And now, the post you have been eagerly awaiting … how we spent our winter vacation:
With temperatures hovering around -25/30C after Christmas, we were more than a little ready to go somewhere warm. So off we went to not only soak up some sun and wildlife in Thailand, but also to meet up with Oma and Opa who wanted to spend New Year’s with us but for some reason refused to spend the winter with us in Mongolia.
And it’s a good thing we made it – a delayed flight and an almost missed connection (cue in a sprint through Beijing’s airport – my world, that place is huge!), … but we made it, even if we arrived in the wee hours of the night (or was it morning?). Good thing that Oma and Opa were also jet lagged so we were able to get in a proper hello around 3am.
So how did we spend our time in Phuket?
Diving into Thai food like there was no tomorrow. You see, Mongolian food can be a little….well…bland? Interesting? Not too happening in the spice department? Too heavy on the mutton? Well, yes – all of the above. And we longed for good, spicy food. And fresh fruit. And seafood. Oh, the seafood.
Other than refuelling, we celebrated the new year along with the rest of Sweden. Sweden? Yes, and also Norway, and let’s not forget Denmark. It turns out the resort we stayed at was owned by a Swedish company and everyone, trust me, everyone at that resort except for 6 people was Scandinavian.
Don’t believe me? Let’s just say they put on an amazing “ABBA Fusion Show” for New Year’s – even if a kid might have preferred to sleep through that one.
There were so many Swedes and Norwegians at the resort (and in all of Phuket we learned when we set out to explore and found only Scandinavian flags and businesses advertising their services in Swedish) that we were beginning to wonder if anyone currently resided in Scandinavia.
But, being experienced travellers, we took this kind of immersion in stride; the kids dutifully played along and learned the lyrics to “Lollo” and “Bernie’s” theme song (it is quite catchy, see?) and I may have rocked out to more ABBA than I had heard in a while (you have to admit, the Swedes have good music!).
We spent our days lounging at the pool and beach (and I may have kept my eyes and ears a bit too apprehensively focused on tsunami warning signs as we stayed at one of the beaches affected by the terrible Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004) and we played never ending battles of checkers (where the German vs. American rules remained an active point of contention among some players) and Luca’s all-time new favourite game “Scrambled States of America.” And yes, there were Barbies too but more on that later.
We left the little piece of beach heaven to explore the island’s elephants where Luca could not have been happier. Seriously, that kid was grinning ear to ear every time he touched an elephant.
While the kids embraced Thailand’s wildlife, Oma needed a bit more warming up to the water buffalo.
Aside from bonding with elephants, Luca spent his vacation learning how to snorkel. Yes, the kid who once was terrified of water and just recently learned how to swim (and then dive non-stop) put on a mask and snorkel (and life vest) and jumped into the Indian Ocean to swim and snorkel with fish. He loved every minute of it.
The boat dropped us off at an island where we spent a fun afternoon soaking up more coconuts and sun and snorkeling among the same cliffs that Juliana was climbing when Opa had to make the tough call of either letting go off her hand while they both slipped and fell into the water or holding my camera out of the water. Let’s just say he made the right call and that I might also be looking for a new camera….
Shortly after the new year and the last day of my camera, it was again time to celebrate the big 5! Juliana had her true mermaid party with all the frills a 5-year old could desire: mermaids, Barbie dolls, ice cream…. and a pedicure/manicure on the beach. Yes, she was in little girl heaven!
A day later, Oma and Opa headed home and we set out to explore Chiang Mai before returning to subzero temperatures (oh that was a climate shock!). In Chiang Mai, we toured the night safari, had suits made, and spent an incredible day in a remote tribal village located up the mountains surrounding the city hanging out with elephants.
Yes, elephants – not the ones to ride on but the ones to feed, play with, and wash in a creek. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my kids happier.
But then all good things must come to an end and before we knew it, it was time to get out our long sleeves again, and fly to Beijing where we crashed at the definitely not swanky 24-hour airport hotel to catch up on needed sleep; it’s what happens when you land at 4am but won’t be back on a plane until noon and home by 3pm and then have to work/go to school again the next day.
And after we unpacked our suitcases filled with endless grains of sand, it was time to get ready for the Big 40….but you already know all about that.