6 months, 3 countries...now what??

Mossy Forest, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Well, we are at the 6 month mark already. Hard to believe, and I know I keep saying that but it is just so very true.  I went back and forth trying to decide an appropriate entry to mark this half-year anniversary of traveling and finally settled on a recap, of where we've been, what we've been doing, and where we are headed next!

Six months sounds like such a long time, yet when you look at a globe it is astonishing how little of the world we have seen in the last 6 months of travel.  About 1 inch squared on our inflatable beach ball globe!  And that is just not enough!  This trip was supposed to last 2 years (1 year if you ask my husband although even he is seeing that 1 year will not cut it) and at this rate we could spend the entire trip in South East Asia.  That would be fine if we meant to do that, but we want to show the kids more diversity in this trip.

I have accepted that some of the big destinations that I anticipated visiting will not happen this trip, but I also have realized that this trip is not a do-all-end-all of our travel.  We love this lifestyle and know that even when we settle down somewhere, travel will always be part of our lives.  We simply cannot see everything in this 2 years, so I am beginning to accept that and moving on.  Ok well I am trying to accept...getting close I think!

So what have we been up to these past 6 months??
On our way!
November 2011...Flight from Costa Rica to Bangkok, Thailand where we settled into life on the road, visited numerous wats (temples), witnessed the record flooding, got acclimated to Buddhism, shopped in street markets, and got over our jet lag.  Our friends joined us 2 weeks later and we spent a couple days exploring more markets, going to a fish spa, as well as the Grand Palace.

Avoiding the flood waters                               

Wat Arun

Fish spa
What we learned besides the obvious: Dad gives off the appearance that he needs a suit, Asians prefer to use water than paper in the bathroom, Theo can swim all by himself, all 3 kids handle stress better than their mom, and I need to learn to let things go a lot faster than I presently do.

December 2011...Took the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, rented an apartment, explored the city, checked out the moat (it's a walled city, or it used to be) wats and more wats, monk stalked, weekend market, art cultural fair, visa run to Burma, flower exibit, cave temples, tiger visit, Christmas at the zoo cuddling baby elephants, released lanterns on New Years, and ate far too many yummy meals out!

First overnight train

So much fun with the tigers
Beautiful performance

Monk stalking, pura vida style!

Burma/Myanmar border

Northern Thailand
Baby elephants of Christmas day

Look out world, he has wheels!
Lantern release on New Years!
What we learned: Friends need a bit of distance sometimes, monks go shopping and use cellphones, we still dislike the cold greatly, train travel is awesome but don't use the toilet without a noseplug, pad thai can be most amazing from a street vendor, baby elephants can not eat real food until they are practically a year old, and lanterns should never be released from a condo balcony!

January 2012...Visa was up so we decided to head to Laos where we would get our new longer stay visa for Thailand.  After a grueling minivan ride we arrived in Vientiane on the Mekong River.  We spent a week taking long walks, playing at the playground, visiting Buddha park, watching amazing sunsets, and again eating yummy food.  After a week we went to Vang Vieng in Laos where we absolutely fell in love and stayed 2 1/2 weeks.  We rented motorbikes, went caving, tubing, to beautiful waterfalls, visiting many tribal villages, and spent a couple days lazing in crystal blue lagoons.  We returned to Vientiane to gather our tourist visa for Thailand and took the bus back to Thailand.

Mekong sunset

Buddha park

Vang Vieng we miss you so!

Living the scooter lifestyle
Swimming inside a cave
Ready to take on tubing
Blue lagoon
In another cave
Laos kitchen

Pautuxy in Vientiane
What we learned: All long distance travels will now be compared to this van ride, as in "well it can't be as bad as the one to Vientiane" when we were all sick as dogs (keeps things in perspective), Laos is a communist country yet far more authentic than it's neighbors, the sunsets really area amazing over the Mekong, tubing, drinking, and ziplines aren't near as dangerous as they sound, caves in Laos are FAR more dangerous then they sound, I can drive a scooter and LOVE it, our boys interact most through wrestling, and we must wake up BEFORE "T" in the morning.

Feb. 2012...Back in Thailand we spent a couple days in Chiang Mai visiting friends, touring Doi Suthep, and then took the 3-hour van ride to Pai, in Northern Thailand.  We spent 3 weeks, with friends enjoying cooler weather, elephants, hot springs, caves, and waterfalls.  Pai was one of our favorite spots, but after 3 weeks Aunt Heidi was coming to visit so we went back down to Bangkok to meet her.  While Heidi was here we toured around some more in Bangkok and finally made it over to a Thai beach, Koh Samet.  We snorkeled, swam, relaxed and enjoyed the nightly fire shows with buckets.  A great time was had!

Chinese New Year

Buddhist blessing

Stairs to the temple on the hill

Yeah, that cold!

This one cracks me up!
Elephant experience!

My little boys getting so big!

Tham Lod cave

We discovered that jellyfish really take the fun out of swimming

"Uncle"Heidi and the boys
What we learned: tourist traps SUCK, C enjoys breaking things, sometimes destinations you never had interest in can be one of your favorites, riding on an elephant is absolutely frightening, I have turned into a real pansy in my old age, strawberry smoothies are life savers, monks also smoke when on vacation, fire shows are amazing, jellyfish can ruin an otherwise awesome beach, we all miss Aunt Heidi!

March 2012...After Heidi left we took the train up to Ayutthaya, home to a Unesco heritage site.  After all the amazing Unesco temples we took the night train down the coast to Phuket.  We spent time there at the beach and hanging out in old Phuket town with a fellow traveling mama.  D celebrated his 13th bday with me on Phi Phi island, the location of the movie The Beach.  At the end of the month we made our way into our 3rd country, Malaysia.

Phi Phi island, Thailand for D's 13th!

Viking cave, look at that water!

Old Phuket town

What we learned: Extreme heat is as bad as extreme cold, Unesco knows how to pick them, there is a big difference between 2nd and 3rd class when talking about trains, snake show workers may be heroin addicts, fellow unschoolers are so relaxing to hang out with, having a bathtub at your disposal when rocking an insane fever is a huge benefit for all, tourists can ruin beautiful places, I now am mama to a teenager, and no van or bus will depart from its destination without being maxed out with people.

April 2012...In Penang Malaysia for a few days, we met up with some blogging friends and really enjoyed relaxing, NOT sight seeing and just letting the kids play.  We got along so great with our new friends at ourtravellifestyle that we went on a trip across Malaysia to the Perhentian Islands with them.  There we experienced the tranquil and crystal clear waters that supplied some fabulous snorkeling.  Even T got to enjoy!  It was another great week of friends and relaxation.  Once we returned to Penang we quickly made our way up into the center of Malaysia to the Cameron Highlands for three weeks where we enjoyed the stunning landscapes, tea plantations, cooler weather, and strawberries!  We made our way back down to Penang but stopped off in Ipoh first for about 5 days.  A surprising town with a great water park, and amazing cave temples to explore.

Clown fish, best pic of the snorkeling trip - Mom, Dad, and Nemo
Tea plantation

Tin mining

What we learned: you can get really sick of Chinese food, steamboat restaurants are no place to celebrate a birthday, I can pout with the best of them, running into muddy grass will always end in disaster, streams are a perfectly acceptable place to clean clothes, clown fish charge people that stare too long, I really couldn't live at the beach although I always think I could, tea plantations are remarkably fun, Muslim women in head scarves are not ninjas (must explain that again to T), when turtles are placed on concrete they will come to you quite fast when shown some greenery, and our kids can acclimate to just about anything.

May 2012...Back in Penang we are house sitting for some friends and once again enjoying the relaxing pace of staying put for 3 weeks.  We have a kitchen, I have already made a proper birthday dinner for myself since Cameron Highlands was a real dud on my actual birthday, producing no cake but plenty of tantrums by yours truly:)  The kids have toys, a yard, badmitton, and a trampoline.  We are reading more, walking more and have met up with a bunch of new friends.  Temples, beaches, and lots of beat the heat swimming!  We'll be here until the last week of May!

What we learned: cooking is something I really miss, "baddy" is our new favorite family sport, Penang is hot as JacoBeach CR, TV does rot your brain (commercials do anyway), prayer rooms and bathrooms are NOT one in the same, must pay attention when entering a public bathroom in a predominantly Muslim country, we have too much stuff still, chocolate motivates almost anyone, McDonalds is a necessary evil sometimes, and going back to the US scares the crap out of me!

And then....We hemmed and hawed about what to do next.  It is such a big world and we are open to seeing it all.  Well I am, J not so much, he has already canned China, India, and most of the middle east on me:(   Darn him and his sensibility!  With so many options what is a girl to do??

When we leave Penang we will be going to the capital, Kuala Lumpur.  T needs a new passport and hubby and I need to add pages (I love that we need to do that, even though it costs over $80 each).  Since KL has a nice US embassy, not to mention the Petronas towers and awesome inexpensive museums we figured that would be a great spot to wait out the 2 weeks for the new passport!

After that (now no one can hold us to the plans mentioned from here on out, we change our minds some what regularly) we will head to Cambodia for 3-4 weeks to see Angor wat, killing fields, bamboo trains, and lots more.  Next stop will be Vietnam (also hoping to meet up with a friend in there) where we will travel up the coast ending in Halong Bay, which we are all really excited about.  Google it, breathtaking!  At that point we plan to fly again, either to Europe to start our Shengen visa or to Egypt before the unrest shuts the place down.   Either way it will be a year full of Europe, Africa, and a little Middle East if I get my way!

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  1. What a fantastic education you are giving your kids! Good on you. You must be having an amazing time.

  2. I am fully agreed with above comment…. Bohemian you are such a great father…Any way Good Luck for the next journey!!