Our First Day in Bangkok

Bangkok

I was firmly against going to Southeast Asia with young kids. Then we went there with a 3 year old and a 6 month old.

Bangkok

I have historically been totally pro-travel with young kids, but I drew the line at SE Asia. Something about more hot and humid weather, lots of young well-to-do Westerners looking to lose themselves – then find themselves or something – and the seeming general chaos of getting around, I was kind of like…ehhh, maybe later. But I’ll be damned, we decided to go.

Backing up a bit, Eid Al Adha was coming up (September 2016) and Matt found out he had time off work. I got a phone call one morning asking how crazy I wanted to get, and I love those phone calls because it always means adventures.

So it starts out like this: “Where does Etihad fly direct?” We look and decide on a city (Bangkok). Then we check for cheaper tickets. This time, Oman air offered far less expensive tickets, and only a quick stopover in Muscat. If you ever get the opportunity to fly into Muscat right at sunset, book a window seat and DO IT. So beautiful, it really reinvigorated our desire to visit Muscat, which we did a few months later.

Then the question of where to stay. Initially, we thought to use hotel perks and stay in the middle of downtown Bangkok, but then were advised to look into a resort and ended up booking a suite for the same price + significantly more perks. Done and done.

Pulling up to the Anantara Riverside Resort early in the morning was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, like the biggest sigh of relief. Our entire stay there was (mostly) like that, and it was awesome.

The night before we flew out of Abu Dhabi, the 3-year-old came down with a horrid cough. Noooooooo! So, we put the kids to bed early and prayed it would be nothing but a distant memory by morning. Then both boys woke up sick. Since I was already nervous about going to Bangkok with young kids, I was thinking this was a *sign* that we just shouldn’t go, bad idea, cancel everything. We hauled them off to the doctor first thing that morning and asked her opinion.

completely normal

She was like, “No. Bad idea. Can you cancel everything?” I was like, I knew it. But then we did a round or two of nebulizer treatment, and after examining them again, she told us they were OK to go, just don’t tax them too much. A nebulizer was purchased plus the entire pharmacy, and all packed up by late that afternoon. We headed to the airport. In hindsight, they weren’t terribly ill, but I was already hesitant and you know how it goes.

The flight to Muscat was short, thank god, because there was no air conditioning on our plane, which was a version of 727 that I haven’t seen since the mid-90’s.

HOT

Luckily, the flight to Bangkok was on a brand new Dreamliner which was gorgeous! My only complaint for that overnight flight was that they kept on the lights that can only be described as: “Surgical Operating Theatre.” I didn’t know airplanes had those. Thankfully they dimmed them for landing and the kids got 5-10 minutes of restful sleep before having to wake up again.

Bangkok Airport

We sprung for the Anantara airport shuttle and that was a great decision. The flight actually landed early and we found our driver already there, so we promptly set off at sunrise through Bangkok to our hotel resort.

Bangkok Chao Praya

Bangkok

When we arrived (and I finally released a tense breath I didn’t know I was holding) we were treated to a warm Thai welcome, hot towels, mango juice, and overall rock star treatment. We were escorted to our little suite which had a view of the pool and a wrap around balcony.

Anantara Riverside Bangkok

After cleaning up, we gave the kids whatever doses of medicine they needed, and promptly took a multiple-hour family nap in the middle of the day. Basically heaven.

Upon waking, we moseyed over to their Trader Vic’s for a great brunch.

Anantara Riverside Bangkok

Anantara Riverside Bangkok
legit water dinosaur

We were just settling in to our food when Porter ate something spicy, asked to use the loo, and then proceeded to demonstrate that his stomach was upset. Luckily it was well out of the way of anyone eating; however, we were quickly reminded that no matter where we go, we’re firmly seated on the Hot Mess Express. Hotel staff instructed me to keep him hydrated and other basic parent knowledge, which led me to question if I didn’t come across as being a capable parent? How was I supposed to know the simple side fried rice had death pepper juice included in it this time? Then again it could have just been my youthful looks and they thought I was a babysitter. In any case, our poor child was congested, jet lagged, and now sick from spicy food like the tiny Swede he is. This did not feel like successful parenting. In all seriousness, the staff actually took great care of us, sending us upstairs with help and a nice plate of food and sweets.

After a bit of recovery from that we then walked next door to check out a little mall. There’s a Boots, Starbucks, Coffee Club, Gap, tons of restaurants, some more boutique clothing shops, and touristy shops, too. Really great! By this time Porter was fine, ate a bit of dinner, and seemed to find his 3 year old energy again. Alright! Since the Anantara has a ferry that goes directly to Asiatique – a newer, kind of touristy, outdoor market, right across the Chao Praya – we decided to give that a go. At this point, Henry was just barely six months old, so he was still easily portable, slept a lot, and could be satiated by breastfeeding on the go…just in case anyone forgot he was on the trip, too. He wasn’t really sick, just a bit congested, and doing much better by this point anyway.

this little gifted car is getting around!

As soon as we got on the ferry, which would take no more than 5-10 minutes to get across the river, Porter passed out. So, we just stayed on the ferry and turned around with it to head home. It was nice to be out at night, on the water, with the city lights twinkling all around… Basically a date for us.

Then we went to sleep. That was our first day in Bangkok. Have I convinced you to have and travel with kids yet?

Day Cruise from Vienna to Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

If you are in Vienna (or Bratislava) I highly recommend doing a Danube boat cruise!

Vienna to Bratislava

When our good friend visited Vienna a couple of years ago, she popped over to Bratislava, Slovakia for the day. She took a train there and a high-speed catamaran back. Being that the boat cruise took about an hour, and her pictures looked awesome, we decided this was a must-do whilst we were in Vienna.

First of all, if you don’t know much about the Danube (like me) here is a map of it:

Danube map
photo via Wikipedia

So, you see, it goes through half of Europe: 10 countries, 4 capitals! It’s a big deal.

high-speed catamaran can travel between Vienna and Bratislava (or vice versa) in 75 minutes. Leaving Vienna, we took it easy traveling down the Donaukanal where there are Viennese fishing houses that are SO cute and inspiring.

Viennese Fishing House

My husband, the fisherman, was probably envisioning a life spent fishing out of his own version of this, while I was envisioning building, decorating, and maintaining our own little cottage. I failed at taking enough pictures of these because I was too busy fawning over them. Trust there are some really adorable ones, as well as some serious “bachelor pad” ones as well.

Once on the Danube proper the catamaran did its “high-speed” thing. The river is wide, but calm – perfect for cruising along, however you may see fit. Along the way to and from Bratislava you will see various other boats like large floating hotels that boast multi-day Danube cruises, long-distance kayakers (this seems like a hardcore, yet awesome, adventure), and barges.

Vienna to Bratislava

Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube
Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube

OK, so on to the day!

We bought tickets and headed to Bratislava, Slovakia early in the morning. We chose to spend the shortest time there, 4 hours. I think with little kids, this was a good amount of time. Not too long and drawn out; however, I don’t think we used our time entirely wisely.

Here’s why. When you arrive in Bratislava, you are dropped off on the “old town” side of the river.

Bratislava Danube
Danube in Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

There is a little train you can choose to take some tours on, which will go around the old town and castles and what not, and I would actually recommend this even though we didn’t choose this option. But it is there, and I think a great way to see the sights and learn some history about Bratislava in an amount of time of your choosing.

Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle

We didn’t choose this option because…I don’t even want to put this out there publicly, but whatever…we decided to cross the UFO bridge to the shopping mall on the other side of the Danube to try to buy a Starbucks mug. So, when the Twin City Liner docked, we disembarked and found our way to the walking path that is on the bridge, and then found our way over to the mall.

Novy Most Bratislava
Novy Most Bratislava

Unfortunately, the Starbucks there didn’t have any Bratislava or Slovakia mugs 🙁 Fortunately, we got to take some time to experience something more than touristy Bratislava…although, a shopping mall isn’t typically my first option for that sort of thing. This mall was pretty impressive though, as it had a great selection of international stores that I recognized from the UAE (European stores that I hadn’t seen in Sweden, or before), and a wonderful family changing room with private nursing areas, and a great selection of cafes and restaurants. We grabbed lunch there, as well as a sun hat for the baby.

Not that happiest looking picture, but lunch was great!

Soon after, we made our way back over the bridge and into Old Town to explore a bit.

Old Town Bratislava
Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate
Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

While there we walked around, found some souvenirs, and tried to walk over to Bratislava Castle, but didn’t make it the whole way before realizing we just didn’t have the time. I would say we had a nice enough time looking around the Old Town area, but could always enjoy more. If you aren’t limited by children, and are interested, I’d encourage a longer stay.

Old Town Bratislava

Bratislava Danube

Slovakia itself has piqued our interest before, so it was more than “just a trip to Bratislava” for us. I’d LOVE to go back to Bratislava, as well as any other part of Slovakia. Matt has pointed out that the difference in language was striking – not something we have any background knowledge of – but luckily in Bratislava enough people spoke english well enough for us to get by (in the few hours we were there, in the touristy areas, ha). We can manage enough of a Scandinavian language, or German, or Spanish, or French, but this was our first time in a European area with a wholly unfamiliar language. I absolutely enjoyed the little slice of life we got to see at the mall, and I loved the Old Town area!

Whatever comes to mind when you think of Bratislava, I guarantee visiting will far surpass your expectations!

Vienna, AUSTRIA – July 2016 : PART ONE

We traveled to Vienna, Austria in July 2016! It was our first trip as a family of four!

As if through divine intervention, a few factors miraculously came together in the final days of nursery school before summer which allowed us to make last-minute travel plans: Henry’s passport finally came in; at the same time, we found someone willing to watch our dogs when all kennel facilities were booked; and we had enough miles and points for “free” flights and a hotel room. Score! Matt and I threw around a few ideas, then spontaneously booked a trip to Vienna, Austria.

Why Vienna? I mean, why not, right? Matt had had an interest in visiting for awhile, and we’d had friends who recently travelled there, piquing our interest.

Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1
Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1

So, the first week of July, we took off on our first vacation as a family of four. It was lovely to return to Europe; as if coming back home, which it was in a way.

We flew in on Qatar Airlines, passing through Doha on our way to and from. It was an easy, comfortable experience and the airline took great care of us as a family. So appreciated! Checking in, they always put us at the bulkhead seats where we were provided with a baby bassinet each flight – first that’s ever happened. They also gave out little activity kits and stuffed Mr. Potato Heads for the boys to stay busy. I have nothing but great things to say about Qatar Airlines.

look at all of us moms taking pictures of our boys here! i love it!

Since we had built up enough Marriott points to use on a hotel stay, we had a few places to choose from. Deciding on the Renaissance was actually a really great idea, in hindsight. The hotel itself, in the old Imperial Riding School, was great! The breakfast each morning had a nice variety of food, to include what I can only describe as “crack waffles” (so delicious). We also had access to the lounge, which we crashed in each afternoon for coffee (or wine…) after a long day out.

The hotel is ideally located right next to a train line, so we were able to buy cheaper tickets on a regular train into the city from the airport, rather than take the airport express train, which is not only more expensive but, if taken, would’ve been a further walk to the hotel. Each Vienna train/metro ride costs €2.20/adult (€1.10/child) no matter where you’re going, and is valid for all transfers. This made getting around the city easy and inexpensively.

Our first afternoon in, we just walked around the neighborhood to get our bearings. There is a grocery store, pharmacy, launderers, and a big park all within a mile – really convenient for traveling families. The neighborhood – Landstrasse – is (much like the rest of Vienna) beautiful to just walk around and enjoy what you see. One of my friends who had already been to Vienna told us it was enjoyable to just walk the city. I couldn’t agree more.

Stadtpark

Day 1 – Innere Stadt

Early the next morning we set out, again on foot, and as per usual for us, with no real plan. I have a hard time making a firm itinerary because I don’t know how easy a new city is to navigate and I can’t predict how the boys will be each day. So, we decided to just walk toward Innere Stadt – Stephansplatz to be exact – and see where we could go from there.

Mozart's House
Mozart’s House

Mozart's House

St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephan's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

From the impressive St. Stephan’s Cathedral, we moseyed down Kärntner Straße, and over to Albertinaplatz. We popped into a cafe right there for a coffee + nursing session. Very important break for all members of the family.

Once satiated, we moved along towards Michaelerplatz to Hofberg Palace. Then we found ourselves winding through the streets, in a bit of a roundabout way, until we found Rathaus.

Austrian National Library
Austrian National Library
Hofburg Palace
Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Michaelerplatz
Michaelerplatz

Stopped in a few stores as well…

Vienna Starbucks
A Starbucks! For our mug.

Before continuing on…

Wiener Minoritenkirche
Wiener Minoritenkirche
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein

Our visit happened to coincide with Rathausplatz being transformed into the Gastronomie/Vienna Film Festival event. Which…was amazing! Food stalls everywhere. Beer and wine on tap. Outdoor seating on a beautiful day in a beautiful setting?! Heaven.

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

We had left the Middle East during the final days of Ramadan. During this time there is no eating in public during the daylight hours, for about a month. There is also not much alcohol around at any time, anyway. Here in Vienna, all of a sudden, we found ourselves picking out local craft beers at a stall in a public park, and faced with the decision: What food shall we try today? I’m not going to lie, it felt a little thrilling. It’s funny how quickly we adapted to being in Ramadan mode (not practicing, but being respectfully mindful), and how it felt weird going back to what is “normal” for us.

Of course given the option we choose to sample Viennese foods.

spaetzle in Vienna
spaetzle

Making ourselves at home in a secluded gazebo, I was able to nurse Henry while Porter freely played around. Matt ferried food and drink for us to imbibe in. It was perfect. The epitome of vacation.

Viennese Food

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

Once lunch was over, we moved on towards Museumsquartier, or the area “with about 70 cultural facilities”. We crossed through Naschmarkt not knowing what it was at the time (we popped through there another day), then stopped for Porter to play at a fun playground in front of Karlskirche. Finally, we went back to the hotel. Though we didn’t expect to walk so much, the exploration was definitely worth it.

Burgtheater
Burgtheater
Austrian Parliament Building
Austrian Parliament Building
Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

So, because this is such a photo-heavy, long post, I will stop here for now.

To be continued…