1: Easter Bunny Comes Early to Lucy and her Foster Family As part of our trip, we have had to find Lucy, our beautiful greyhound a foster home. We found the perfect place for her - 5 acres of beautiful fenced paddocks in Matakana with views out to Tawharanui and Sandspit, two other dogs (Zorro and Charlie) for company, and a stay at home mum (Lindsay - an artist) and dad (Brian - a picture framer). Brian and Lindsay are building the most beautiful house I think I have ever seen - it is a work of art - concrete and glass in the shape of a koru with stunning views in every direction. In fact it is so gorgeous I asked if they would consider fostering me too ... It was hard for us to say goodbye to Lucy when we moved to the apartment. Lucy, however, is settling in fine - and they seem to be enjoying her. In fact they emailed us the following story: "Just have a cute Lucy story to share..... She sleeps by herself in the Kitchen and seems very happy there. This morning we came down and there was an egg each on Zorro and Charlies beds and on her bed there were egg shells. We keep our eggs in a basket on the table so she must have very carefully removed three of them without knocking over the basket........what a clever girl....and left one each for Charlie and Zorro and ate hers......... " Seriously cute.
3: After four years of saving and planning we are three weeks away from leaving New Zealand on our trip. Our house is rented out and, after sending Ned's mum to Australia for three weeks, we are now living in an inner city apartment until we go. It is tiny but gorgeous - and even more importantly - serviced. Every couple of days we return home to find our rubbish has been put out, our sheets have been changed and we have fresh, clean towels in our bathroom. Bliss. But even more importantly for the kids - it has a pool. The kids' water confidence and swimming has improved out of sight - and as our apartment is only big enough to swing the tiniest kitten - it has provided the most brilliant outdoor space for our outdoor kids. It really feels like we have started our adventure. Living in the apartment has been like being a tourist in our own city. Last night we had a picnic in the domaim. We have taken the kids down the road to the art gallery, to the movies (Imax - Alice in Wonderland) and to the Latern Festival in Albert Park. | Our local library is now the city library - bliss.It has been a bit of a bumpy ride getting to the point of leaving. None of us had passports - getting 5 at once is equivalent to the GDP of a small African nation. Internal Affairs insists you have your hair pulled back from your face and you do not smile. Somehow this instantly causes you to start giggling - and we had to tell Eloise if she did not get it together she would not be coming with us. Subsequently - four us look like the grim reaper - and Eloise has an extraordinary look on her face from biting her cheek - hard. Packing up our house was a nightmare -weeks of packing, cleaning and organising. We are taking handluggage - mainly comprising a couple of changes of clothes and diastop - so everything had to be cleaned out and packed up - three skips worth. (A lovely Austrian family have moved into our house and it seems to be working out beautifully for them. The vaccinations were a nightmare. Ned and I needed myriad shots - and the kids needed one. Although Isaac and Eloise coped okay - Milly had to be held down, screaming and wriggling and had to be forcibly jabbed after running away, and kicking and scratching as we tried to grab her. | Fortunately the nurses were made of stern stuff - and managed somehow to administer it - emptying our wallets of another couple of hundreds of dollars in the process. Getting Syrian visas were a nightmare (expensive - time consuming and we seriously wondered if we would be better off flying over the top to Turkey), however once we worked through the seemingly impossible process (getting our passports authenticated and then the authentication authenticated - true - then sending our passports, authentication, authentication of the authentication off to Canberra with an Australian bank cheque for $AU505 (takes our bank 5 days to get this) and with a return courier bag in place - which the post office don't do - had to open a business fedex acct to do it - $140) to our amazement - we got our passports back - visas and all. We had sent them off with great trepidation - and frankly wondered if we would ever see them again ... The organising now is largely over. We are insured, passported, visa'd, packed up, vaccinated and counting down ....
4: Leaving New Zealand The weekend we left NZ, the kids all stayed with their dads. We left Easter Sunday, so the possibility for things to go wrong was huge. We had to get four dads bringing the kids, and Ned and I, to the airport on the day that daylight saving ended, and have the kids not so engorged with Easter eggs that they spent the flight with their heads (and consequently Alex's) in a paper bag. Direct line to the Easter bunny allowed us to negotiate an earlier delivery - the bunny came a week early to Apartment 16G - darling rabbit - and somehow the we all got to the airport not only on time but early - further helped along by a slight flight change. | We had a cup of tea and farewell photos with the dads. It was hilarious - as we lined up with the kids - a flock of dads whipped out their i-phones - burying the stereotype of Japanese tourists and cameras as an image once and for all. The dads left the airport. What's a farewell without tears? Ned provided them in bucket loads - and Isaac had a wee cry after Darren left. The hard-hearted girls looked on in slight bewilderment - and then went back to playing on the airport helicopter. The flight was okay - but long long long .... Ned and I watched a couple of immemorable movies - but the kids had a blast - 12 hours of games and movies, lemonade and orange juice. Milly had a four hour sleep and we successfully bribed Isaac and Eloise to have a couple of hours with the thought of a swim in the pool when we got to Bangkok. The flight actually made great time and we arrived in Bangkok an hour early. We breezed through customs and out the doors stepping into 29 degree heat at 8.30 at night with the promise of 38 degrees the following day. We are in Bangkok!!!
5: Bangkok 4 -7 April 2010 We arrived in Bangkok and a bus took us to the airport terminal. As our plane was an hour early, there was no one there to meet us. We waited patiently, but the driver didn’t show at the agreed time. After several unsuccessful attempts ringing the place we were staying at, we finally got the information centre to call – he was just a bit late – Bangkok time. After the heat, the first thing we noticed, as we drove out of the airport, was the simply enormous, sky filling billboards. They must be at least 10 times the size of the largest billboards we have in New Zealand, if not larger, advertising goods in Thai and English. The motorway into the city is huge and snakes over the top of the suburbs. It is like being in a Harry Potter movie – we felt like we were driving in the sky. This feeling was only heightened when we turned back to see the airport –which looked like a monstrous tardis on the ground – very space age.... | Once off the motorway we were into the hustle and bustle of Bangkok nightlife – with tuk tuks, taxis and pedestrians all scrapping for their share of space on the road. A few detours later (the red shirt protesters had blocked off some of the roads) and we arrived at our apartment. It was around 10pm by this stage – and the swimming pool closed – but we couldn’t have cared less. The apartment is huge – 2 large bedrooms, a divine shower with multiple heads and settings, and a massive lounge and kitchen. We were all knackered and asleep within 5 minutes. NZ is 5 hours ahead of Thailand so Ned and I woke around 3am (8am NZ time) , Milly around 4.30, Eloise 5am and Isaac at a respectable 5.30am. We went foraging for food. We thought China town would be a good bet –it wasn’t as it was mainly closed - but we found a 7 eleven open and we ended up scoffing croissants on a street corner – washed down by chocolate milks. The kids saw their first ever squirrel running along a telegraph wire.
6: We returned to our apartment, and after a swim in the pool, we spent a hot hot hot day climbing Wat Arun, before taking a cool, breezy canal tour down the river and klongs. The water was brown and polluted, and we got a chance to see how people lived – peering into their backyards and sitting rooms. Many of the houses were literally rotting and falling into the putrid water – but they were interspersed with well built almost mansion-like houses and temples. Lots of the houses had `water gardens’ of vegetables that grow in water. I guess kids world wide love water – and the kids around the klongs are of course no exception. Isaac, Eloise and Milly were aghast to see the kids were swimming, splashing and playing in the smelly, fetid canals. Our return to the apartment for another swim in the pool (huge, sports centre sized and clean) only highlighted the difference in water quality. A trip to the supermarket for supplies meant that we were better organised for breakfast the next day – for only a slightly later wake time and start. Taxis are unbelievably cheap here – and together with tuk tuks the main method of transport for tourists. We took an early morning taxi to Lumphini Park (a 15 minute ride for about $2.50 NZ) and watched people doing their early morning martial arts practice in groups. The kids had a play on the fantastic playground. We then visited Wat Pho by Tuk Tuk. What a ride! All five of us squeezed into the cab – and we were off – zipping around corners, ducking and diving between cars, and slamming on its brakes. The kids looked both elated and terrified – particularly when we missed hitting another tuk tuk by millimetres. The driver then dropped us off- incorrectly - in front of the Grand Palace – where we had already been.
7: What is a trip to Bangkok without a scam? As we stood in the sweltering heat – wondering whether we could bear to walk a couple more kms - a kind man offered to organise a tuk tuk for us. We had just that morning read about a scam where people organise tuk tuks that take you shopping and try (in some cases quite aggressively) to make you buy goods. We got in somewhat warily – wondering if we were about to be scammed – and true to form – we were. After taking us to Wat Pho as agreed (a huge standing gold Buddha) we were taken to a shop selling expensive jewellery. Ned had to get quite firm with the driver before he sulkily took us to see the reclining Buddha. An afternoon nap meant that the kids were able to stay up late – so we went off to dinner at Chinatown. It was divine – Tom Yum Talay (Seafood) , mussels, breaded prawns and fried rice – all outside at a busy restaurant on a frenetic street corner with tuk tuks (or tukies as Milly calls them) and taxis passing within centremetres of our table – in the warm Bangkok night. Including drinks it cost 240 baht – or around $NZ12) and we didn’t have a hope of finishing it all. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about eating outside is that you meet others – and we joined a table of three young people from England and Australia doing their OE – they were great with the kids and it was heaps of fun. Tomorrow – we fly off for our jungle adventure.
8: When I think about Bangkok I think about the bridges over the river with shelters on them. The water was really polluted and people were swimming in the canals – and we saw people washing their clothes and dishes in the dirty disgusting water. I think they do this as this is the only water they have to use. I liked China Town as the food was really nice – particularly the baby mussels. Bangkok smells a bit like dead fish everywhere. Eloise. I saw my first ever squirrel running across a power line. When I think about Bangkok I think about busy traffic, mainly taxis and tuk tuks, everywhere, and lots of people. The thing I like most was China Town because the food was yum and we saw lots of people carrying platters of fruit and plates of flowers on their heads- which was interesting. Maybe they carry it on their heads as it is so busy they would get knocked – but they could get knocked anyway. Isaac . | We went to Wat Arun. Mum had to cover her shoulders with a shawl. We went up really steep stairs and I slipped and had to hang on to the handrail and my jandal fell off and fell down vertical steps (she would have fallen around 3 metres if she had let go onto concrete – ed). There were ribbons with names on them so no-one would touch the bells. Milly