Before moving to Singapore, I had very little geographical knowledge about Asia. Once we arrived the beauty of the city, the climate and my curiosity about new cultures was ignited. Alan and I decided that we would take two trips over the year to nearby cities while we were on this side of the world. Little did I know how big of a decision that would be! There are so many places to visit in South East Asia – it could take a lifetime to explore. We finally decided on a cruise to Thailand and Vietnam as well as a trip to Bali in Indonesia.
Planning the trips has been a learning opportunity for myself as well as the kids. We are using their atlas regularly to examine the maps and learn facts about various countries and cultures. The kids and I have also mapped out our travels on our wall map.
The cruise was a nice easy option as it left directly from Singapore. We all enjoyed the breathtaking views of endless sea and the opportunity to see some tourist destinations with relative ease as we could prebook tours that left directly from the ship. We kept in mind the length of tours that the kids could manage and not become cranky or lose interest.
While in Thailand, we stayed only along the coast in Pattaya as Bangkok was just too far for
the kids to sit on a bus for two hours and then do a tour. The first day we spent the afternoon visiting an elephant reserve. I had very mixed feelings about this tour as I did not want to be supporting animal cruelty, but I did want to create a hands on learning opportunity for the kids. The reserve was not terrible, but also was not the most well regarded either. The kids thought the visit was absolutely incredible. They loved seeing these giant animals up close and learning how they are cared for as well as the role and ‘jobs’ that elephants carry out in Asia. From the experience, we have stepped into the world of animal cruelty and how animals are treated around the world.
Our second tour in Pattaya was to visit the Sanctuary of Truth. This sanctuary was absolutely breath taking – the grandeur, the details – every inch has been hand carved. They have been building for 30 years and they were still building, incredible to see. We also spent some time at the floating market and the kids loved getting to spend their money on a souvenir. And the Mango sticky rice was delicious! The people in Thailand were so very friendly and welcoming, a really wonderful visit.
Our second cruise port was in Vietnam. The tour that we did was a little too long with a few too many stops for the kids. Unfortunately, the tour guide was also not very engaging and it was a very different experience than Thailand. BUT, the sights were still incredible – over the tour we saw the giant Jesus statue on top of the hill, the giant sleeping Buda at the temple, the whale temple, and the castle overlooking the sea.
We all very much enjoyed the cruising portion of the holiday as well. Getting to relax and read while Everly napped and looking out over the South China Sea was amazing. The food was great and the service staff were really wonderful. I liked that we were able to get to know the staff over the course of the week and they were so very friendly and fun with the kids.
The only down side from the trip was that it is difficult to really see a new city or get to know a place in such a short time. After having 7 months in Singapore, I see now more than ever how the typical tourist destinations are really only scratching the surface of a new place. I have so enjoyed the opportunity to really learn what a different country is like, but it will make traveling to other places for short durations more difficult, knowing that there is so much missing from the deeper experience of really living in a new place.
Our next adventure will take us to Indonesia and Bali in April. We are very excited to see another beautiful beach and take in some cultural experiences.