Category Archives: Thailand

Pu and Ya Visit us in Chiang Mai

Hoorah! The grandparents arrived today!

Sandeep’s parents are spending a couple of weeks with us and we’ve already been beneficiaries of their arrival. While Ava and Kayan napped at home, Sandeep and I went out to get massages. We enjoyed dinner as the grandparents happily chased the kids around the gardens of Huan Suntaree riverside restaurant.

They are the first visitors we’ve had on our trip. We have been in Chiang Mai for three weeks and are excited to show them around ‘our city’. It’s surprising how quickly we claimed this as home, even though we know we hit the road again soon.  This adventure is all about new experiences, but seeing familiar faces and has provided welcome stability a midst all the travelling. We are looking forward to enjoying our journey in a larger nomadic pack for the next several days.  If the demure Thai people think that us four Lukes are loud, I’m embarrassed to see what reactions we get when three generations flock together.

In Thai, paternal grandfather is “pu” and grandmother is “ya”. So I say cheers to pu and ya!


Filed under Thailand

Giving Thanks in Chiang Mai

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it’s all about food. There’s no pressure for gifts, no religious association, just good food and company.

Today we’ve particularly missed family and friends. I missed my Aunt Shernaz’s thanksgiving soup and I even missed the way her oven always takes an hour longer than it’s supposed to for the Turkey. The wait is always worth it.

On the brighter side, our family has so much to be thankful for this year. After all, we are living the dream of traveling around the world! We spent Thanksgiving celebrating the two things we are most grateful for right now – our health and time with each other. We did this by cycling 40 miles together in the hills north of Chiang Mai.

We’re thankful for health. When I found out I had multiple sclerosis five years ago, I had fears of not being able to ride a bike, let alone being physically capable of traveling the world with two kids. Luckily, thanks to a great group of doctors, support from family, friends and colleagues, and most importantly a positive outlook, MS has been a reason to experience life to its fullest. Given the unpredictability of MS, things could have turned out a lot worse, so our family is thankful for our collective ability to enjoy unrestricted physical activity on our trip (like cycling to a reservoir and then carrying our kids across its overflowing dam).

Each year, Sandeep and I lead a team to cycle 30 miles around Manhattan to raise awareness for MS. We figured that, on Thanksgiving, cycling around Chiang Mai would be a great way to celebrate the adventures of a healthy family living with MS.

We’re thankful for this unrestricted time together. In New York, we I tried to maintain a work-life balance that allowed us to be home for dinner and work-free on weekends. However, we still checked-in constantly, and maintained a level of stress that comes with active careers. Sandeep is still working, but his (very long distance) telecommuting has enabled him to set hours and expectations so that we can still enjoy our life on the road.

Spending more time together means listening to Ava go on and on about she only knows what, and having the patience (and interest, most times!) to do so. It means taking 15 minutes to walk to the end of the road to entertain Kayan’s fascination for every flower, rock and car. And even though Sandeep and I have struggled to have our independent conversations, we have been able to recall and share a lot of random stories from our pasts and ponder our future.

We had Thanksgiving lunch by the reservoir at the top of the mountain. We didn’t have a turkey, but enjoyed Thai fish with all the trimmings. The only thing that could have made this Thanksgiving better would have been the ability to share it with those at home.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Filed under Food, Health, Thailand

Malin Night Market in Chiang Mai

Night markets are popular all over Thailand. Chiang Mai has it’s famous night bazaar, which generally spans the area between the Old City and the Ping River. In addition to the Walking Streets, many neighborhoods also have their own night markets.

Today we visited the night market at Malin Plaza, opposite Chiang Mai University. Malin Plaza hosts this market every evening after 6PM, and the minute the stalls open it swarms with hungry universtiy students and locals.

Like all night markets in Thailand, food plays a central role. Malin has several dozen Thai, Japanese and Korean vendors. Need a break from food? You can stroll through the maze of clothing stalls, get your nails done, have a massage and even get a tattoo.

The great thing for us about Malin was that it was less crowded than the night markets more frequented by tourists. This meant that Ava and Kayan could roam around more freely. Unfortunately, after an ice cream sugar high (when Ava taught Kayan how to eat ice cream from a cone), Kayan took his freedom to mean he could lick the plaza floor. Sandeep was so disgusted he stopped eating his tonkatsu. My tempura soba was too delicious so I kept going.

If you visit Chiang Mai, I would recommend going to one of the neighborhood night markets such as Malin or day markets such as Thanin. If you don’t know Thai, it’ll take a lot of signing and guessing, but that’s half the fun.


Filed under Food, Thailand

Missing a Step in Chiang Dao

Sandeep is constantly telling me I need to be more vigilant. About the kids, about walking on the street, about watching my stuff.  Historically, I’ve been known to be too carefree. So today when Kayan took a tumble down the stairs Sandeep earned the right to say “I told you so.”

This trip has already made me more mindful. There certainly appear to be many more ways to maim a child here than at home. Open fires, open ditches, no seat belts, no helmets, no railings… But I’ve also been trying to stay relaxed, to maintain my belief that kids should be able to run around without hovering parents.

Sandeep has also been trying his best to be less calculating about all the terrible things that can happen to us. He was even willing to make the one and a half hour trip to Chiang Dao and back in a Songtaew, the open pick up truck that he so feared on day one in Thailand. And he was trying to let go by allowing Kayan to run around the garden of our restaurant.

And then Kayan fell down the stairs and ended up looking like this.

Luckily, for being an active toddler, this is the worst damage he’s ever had. Both Sandeep and I are trying to strike the balance between caring for our children and allowing them room to explore.  What that means will probably change as we go through this trip. But in the end, isn’t that the balance that any parent anywhere in the world struggles to find?


Filed under Health, Thailand, Travel With Kids

What We’ve Learnt to Live Without

I’ve joined a great Facebook group “Families on the Move” with other nomadic families. The group holds writing projects and today’s is about what we have learnt to live without. At the bottom of this post you can get to know some other traveling families and read about how they are living with less.

We’ve left behind so much stuff at home that was part of our regular lives. Here’s a sampling of things we have learnt to live without.

An alarm clock. Sandeep’s asleep by 9 and up at 5 to work. I blog at night, sleep at midnight and wake up at 8. I suppose what is said about humans needing eight hours of sleep is correct because we both wake up naturally to the cocks crowing in the morning rather than our rude alarms.

Cell phones. We’re nomads, not hermits. We still communicate with the world, but instead of being glued to our cell phones or running to the crackberry every time its red light goes off, we’re communicating at our own pace. We stay in touch through this blog and have purchased a Skype package so that we can make local and international calls. Being cell phone free has been a key factor in setting a slower pace of life.

Choice of shoes. This was a big point of contention while we were packing. Sandeep insisted that he needed a bag to himself because his shoes are bigger. He wanted to pack six pairs of shoes. In reality, we each only use two. One pair of walking shoes and another pair of casual flip-flop/sandals. To Sandeep’s credit, he has been running so he uses his running shoes as well. Mine are sitting idle at the bottom of the bag.

Wine. Food and non-alcoholic beverage is so cheap in Thailand, that it feels wrong to spend $30 for a bottle of wine. Ordinarily, we would order wine at dinners out, but we’ve become used to getting our anti-oxidants from fresh juices instead. Sandeep’s enjoying the local Chang beer, but since I avoid gluten, I’ve been dry for the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure this is something we’re going to live without for too long, though.

Children’s utensils. At home we had an entire cabinet in our micro-kitchen dedicated to children’s kitchen paraphernalia. Sippy cups, pacifiers, bottles, plastic forks and spoons, bowls and plates. We agonized over what to being from this assortment. In the end we brought a small Kleen Kanteen for each child, two plastic bowls with lids,  and two plastic cups. The Kleen Kanteens haven’t been used and the plastic cups have morphed into bath and pool toys.   We do use the bowls, but as food storage more than kiddie ware.The reality is that Kayan was forced to graduate to adult ware sooner than he would have at home. In the end we could have done without any of these.

Toys. Ava and Kayan will say that they want more toys, but they’ve certainly learnt to live without the scores of books, puzzles, dolls, bouncy balls, and blocks we had at home. Ava has even learnt to make do with just a handful of hair accessories. We spend a lot of time out together, so the kids are busy learning from the colors, noises and smells of our surroundings. We made a trip to  a toy stall here to buy a set of markers, coloring book in Thai and puzzles. These few toys, along with inventive uses of various household goods, have kept the kids entertained during down time.   I do confess that the iPad has also become a children’s toy, which I don’t mind too much since educational games such as Monkey Preschool to keep them entertained.

Here’s what other families are saying:

Windwalker Duo

Tripping Mom 

Living Outisde of the Box

A King’s Life

Globetrotting Mama 


Family on Bikes

Living Without the Norm 


Filed under Thailand, Traveling Family Writing Projects

510 Steps to Serenity in Chiang Dao

We are currently in the hills of Chiang Dao, about and hour and a half outside Chiang Mai. Since Tham Pha Plong Monastry is the closest outing to our resort, we decided to make that our activity for our first day here.

Ava and Kayan are so far away from the bustle of the city that they got straight to some tree hugging on our way to the monastery.

A visitor has to climb 510 steps to reach the chedi. Both kids started out really well.

There were plenty of inspirational messages along the way to keep us going.

And my favorite…

The kids were in great spirits, but the climb brought them to their knees at the end.

The monastery is set in serene forested surroundings, and the walk was completed worth every step. It’s the most peaceful time we’ve had on our trip so far.

Needless to say, the way down was a lot easier than the way up, but we treated ourselves to fresh lime and tamarind water for our efforts.


Filed under Thailand

The Real Housewife of Chiang Mai

Since blogging is the closest thing I have to a job right now and Sandeep is still working, I’m a housewife. The only brush I’ve had with being one before was maternity leave. I didn’t like it. Being without adult company for hours on end and not having professional goals drove me nuts. However, after almost two weeks as a Chiang Mai housewife, I’ve realized I am getting used to quite the luxurious life.

Here is my typical housewife day.

The morning starts at around 8 with the kids bouncing into bed. Be this time, Sandeep has already put in a couple of hours of work, is in a zone, and doesn’t want to be bothered.

The housekeeping crew comes in, does our dishes and cleans our apartment. At 9 our babysitter, Pang, arrives to give me a hand. We then call our driver and tuk tuk to take us for our morning excursion.

While we’re out, Pang occasionly takes care of the kids while I go shopping or get a massage. We eat lunch out and then come home in time for our private afternoon swimming class, which Sandeep joins.  Pang leaves in the afternoon, so I get the kids bathed and into bed for their naps. I then stroll to the neighborhood salon to get my hair blown out.

The kids wake up and the family goes for our evening outing, to a market, a temple, a restaurant or just a random walk. Tonight, Sandeep and I are going on our first date in Chiang Mai. I even went to the mall and got a dress for the event.

And this weekend, somehow we feel we need a getaway from this luxurious life  (Hamptons style?) and are heading north of Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao.

This all sounds quite obnoxious, so I am going to clarify now that part of the reason we chose Chiang Mai as our first base was to be pampered by low prices and ease of living. The large expatriate community here has equipped the city well for foreigners while still avoiding the chaos of Bangkok.

Here is what the goods and services I described above cost.

Housekeeping – included in our monthly rent
Babysitting – $3 an hour
Tuk tuk to city – $6 roundtrip
Massage – $5 an hour
Lunch out – $3
Private family swimming lesson – $12 an hour
Shampoo and blowdry – $2
Dress at the mall – $5
Weekend away – $25 per night at Chiang Dao Nest Resort

Anyway, this is a deviation form my real world and my days as a housewife are numbered. I may as well live it up.


Filed under Thailand

Our Babysitter in Chiang Mai

While this trip is intended to be a break from our real world, Sandeep is still working. Although not full time, he’s putting in 20 hours per week on average with Surya. That inevitably means that I am on kid duty a few hours each day. As hands on as I try to be as a parent, I struggle taking care of my two wild ones alone, and I wouldn’t even try to do so around and about Chiang Mai. For starters, it takes two adults to keep their four limbs inside a tuk tuk.

We asked our concierge about babysitting the day after we arrived. No response. We asked again. They were trying, they said. We waited a couple of days and asked again. Still nothing. When I pressed more I realized that there were babysitters, but no one they knew that spoke English.

At this point, I was tired of entertaining the kids in the apartment and decided I’d try the babysitter, even if she didn’t speak the same language.

When she arrived, I asked “What is your name?” She looked at me and apologetically shook her head. She really doesn’t speak ANY English. Somehow, with elaborate hand gestures, we manage to get through the days. Ava at first thought it was funny that an adult didn’t speak any English. Kayan didn’t seem to know the difference. She’s a pretty lady and that seems to be enough for him.

Kids are more adaptable and less judgmental than adults. When I watch Ava and Kayan with Pang (I finally figured out her name her third day with us), it doesn’t seem odd that she’s chatting away in Thai and they are responding in English.

Together, Ava, Kayan, Pang and I have been exploring Chiang Mai while Sandeep works. Somehow I trust her enough to leave the kids in her care while I do some shopping or take a solitary walk.  And the kids have already grown fond of her and look forward to our mini-adventures around the city.



Filed under Thailand

Sign of the Day

I’ll ask a Thai to translate this but, in the mean time, any guesses as to what it says? Also, any suggestions for how I can respond to Ava’s question “Mommy, what’s that man doing?”



Filed under Thailand

Earning our Dinner in Chiang Mai

Following our afternoon at the Chiang Mai Zoo, we ventured on foot to a restaurant that seemed to be adjacent to the alternate zoo exit on our Nancy Chandler Map. I love this map. With it’s details and annotations, it’s become my all in one guidebook to Chiang Mai. I am so full of love for this map, that I underestimated the disclaimer on the legend that reads “This scale is approximate only. We consider content more important than 100% adherence to scale.”

Finding the  alternate zoo exit was a challenge in itself. After the hyenas, the only sign we saw was a wooden board than read “Tropical Forest.” That was not an exhibit. We were in the tropical forest surrounding Chiang Mai. By this time it was dusk and I did not want to be stuck in a zoo in a forest with toddlers as bait.  After several minutes of complete solitude a motorbike passed and then made a U-turn. The concerned rider came back to ask if we needed help. “Yes!” The four of us seemed to exclaim in unison. “Do you know the way to Palaad Tawanron restaurant?” She assured us that it was 1 km away, to the right of the zoo exit.

We walked uphill for what seemed like 1 km, by which time it was getting darker. We finally found the zoo exit. The watchman was as surprised as the motorcyclist to see a family on foot. Once he knew our destination, he told us that we were 1 km away.

At this point we saw signs for the restaurant, which should have been assuring, except this is where they told us to go.

Sandeep carried Ava up the steep and windy hills while I pushed Kayan’s chubby body up in the stroller. And just when I had convinced myself that the worst that could happen is we spend the night in the forest eaten by mosquitoes, we came face to face with a very large and very angry looking wild mountain goat. Sorry, no picture. I was in full panic by now.

The goat ambled on his way while I fought  thoughts of him being followed by the Wild Africa exhibit. Another motorcyclist passed us and asked if we needed help. “Yes!” We panted. We explained. “Only 1 km.” With that, he sped off.

And then I saw the light. Quite literally.

We’d never been so happy to find a restaurant. The view was spectacular and the food very satisfying after our adventure. We ordered the house special fried pork leg, which was really an entire pork leg. We thought we’d never get through it, but were famished from our ‘trek’. Even the kids ate everything, including their vegetables.

If you get a chance to go to the Chiang Mai Zoo, go. It’s set on expansive grounds in the hills west of the city. The kids enjoyed the many parks and Kayan even fed an elephant for the first time.

If you go to the zoo, do make the trip to Palaad Tawanron. Just know that it is not as close as your map may say. Anyone who tells you it’s 1 km is using that as some bizarre figure of speech. And it’s all uphill. If you trek it, you will have earned your meal. That is if you escape the wild animals on the way.


Filed under Animals, Food, Thailand