Category Archives: Thailand

Our Family Seeks Familiarity

No matter our ages or temperments, there are just certain things we think we have to have.

This morning Ava refused to board another Tuk Tuk unless it took her to a playground. In New York City, the kids were spoiled with countless playgrounds in our neighborhood. Chiang Mai, although it’s full of lovely temples, gardens and a river, has only one real outdoor playground. So off we went.

Kayan woke up from his nap crying for cranberry juice. Fresh passion fruit, watermelon, mango, dragon fruit, orange, guava juice or coconut water are available everywhere. But not cranberry. I was able to trick him with a concoction of apple and pineapple juices. He was suspicious, but it worked.

Sandeep couldn’t deny his Indian cravings any longer so we went on an evening hunt for Biryani. We found it at the Anusarn Market in the Night Bazaar, which has half a dozen Indian and Pakistani food vendors.

I’ve been missing my random trips to our corner bodega. This evening when I craved chocolate I went down to the Seven Eleven. So it’s not as quaint as a New York City bodega or a Thai corner store, but it was open at 10 PM and it had that Mars bar I needed.

Luckily these are all simple pleasures that we’ve been able to meet in Thailand, which is more equiped and easy to navigate than most other countries we are visiting. Let’s see how long we can fuel our habits.


Filed under Food, Thailand, Travel With Kids

Finding Serenity on Cycles South of Chiang Mai

I forgot to add in yesterday’s post that Thais are very calm and collected people. Even their toddlers have composed tantrums. The most common phrase here is Mai Pen Rai or “never mind” and Chai Yen Yen or “take it easy”.

It’s this serenity that I was hoping to find by parking the family in Chiang Mai for a month. Unfortunately, because we chose to stay close to the Old City, we very much feel like we are still living in a city. We sought respite today by taking a private cycling trip south of Chiang Mai.

It was Ava and Kayan’s first time on cycles. By on cycles, I mean strapped to them. One objective of this trip that is already playing out is Ava and Kayan bonding. They are so attached to each other that they refused to sit in separate trailers. This worked out well for Sandeep since he was excited about getting some outdoor exercise. And it worked out well for me because I am all about leisure.

Our guide, Meaow, was patient with the kids (yes, Kayan had another tantrum, but it was on a much smaller scale today) and gave us an orientation to Thai Buddhism. The Buddhist temples I had seen in other parts of Asia are less ornate than the ones in Thailand. Her explanation was that the temples are bright to represent light or ‘the way’.  I don’t know much about Thai Buddhism, and have added that to my things-to-learn-on-this trip list.

Ava was having some trouble with the way, because when she saw this Ferris wheel, she said “Look Mom, we reached Coney Island!”

We got our break from the city and have already asked Meaow to take us out next week to visit Doi Saket, a nearby mountain. I hope Sandeep is still up for carting the two kids when we reach those hills.


Filed under Health, Religion, Thailand

Screaming Toddler in Chiang Mai


Many people told us that we were brave to attempt this trip with two kids so young. We brushed this off… Our kids are well behaved, we thought. They sleep well, food is usually not an issue, and they have no stranger anxiety. What could possibly go wrong?

This evening, we got the first taste of the miserable side of traveling with toddlers.

Every Sunday evening, Walking Streets Chiang Mai closes a portion of the small and windy roads of the Old City to traffic. Don’t be fooled that this is a leisurely walk. Tuk tuks and motorbikes are replaced by hoards of visitors and vendors. The only way I could track Sandeep was to keep and eye out for his clean head, which is about a half foot higher that the general crowds here. Ava was kept in sight after we tied a balloon to her (at $2, it was the most expensive thing we bought all day). And Kayan…well, Kayan needed no visual identification because he made his whereabouts clear by being in a  rage the entire evening.

We are trying to wean him off his pacifier. He was so upset by our determination that when we finally caved in and plugged it into his blaring mouth, he ripped it off and flung it on the street. That resulted in even more elaborate verbal and physical rage.

Walking Streets is an opportunity to sample hundreds of street stalls from around the city, to peruse many handicraft vendors, and to get a $5 an hour foot or body massage on the lounge chairs than line the sidewalks. Sadly we couldn’t enjoy any of this.

Sorry I have don’t many pictures to share. I snapped this during Kayan only minute of calmness, when we convinced him that rice on a stick is a lollipop. Notice despite all of this, the pacifier still made it into the picture.

Let’s hope Kayan has nightmares about his pacifier tonight so that we can put this chapter behind us.


Filed under Thailand, Travel With Kids

Letting go of Misfortunes at Loi Krathong

As some readers know, I’ve been chronicling parts of this journey for Huffington Post. Most HuffPo posts are unique from this blog, but this is the first post where there is similar material. If you have already read the HuffPo piece, you can look forward to some more personal insights here.

Call it fate, luck, karma. We all try to reconcile or pasts and wish for better futures. Cultures around the world have created festivals around doing so.  We’ve been celebrating the Northern Thai way for the past three days during the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festivities.

The Loi Krathong portion involves setting floats adrift to pay homage to the spirit of the water. The float takes away the bad parts of the person giving the offering. During Yi Peng, paper hot air lanterns are released into the air, taking misfortunes with them.

Every door in Chiang Mai is decorated with lanterns, the streets are streaming 24 hour music and it seems that every resident is putting on a backyard fireworks display.

Here we are visiting the decorated gates along the Old City moat.

Kayan and Diya Loi Krathong

Kayan and Diya Loi Krathong

Ava and Kayan colored their own Khom Loi, or hot air lantern, during a party at JJ Market. This video shows them braving the fire to let go of their Khom Loi.

If you’re interested in releasing your own Khom Loi ( FDNY would be at our door in no time if we tried to do this in New York City), here is a step by step guide. This is shown on the smallest Khom Loi. They come in sizes up to about 4 feet, which require at least 4 people to light.

Light the fuel cell.

Wait for your Khom Loi to fill up with air.

Slowly release it.

And bid your misfortunes away.

Happy Loi Krathong.

We have another opportunity to hope our futures are bright when we attend the kite flying festival for Makar Sakranti on January 14, 2012 in Varanasi, India. Stay tuned.


Filed under Religion, Thailand

Dogs in Chiang Mai

When we first told Ava we were going to Chiang Mai, her eyes lit up with excitement. Then I heard her telling a friend that she was going to see Chaiya My.

Chaiya was our beloved family dog who passed away in August. Ava used to call her Chaiya My. It took some explaining (and choking back tears on my part) that Chaiya is still in heaven, not Chiang Mai.

We have had no shortage of doggy friends in Chiang Mai. In most developing countries, the stray dogs look like scraggly road terriers. A pale brown color, pointy noses, and forlorn expressions. Here, the dogs all look like purebreds. Even though they don’t live in a home, they seem to ‘belong’ to a store, a hotel, a temple, even a cart. Here are a few cuties that were willing to pose.

And this is the one that belongs to our apartment building.

For the dogs who are even more fortunate, here is our local grooming spa.

And here is the price list. 30B = $1. I can tell you it cost us about 30 times this to groom Chaiya in New York City. Hot oil treatment? Can I get one of those?

But don’t get too close.

Despite it all, we still miss our Chaiya My, even in Chiang Mai.

To learn about dogs displaced by the recent flooding in Thailand, go here.

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Filed under Animals, Thailand

$2 Toddler Haircut in Chiang Mai

Kayan desperately needed a haircut so I took him to Thundercuts around the street form our hotel. He had three women distracting him while this very capable hairdresser chopped his curly locks. He quickly learnt that juup juup is kiss kiss in Thai.

Kayan Haircut Chiang Mai

The Thai adore little kids, especially chubby boys. We get stopped on the street and surrounded in restaurants as women pour on their juup juups. Not a bad life for a little boy.


Filed under Thailand

Finding Food and Transportation in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is our first extended stop. We’ve rented an apartment at The Grand Napat for one month, in hopes of creating regular family living in a strange city.

Our first order of business was to find a grocery store. The apartment concierge sent us to Tesco, which is the Thai equivalent of Walmart.

Tesco Market Chiang Mai

I was so overwhelmed by the choice and size that we left with an odd mix of goods:

– 36 eggs. That was the only size available.
– $5 jar of peanut butter. Some things are necessities no matter how much we try to integrate.
– No salt. We gave up looking after isle 22.

After discovering some local markets brimming with fresh produce, I’ve decided that one run to Tesco is enough.

Wararot Market Chiang Mai

Eating out can get tedious, but the food here is so fresh and reasonably priced that we may cook in less than anticipated. No meal has cost the family more than $5. That includes fresh juices, soups and main dishes. I feel really silly about that jar of peanut butter, but it works when in a bind.

We were told Tesco was a 5 minute walk, but with kids everything takes three times as long and double the hassle. We opted for transportation back. This brings us to task two of Chiang Mai – figuring out transportation. One way is a songtaew, which means ‘two rows’. Songtaews are are semi-covered mini vans with fixed routes and rates. We did this after the grocery run as it was our only option.

Songtaew Chiang Mai

Sandeep was a little nervous of the kids sliding out and somehow thinks a tuk tuk is safer (??). We tried a couple of drivers for shorter routes and think we will pledge allegiance to Khayan. Ava is very confused that his name is the same as her brother’s. We don’t meet any Kayans in New York City. It must be a sign.

Kayan meets Khayan

Check out the back of Khayan’s tuk tuk. It’s loaded with Yi Peng Lanterns for the festival on November 10th.

Chiang Mai Tuk Tuk

Stay tuned for more on that. It is the reason we chose to come to Chiang Mai in early November. Here is a quick preview.

Yi Peng Festival Chiang Mai


Filed under Food, Thailand