The problem with blogging once a month is that life doesn’t slow down for you to blog it later. So now I’ve got loads of pictures from Malaysia and Sri Lanka…and little desire to write about them. I guess I’d rather not be a travel blogger?
Although, on second thoughts, we loved the short time we spent in Malacca. It was a beautiful city and probably one of the nicest things we saw in Malaysia. So maybe I’ll write about that one of these days. No promises, though!
Anyways, this set of pictures from the butterfly garden in Kuala Lumpur was too cute not to share. JQ loved feeding the fish and had the best time watching them bubble to the surface when he threw the fish food in. Plus, what’s cuter than hearing a baby say “Fizzshie!”?
Has it ever been busy around here lately! One brother decided to come surprise the other brother, so we had some fun times with brothers (still trying to convince them to write a blog post). Then once all the company left, we took a trip to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, and as soon as we got back from that I started a training for 1v4 online classes that had a ridiculous amount of homework. So I’ve only been trying to write this post for about a month and a half. So on top of things over here!
For spring break, we decided to go to Batam, a small island in Indonesia that’s about an hour ferry ride away from Singapore. Apparently Singaporeans like to visit Batam for seafood, shopping, and a special kind of cake called Kueh Lapis that’s a lot cheaper in Batam.
However, we are not Singaporean, so we didn’t eat any seafood and we didn’t do any shopping, although we did go to a giant shopping mall because Jared and Abel wanted to see a movie (Q is pretty averse to being quiet and still so he went to the kid’s playplace instead). We DID try the special cake and it was actually quite good. Abel thought it was almost one of the best things he’d eaten in Singapore, the best, of course, being a chocolate peanut butter sandwich (for some reason fish balls just didn’t do it for him).
Our apartment building, which was close to the middle of the city but also kind of in the middle of nowhere and next to a slum, had a great view from the top–at least from the one window we could see out of.
I think it was part of a development that ran out of money: big fancy buildings that were now weatherstained and nearly empty except for a few token businesses, and, as I mentioned, sitting right next to a large slum. Call me a privileged American, but it was kind of shocking to see an actual slum and realise that yes, people do live in buildings made out of rusty corrugated iron and leave trash sitting around everywhere (trash not depicted as I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the entire slum).
And that slum was sitting right next to buildings that looked like this:
They’re a little waterstained and what not, but still. Only a few stores inhabited them, one of which was this cute coffee shop (I think it was owned by the same people who owned our hotel). It was stuffed with all kinds of toys and memorabilia and JQ took great delight in attempting to play with everything.
The highlight of the trip, by far, was the day we hired a car (and a driver) and traveled over the whole chain of islands around Batam.
We saw some more slums,
little shops by the roadside selling fruit or snacks and drinks,
more sad-looking dwellings,
some abandoned houses that a reservoir had been built over (we surmised)
and the bridge that all the tourist websites said was a must-see: Barelang Bridge.
We stopped here and stretched our legs and drank some coconut juice, which JQ “very liked.”
Then we admired the bridge some more
and Abel tried to learn some Indonesian from our driver, whose English was pretty poor.
Then we kept driving on to Vietnam village, an old refugee camp for those displaced by the Vietnam war (empty now). We all agreed that if we were refugees a camp in the middle of the jungle would not be the nicest place to be (can you say mosquitoes!).
The main attraction of the camp now seems to be the monkeys.
So many monkeys, and they looked like they were used to handouts.
Also, Abel endured his five minutes of fame for being one of the only white people around when he sped ahead of Jared and me on one of the walking trails and a nun and her friends pressed him into taking a picture with them. Jared and I laid low and took pictures from a distance while sniggering silently.
Of course, on the very next bend of the trail (which, by the way, was full of scenes from the crucifixion–so this was taken in front of the empty tomb), we were all accosted by an even larger group of people–I assume they were Indonesian–and pressed into taking a picture with them.
Much picture-taking and rearrangement of people ensued: they practically wanted a picture of everyone individually!
Once all our celebrity photos were taken (and now we have about a million photos of us on some random strangers’ phones!), we headed back to the car before I could get eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
Then we headed back home. It gets tiring to get your picture taken all day! I’m sure these deer had the same feeling.
Before we left Indonesia, we had to try some of the food (even though it’s really pretty similar to Singaporean food). I don’t remember what this was called, but it was some kind of curry and was actually much more delicious than it looks.
And we came back to Singapore feeling grateful not to live in Indonesia!
Since John Quincy was born, we’ve traveled to around 8 different countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia). I think he may have spent a quarter of his life traveling so far. Perhaps it’s not quite 1000 hours, but I’m starting to think we’re getting pretty proficient at this traveling thing. Here’s what we do:
Baby wear. Babywearing is the best thing for traveling anywhere, at any time. It keeps the baby contained if he’s mobile, is easily portable, and keeps your hands free. Cons of babywearing are that the baby gets heavy after wearing him all day, and if you wear him on your back, it’s tough to sit down, but I find it much less difficult than trying to hold a baby along with all my other stuff.
Don’t sleep train. There’s nothing wrong with sleep training if you’re a homebody. But if your child can’t sleep anywhere other than their own bed, traveling for several days on end is not for you. You’ll always be worrying about whether you’re ruining a sleep schedule (and you probably will be). Instead, train your kid to sleep anywhere, like on your lap in the train–
or on the airport floor.
So far, JQ has slept in trains, planes, taxis, and boats, not to mention napping in his carrier. My motto is “A sleeping baby is a good baby.” Much better than a baby that’s trying to run down the airplane aisles or steal everyone’s earbuds. And much much better than a baby that’s crying because he doesn’t have his own bed to sleep in.
Don’t schedule feedings. I know this might sound like heresy to a lot of you, but seriously, when you’re traveling, would you rather stick like glue to your schedule even though your baby is screaming his head off because he’s hungry, or would you rather suck it up and distract that grumpy baby? I go with distraction and comfort every time. I’d far rather be a human pacifier for my baby than have a grumpy baby who will inevitably make me grumpy. Like a sleeping baby is a good baby, an eating baby is also a good baby. And the best part is, eating will often make that baby become a sleeping baby.
Pack light: the more you pack, the more you have to carry. That means leave your 30 just-in-case books behind and maybe get a Kindle or something if you fear you’ll be bored. And remember, you’ll be wearing that baby for at least part of the time. And when you’re not wearing him, you’ll probably have to chase him everywhere and won’t have a break to sit down and read anyways.
Or you might only get to sit and read TO the baby. Which is good too.
Don’t be afraid to go slow. Don’t try to see everything all in one day. Of course, I follow this motto even without a baby because sight-seeing can get exhausting and I can’t stand just going to museums all day.
So take a break while you’re at the Louvre looking at the Mona Lisa and let your baby enjoy his version of museum seeing–crawling under benches and crawling out again.
Made his day. And I didn’t mind the chance to sit down for a minute either.
Find kid-friendly places to stay.
This one’s kind of obvious, but it always helps to stay at places where they don’t mind if your baby has pulled all of their pans out of the cupboard for the 574th time that day and then proceeded to be very loud with said pots and pans.
Cuteness won’t steal everyone’s hearts, especially not those who have never had babies and had to try to compensate for their messes.
The most difficult place to stay was in Germany, where we stayed with two college girls who kept their “pantry” in boxes on the floor. JQ was in heaven pulling out boxes of beans and crackers to shake and scatter all over the floor, and I couldn’t keep him away all the time as he hated being shut in our room! We tried our best, but I think they felt we were ruining their tidy house (they were German, after all!).
Now, we mostly try to stay in places where we can have an entire apartment to ourselves. It’s much less stressful than trying to keep someone’s entire house out of the reach of a thoroughly destructive baby.
Walk. A lot.
Not only is walking the best way to see things (in most places–we have visited some VERY unwalkable places recently) but it also helps keep your child occupied. All that movement will often lull him to sleep or at least keep him happy. And it keeps you out of small spaces with a screaming child. What could be better?
Jared with JQ outside Notre Dame de Paris. Somehow I failed to get the cathedral in the background, so you can imagine with the below picture:
I know that’s easy for me to say–I’m the kind of person who goes with the flow. As long as we’re not totally bored or lost forever, it’s fine with me.
BUT–personality types aside–babies have needs. Sometimes they just need some downtime or need to stop and eat. So sometimes we need to give up whatever plans we have for that day and take the time to help that baby be happy. Because when you’re traveling, a happy baby means everyone else can be happy.
A couple weekends ago we took a day off to visit Malaysia. It would have been a quick trip, but it felt like most of our time getting there and back was spent in passport control since we had a baby and couldn’t go through the automated lines. Thankfully, after spending about half an hour in one line that moved maybe two feet, an officer took pity on us (and our screaming baby who definitely feels he has better things to do in life than stand in queue for hours at passport control leaving Singapore) and shunted us through a more quickly moving line. Oddly enough, for being so much more developed than its neighboring countries, Singapore has the slowest moving immigration lines ever. Malaysia got us through much more quickly.
Once we finally got through immigration and got on the bus again and got off the bus in the city, we got some sketchy Malaysian food that surprisingly didn’t make us sick but was extremely spicy, and then got a taxi to go to a palace that had been turned into a museum. Jared had checked it all out beforehand, and on the internet it said that it had been closed for renovation in 2013 but was open to the public in 2016. Well, as soon as we got there we saw a giant sign in front: “Close to Public.” Apparently, Malaysians are quite bad at updating their websites, as the guard told us it wouldn’t be open until late 2017.
That plan put on hold, our taxi driver suggested another museum that he knew of. So off we toddled, and found that this one was actually open.
Their main activity was playing some traditional Malaysian game whereby you move marbles around a tray. Whoever still has marbles left at the end wins–although they didn’t mention that fact until Jared had moved all his marbles into the main area. JQ didn’t care about winning–but he loved moving all the marbles around.
They also had a really cool skylight shaped like the Malaysian flag.
The rest of the museum was full of random trinkets and posters about the sultans of Johor Bahru back when it was its own Sultanate. Fascinating stuff if you happen to be a student of Malaysian history and speak the Malay language. Unfortunately, neither of those is on my CV.
JQ, of course, had his fair share of admirers among the guards at the museum. He wasn’t quite sure what to think, though.
So after that, we took some pictures outside the museum.
And some more pictures.
And Abel goofed around a little.
And looked handsome.
Then we walked to the bus station and marveled at the lack of sidewalks and the masses of unfinished buildings, stood in line for another two hours at immigration, and made it home happy to be living in a city with sidewalks and crosswalks and all the other amenities of civilization.
Why not? Well, reason number one, and possibly you’ve heard of this before, if you’ve even ever heard of a durian before, is the smell.
English needs more words to describe smells. We have so few! Let’s just say that smelling a durian up close and personal is kind of like smelling a flower. It’s a nice fruity mango kind of flower–that’s gone bad. Maybe even mixed with a little onion and a little fish? It’s the kind of smell that was endemic in grocery stores in China, always making you wonder what exactly they kept in the store that had just gone off (Spoiler–it was durians).
But. In spite of the smell, we persevered. This is a favored fruit in all of Asia, and especially popular with Singaporeans, so this was a valuable cultural experience. Aren’t you glad I was experiencing it for you?
The outside of a durian is hard and poky. Very very poky. So poky that the people who cut them up wear gloves. We had a glove-wearing person cut ours up for us.
Actually, Singaporeans love the durian so much they call this building the durian: it’s round and spiky and was apparently supposed to be a microphone. The architect was quite upset they called it a durian because he’d never heard of one!
But to get back to the edible kind. There is a small amount of edible fruit in each half, and it looks kind of like mango. Not so bad, right? If you can keep from gagging as you approach.
Those who love durian praise the buttery texture, the smooth melt-in-your-mouth sensation as it slides down your throat.
This was not my experience. Sure, it was kinda buttery…mixed with stringy. Oh, and did I mention the smell?
But to get to what you really want to know–how does it taste?
Jared put a small bite on his spoon. I put a small bite on my spoon. I offered it to JQ like the good mother I am, and he turned his face away in disgust. He was not going to join us in this adventure.
Then we took deep breaths (turning our noses away), stuffed the bite in our mouths, and chewed.
It was significantly less sweet than expected. In fact, what it most closely resembled, in my opinion, is caramelized onions. Caramelized onions with a healthy topping of rotten mango and black pepper. If this sounds appetizing to you, by all means, you may eat up all the durian you wish. Just not in my house.
There’s a reason they’re not allowed on public transport or in hotel rooms here!
I’m sure they do have Christmas here—we arrived just a few days after, and many businesses still had Christmas trees up, though they certainly looked incongruous in the tropical heat.
The Durian Building and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
I’m going to confess now: I just can’t love the weather here. I’ve always been a winter lover. Those first cool breezes announcing the arrival of fall after the heat of summer are the best, especially when they’re followed by piles of snow so you don’t have to go out of the house. Yes, I’m as fond of temperate weather as the next person, but the problem is, everyone defines temperate a little differently. I suspect my definition would start around 55 F and keep going down from there. Which is why it’s almost heartwrenching to live here—where the only cool breeze I’ll ever feel comes from my air conditioner at night, where people tell you cheerfully, “Oh yes, nobody here even sweats any more!” as you drag your drowned-rat-sweaty self down the street trying to look cool and collected and failing miserably.
I’m just feeling a little robbed of my winter this year. It was just starting to cool off in America by the time we left—we had maybe an entire week of almost winter weather in Oregon where it doesn’t know how to winter—and now we’re plunged here, where “winter” means there’s thunderstorms that drop three inches of water in an hour most afternoons.
It’s so hot here that I immediately start sweating if I even think of going outside, and yet, in the interests of saving on our energy, I try to run the air conditioning only half the day.
And, to a native Coloradoan, the humidity here is nothing short of obscene, generally bringing the heat index up nearly twenty degrees.
I get it—you can’t live on a tropical island without, you know, actually living in the tropics. But I can’t say I’ll be sad when we go back to winter. Let’s just hope I haven’t acclimated by then!
It’s fall, and it’s gorgeous. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous Colorado falls could be, and I’m definitely enjoying it while I can, because who knows how long it will be until I get to see a proper fall again!
I may be biased, but I think Colorado scenery is some of the prettiest for fall. Blue mountains, blue sky, and blue lakes contrast so nicely with the yellows and reds of fall.
So even though I’ve traveled all over recently (it feels like it, at least!), it’s been so nice to come home.
Sadly, the leaves left quickly when a giant windstorm came up and blew them all away. But we sure enjoyed them while they lasted!
There’s just something about the mountains that is so beautiful against the sky.
I hope you’re enjoying fall wherever you’re at, though I’m guessing it’s not as gorgeous as this! Now if I can just pack in a little snow before I move to the tropics!
Of all the places we visited, Cumbrae Island was definitely one of our favorites. We stayed at an adorable little village in Scotland called West Kilbride, and our hostess recommended we see Cumbrae island.
So we headed off early in the morning on the ferry and hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly since I’d gotten rid of all my jackets. That’s what happens when you put all your stuff in one carry-on sized suitcase.
But even though it started off cold and gray, it became beautifully sunny when we got there. And I have a ton of pictures to prove it.
When we got there, we thought about being cheapskates and just walking all the way around the island (about 10 miles), but decided to take a bus into the town of Millport and rent bicycles.
It was an adorable little town (and super cheap housing prices!) and we were almost convinced to buy a beach house there for summer vacations.
It was so much fun to cycle around the island on the most beautiful day ever and feel the fresh air and see the gorgeous scenery. I might have enjoyed it a little.
We stopped and ate lunch overlooking this view.
JQ sat on a rock and supervised.
Then it was off for more cycling and enjoying the view.
What can I say, except that it was gorgeous and you should go there if you ever get the chance?
Ten months ago, we came to this empty flat with nothing but our hopes and dreams, four large suitcases, and an even larger belly (yes, with a baby in it). We left a week ago with one very wiggly 9-month-old, three small bags, a backpack, and lots of good memories and friendships made. It was a good ten months, London–we’re sad to go! All moved out and nowhere to sit.
So now we’re living it up and traveling around. First stop? Edinburgh. We loved this city: so much Old World charm, and in such a gorgeous location. We stayed at a charming AirBnB not far from the city center, and had so much fun walking around and seeing the sights.
First, we went to the beach. JQ instantly decided the water was much too cold (we dipped his big toe in) and the sand was his jam. He even ate a couple handfuls, to which Jared said: “I feel like a real father now, watching my baby eat dirt!”
What can I say? We have low standards.
Note to self: make sure the baby has been thoroughly washed after any encounter with sand, especially before going to bed. Otherwise you will be fighting sand for days.
The next day, (which was sunny and warmer, of course), we walked around Edinburgh and saw the castle and some of the other sights. And took about a million pictures, so excuse me while I dump them on you.
I loved all the buildings–they’re nearly all made out of the same kind of stone, which looks so grand and imposing. There weren’t any skyscrapers either, and no post-industrial blight. You know the sort–dying factories, ancient chimneys, rotting warehouses that should have been torn down decades ago.
Of course there was the usual assortment of fish-and-chip shops, off-licences, and betting houses. It wouldn’t be Britain without them!
Once in the castle, we enjoyed some fabulous views looking over the Firth of Forth and the city.
The castle itself was pretty picturesque too!
I was very glad I wasn’t one of the brave band of Scots who scaled the rock cliff to attack the castle and retake it from the English. Cliffs are not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.
Speaking of cliffs, the next day we climbed up Arthur’s Seat, which is a huge hill (or collection of hills? I couldn’t quite figure out which). Besides nearly making me have a heart attack it was so high and steep, it was beautiful.
I had never really thought of Scotland as being volcanic before, but seeing these massive hills of volcanic rock really emphasized it!
I also decided I was not cut out to be a Highlander. Running around on steep hills all day gets tiring pretty quickly. Although I’ve got to say it’s much easier to walk up (or down) hills like that without shoes!
Anyways, ya’ll have probably had about enough of seeing craggy cliff faces and hearing me blither about Edinburgh. If you get a chance to visit, though, you definitely should!