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?

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…

South Island: Queenstown, NEW ZEALAND – Part Three

Lake Wakitipu, NZ

Queenstown >>

As we left Invercargill we decided to forgo a few hurried days of traveling through Fjordland in favor of staying and playing in Queenstown instead. I left the decision up to Matt, mostly, because it was a priority of his to see Fjordland. He spoke with a local gentlemen somewhere between Dunedin and Invercargill who suggested we drive to Te Anau and then take a boat tour to Doubtful Sound. We could also have driven to the famous Milford Sound as well. Both were very appealing and it was a difficult decision to make, but we ultimately decided to just head for Queenstown to relax a bit.

Traveling with our tiny companion obviously influenced the decision, but he actually did remarkably well in the motor home and overall. We had been breaking up the long drives each day with stops to play outside or eat (or both), or we timed longer drives around naps, and things worked out nicely (as I remember). That being said, it’s always nice to not force things too much with little kids. Sure, we missed out on some adventures in the Sounds, but take a toddler to trail, park, or lake and they usually have more fun getting to explore on their own. In New Zealand, there isn’t a bad view anywhere so watching Porter play and be happy while taking in the view, any view, was pretty amazing and always worth it.

Lake Wakitipu, NZ

Queenstown is an awesome city to spend some time in if you are into adventure sports. There is so much to do there! It’s a place that a lot of people come to play (snowboard, sky dive, bungee jump, adventure tours, etc.) – so pre-kids it would likely have been awesome. With a toddler, it still held a lot of fun possibilities, but we were also contending with some crappy weather for the couple of days we were there. In short, it won’t be remembered as our favorite time and place in New Zealand, but I can see why people love it.

Let’s back up a bit. Driving to Queenstown was fairly quick, and the road in from Invercargill (Highway 6) ends up traveling along Lake Wakatipu, on a section of highway called “The Devil’s Staircase”. I assume because it’s a winding road with mountains on one immediate side and the stunning lake on the other.

Devil's Staircase, NZ

It’s so beautiful. We stopped probably 5-10 times just to take in the views and snap some photos (there are frequent pull-outs and were few other cars around while we were driving).

Lake Wakitipu, NZ

Lake Wakitipu, NZ

The mountain range is called The Remarkables, I can’t imagine why?

Lake Wakitipu, NZ

When we arrived in Queenstown we checked into this holiday park close to the downtown area and proceeded to let Porter play for a while at the playground. The holiday park was very nice, very well maintained, and I appreciated the mid-century/modern flair it had. We set off that first evening to just mosey around downtown, check out what was around, and grab some groceries for a low-key dinner which we made at the holiday park kitchen. It was nice to eat a simple homemade meal that night.

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The next day we got out early enough to do some more walking around, grab breakfast at a local place, and pick up the last of our souvenirs. See, we wanted to get Porter a rugby ball; not content with a small toddler-sized one, Matt bought an official All Blacks one – deflated so we could easily pack it. Porter desperately wanted to play with it though, and since we sometimes can’t say no to his sweet little face (and just wanted to quiet him down…), we ended up getting him another tiny rugby ball, which he then clutched for the remainder of the trip 🙂 We managed to make it back to the holiday park just as the weather turned for the worse (wind, snow), so the afternoon was spent napping and chilling out.

Queenstown, NZ

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Before our afternoon flight on our last day we decided to do the Queenstown gondola ride up the mountain. It was literally a 2 minute walk from the holiday park, and a cool ride up the “steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere.” It scared the sh*t out of me.

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Queenstown Gondola

Queenstown Gondola View

The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which loosely translated can mean “the land of the long white cloud”. You will see often see this referenced around NZ, and as you can see above: the long white cloud!

At the top, there is a cafe, gift shop, views for miles, and a pretty awesome luge ride you can do with your family. Check out that link for even more that you can do up there. Like the Swedish-brainwashed expats we are, we had to first grab a coffee at the cafe up top, of course. Million dollar views are even better with a drink 😉

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Queenstown Gondola Views

Queenstown Gondola Views

Queenstown Gondola Views

Queenstown Gondola Views
I don’t know if that’s just extreme lens distortion or if the pole was quite slanted…

On the way down Matt spotted some chamois and it was a very exciting moment 🙂

Queenstown Gondola Views

Queensland Gondola Views

At the bottom of the mountain, where you can park on the street and/or 2 minutes from the holiday park, there is also the Kiwi Birdlife Park. If we had more time that day we would have definitely spent a lot of time inside the park. Alas, we needed to head out.

We returned the Jucy motor home at the Queensland office where we had a significantly better experience with the employees compared to Christchurch. From the Jucy drop off area, we just walked to the airport to wait for a bit before flying out Brisbane.

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My biggest accomplishment and realization is that I have trained my baby to sleep on planes. HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND.

All in all, it was a great time in New Zealand. The South Island is an incredible playground full of adventurous opportunities, wonderful people, and wine (but of course I had to get knocked up before this trip, WTF). There are a lot of things we missed out on, not only because there is just so much to do there, but because we had some limitations placed on us (toddler, pregnancy, etc.) I certainly hope this was NOT a once in a lifetime trip because it’s too stunning of a place to not go back. We need to do/see/hike/skydive/camp/photograph more, definitely  get up to the “winterless North” Island, and hello… sample the wines! You can be sure if/when Matt and I get too antsy or have a joint mid-life crisis, we’ll be selling everything we own and up and moving to New Zealand.