Hopping around Asia

Last you heard from us, we were busy honey-badgering…. cue in 4 weeks from the start of that last escape from Mongolian winter to vacation a bit more (yes, the harsh and polluted winter really warrants multiple trips to seek clean and warm air).

It was time for another R&R (“rest & recuperation” – the little bonus we get to escape harsh living conditions at overseas posts) vacation. Last year, we used our R&R to hop around Europe so it only made sense to use it this time to hop around Asia (4 countries in 2 weeks!) with some more honey-badgering and wonderful, fun travel buddies and new friends along the way.

Why so many countries in such little time? Well, you see, it all goes back to living in a pretty remote country from which airplanes depart at seemingly random and often terrible times to not allow good connections at any of the “close-by” travel hubs. So we had the choice of 10+ hours of layovers at these stops (oh the fun of hanging out at airports) or just rerouting a little and spending time exploring new places. Yes, that seemed like the much better option.

First stop? Japan!

After a fun wake-up of 4am instead of 5am thanks to Mongolia’s refusal to change to daylight savings time this year and failing to inform Apple (our iphones reset to daylight savings time nonetheless and woke us up an hour early; we didn’t notice the glitch until after we had showered and dressed and started to wake the kids….oh well, we had plenty of time for coffee and discussions with the taxi service that also showed up an hour early – cue in frantic googling of “what time is it in Mongolia right now?” – never a dull moment in Mongolia!).

We chose to skip Tokyo and opted to explore Kyoto to take in lots of temples, shrines, and oh yes SUSHI and pretty much all things food! It’s funny how Luca won’t touch fruit for the life of him but he has no problem eating any type of seafood, well, except maybe the liver of an angler fish sushi we tried to persuade him to try. It seems like that crossed some sort of a line for him….

Next stop? Hoi An, Vietnam!

Many moons ago (15 years ago to be exact…you know, before marriage, kids, and living abroad more or less for a living), John and I spent some time backpacking around Southeast Asia. We fell in love with the culture, people, food, and all things Asia and remembered Vietnam fondly.

Since we didn’t visit the beautiful port city of Hoi An at that time and since our awesome, wonderful, and all around up for any fun to be had travel buddy Anne (Tante Anne for the kids – loyal readers will remember her from our trips to Gobi and Bayan Ulgii) was in favour of meeting up in Vietnam before we headed to our ultimate awesome travel spot – Bhutan! – we eagerly traveled south.

In Vietnam, we met up not just with Anne but also with her wonderful, awesome, super sweet and fun niece whom the kids adored and who kindly and patiently answered every question the kids could possibly ask (over and over again). And I started the last year of my 30’s on a boat ride to explore sea life and islands. What more could one ask?

We also explored the ancient My Son temples close-by – major photo opp! Similar to Angkor Watt in Cambodia, these temples are in the jungle and were rediscovered not too long ago – a true Indiana Jones feel (minus the snakes, thankfully).

Third stop? Singapore!

After Vietnam, we headed west, closer to our ultimate vacation destination – that little hidden kingdom in the Himalayas whose flag sports a dragon (yes, that would be Bhutan) – and we stopped in Singapore for a few days.

I must admit when we first made our travel logistics, I was not entirely sold on the idea of stopping in Singapore but it turns out there are not many flights that depart for Bhutan (shocker) and Singapore was one of the closest and easiest options. Sure, we had traveled through the Singapore airport multiple times in the past (still one of my most favourite travel hubs) but all I knew about the city was limited to the following, none of which sounded entirely appealing (not that I chew gum while jaywalking):

  • it’s very expensive
  • you are not allowed to chew gum
  • you can certainly not jaywalk
  • it’s very expensive

A phone call with Opa (another travel buddy from our Gobi adventures) who often travels to Singapore for work suddenly changed the itinerary when he said he would not only meet us there for a few days (and pay for the hotel, whew, expensive part of the trip avoided – thanks Opa!) but also connect us to a German family living in Singapore with kids of the same age. Needless to say, friendships were immediately formed and we all had a blast in this fun city.

What did we do? Oh not much – other than visiting the biggest and best aquarium in Asia, spending a full day at a waterpark (true Juliana quote: “thank you Mom and Dad for taking us to the waterpark, this is almost as good as Disneyland!”), and checking out the super fun night safari.

Oh, and then there was that one night of amazing Singapore street food at a market followed by a mandatory tasting of the Singapore Sling. It turns out that Opa knows how to bring life into a stuffy bar and got his full share of peanuts after provoking a peanut fight with the kids – yes, you read that correctly – Opa, not the kids started the peanut fight.

And after our fun whirlwind in Singapore, it was time for our ultimate vacation stop …. but that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned!


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