Chiang Mai

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We tried. Maybe we should have tried earlier!

We were still in Bangkok and our next and final destination was Chiang Mai. We had hoped to catch a night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Jason had searched for tickets a week ago and there were not many options available. We were usually quite lucky up until now in finding accommodation and travel tickets last minute. Unfortunately there was nothing available, so whilst we were chilling on the island of Ko Phanang I booked our flights with Bangkok airways to Chiang Mai.

We were somewhat eager to leave the big cities and Chiang Mai was a place where we hoped to experience the tranquil village-like living through homestay. What we found was better than what we had hoped. It was a tree house! The place isn’t just called Tree House, but the place quite literally is built like a big tree house, all out of timber and very rustic.

Tree House Hideway has four bedrooms inside the tree house. We were fortunate to have had someone cancel and so we got to have the big room, usually used by families, which can fit up to 8 people. The place is simple. With basic bedding, shared bathrooms and toilets, communal dining and hang-out area. The owners and workers are exceptionally friendly and the guides are well-spoken and helpful. There was always an abundance of traditional Thai food and our experience was truly memorable.

If you need somewhere to stay in North Thailand for an off-the typical tourist route, I strongly recommend checking out  Tree House Hideaway or searching them up on Airbnb. We spoke to some people who had booked through Airbnb. It’s not your typically cheap hostel accommodation, but with all meals included, pick-up and drop-off from the airport, and tours included (the price we paid), it is certainly worth the price.

 

It was quite special with the local children coming to do a singing/dance show every evening before dinner. Mr 5 got right in there dancing with one of the older girls lol!

 

During our time here, we did the typical tours for this area:

We usually carry with us an empty bottle of water wherever we go so that when the boys need the toilet, we do not have to fuss over finding a toilet in less than a minute (as their bladders cannot hold it for long).

On this particular occasion we forgot the empty water bottle and we only realised when inside the cave. Yes – you guessed it! Both boys decided they really needed to go inside the cave! With no where to go, and we couldn’t exactly leave the group to go out, the tour guide put both boys in a corner and let them pee.

As expected, local Thai by-passers were not impressed and I could see them approach our guide, speaking about what I imagined was their disgust with what had just occurred. We were embarrassed. I didn’t want this to happen this way, but as the guide explained to everyone, what else were we to do? There was no where else to go, it was a long way back out and both boys would most likely have an accident.

I was thankful for the guide looking after the boys that way, but we also felt terrible of the fact that in a cave in Chiang Dao, our boys have marked their territory.

**Important tip:

If you’re going to go anywhere obscure with children, ALWAYS carry an empty water bottle!

 

 

  • Elephant Sanctuary

It was the 24th December, 2017 and we spent the morning visiting Kanta Elephant Sanctuary, and kind of forgot it was so close to Christmas!

They explained all about elephants and how they look after these beautiful animals at the sanctuary. The visit included feeding sugar cane to the elephants, patting them and then bathing them should you wish. We got given morning tea and a Kanta T-shirt.

I would recommend going to Kanta as the staff are all very friendly and the elephants look like they are well taken care of.

 

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Chiang Mai city

We arrived into Chiang Mai city after our peaceful retreat at Tree house Hideaway. Up until this morning we still were unsure where we were going to stay in Chiang Mai. We had 2 nights 24-26th. Jason spent the drive to the Sanctuary searching on his phone for accommodation. We looked on Airbnb and bookings.com He finally found a place through bookings.com called Thank you Chiang Mai. We paid $25 per night. It was just what we needed. The place was clean, the room had a double bed and a single bed. The staff were friendly and the place is located in the old part of town not far from the Phae Gate. If you are looking for budget accommodation, then Thank you Chiang Mai is perfect for this. Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 1.31.01 pm

We arrived a Sunday afternoon and thankfully we made it just in time for the Saturday/Sunday markets. It’s quite popular for tourists and locals alike. I really enjoyed these markets as there were slightly different knick-knacks than what I had seen in other parts of Thailand.

The massages on the street were also a sight to see AND experience. They have chairs and table beds lined up on the street for very cheap one hour massages. We all had a go at having a massage 🙂

**Tip: If you are planning to visit these markets with children, I would suggest arriving a little earlier – roughly 4ish as by the time 7:30pm hits it is completely packed and difficult to walk freely without having to push and shove!

 

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We had our Christmas Eve dinner in a restaurant around the market place area. The boys had Pad Thai and then we all shared Mango Sticky rice and some ice-cream.

 

Cooking class

Another activity besides visiting the markets or strolling the streets is taking a cooking class – and that is what I did!

I chose to go to Thai Vegetarian Cooking. I strongly recommend Thai Vegetarian cooking as a place to experience cooking classes. Doing the whole tourist group class can be a bit of waste of time with having to go pick everyone up in a vehicle, then visiting the market as part of ‘the class’, which I thought was not that great and a slight waste of time. I can say that the actual lessons were very worthwhile and the teacher was spot-on! Being a teacher myself, I could see she had a tonne of experience teaching novice cooks and a heap of patience too! There was not a detail that she didn’t anticipate and explain. The only disappointment was that we were told we could save our dishes and they would be packed away for take-away. Unfortunately these all got mixed up with the others in the group and some didn’t even get to take-away.

 

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We were welcomed with a purple drink and ” Khao Kriab Pak Moh” (Steamed Rice Skin Dumplings).

Anuchan

image taken from: https://sites.google.com/site/thaivegetariancooking/home

Some more exploring we did was just visiting the different Wot’s and trying the local food. If you are in Chiang Mai then you need to try Khao Soi a noodle-soup dish. It reminded me a little of the Vietnamese dish Cao lao (though this is drier). But it did have some crispy noodles on top that were oh so tasty!

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Khao Soi

Christmas came and went and we missed the Hustle and bustle that usually comes with christmas time back home. Our Khao Soi was our “Christmas lunch”. We then got ready to go back home on the 26th December and get ready to spend NYE with friends back home 🙂

 

 

 

Kuala Lumpur to Penang

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We caught the 9am train from KL Sentral, which arrived into Butterworth at 1pm.

Our tickets were all spread out. Two seats in the D carriage but in aisle 1 and 10, whilst the other two were in carriage F. Buying tickets online using the ktmb.com.my website using a phone is impossible. If you’re going to buy ETS tickets then best to use a tablet or a computer. We booked our accommodation the night before arriving to Penang.

The train journey to Butterworth went by pretty quickly with entertainment, colouring in and playing games. We received a complimentary morning tea snack from the workers.

I was quite impressed that there is a constant cleaner on board, ready to sweep and ensure the toilets are clean. Whilst I was thankful that the train was clean, there was something about the new Malaysian trains that did not quite have the same ambiance/vibe as the older trains we travelled in Vietnam. They seem almost too clinical. It’s hard to explain.

Once arriving into Butterworth, we caught a shuttle bus to the Ferry that took us to Penang.

It has been a long day and we needed to find lunch as it was nearing 2pm.

We found a nice spot around the corner from where we were staying called Sri Ananda Bahwan. Excellent Indian food and well priced.

Things to see/do in Penang

1. Magic world

The boys loved Magic world, although Mr 4 found it a little scary at times – particularly when they “chopped me in half”. It was a good time killer away from the heat and they loved it.

 

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2. Fort Cornwallis

Not a whole lot to see here. Just a few canons and bit of interesting reading.

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3. Butterfly farm

This place is really interesting and well laid out. There’s so much to see and I would definitely recommend this for families. It isn’t all about butterflies. There is a lot about bugs and insects and overall the underworld.

Around Penang

We enjoyed Penang. It reminded us a little of Hoi An. It’s not quite like Hoi An, in the sense that it is still missing more of the cultural atmosphere, but the colonial buildings, the street art and people certainly make this place attractive.

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Jelly in the shell of an egg! Kids party ideas?

Our place. We stayed in the far left corner – bottom and top floor.

Where we had lunch one day

Our accommodation in Penang. We were happy with it

Mekong Delta

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We were nearing the end of our trip and trying to decide how to go about visiting the Mekong. We shared with our friends Jade and Michael our interest in going to the Mekong but that we were really not interested in being part of a tour. After going on a couple of them already, we just wanted to do our own thing and have the flexibility with the boys.

They told us that they had taken a bus from Ho Chi Minh down to My Tho and arranged their own tour of the Mekong once down there. This sounded like something that we wanted to do. So we caught a bus from Ho Chi Minh. As we waited we thought we’d get Mr 4’s haircut fixed. It was quite funny how people were doting over the boys and taking pictures with them like celebrities.

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Ho Chi Minh

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We finally made it to our last destination by train!!

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on the train to Ho Chi Minh

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Having dinner NYE

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Reflecting upon the ambitious journey we set out to do from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh by train, I was somewhat nostalgic of the fact that the excitement and anticipation had come to an end, and yet I also felt so accomplished because we did it!

Out of all the night rides we have done, this trip from Quy Nhon to Saigon wasn’t the best I must admit. We almost had an entire carriage to ourselves as this train was not full, and whilst this was a bonus because it meant there were fewer people to spoil a toilet, the train rocked and shook pretty hard the whole journey. I can still hear the train toot every couple hundred metres and will never forget that distinct smell of Vietnam trains.

We arrived at 4:30am on new years day feeling pleased with ourselves but also a little sad it had all come to an end (I know, I already made this point), but surely you would understand why we were feeling this way.

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Quy Nhon

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pronounced: “oui nion” as in ‘filet mignon’.

Where to go after Hoi An? That was the big dilemma haunting us. Should we go to Dalat or should we go to Nha Trang? Why not go to Nha Trang and then go to Dalat as well?

We asked locals and we asked people we met about what they knew about Nha Trang. Most came up with the same conclusion that Nha Trang has become a big city and whist has some very nice resorts, it is renowned for having some bogans, as we would call them in Australia. After seeing Da Nang, we weren’t sure whether we wanted to see another city like it again.

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Hoi An

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Hoi An is a beautiful quaint town, beautifully lit at night and decorated with smiles during the day. Unlike Danang the place was swarming with westerners and locals keen to sell all kinds of knick knacks. Hoi An actually feels like a place that we want to spend time in.

I was a little reluctant when I heard Jason had booked us into a homestay for what seemed to be so cheap. The common phrase “you get what you pay for” kept running through my head. But so far we have managed to stay at some very inexpensive places that were decent. I trusted Jason’s judgement on this one.

We had to guide the taxi driver to the road of our homestay. I could tell by the tone of his voice and look on his face as he pointed down our street that he must have been saying “are you sure this is the place?” It was late evening, dark and rainy. Not quite the weather we were expecting nor hoping for.

Minh the homestay guy greeted us warmly and the place was thankfully great value for money. The homestay is a family run business and all are so friendly and helpful. We were also pleased our boys were not the only children, as Minh had a 2 year old daughter, plus there was a Dutch couple with 2 boys slightly older and then another sweedish family with two boys – we were well surrounded!

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Christmas Eve – Dong Hoi to Da Nang 

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I love my children. I am a mother – they are my world, but today I have really felt that I have just about had enough of them! I am trying my best to be understanding and I know that we are dragging them along at our pace. I have tried to lower my expectations as they are just little – I know! But there comes a point when you question whether your children are defiant because they like to see your reaction? maybe they’re just bored? Or possibly they are not as bright as you thought they were!
I find myself cursing and thinking FFS, WTF is your problem more than often and I have wished more than once how wonderful it would be to find a baby sitter and just leave the boys sleeping while hubby and I go and have a romantic meal, walk at a proper human pace, not have to carry a little person because they’re tired, no dragging of the feet, enjoy a drink or two or three or FOUR, stay out as late as we want, not have to hear “WEE WEE!!” yelled out at the most inopportune moments, enjoy the night without ANY whinging/whining/crying, and not feel like I have indigestion post dinner!  Am I a terrible parent for wishing this???  Continue reading