Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “asian travel”

Family Trip to Thailand? Bring Patience, An Open Mind, and So Much Deodorant

Traveling Asia with kids isn’t for the feint of heart.  But man is it worth it… 

Last week, we headed to Thailand with our friends (the Tislands) for Spring Break.  Traveling with friends, we’ve learned, is important because 24 hours of non-stop family time without the comforts of home can be a bit much.  I suppose we figured this out in South Korea, where Jackie and I fought for hours one night because I got her the “wrong” sandwich.  In my defense, how could I have known she actually wanted a meatball sub with absolutely nothing on it?  Anyway, now we travel with friends.

As for the itinerary, here’s the good: we started in Guam heading to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai, and then back to Guam.  Lots of adventure.  Here’s the bad part… it was all through the Manilla Airport, which is a dirty, wifi-lacking maze that might just be hell on earth.  And here’s where it get’s downright ugly: we flew Philippine Airlines – a company operated by madmen.  The Manilla Airport/Philippine Airlines combo is devastating.  It’s kind of like a sandwich your hungry wife didn’t order, and 7 days of non-stop family time.  

Regardless, here goes a recap of one of our most epic family vacations.  


Day One: Travel Horrors

Everything was fine til Philippine Airlines and the Manilla Airport did their worst.  Our flight to Manilla arrived late, we missed our connection, and got rewarded with more time at the Manilla Airport.  Yelling was involved.  This caused us to get into Bangkok late, which put us in rush hour en route to our hotel.  Finally, we got to the hotel where the kids had their own room, and Jackie and I had ours.  Perfect recipe for lots of bow-chicka-wow-wow…  

Just kidding.  We were super tired.  And the kids were next door to us – often wrestling in the hallway and calling every five minutes pretending to need housekeeping.  It was a perfect recipe for phone calls from angry neighbors.    

Day Two: Floating Market…Horrors

Day Two we went to the “Floating Market.”  Travel websites and Thailand experts give this experience glowing reviews.  I was excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Until I realized…

The Floating Market involves taking a boat ride through a series of remarkably similar tourist shops along the water with a high-pressure sales pitch at every stop… all at a nifty 102 degrees.  It’s the worst.  More on this in a bit.

The ride to and from isn’t easy, as the Floating Markets are two hours from Bangkok.  Picture endless traffic while sitting alongside six PS4-deprived children.  For them, talk of farts and “Opposite Day” make the trip bearable.   For example, “you’re cool…but it’s Opposite Day.”  Classic burn.  

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We finally get to the Markets and I get the true dagger.  The boat ride to go shopping for overpriced tourist items will cost our family of five $200 out the gate.   Look, I’ve long learned that the key to any successful vacation is to not be a cheap bastard.  But for the remainder of the day, all I could think about was this $200.  

So. Here’s what my wife saw:

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Aaaand here’s what I saw: 

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It wasn’t all bad.  We got smoothies.  For what it’s worth, Jackie said she “really liked it.”  Frankly, she would have liked it a lot more had I not gone.  But aside from the heat and the price and the overall misery of the experience it was totally great. The 2.5 hour ride back to Bangkok was also great.  But remember, it’s Opposite Day. 

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Day Three: Grand Palace

On Day Three, we went to the Grand Palace.  Immediately prior to launch, I discover I won’t be allowed to wear shorts.  That’s ok because it’s only a million degrees outside.  We take a pretty sweet boat ride to the palace.  The kids enjoyed endless sodas and the adults began a day of endless perspiration.  

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We get to the entrance of the palace and things start to get crazy.  Our guide informs us it’s temporarily closed because apparently the Princess is praying.  Umm, ok.  It’s possible this one of Bangkok’s infamous scams, but nobody is walking into this Palace.  So if thats true it’s a pretty elaborate scam.  My guess is Thailand is like every other monarchy in the world: the Princess gets what the Princess wants.  

With time to kill, we buy overpriced ice cream and wait.  But soon the kids need to potty and there are no bathrooms in sight.  I walk four blocks with the boys to discover that the only bathroom available to us costs money to use, and I have none.  Also… wait, what?  You have to pay to use the toilet around here???  This ruthless display of capitalism almost makes Bangkok more American than America.    All that’s missing is a credit card machine.   

Back to the palace, where we eventually got in.  It was beautiful.  There was a temple that was cool as well.  Our tour guide shared historic tales of battles between good and evil.   Unfortunately I won’t remember any of this, because I’m too busy anticipating my imminent death.  Have I mentioned it was hot?  

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Collectively, our back sweat could fill a kiddie pool.  I’m serious about this.

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That night we hit Chinatown.  We take a “Tuk Tuk,” which is essentially a moped with seats rigged onto the back.  “Tuk Tuk” is super fun to say, and they’re crazy cheap.  A ride for the whole family costs us a few dollars.  I know I’m supposed to be over this, but this ride is about $197 cheaper than our boat ride through the Floating Market.  I mean, I’m just saying…

We walk around eating street food and being tourists.  Jackie gets a real massage while the kids and I let fish eat the skin off our feet.  Knowing how long its been since our kids properly cleaned their feet I have concerns about the future of these poor fish.  Also, they tickle.  

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Day Four: Head to Chiang Mai 

Day Four we head to Chiang Mai, where we will be living in a Villa for the remainder of this trip.  Seven bedrooms, a pool, and toilets with those sprayers that you’d use on the dishes… only it’s for your junk.  This place is incredible.  

We swam a lot that day.  And drank beer.  It was legit vacation.  

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Day Five: Elephants, Massages and Deadly Snakes

On Day Five, Jackie and the kids went to play with elephants.  I didn’t go because I’m lame and got a massage instead.  The baby elephants were super cute.  The masseuse who dug into my skin and had me grimacing in pain was not cute.  I’m on a roll with poor decisions this week. 

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After we regrouped at the villa we headed to the “Snake Show,” and it did NOT disappoint.  For a few dollars, we got to see hilarious Thai dudes dancing around King Cobras…all while “Moves Like Jagger” played in the background.  Watching these guys evade venomous bites from angry Cobras leads me to conclude they are far more impressive than Jagger.  I mean, for goodness sake, their dance moves are what prevent them from literally dying.  

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Fully satisfied by the Snake Show, we went to dinner and ate insane amounts of Thai food.  Nobody spoke English, but Coldplay was blaring on the speakers.  It made no sense, but everywhere we go we seem to hear the whitest music imaginable.  Later that week, I’d go to a coffee shop where the second I walked in it went from Yoga music to Phil Collins.  This Country just gets me.

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Day Six: ATVs and a Night “Safari” 

Since we were in Thailand you’d think the kids would have no use for Youtube.  Wrong.  Each morning began with “can I play on my Kindle?”  The boys like videos with Fortnight commentary which, for better or worse, has provided them a wealth of newly discovered gaming vernacular.  For instance, when I Dab – a move I only recently mastered – I’m reminded that the move was popular four years ago.  “You’re such a Newb.”  And any time I even remotely screw something up I’m told to “get wrecked.”  

Anyway.  Eventually, we got out and took ATVs around Chiang Mai.  Although we weren’t newbs with the ATVs, riding through the forest was quite bumpy.  Thankfully nobody got, you know, wrecked.   

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That night, we hit up the “Night Safari.”  In my head, I pictured something resembling Jurassic Park, and was disappointed to discover the Night Safari is basically a zoo. Our son got pretty upset when a giraffe ate all of the food he was planning on giving to other animals.  On the positive side, no humans were eaten – a claim Jurassic Park cannot make.  Also, if you ever plan on opening a zoo one day, consider marketing it as a “safari” instead.  It sounds sexier.  

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After the Night Safari, we hit up the “Night Market.”  The area seems touristy, and I see lots of skinny white people.  Picture heavily-tattooed women who look like they just stepped out of yoga class, and dudes wearing colorful pants with elephants on them.   I’m surrounded by liberals.  

The food was good, and the prices were so cheap I’m not sure how any of these people make money.  But Jackie’s a consummate deal finder and can’t help herself.  “$1 for a hand-carved wooden tiger?  Way too much!”  She makes the Shark Tank seem like group therapy.  Safe to say I’m not totally surrounded by liberals…  

Day Seven: “Sticky Falls” 

A week into this eventful trip we went to the Buatong Waterfall.  We learned the actual name of it after our non-english speaking driver made it clear he had no idea what the “Sticky Falls” were.  Its a waterfall you can climb. 

You take steps to the bottom of the fall where you’ll find pool of running water.  Below the surface is mud-like substance that feels like poop.  Our son Brody was convinced this was a poop walk.  He may have been right. 

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The falls themselves were every bit as amazing as advertised.   

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On the way home we begin to appreciate how many towns and cities in Thailand contain the word “Dong” (and to a lesser extent, “Wang“).  My wife cannot let any of this go without obnoxious laughter and obligatory follow-on conversation.  One day we passed an area called “Hang Dong” and even I had to concede she had a point there.  

Day Eight: Bungie Jumping

On the Eighth Day, I decided to go Bungie Jumping.  Anyone who has seen me while hanging Christmas lights can testify to the fact that I fear heights.  In high school I asked a grown man to “hold me” at a ropes course.  20 years later, I’m still hearing about this.    

Bungie Jumping is cheap in Thailand.  Also, life insurance is included, which is great because I’m fairly certain my military insurance won’t be covering any of this.  I sign my life away, pay the fee, and head over to the jump site.  While speaking in Thai, they tie my legs together, put me in a chair that takes me up 200 feet, and then set me up for the big fall.  

We get to the top, and I’m asked to hobble to the very edge of the lift while I stare 200 feet down.  “1, 2, 3, Bungie!” the guy said.   I went nowhere.  But now I hear Jackie hazing me and I know there’s no chance I’m getting out of this.  I fall while screaming like a maniac.  “HOLD ME!” 

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Day Nine: The Hellacious Journey Home

Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Manilla to Guam.  With kids.  What could go wrong?  

Well, it all went south when Philippine Airlines linked up with, you guessed it, the Manilla Airport. Picture delays, non-sensical excuses, lines, countless security checks, temper tantrums (by the adults), more delays, and a desperate need for Gold Bond.  This place is the worst.  

Thankfully our kids have tablets which keep them occupied and makes all of this ok.   The universe has now reminded me of exactly why we got these kids tablets to begin with.  

Around midnight, the boys slept.  Riley put a sandwich on Jimmy because she was bored.  Sleep deprived, this was hilarious… much funnier than it looks now.  

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After 24 hours of travel, we finally got back to Guam and I’ve never been happier to be home.  


Overall, the trip was exhausting, and at times downright difficult.  But Thailand is a special place unlike any other in the world.  I’ve been blessed to go on several very relaxing vacations where I remained firmly in my comfort zone the entire time.  This was not one of those trips.  But the memories will last a lifetime.  

Traveling through Thailand with kids is not for the feint of heart.  It takes patience and an open mind.  Oh, and don’t be a newb...  

Bring friends, and an endless supply of deodorant as well.  It’s hot here.  

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“I Do Not Have Gas!” And Other Highlights From Our Epic Trip to Korea

Seoul, Korea is an amazing place where strangers give your kids candy on the train and in no way is it creepy.  The people are genuinely nice… and fascinated by white kids.  Ours played their part well.  

I note that Seoul is in South, vice North, Korea.  For the three months that led up to this trip a  certain member of my family may have accidentally mixed up these two countries and told her friends we were going to “North Korea.”  Slight mix up.  

The trip was mostly amazing.  The kids gave us their fair share of “this is boring” and “when can we go back to the hotel.” Fortunately we combated this with new toys, orange sodas, and cake for lunch.  

Here’s a breakdown of our epic week in Korea: 

Day One: Korean War Museum  

On the first day we went to the Korean War Museum.  I’m not much of a museum guy, but this place has real planes, tanks, and boats all over it.  The kids wanted to be in all kinds of pictures while climbing on all kinds of historically-preserved war artifacts.  

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They also insisted on taking some pictures themselves.  Either this will need more practice or our youngest got a great picture of the two people he cares about the most…

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For lunch, we went authentic and ordered pizza.  

We also went to a market where a woman who didn’t speak english communicated to us through a translator app.  At one point in the conversation, she held her phone up which proudly declared “I do not have gas!”  I can only hope thats what she was actually trying to tell us.  

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Hooray for no Gas! 

It didn’t take long to discover that Koreans drive like legit maniacs.  Its not a stereotype, its just a fact.  Traffic lights seem to be more like “suggestions,” and even those don’t really apply to taxis and buses.  And I’ve concluded that people on mopeds in Korea are hoping to die because they commonly drive full speed into crowded intersections without regard for their safety.  Or anything.  

Day Two: Gyeongbokung Palace, Seoul Tower, and River Cruise 

On the second day we went big.  First, we went to this Korean Palace which dates back to the 1300s.  We didn’t take a guided tour, and I didn’t actually read much of the brochure, so I cannot tell you much about the palace other than it looks really, really cool.

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It didn’t take long for the kids to start complaining about how they were bored, hot, and anxious to get back.  On our way out, a group of Koreans asked us to be in a video where we all said “welcome to Seoul.”  I’m still hoping to become YouTube famous, so naturally I agreed.    

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For lunch, we really channeled our inner-Koreans and ate pizza.  At the exact same pizza place we went to the day before.  Gettin real cultured.  

In the afternoon we went to Seoul Tower, which offers the best views of Seoul in town.  We hitched a ride to the top.  They charged us about $30 for the whole family, and frankly I would have paid whatever they asked cuz it’s a ridiculously long way up.  

While up there we ran into some women who wanted pictures with the kids.  Why of course…  

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That night, we went on a Han River Cruise, where you can see the Seoul skyline at night and then watch fireworks.  We almost missed the cruise, and everyone was super tired.  But we held it together (literally) and had a blast (figuratively).  

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This is what the end of a day of tourism with kids looks like…

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Day Three: The Zoo. 

I don’t like zoos.  There, I said it.  Zoos are not my thing.  Every time we go its hot and crowded and smelly.  But on the third day in Seoul we went to the Zoo.  We saw lions, tigers, seals, and lots of other zoo-worthy stuff.

Problem is, our youngest was hoping to see pigs.  When he discovered the zoo did not have pigs, he was sure to let us know he was having the “Worst. Day  Ever!”  And so he was.  

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But we didn’t want to see zebras…  

Oh, and it turns out that I’m not the only dad who isn’t thrilled about the zoo.  I got a great pic of a dad fighting off sleep at the llama exhibit.  I’m right there with you, sir. 

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Here’s proof that some dad truths are universal

After the zoo we went to a marketplace in search of a Pokemon-inspired stuffed animal named “Psyduck.”  We didn’t find it, and this was devastating to our oldest.  He didn’t even need to say it.  We already knew it was the #worstdayever. 

That night, shockingly, we ate pizza.  And made some new friends.   Not bad for the worst day of my son’s life.

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The Photobomb that resulted in me looking super creepy

Day Four:  Lotte World

On the Fourth day we went to an indoor/outdoor amusement park called “Lotte World.”  On the way there our youngest made a friend on the train who wanted to get a picture.  He also invited our son to sit on his lap.  That wasn’t gonna happen, but they did have a great time.  

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Lotte World is endless.  It’s a junior varsity version of Disneyland, but less crowded and mostly indoors, so the temperature is perfect.  They had quite a few rides all of the kids could enjoy.  The problem with this place is that waaaaayyy too many rides required extra money.   And here I thought America had a lock on the nickel and dime approach…

Oh, but great news!  Lotte World had the “Psyduck” our oldest had been looking for.  With all due respect to Disneyland, Lotte World may have been the happiest place on earth for this kid.  

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Welcome to the family, Psyduck

Day Five:  The De-militarized Zone (DMZ) 

On the fifth day we went to the DMZ.  This is where the borders of North and South Korea meet.  With so much of the news revolving around N. Korea these days, this was great stuff to know and see.  

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We went to a tunnel that was dug by the N. Koreans to invade Seoul back in the 70s.  We also went to an overlook where you can see the entirety of the DMZ.  I won’t say too much more about what we observed because last time Hollywood talked too much about North Korea they all got hacked.  I don’t feel like changing all my passwords, so instead I’ll just post this funny picture of our son… 

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Our tour guide made some interesting observations.  She noted that tourism was way down because of “the Fat Man.”  Minutes later, she informs us that if North Korea launches a nuke at Seoul they will “all be dead in six minutes and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”  

But she assured us that we were all safe…  

The DMZ is a must see in Korea.  I knew nothing about the Korean War and had no legitimate background on what is inspiring current events until I went and saw it for myself.  

Day Six: Some Random Korean Neighborhood

On the sixth day we went to an “authentic Korean neighborhood” which is actually just a tourist trap filled with Starbucks Coffees and places to get fried chicken.  It’s not even worth my time to google the actual name of the place we went to. 

While we were there, we stopped to eat outside someones house.  While we were eating, the owner invited us into his house, gave us water, and set us up at a table.  Super nice guy.  Of course we all had to get a picture.  Psyduck too…

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The next day we went home.  Fully charged tablets made for an eventless plane ride.  Parents have it so easy these days.  

The trip was eventful, and super fun.  Koreans are some of the nicest, most genuinely friendly people you will ever meet.  We left with fond memories, new friends, and of course, our main man “Psyduck.”  

Also, in case you are wondering, I too do not have gas.    

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