SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World is one of the world’s largest aquariums and this was the last stop on our trip. We usually always have a good experience when we visit aquariums, and this was no exception to the rule.
There are more than 31,300 Buddhist temples in Thailand and Wat Pho is one of the oldest, largest, and most admired ones. It is also known for being the place where Thai massage was born. The biggest attraction of the Wat Pho temple complex is the Reclining Buddha, a gigantic golden Buddha statue, which is lying down. It was built in 1832 and is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, the largest Buddha in Thailand. Other than the reclining Buddha, the Wat Pho temple complex houses more than 1,000 Buddhas, which is more than any other temple in Thailand.
Tuk-tuks can be found everywhere in Thailand and it’s estimated that there are around 35,000 of them cruising around the streets. Even though the tuk-tuk drivers are infamous for overcharging and driving like mad, it’s part of the adventure to try riding a tuk-tuk. On our first tuk-tuk ride, the driver squeezed us through countless traffic jams in a steady and comfortable pace with plenty of time to breath in the hazardous fumes from the engines all around us. The next trip was with a bit more of an aggressive driver. He seemed to get a big kick out of the fact that his female passengers had some very nervous facial expressions during most of the ride. After arriving at our end destination, he invited Elliot to sit behind the wheel.
After a week outside of Hua Hin, we drove north back to Bangkok to spend a few days exploring the world’s hottest city. First stop was Bangkok Snake Farm which is a working snake farm where they breed snakes in order to extract venom for anti-venom production. The handlers brought out around 10 different snake species and told us interesting facts about them. We got front row seats, which meant that some of the deadly snakes were dangerously close to us.
We made very few visits to McDonalds on this trip, compared to what we normally do when we travel. The selection of food was both very diverse as well as affordable, and for the first couple of days we even managed to convince the kids to try out some new things. Thai food has a lot of texture, colour, and good flavour. Shawn, in particular, was very adventurous when it came to trying out something new. Several of his dishes were served with the eyeballs still attached.
As part of an ATV ride/tour we went to the Khao Takiab mountain, also known as ‘Monkey Mountain’. Not named because the hill is shaped like a monkey, but because there are hundreds of rodent-like monkeys roaming freely. The guides had brought a bag of food with to feed the monkeys and they definitely kept after us when they found that out. There was a lot of monkey screeches and scampering going on which at times was overwhelming. While enduring the bacteria soup and the stink from the somewhat aggressive macaque monkeys, we got to enjoy a really nice view over the area. Once the food was gone we headed back down to leave the monkeys for the next set of tourists.
The Hua Hin Sam Phan Nam Floating Market has a lot of bad reviews on Tripadvisor, and rightfully so. It’s not a floating market at all, just a bunch of souvenir shops on a raised platform around a man made lake. Being foreigners, we had to pay an entrance fee to get in to the market and potentially do some shopping. This fee also covered a 5-minute boat ride in a very noisy old boat where we got to rush by all the shops that we had just walked by. It was so bad that it was funny, and the kids had a good time patting some goats and feeding the fish.
One morning we made our way to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation. This is a place which provides care and support for Elephants who suffer from ill health or have been abandoned by their owners because they are unable to work any longer. We took an elephant for a little walk and the kids each got a bag of bananas, which they fed to the elephant along the way. Upon returning from the walk, the kids hosed down the elephant.
Winter in Thailand is not comparable to the dark and cold winters that we are accustomed to. During the cold season from November to April, temperatures are fairly constant around 30 – 35 °C. We made sure to exploit the nice warm weather by making many trips to the ocean and to various pools. We also spent a day in a water park.
One of our first trips in Thailand went to Pran Buri National Park. Here, we took a stroll on a 1 km long wooden boardwalk that crisscrosses through a dense mangrove forest. The Pranburi River winds through the forest and along the trail you could rent a long-tail boat. We did a tour of the river passing a small fishing village and spotting a lot of colorful fishing boats and a big Monitor Lizard on the way.
On Thursday the 23rd of November 2017 we boarded a plane heading from Copenhagen to the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. We arrived in Bangkok the following morning and after a long wait at the rental car agency we finally got our car. We drove 225 km south and shortly after passing through the city of Hua Hin we arrived at Villa Vista, a little “Swedish village” in Thailand. Our villa was conveniently located right next to the pool, so the kids quickly pulled out their swimming gear and jumped in.
In Chicago we hit the ground running with a family bike tour along the lakefront trail when we first arrived. We drove down to Navy Pier and then back to Millennium park. After the bike ride we did a walking tour of the park and saw some cool sculptures as well as the mandatory Cloud Gate. It was a pretty hot day again so we were happy to finally rest our feet in a nice hotel and take a break before doing a bit more exploring downtown. We found a nice Thai restaurant that was not too busy and had a great dinner. The next day we packed up and headed to the museum of Science and Industry which had some unique exhibits. The favourite was the mind control game where you had to push a ball using the alpha waves generated by your brain. Theoretically these waves should be generated when you are in a relaxed state so the winner would be the person who could relax the most. After a few rounds the undisputed champion was Elliot who beat all of us with not one loss. After the museum we continued our road trip as we headed back towards Canada.
Since we had all our camping gear with us we decided to try out another couple nights of camping in a Wisconsin state park. Along the way to the park we took a driving break in Madison (capital city of Wisconsin) to visit the Henry Vilas zoo (which is one of the few free admission zoos in the US). After the zoo we continued to the campsite which was about a 40 minute drive outside of Milwaukee. The next day we took a day trip to Milwaukee to visit a water park and afterwards we went downtown to do a tour of the city. We sampled some of the historic areas by the riverfront, visiting an iconic cheese store and a spice store. After a long day of playing in the water and sightseeing we drove back to the campsite for our last night before our next destination.
After another day of driving, another night at a hotel, and another morning of driving, we arrived at Brooke’s house in White Bear, Minnesota (Brooke is my amazing friend/roommate from NYC, she is married to Joe and they have a 3-year old son named Hawkins). We arrived just in time for the July 4th pool party and I was happy to learn that Zach, another old friend from our time in NYC, was also among the guests. Brooke is an amazing hostess and she made sure that everyone had plenty of great food and drinks throughout the day. Other than taking the time to eat, not a minute on dry land was wasted by the kids. They were in the pool for the most part of 2 days and Sienna broke a record for being in the pool for 6 hours straight. While we were in Minnesota, we stayed at Brooke’s parents house in Forest Lake. Every morning we woke up to a a feast, as Brooke’s mom was whipping up all kinds of yummy Minnesotan breakfast classics for us (thanks again for having us and for all the delicious food, Debbie and Mike). On our last day in Minnesota, we took a trip to White Bear lake and rented a pontoon boat. The weather was great as we toured around in the boat and had a picnic lunch. The kids were really excited to get some fishing in and they had more than they could ask for catching over 20 fish! After the pontoon boat, there was even more swimming, and then we went to a summer street festival with Brooke, Joe, and Hawkins to get some dinner. After 3 sun- and fun-filled days we were ready to head towards our next destination.
During our long drive we planned to make some strategic stops along the way to break up the trip. Since we were driving through Sudbury, we took a couple hours and visited the science center (we thought it was funny that it was located on 100 Ramsey Lake Road). The science center had a lot of cool stuff including some giant bugs from Malaysia which we got to hold. After the science museum we drove by the big nickel and snapped some touristic photos. Then it was a couple more hours driving. Midway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie there is a city called Elliot Lake and while Elliot would have loved to make a pit stop here, we decided not to. It was too far off our route so instead, we hit a motel in a place called Blind River.
A visit to the Aylmer area would not be complete without a visit to the kids’ most active Canadian mail buddy. A visit to Gump’s house is like a trip to a Southwestern Ontario botanical garden, and we got the full summer tour. We also managed to sneak in a load of laundry while doing the tour and chasing some chickens. Thanks again! It’s always fun seeing you!
While camping we also did some visiting with Farmor in Copenhagen (i.e. the very little village in Ontario, Canada, not the capital city of Denmark). Farmor puts the kids to work painting concrete and they let their creativity loose making some unique paint jobs like Elliot turning an owl into a penguin, and Sienna painting a rainbow serpent (not featured). When they got tired of painting the cousins hung around inside, playing games and relaxing by the TV.
Our first attempt at family tent camping was in Port Burwell with Angela, Pete, Kenzy, and Logan. Our first night Farmor and Penguin (aunt Suzy) came to visit and hang out by the campfire while Crystal, Derek, Kyle and Owen came to visit on another night. Although the weather was a bit on the cool side, the kids still braved the water and got in a nice day at the beach. We also tried to catch fish along the rocks next to the pier, but the water was too murky and the fish were not biting. To make up for the missing fish the kids toasted a lot of marshmallows and we took turns at telling spooky stories by the campfire. All in all a very successful time where everybody had fun. We are already looking forward to next year!
Our first stop in Canada was to Jane and Oliver’s place in Milton. We had a lot of fun with Vanessa who was the star of the show. She was very engaged playing with Sienna and Elliot and there was never a dull moment when she was around. We had some fun times at the park and goofing around the house. We also took an afternoon to visit Pakizah, Adam, Ethan, and Cayden. We met at a trampoline park in Toronto and after a lot of jumping we sat down for a nice dinner where the kids had a lively discussion around who their favorite youtuber was. After another night in Milton the weekend was over and we were off to Port Burwell for our first camping adventure.