Hội An & Bai Xep, Vietnam…

Vietnam with a 2 and a 1/2 year old & 4 year old. People imagine all sorts of things for their children. Since we first fell pregnant, we only ever imagined this for ours – a Vietnamese sleeper train adventure. One big backpack, 4 of us, two weeks.

 


Ho Chi Minh City (Days 1 – 2)
Our tactic here was to keep it simple, like toddler simple, one ‘big’ thing a day. Namely a park when they could run free. The walk to get there became the adventure as we’d call at our favorite fresh juice and Banh Mi street stall to take refuge from the infamous traffic on the way. It did amaze us though (having both visited Vietnam a couple of times previously) how much our bodies remembered the reflex of the tactical ‘slow walk.’ AKA survival across the road whilst 100 motorbikes swarm around you.

September 23 park and Tao Dan park in District 1, have fantastic kids playgrounds; both are safe (ish), fenced, shady. Most importantly the former has a kiosk serving 60 cent beers whilst you watch the kids play. Australia get on this please!

When we felt really adventurous we’d throw in two things a day like a trip to Ben Thanh Market, the water puppets show, or an evening trip to the pedestrianised Nguyen Hue walking street. When i say evening, I of course mean 5pm, since the jet-lagged kids were still on Australian time. Afterall, getting in a swim before 6am is the new going out.


Where we stayed:
The Sunland Hotel – has a shallow toddler slide pool NEXT to a lady doing foot massages. Again, Australia please get on this!

Where we ate: Al Sham Restaurant – delirious middle eastern food and friendly owner who stuffed the kids full of Syrian honey cake & strawberry sticks on the three times we visited.

HCMC to Da Nang (For Hoi An) the SE4 sleeper train

The pros list:

  • It’s totally worth birthing two kids JUST to secure your own 4 birth soft sleeper cabin with none of the usual sharing with strangers on a train.
  • The line “we’re going to sleep on a train!” bought me us at least 6 months of excitement in the pre-holiday build up with the kids.
  • The kids actually slept. Helped by the rocking and ‘chug chug’ noises.

The reality list:

  • 17 hours is a LOT of crafting, dominoes and sticker books. Parents; Arm yourself with supplies. Oh how my husband and I longed for our Trans-Siberian express days where all we needed as a good book and vodka!
  • My youngest is a total bed-hog, meaning that I had somewhat less sleep than she did, sharing a single berth with a 2 year old in the starfish position.
  • The momentum that the kids loved, together with the screeching, jolting and excitement of sleeper trains that I also used to love just left me feeling exhausted this time. Old age maybe?

Hội An (Days 3 – 5)

There are places I know I’ll love before i get there. This is one. Cobbled old town set along a canal, French colonial architecture, quaint little shop-houses framed with lanterns. It reminded me of a glitzier version of Melaka in Malaysia.

It’s Instagram central here. Now I’d like to not be a cliche since I’m older and wiser, but nope, I donned actual red lipstick for a breakfast walk and posed like the best of them in the mustard yellow walled alleyways. All be it with my mini photo-bomber kids by my ankles.

Where I stayed: Thanh Van 1 hotel – nice courtyard pool, nice breakfast.

Where I ate: The perfect Long Island Iced Tea at a coffee shop called Wake Up, washed down with veggie spring rolls. Perfect mainly because it was ‘mama solo time’ for a few hours. Also because it was the same price as a smoothy. Easy choice.

What we did: The Lantern full moon festival, held monthly.

Cua Dai (Days 5 – 8)

We lucked out here with the beautiful homestay with home cooking and lovely staff who live on site with their two young kids, meaning that I could relax and not have to ‘shhh’ mine. It’s location might put a few people off as it was the baron building in the middle of a cows paddock, 5 minutes taxi ride from the Cua Dai main strip.  Strangely rows of pavements were all built in invisible streets looking ripe for developers, but all that seems ambiguous due to the Cua Dai’s coastal erosion problem. We personally loved the wide open space after being cooped up in cities. It’s 5 minute walk to a super quiet patch of beach with the pint sized toddler waves to play in at dusk.

Where we stayed: Sun Paradise Villa.

Sa Huynh (Day 9)

Since we couldn’t face the 5 hour drive back down south in one hit. We pit stopped for one night in the creepy Sa Huynh resort. It’s faded neon lights reminded me of the place in the movie ‘Bad times at the El Royal.’ It had one redeeming feature however….

 

 

Bai Xep (Day 10 – 13)

At last. Anywhere that’s cut off to traffic is our kind of place. We found our groove here. I liked it from the moment we walked in through the rabbit warren alleyways, where the only decision is whether to turn left to the fishing dock or right at the village well which was jammed packed with various pipelines to communally siphon off water. The beach is shared by a handful of iconic Vietnamese basket boats and three guesthouses (two backpackers and a fancy pants resort.) At sunset the whole village set up makeshift plastic furniture in the sand and sell their catch of the day. The only jolt from paradise came when the local kids came racing into the tide one day, ecstatic that they’d got their hands on an old polystyrene box. It became a shared raft, floating toy, ball and eventually disintegrated into 1000 pieces which were left all over the beach. A handful of 8 year olds then started experimenting with their heads in plastic bags whilst crashing in the waves. If ever there’s somewhere to make you appreciate the scale of the global climate emergency it was here.

Where we stayed: Haven Guesthouse.

Dieu Tri to HCMC the SE1 sleeper train (day 14)

Back on the 12 hour night train once more, which was pretty uneventful, except for it’s final moments. I’d previously joked that this trip was about re-connecting with ‘travel Kim,’ with the person and feelings that travel used to give me – moments that are few and far between once parenthood begins! Since 99% of this trip was the usual happy chaos of young children, my 1% of travel buzz came unexpectedly as we arrived into Ga Sai Gon station at dawn. Something about Asian cities in the very early hours of the morning makes me feel alive every time.

 

 

 

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Geelong & Torquay, Victoria, Australia

Now I have a legitimate excuse for my lifelong “Any excuse to book a holiday” mantra. Australian Bushfire season. More specifically Total Fire Ban days in my leafy Melbourne suburb, and any time the ‘wheel of death’ (Fire Danger Rating) reaches so much as amber.

Once they’d got over their bafflement that this ‘holiday’ involved a roadtrip and not an airplane (so basically a whole weekend of endless questions) the toddlers packed their own backpacks in excitement, including swimwear only. Chips off the old block.

First stop. The Carousel in Geelong, just over an hour from Melbourne. It’s a 120 year old classic child crowd-pleaser, especially as we had it to ourselves (it was a 43 degree day afterall.)

Second stop. 5 minutes along the coast was Geelong Eastern Beach Swimming Enclosure. Major South of France vibes. The pool was the perfect depth for 2/3 year olds, it had a van selling hot chips on site, and unbelievably was totally free.

Torquay. My last time here was 4 years ago, pre-kids. Very different story. This time we  filled two days at the very child-friendly Cafe Moby, the brilliant playground directly opposite, and nicely beach-bumming around collecting shells and yelping at the waves. The Salty Dog Cafe had the perfect early evening acoustic setlist that made me genuinely appreciate that the best nights out now are all pre-8pm.

Werribee Open range Zoo was our final stop off, exactly half way back to Melbourne on the way home.

Where we stayed: The Gallery B & B, Fischer Street, Torquay (A good destination but a spider hater’s nightmare. Heavy on the cobwebs.)

 

 

 

 

 

Ubud-Sidemen-Amed-Candidasa-Sanur… Bali

So our two babies are 3 years and 18 months now. This year’s winter escape to Bali will be a piece of cake compared to their age a year ago, we thought. Except the kids were the easy part. Facing active volcanoes, learning about tsunami evacuation routes, and experiencing earthquakes & aftershocks turned out to be the gnarly part.

If you’re reading this (especially with young kids) and weighing up the ultimate question; ‘to go or not to go?’ there were two fantastic news sources that helped us decide. In fact we are still a bit addicted to despite being home in Melbourne. 1) The official earthquake tracker app BMKG and 2) Jackie Pomeroy’s Mount Agung Daily Report Facebook group. Both made us feel informed, connected and a whole less fearful about what, when you start to understand them, are natural events and part and parcel of Indonesian life. So, we went.

Ubud
My 3rd time here and here’s what I’ve reaffirmed; Yoga Barn is not for me. Although it is a useful shortcut, and an amusing space to watch your own toddlers destroy all the hippy ‘meditative’ peace with their own loud ‘ecstatic dancing

Nyuh Kuning village has the holy grail of traveling with toddlers in Asia; pavements. Well, flat tracks by the side of a quiet tree-lined road that you can push a pram along or let them walk/hoon along. The two parallel streets of Jl. Nyuh Bulan and Jl. Nyuh Gading are a great Sunday afternoon walk.

The path around Monkey Forest is still a gauntlet of hell. The toddlers were braver than I was.

Where we stayed… (And ate plenty of times too)
Gana Ubud Hotel and Restaurant

Sidemen
Started as a strategic one night stop-off at a local mountain village when we took a shine to a particularly well-priced yet fancy villa. Turned into a really great decision for a stop off when our 19 month old vomited on me as she sat on my lap in a taxi traversing the windy roads. Ironically, for somewhere only 16km from the exclusion zone for the simmering Mount Agung, we had a beautifully peaceful night (apart from our own loud human volcanoes.)

Where we stayed…
Villa Shantiasa

Amed
I was worried we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Amed without a moped, as it’s a series of beach villages along the coast. Or without dive gear, as it’s famed for it’s wreck diving. Except kids are pretty ace by happily filling 3 days with nothing but a pool, a garden overlooking a rice field (are you even IN Bali without this!) and a beach 50 metres from your bedroom. Oh and the BEST ever meal in all of my six visits to Bali; Galanga restauant.  It’s worth the hype. I was also loving life during the 10 whole minutes i spent snorkeling at Bunutan. Kids are also pretty ace at making you appreciate every moment of solitary freedom too, even if you have to go underwater to get it.

Where we stayed…
Villa Mangga Beach

Candidasa
Will forever be the place we were pretty much scared sh*tless when two 6.4 and 6.9 quakes hit neighboring Lombok. Amed, Candidasa and Sanur are all low-lying coastal land, so tsunama prone. We always packed a nightly ‘grab bag’ in case we had to evacuate outside in an emergency with torches, passports etc. It turns out when an earthquake hits the only thing you actually do is run towards your sleeping babies and dive on top of them as you feel the walls and windows rattle around you. And for us, the official classification was moderate to strong. I cannot imagine how it feels in the epicenter of an earthquake. The kids were blissfully ignorant and slept through a whole night of aftershocks.

Where we stayed…
Bali Palms

Where we ate…
Warung Bintang
Candi Bakery

Sanur
Familiar, easy, and the perfect end to our trip by meeting up with family friends. We kept it simple and spent two days visiting our favorite eateries and haggle spots from last year. We can almost understand why you might return to the same spot year on year. Only joking. We loved our 2 weeks, 6 stop adventure. As did our little gypsy nomad toddlers.

Where we stayed…
Rumah By the Sea

Where we ate…
Warung Odah Oning

Pic of the week: Shoreham Foreshore Camping, Victoria

Gallery

A food journey through Hobart…

Seven Mile Beach. Ocean wave sounds = Instant baby sleep.

Another Christmas in Tasmania, this time to Hobart. I’m simply going to talk food.

Seafood at Mures Lower Deck. Gelato at Van Demons Land Creamery. Bloody Mary at Tricycle Cafe. Donuts at Lady Hester. Craft cider from Salamanca Fresh. Toes barefoot on the grass.  A birthday. Perfection.

 

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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