Backpacking Mama nominated for the Liebster Award!

I was recently nominated for the Liebster Award by Lianna who blogs at from lianna with love. It’s delightful to be nominated by a fellow travel blogger!

She is probably the only person I know who has tasted food from 8 countries in one day. Her blog navigates travel and growing up as a 20 something with as much ease, all the while giving great travel advice in pieces like these : Tips for travelling with Pets and How to make do in NYC without a phone!

What exactly is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is an online award given to bloggers by bloggers, helping each other promote their sites and connect! You can find a post detailing the official rules here (this is also where you’ll submit a link to your post when you’re done).

The basics are:

  • Display the award on your blog
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site
  • Answer their questions about yourself (feel free to include photos!)
  • Write your own set of questions for your nominees

My answers to from lianna with love’s questions:

  • How many languages do you know?

I love languages and travel makes it so much more fun to learn them. I currently speak – English, Hindi, Bengali and Spanish; I can understand bits of Gujarati, Italian and French.

  • What’s your favorite method of travel (plane, boat, car, etc.)?

I travel with kids, lets get there sooner! Though, the slower the mode of transport,the more culture one gets to soak in .. so left to myself, i’d hike everywhere.

  • Who is your favorite person to travel with (or do you prefer to travel solo)?

Crazy as it may sound, i actually em enjoying travelling with the entire family. While it is quite tasking to manage two kids, we get to see a whole different side of the destination.

  • What is your most memorable travel experience?

Strangely, the most memorable travel experience has been the one where I cribbed everyday! It was our first trip to South America and we moved every single night covering Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. Half the trip was deathly cold, despite it being their summer time, we spent no more than $ 20 a night on accommodation and travelled like locals. It was the trip when we got stranded on a floating island in Bolivia and had to be rescued by a paddle boat, when our luggage was stolen by a local bus crossing into Bolivia from Peru and we had to chase in what was the slowest possible taxi in the country, when we witnessed the vastness of the continent, the awe inspiring Iguazu Falls, the quiet inducing Macchu Picchu, stood at the Magellan Strait that I had never thought of as real as I read about it in geography books years ago, hiked to the Torres Del Paine over the boulders thinking that was the path as indicated by LP. It was the trip of a lifetime!

  • How do you save money while traveling?

Given the number of trips we take in a year, we do have to save money, so here are the tricks

a. Plan 3m-6m in advance and keep an eye on the fares

b. Choose credit cards that have a good tie up with multiple airlines and accumulate and use points for flights and stay

c. Plan a budget for daily spends and balance that out between indulgent meals and frugal air bnb cooking

d. Find out about the free attractions for kids for each destination so we aren’t spending on making them happy or warding off a tantrum

  • What’s your favorite destination?

I absolutely love Africa, particularly the south. The sun shines brighter there, believe me! I’d go there in a heartbeat.

  • Least favorite destination?

None, really!

  • Three things you’ve learned from traveling?

Let it go! Don’t try to control everything about the trip or the day and i’ll have more fun

Pack once, then remove 30% of the items. We do just fine without them.

If I can manage to secure garbage bags from a neighbour in Germany, without knowing a word in the language, i’ll get by just fine in life.

  • What blogs do you read regularly?

I’m a blog flirt. I like reading different ones every week. Though mommygolightly and greatbong are places that I usually find interesting reads.

  • Where are you going next?

This new years, we are headed to Mauritius for a bit if the sea and then Almaty for a bit of the snow.

  • One interesting fact about yourself (travel related or not)?

I approach even the most dangerous animals as one would approach a baby! I have held a teen croc, an eagle, lion cubs with as much ease as my two kids… or maybe its the other way round!

My nominees for the Liebster Award are…

First Time Mommy – “I am a first time mommy, Anshu Bhojnagarwala, just like you. I stay in Mumbai with my husband, Rishi and adorable little toddler Aanya. Bringing up a child all alone is no mean feat which I am learning the hard way. In this blog, I share with you some sweet and some scary experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. Be a part of my journey, a journey of a mother! This could be your journey too.”

Wholesome Mama – “WholesomeMamma is a blog about Aloka’s personal journey parenting from an evolutionary or natural perspective and trusting her instincts to do what’s best for the kids over conventional ways.

I blog about breastfeeding, co sleeping, cloth diapering, babywearing, babyled weaning, nutrition, play, books and all such things that I have experienced with my boys aged 4 and 1.5 and love sharing my experiences.”

Mom-Bai – “A humourous blog about a Mom-Bai’s (Mumbai’s Mother-Maid) life with her preschooler: the madness that is mommy hood. This blog has no advice on how to handle children; only proof that the Mom-Bai needs a lot of advice!”

My Flock Of Four – “I am a working mom. I do daycare/school drop-offs and pick-ups, I cook, I clean, I run, do a lot of laundry and some how manage to be a very relaxed person and have somewhat of a social life. I often get the question, ‘how do you do all of that?’. This blog was started because of that question, and of course, my passions.”

I Pen Life – ” I am Reenu Jerath. I love to write, and through this blog I share with you the everyday life snippets that resonate with me.

My parents raised me to be a medical doctor – renowned and famous- like them. But soon they figured that I did not have the guts to cut open the frogs and mice. The closest I could get to the medical profession was to be a Healthcare Business Analyst. After spending years in the corporate landscape, I now pursue my long-time passion for writing.”


My 11 questions for my nominees:

  1. What is the first thing you do on waking up in the morning
  2. What is the craziest thing your child/children have told you
  3. Which is your dream holiday destination
  4. What worries you most about travelling with kids
  5. What is the strangest food you have eaten
  6. Pink, blue or black
  7. What are you currently reading
  8. What is your must have travel thing, when travelling with kids
  9. Mountains or beaches
  10. One interesting fact about yourself (travel or not)

Now it’s your turn to pass the award on to bloggers who you think deserve it!

Throwback Monday – Open Play Area

Every trip we plan, has a day or two on which we spend time outdoors in an open play area in the city. With the last few days of smog, I cant help but think of the unfettered fun times we have had in the free open play areas around the globe. The one above is from Amsterdam on our way back from Italy in June 2016. Everything was shut because it was a Sunday, and there was some football match. But the open play area, well, it was open.

Related Links

 

Some of the most fun open play spaces we have visited have been:

Melbourne, Australia: Ian Potter’s Children’s Garden.

Singapore: Jacob Ballas Garden in the botanical garden and by far the most fun, since it was a water play area – Children’s Garden at Gardens by The Bay

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 Throwback Monday posts.

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.
Do check out the full itinerary on the Zest In A Tote blog

~~~

This is a guest post by Shweta.

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. She blogs at https://zestinatote.com/

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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