Friday, April 14, 2017

Santorini Park, 1000 Sook Food and Farm, and Wat Huay Mongkol Temple In Cha-Am And Hua Hin, Thailand

Our first full day in Hua Hin was chock-full of activities. When we woke up, our plan was to take a bus to a bus that would take us to Santorini Park in Cha-am, a town just north of Hua Hin. However, the bus that goes to the bus only comes once every 30 minutes and it would have been too long of a wait, so the staff at our awesome condo complex called a cab to ask for the price - it was 600 baht one way or 1300 for the driver to stay there and bring us back when we were done.

Yes, please!

We ended up getting so much more than we bargained for! The driver spoke good English and showed us all kinds of places along the way, and we ended up seeing a lot more than we would have seen in two days had we been dependent upon public transportation. Hua Hin is much smaller than Bangkok and public transportation is basically a couple of buses, taxis, and tuk-tuks - they don't have a metro or light-rail system.

Our first, and longest, stop was Santorini Park, a gorgeous complex that has two separate sections: one is a small town that looks like Santorini, Greece, that has a bunch of rides like a Ferris Wheel, water boats, trampolines and a carousel, and the other is a water park, which looked awesome, but the twins are afraid of water that is in movement, so we know from the get-go that we wouldn't be going there. What we have at our Airbnb is plenty and enough at their ages.

The way it works is that each ride is 120 baht (about 12 shekels/$3) so not so bad at all, as long as you don't go crazy and on a million rides. There's a pass that anyone who is 110 cm tall can get for 495 baht (=4 rides and a bit) so if you go on five or more - it's worth it. Sophie is 107 cm. We literally checked the day before. Whoops, right? Wrong. They measured her and we told her to stand on her toes a bit and it was enough, she got the pass. We all went on the merry go round, and Rony and the twins got off and Sophie stayed for another round. She went to the second story of the carousel and I didn't mean to stay on, but suddenly we were moving so yey for quality mother-daughter time.

Our next stop was for ice cream because it was 5 million degrees outside again. It was delicious and so needed. Chloe turns hot pink the moment we walk outside - it looks like she's really suffering from the heat, but she doesn't complain at all, so we aren't positive.

Side note: I mentioned that the kids have been getting tons of attention, and Chloe in particular. We haven't yet been able to figure out what it is that make people jump at Chloe all the time for photos, many times ignoring the other two kids altogether. They don't care, especially since they have already posed for so many photos that Ethan has literally been telling random people no more photos. Rony thinks that the pink, chubby cheeks and curly hair must be a big part of it. She also plays along really well and flashes her smile at everyone. I don't know, but it's sure fun having her get so much attention when it's usually Ethan who does back home. I hope she doesn't need rehab when we get back home.

We went on to the next stop, which was water boats, but that's only from 100 cm or 110 cm, so the twins couldn't go on. Rony went outside with them for something else, and every place they went, they were told they were too young - even the gymboree! It was very very frustrating for them. We arrived very close to when the park opened, and it was very empty. Sophie was alone on the boats, so I am pretty sure she rode a lot more than the 10 minutes that she was supposed to ride.

The view from the Ferris Wheel - this is mostly the water park

We met back up with an extremely frustrated Ethan, Rony and Chloe. We all went up on the Ferris Wheel and the kids had an awesome time. Surprisingly, none of the kids were afraid of the height. Fun fact: Ferris Wheel is capitalized because it was invented by a guy named Mr. Ferris.

From there, I took Sophie to the trampolines, the kinds that come with a harness. She has been wanting to go on one forever and I always felt she was too young, but these were slightly smaller than what we have in Israel so I told her to go for it - and she was just through the roof ecstatic. Rony took the kids to the gymboree, but they wouldn't let them in since they aren't 100 cm yet (they are about 84 and 87 cm, more or less). There is no reason at all not to let them in there, there's nothing there that's dangerous and there wasn't even anyone there. The only playground said 4-8, but it was even a bit scary for Sophie - who was amazing!  Check out her leg-work!

When Sophie got off the trampoline, I told Rony that I'm going to the gymboree and I was able to convince the poor teenager manning the place to let all of the kids go in - double score because the kids got to all play and we all got to be in an air-conditioned space! But there's a caveat - they need to wear socks. Apparently, one needs to walk around with socks in their bag at all times, at least when you are going to attractions for children. So I went back outside to get them socks - thankfully, the Thai are prepared and always sell socks at the attractions where they are needed.

So if anyone asks what shopping we have done in Thailand, our answer will be five pairs of socks.

This was our last stop at Santorini - it was already well passed the twins' nap time, plus we hadn't yet eaten lunch. We rushed outside as quickly as possible and asked the driver to take us to 1000 Sook Food and Farm, which we had read great reviews about. The reviews did not fail us - the food was delicious, even though portions were fairly small (which is true everywhere we have eaten in Thailand so far).

It was already about 2 pm and we were all so hungry that we forgot to ask for the food not to be too spicy. Which, in retrospect, was an awful thing to forget. The kids' food was fine, but our food was whoa. My food was fairly spicy, but Rony's was kill-him spicy and he turned bright red. How red? The servers all huddled by our table and laughed at him. I'm not even kidding. At one point, 2 guys came by the table with a broom, looked at Rony, smiled, said hi to Chloe, and walked away. He was all, "Hey, look at me, I'm holding a broom, I'm going to clean - oh guy turning red haha."

We saw a dessert come to the table next to us and we were like we need dessert. We ordered a magnificent dessert that's absolutely a family dessert, and since the server said it would take 15 minutes, Rony took the kids out to the farm part of the place.

A few minutes later, I get a text message from Rony: Someone gave us free tickets. Makes sense, we've been getting free stuff since we came. Just like in South Korea and Japan when we flew with Sophie when she was one. Asia is clearly our thing.

The dessert was divine and after we finished, I went back to the farm with the kids to see the rest. There are very few animals there, they look well-kept, and the kids enjoyed playing with the rabbits again. The place itself is beautiful and it was very nice to walk around, if you don't factor in the killer heat.

We got into the car, and approximately 12 seconds after sitting down, the twins fell asleep on Rony. I did what every loving, caring, considerate wife would do.

I took a picture.

Our next stop, which was 100% thanks to the driver suggesting it on the way there, was the big Buddha at Wat Huay Mongkol Temple. The twins didn't wake up so we put them in the stroller so they could continue to sleep and I walked up to the top with Sophie. They were still asleep when we got back to the car, but we made them wake up as it was already 5:30 pm. We made a quick stop at the grocery store to buy diapers, water, and some fruit, and then headed back. We got back to the condo around 6:15 PM - we left at 10 am! We ended up paying the driver a more than he asked for  (after adding more for the extra stops and time), and it was such a great day. We were very lucky to get him and we absolutely would not have done and seen as much had we not had him. Chances are, we would have eaten at the park and gone straight back home without the rest of the stops.

Obviously, at this point, the day was over for us. We ordered a pizza and all went to sleep, though it took the kids about 400 hours to fall asleep because they had napped late and Ethan's mission in life is to not let anyone sleep early right now.

Rony and I were insanely excited about the next day - we got to visit the WFFT where we had volunteered 6.5 years before! But more about that in our next blog post.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bangkok Day 3: The Aquarium, The Kids Perform On The Train, And We Arrive In Hua Hin

Day 3 (this trip has been going by entirely too quickly!) was mostly at the aquarium. The Bangkok Aquarium is known as one of the best aquariums in Asia, which we could totally understand. Pro tip: Siam Paragon Mall has a special discount card that gives you a 20% discount at the aquarium (and also a discount at Kidzania, but we decided not to go since it would be boring for the twins). This can be found at the information booth and you need to show your passport.

When we got on the train, it was so full that we almost had to push the kids on. The good news is that there was nowhere to fall because there was no room to move. So at least we had that. We only had to go 6 stops, so it was a pretty quick ride. After the first stop, Chloe suddenly started singing, fairly quietly, the song How Far I'll Go from Moana and the people around us laughed like crazy. She started singing louder, and more people laughed. Soon enough, the three of them were singing the song at the top of their lungs to the delight of 8 million passengers.

Had there been any room, I would have had the kids walk around with a hat. :-)

We got to the mall and went to the aquarium, passing about 8 more Japanese restaurants (and one McDonald's) - seriously, what is going on here? We wonder if this accounts for the rise in prices in this country.

While the price of transportation is still low, as are accommodations, the price of attractions are very high and completely equivalent to what we pay back home. Diapers are more expensive than what we pay at home on sales, but their diapers are really great, so at least that.

The aquarium was awesome, the kids were totally excited the whole time, running from one place to another. We even got to see a play with real mermaids! (Ha.) All in all, we were there about 2.5 hours, including a quick stop to eat. It's really nice, bu definitely not a half-day activity, at least not at these ages. We didn't have to pay for the twins, but it was still an expensive day out. Nevertheless, everyone had a great time.

By this time, everyone was exhausted. We went back to the apartment, and the kids took a nap. We decided to take it easy for the rest of the day and went to the pool on the roof of the building. OMG the building is so beautiful and the pool is gorgeous (there's also a kiddie pool) and the view is divine.

After getting back and showering everyone we had a light dinner, did the wash (so much better than carrying 2.5 weeks of clothing - and having to do 4 loads of laundry when we return), packed and went to bed.

The following morning, we were picked up at the building and made the 3-hour drive south to Hua Hin. We chose Hua Hin as a location for several reasons, the first being it's proximity to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand where Rony and I volunteered back in 2010 (and he was also there 3 years earlier). Second, we are not island people, and we did not want to go up north with them this time. Third, Hua Hin is a gorgeous sea-side town that has plenty to see.

We prepared a lot of stuff for the kids to do in the car, but fortunately, after singing the entire Moana soundtrack a few times, the kids all fell asleep, and we actually woke them up in Hua Hin. Score. Let's hope it works this well on the way back. Rony was brilliant and had us picked up at 10 am, which means their nap time would fall on the drive, and it worked perfectly. I married well.

We arrived at our Airbnb in Hua Hin and OMG it is the most amazing place ever. The building is beautiful and the apartment is gorgeous, but the really wonderful part is their swimming pool for the kids, which has the water splashing for about 2 hours a day, but is open all day long.

Sophie went ballistic when she saw that she was going to be sleeping on a bunk bed (our Facebook friends have probably seen the video). We changed clothes and went right downstairs to the pool for about an hour.

After showering, we went to the Night Market where we met my camper from Texas! It was a very exciting reunion, seeing as we hadn't seen each other in around 17 years - the last time I saw her, she was 9 or 10 years old! We had dinner at the Hua Hin Seafood restaurant - the food was excellent! The staff, of course, was in love with the kids and brought out two rocking horses for the kids to ride. Rony was commended for having such great kids because they took turns riding them.

We drugged them.

Not really.

At this point, they were exhausted and we took a Tuk Tuk back to the condo. Seeing as it is a holiday here in Thailand now, the Songkran, there was a lot of traffic and a lot of people in town. We'd like to say the kids fell asleep straight away, but they were up until almost 11 pm at this point, since they were so wired, so we gave them away and continued on the trip alone.

Not really.

I'd like to say we turned in early ourselves, but considering they were only quiet at 11 pm, early wasn't an option. However, we knew we had a long day ahead with some great activities, so we went to bed fairly soon after that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bangkok Day 2 - Dinosaur Planet and Snow Town - Fun with Kids!

As I wrote in our previous post, the kids passed out around 6:15 pm and we followed suit around 7. As pretty much everything only opens at 10 am, we weren't in a hurry to get up and go out, so we had a slow breakfast and then headed out toward Dinosaur Planet, which was a 10-minute walk from our AirBNB apartment.

A quick word about the apartment: It is situated in a great location, walking distance to a lot of attractions (including the Sky Train) or just a couple of stops away. The building complex is very new and beautiful, the apartment was large enough for us, but it had no spoons and not enough forks. Turns out that the previous renter stole their silverware.

We headed out to Dinosaur Planet a bit later than we had intended because one of the kids had a 20-minute meltdown (feeling right at home in Thailand), and it was during this time that we learned that the word for twin in Thai is buffet (or something along those lines), which makes perfect sense because you have a choice and you want to eat them both up.

Dinosaur Planet, even though small, was really nice, we started out with this movie introducing the place and there were a few rooms where they explained the place and the history of the dinosaurs. At this time, we kept being rushed through the rooms and it felt a bit like our tour guide in Beijing who kept yelling at us to move and when to take pictures.

But I digress once again.

There were a few things to see and rides to go on, like a 3D ride that was actually quite cool and a bit frightening, though Sophie mostly laughed. The kids got to "ride" dinosaurs (which was for an extra fee) and they also dug for dinosaur bones. They kept not wanting to leave anywhere, but it was about 4000 degrees outside (Celcius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin, whatever you want) so we kept looking for air-conditioned areas. The park was fairly expensive considering its size, but the kids had tons of fun so it was worth it. We walked back to the apartment, though this was already nap time, and had lunch at another Japanese restaurant along the way.

This is a great time to mention that I (Talia) kept saying Japan instead of Thailand and Yen instead of Baht for 2 days straight (actually till the end of the trip). It was both funny and annoying, and the truth is that there is so much Japanese in the area now, at least where we were, that my mess-up it is clearly understood. To me at least. To Rony, too, because he married me and he has no choice. But at least he laughs so I have that going for me.

After Ethan napped and the girls did everything in their power to stay awake and make sure the entire building was awake as well, we took the Sky Train to Ekkamai mall, which was 2 stops away. This is where we learned that our decision to leave the stroller at home was wise - there are no escalators or elevators, so you must take the stairs. At some points, there are escalators up to the platforms, but not everywhere.

I have to mention this is only a problem for twin/double strollers. Had we only had one small child, we would have been able to easily fold the stroller and hold the kid in the other hand and this wouldn't be an issue. I don't regret taking the double stroller instead of 2 singles, though, as I think one is more comfortable.

We walked into the mall and it was all in Japanese. At this point, Rony turned around to me and said, OK, I get it.

I have been validated!!!

There were two separate places here that we had wanted to go to and we hadn't yet decided on one. That is, Rony hadn't decided on one, I couldn't really remember what the choices were. But as we were going up the escalator, I saw the sign for Snow Town and said this is the one. I had no idea what it was, but it looked like a cool place.

We paid way too much money and had to also purchase 2 pairs of socks (and we were off easy as we still had socks in the bag from the flight for 2 of the kids). We were given snow boots and we walked in.

We were thoroughly unimpressed. The first room was basically a coffee shop with a Christmas tree and stands that charged extra fees for all kinds of stuff. This was already the second time that day that we saw that you pay an entry fee somewhere and it doesn't include everything. We continued to walk through, already depressed about the fees we paid. We passed a gymboree that looked small yet cool, but wanted to see the snow parts before going to the gymboree.

Once the kids saw the snow they were shocked - they hadn't seen any before. We rented a sled (because yes, additional fees), but took just one and decided the kids would take turns. Rony showed Sophie what to do (being from Texas, I had never sled before myself), and then we took turns also taking the twins, holding them between our legs. Honestly? It was so much fun. After about 15 minutes, someone gave us another sled, the first gift of the day that was given to the kids.

We probably sled for about an hour and a half. We ended up making them leave so we can see more of what the complex had to offer. We went to the gymboree, and thought it is small, it was really nice. Fortunately, the exorbitant price we paid included all-you-can-drink coffee. Yey! It's the little things.

About 15 minutes in, I took a selfie covered in gymboree balls, and some other local mom saw what I did, laughed her butt off, and then came in and did the same - then she called over her friend and had her do the same.

Talia Klein Perez - setting mom trends since 2017.

Once again, we had to forcefully remove them so we could move on to another room after Chloe got a squeaky doll from an employee. The next room we went to was an arcade that the kids really enjoyed, and then we were kicked out because the place closed and we were the last people there and whoops we were there for over 2 hours even though we didn't think we would stay for even one. Had we not been kicked out, we would have absolutely stayed another hour or two - the kids would have totally sled some more. Ultimately, we had an amazing time and it was unquestionably worth the money we paid. Plus, it was an experience that was completely new to 4 out of 5 of us, which is priceless.

The way back was a bit difficult, we were having so much fun that we didn't see it was already 8 pm, well past the kids' bedtime, and by the time we got back it was after 9 pm and the kids were simultaneously exhausted and wired. It took forever to get them to bed, and us as well.

All in all, it was an amazing day, and it was hard to imagine that we could have another wonderful day like that, but we did, and we will let you know about that later on.

Those of you who are our Facebook friends can see the photos there. Since our kids are in them, we aren't really publishing them here on this public forum.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bangkok - the flights and day one

Sawadeeka from Thailand!

The kids were, obviously, excited about the flights and the trip, even though they had no idea where we were going. The first flight went well, Aeroflot has totally awesome gifts for kids. Pro-tip: tell them your 2.8-year-old twins are 3. They can't give the gifts under the age of 3, and it's a shame because there is no real reason and the gifts are awesome.

As nicely as the flight went by, and as well-behaved (really) the kids were, it took me (Talia) the entire flight plus another hour on the next flight just to watch one movie.


Because - Mommy! - every time I - Mommy, I have to pee - wanted to  - Mommy! Water! - put my headphones - Mommy, where are my crayons? - on to watch - Mommy, I have to pee again - the movie I kept - Mommy, I want Daddy - being interrupted.

But I digress.

The headphones for the entertainment set are horrible, they are the type you put in your ears and we couldn't get the kids to use them because they were too big and uncomfortable. These are the type with a double-plug anyway so it isn't like bringing your own would be beneficial.

We rolled through Moscow Airpot, where apparently babies never ever have their diapers changed, thus leaving us to change the kids' diapers on a bench, and got on the next flight. After we boarded, I reminded Rony to say the twins are 3 when they come by with the gifts, which we did.

While it was uneventful as far as turbulence was concerned, the flight was pretty awful. We had purposefully taken a night flight and were just not permitted to sleep. The flight took off at 9:30 pm and landed at 10:30 am, so by all accounts, we should have been able to sleep.

But, no, and lack of sleep is a form of torture and babies know it and so does Aeroflot. UGH. 4 hours into the 8.5-hour-flight, people (including ours) fell asleep. Within half an hour, the cabin crew announced that everyone is required by law to fill out immigration forms for when we land - in freaking 4.5 hours! WTF? Was it really necessary to wake everyone up for this? So they hand out the forms, people start filling them in (not us because PFFT, no) and then they turn off the lights.


The announcement woke one of the twins, I think Chloe, and her crying woke Ethan, or it could have been the other way around, I have no idea because it was freakin' 2 am or 5 am or I don't know what time, but we should have been sleeping. We finally were given permission to go to sleep 4 hours into the flight.

For one and a half freakin' hours. No, that's fine, we don't need sleep. No worries. We will definitely not be taking Aeroflot again for an overnight flight. It was horrible. We had taken it specifically so everyone would sleep through the flight and no one did. The kids maybe slept 2 hours.

We landed in Thailand, the country that shall henceforth be called Land of the Chloe, and, by the time we got our luggage, the kids had been hugged, kissed and photographed by close to a dozen people. Everyone stops us everywhere we go, not unlike with Sophie when we were in South Korea and Japan. While they think all of the kids are cute, they are particularly enamoured by Chloe. Looks like she is the epitome of beauty here in Thailand.

We took a cab to our AirBNB apartment, which is perfectly located, put our stuff down and went on a search for food. Our host told us that we are very close to a mall so we went there. It's a gorgeous mall - and completely high-end: Gucci, Armani, Tiffany's - you know, our kind of shopping, especially since creating 3 humans in 2.5 years.

We went upstairs to the food court and ate a Japanese restaurant (ha) and, while Rony went to the grocery store, I got the kids ice cream. Then I get a text message from Rony (we both got data packages).

Rony: When you're done come to the grocery store
Me: OK
Rony: You have to come now
Me: Hold on, the kids are getting free stuff again

We came and, as omigosh there was the biggest Peppa Pig display I had ever seen.

Which isn't difficult seeing as it is the only display of Peppa Pig I had ever seen.

We let the kids pick some Peppa Pig cookies because we are on vacation and it isn't like we can be coerced to get it at home.

As it turns out, the store is a Japanese grocery store with a bunch of stuff that we used to eat in Japan and all kinds of things that Rony loves and it's entirely possible that we may have to leave one of the children here to accommodate everything Rony wants to buy when we get back.

When we were checking out, we suddenly heard the song Happy come on and then clapping. What? We walked outside and OMG, y'all, a flash mob of mall employees. I love Thailand.

We got back to our apartment, showered the kids and they went to bed.

At 6:00 pm. We barely kept them up past 5.

I quickly went to the 7-Eleven by the condo to get some stuff for breakfast and happened upon a parade! This week is the Thai festival Songkran, and this parade is one of the first parts of the celebration. I went to get milk and saw a parade. Score.

We also went to sleep around 7, after Googling "What to do in Bangkok at 6 am with children," because we needed a backup plan.

Turns out there isn't so much to do at 6 am in Bangkok with children, maybe a market. But that's OK because they ended up sleeping until after 7 am so score again.

In our next post, we will talk about day 2 in Bangkok, Dinosaur Planet and Snow Town.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

We have grown by 2 more kids - and embarking on another trip to Thailand and Singpore!

Wow. It's been a while. A long while. Three years, to be exact. When we started this blog, back in 2010, we were a young, unmarried couple embarking on a 4-month trip in Asia. Then, 2 years later, we returned to Asia with a one-year-old baby. That one-year-old is now five and she has a sister and a brother who are just over 2 and a half-years-old - twins! We've done a lot over the past 3 years :-)

Tomorrow, we will be taking our first long trip since the twins were born. When they were 1, we went on a cruise through Europe - just one hour time difference. Last year, when they were just under 2 and our eldest was just over 4, we flew to Paris for a wedding and spent a few marvelous days in Disneyland Paris! And now, we will be flying to Thailand and Singapore!

In Thailand, we will be in Bangkok and Hua Hin, a smallish town that's close to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand where we volunteered back in 2010. Remember? Talia was with the elephants and Rony was mostly with the bears.

We will be doing a day tour at the WFFT with the kids - we specifically planned Hua Hin just so we could come visit. Since the twins still nap, one of us (probably Rony) will go back to our Airbnb place with them after lunch while the other will stay with Sophie for the second part of the day. It looks like it will be an awesome experience!

In Singapore, we will be meeting our friend, Winnie, who we met at the WFFT - she also volunteered with the elephants. Last year, she visited Israel and we got to see her and this year we will be visiting her. It's just so awesome that we are still in touch with so many people who we met during our one week at the WFFT.

Anyway, stay tuned, we will be updated the blog while we are away. Now that we have all these children, we are significantly more tired than we were back in 2010 so we may not be as funny as before. We apologize in advance.

For now, wish us luck on our loooong flights to Bangkok. The kids don't know yet, but Talia made them each a bag of goodies for the plane that will, hopefully, keep them entertained for a nice portion of the flight.

See you soon!

This is for Chloe, our 2.8-year-old daughter. The lunch box is actually meant to hold the small pieces of the train set and the dinosaurs

This is for Sophie, the 5-year-old. She's easier to pack for because she can entertain herself more with workbooks and can also play travel-size games with us.

This is for Ethan, our 2.8-year-old son. The lunch box is actually meant to hold the small pieces of the train set and the dinosaurs

This is how they will receive their packages on the plane.