Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Secret Garden, Otres Beach Cambodia

Cindy and I have travelled a fair bit around Asia however never to Cambodia. We were so excited to get there and as usual Cindy done her thorough research for our accommodation.  Our first stop was to arrive in Phnom Penh via Kuala Lumpur. We then took a 3-hour car trip to Cambodia’s best beach town, Sihanouk Ville. With several locations to choose from we chose the secluded area of Otres Beach. A 3-kilometre stretch of beach, which offers various hut style bungalows and bars. This area is less developed than other nearby tourist locations however offers an even more relaxed atmosphere.

We chose The Secret Garden for our week stay. This newly built resort and bar offers 10 bungalows, pool, beach bar and restaurant. The Secret Garden is located at the secluded end of Otres Beach and offers the only pool amongst the strip of nearby properties. I have to admit the drive into the resort I was thinking my wife has gone nuts and may have got this one wrong. Remember we have three boys 4 & under with us. I thought this might be a check in – check out situation. How wrong was I!!!!!

The bungalows are fresh and modern. Our room had a double bed, fold out trundle for the boys, ensuite with and outdoor shower which was really cool. The large pool situated at the front of property was maintained every morning. The bar and restaurant is located right on the sands edge.  The Secret Garden is only a 15 minute Tuk Tuk ride back into the main town centre and costs around $5 one way.

The menu was small but the quality of the food was high – go the Texas burger!!! Breakfast was included and had a great simple choice. Again the standard was high and Cindy and I were most impressed with the food (Cindy had a double serving of pancakes every morning!) . The nature of Sihanouke Ville is that nothing is a problem and if you cants become relaxed at Otres then you had better seek medical attention. As I type this I can hardly move my fingers I’m that relaxed – sitting under the thatched roof of the bar, listening to the ocean….. it goes on and on. Day six and we are relaxed –even with 3 active boys.

This is the view from our breakfast table - pretty nice !

The Secret Garden Bar and Restaurant - right on the beach...

Would only be fitting to have this sunset on our last night

Finally the staff here was absolutely fantastic. Firstly the owners are hands on and the small amount of staff they have to assist is so friendly and helpful which is unique and makes the stay even more relaxing. We highly recommend this property. For further information you can contact The Secret Garden at

Introducing the Family Travel Community aka 'Vagabond Families'

Did you know that there are a whole cast of families traveling the world with their children in tow. We had no idea until a few months ago and this knowledge changed our lives.

This adventure evolved from an invitation from friends to travel to Bali in June with our children.  It was proposed that 3 weeks in Bali would be a great ‘testing’ ground for travel with children in tow. The flight was an easy 5 hours. We were hopeful that all would go well so we could consider a trip to our beloved Thailand later in the year.

We had been thinking of heading to Thailand in September, just before the high season room rate rises. We thought we were being adventurous and brave by even considering to travel  abroad with 3 small children with some of our friends and family saying as much.  Our passion for travel,  the need to redefine ourselves and re-start our lives were so strong that we were prepared to give it a go.

We had nothing to loose and everything to gain.

We expected travel with the children to be different to what we were use to and even difficult at times, so that in mind we wanted to travel slowly, allowing for ample rest days if required for the children.
So after a few days of thinking ‘yeah, we can do that’ - a trip to Bali in June, then a trip to Thailand in September I had a crazy idea. 

Why come home in between ?  We would be half way to Thailand when in Indonesia after all.

So our initial thoughts of 6 -8 weeks in Thailand quickly jumped to 4 months of travel starting in Bali then going to Thailand and Vietnam, perhaps even to Cambodia. We needed to do some research to decide if Cambodia was kid friendly and safe.

It was during that research that I stumbled upon a website dedicated to families travelling with their children, some indefinately. Finding  was like a light bulb moment for me.

To think that others thought and dreamt like us.

It was reassuring, inspiring and validating all at the same time. I quickly registered as a member (which happens to be free) and received access to other members who were in varying stages of family travel. Some were planning and working towards saving for their big adventure, others had been on the road for a few months through to a few years.

Each member could list their contact details. This is how I learnt about travel blogs, in particular family travel blogs. I had hit the jackpot. 

I had found what I had been looking for.

I spent most nights for the next few weeks reading and researching what others had done or were planning on doing. It was awe inspiring. I was reading of families with not only more children than I had but some of whom were traveling with a disability. Surely if they found a way to make it work, we could.

This shed a light of hope into Joel and I. Our lives had been somewhat stagnant for the past few years, neither of us having much direction in what to do or where to go next in our professional lives.

Maybe this could be our new life.

Maybe just maybe we could live life to the fullest and love life again. The thought of being truly happy again was exciting. It was like our life dream was becoming a reality right before our eyes, yet we couldn’t believe it was really happening.

There were a number of families that were either currently in South East Asia or had travelled to destinations that were of interest to us. I made contact with a few of the families either via their website, blog or email. I was taken aback by how generous and helpful people were to us. The common thread I was finding was encouragement, positive reassurance that it had been the best decision of their lives and that the misconceptions about travelling with children were just that. Misconceptions.

There was so much about a nomadic lifestyle that appealed to us.

We were happy to be considering a lifestyle that encouraged openness to other cultures and belief systems.

We loved the thought of our children learning about the world in such a hands on way.

We also loved the thought of showing our children just how very lucky we are to be Australian and to have all that we do.

The thought of escaping the materialistic world, full of media tactics to entice you into thinking you NEED something that in fact you have no use for at all.

Then there is the news media. That is definitely something that I could do without.

So that 4 months of travel soon expended into being on the road for the remainder of 2012. So six months of adventure was now in the planning. After a few speed bumps, the plans were falling into place. The first leg of the adventure was set, but after that we were free to explore where and when we wanted. We were wanting to be open to the advice and direction we received from other travellers whilst on the road.

So we are now coming to the end of that first leg and fast approaching the winging it part. We have had the pleasure of meeting four of the vagabond families already. A King's Life , Travel with Bender , Bohemian Traveler's and Going Anyway. Each one of them have inspired us and shown us how travel has changed their life for the better in more ways then we even thought possible. 

We have been exposed to a whole new world of options in relation to financing a life of travel.  Our options are endless. Yes we have a blog and a facebook page but we have so much to learn and so much to work towards. 

The future is excitingly bright.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sa Pa - Where heaven meets earth

I had heard that far north Vietnam was beautiful, phrases like where heaven meets earth were being quoted left right and centre. It looked like a photographers dream so on our list it went.

The thought of arriving on an overnight train excited the kids. So all boxes were ticked, all family members catered for, which can be a challenge at times.

Let me give you a bit of background.

In a beautiful valley close to the Chinese border, Sapa is a former hill station built in 1922. History has not always been kind to Sapa, and the series of conflicts that swept over Vietnam nearly saw it wiped off the map. From WWII, successive wars against the French and the USA, not forgetting the more recent border skirmish with China in 1979, took their toll. The old hotels built by the French were allowed to fall into disrepair and Sapa was forgotten by all but a handful of residents. With the advent of tourism, Sapa has experienced a renaissance. Bad roads have been upgraded, many streets have been given names, countless new hotels have popped up, the electricity supply is reliable and the food has improved immeasurably. Inherent in all of this prosperity is cultural change for the Montagnards, many of whom are now well versed in the ways of the cash economy and are reaping the financial rewards of the tourism influx. The downside is a building boom that has seen one hotel after another raise the roof in a continual quest for better views. Height restrictions are rarely enforced and the Sapa skyline is changing for the worse. 

Morgan enjoying the scenery en route to the hotel

Traditional Dzao head dress

Another inconvenience that will not change is the weather. If you visit off-season, don’t forget your winter woollies. Not only is it cold (like 0°C), but winter brings fog and drizzle. Quite why the French alighted on this spot is difficult to comprehend: it must have been one of those rare clear days when the views are to die for. The chilly climate does have its advantages, however. The area boasts temperate-zone fruit trees bearing peaches and plums, and gardens for raising medicinal herbs. The dry season in Sapa lasts from around January to June. January and February are the coldest (and foggiest) months. From March to May the weather is often excellent, and the summer is warm despite the rains between June and August. The window from September to mid-December is a rewarding time to be in Sapa, though there is a bit of lingering rain at the start and the temperature dips by December.

Sapa would be of considerably less interest without the H’mong and Dzao people, the largest ethnic groups in the region. The billowing red headdresses of the Red Dzao are visible all over town, a surreal sight amid the accelerating development. The H’mong are more numerous and canny traders. Their villages may look medieval but most will have a mobile phone and an email address to stay in touch. Traditionally, they were the poorest of the poor, but have rapidly learnt the spirit of free enterprise. Most of the Montagnards have had little formal education and are illiterate, yet all the youngsters have a good command of English, French and a handful of other languages.

The view from our room, it does not get better than this !

We stayed at Sa Pa Eden Hotel, this 3 star property received great reviews not only for its location, but for its kind and friendly staff. The property definitely lived up to the reviews. The family room although simple in decore, was comfortable and our view was to die for. The hotel was at the beginning of the road to Cat Cat village, we enjoyed a half day walk down hill into the village, stopping to buy a traditional H'mong baby carrier along the way. Both Phoenix and I agree that it is super comfortable, no wonder the H'mong babies are happy to sleep all day while their mothers work either in the rice fields or guiding tourists along treks.

Morgan was most interested in the fresh produce at the markets, often wanting to look or touch for himself.

 The local market was a wonder to us, the kids especially. We would go buy fresh fruit each morning and the colorful and sometimes unusual produce was a great conversational point with the kids. The scenery was more than breath taking, the air was so clean and we found ourselves being far more active than we normally would be, trekking a few kilometers each day. There was always something to see and always a perfectly positioned cafe or restaurant to stop at to catch our breath and take in the view.

Absolutely magic.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

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The way to Sa Pa

We had been looking forward to visiting the far north of Vietnam, Sa Pa in particular. Our previous trips to this amazing country had only taken us as far north as Halong Bay. Finally the time came to leave Hoi An and make the long journey to Sa Pa.

We traveled by car for an hour to Da Nang airport, there we took a one hour flight to Hanoi. Once we landed in Hanoi we needed to grab a taxi to the train station, for some reason I thought I had read this would take about 20 minutes. Forty five minutes later and we are still driving but the good thing was that both Phoenix and Morgan were now asleep.

We finally reached the train station. It was stinking hot, about 32 and it was now 6:30pm.

So with our four children, two of which were asleep and all our luggage we sit at the entrance of the train station not having a clue where we need to go. Joel opts to stay with the kids and bags while I head off to get some direction. Remembering that no one speaks English here, or at least not very well. We also do not find the people of vietnam to be very helpful to tourists in general. I know there are exceptions but with no signs in english  I was hopeful that I could find an exception here at the train station.

I went to an information counter and was waved off into another direction. I walked in that direction and a young male, about 20 years old came to me and said, "You need ticket". I said, "Yes I have a voucher for the Orient Express". He took my voucher from my hands and walked off, so I had little option by to follow. He brought me to the travel counter. I soon realised that he was trying to change my voucher to travel on another carriage provided by Lavitrans. I insisted that I wanted to travel with Orient Express and tried to get my voucher back.

The young boy then said, "Ok I'll help you - come with me" and off he walked again. All my instincts were screaming, get your voucher off this guy and get the hell out of here. But what was my alternative. He at least spoke English.

We walked fast, out of the train station entrance and onto the street but the male kept saying 'follow me'. I walked over to Joel and said that I'm not sure where to redeem the voucher but this guy said he would help. With a shrug of Joels' shoulders I knew that the decision lie with me. I really didn't know what to do but had to do something otherwise my family would be sleeping at the entrance to Hanoi Train Station for the night.

As I walked off to follow the male, Hamish shouted out that he wanted to come with me. Again not ideal but I had to get things done. So off we set. The male walked so fast, Hammy and I had a hard time keeping up with him. He stopped and lifted Hamish onto his back. Hamish smiled, he was use to asian people just picking him up without consent by now. We walked for ages and I really thought that this guy was leading us somewhere other than the Orient Express counter. I was doing my best to take in where we were walking in case I needing to return to Joel alone. We were walking on the road, motorcycles, cars and trucks within inches of us, the noise of horns and vehicles was deafening. There were people everywhere. Hanoi is crazy busy. Again all my instincts were screaming. This is wrong....

Anyway after about 10 minutes we reach what looks like another entrance to the train station, the male waves in a direction and said, "you get ticket over there, I wait here." Ok I walked in that direction and to my delight I see a small counter for Orient Express. It takes all of about 2 mins for the staff there to issue our train tickets. I return to the male who then takes the tickets from my hands, again I'm not happy with this. He walks to the entrance to the train station and hands over my tickets to the guard who punches them and we enter the train station.

At this point I start asking, 'My family..... I need to get my family" The male says 'yes, yes' but I'm not convinced he understands what I mean. We do not walk back in the direction we came. We are now walking on the train tracks inside the station. I start to worry that I'm not going to be able to find Joel and the kids from here. We walk for about 5 minutes in between train carriages and platforms. Then I see the area that we had started at, he had taken us via a short cut over the rail crossing. Phew....

I went out and got Joel and the kids, then this male helped carry of bags to platform 5 where the orient express carriage was boarding. Finally our beds awaited us. Seriously, if it was not for trusting this male against all my better judgement we would have NEVER found the Orient Express counter and NEVER made the train on time. Thank god I was able to find an exception to the rule, the best $10 I've spent all trip.

Georgia loving the top bunk of the overnight 'sleeper' train.

Space was at a premium. 4 beds with a narrow standing area in between. But we all slept like babies the whole 9 hour trip.

The kids settled into bed quickly and we all slept the whole nine hour trip to Sa Pa. We were woken by banging on our door to let us know that the train was approaching the Lai Ca stop. We were met by a transfer from SaPa Eden Hotel. This vehicle drove us the 45 minutes into the Sa Pa village. The most amazing landscape I have ever scene. Simply breath taking. We were greeted with smiles at this wonderful hotel. Although in was only 7am and our room was not yet ready they sent us up onto the rooftop cafe for breakfast. What a way to start the day ! And Sa Pa only got better from here. Will write a more detailed post about that shortly.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Airports Worlds Apart: KLIA - V- LCCT

It was my first time to Malaysia.

On landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) I was overwhelmed. Not only by the responsibility of  traveling alone with the children for the first time but also as I had to navigate a foreign airport in search of a helpdesk to book an onward flight to Bangkok for our friend Nai. 

This challenge was met by little customer service, and a very overpriced Malaysian Airlines ticket.
After that we caught a bullet train to the baggage collection terminal. This train is contained within the shopping area of the airport and has trains leaving every 2.5 minutes.

The KLIA is a slick and shiny state of the art structure, full of designer shops and high end stores. After we collected our bags and said our goodbyes to Nai, it was time to make our way to our Hotel.

I thought it best to feed the children at the airport not knowing what was available at or nearby the hotel. We had a quick bite to eat then made our way to the exit doors of the airport, assuming taxis would be available outside. I was wrong. I needed to go back inside, a 500 meter walk to a taxi ticketing counter and purchase a taxi ticket. There I told them which hotel we needed transport too and they informed me of the price, which I paid to them and not the driver. I was then directed (and by that  I mean a wave of her arm) to the exit.

I walked back to the exit door. And stood in line, once I reached the front I was told I was in the wrong line, that I needed to go to exit 3 instead. Ok then, off we go, another 200 meters away I line up again. This time we reach a taxi who drives us to our hotel to await the arrival of Joel and Georgia.

I had done it. I had jumped thru all the hoops at KLIA and successfully traveled solo with 3 toddlers into a foreign country.

The following day we all traveled to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) for our onward flight to Vietnam. This terminal is for Air Asia flights and given that Kuala Lumpur is the hub for Air Asia this terminal is enormous. Basic and busy but utterly enormous. Think super large warehouse or shed like structure.

In strike contrast from KLIA. Apart from a few food outlets and a couple of basic shops there is nothing on offer at LCCT. The checking in area was much like a cattle yard, after checking in we walked to the lounge area and waited for our flight to board. The lounge was basic and very very crowded.

You really would think you were in two different countries when you compare these two airports which are only 20 minutes apart in reality.

World Vision Sponsor Child Visit

Joel and I have had the pleasure in sponsoring a wonderful boy from vietnam since 2003. We not only pledge the small amount of $50 per month to his village but we had the chance to visit with him and his family back in 2005. This was an absolutely amazing experience and we had been waiting for the children to get a little older so we could take them there to meet Hon.

Our children have grown with pictures of Hon in our home, writing to him and sending him small gifts at Christmas and birthdays. So not only were we keen to have our children finally meet Hon but we wanted to show them the conditions some children live in and impart on them how lucky they are to live in Australia and to appreciate all they have.

So from our hotel in Hoi An we were met by a world vision representative, in fact this man was the book keeper for world vision  project area in which Hon and his family lived. We traveled the one and a half hours from Da Nang to the remote province.

On our arrival Joel and I were shocked yet glad to see the development the province had made since our last visit. We met with some community leaders who greeted us before taking us to see Hon. WOW - this little boy had grown into a handsome young man.

We spoke with Hon and his father as best we could via an interpreter. Hon was encouraged to speak to us in English which he did a little but he was not confident and a little embarrassed to do so. He was such a sweet boy. He held Phoenix and Hamish and gave them cuddles. Morgan was a little reserved as usual and stayed with Mum and watched on.

Hamish was thrilled to be able to give to Hon and his teacher all the drawings and pictures that his prep class had drawn as gifts. Hon looked and spoke with Hamish about these pictures for a while. It was gorgeous to watch, Hamish had a huge smile on his face the entire time.

Georgia was super keen to play some soccer with Hon. We had bought with us some sports equipment for the local community to use. Several soccer balls, footballs and tennis racquets and balls. Soon we all went out to the front grassed area and the kids had an awesome time kicking the ball around with Hon. It was great that Georgia was able to get the chance to do this with Hon, as we had talked so often about what that would be like. She was in her element.

We spoke some more with Hon and was glad to hear that it is his wish to study at university to gain as much qualification he can to enable him to get a good job to support himself and his family. This young man was so thankful to us for our sponsorship and on going support to him. We agreed to stay in contact even after the World Vision work is complete in his province in 18 months time. We arranged for the intrepreter who works for World Vision to pass to Hon any direct emails we send him and he will return Hon's replies to us.

Our visit was far too short but very valuable indeed. I believe the children came away with all the things we had hoped they would. We not only have the memories of this visit but some awesome photographs as well.

After our visit with Hon we were able to see some of the other great projects that World Vision had implemented since we were there last. We visited a daycare that was built and is funded by World Vision. This centre allows parents to work in the field or farms without the need for taking their babies or small children along with them. They are able to be more productive and the children are safer. While here the children learn nursery rhythms and learn through play. Our children gave some gifts to the daycare and loved listening to the village children sing for us. Phoenix (our social butterfly) made himself at home and was the star attraction.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Our Hoi An Hospital Experience

Hamish had been complaining of an ear ache for a few days. A common complaint by children who swim in the not so clean waters of Bali.

We had hoped that if he refrained from swimming that it would pass quickly. Unfortunately this was not the case. As we arrived at Hoi An, Vietnam he was in alot of pain and we noticed some redness and swelling to the back of his ear. We had recently met a little boy who had a severe ear infection from bali waters so we were keen to get on top of this condition before it got too bad.

I asked the receptionist at our resort if there was a medical centre nearby. She asked what was wrong and I told here. She then made two phone calls. One to the local hospital and one to a taxi. She confirmed that Dr. Quang was on duty and that he was excellent with children. So flying blind and not knowing where we were going, we headed off in a taxi for the short ride to the Pacific Hospital.

On arrival, it was like stepping into a 1950's hospital or at least how I imagine they looked back then based on the movies of that time. The place was antiquated, yet clean and functional. The nurses worn blue uniforms with a white apron and white triangular hat. Maybe this is why it felt so 1950's. I had to hide my giggles when I approached the head nurse.

She was expecting us and asked if we were from the Vinh Hung Riverside Resort and I confirmed. She then gave me some paperwork to complete and walked off. A few minutes later, a neatly dressed, well spoken doctor appeared. He introduced himself and read through my paperwork. Soon he showed us to an examination room. I was surprised to see the equipment he was ready to use. Not only did he use the standard, ear light and magnification device that we are accustom to but he then used a microscopic camera to look inside the eardrum with the image appearing on a nearby computer screen.

Dr Quang took great care in explaining the condition and was very detailed in his treatment plan. He then asked the nurse to fetch the medication for us. He explained what I was to do for the next 5 days and then showed us to the cashier. $65 USD for consultation and medication.

We were in and out in about 10 mins.

Overall I was very impressed with the level of care we received. The treatment took affect within 2 days and Hamish was back to his happy healthy self.

If vietnam is a third world country, their medical system and level of care certainly is not.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A day out with a French photographer in Hoi An

When I was in Hoi An, Vietnam, I booked a photo tour with French Photographer Etienne Bossot. He is a local photographer living in Hoi An and has great knowledge of Hoi An. His connection with the local community made it a great morning. His tour catered for all levels of photographers and was delivered in a relaxed nature. Hopefully I will meet up with Etienne in Laos later in the year! If you are heading to Hoi An I strongly recommend taking this tour.

This is a photo of Etienne chatting with local. This man runs an ice making business which he allowed us to go and look at.

The Craftsman - he makes all the cane products for the village. His hands were like stone.

Fishing lady was happy to pose for a few minutes before getting back to work
These bamboo boats are all made by the man in the first image.

There was a lot of activity around the fishing wharfs. However there was a break in the kaos and I caught this lady riding towards me. 

The Craftsman - His face and ands well worn.

I got low in the water for this shot and was able to freeze the water being splashed. 

Sea snake

Woman shovelling freshly crushed ice into buckets of fish which are loaded directly onto a waiting truck

Village kids resting in their backyard. Fishing village life...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Things settling down.

We know we made a big decision to travel with our small children. Most people were worried for one reason or another and then there were the travel minded people who understood why we wanted to do this so very much.

We received wonderful advice from family, friends and some very special traveling families before we left. Many had warned the there would be a period of adjustment, a period of settling in and it may feel like the worst decision we had ever made. I thought I was prepared for that, I thought I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park etc..... But

It still knocked us both for a six. The reality was harder than I first imagined. Even with the kids flying well, eating and sleeping well it was hard. I feel blessed that those things were on track at least.

What we have struggled with is confined spaces. We are always conscious of how noisy our boys can be, they are active and lively. That is not so great at 6am in a small hotel room with paper thin walls. We have struggled with no adult alone time. Sharing one big room has been a challenge at times and we often wake with all of us in one bed.

Things I have learnt in our first month on the road are;

My children seem to love travel as much as their parents.
My children are good at adapting to new places, have proven to be able to sleep anywhere.
My children are willing to try new foods. They are keen to order what they see for sale at the local markets. This really surprised me.
My children are kind and accepting of others differences.

I have more strength and patience than I thought.
It is ok to ask for help.
I will be able to enjoy life again. I will.

So after some bumping days and a few tears, I think our second month will start to see us settling into this family travel lifestyle a bit more.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Ubud - A place to recover

We fell in love with Ubud.

We visited briefly in November last year without the kids and had a great relaxing break. So once we said goodbye to our friends in Legian it seemed the natural place to head for our last 4 nights in Bali.

We stayed our first night a the Jati 3 bungalows and although they were lovely and very well located on Monkey Forest Road, we required something with a little more space for the kids to roam and play.

I jumped on trusty and searched for a vacation rental in ubud and a number of good value villa's came up. I soon learned that the majority of these villas were managed by Private Ubud Villas A lovely australian gentleman, Steven Castley answered my request and the following day we moved to the beautiful Villa Palm Merah.

These 2 bedroom pool villas are luxury plus. The attention to detail that Steven has taken with these villas is second to none. The living space, dining and kitchen is all open aired which gives such a glorious feeling of freedom. We were super surprised how there seemed so few mosquitos in this environment. Much fewer than we experienced in Legian which seemed strange.

We could have easily stayed put here for a couple of weeks if not months. The villa was perfect, the service which included a bellboy to clean the villa, service the pool and make breakfast for us all was great and Steve popped in a few times to make sure all was satsifactory.

The area is full of yoga classes, meditation, alternative therapies and gorgeous fresh organic foods.

The only spoiler was that our friend Nai decided to head back to her family in Thailand. We had hoped that she would continue with us on our travels to help with the children and give Joel and I a chance to have some R & R from time to time. Oh well, all things happen for a reason.

We definately will be back to Ubud in the near future. I can totally understand why it featured in the Eat, Love and Pray story. It would be a perfect place to recover.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Good Deed For The Day

It was our second day in Ubud and we decided to try hiring a scooter to show the boys a few sights while the baby slept in the care of Nai.  In previous trips to Asia it was always one of the first things Joel would do was to source a scooter for the duration of our stay as we had the freedom to explore the area on our own terms. We both loved the feeling that driving through the busy streets  or the greenery of Asia gave us, a true sensory overload. The boys were super excited about riding on the back of a scooter. So you can imagine Hamish’s joy when he learned he would in fact be heading up the family scooter, standing on the foot plate in between Joel’s arms.

As Joel navigated out of the sleepyness of Penestanan where our pool villa was located, Morgan sat bright eyed and full of smiles as he sat in between Joel and I.  At one stage he put his arms out as if he was flying. So I guess he was enjoying the freedom of the scooter as well.

We drove around the Monkey Forest area a few times, giving the boys a look at the monkeys that managed to escape the grounds and were waiting for unexpecting tourist to steal food from or pose for photographs. My money was on the former due to an unfortunate incident I had with these monkeys some 15 years earlier. So I personally was glad when the boys were happy to watch the monkeys from the safety of the idling scooter.

After that we head up and down some side street, taking in the scenery of Ubud and enjoying the warm weather. We came across some pretty rice fields and saw a photo opportunity. Joel asked a man passing by, an American tourist I believe, if he would mind taking a photo of us sitting on the scooter in front of this beautiful backdrop of bright green. The man kindly agreed.

While Joel got his camera set. I asked the man how he was enjoying Ubud.  He said, “Just fine, until I went and got myself lost.” He went on to explain how he had arrived the night before after dark and was ill prepared when leaving the hotel to go for a quick morning walk. He did not know the name of the hotel nor the street it was located.

So after a quick photo, we offered to help him find his hotel. While the boys and I found a nearby café, Joel and the American tourist rode off in search of a five or six story tall building, located somewhere in the Ubud centre !

I had only planned on getting myself and the boys a cold drink while we waited, but that drink then turned into lunch, which then turned into I think we have overstayed of welcome here.  About one and half hours later Joel returned to the Café. But the American tourist was still a passenger, they had had no luck.

So I headed off in a taxi with the boys back to the pool villa while Joel headed to the nearest tourist office to see if they could help.

Over lunch and during the taxi ride home the boys had lots of questions about what daddy was doing and why. It was the perfect opportunity to explain to them about helping others and taking time to give back in even the smallest ways when and if you are able.

So while the boys had yet another swim in our villa, Joel continued to drive the American tourist around before asking a travel information centre if they had a list of hotels in the area, to see if any of the names rang a bell with the gentleman. When one did, the travel agent kindly called the hotel to confirm that the gentleman was in fact a registered guest there and he was.

So with address and directions in hand, Joel scootered his way to the American’s villa back to his waiting wife who had become a tad concerned about the whereabouts of her husband.
Both the gentleman and his wife were very grateful for the assistance that Joel gave to them.  His good deed for the day was done.