Swimming for some, shopping for others

I forgot to mention in my last post one other thing that happened on Wednesday (July 15th).  Between the time we got home from Banteay Srei and the time when we left the girls with the babysitters to go for dinner and massages we spent some time swimming and napping, but during the nap it stormed and knocked our power out.

The power came back on within about 5 minutes but once it came on the air conditioning in our bedroom that had worked fantastically for over 4 days no longer put out cold air.  We called maintenance and they came and checked it, and after they said “air ok” a few times we let them know that blowing hot air into our bedroom wasn’t acceptable and it wasn’t how it had been working for days.  They went outside and did something and then it got cold.  When they came back inside I asked what the problem was and they said both compressors had problems but that it should be ok.

Within an hour the bedroom was hot again so this time I called management and the duty manager came and I told him I wasn’t going to spend my vacation calling them every hour because the villa we paid lots of money for had problems with the air conditioning, so they either needed to fix it permanently or move us to a different villa.  He said they had a two bedroom villa with private pool that they could move us to immediately, so we packed up everything and the staff moved us from B5 to E12.

Our single bedroom villa had been really nice, but it was in a similar category as all the different villas we’ve rented in Bali, nothing out of the world fancy but still very nice.  The two bedroom villa was a different level though.  It was gorgeous.  Everything was fancy, from nice tile work to exceptional woodwork throughout; several different private gardens and decks surrounded the house, there was a large garden area around the pool with a big gazebo back there for taking meals outside, huge bathrooms with soaking tubs and little outdoor tropical gardens connected to both bedrooms, large flat panel tv’s in every room, stocked refrigerators in every room, and so on.  It was great!

The air conditioning going out during a storm was the only hiccup in our 6 nights at the Angkor Palace Resort & Spa.  The place was gorgeous, relaxing and had plenty of amenities that we tried to take advantage of, like free daily laundry, a nice daily breakfast buffet, a full spa, a playground for kids, babysitting service, and so on.  The staff were all wonderful, just like every single Cambodian we encountered throughout our trip.  We love Cambodia.  I’m looking forward to taking the family to Laos next year because it’s like Cambodia but better in my opinion — beautiful country and people…

On Thursday we no longer had valid entry passes to Angkor Wat so after breakfast I went swimming with Zoe while Logan took a long nap and Carolyn went out for about 6 hours of shopping.  Zoe and I swam for almost 2 hours and she begged me to let her swim longer but our fingers were pruned up worse than I’ve ever seen them after so long in the pool.  Carol rode around to different shopping venues all day with Ret, including the Old Market.  When she returned home with her haul she had the girls try everything on and then she got a couple photos of Zoe playing around outside in her “elephant pants”.

Yesterday (Friday, July 17th) we flew back to Malaysia from Siem Reap and spent the night in KL.  It was unbelievable how little traffic was on the highways in KL considering it was 7:30pm on a Friday when we drove into the city from the airport.  Usually when we drive up on Friday evenings the traffic is HORRIBLE, but apparently nobody goes out on Hari Raya.  Friday and Saturday are national holidays, Hari Raya, which mark the end of Ramadan, so I suppose everyone is at home celebrating with their families similar to what Americans do on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Here are the photos from our last full day in Cambodia (Thursday) and a coupld of shots driving into KL without many cars on the road:

Dragons, puppies and dining with skeeters

After waking up in the wee hours on Tuesday (7/14) in order to make sunrise at Angkor, then suffering through a brutal experience where our girls had absolutely no desire to take in the sunset we spent the remainder of Tuesday swimming and relaxing at the resort.

We weren’t completely sure of what we wanted to do for our final day on the 3-day Angkor Wat pass, but we went ahead and booked our driver, Ret, to pick us up at 7:30am on Wednesday.  After breakfast we headed out and decided that we would redo Ta Prohm since it’s such an exceptionally nice temple with all the jungle vegetation growing on top of the ruins.  When we had visited on Monday it wasn’t a great experience because Carolyn nearly had heat stroke after pushing herself too hard, and neither Zoe nor I visited it.

This time around Carol stayed in the car to enjoy the air conditioning with Logan while Zoe and I went into the temple grounds with Ret.  Normally drivers never go into the temples (usually only officially licensed guides go in) but Ret wanted some photos for his website so he led the way.  On the long pathway into the temple itself we came across a small band made up of land mine victims.  I purchased a CD from a similar band at the exact same location over 8 years ago.  Some of the band members were blind, others were missing different limbs, but the traditional Khmer music sounded cool and Zoe enjoyed it for the couple of minutes we paused there to listen.

Because we got to Ta Prohm so early (around 8:15am) there were not very many other people around, which you can see in my photos below.  At places like Angkor Wat you can’t take a photo without 20+ other tourists/travelers in the shot, but just about every photo I took on Wednesday morning was taken without a single person in the shot other than Zoe or occasionally Ret walking ahead of us.  It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when walking around this place.  It feels ancient and undiscovered even though tens of thousands of people visit it each year.  The trees and moss that are growing on everything gives off a vibe that you’re just walking through the jungle and happen upon this amazing ruin.  It’s easy to see why Tomb Raider was filmed here – the location is amazing and every single inch of the place is covered in green — lots of green…

I really enjoyed walking around Ta Prohm, and again Zoe’s favorite part was hopping from stone to stone.  The dangers of this game were different at Ta Prohm than they were at Bayon; instead of precipitous ledges where a misstep would lead to a long fall the problem was now that everything was slick and slippery from moss and moisture in general.  Zoe didn’t stumble once though, and had a blast.  Look closely at the photos below to see the scale of the trees that are growing all over the stones – Zoe can be found at the base of the trees in several shots and she’s tiny compared to these humongous trees.

Once we had been through most of Ta Prohm we went back to the car and headed off to Banteay Srei, which is about 45 minutes away by car.  We visited Banteay Srei back in 2007, but we took a tuk-tuk out there and we got covered in dust.  Carolyn and I noticed that our clothes and skin was much more clean during this visit compared to our previous visit because we opted for an air conditioned car instead of the tuk-tuk we used during our first visit.  The tuk-tuk is certainly more fun, but it leaves you sweaty and covered if dirt and mud.  Maybe when we return for a third time in the future we can split it up into half by car and half by tuk-tuk…

Banteay Srei is way out in the countryside, so you get to see Cambodia’s rural life as you head out there.  Cambodia is a gorgeous country – green in every direction, and the people are beyond friendly – always smiling.  We stopped a couple of times to take some photos of rural life, like water buffalo grazing near a creek and some young boys fishing in a pond with nets.  Ret explained several things along the way, such as the reasoning behind the homes all being on stilts – lots of snakes would come out of the jungle and rice paddies if your home was ground level and also so you can bring your cattle underneath your home to avoid rustlers stealing them while you slept if they were just turned loose on your land.

When we got to Banteay Srei I stayed in the car with Ret, Zoe and Logan while Carolyn went to take a look.  This time around she was gone for a good while (about 45 minutes) but when she got back to the car she was smiling instead of looking like she was about to collapse like she did after her Ta Prohm visit on Monday.  She enjoyed it, but I’d had enough temples.  I wanted to a see a little more of the rural landscape so I asked Ret to show us a little more of it on the way back to Siem Reap.

He stopped by a dragonfruit farm because I told him I’d never seen the plant that they grow on and that it supposedly looks like a dragon, hence the name.  Ret just pulled over in front of a couple of little huts and we jumped out (Ret, Zoe and I) and he yelled something and someone answered, then he told us to follow him.  The people have no regular electricity supply so they had an old generator running, and as we approached the dragonfruit farm (about 100 meters from the road) we had a loud hill myna bird yell at us from its cage and 4 little pups go crazy with excitement when Zoe walked past them.

Zoe was really into the puppies and asked if she could have one, and while I can’t say that the dragonfruit vine (tree?) looks like a dragon I can say it looks different than what I expected.  The dragonfruit were hanging off the ends of this long vine system that looked like a type of cactus to me.  The farmer smiled at us and came up and sold us a kilo of fresh cut dragonfruit for $2; he was cutting them as we were walking up.  We left with 1kg of dragonfruit but no puppies…

We eventually made it back to the resort and Carolyn set out to plan our evening.  She booked 2 babysitters to watch the girls in our villa from 6pm-9pm after making reservations at the Khmer restaurant just outside of our resort for 6:30pm and an appointment for couples massages at 8pm.  Once all the arrangements were made we all went swimming for a while, then we took a short nap before the babysitters showed up around 5:30pm.

The babysitters were young ladies who have worked for the resort for a couple of years in the housekeeping department, and one of them, Terry, spoke English fairly well.  We introduced them to the girls and shortly afterwards we walked down to the Khmer House restaurant.

The sun was setting so it wasn’t so hot any more.  The restaurant looks like it was possibly a traditional Khmer home at some point because it has an open area downstairs with stilts supporting the main dining area upstairs.  We made our way to the second floor and Carolyn kicked off her shoes and yelled at the host to put them in the shoe locker before we made our way inside.  Actually she was yelling at me “pick those up!”, but the host didn’t realize that and just smiled and quickly grabbed them before I realized what happened.  Carol apologized and said she was talking to me, but I don’t think he understood what she was saying.

Inside all the tables were all setup in a traditional way, very low to the ground with little mats to sit on while you dine.  We were the only ones there since the place had apparently just opened for dinner at 6pm, so there was another option for seating – a private room off to the side with the types of tables they sometimes have in Japan where the table itself sits down in a recessed hole and while you’re sitting on the ground you can dangle your legs down into the hole so you aren’t forced to sit Indian-style on the ground.  We didn’t have to think about that one, we picked the Japanese style.

Once we both maneuvered ourselves into sitting positions we looked up and noticed a swarm of mosquitoes.  They were large enough to easily see them in the low light, and I’d estimate that there were at least 30 of those bastards.  We both had that wide-eyed open mouth look and directed it at the host who apologized profusely and ran off.  He returned with two mosquito coils and placed them down in the hole, and he turned the air conditioning down lower and within about 5 minutes there were only 1 or 2 left.  I was bitten only a couple of times and none bit Jean, so it ended up not being too bad (unless I have dengue or malaria and symptoms set in this next week!).  After basically 5 days in Cambodia, outside in the pool and walking around through jungles to look a ruins our first mosquito bites were in a swanky restaurant’s private room…

I enjoyed the dinner; I always like trying foods from different cultures.  The dried pork was my favorite but I pretty much liked everything.  Carolyn hasn’t changed much since the first time I took her out for dinner at a Japanese place in Birmingham back in 2000 when she refused to eat everything (no egg, no shrimp, no sauces, etc).  After 15 years together she at least pretends to try stuff now, but she didn’t care for dinner or the dessert plate.

After dinner we walked down to the resort’s spa and were led into our couples treatment room after a brief but awkward attempt by one of the spa staff to wash my feet and slip sandals on my feet.  The sandals were like a size 8-9 and I wear a 13-14.  She kept trying to cram them on until I said “too small”, then she apologized and gave up.  I’m just glad she didn’t try that with one of their standard robes!

Carolyn had her legs and feet massaged since they’re always really sore this late into each pregnancy, and I got the foot reflexology.  After an hour we headed back home feeling pretty good.  As best as we could remember, this was the first time we’ve had dinner out together without our children since before Zoe was born.

Logan was asleep in the babysitter’s arms when we got back to the villa and Zoe was building a boat out of throw pillows with the other babysitter.  We thanked them, paid them and then shortly after they left we hit the sack.

In case you’re wondering what some of these things cost, Cambodia is a very inexpensive country.  Our driver has charged us $20-35 per day depending on the distance and time we need him, the babysitters were $5 per girl per hour, the spa treatments were around $35 per hour, and a full lunch at a decent place in Siem Reap for a family of four costs about $25.  You can find cheaper for all of these, but this is middle of the range I believe.

Here are the photos from our final day of Angkor site-seeing and our dinner at Khmer House:

Sunrise site-seeing ain’t for 1 year olds

We went to bed at a pretty early time (~10pm) for us considering we’re on vacation.  The reason we didn’t stay up later was because for our second of three days of site-seeing in the Angkor complex we decided to see the sunrise at the granddaddy of all temples, Angkor Wat itself.  Zoe and I had already attempted sunset there on Sunday evening when we picked up my ticket, but it’s the most famous of all the temples and Carolyn wanted to visit it during this trip.  Like I mentioned before, we decided to visit just the best temples for shorter periods on each of our 3 days for which we had entry passes, and our first day was spent in the Angkor Thom area to see Bayon, Baphuon and Ta Prohm, so our second day was only going to be Angkor Wat for sunrise.

We woke up around 4am, quickly gathered our stuff and headed to the front of the resort.  Ret picked us up at 4:30am.  As a note to anyone doing this in the future, apparently most places will prepare you a boxed breakfast if you’re going for sunrise visits, but we didn’t know about this so we headed took off without any.

We followed the line of traffic making their way into the complex; the ticket office where everyone has their tickets checked was a zoo.  Cars, buses, tuk-tuks and bicycles everywhere as some parked in the middle of traffic to unload their guests so they could purchase tickets.  We eventually made it through and Ret dropped us all off at the steps leading up to the first of 2 long walkways that take you up to Angkor Wat.  People were everywhere, it was still dark, the ground was muddy from an overnight rain shower, and we were trying to get out of the car in the middle of this with two half-asleep children.

Looking back on it now I think we should have skipped sunrise all together and showed up at 8am to just walked around Angkor Wat.  The second best option would have been to hire baby-sitters to come to our villa and watch the girls as the slept in so that Carolyn and I could go watch the sunrise together.  We chose the worst option of all, particularly since Logan is still recovering from her most recent sickness and she is cranky as hell.

Logan threw a fit and absolutely would not let me put her down.  She has been insisting on me holding her a lot since getting sick last Thursday – during breakfast, whenever we’re out and about, and everything between those.  She won’t go to Carolyn, she slaps at Zoe and she cries while hugging my knees until I pick her up, then she nuzzles into my neck and tries to fall asleep.  It’s possible she has mono that she picked up from Zoe, who got it only a month ago, but we won’t know for sure until early next week after she visits her pediatrician.

Anyhow, it actually felt good outside at 5am.  There was a slight breeze and without the sun up it was not so bad.  Humidity was still high, so it was muggy, but you could walk without sweating like crazy.  I carried Logan along the first long walkway and up/down several flights of stairs while Carolyn walked with Zoe.  We then walked about three quarters of the way down the second long walkway and then climbed down a staircase onto the grass where hundreds of spectators had gathered to watch the sunrise.

I tried to sit Logan down at that point so I could start trying to de-fog my camera, which happens whenever it goes from an air-conditioned car to a hot environment with 100% humidity.  Logan wasn’t in any mood to allow that.  She broke to quiet atmosphere with a loud scream/cry; everyone turned and looked at us so I quickly grabbed her and picked her back up.  Zoe also was cranky since she wasn’t completely awake and she started whining about wanting to be picked up.  For the next 20-30 minutes I tried two or three times to put Logan on the ground and each time she freaked out, so I gave up and just put away my camera and held her.

We climbed back up the stairs and down the opposite side after spotting a horse over there.  Probably the same horse Zoe and I saw on Sunday evening, but at least Logan and Zoe seemed interested in it.  The sunrise was completely underwhelming because there were some low clouds in the sky behind Angkor Wat and it just got lighter without ever seeing the sun itself.  No spectacular colors, nothing.  Carolyn and I were pretty miserable.  After carrying Logan around for over an hour I was hot and uncomfortable and didn’t feel like climbing around the temple to explore more, and Carolyn was having any fun either so by 6:30am we made our way back to the parking lot and told Ret we’d had enough, to take us back to the resort.  My t-shirt was wet enough that I could have wrung out sweat and filled a quart jar.

When we got back to the room we took showers, went to breakfast and by 10am things were much better as the whole family got into the pool.  I cracked open a few Angkor beers and we splashed around for several hours before all the shade was gone and we started to get burnt by the sun.  We had a late lunch and swam again later in the evening.

The time swimming with the girls was excellent, and while I can’t say I enjoyed the sunrise at Angkor Wat with the girls I know that I’ll remember it and laugh about it with Carolyn in the years to come.  Angkor Wat is really amazing and I love taking it in, but with a pissed off 1 year old and a sleepy 4 year old it loses some of its magic at 5:30am…

Here are the photos:

Into the Angkor complex until the mercury rose

On Monday, July 13th, we woke up early for our first foray into the Angkor Wat complex, which consists of a bunch of different ancient temples.  The night before I had purchased my 3 day pass ($40), so after breakfast at our resort we left around 7:30am and made our first stop the ticketing office.  Carolyn got her ticket printed out and we headed into Angkor Wat with our driver, Ret Phlong.

We decided that since we’re traveling with two small kids and a pregnant lady, together with being in Siem Reap for 6 nights, we have plenty of time to spread out the site-seeing.  Instead of trying to cram in a full day of temples and see everything we would go site-seeing from 7:30am until around 11am or noon, then relax for the remainder of the day – swimming with the girls and just taking it easy.  For the first of our 3 days of temple exploration we decided to visit two of our favorites from 2007, Bayon and Ta Prohm.  Bayon is the temple with all the face carvings in the stone and Ta Prohm is the one with trees growing all over it and famous as the location for the Angelina Jolie movie called Tomb Raider.

We first stopped outside of the south gate to the complex.  Carolyn got out of the car and took some photos of the gate and some of the elephants walking around with tourists on their backs.  Zoe was pretty impressed with the elephants, but the photos didn’t come out too well because Carol’s camera fogged up immediately as soon as she exited the air-conditioned Camry and stepped into the tropical sauna.

Ret pointed out that some of the Buddha statues lining the road were missing their head, and that this was usually a result of the Khmer Rouge tactics to remove all religious symbols during the time when they were destroying Cambodia under Pol Pot’s direction not too long ago.

We pressed on to Bayon, our first stop, and we decided that Carolyn and Logan would stay in the car to allow Logan to continue sleeping in the comfort of the air conditioning while Zoe and I explored the temple.  Zoe and I had a blast climbing around on Bayon.  Zoe’s favorite part was hopping from huge stone to huge stone, but this ended up making me a nervous wreck by the time we climbed to the top level because there is basically no guarding along the edges and you could easily fall 8-12 feet or more if you aren’t careful.  That together with climbing staircases that are much closer to ladders was enough to freak me out — I was worried about the 2000 ways Zobug could get hurt, which was a very different way of visiting the temple than how I did it in 2007 without any children.

When we made it back down to the bottom I let Zoe continue jumping around on the stones and she loved it.  We walked around the entire temple and after we’d seen everything we went back to the car and I held Logan while Carolyn explored on her own.  She decided not to climb to the top because it really was like climbing several 10-12 foot ladders to make it to the top.  She enjoyed it though, and eventually made her way back to the car too.

We swapped places again and I got out with Zoe and went through the temple right beside Bayon, called Baphuon.  Baphuon isn’t one of the popular temples in the Angkor complex, like Bayon or Ta Prohm, so there weren’t many other people there compared to the others, and to me it’s just as impressive.  Baphuon has a long raised walkway that leads to the temple, and again I was nervous because there are no handrails or anything, just a 5 foot drop to a stone base below.  Luckily Zoe was a sweetie and minded me perfectly, staying in the center of the 4-5 foot wide walkway and not getting too far in front of me.

When we were walking back to the car on the ground level Zoe was again hopping around on the stones that littered the ground and after pausing to inspect some crickets she announced that she was walking on a “cricket highway” since they were all using the stones to jump around to get to their homes and work.  We walked past the Elephant Terrace just beside Baphuon and eventually got back into Ret’s car, both of us were sweating like we’d run a marathon.

Carolyn didn’t feel like going into Baphuon, so next we traveled further into the Angkor complex and stopped at Ta Prohm, where it was Carolyn’s turn again.  Pregnant ladies climbing around ruins in the tropics need to pick and choose carefully where they’ll expend their energy.

Carol headed in alone while I held Logan as Zoe and I sat in the car to try and cool off some before our turn was up again.  After about 45 minutes passed by I started getting concerned because by this point it was getting later (I think around 11:45am) and the heat was getting intense.  I didn’t want Carolyn to push herself too hard, so when I couldn’t wait any longer I gathered both of the girls and headed into Ta Prohm as several touts badgered me to buy books, “silk” scarves and other junk.  Just as we went through the gate Carolyn appeared right in front of us and she looked miserable.  She was exhausted and really hot, so we all turned around and I helped her to the car.  The pathway into the complex was longer than she realized, so after checking out the temple it was a ways back to the parking lot and that was too much for her.  She was really happy to climb into the air conditioned car (luckily we didn’t go with tuk-tuks like we did in 2007!).  I wanted to see Ta Prohm, so after making sure she was OK and getting her a cold bottle of water I tried to head in with Zoe but we ended up turning back once again as soon as we passed through the gate because Zoe announced “Daddy, I have to use the toilet.”

We took Zoe to a toilet and left the Angkor complex for the day, arriving back at the hotel a little later than we originally planned, but the extra time to alternate back and forth was good because it would have been nearly impossible to visit those places with Logan since there was lots of climbing and uneven walkways without any guarding, plus she’s still recovering from whatever illness she recently had (we think it’s a reaction to her recent flu jab).

Back at our villa we all got in the pool and had a good meal, then relaxed until going to bed a little early — around 10pm.

Here are the photos from our Monday when we visited Bayon, Baphuon and Ta Prohm:

Last trip as 4

I’m writing this blog entry from our villa in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Last Friday evening (7/10/15) we drove up and stayed at a hotel near KLIA, then flew out to Siem Reap very early.  The flight was at 6:50am, which means we needed to be at the airport at 4:50am on Saturday morning, so we got up around 3am to shower and get the kids ready.  It was maybe the worst night of “sleep” in recent memory.  Poor Logan was running a fever, the bed was about like sleeping on concrete, and the air conditioning was pathetic — the room was like a sauna.

We actually made it to KLIA2 on-time and I dropped Carolyn and Logan off at the departure terminal and then went and parked the car with Zoe.  We got checked in, went through the multiple levels of security and finally to the gate.  We only had to wait about 15 minutes before boarding, then we were off for Cambodia.

Carolyn and I visited Cambodia back in February 2007 during our RTW trip.  We actually visited the same exact city we’re in right now, Siem Reap.  We loved Cambodia back then, and ranked it as one of our favorite places, primarily because of the wonderful people.  We wanted to take another trip before Sebastian arrives since it’ll be several months before we can travel.  Going somewhere with a newborn is nearly impossible.  We decided that we’ve been to Bali plenty of times recently and it came down to Japan, Philippines or Cambodia.  Japan was just too long of a flight and we decided to visit the Philippines next year, so Cambodia won.

The outside of the Siem Reap was exactly as I remembered it from 8+ years ago, but the immigration area was completely different.  It was much bigger, nicer and actually more organized.  No more pile of people handing over passports and smashing in to collect them after they’re handed from official to official.  This time we were met by a health check where they made us fill out health status forms and then queue up to have our temperatures taken.  It appeared to only be a formality because when it was our turn the guy pointed the infrared monitor at my forehead and quickly patted my shoulder and waived me past.  I turned around to watch as he scanned Zoe and Logan and his temperature monitor was reading “Lo”, as in the battery was low.  No temperature reading at all but he carried on with the checks anyhow…

Next we had to fill out a visa-on-arrival form for everyone and then queue up at the beginning of a really long desk with about 8-10 people lined up in chairs behind it to process passports as they’re passed along.  We paid the $60 (in USD) since it was $30 each for adults and free for children, and it only took about 4-5 minutes until our passports were ready at the end of the line.  It was much better than before, at least as I remember it, when it was literally a free-for-all and everyone was just smashed in and jockeying for position to collect their passports.  Now it was organized.

After our visas were issued we headed over to the immigration lines.  By the way, for the visa-on-arrival you don’t need to bring a passport photo because they’ll just add another $2 to the fee if you don’t have one.  The immigration lines went fairly quickly because they have so many of them now, and we turned in the third form which was handed out on the plane.  After that we picked up our luggage and then proceeded to customs to hand over the fourth form.  We finally made it out of the terminal and found our driver.  We got to our resort about 20 minutes later.

Like all resorts in Asia, they had us sit down in the large alfresco “lobby” and wait while they prepared all the paperwork.  We were served some tropical drinks that were a mixture pineapple and orange juice, together with some freezing cold rags that we used to cool down with.  There was a great breeze and at 9am the weather felt much better than JB – less heat and humidity.  Zoe and Logan watched a musician as she played a traditional xylophone type of instrument, but eventually they had everything ready for our early check-in and they showed us to our villa.

We wanted something similar to what we stay in during our trips to Bali – a villa with a private pool, and that’s what we found.  The villa is lovely and the hotel is wonderful so far.  They had a fresh fruit basket full of bananas and longan, and they brought by fresh coconuts to drink from while our luggage was being delivered to the room.  We ordered lunch around 10:30am because we had been up since 3am and hadn’t had breakfast.

We ended up spending the day at our villa, swimming and relaxing.  Carolyn and Zoe did take a tuk-tuk out and picked up dinner at a German-Austrian restaurant.  We had the largest pieces of schnitzel I’ve ever seen.  I found us a driver after our resort tried to gouge us.  We wanted to visit a butterfly farm and the land mine museum on Sunday morning, and the hotel said it would cost $50 for a private car.  I checked on the internet and sent 2 emails out; within 1 hour both responded and a private car was $20 for that trip while an SUV was $35.  We went with the car.

On Sunday morning we woke up around 5:30am, got ready, had breakfast at our resort’s restaurant (it was really good actually), then we met with our driver – Ret Phlong.  Ret has a Camry.  We loaded up and off we went by 7:35am.  We visited the Land Mine Museum, which was started and run by a guy named Aki Ra.  He’s a Cambodian guy who served in the military, planting many mines as a young soldier, but then spending the rest of his life removing them.  As expected, the museum is very somber but informative.  It would have been nice if someone had been there to give us a brief tour.  It had just opened for the day and apparently they didn’t expect anyone because it was completely empty except for a friendly lady at a little ticket booth and another friendly lady sweeping the entry.

The Land Mine Museum is fairly informative, with several rooms full of displays that are in English and Khmer.  Unfortunately the displays are a little dated, with photos and articles from several years ago, but the message isn’t lost at all – land mines are horrible and Cambodia is still full of them.  We saw the victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) during our 2007 visit – civilians and children missing limbs.  It’s a sad reality for Cambodians that their country has millions of land mines planted during wars over the past several decades.

Although our Lind Mine Museum visit was a solemn event for Carolyn and I, the girls enjoyed it because a little Cambodian boy was running around the place chasing them and smiling a lot.  They enjoyed running around with him while we went through the exhibits.

After the museum we headed down the road a little bit to a butterfly park.  The entrance fee was like $4 per adult (young children are free).  The entry includes a guided tour, so a young guy led us through and described everything.  They had several types of butterfly, but the girls mostly enjoyed splashing in the muddy puddles.  Zoe was afraid to pet the caterpillars, but it was a nice 30 minute visit in general.

On the way back to the resort we made arrangements with Ret to pick us up at 4:30pm so we could go purchase our 3-day Angkor Wat tickets and then watch the sunset at Angkor Wat without it counting as one of our 3 days.

We got dropped off at the resort and went swimming, then took a nap while Carolyn went to get our lunch in town.  She takes tuk-tuks there and back for about $7 (there, wait, back), and she called to confirm my burger on that trip because I apparently picked the chef’s recommendation without knowing that it was an age restricted item.  While I’m certainly old enough to partake, I decided against it and went with a regular burger instead of this “special” one.

At 4:30pm Carolyn and Logan stayed behind and took a nap (Logan’s fever is gone) while Zoe and I went with Ret to pickup our Angkor Wat tickets and watch the sunset.  They wouldn’t let me purchase Carol’s ticket without her there because they need to take a photo of her for the pass, so I just bought mine ($40 for 3 days – children are free).

We were dropped off in front of Angkor Wat.  There were tons of tourists and touts, all over the place.  We walked inside and went around the grounds for a while.  We saw some young monks hanging out in a 12th century structure waiting for the sunset while joking with each other, and there were monkeys and even a horse in the middle of it all.  Angkor Wat looked as amazing as I remember it.  I told Zoe how it was a really old place and she said it was a beautiful castle, and she asked a lot of questions and monks, but after spotting a pile of horse crap and asking what it was she became interested only in that.  It was hot as hell by that point, so after walking around for 30 minutes my t-shirt was drenched and Zoe was sweating under that huge pile of hair, so we decided to call it a day.  On the way out I asked her what she was going to tell her mommy about from our visit, thinking it would be the huge “castle” or maybe the monks, or possibly even the horse with the colorful outfit on, but she said “I’m going to tell her we saw horse poop.”  Lovely, one of the most famous world heritage sites on the planet, covered in monkeys and monks, and the most interesting part to her was the few piles of horseshit…

We made it home after purchasing a package of postcards from a young tout.  We went for a late night swim and then hit the sack.  This morning we got up early again because it was to be our first day visiting temples inside the Angkor Wat complex.  This is our last trip before our family grows from 4 to 5, so we’re trying to find the balance between making the most of it and taking it easy for our 1 year old and her pregnant mommy.  So far we’re really enjoying this beautiful country and its wonderful people.

Here are the photos from Saturday and Sunday (7/11 and 7/12) in Cambodia:

Back-to-back Singapore trips for the baby

On Thursday, July 2nd, I left work for an early lunch around 11:15am.  I wasn’t very far from the plant when Carolyn called me and was hysterical.  She had thrown up, a lot, and felt horrible.  She was worried about the baby.

I hurried home so we could get her checked out by her doctor.  Before we could head over to Singapore we had to go to the school and pickup Zoe and another little girl in Zoe’s class that Carol has been taking to school because her mother’s car is temporarily in the shop for repairs.

We picked up Jolicia (turns out Zoe has been incorrectly calling her Darlesha since the beginning of the year), dropped her off at home and then went to Singapore.  We finally saw Carolyn’s doctor around 4-4:30pm and after a scan showed that the baby was just fine we breathed a sigh of relief.  Shortly afterwards we found out that Carol had food poisoning from something she’d recently eaten, but we weren’t ever to figure out what it was.

We ended up having a scheduled appointment with Carolyn’s doctor again two days later, on July 4th.  The doctor had blood samples taken at another nearby clinic to make sure everything was going well with Carol, and a few days later we received the results and everything is great!  During our Singapore trip on Saturday (4th of July) we also had scheduled appointments for the girls with their pediatrician.  Unfortunately they both needed jabs.  I had thought Logan was due for her 2 year old shots since her birthday is later this month, but it ends up that won’t be administered until early August.  They both got flu shots…

Logan was playing around on the doctor’s desk without a care in the world as he listened to her breathing, checked her eyes and inside her ears, but when he laid out a needle and started wiping her leg with an alcohol wipe she freaked out.  She was squirming, kicking, yelling and started crying.  We held her down long enough for him to quickly give the jab.

Zoe looked terrified and started asking “Only Logan is getting a jab, right?” over and over.  The doctor put some cream on Zoe’s leg after some cajoling to get her up into a chair.  She was still very suspicious about what was really taking place, and as soon as she saw the needle she jumped out of the chair and tried to hind behind mine, but I grabbed her and pulled her back.  It was horrible because tears were pouring out of her eyes as she pleaded, “Daddy!  Please don’t let him do this to me!”  Luckily it was over in a couple of seconds.

After everyone was done we headed back to Malaysia and say in a ridiculous line that took forever to get through immigration.  The only pluses to the trip were that we confirmed that Logan’s iron levels remain just fine, the baby and Carolyn are both doing well, Zoe, Logan and I had chili crab buns (Carolyn had to fast for her blood work), and Carolyn got the ham sandwiches she’s been craving from Cedele’s.

Here are a few photos from that horrible week, including a couple of night shots from our balcony that I took on Friday night (July 3rd) while Zobug and I sat outside:

Permas Seafood alternative

On Sunday we woke up early and Carolyn dressed the girls up in the dresses we got for then in KL during our most recent trip.  We decided to have a dim sum brunch again.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were pretty quiet, but around 3pm we decided to grab some seafood.  We always go down the street to one of our favorites, Permas Seafood, but we decided to give another place a chance.  Carolyn and I both heard from locals that a place not far from Permas has basically the same menu but it much cheaper, so we went out in search of the place.

Restoran TKK is on the road from Permas Jaya that heads towards Pasir Gudang.  The restaurant itself is much more rustic than Permas Seafood — no indoor dining, no air conditioning, no cement, no menu.  Restoran TKK is literally above the beach, completely open air and the tables are on a creaky wooden deck.  We ordered the friend butter prawns, our favorite from Permas Seafood, and honestly the ones from TKK were even better.  The rub was that everyone was wrong – it was nearly double the price of Permas Seafood!  Perhaps we didn’t pick the right place because there are some other seafood places, but if it gets much more rustic than TKK you’ll be sitting on a log next to the beach and eating off a plate made of banana leaves.

The view from TKK is better than Permas Seafood because it is right on the water instead of looking beyond the stocked fishing pond to the water, but I was afraid for the girls to run around the table like they normally do at Permas Seafood because TKK has nails sticking up everywhere out of the wooden planks.  They’d likely end up needing tetanus boosters if we started frequenting TKK…

Later in the evening we did go by a Pasar Malam (night market) that was setting up for the Ramadan fast breaking in order to get some photos.  The big thing is durian since apparently it’s in season right now — they’re everywhere!

I ended up watching Interstellar (it’s good!) and that was our Sunday.

This upcoming weekend we have a string of doctor appointments, so it’s exciting that we get to see Sebastian in an ultrasound; poor Loggie is getting her 2 year old jabs though.  I can’t believe we’re only like 2 months away from Sebastian’s arrival!  It’s getting exciting and we’re looking forward to it (especially Jean!).

My dad is coming to visit in a couple of weeks, so we’re excited about that, and just before he arrives we will be in Cambodia for nearly a week.  I’m excited about seeing Angkor Wat with the girls, and I just wish Carol wasn’t so pregnant because I know she’d enjoy the temples a lot more if she wasn’t feeling so badly from the pregnancy.

One last thing, Logan can’t pronounce Zoe so she calls her “Wo-Wo”.  She also can’t pronounce Yen or Lily (our nanny and housekeeper), so she calls them “Ya-Ya” and “La-La”.  Carolyn and I love hearing Logan trying to get Zoe’s attention — “Wo-wooooo”.  She also gets sad whenever Carolyn or I leave her; when I leave for work she comes up and hugs my leg before I leave and recently she started crying and said “Dada, no!”.  When Carolyn left to go downstairs to the car the other day she started tearing up and was telling her “Mama, nooooo”.  She also is just like Zoe, she loves to dance.  Whenever music comes on she starts wiggling and dancing around.

Here are the photos from Sunday: