Vietnam with Kids

Over 2000 miles of coastline with some fantastic beaches. No hordes of tourists (as yet) like some of its neighbouring countries. Great fresh seafood (not withstanding some of the articles about mercury poisoning in the fish). So don’t let the violent patches in the country’s history keep you away. The country is changing rapidly. Go to Vietnam now, and take your kids with you.

North Vietnam – Hanoi & Ha Long bay

We started our trip, like a lot others, in Hanoi. The city, despite the hot and humid weather that we encountered in June, is beautiful and stately. (The immediate comparison to Lutyen’s Delhi comes to mind while Ho Chi Minh City is more like Mumbai).

We took a connection via Bangkok and after the night flights, reached in the morning, checked into the hotel and promptly crashed. Alas, I had messed up Rule #1 – never plan anything on the first day post night travel! I had booked a really interesting and unusual tour with HanoiKids Voluntary English Club  and with great reluctance, husband (R) and daughter (K) got out of bed. These are university kids who take you to see places in the city, all for the chance to practice their English and to get some insight into your culture (you can find them on FB, but best to e mail them at hanoikidsvn@gmail.com with the sites you want to cover).

Our first stop was very interesting – The Temple of Literature is a sort of place where Confucius is worshiped and the place of the first university in Vietnam.

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K posing within the Temple of Literature

But after an hour or so within the complex, the heat sapped our energy. K had slept off and it was getting increasingly difficult for R to walk carrying a sleeping child. We ended up cancelling the visit to Ho Chi Minh palace / museum post this and were happy to go to a little hole-in-the wall café in the old part of the city. We were so glad we didn’t give the old quarter a miss. While R was happy with the local beer, I tried the egg coffee – thick, creamy, intense, and a complete delight. K slept through the coffee break peacefully on a bench.

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Egg coffee, what a find!

With energy restored, we meandered through the French quarters, took in the beautiful buildings in that area including the Opera House and called it a day. Our hosts were so keen to show us a typical book store, talk more about education, lifestyle, culture in India (that can take months!) but we bid goodbye and decided to have a drink at the grand Hotel Metropole before heading back to our hotel.

Ha Long Bay. – A UNESCO heritage site with over 2000 lime karsts rising out of the water.

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K really enjoyed this part of the trip. This may end up being a bit difficult with kids, but she thought staying in a boat cabin was heavenly. The road trip to reach the bay was a different matter altogether. It takes 4 hours from Hanoi – through some really dilapidated and un-scenic parts and in my opinion, this is worth only if you are going for a night stay. It is too crazy to do this for a day trip! We booked ‘Dragon Legend’.

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Also the bay is loveliest in the evening when all the other junks (yes, that’s exactly what they are called!) that carry day trippers have gone.

After a hearty lunch, there was an option to visit a small beach via a smaller boat or a kayak. We opted for kayaking. We all got a quick theory session on dos and don’ts and a stern warning about the presence of jelly fish in the water in parts. Our guide, an expert kayaker, offered to take the 5 year old daughter in his kayak, leaving us to enjoy in a separate one. K was a bit psyched about being alone with a stranger, but she stayed calm and kept us in her vision.

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K with the expert guide in a kayak

The destination was super fun for her – she thoroughly enjoyed the pristine beach, making sand castles and frolicking in the bay. We took the boat back to our catamaran.

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We can never get enough of making sandcastles

Central Vietnam – Da Nang, Hoi An & Hue

Central Vietnam with its endless beaches and the charming town of Hoi An is a delight for kids. There are several beach resorts at Da Nang, and this would be an ideal place for families to stay.

Our first day was spent lazing by the poolside and doing pretty much nothing all day. Bliss! In the evening, we took the hotel shuttle to go visit the Hoi An town. It is a nice stroll within the town where cars have been banned. However, It can be quite crowded on some streets in the evening so make sure you hold on to your kids / toddlers. Hoi An has some amazing restaurants (the best food in Vietnam according to many travellers) and kids would have love the dishes, be it vegetables, fish or meat. My personal recommendations for the restaurants – Morning Glory, Mango Mango.

As an aside note, my daughter only eats fried fish, not steamed or poached or even pan fried. Morning Glory has some amazing food and very different local recipes to enjoy. But there was no deep fried fish on the menu. However, once we explained what we want to the staff, they were more than happy to get us de-boned fried fish with some vegetables and chips.

The next day, we were all set for our countryside cycling tour. We took a taxi to the Heaven and Earth Tours shop in Hoi An town. They had our bicycles ready – one for R with a seat behind to comfortably seat our daughter and another one for me.

First the cycles had to be loaded onto a boat and we crossed the river to the other side. In many places, nets were pulled out of the water, seemingly sunning themselves. Our guide explained that the nets are lowered in the water mornings and evenings to catch the fish.

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Happy to pose once I had crossed the rickety bridge. R took a different narrow road, didn’t want to take a chance with K riding pillion

 

The cycling trip began once we reached the other side of the river. This is a beautiful way to experience the countryside and the village life. It is not strenuous at all, with breaks to visit a traditional house in the village, see an old woman weave a mat, see how rice liquor is made (you may wish to keep your kids outside the room where rice is being fermented!), see how a coracle is painted and even take a joy ride in a coracle. A bit like a typical Kerala village life, I think.

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Rice being fermented for the wine. Not a nice smell!

We had booked a day trip to Hue the next day. The 3 to 4 hour journey would be more convenient to travel in an air-conditioned car. For some reason, we thought it would be a hoot to travel in an old topless jeep (probably left behind by the US army).

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The US Army jeep. (we had a driver, he was the one who took this photo)

The Hai Van pass (which you cross en route to Hue) is the highlight of the road trip and has some stunning vistas. Overall, it is a beautiful drive – with me constantly surprised by the quality of the highways.

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A short stop to capture the American bunker in the background. At this point, we were entering into North part of Vietnam

Our guide suggested a break at the Elephant waterfall. While a nice stop for the locals to cool in the water and spend the day picnicking, I wished we hadn’t taken this detour – it meant getting into Hue much later than what I had planned for. My daughter thought completely the opposite. She loved getting in the cool water and it took quite an effort to get back on the road.

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The Elephant waterfalls, I was carrying no change for K, but she was delighted to be in the cool water nonetheless

We finally reached Hue, had a quick lunch and went to visit the main attraction of the city. The citadel, from where the Nguyen emperors once ruled is a really large complex. Too large to explore in half a day. While open with beautiful buildings and trees-laden pathways, it can be challenge to explore on a hot day. After exploring the To Mieu Temple complex, R and K decided to laze on a bench while I explored some of the other buildings and gardens.

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One of the main buildings in the immense citadel. Never seen so many lotuses blooming in the moat outside this one
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Beautifully decorated pathways connect buildings

We decided to ditch the jeep and come back via a car. The journey back was on a different route, and there is loads to keep you engaged looking out the window – the coastline, green fields, the rows of boats where people cook and live.

We rounded up the stay at Hoi An with a day spent entirely by the pool side and the beach, before flying to Ho Chi Minh city.

South Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh city & Con Dao island

You could do away with Ho Chi Minh City from a family holiday itinerary without feeling the pinch. North & Central Vietnam have much more to offer to kids than this. It was a short break, 2 days before going to Con Dao island. We decided to skip the war museum in HCMC as friends suggested that some of the stuff / information displayed would be too gory for a 5 year old. But we did go to Cu Chi tunnels with K. And I think she was fine with all the American Vietnam war information – over-whelming in parts – that is available there. Cu Chi tunnels are out of the city and a good 1.5 / 2 hour drive one way. So stock up on water and snacks for the journey. The jungle, though largely sanitised for tourists, is quite thick and dense and its scary to imagine the guerrilla war being carried out there. There is a good documentary film shown and a model on display that shows the various tunnels at various levels. Guides who take a small team of tourists through a well-marked path on a regular basis are well informed.

One highlight for those who are not claustrophobic is to experience the thrill of going through a short or a long tunnel. I tried the short one – no steps to climb into, you can get in and do a short drop. I could walk standing up but not the American tourist behind me who was 6 ft 4 inches. It is clean except for some dried leaves / twigs and gives you a good sense of what it must have been for the Vietnamese soldiers / villagers to live, plan, cook in these tunnels. R tried the long tunnel later but here the guide leads.

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You can experience going into a tunnel. It is quite sanitised – no creepy crawlies.

There is also a section at the end of the walk before the souvenir shop, where you can try your hand at an AK-47. We didn’t try because of K.

The last leg – Con Dao island

We had researched and debated a lot before deciding on Con Dao island as the last leg of our holiday. Na Trang is for the party goers and Phu Quoc for both couples and families but this sleepy island where nothing much happens suited us perfectly.

Con Dao – a penal settlement used by the French and the Americans to house prisoners once upon a time – has been off the tourist track for so long that its really pristine. A small airplane service from Ho Chi Minh city connects to this island in the south on a daily basis. The plane was small, trembled violently in the rains, and was largely full of local tourists.

4 days of R & R is what we went for at this island, so the rains in the first 2 days didn’t bother us as much. The island is perfect for mountain biking and scuba diving (and also hiking) and we tried both once the rains stopped. K had decided – very conveniently for us – that the lady at the resort’s kid centre was her best friend and that she didn’t want to see her parents much.

 

The town centre is really tiny and we tried a café, but compared to the dining options at our resort – didn’t care for it much. One can go to visit the prisons used at one point of time, but we decided to give it a go

We flew back to Ho Chi Minh city and spent a day there before heading home. This last day was spent in shopping and trying out a bohemian café in the city.

Vietnam is not a natural choice for a lot of Indian families. We don’t know anyone from our circle of friends and acquaintances who has been there with kids. And after the trip, we kept wondering – why not? Great beaches, stunning scenery, fresh food, good resorts and no crazy crowds unlike its neighbours – whats not to like.

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This is a guest post by Shweta Singhal.

Shweta is a corporate executive, mother of a 5 year old, generally enthusiastic to plan and try out new things in life. Loves to read and of course travel. She’d like to believe she is NOT an adventure junkie but has tried sky diving, rappelling, glacier climbing, trekking, para gliding, mountain biking, scuba diving.

Throwback Monday: Safari

Somebody once told me that “If there is something so creative for you that you lose your sense of time pursuing it, then it is indeed your passion”
I believe photography ( along with cricket and running ) is that passion for me .

Hence, I try to take couple of trips a year ( or as many my employer and my bank balance allow) to pursue my passion .

Here’s one of my recent pictures from one such trips – a safari into the heart of Kruger National Park, South Africa.

This is a guest post by Shubhashish Beura. You can see more of his work at  Https://Instagram.com/wanderer_shubh

Related Links

Though I wouldn’t recommend a jungle safari with kids under five and we have not gone for one yet, here is a resource of the child friendly stays with the option of a jungle safari.

http://www.kidsstoppress.com/2015/05/11-wildlife-holidays-in-india-with-child-friendly-stays-you-will-love/

What is Throwback-Monday?

What better way to beat the Monday-morning-blues than to think about vacation. Believe me some weeks it’s just the memories of old vacations and plans of the next one that keep me going.

So here’s a way to beat ’em blues with posting a vacation photo every Monday, right here.

  • Post a photo of your vacation, with or without kids. Of course it should be suitable for public viewing.
  • The focus of the blog should be the photo. You could write a bit about it, or not.
  • It need not be a professional photo, but who needs to be a professional. With a great phone camera and some imagination, the stage is yours.
  • Link back here so that your readers can see all the other great Photo Monday posts.

Throwback-Monday: Food

Whats travel without sampling the local food. I’ve had some interesting food tasting experiences while travelling – black pudding in London, live heart of a fish in Easter Island. Feeding young kids in a different country can be a pain sometimes though. sigh!

The one above, is of the five layered fresh juice in Oman. the. most. amazing. juice. ever.

Related Links

https://thebackpackingmama.com/2015/01/17/baby-food-travel/

https://thebackpackingmama.com/2015/01/08/oman/

What is Throwback-Monday?

What better way to beat the Monday-morning-blues than to think about vacation. Believe me some weeks it’s just the memories of old vacations and plans of the next one that keep me going.

So here’s a way to beat ’em blues with posting a vacation photo every Monday, right here.

  • Post a photo of your vacation, with or without kids. Of course it should be suitable for public viewing.
  • The focus of the blog should be the photo. You could write a bit about it, or not.
  • It need not be a professional photo, but who needs to be a professional. With a great phone camera and some imagination, the stage is yours.
  • Link back here so that your readers can see all the other great Photo Monday posts.

Throwback-Monday: Live Matches

Watching matches live with kids can be so much fun! The city is unusually alive and its almost carnival like. We’ve had the best experiences in South Africa and Australia. This one is from the recent EuroCup 2016 match at Lens.

Related Links

Indiaaaa, India…clap clap – OR how to watch a match in the stadium with kiddos

What is Throwback-Monday?

What better way to beat the Monday-morning-blues than to think about vacation. Believe me some weeks it’s just the memories of old vacations and plans of the next one that keep me going.

So here’s a way to beat ’em blues with posting a vacation photo every Monday, right here.

  • Post a photo of your vacation, with or without kids. Of course it should be suitable for public viewing.
  • The focus of the blog should be the photo. You could write a bit about it, or not.
  • It need not be a professional photo, but who needs to be a professional. With a great phone camera and some imagination, the stage is yours.
  • Link back here so that your readers can see all the other great Photo Monday posts.

12 Hours In A Houseboat, With Kids

So our much awaited whole family trip to Italy got converted into half the family meeting in Kerala. Its a long story which deserves another post, but let me just say, if you have issues dealing with ambiguity, spend a month in Italy and be cured.

Kerala, although it was a really short trip, delivered beautifully on the ‘God’s Own Country’ experience. The backwaters are truly amazing and unlike any other water holiday experience (barring the Amazon, of course. South America has tuned down the rest of the world for me.). The highlight for us was the 1 night stay in the houseboat in Kumarkom, and here’s how it was with 2 feisty and active kids confined to a boat.

We were amazed at how close the water was, and i was worried about how big the windows were! img_8788

Admiring self(ie)

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And then we wanted to throwing everything that we could find including didi’s toy phone, into the water. Till didi dear had a brilliant idea and gave him bits of paper to throw instead.

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And when she sees paper, cards have to be made.

And then we took a break and admired the scenery outside.

When resting was done in about 5 minutes, we ran up and down the lone corridor.

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Everyone was made to exercise.

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And then we made salad

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and served everyone aboard

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and steered the boat

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and made our own steering wheel

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and monkeyed around

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and finally, crashed. Phew!

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20 Tips For Travelling With Kids

 

As we pack our bags and head to Rome this week, I realised how different our travel itinerary and our bags have become! From 2 rucksacks and 1 carry-on to a suitcase, a rucksack, 2 carry-ons, a bag for S, a pram, a camera bag and a sling, phew! When we step out of the door, it looks more like a strange crooked backed, wheeled beast has stepped out. But the beast does manage to have fun, and here are some hacks that work for us.

  1. The goody bag: If there is a train or car ride or flying during the day involved in the trip, I keep a goody bag for the kids. This has little new things that can amuse them for some time. A sticker book, a magic painting book, a small loom band set, a magnifying glass, cotton balls, a small wind up toy – anything small and new that can be handed out to ward off a potential meltdown.
  2. Games for long rides: There’s no better way to get involved in travel than observe the surroundings so we usually play games like I spy or Name-place-animal-thing to pass time.
  3. Snacks: Sweet as well as savoury ones. Can’t step out without them. I get hungry every couple of hours and so do the kids with all the walking. Nothing ruins the mood like hunger, so cheese cubes, fruit, chocolate bars, fruit loops, chocos, buiscits go along with us. Raid the breakfast spread, if there is one.
  4. Time to explore: Kids like to spend time exploring wherever they are. We are almost never able to just leave our bags in the room and step out or just do a look see at a park. So plan for time to explore the room and the park or any other place that is going to be what you though of as a short pit stop. It won’t be short.
  5. Sketchbook: To fill with experiences. S loves to draw and copied the Duomo in Florence. That way she remembers where she’s been.
  6. Medicine kit: Goes without saying. Finding Crocin in a different country or in the middle of the night can be a challenge.
  7. Self-packed bag by kids, edited: S usually likes to pack her own bag which she claims she will carry all they way. We let her put things together to make sure she is well occupied and carries the toys she likes, but it is always edited for any heavy, noisy or bulky items because there will come a time when she will simply hand over the bag to me and run off.
  8. Wipes and sanitiser: Self explanatory. No matter how old the kids are.
  9. Child-locator/ Branding: This I haven’t tried, but found recommended on many a site. Kids do wander off in large places so maybe this time we will put a bracelet on each kid with our local phone numbers on them.
  10. Public Transport: Always a better option than hiring a car. One doesn’t have to figure directions with constant cries of are we there yet, I’m hungry, I want to drive ….Besides, the kids seem to enjoy these more.
  11. Factor their itinerary: Everyday has at least one activity that the kids would love to do – pool, beach, park, play area. At the end of they day, it should have been fun for them too. If nothing else, ice-cream works.
  12. An extra t-shirt: In the day bag, for mess ups or chilly evenings or strong AC environment. Along with the stole, of course.
  13. Scan the documents: All of them. Passports, VISAs, tickets, hotel bookings. Having everything on the phone is a big boon if a bag is stolen or you can’t remember the name of the apartment after a long day.
  14. Mind the money: We’ve found it best to carry little cash and use the ATM to withdraw local currency as required. But be sure to activate roaming on the credit cards (yes, at least 2) and have a decent limit on international spends. Getting caught out without money or cards is no fun.
  15. Carry-on packing: The carry on bag carries 2 sets of clothing for kids, diapers for half of Africa and 1 extra t-shirt for each of us, just in case of a leaky poop or worse.
  16. One Parent-in-charge: This actually worked by default rather than by design. With M’s enthusiasm for planning the vacation, he has it all laid out – flight tickets, mode of transports, lodging and day plans. I don’t lift a finger, you know, because what if he thought I was doing the day plan and I thought he was in charge 🙂
  17. A plan for the day and check the opening times etc the night before: Going over the next day plans the night before is always a good idea, particularly if you are visiting a museum or driving to somewhere. The opening timings or renovations can throw your day out of sync if discovered at the gate of the sight. Of course if you are in Italy, the trains get cancelled and ATCs go on strike without notice.
  18. Play-dates: I really really want to make this work, but haven’t found a reliable way yet. S craves company of her age after about a week. So longer vacations have many more melt-downs unless she has some kids to play with. If we are travelling with friends (which is rare) it works, but on solo family vacations I try and fix up play-dates with locals through common friends. It’s yet to work as a system though, sigh!
  19. One swim bag: Oh yes, everyones swim things go in one bag that can be grabbed on the go. No fishing out swimming goggles for one and upturning the suitcase to find the swimming tube.
  20. Packing cubes: This is my latest discovery. Pack each person’s clothes and or inners in one bag/packing cube. Colour code them and let each person know their colour. No more pulling out the wrong socks.

Ha. That’s the list. Do add more points and make our trips smoother!

Jet-lag Hacks

One of the things about going around the world with little kids, that you will not see on FB and Instagram, is the jet lag after. I can barely manage to settle my own clock. I remember sleeping for 14 straight hours when we flew to Chile, but that luxury (along with a few others) is wiped away with the arrival of the diapered ones in your travel itinerary.

Dealing with jet-lag, for adults, involves a few simple tricks

  • Keep awake/asleep through the flight depending on what time of the day (at destination) you arrive, so you can switch the clock to fit the local time.
  • Wake up with sunrise and exercise to get the blood circulation, and hence oxygen to brain, going.
  • Eat more fruits and salads at more frequent intervals and make sure you drink enough water/liquids

With young children and babies, things get more complicated. While S, the older one, is a delightful traveler who enjoys company in the flight, eats most of the local food and wakes up enthusiastically even for the early morning activities, even she used to get high fever for 1 day whenever we returned. K, now almost 2 years old, is a different story altogether. He takes upto 10 days to get over jet-lag and that too after making sure we are easing him into the new timing.

For kids, or at least K, there seems to be a sleep disruption as well as a tummy disruption. Traveling East to West is easier. As the day ends later than ours began, we take a short nap on arrival and then definitely wake up for then next meal at local time. East to West is more complicated. The day ends sooner than our body clock and its difficult to sleep earlier. So, we have been there, done that and found a few hacks –

  1. Night flights – if the flying distance is longer than 4 hours, we prefer night flights. We then land when it’s getting day and can make do with a short afternoon nap and adjust to the time more easily. Also, for the younger ones, managing a night flight is easier since there is little or no physical activity possible during the day and the kid gets all wound up. It isn’t exactly convenient, because the kids are rested and you are not, upon landing; but I’d rather have happy kids and cranky mom than cranky kids and cranky mom. For older kids (above 4-5 maybe) you could well take the day flight so you and the kids are able to sleep at the same time.
  2. Work with the sun – our bodies are tuned to naturally wake up when the sunlight pours in, so keep the curtains drawn open and allow the morning sun to wake you and the kids up. Equally, switch off the lights at night to send the body sleep signals. Even if the kids wake up at night, try to do activities in low light or choose calm activities like reading or colouring etc. You will find K running around and shrieking though, even in the dark.
  3. Swap the time one hour a day – when flying West to East, the kids will stay awake at night and then sleep through till even noon, sunshine or not. We advance the wake up  time one hour per day (if you have the luxury of course). So wake up at noon and sleep at midnight on day 1, wake up at 11 and sleep at 11 the next and so on. Afternoon naps, if any, should fit this moving cycle, else the night sleep time does not adjust well.
  4. Exhaust – swimming/park time are my best friends for combating jet-lag. Being out helps the body adjust to the sun – natural wake-sleep cycle and the activity helps night time jumping around less likely.
  5. Feed frequently – I didn’t have a clue what a disruption feeding cycles can be for a toddler. K has bad bouts of colic when we travel. So we now make sure he eats something every 2 hours if awake – 1 biscuit, half an egg, 4 grapes – literally anything that prevents a build up of gas in the tummy. Also, he has milk 5-6 times a day in stead of his usual 3 times. The child might refuse to eat and may look fine and active, but do make sure she eats, even if its just 2 bites. Even cake will do, though pure sugar like candy usually is worse than being hungry.
  6. Avoid cycle interference – (if its beginning to sound like a PhD, it’s because I have gone through some bad times). Apparently, the feeding cycle and the sleep cycle may  not sync up at the same time. Kids can sleep at the right times and still wake up due to hunger or an unsettled tummy. So we make sure dinner is slightly earlier, there is a small snack just before sleeping and there is a bottle of coconut water right next to the bed for night-time hunger pangs. Giving K water or coconut water every-time he wakes up at night, helps.
  7. Be ready to dance – given the sleep time is so disrupted, its possible the child wakes up just as he is about to nod off. Prepare to spend anywhere between 2x-3x the time it usually takes to put the kid to bed.
  8. Linger – my kids frequently wake up within 10 mins to half hour of  sleeping off, so I usually linger around the room to calm them immediately and prevent a full wake up. Cuddle up for longer, keep singing/humming, even if they look asleep.

Load up on patience & coffee. We have found jet-lag to be the most troublesome part of travelling with kids so far.

Amuse Bouche of Paris

I have been fascinated by the French culture for a while now. It came about when I was evaluating how consumerist urban India is becoming and if, apart from the American dream, there is an alternate way of life inspired by Europe. The French way of life is about living each day, loving yourself and the time you have. They take art and beauty so seriously, they eat fresh, visit the bakery even twice a day, indulge a bit everyday, buy fewer but more expensive things and make them last longer, and move – a lot. The weekends are about going for outdoor picnics, hikes and the like and there are hardly any mall outings. I wouldn’t presume to know too much about the culture, but it sounds good. So I was quite looking forward to the two days in France we had. This was a quick stopover to watch 3 of the Euro matches on our way to a longer sojourn in Italy.
Looking forward wasn’t exactly true, i was indeed excited to see France ‘live’, also in the aftermath of the recent unhappy incidents, but my previous experience of French hospitality hadn’t been too pleasant.
That was before I chanced upon C MY PARIS. I don’t remember how it all started, but Larissa from C my Paris buzzed me about my Paris itinerary and offered to help with finding our way around with kids.
I really liked the concept of C MY PARIS. The idea is to help the visitor see the city through the eyes of a local resident. Almost like having a friend show you around to the places you’d like to see. I had wanted to do a bit of travel dating along similar lines, where we’d plan to meet up with friends of friends or similar, who live in the city and have kids – a great way to experience the place and have kids make new friends.
Larissa’s recommendations on everything, from parks close to where we were staying, to helping us with information on getting local sims and about the stadium rules for the Euro matches, were detailed and useful. It was a pleasure to catch up with her and her two sons. The kids were busy playing around while we chatted away at a cafe. I got to know a bit more about the Parisian life, and watched the kids play quite oblivious of the fact that they were speaking in different languages.
Our 2 days were actually 3 matches between Paris and Lens. The live match experience, as always, was awesome, for even sport agnostics like me. Especially, the England vs Wales at Lens. The walk to the stadium itself was beautiful and all the pubs were filled with fans.
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Don’t miss the cow being tossed around
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The crazy fans
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The ‘walk’ to the stadium
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The match, albeit a different one
We did manage to catch an evening at the Eiffel tower too. From the Trocadero side this time.
Oh, and the one thing i didn’t really expect to see was the public urinals of this kind, right near the Eiffel!
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The airport we went to though, wasn’t CDG but Orly. We sampled the famed macaroons, halted for fun at the play area and made good use of the generous baby care rooms.
All in all, it was a short and hectic amuse bouche but better than my previous short visit. Maybe this was a coloured view given I’m fascinated by their way of life, but I’d definitely like to see more.

What type are you? Hotel or Hostel

The summer vacation is almost here, and while you plan that holiday and make the bookings, check what kind of accommodation suits your type among Hotel, Hostel and everything in between. Just for the heck of it!

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1.When travelling, how much do you interact with the locals

  1. I love chatting up, even with complete strangers. It’s interesting how they live their lives
  2. Most of my chats are with the cab driver. About the weather or the matches etc
  3. Most of my chats are initiated by the friendly local restaurant owner or in shops
  4. I travel to get away from people. Don’t rub them in my face again

2. On a longish trip, how would you prefer to travel between cities 

  1. Get a bla bla cab. What’s a journey without new friends
  2. Fly. I like to see the sights I came to see and soak in being  tourist
  3. Drive or take the train. The stops at the smaller towns in between are so enriching
  4. Walk. Hike. Explore.

3. Who do you travel with

  1. The more the merrier. Do you want to come too?
  2. Spouse and kids. Managing just these people is quite the challenge on vacation
  3. Spouse and kids and friends and their kids
  4. Solo. It’s a getaway, from everything

4. How many bags do you usually have

  1. Let’s see- 2 suitcases, 1 backpack per traveler, 2 camera bags, 1 purse, 1 bag of home cooked food
  2. 2 matching suitcases and hold-alls. Burberry.
  3. 1 suitcase,1 rucksack, 1-2 backpacks, 1 camera bag
  4. 1 rucksack. What more?

5. How long is your average vacation

  1. 3 – 4 weeks. Less than that and you might as well just stay at home
  2. About a week, including flying time
  3. 2-3 weeks. Let’s explore nicely
  4. Months. Or days. I like to just get away

6. How much of the language do you prep before you go

  1. I can say the important phrases – let’s party, where is the best place to eat etc
  2. Most people understand a bit of English, I’ll ask for translations for anything else or Google.
  3. I make it a point to learn a bit of the language. It’s the best way to get a feel of the place
  4. Nature has one language – awestruck silence.

7. What do you typically shop for on a holiday

  1. Gifts for friends and family
  2. The camera lens I have been looking for, or those really cute pair of designer shoes
  3. Flags, local crafts, something that will remind me of the place
  4. A t-shirt or any other essential I might have run out of

8. The one trip you wish you had taken before the big 30

  1. The big gang vacation in South East Asia
  2. A honeymoon in the Bahamas. Oh well, the second one maybe
  3. Backpack across Europe
  4. A solo trek in South America

9. The one to-do you wouldn’t miss in a city (or close to it)

  1. The impromptu baking class
  2. The modern art exhibition
  3. The the sport event
  4. The natural sanctuary walk through

10. 50% of your meals on a holiday are

  1. Cooked myself or by the hosts
  2. Fine dining. I like to try all the Michelin starred restaurants
  3. Street food or local cuisine
  4. All of it is local food

Ta-da!

Mostly 1s: The Social Traveller

Social traveller

Travel for you is a social outing. Time best spent with people you love or will grow to like a lot.

Best places to stay – get hosted by a local family either known to you or through good old couch-surfing

Mostly 2s: The Luxury Traveller

Luxury Traveller

Travel means experiencing the best the world has to offer. Relaxing and letting your senses soak in luxury is your thing.

Best places to stay – boutique hotels or even the regular 5 star. Check with me on how to get better deals.

Mostly 3s: The Backpack Traveller

backpack-travel

Travel is a process of learning and growing for you. It’s to build a richer picture of the planet, understand different cultures and live different lives.

Best places to stay – a cosy hostel is perfect. It allows for interactions with fellow travellers and a place to retreat, when you want to just be.

Mostly 4s: The Solo Traveller

Solo traveller

Travel is as much a journey inward as outward, for you. It’s the time to get away from the mayhem and chaos into quiet and peace

Best places to stay – camping. Or even a hostel that has good guidance on treks around, will work well.

What type did you turn out to be? Post the link of FB, if it was right 🙂

 

The weekend we didn’t getaway

The last few weeks have been crazy. First we were out to Westin Sohna for the weekend with the family, since all of us from 3 different countries were here; then it was Cambodia for the Holi-Good Friday weekend and the third consecutive weekend out at Calcutta to watch the T20 Finals and visit family.
Westin was good! It’s a great place to spend a day or 2 with family, especially if you have young kids. They have added a number of attractions over the years and it’s almost a petting farm now. There are guinea pigs, rabbits, a tortoise, ducks, pheasants, turkeys, roosters, goats, horses and the delightfully large emus. The place is dotted with wooden swings and hammocks. There is an open play area and a kids room which has activities by the hour. For older kids, there are 2 pools and the option of hiring bikes to go around the property. It’s a good option to hop across for just the day as well. Plan to reach by 10 am, pay only for lunch and drive out sometime before sunset.
Cambodia was even better! 3 days whizzed past in a blur of tuk-tuk rides, barefoot temple exploration, the pool and breakfasts of mangoes. The temples are breath-taking and my words don’t do them justice, so here are some pictures.
Calcutta, ah Calcutta! I don’t know how I feel about that city. It’s so different and beautiful and green and old world and yet leaves me feeling melancholy. There is enough written about the match, so no more. Being home is always delightful – catching up with sundry siblings and cousins – mom’s cooking and pampering (which I have started appreciating far more since the arrival of the kids). S thoroughly enjoyed living in a ‘normal house’ with a garden, a terrace, an attic, a dog and no guards. We tried out a new place – Jhaal Farezi, probably the first place in Calcutta that has outdoor seating too. The food was good as was the décor.
So, we aren’t known to stay home for a long weekend, but this time with the Ram Navmi holiday, I’m right here. Three whole days with kids at home frighten me. So I’m glad there is the Krackerjack Kids Carnival on the same weekend. While I haven’t been to one myself so far, it looks like a fun place to spend a day with the kids. There are activities across age groups and the live performances by Chhota Bheem et al. S, the almost 5 year old, as she calls herself, is sure to enjoy the magic shows, art corners and all. Might as well get there on Friday, since it seems the weekend seems to have been quite crowded the last time round.