Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Asian Adventures

So. My family and I are currently* on an amazing, once in a lifetime holiday in Asia. I normally don't like broadcasting when we're away from home because, you know, thieves and stuff. Mostly zombies. Though I think our elderly, deaf, arthritic cat can still hold her own- she's gotten pretty good with her cane fighting.

*(“Currently” applied to when I started this blog post. We are now safely at home and have recuperated from the events recorded here... about 3 months ago.So. Back off thieving zombies.) 

ANYwho...we are currently (unexpectedly) in Bangkok, Thailand, where our hastily booked hotel is conveniently located down the street from the local "protests" that are occurring here. Just how did we find ourselves in this predicament? Lack of birth control. Seriously. It's all the babies' faults. Ugh. Kids.

Let me backtrack just a bit.

Mid to late January, my Mister had a business trip back to the States. He left the warm, sunny summer of Australia (otherwise known as OHDEARGODI'MMELTING) for the arctic chill of Virginia, leaving me alone with the kids, all by myself and alone, for just under 2 weeks. We've had this trip planned for a while, so I knew that he would be able to make up for it via the many massages, facials, and yarn buying excursions I was going to enjoy while on holiday.

Our kids are already pretty seasoned travelers by now and Little Mister especially loves riding in vehicles he's not experienced before, but especially enjoys taxis, buses, trains, and, of course, airplanes. He also is a kid who needs sleep. Like, NEEDS sleep. A lot. He's extremely bright and funny and really loves his mama, but sometimes I need to remind myself that he's only two and I can't expect him to behave like an older child, especially when he's jet lagged, has missed naps, and is sleep deprived because his parents selfishly decided to enjoy an evening market in Chiang Mai instead of being holed up in the hotel by 6pm like every other night.

SweetPea also needs her sleep, but she's still small enough to fall asleep in the Ergo while walking around places, but I could tell that her interrupted naps were starting to take their toll. So, in a way this forced stop in Bangkok is a very good thing for them since we are holed up in our hotel for now and they've been napping uninterrupted for the past 2 hours. I probably should be napping, too, but I didn't realize how strong the coffee is here. I'm talking rapid eye blinking, heart pounding, grow-hair-on-your-chest strong coffee. I just had one cup and I'm already starting to be mistaken for an Italian man. Might be due in part to my large mustache, plumbers gear, and penchant for mushrooms, but I can't be sure. 

You should see what happens when we don't shave

But I'm getting ahead of myself. (Sorry in advance for the digressions- dear Lord that coffee was strong!)

The first part of our trip started out well. Due to the flight schedules, we spent one night in Adelaide before heading to our first stop, Phuket, Thailand with a short layover in Singapore. Phuket (pronounced "poo-ket," which I don't have to tell you makes me giggle) was great- tropical weather (I actually prefer humidity to dry heat), tropical vegetation, beautiful sandy beaches, and, my personal favorite, inexpensive massages. The people in Thailand love children. Or, at least my children because it has been scientifically proven that they are the cutest and bestest children ever in the whole world. SweetPea especially has been fawned over and loved on and passed around by just about every Thai woman alive. She learned how to wave just prior to our trip, but it was sporadic. Now, she's a waving virtuoso. She now has a compulsion to wave and smile any time she sees an Asian woman and is usually rewarded with smiles, hugs, laughs, and cooing. This has been a huge ego boost for this proud mama, but in hindsight may have contributed to our current predicament. 

OH COME ON! Just one bite of those Tootsie Roll arms!
For the first couple of days, we took it really easy, letting the kids take their naps in the hotel room and putting them to bed at their normal times. But, this is a once in a lifetime holiday for us and we didn't travel all the way to Asia just to spend time in the hotel. So, we started pushing them just a bit. It was good to get out of the hotel room, anyway, since there were so many mosquitoes there. Great googly moogly- we were being eaten alive! So we killed as many mosquitoes in our room as we could and then went out and about where we provided the rest of the mosquitoes in Thailand with a smorgasbord of American goodness. My Mister's legs look like he has some sort of skin disease and I am covered with swollen red welts that then turn into bruises because I'm blessed like that.

So when our kids started getting red bumps all over, we figured they were just doing their part to feed the local wildlife and didn't worry too much about it, especially since they weren't scratching like they were infested with fleas like their parents were.

After a few days in Phuket, we headed to our second destination- Chiang Mai, Thailand where the Sunday Night Market is legendary and part of the reason we wanted to visit Chiang Mai in the first place.

The day we arrived in Chiang Mai, Little Mister started acting unusual. He didn't want to eat much and didn't even finish his fruit which, if you know my little man, is a huge red flag that something is up. He's a bottomless pit and especially loves fruit and vegetables. He's a Nutritionist's dream son, to be quite honest.

Another indicator that he wasn't feeling well occurred later that afternoon when his eyes started looking glassy and his head felt like a heat lamp. Other than acting like he had a fever (tired and a little miserable), he wasn't acting like he was really sick, so we didn't worry too much about it and just decided to wait it out and let him sleep.

The next morning (Friday), I noticed that he got attacked pretty badly by mosquitoes throughout the night- his face and feet had quite a few red spots on them. Poor little man. By the end of the day, he was no longer feverish, but still wasn't eating much. But he seemed to be in good spirits since he was able to add a tuk tuk to his ever expanding list of vehicles he has risen in. And if you have not heard a two year old say, "Tuk tuk!" Then you do not know what cute is. It is currently his favorite mode of transportation.

By Sunday, he seemed like he was feeling better, which was great since we wanted to attend the Sunday Night Market. However, SweetPea seemed out of sorts and felt a little warm. Huh. Well, it could be because it's really hot and humid and she's been spending most of her time strapped to my chest in the Ergo. Yeah. That's why she's feeling warm. And not as hungry. And super clingy to me. Right? So we didn't get our kiddos to bed until waaaaay past their bedtime, but figured they could handle it this one night since we've been held hostage every other night by their early bedtimes.

We were almost delirious with the experience of being outdoors past 7pm for the first time in almost 3 years. It was like we were almost human again. It was glorious.

Monday morning we were getting ready to head out to our third destination- Siem Reap, Cambodia- with a 2 hour layover in Bangkok. As we were leaving the hotel, the super friendly women who had been fawning all over SweetPea were dismayed that she wasn't feeling well and wasn't her normal cheery, happy, lovable self.

Then they noticed the red bumps on one of her legs. I wasn't too worried about them....until those women showed worry about them. They even asked what time our flight was just in case we had time to go to the local hospital to get her checked out. Since we didn't have enough time, they told us there was a "hospital" at the Bangkok airport we could go to if she didn't seem well.

Great. I'm a pretty laid back mama. I was raised with a "You're ok! Rub some dirt in it!" type of mom. Granted, she usually fainted when we had to get shots and slammed the door in my face that one time I sliced open my hand and had blood spurting like a fountain (true story), but overall, she definitely didn't get worked up over every bump, scrape, cough or fever. Thus, I've also tended to take a "watch and see" stance the few times my kids have seemed ill.

Well. Except for this past Thanksgiving when we were in Adelaide and SweetPea got her first fever. It wasn't responding to Advil or Tylenol so I took her to the local hospital just to be on the safe side. After spending the majority of Thanksgiving day in the ER (Turkey Subway Sandwiches were our Thanksgiving meal this year), we were told that sometimes kids get fevers and all you can do is wait them out and rub some dirt in it. "Laid back" doesn't even begin to describe Aussie doctors. So, I really wasn't too worried about my kiddos this time since I didn't want to waste my whole vacation in an ER (AGAIN) just to be told, "Yup. That's a fever."

So we get on the plane and head to Bangkok. The kids and I were in the 3 seats on the right and My Mister was in the seat right across the aisle. We gave SweetPea some infant medicine earlier and she was no longer feverish and had fallen asleep on me in the Ergo which was what I was hoping for. And, since it was around lunchtime, which is right in the middle of Little Mister's normal nap time, I was hoping he would fall asleep on the plane, too. Because he was tired. TIRED tired. And he wanted to sleep. NOW. He tried putting down the window shade on the plane but was told to lift it back up until after take-off. He wanted to lay down on the seat but was told he couldn't until after take-off. He started whining. Then he started protesting about everything. Really really loudly. Then, as the plane was finally starting to taxi down the runway, he started slinking in his seat trying to get out of his seatbelt while screaming, "I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP! I WANT TO HOLD YOU, MOMMY! HOLD YOU UP THERE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

I was trying my best to calm him down, stage whispering for him to be quiet and that we would be in the air soon so he could fall asleep and for him to please PLEASE be quiet since SweetPea was sleeping. I pleaded. I ordered him. I begged and cajoled and threatened. Nothing worked. We were THAT family. The one everyone hates and talks about and uses as an example of why kids shouldn't be on planes and the reason they will never have kids themselves because kids suck.

We were barely in the air- the seat belt sign was still on- and Little Mister was almost flopping on the floor while screaming his head off. I took off his seat belt and hoisted him on my lap- or at least what little of my lap was available since I still had a sleeping SweetPea strapped to my chest. He was inconsolable and starting to freak people out as his head spun around while pea soup spewed out of his mouth. I was shooting daggers with my eyes across the aisle at My Mister who was trying to be nonchalant, looking everywhere but at us as if to say, "Wow. Just my luck to be stuck across the aisle from *those* people. Ugh. Kids. Amirite?"

As Little Mister was doing his bucking bronco imitation, SweetPea was finally jolted out of sleep, which was exactly what I was hoping would happen. Because the only thing better than having one screaming kid on your lap in the middle of take-off is having TWO screaming kids on your lap. My only consolation was that we were still in the middle of ascending so there was still hope something would go horribly wrong and we would go down in a gigantic fiery crash.

I finally caught My Mister's eye and growled, "I could REALLY use your help right now!" He pointed to the seat belt sign as if to say, "There's nothing I can do!" Which prompted me to nearly take his head off, which is what I would have done if I wasn't wrestling Damien and his sister on my lap. Instead, I hissed "I REALLY DON'T CARE!" at which time he hopped across the aisle and helped me muzzle our sweet, adorable little angels.

Thankfully, we were able to lay Little Mister down and get him to finally fall asleep but our SweetPea did not appreciate being jolted out of her slumber and proceeded to let everyone know just how displeased she was for the entire flight. I tried nursing her, singing to her, jiggling her and playing peek-a-boo, but nothing worked. This was highly unusual for her- she's usually a happy baby and a great flier. Her leg rash also seemed like it was getting worse, so when we finally landed in Bangkok, we decided to get her checked out at the airport clinic, just in case. We had a two hour layover so we figured they'd smile and nod and give us some dirt to rub on her while sniggering behind our backs about the inadequacies of American parenting skills.

But no. Instead, they took one look at her rash and at Little Mister's "mosquito bites" and told us we had to go directly to the hospital. Would we like them to order us a taxi or would we prefer an ambulance?

What we had thought was an allergic reaction of some sort, due to my recent milk consumption (we think that SweetPea is also allergic to dairy), the airport clinic thought could be either chicken pox or Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease.

They may have just said leprosy with a side order of bubonic plague- either way it meant that we were not able to make our connecting flight to Cambodia that day. Or possibly ever. Good thing we like Thai food- we may be eating it for the rest of our lives.

The only problem with this scenario, other than having 2 very sick kiddos while being stranded in a foreign country, was that we had already cleared customs in Chiang Mai; thus, we were technically not in Thailand anymore. But we were. And My Mister was the lucky guy who got to prove it to the Thai passport/customs in the very “bowels of the Bangkok airport.” (Those were My Mister’s words. I’m the one in the family who tends to use “flowery” language. He does not. So when he described it like that, I could only imagine what sights he saw down there. Since it took TWO FLIPPING HOURS for him to return to me, I’m pretty sure it was unpleasant enough to make up for the airplane fiasco.)

So. After we got cleared to stay a while longer in Thailand, we had to pick up our luggage (which thankfully was not on its way to Cambodia) and, four hours after we stopped for our 2-hour layover, finally got to add “ambulance” to the top of the list of Little Mister’s favorite vehicles ever. Seeing his unbridled excitement and joy when they turned on the siren was almost enough for me to forget the growling and gnashing of teeth he displayed just a few hours previously on the plane. Almost. 


Once we got to the ER, we were promptly ushered into a private room- some may say “quarantine,” but I prefer “VIP treatment.” And since we were such VIPs, we didn’t have to wait long for the doctor like those other peasants out in the waiting room. The doctor quickly came in and, after consulting with another doctor, proclaimed that SweetPea had a skin infection and we were to give her antibiotics and should be free to fly out 24 hours later.

What the crap, Bangkok. Stopping us from flying out of your country due to a little skin infection and/or disease? She’s a baby for goodness sake! We could have just rubbed some dirt in it and have been on our merry way! Instead we were now stranded, without a hotel or transportation lined up, in a city that had been in the news most recently for having “demonstrations” that had resulted in a couple of bombings, which had unfortunately even claimed the lives of a few, innocent children.

The hospital very kindly called a local hotel and gave them a heads up that we were on our way and wrote down the name of the hotel for us so we could tell the taxi driver. However, they wrote it down in English which, unfortunately the Thai taxi driver did not read. Nor speak. Great googly moogly! Even New York taxi drivers can usually speak English! Get with it, Bangkok! Although, they do have New York taxi drivers beat when it comes to packing a family of 4 with their 6 pieces of luggage into a sedan. They must be Jenga masters.

A little bungee cord, a little duct tape, badabing badaboom.

After nearly an hour of driving around the same 4 blocks near the hospital trying to find this seemingly non-existent hotel, My Mister decided to look up a local Holiday Inn on his phone and gave it to the taxi driver so he could follow the map there. HOWEVER. Unfortunately, this taxi driver also could not read a map. He had no idea what the heck he was looking at and no idea how to get us there. So, we told him to take us back to the airport- something he thankfully did understand.

Once we got back to the airport- a half hour drive from the hospital- we got in queue for the taxis and hoped and prayed we would get one who spoke English. Thankfully, we did. We told him we wanted to go to the Holiday Inn and, after getting directions from the other drivers in the queue, we were finally on our way to settle into a comfy bed and sleep away this crazy day.

It wasn’t until we were almost to the hotel (My Mister was following along on his phone) that the true gravity of our situation started to dawn on us. We chose the Holiday Inn because it was something we could pronounce and we knew it would give us a bit of comfort and familiarity while we figured out our Bangkok detour. We just happened to choose the Holiday Inn that was located in the center of one of the largest protest areas in Bangkok. Right next door to a government building and just down the street from the aforementioned bombing. I hugged the kids tight as the taxi driver slowed to a stop and rolled down our windows. I truly did not know what to do as armed men shone their flashlights in our faces, but they thankfully seemed content to let us pass. Perhaps it was the leprosy on SweetPea or the sweet sleepy, “Ima gonna kill you!” look on Little Mister’s face; either way, we finally FINALLY made it to our hotel room. Where we are safe…..for now. 

Directly in front of our hotel


It’s now 3 months later and, I’m happy to report that we not only made it out of Bangkok safe and sound, but we also got to continue our planned travels by going to Singapore after our Bangkok detour. I’m a little bummed we never got to see Cambodia, but am actually glad that we were stuck in Bangkok with the sick kiddos. After a couple days of forcing antibiotics down SweetPea’s throat and seeing her legs get worse instead of better, we took her to the pediatric unit at Bumrungrad International Hospital, which was hands down the best hospital I have ever been to, ever. And, unfortunately, I've been to many all over the world. We were seen by the (best looking, most efficient) pediatrics center, without an appointment or referral for a specialist (we could have chosen to be seen by a dermatologist, too) and were planning on spending a few hours waiting in an urgent care setting. Instead, we were in, out, and done in less time than it took to drive there and it was less than 2 miles away. 

Targeted ads on the Bangkok Ferry- they knew we'd hit them all eventually

Turns out they did have Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease after all. After rubbing some cream on her legs, they started clearing up and we were finally given the all clear to leave Thailand.

Even after all we went through, I’d have to say that I absolutely loved Thailand. I loved the beaches of Phuket. I loved the markets and temples of Chiang Mai. 


I even loved Bangkok. 

Words cannot even explain how amazing this was.

Even though we were staying right in the middle of one of the biggest protest areas, it was "peaceful" while we were there. We heard chanting, groups applauding at speakers, concerts of some sort, and sirens throughout the day and night. If it wasn't for the knowledge of what was going on, I would have thought we were in the middle of a music festival or something. 

She's ready to ROCK

I’d definitely go back there when there is a little less social unrest and we had an actual plan of some sorts, but I still enjoyed our time there. After the excitement that was Bangkok, the perfection that was Singapore was almost a let down. Almost.

Indoor mountain, including several waterfalls. Because they can.