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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Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Sanur is famed for it’s 4km beachfront. It’s pleasant, child friendly, has nice eateries. It’s slightly too generic to be a favorite (we’re island people at heart!) Highlights include the night market, trying Kopi Lewak (cat poo coffee) posing at the picturesque Big Garden Corner, and our beautiful hideaway at the Villa Sayang Tamen.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia


I’ve never seen so many sunrises as I have in this country.  I used to stay up partying in Kuta until 5am, now I wake at the time because my jetlagged babies are raring to go at dawn. It’s fair to say traveling with our 2.5yr and 7 month girls has been a beautiful yet exhausting week so far.

7 years ago fell in love with Ubud after a daytrip here. I’ve always hankered to come back to do a silversmith workshop, check out vegan cafes, browse for Balinese cushions, be almost be convinced I don’t hate yoga….

Obviously this is all still on the wish list as my babies allowed me to do non of this.

Instead we experienced travel from a toddlers agenda; lots of time in the pool and eating our own weight in tropical fruit. They have life sussed. Every other picture in my camera roll is us posing with coconut juice or smoothies. We also discovered the joy of acai bowls, which we ate Udud style in a plush cushioned swing.

My top tips for Ubud with kids under two…..

1) Avoid the famous monkey forest, and 1/2 km radius of monkey forest Rd. Wild monkey vs wild toddler….i’m not sure who my money would be on.

2) Scooter traffic and South East Asian pavements (or lack of.) Negotiating the manic roads with my two little ones scared the s#!t out of me. The only time we actually got to use our double pram was for our 5am walks to the local fruit market when the streets were less crowded. During the daytime our baby hiking carriers were a travel essential. It felt much safer and more nimble negotiating the narrow streets. Plus they slept happily cocooned on us as we browsed the busy flee markets and snuck in cheeky Bintangs.

3) Discover all of the tiny ramshackle warongs and the more quiet places to grab an evening meal where kids will be welcomed with open arms. Literally, a team of nice Indonesian women were happy to grab our baby from my lap and entertain her in a rice field whilst I ate. You know what they say; It takes a village.

 

4) I’m going to pretend I loved adopting a “if you can’t beat them join” attitude of being woken by babies louder than roosters for a three hour walk before breakfast. We experiencing the beauty of silent rice fields at sunrise, the traditionalists of the fruit market, and saw Ubud from a rarer perceptive….Who am I kidding, I value sleep! Although one of the nicest benefits of such an early start was being in bed by 7pm which i secretly loved. What a difference 7 years makes :)

Where we ate….
http://theseedsoflifecafe.com/

http://cafepomegranate.org/

https://acaiqueenbar.com/welcome

Where we stayed….

http://bucuviewubudbali.com/

 

Travel with an 8 month old baby…

One of my favorite pictures. 8 months old, 30 degree heat, first holiday and she's happily asleep on a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city...

One of my favorite pictures. Our 8 month old daughter fast asleep on the back of a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city.

‘You’re traveling to Central America and Asia with an 8 month old?’ ‘You’re traveling by bus overland across the Mexico Chetumal border?’ ‘You’re taking a baby away for 6 weeks?’ were all questions people asked even more than ‘You’re eloping in Belize?!’

To anyone that knows us (my visit list is up to 65 countries now, hubby’s 35) the answer was ‘of course we are – our 8 month old will love it!’ And she did.

Our route was AustraliaLA – Belize – Mexico – UK – Singapore – Australia. 45 days, 8 different beds in 5 countries, 52 hours of flights, hundreds of new faces and experiences.

I’ve honestly never seen her more curious, more happy, or more adaptable. What surprised me the most is how natural it comes to them. She got more sleep on our long haul flights & dealt with jet-lag quicker than both of us! Watching her dip her toes in the Caribbean, charm Singaporean strangers on the MRT and scoff Mexican tacos till her heart is content was utterly worth it.

We found 6 weeks away with a baby a crazy, exhausting adventure, but most of all a huge bonding experience. Our daughter relished having both mum & dad (and grandparents) around her, as well as the overwhelming kindness of doting strangers. Everyone loves a baby. I’d of had one long ago if I knew how useful they are for nabbing the best seats on buses and cutting boat queues :)

There’s so much written about the negatives of travel with children, about baby routines, about jet-lag adjustment schedules etc. People often stress about whether such young babies will miss home or feel secure.

Before we left a friend gave me the following advice, which I absolutely love (in the context of travel and just motherhood in general); “You are their home. You are their safe place. Make all the lists you want of tips, advice, things to pack. All they really need is you. “

Beautiful. Simple. True.

 

Pic of the week; Singapore Stopover

A short and sweet 5 days in my favorite to show our baby where mum and dad first met 2 years ago. Well, that and to break up the marathon Australia flight in Asia and take the edge off the jetlag. And to show off the baby with our remaining friends over a boozy brunch at Cafe Melba. AND because we love a (third!) round the world trip…Ok, any excuse to revisit this city :)

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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