Chiang Mai, Thailand with Kids: Days 4-7

Wat Phra Singh templeAfter leaving the Maetaeng area, we checked into the Sibsan Resort in Chiang Mai.  It was a bit farther outside of the city center than we would have preferred, but the property was serene, and the rooms were large and comfortable.  We took cabs or tuk-tuks into and out of the city of Chiang Mai to visit the Wat Phra Singh temple, shop at the Night Market, try out a few restaurants, and take in another spa day.

We absolutely loved the Night Market in Chiang Mai.  Not only was the shopping amazing, but the vibrant life and feel of the market was an experience in and of itself.  My family found a favorite ice cream vendor who made passion fruit ice cream that was absolutely delectable.

Perhaps one of the most memorable days for our family was St. Patrick’s Day, though we might have been the only ones in the city who celebrated it.  My daughters made up an elaborate myth about Thai leprechauns living in the walls who left shiny gifts and granted wishes.  Their leprechaun left them each a Thai bracelet with miniature gold coins in the leprechaun trap they spent an hour making before bedtime.

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World Travel Map 2015

visited 25 states (11.1%)

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love to travel.  I’m determined to see as much of the world as possible, which was a large part of what made our move to Guam an exciting transition.  Now we have a jumping-off point to explore this hemisphere of the world.

I’ve been tracking my travel via Douwe Osinga’s Projects maps.  When I first tracked my progress in 2008, I had seen 6.66% of the world.  In 2013, that number rose to 8.88%, and in 2014, I was up to 9.77%.  As of now, I have managed to see 11.1% of the world.  Considering how many different countries I’ve visited and how much of my time I spend traveling, it amazes me that there’s still so much more to see.  I’ve just barely scratched the surface of this amazing planet the human race calls home.

If you’d like to create your own map to find out what percentage of the world you’ve seen, click here.

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Here Comes Typhoon Dolphin!

Typhoon DolphinIt’s a rather sweet name for such a threatening storm.  While my 11-year-old daughter was out surfing the pre-storm waves with her friends today, I was busy stocking up on water, flashlight batteries, candles, and other supplies.  I also did seven loads of laundry and cleaned the house.  If we lose power and water, at least we’ll have clean clothes and a semi-clean house for a while.  I’ve weathered hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, wildfires, landslides, and earthquakes, but this will be my first typhoon in this hemisphere of the world.


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Chiang Mai, Thailand with Kids: Days 1-3

Chiang Mai, Thailand Sibsan ResortWe just returned from our trip to New Zealand, and I still haven’t finished blogging about last month’s trip to Thailand.

After spending time in Bangkok, we took a flight up north to Chiang Mai.  We spent the first three nights up in the northern hills at the Sibsan Luxury Resort Maetaeng.  It was a rather remote location next door to the Maetaeng Elephant Park along the Maetaeng River.  We woke up to the sound of elephants in the morning before we went over to the park for our scheduled tour.  We began with an ox-cart ride before meeting our elephants and their Mahouts.  The highlight of the day was our long elephant ride meandering along and through the river.  The elephants filled us with awe as these majestic creatures chose to gently interact with us.Maetaeng, Thailand

After we returned from the ride, we watched the elephant demonstration and learned about the elephants in residence.  My daughters loved getting to feed the elephants and were absolutely delighted when they were graced with trunk hugs.  They asked to go back just to feed the elephants everyday we were there.

Side note: Wild animals are wild!  If you choose to interact with these amazing creatures (hopefully only in a humane setting), please offer them respect and remember your manners.  It’s a rare privilege when an animal chooses to interact with a human.  In this case, the elephants could have walked away at any time, yet they were choosing to interact with their human guests.  I was appalled to see one woman willfully approach an elephant who she had just seen wrap his trunk around another individual for a hug while posing for a photo.  The minute the elephant gently reached out with his trunk, she screamed and began smacking him.  Being an emotional being, the elephant got his feelings hurt and started trumpeting his displeasure at her insult, and he then proceeded to stomp off in a huff at the encouragement of his Mahout.  She’s lucky that’s all he did, having the power to cause her serious physical harm if he had chosen to retaliate.

When we were finally able to drag ourselves away from the beautiful elephants, we took a ride down the Maetaeng River on a bamboo raft.  The boat captain allowed my older daughter to steer raft for a while, much to her delight.  My younger daughter was content to sit back and let her sister and the oarsmen do the work while she took in the view.  We were dropped off at a restaurant for a delicious Thai lunch before returning to the hotel that afternoon for a swim.

IMG_6177The next day, we went to the Maetaeng Hilltribes Village, a market where members of the seven local hill tribes set up stalls for visitors.  The people were welcoming, and their handmade crafts were beautiful.  They had games set up for the kids in one corner.  We felt blessed that they encouraged photos, as we were so intrigued by their unique cultures.

While we valued every minute spent there, three nights in this remote location was more than enough to cover just about everything there was to see in that area.  Also, the smoke from the fires in the hills near us became pretty oppressive and actually began to rain down ash by our final morning there.  After three days, we were ready to move to a more central location in order to explore the city of Chiang Mai.


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University of Guam Marine Lab Tour

IMG_6673A friend of ours set up the coolest thing for our 11-year-old daughter, the aspiring Marine Biologist.  She got a private tour of the Marine Lab at the University of Guam.  She got to see and touch many of the corals, starfish, sea cucumbers, snails, and the top of an unusual type of jellyfish that settles itself upside down.  She saw the invasive crown of thorns starfish and its only natural predator, the large triton snail, which also serves as the mascot for the University of Guam.

Thanks to coral researcher Valeri Lapacek, my little scientist-to-be learned about many of the various species found on the reefs around Guam as well as some of the types of corals that were once plentiful but are no longer found in Guam.  She learned about some of the ground breaking research the scientists at UoG are doing to identify reproductive patterns of coral in an effort to help set guidelines about safe times to dredge and work around the reef while minimizing the impact on coral life, as well as researching the mysterious “grey death” that is spreading amIMG_6688ongst coral reefs, about which very little is known.  She even got to put on gloves and dissect a soft coral sample and then look at the eggs under a microscope.

Thank you so much to the University of Guam grad students and researchers who helped facilitate this inspiring experience!  My daughter’s keen interest in pursuing a future career in marine biology has now been fueled into a true passion.  She hopes to go back to shadow a scientist for a day to learn even more.

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National Poetry Month 2015

Where the Sidewalk EndsApril is National Poetry Month.  Started by the Academy of American Poets, it is now the largest literary holiday celebrated around the world.  You can visit the Academy of American Poets website to explore poets, poems for Spring, or sign up to receive a poem-a-day email.  They are also inviting kids to write letters to poets in honor of National Poetry Month.

My eight-year-old daughter and I kicked off National Poetry month by reading poems aloud from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.  How will you celebrate?

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Bangkok with Kids: Day 3

IMG_5837On our third day in Bangkok, we spent the morning enjoying a private long boat ride.  The ferry terminal next to our hotel had an operator at the entrance who booked long boat tours for very reasonable prices.  We took a two-hour tour featuring waterfront views of the Royal Thai Navy headquarters, the Grand Palace, and parks, as well as the homes, temples, and gardens along the smaller canals.  I was impressed by both the skill of the driver navigating the long narrow IMG_5858boat along the tight canals and the signage along the canals.  The tiny narrow waterways were marked more clearly and accurately than the roads in Guam.  We stopped at an orchid farm.  The sheer variety and quantity of orchids in such a small space was jaw-dropping.

When we returned from the long boat ride, we ran into one of the women from the spa we went to the day before.  She recognized us and ran up to hug our youngest daughter.  In the afternoon, my husband took our 11-year-old daughter swimming at the hotel, and I took my 8-year-old back to the spa for a manicure, per her request.  In addition to her $5 manicure, they also styled her hair and gave her a quick foot massage for free.  She had multiple people doting on her and felt truly pampered.  She said she can’t wait to go back to Bangkok to see them again.

After a bit of down time, we took a tuk tukIMG_5891 over to the market in downtown Bangkok where we did a fair amount of shopping.  We were pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere in the market.  Although every square inch of space for several blocks was jammed with vendor stalls, we were able to browse without feeling the constant pressure of being pulled in a game of human tug-of-war to buy things, as was the case in my travels to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Ho Chi Minh City.  The Thai vendors were quietly reserved to the point of having to actually ask for help if we wanted to buy something.

After stocking up on gifts and souvenirs, we took another tuk tuk back through downtown and across to the far side of the river, which was perhaps a mistake during rush hour.  I’m sure a train would have been much more efficient.  We ate dinner at our new favorite restaurant, Be My Guest, per the kids’ request.  I think they just wanted to make sure their black kitty friend was still well.  Sure enough, she was there waiting and sat at their feet again purring while they dined, waiting for her nightly meal of shrimp tails.

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