happy and the location is pretty smack bam in the middle of town.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Siam Paragon in Bangkok

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So thenTook a tuk tuk to the Siam Paragon in Bangkok. Were thinking of visiting the Siam Ocean World, but decided not to when we realised the entrance ticket was 1100 bath per adult and 900 bath per child. Instead we went windows shopping admiring all the chanel and prada and whatnot and had some food at the food court. A bit later we met up with a friend of the hubby from back home and went for a lovely lunch at a Thai suki restaurant. Suki is a type of soup where you will get a burner and a pot of stock on the table, and then you can order different type of vegs and meats to put in according to your taste and preferences. We ended up bying a selection of seafood, some nice duck, and lots of different vegetables, mushrooms, and fungus.

Then we went for a walk around the Paragon and Siam Centre. There were lots of interesting displays in Siam Centre.

And of course the best toilet sign ever :-).

Monday, 28 January 2013

Travelling with children: Train trip from Aonang/Krabi via Suri Thani to Bangkok

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Waiting for the bus to Suri Thani
Later on Sunday we packed up all our stuff and headed towards Bangkok. We wanted to go by train, but the closest train station is Suri Thani which is about 2 hours by bus from Krabi. But, not to worry, all travel agencies will sell you a combined ticket.

We got picked up from our hotel at 4pm.We were the first to be picked up, so then followed a round trip through most of the beaches around Ao Nang to pick up more travellers before we arrived at the bus station at Krabi around 5pm. Here we got our train ticket and we were told to wait for the bus to depart to Suri Thani at 6pm.

The bus trip to Suri Thani was pretty uneventful although a bit bumpy, and at one point big brother fell of his seat due to the bumpy ride. But, no one got hurt and after a kiss and a cuddle all was good. Little sister slept through most of the bus ride, and woke up in an excellent mood when we arrived at the train station.

Having some grub at a street stall
We wanted to find a restaurant where we could eat and drink a few hours seeing that we arrived at the train station at 8pm and our train was scheduled to depart at 23.30pm, but that worked out more difficult than we expected. The only two restaurants close to the station was in the process of closing up, and besides that there were only a couple of street stalls and a coffee shop located on the second floor. Seeing that we are lugging 75 kg of baggage around (25 kg of presents and clothes to be given away and 15 kg worth of baby pram) we decided to stay on ground level and sat down at one of the street stalls. But, not a bad decision. Had a yummy meal of green curry, shrimp omelet, spring rolls, and an egg roti with chocolate sauce for dessert. And all this for the net sum of 350 bath including drinks (about US$12).

Watching over our pile of luggage
Eventually we made our way over to the station and set up shop at the far end. And started to wait or the train. And waited. And waited. The scheduled departure time came and went without any train showing up. At last, at 1 am the train finally turned up and we hauled all our luggage, one sleeping baby girl, and one very sleepy 4-year old onto the train. 

Waking up at the train
We had bought 1st class tickets in a sleeper car with three beds. In Thailand there are two types of 1st class tickets, either seats in an open carriage where the beds are behind curtains, or slightly more expensive, seats in a private compartment. We weren’t sure which one we had ended up purchasing as the travel agency guy didn’t seem to know nor care and only kept telling us “yes, 1st class, yes, yes”. But to our delight we had ended up with private compartments. Normally I am quite happy with the open carriage, but with a baby and a 4-year old in tow it was lovely to not having to deal or interact with anyone else. Actually, we got two tiny compartments as each compartments only holds 2 beds (an upper and a lower) and we had bought three seats, but there were a door between the compartments which could be opened, and the fourth bed was empty (lucky us). For all this we had paid about 5200 bath including the bus from Krabi to Suri Thani (US$175). The 4-year old were thrilled with the upper bunk. It was his very first time sleeping in an upper bunk, and on a train to boot…

Yummy breakfast on the train all
wrapped in plastic
The next morning we were woken by some brisk knocking on our door at 9am. A man from the restaurant carriage was standing outside holding a menu with pictures, wanting to know if we would like breakfast. We ordered fried eggs and toast, and rice porridge. Both meals came with orange juice and coffee and set us back 100 bath for each.

Then we wheeled away a few hours admiring the scenery and waiting to arrive in Bangkok. When we arrived at 11.50am there were lots of men with trolleys waiting to help passengers with their luggage for the net sum of 60 bath. With the amount of luggage we had we couldn’t fit into a taxi, so to the 4-year old’s delight we ended up getting a tuk-tuk to the hotel.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Travelling with children: Chillin on the beach

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We didn't manage to get out of the room until almost 1 pm, at which time the temperature was soaring. But after having rubbed both kiddos down with sun screen lotion we packed our bag and headed towards the beach. 

We found a shady spot, and while the little missus had a nap under mommy's loving eyes, daddy and big brother went for a swim and to look for crabs in the sand and other interesting stuff.
When little sister woke up we bought some take-away from a local restaurant across the street.
Five thumbs up for the whole outing :-).

Travelling with children: Krabi Walking Street Market

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After having spent a few hours cooling down at the room, and little sister and mommy had a little sleep, we headed into Krabi town. Krabi Walking Street Market takes place every weekend and is particularly known for its range of food. Just up our alley :-D.

We hired a private tuk-tuk to take us there, wait for us, and then take us back. But we could have hitched a ride on the public tuk-tuks which runs on the road by the beach. They pretty much operate like a bus, and will pick up and drop off passengers on the way.

The market was everything we hoped for and more. There were food everywhere. We started out with bbq pork on skewers which were delicious. Then we came across chubby squid tentacles on skewers which we also had to try. We came across a stall which sold henna tattoos, and big brother ended up with a gecko on his forearm. Then there were more food. Big brother and mommy shared a waffle before we headed towards the middle of the market which were set up with a stage and lots of tables and chairs. While little sister got some yummy for her tummy, daddy went around looking for more morsels he wanted to try. So then there was deep fried shrimps, more squid skewers, some more pork skewers (but different from the first one), chicken skewers, and a spicy mango salad. And all this was washed down with a cold beer for daddy and watermelon shake for big brother and mommy.

At that time we were ready to head back, but even though we were about to burst we felt we couldn't leave without getting some snacks to take back to the room. Well, we might have gone a bit overboard. One whole salt baked fish, two chicken skewers, a bagful of crispy chicken drumsticks, and three roti filled with bananas and drenched in chocolate sauce came home with us for an evening feast.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Travelling with children: You do not have to fill every minute of the day!

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Lesson one: Do not feel bad if you end up spending most of the time in your room!
When our first born made his appearance we didn't change our way of living (or travelling) much. He was carried around wherever we went and seemed happy enough with sleeping wherever he happened to end up. We even dragged him on a 5 weeks trip to Asia when he was a mere 6 weeks. In hindsight I must admit that I wouldn't recommend that to anyone else. 

Anyway, travelling with one baby is a breeze. However, travelling with two is a completely different bag of fun. I soon had to realise that all my expectations of days in the sun filled with fun and soul developing activities had to go. Really really go. We would be lucky if we even made it out of our room for two meals a day. No, not that bad, but we would definitely spend more time in our ac-room than we had done on previous trips to hot and sunny places. 

After having walked from the hotel to the beach side in 34 degrees and glaring sun, stopped at a cafe for some much needed cold refreshments, spent the best part of an hour taking tuk-tuks to no place in particular because the 4-year old can not think of anything more fun and exhilarating than driving a tuk-tuk, we finally made it to the beach. At which point every body besides the 4-year old were hot and sweaty and ready for a cold shower. But we managed to spend a good half an hour during which the 4-year old dug for crabs, went for a swim, and in general had a ball, we ate pineapple and bbq chicken with sticky rice, made friends with a group of locals having a picnic near by, the 5-month had been admired by everyone around, and managed to pee all over the sarongs. So then we went back to the hotell after having spent a whopping 4 hours out and about. 

All in all a very good day. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Travelling with children: Thai zombies got priority seating...

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These symbols were displayed on some of the chairs at Don Mueng airport. I thought the symbol on the far left meant a not-quite-dressed-zombie and got very excited thinking the Thais really got it on. Then my hubby ruined it for me by explaining that it more likely was meant to be a monk. Which makes sense but oh so disappointing...

Travelling with children

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We have packed up our 4-year old and our 5-month old and headed towards Asia where we will spend the next 9 weeks visiting 4 countries. We have just arrived at our first destination which is Aonang Beach in Thailand. We are basking in 35 degrees, quite the difference from the 15 below we left at home.
So far things have been pretty good. But unfortunately the 4-year old has been on the receiving end of a few too many shrill outbursts from both mummy and daddy. Now, getting told off for doing something probably comes with the territory when one is 4, but a tired and stressed mum after 27 hours of travelling of which only 1 was spent sleeping due to aforementioned 5-month old doesn't help either.