Back in 2009 when Paul and I graduated law school and went on our bar trip, we had a separate trip planned to visit southeast Asia which we cancelled because I got so sick in Egypt. But it has always been a place that was high up on our list of travel destinations for us. Especially since our only experience in any part of Asia at all was in Turkey, which hardly seems to count. We had also planned on a 10 year anniversary trip, but when Rose was born a few months before that event, international travel again was put on the backburner. But we finally decided that this was the year to make a big trip happen. Paul has been at his firm for a while now without taking more than a couple of days at a time and we don't have all our funds earmarked for adoption or house projects, so after some coaxing on my part to convince Paul that we could make a Thailand/Cambodia trip work with the girls and finding a pretty good deal on plane tickets, we went for it.
There was a lot of craziness getting ready for the trip in the first place - extra immunizations for each of us, last minute scrambling to take care of passports for me and Rose (turns our for a lot of countries you need 6 months of validity on your passport to travel there and my passport was going to expire in February. It is a little-known rule and airlines don't inform you about it so we almost flew to Thailand on my passport with 4 months of validity and would have been turned back except that when Rose's passport arrived (2 weeks before we were supposed to leave) I happened to glance at the pamphlet that came with it instead of just tossing it in the trash and I noticed this little quirk about the 6-month rule and looked into it. Thank goodness there was a passport office in San Francisco that I could go to for a same-day passport (there are only 10 in the U.S.), otherwise we would have been in trouble.
The flight over went great. We left SFO at 12:05 a.m. and got a decent amount of sleep on that first 13 hour flight. There girls had both fallen asleep in the car on the way to the airport but woke up to play on the escalators and eat some snacks while we waited to board the plane. But once we were on they settled right down and we all got some shut-eye. When they woke up, we entertained them with a couple of apps on phones and a tablet, playdough, and a set of 8 small Disney princess dolls that I found at Costco with interchangable gowns. The girls loved those dolls and having a new toy like that was a total lifesaver for us. We switched planes in Taiwan and the only fussiness we had out of either girl was about 30 seconds from Rose when she was not happy about me putting my phone away for landing. Seriously, traveling with them could not have gone better.
Once we landed in Bangkok (at 10:05 a.m.) we headed to our hotel in downtown Bangkok to check in and drop off our bags. We quickly changed clothes and then grabbed a taxi to go visit the Grand Palace, which was a total madhouse. If we were doing this trip all over again, I think we would skip the Grand Palace and go try out the boats that go along the river and just get views of the different temples from that vantage point like a few people had suggested before we left. We sort of felt like we HAD to see the palace, but it was so incredibly hot and there were hordes, and I mean HORDES, of tourist groups from elsewhere in Asia with their umbrellas and guides and it felt like you could hardly see anything anyway with all the people there. But, that said, it was a very interesting and beautiful place and it gave us something to do while we were trying to stay awake to get over jet lag.
We had a guidebook but didn't even both pulling it out, so I don't really know what each of the buildings are that we took pictures of, but we decided just not to sweat it. We just appreciated the place for its beauty and the effort that must have been required to create it. The Thais sure have an extravagant sense of color and design because everything was inlaid with mirrors or gems or gold leafing.
We had a number of people want to take pictures with Rose, who usually scowled at them and barked "no!" in her tiny voice. I have heard of that happening from friends who have traveled through Asia in the past, but I sort of didn't think that we would experience it since none of us are very blonde, but apparently it is mostly the novelty of seeing someone so tiny who is not Asian that brought people flocking to Rose.
Both countries, Thailand and Cambodia, had the most incredible skies, regardless of the time of day. We saw sunrises, sunsets, rainstorms, and giant fluffy white clouds like these, almost all the time while we were there.
One of the most beautiful parts of the palace for me where the exquisite galleries with gorgeous murals lining the walls.
You can tell by their faces that the girls were pretty over everything at this point. We brought a stroller from home thinking that Rose would use it, but it was Clara who really got the most benefit out of it.
That night we swam at the pool and hit up an ice cream place in the nearby mall but went to bed early. The next day started way too early when Rose woke up and decided she just wanted to play, but it worked out all right because it got us out the door to be the first ones at the floating market where we hired a boat to drive us around the canals looking for souvenirs and food. We ended up with a pretty tablecloth, some little elephants for the girls, and a Christmas ornament. And we enjoyed coconut pancakes (delicious), coconut ice cream (meh - I only thought it was okay), bananas, and pad thai and fried rice made for us by a vendor in a boat of her own while we waited. I wish I had more shots from the market but we were there so early that things didn't really get in full swing until we were pretty much leaving and our boat driver didn't speak any english so we didn't know that we had already been through the whole of the market and wouldn't be going back through to return to the dock area. We had just been so engaged in bartering for souvenirs and food and keeping the girls happy when we were all still jet lagged that the camera just didn't get much action. Oh well.
And then it was on to Cambodia later that afternoon...