Ni Hao Taipei

We’ve settled back into our daily life after a very exciting week in Taipei, Taiwan. We traveled to see Bailey & her school compete in FOBISEA Sports Competion (Federation of British Schools in Asia). That’s a mouthful don’t you think? They compete in Swimming, Athletics, Football (soccer for our American friends) and Basketball.

I’m not going to talk about it too much because I know that Bailey wants to give you all a recap of the experience.

So…that leaves me to tell you all about Taipei. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Will it be a big city like Bangkok or Hong Kong? Will it be completely un-navigatable because I can’t read or speak Mandarin? Will I be able to find anything to eat?

To answer those questions, it’s big but in a different way from other large citys. Not a lot of skyscrapers that I was expecting. We got around just fine because taxi’s are literally everywhere and will stop in the middle of the street for you plus they have a great subway system. Eating…never a problem for us.

Oh the food!

                      Oh the food!

Of course we had dumplings (several kinds) plus lots of local specialties like scallion pancakes, fried squid, taro bowls and these crazy sugar covered strawberries. Ask Tony about the sugar covered tomato!  You really couldn’t eat more than 2 at the most. Our first night, we hit up a night market where I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much in one sitting. Sausages, oyster omelette, a (huge) steamed spring roll, dumplings and the most amazing fried chicken. We ate everything so fast, we didn’t even get pictures! I’ve discovered that the American South has nothing on Asia when it comes to fried chicken! Still dreaming of the night market fried chicken.

Our first couple of days were cold and rainy. It was a shock to the system. It felt good to wear sweaters but I’ve forgotten how much I dislike being cold. Sitting out watching Bailey compete in the cold brought back many memories of previous track seasons.

We had lots of time to visit many of the major sites but weren’t able to hit them all. We missed the big Shilin Night Market because it was just too cold and rainy. We couldn’t fathom being outside in it without coats (which we didn’t bring-oops!).

Taiwan sightseeing

We had a chance to see the Martyr’s Shrine and the changing of the guard, the President’s palace, the National Palace Museum and of course the 101 Building. Our lovely friend Caroline was in town visiting her family so she graciously showed us around. It was really fun having the insider’s view and helped with that whole no speaking Mandarin problem. We even had a chance to visit outside of the city, places we wouldn’t have gotten to without someone in the know. We went to Grass Mountain to have tea at the president’s summer house and see the hot springs. The next day we had a chance to visit Jiufeng and Pinghsi, where we got to write wishes on and release a sky lantern.

jaifen

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Even without knowledge of the language, we know this says to watch for falling coconuts!

I’m glad that we had a chance to go and would put it on my list for future visits if the opportunity comes up.

Until next time…April, Tony & Bailey

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One Night In Bangkok…

I’ve got you singing the ’80’s song now, don’t I?

We thought that for our Tet break, we’d trade one city for an even larger one. Arriving early in the day ensured that we had plenty of time to sightsee. We arrived just before lunch and as soon as we settled in the hotel, we were off to find a lunch spot. As is often the case with us in Thailand, it took us a bit to find the restaurant. Once we started to figure out how the streets and alley’s worked (and a few stops to ask directions), we were happily enjoying some Thai coffee’s and the most amazing chicken wings. Bailey ate the first order pretty much by herself, so we of course had to order a second.

Oh the food in Thailand, we love it so…

Pink Guava-Bailey's favorite

Pink Guava-Bailey’s favorite

Eating at the weekend market.

Eating at the weekend market.

Coconut Ice Cream. We were all scraping the coconut shell!

Coconut Ice Cream. We were all scraping the coconut shell!

Can't pass up sticky rice & mango

Can’t pass up sticky rice & mango

We let our friend order lunch & it was  a great decision.

We let our friend order lunch & it was a great decision.

Green Curry Pizza? You wouldn't think it but it was delicious.

Green Curry Pizza? You wouldn’t think it but it was delicious.

Just in case you think all we did was eat, we also visited some amazing Wats and to see many interesting Buddha statues. The only one we were allowed to take pictures of is the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. Take our word for it, they were truly magnificent.

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Bangkok is a large city but for the most part we were able to get around by walking, taking the train or taxis (my least favorite way to travel). In the area we stayed in, we got around mostly by foot. This allows us to see the most and stop whenever we find something interesting. In Bailey’s case, it was stopping at many of the shops inside the numerous malls. It’s fantastic the way the malls are connected to one other. We were able to travel down a major chunk of Sukhumvit Road without being in the Bangkok heat. We all really appreciated that.

So Tony used to travel to Bangkok for work several years ago. He likes to tell us the story of the time he was sitting in a pub, looked up and saw an elephant walking down the street. While we didn’t see any just ambling down the Soi’s, we did see these…

The only wildlife we thought we'd see in the city.

And another one...

And another one…

Speaking of wildlife, many wouldn’t really expect to encounter much in a large city other than rats, etc.  But this being SE Asia, we saw a snake on the sidewalk (random, right?), a huge snake that a hawker was trying to get tourists to take pictures with (umm, no thanks), a million cats & a some rather intimidating Asia Water Monitors in the park. Seriously, these things were huge! We guessed about 5-6 feet long. The book did say that while they are capable of harming a small child, there’s been no recorded instance of them doing so. We really hope that’s the case.

The Baby...

                            The Baby…

...and the mama!

…and the mama!

We’re planning on heading back to Bangkok again sometime as it’s so close and has so many things that are unavailable here. I think I convinced Tony that a quick weekend trip around the end of the year for some Christmas shopping wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’ll leave you with this last silly pic of Bailey.

Goofing around in the mall while waiting for dinner.

Goofing around in the mall while waiting for dinner at Din Tai Fung!

Trips week 2015

Hey! Bailey here! A couple weeks ago I had trips week at my school. For those of you who don’t know, trips week is a week where different grades go to different places and have a week off of school. My grade spent a week in Dalat in central Vietnam. We did a lot of really fun things such as camping, zip lining, ropes course, repelling (down a cliff) or absailing as it is called in British terms, trekking, and raft building competitions. Repelling was incredibly scary (it was my first time) but super fun too. You are basically hooked up to a rope and harness and then you walk backwards down the cliff while holding on to the rope. Repelling was 25 meters off the ground. You can also jump a little if you are a daredevil.

I also really liked zip lining and the ropes course. We did the leap of faith which is where you climb up a ladder and climb onto a small metal square where you stand and jump to a metal bar, hold on, then drop down. It was really fun but really scary. Another thing we did at the ropes course was monkey bridge. Monkey bridge is where you climb up to a wobbly bridge, walk (or run) across and when you get to the end, jump off. That wasn’t nearly as scary as the leap of faith.

Another fun thing was camping. We had to trek 11 kilometers to the boat area where we took a boat over to the campsite. The campsite had animals such as wild boars, horses, roosters (which we heard at 5:00 am), dogs, and cats who were always begging for food and head butting our legs. The thing I didn’t like about the campsite was the bathroom because there was spiders EVERYWHERE. Other than that, it wasn’t so bad. The food was okay (although we pretty much had the same thing for breakfast and lunch and dinner), and the tents were alright. I slept terrible that night. I was in my sleeping bag upside down on accident so I couldn’t zip the bottom so my feet were super cold. I was basically lying in a blanket tube. The tent wasn’t very well insulated so I was really cold and it was really foggy outside so the tent got kind of soggy and wet. Also, the tent was on a slope and I was at the top of the slope so I rolled down to the edge of the tent into my other tent mates in the middle of the night. Then the roosters crowed at about 5:00 am so by the time I finally fell asleep I was awaken by my friend who thought it was 7:00 am and soon realized she read her watch wrong and it was only 6:20.

Other than sleeping in the tent, the trip was really really fun with all the activities and the cool weather we got. Look below for photos from the trip!

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Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Happy New Year!

Happy Year of the Goat

         2015 – Year of the Goat

Vietnam is gearing up to celebrate Tet and everything is awash in gold, red and sparkling lights. Every street is lit up with these wonderful flower and light banners. The shops have their kumquat trees with red envelopes out.

Just a few of the many street decorations

Just a few of the many street decorations

Soon the flower market will start & I’m really looking forward to seeing that. It’s a good thing we’re comfortable crossing the street in traffic because I’ve heard that it can be wall to wall people, on both the road & sidewalks.

The Tet parties are also in full swing. Last weekend, our compound hosted a party that was huge. There’s around 180 houses in our neighborhood but the party was much bigger than that. It was beautifully decorated with many things that are symbolic and/or bring good luck.

Dragon Dance

                      Dragon Dance

Lots of lights & flowers

             Lots of lights & flowers

Enough Twinkly lights to light up the neighborhood

Enough Twinkly lights to light up the          neighborhood

Next weekend is the Nike Tet parties. Since Nike is celebrating 20 years in Vietnam, the parties are bigger than ever. There’s  a day of the employees giving back to the community, an “Olympics”, a viewing of the AO Show (an acrobatic type show celebrating Vietnamese culture) and a Gala dinner.

Since this is our first Tet, I’m excited to see everything and celebrate Vietnam’s big holiday. Both school & work are closed for nine days and most of the city disappears to wherever they grew up, so Saigon should be very quiet. We’re taking the opportunity to visit Bangkok for a few days. Now, some of you are thinking “weren’t you just there?” Yes, we were. But since Tony never left the hospital room & I only ventured out close to the hospital, we thought a proper exploration of the city might be in order.

Wishing everyone a happy & prosperous New Year.

Early Morning 10k

Hey every one! I’ve officially gone back to school and while it’s great to see my friends again, I certainly miss spending the days around the house. About a week after vacation ended, I did a 10k run. It was the HCMC Run. The only problem was that it started at 5:45 which meant getting up at 3:50 am. Not pleasant. I had to run alone since my dad was not healed up enough from his surgery to do 10k. I felt pretty good regardless the fact that I’ve been having some foot issues and that I ran up a huge hill during the race. My hard work of training for Fobisia must have paid off for this race as well considering I was the 3rd amateur female and received Flyknit shoes and a trophy, and 50 dollars. Getting up early was totally worth it.

Scooting ’round Saigon

Hi Friends,

We’re starting 2015 on a high note. We thought we’d take advantage of the cool evening weather (hovering somewhere in the ’70’s) & take a motorbike tour around Saigon. Several friends had told us how much fun it was and the Foodie tour by XO Tours is right up our alley. Umm, hello, local food and beer…Sign me up!!!

So, on a Friday night, we met our guides, hopped on the back of their bikes and away we went. Now, I’m going to be honest. I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. I’ve never ridden on a motorbike and certainly not in the craziness that is this city! Sometimes, I get nervous just being in the car & I’m not even driving! The first time we did a left hand turn into oncoming traffic and survived, I said a little “hooray” in my head.  It took a few minutes to relax but then it was really fun. It’s such a unique way to see the city that we don’t normally get to. I might even admit that it was a little fun to sit knee to knee in traffic with the Saigonese. Bailey even rode like a local which means “look Ma, no hands!”.

 

Getting ready to ride!

Getting ready to ride!

They took on a “street” food tour to districts that I hadn’t had a chance to really explore yet. Places that you’d never think to go to without someone from the city.

We don't stand out, right?

We don’t stand out, right?

Enjoying some BBQ'd shrimp

Enjoying some BBQ’d shrimp

At the above restaurant, we had a  chance to try some things I’ve never had before. The “safe” options were the shrimp and grilled okra. You can’t tell from the picture, but the table had these little grills right on top where you grilled your own dinner. Really fun option for a night out. In addition to the shrimp, we also grilled goat & frog. Everyone always says that frog tastes like chicken and it really does. I was surprised at how much I liked it. Bailey liked it without the skin but not with it. I’m not 100% sure I’d order it as a complete meal but if it came as part of a dinner, I know that I like it.  We finished it up with a chaser of banana wine that they tried to convince Tony was Monkey wine. He was unsure for a few minutes but he’s game for anything.

In addition to trying some new foods, we got a chance to see the city from a different vantage point. It was really fun to ride around town on a motorbike through some areas that we’ve not really had a chance to explore. We went through about 5 different districts. While I had been to Chinatown, Bailey & Tony hadn’t.  We had a chance to ride through a local wet market. If I’d wanted to, I could have picked up some fresh veggies & seafood and never even gotten off the bike, we were that close to the stalls.

On our stop in District 7, we had a chance to really observe the differences between it and the rest of the city. As our leader said, “open roads & stop lights that work”. He went on to say that since the roads are not as crowded, we’d have a chance to drive the bikes. Tony & Bailey got extremely excited about that option. They should have know they were kidding (these guys are serious jokers & teased us all night about various things). The closest we got to driving was posing like we were driving.

Our meanest biker faces.

Our meanest biker faces.

We had a great time & I can’t recommend the tour enough. When you come visit, be prepared, because we’re taking you on this tour!

Christmas in Phuket!

Hey it’s Bailey! I know I haven’t written on the blog for a while but I’ll definitely be able to now because I’m still on winter holiday for another week and a half. We’ve recently returned from a week in Phuket, Thailand for Christmas. It was a ton of fun but it got off to a bit of a rocky start. It began with the Bangkok airport only having fast food options to eat. And of course, none of the restaurants except Burger King and Starbucks took card so we were forced to eat a disgusting burger. Then our gate changed as the flight to Phuket was about to leave so we had to make a mad dash to the gate that was farthest away. The flight ended up taking off late anyways so running was not necessary. When we arrived in Phuket, we couldn’t seem to find our luggage at the belt. We waited for about 20 stressful minutes for our luggage to arrive when we were finally informed that our luggage had gone to the international belt. We were upset because we wasted 20 minutes and we thought that they had lost our luggage. We walked outside to the pickup area where the hotel driver was supposed to be waiting to take us to the hotel. We couldn’t seem to find them so after about 3 calls and half an hour of pacing around the pick up area we finally realized that they were not going to come. Desperate, we decided to take a taxi but in the stress, we got into the wrong line and ended up taking a shuttle bus. We were told that the shuttle was going straight to our hotel (in Karon) but were told by a lady who was also on the bus (and also lived in Thailand) that we were taking the long way around. We ended up being dropped off last. A 45 minute car ride turned into a 2 hour ordeal. We finally arrived at the hotel, ate dinner at a Thai restaurant called Ying and went to rest for the next days adventure.

The next day, we booked a tour for 3 islands called Kai Nan, Kai Nai and Kai another island that I don’t remember the name of. We snorkeled, swam, and played at the beach. At one of the beaches, the fish were all over us and one even came up to my snorkel mask.

On Christmas Eve, we took a big boat out to Koh Phi Phi Island (pronounced: co-pee-pee). It stopped at Bamboo Island, Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, and Phi Phi Island. We were unable to stop at Bamboo island because the waves were too choppy and unsafe to swim in (as the guy on the loudspeaker made very clear) so we ended up stopping at Bamboo Island for only pictures and going to Monkey Beach. Monkey Beach had really clear water but snorkeling there wasn’t great because there weren’t many fish. At Maya Bay, we snorkeled off the boat instead of going to the beach. There was tons of awesome fish and they were all swarming around your feet as you swam. Finally we stopped at Phi Phi Island but we only had 40 minutes to do what ever we liked. I was tired from swimming so we got a snack and we had to head back to the boat.

On Christmas, we finally realized that boat tours aren’t really our thing so we went to Kata Noi beach for the day. But not before opening a couple presents! I got a book, and an Oregon duck shirt. The water at Kata Noi was awesome and we had a Christmas miracle and it was finally sunny! We spent about 4 hours swimming before lunch at a delicious restaurant called Mom Tri’s Kitchen. We headed back to the beach to swim some more. We had Christmas dinner at a place called Bella Vista. My parents shared a seafood platter that came with lobster, crab, fish, tiger prawns, and mussels. I stuck with green curry.

We spent Boxing day with my dad’s friend and his family. He had 2 kids, 5 and 8 years old. We swam at a beach near their hotel and then went over to another beach that had a restaurant attached to it. The beach had tiny pebbles instead of fine sand so I got rocks in my bathing suit (not fun!).

We spent the next day at the beach with them but this time, only in the afternoon. We had lunch at Mom Tri’s again. We swam for a long time and the waves were so strong, but finally they calmed down.

On the 28th, we went to the beach again but the waves were so big that you had to dive under them and that takes a lot of energy out of you. I went to lunch with my family feeling dizzy and exhausted. We decided to get a spa treatment at Mom Tri’s (Villa Royale). I got a facial and my parents got massages. That night, we had dinner at Mom Tri’s. We spent so much time there we should have just stayed there!

The next day, we spent the morning at the beach before we got rained out. Later, my mom was saying she had a stomach ache. I said she probably just swallowed some sea water or something. We never really thought anything of it until it got worse and worse so she could hardly stand without getting nauseous. Sometime around 5 or 6:00, she started throwing up. We figured out that she had food poisoning.

The airport was a bit miserable for her but she began to feel a bit better. She even ate a little bit of rice and held it down! We arrived back home around 10:00 P.M. and all fell asleep exhausted.

‘Tis the Season…

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays dear friends,

Even though it’s still in the 90’s around here, we’re in the Christmas spirit. We’ve had a bit of an unusual December for us but we’re embracing the differences. We’re still dreaming of a white (sands) Christmas as we head to Thailand for a little R& R. School ended today for 3 weeks and we fully intend to soak up every minute of relaxation that we can. There’s quite of bit of bling around here between the lights and tinsel and it’s fun to see how the different cultures in our area (mostly Vietnamese, North American & European) mash up for the Christmas holiday. The entrance to our neighborhood is seriously lit up for the holiday!

Happy Holidays to you!

Happy Holidays to you!

Candy Cane Lane?

Candy Cane Lane?

Both Bailey & I have had the opportunity to help out in our community. Bailey’s had the chance to work with her school with a local school for disabled children. She was excited to tell me about the little boy who wouldn’t leave her side and insisted that she play all of the games with him. Who says a language difference can’t be overcome?

For me, I’ve had a great chance to volunteer with some friends at the St. Joseph Charity School. It’s a wonderful school run by some tireless ladies to serve the neediest children. We’ve gone a few times to work in the classroom. Recently, we got to spend the morning at their Christmas party. It was so much fun to see them put on a show full of singing & dancing. The best part was passing out presents to them. They were so excited! To see the excitement of a child opening a gift will always makes my heart swell.

So excited to find out what's in the bag.

So excited to find out what’s in the bag.

These two boys were making me laugh. They couldn’t stop wrestling the entire program.

kids being kids

kids being kids

Look at that face!

Look at that face!

We are wishing you all the happiest of holidays and hope that you are surrounded by those who love you.

April, Tony & Bailey

In case of emergency

Head to Singapore…no, wait, Bangkok…no, wait…

If you’re on Facebook with us, you’ve likely been following the saga that was our emergency trip to Bangkok for Tony’s surgery. Now that we’re a week out, I thought I’d give a recap and a let you know how he’s doing.

As these things do, it all started with a run. Well, it’s likely that it had been forming for a while but the run that morning was what pushed him over the edge. We spent 5 days trying to avoid the inevitable and I finally convinced Tony to call the SOS clinic since it seemed the pain got worse as each day went on. They told us to pack a bag and bring a passport. After a mad dash to figure out care for Bailey and throw a few things in a bag, we were off. Here’s a travel tip for you in these situations. All you really need is a passport and money.

We were set to go to Singapore that night but there was an issue with getting us on the flight. As Tony was in so much pain, we opted to go to Bangkok that night rather than wait 24 hours for the next flight. As both choices are good for his situation, we felt there was nothing to gain by waiting.

Later that night, we were loaded into a Vietnamese ambulance (which is an adventure all by itself) and whisked through security at the airport. If I’m being honest, it was kind of nice to have an escort through the airport and skipping security lines, etc.

About midnight, we finally arrived at Bumrungrad International Hospital. Luckily, I was able to stay with him because I’m not sure I could have handled the extra nightmare of going to find a hotel that night.

The next day we met with the surgeon, took more MRI’s, decided on a course of action and were set to go. The surgery was a breeze and Tony was literally walking the next morning. Next came the hard part, the waiting to see how he healed and the boredom that just comes from being in the hospital. After the 2nd day, Tony was very used to the nurses coming in at all times and asking if he’d gone pee-pee or poo-poo. we got a kick out of that and laughed every time they said it. Never mind that he’s in his forty’s, not 5.

The staff was wonderful and they kept him well fed.  You have to love a hospital that brings flowers, cake and fresh fruit every afternoon. Even then, he got bored of the food pretty quickly. I went out each day for a couple of hours. Since I’m pretty directionally challenged and don’t usually travel without Tony, this was a big thing for me. I discovered that if I stayed on Suhkumvit Road and followed the sky train line, I wouldn’t get too lost. I found a few restaurants that we’ll most definitely go back to in February.

 

The wonderful nursing staff!

The wonderful nursing staff!

Now that we’ve been home for a week, Tony is walking each day but is still restricted from doing anything else. He was hoping that he could swim but that may have to wait for a bit longer. Hopefully by the time we go to the beach for Christmas, he’ll be ready to swim.

Thank you to everyone who was sending us good wishes and messages. It was so appreciated.