COUNTRY 19 – Oh Thailand! You are Really Amazing! #AmazingThailand Indeed! 

We’ve been traveling for the past two months and it’s really very difficult to go back to our “normal” including blogging! But hey-o! It’s New Year and we intend to make 2017 way better than 2016, which is saying a lot because 2016’s filled with lots of travelling and great vibes! 2017 is still new, so here’s our family wishing you and the rest of the world health, prosperity, happy feet, mind, energy and soul for 2017!!

“Let’s be more amazing than last year!” – Turknoys
 

Here goes the blog about Thailand! 😘
“A good person can make another person good; it means that goodness will elicit goodness in society; other person is also be good.” -King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 1927-2016



When it comes to family travel, seeing a new country or a new place all at the same time, brings a lot of emotions! Yet we realized, when we traveled to Thailand, a land both of the Turknoy parents have visited, separately almost a decade ago, that it brings more emotions, add in the nostalgia and fascination how much the country have changed since we last visited. There’s a little bit of biased when traveling as we wanted desperately for kids to see Thailand as we saw the country when we were younger. That was interesting feeling!
 
We visited three cities in the country and we can’t get enough! We explored several temples in Bangkok, mesmerized by Chiang Mai festivals (which were in our bucket list for quite some time) and were fascinated by Chiang Rai!

For this adventure, the best travel moments are the cheapest ones! We took the sleeper’s train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, went family biking around in a very scenic rural park, and lots of street food market – really a lot! (This will be part 2 of the blog.😘) 

Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s capital city has the longest name of any city in the world (it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records – you can look it up – Kroong Tep or Bangkok!)

Our first stop – The Golden Buddha statue, Guinness World Record of the most expensive (or highest valued) sacred artifact!
Wat Traimit!
There’s also the Unicorn Café which we wanted to go because of our fascination with #UnicornVibes . Although a little bit underwhelmed by the café, we still managed to enjoy the uniqueness of the place in the city!

Unicorn Cafe food and drinks
Unicorn Crepe 😜
Playing Unicorns
Unicorn Burger

We also had a quick chat with a relative who has been working in the city for quite some time and loved it there! We loved it there and we only scratched the surface of an amazing country!

Asiatique Riverfront with Cousin, lovely beautiful Bangkok Night
And more favorite part of the city – their Science Museum! Very underrated, we’d say! We’ve been to a lot of Science Museum, including Scandinavian countries’ museum and the Bangkok Science Museum ranks high for us to top!
 

You just cant make this up! ❤️❤️

 


Chiang Mai, Thailand
 

Festival of Lights – We Love King

Loi Krathong could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. The festival takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai Lunar Calendar; hence, the exact date of the festival changes every year. The festival usually falls November. When we visited Chiang Mai, it was November 18-20 . It was a bit toned down because of the year of mourning of the King of Thailand but it was still very fascinating for all family members.

Loi Krathong
Lighting our family’s best intentions !

The festival may originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits. Each one of us made us wish as we send out a krathong to the Ping River. We also sent out all bad thoughts we have wishing for all the great things yet to come for the world.

 

Yi Peng or Floating Lanterns Festival coincides with Loi Krathong. Floating Lanterns are launched into the air where they gracefully float through the sky – oh such blissful sight! The festival is meant as a time to make merit. Our family sent out two lanterns to give thanks for all the blessings and to make a wish! We also watched the major parade, it was all meant to honor the greatness of the Thai King reign, solemn and beautiful parade.

  

Floating Lantern Festival
our second night during the Yi Peng Festival 2016
Parade Finale!

Three memorable nights , two festivals! Our hearts are overwhelming with happiness and optimism enough to last us for a long time! We believe we should celebrate life like this all the time. Less commercial, more looking forward and giving thanks to life’s energy!

During the days of the festival, we managed to squeeze in a day trip to the Long Neck Tribe where life is simple, faith in tribe is strong! When we see places and people like this, we are always reminded that life is always simpler than how we made them to be. 

Long Neck Tribe
Long Neck Tribe

 


Chiang Rai, Thailand
White Temple is a very contemporary designed temple! Not an ordinary temple and worth the visit, 3-5 hours ride from Chiang Mai. 

White Temple!

One of the most memorable activities we’ve done as family was our family biking  around Singha Park – beyond words! The majestic view, the stunning landscape, the kids laughters for two hours, the parents panting and struggling to bike up the slopes! Ohhh what memories!

Biking Around Singha Park Majestic Views @Chiang Rai

 

One very interesting and profound Thailand experience: 

All throughout the country, the Thai people are all in mourning, showing their grief and loss of the King of Thailand, the longest reigning monarch, by wearing black or non-bright colored outfits for a year. We also wore black or white when we can even when attending festivals. The loyalty towards a leader and a country is very evident among the Thai it’s humbling and overwhelming! This is when a lot of leaders are being scrutinized all over the world. Maybe we should obey more than we are complaining as a world’s citizen. Maybe we should act like Thais every now and then.. Maybe the world would be in a better, more unified state. Maybe that’ll work. 
 
The Land of Smiles, Amazing Thailand, we want more! (there’s Part 2 of our Thailand blog.) 

Qatar 1: Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar

“What makes the desert so beautiful,” said the Little Prince, “is that it hides a well.”
 

“They’re sleeping in there or else they are yawning. Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes.” “Only the children know what they are looking for.” “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” “What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” (Quotes from The Little Prince)

Our family didn’t love traveling instantly. It was a slow courting process for the parents and kids to love exploring. We used to be conformist to any society’s standards. Got married, checked! Got kids, checked! Put the kids in the best school we could possible afford, checked! Went to church and mosque religiously, checked!

Life became routine and predictable. We are very grateful. That is one value our family will always have – being grateful to whatever circumstances and predictability life hands to us. Yet, we can’t help but hear the silent questions of our hearts and minds.

“AND THEN WHAT?!”

 
What happens when a family wants something more? What happens when every family member questions all society’s standards? We are in our journey and we don’t have the answers just yet but this we are very sure of: When you start questioning the validity and existence of one norm, such as education and traditional family lifestyle, there is no turning back. We just had to question all norms and the “why” we do the things we do day in and day out, like robots, like zombies, like programmed applications in a matrix.
 
That is why we like hanging out in the desert. The Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar close to Al Kharara is our favorite place in Qatar, whatever the weather! Yes, even in the middle of summer when the temperature is scorching 55++ degree- Celsius!

Sand dunes in the winter

 
Sand dunes in the summer!

There is something about the beauty of the sand dunes, dependent to the blowing of the wind, yet standing firm and proud to its desert background while humming its sand dune songs!

We may be an ordinary expat family in Qatar, yet we have our ambitions and goals as family. We go where the wind blows, especially with the unpredictable world economy nowadays, yet to stand firm and proud to our family’s quests and questioning while we hum our family quests song unique from all the songs of other family!
 

Sand dunes are better explored bare foot!

The Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar is a must-see for all Qatar residents, visitors and tourists! During winter, this is the perfect place of hanging out with friends for a BBQ and bon fire, sand duning, sand tobogganing, climbing cardio exercises and a lot more activities! It’s a great hang out for kids.
no filter !
 
Great playground for kids with free play-all-you can sand dunes! Our family has seen the sunrise and sunset from the Singing Sand Dunes of Qatar, both spectacular nature wonder at work.
 
Most of the time, what we actually question in life has no right and wrong answers. Those who claim, they have it all figured out and they know the right answers are all wrong. And we are mostly sure, they didn’t watch the sun rises or setting from the sand dunes or desert!
 

Sunset, Sun Dunes, Desert and a lot of Life’s Questions

Maybe life should never have answers. Maybe deserts contain hidden wells, yet again maybe none.
 
Does it matter really? When we can survive life without water?

different lovely shades of brown
 
 

COUNTRY 15: BAHRAIN: Shortest Plane Ride, Middle East’s First Indoor Amusement Water Park and World’s First Sustainable Skyscraper with Wind Turbines

 


وش ليش بالبحر و اهواله او رزق الله على السيف


Translation: Why endure the sea and its dangers while God’s blessings are on the shore.


Bahraini Proverb
 

The design inspiration behind the twin towers of the Bahrain World Trade Center makes it the first building of its type in the world. A modern interpretation of traditional Arabian towers, where the shapenot the structure harnesses the onshore winds of the Arabian Gulf, the towers’ architecture provides a source of energy for the bundling, renewable and cost effective.

Bahrain World Trade Center’s unique architecture, wind energy powered- high rise building! Effective way to teach kids about alternative energy in an oil rich country
The visit to Bahrain is long overdue for our family. After spending ten years living in the Middle East, it is just appropriate to see and visit the neighbor country and city and see their environment and day-to-day lives amidst the “similarities.” 

It is our family’s strong belief that no two countries’ cultures are exactly the same and visiting countries, no matter, how close they are geographically proves to us then and again our belief about the every country’s uniqueness.

Our family appreciates Bahrain’s friendly and polite culture. Everyone seems to have high respect towards one another. The places we’ve visited in the country are well-established with high quality services like City Centre Manama, Bahrain World Trade Center and Manama Souq. All these places seemed to be the happy to-be places in the country. All, even our walk along the King Faisal Highway in the middle of the afternoon, something we rarely do on the streets of Doha.
 

Lots of water fun indoors at @ Wahoo!!! The Middle East’s first temperature-controlled, indoor-outdoor waterpark👍👍

Fancy Indoor Skydiving anyone? There at the building behind!
Bahrain is the first country in the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf to discover oil way back in 1932. It feels that the country has developed its culture fully with the equal laws for all residents in the country, the tax (yes, that coming from an almost tax-free country is a surprise for us!) and the room for state-of-the-art technology innovations like indoor water park inside the City Centre Mall and The Bahrain World Trade Centre, a skyscraper with wind turbines in which a percentage of energy of the structure is powered by wind energy harnessed by the turbines.
 

It is also a huge adjustment to use decimals in currency. 1 Bahraini Dinar is equivalent almost to 10.1 Qatari Riyal. The mind conditioning to spend less because it’s expensive is a little hard to get used to. Doing math later on, the prices are almost the same. The mind just played a trick on the currency conversions when multiplied by 10!
 

Life is all about innovation, which is why we endure the sea and its dangers (referring to that Bahraini proverb) yet we should never fail to enjoy God’s blessings on the shores! Enjoying Bahrain for almost two full days, we saw how the locals and residents have capitalized on the country’s gifts being a desert and an island. We have felt the country’s sense of pride from within.

 
Do we recommend a weekend in Bahrain? Yes, we do. Not only it’s a great family getaway from Doha (or any other country in the GCC) but also to appreciate that there is another world out there in a desert island like Bahrain!

And hey, if not for the country, it’s really way too cool experiencing the shortest plane ride ever. 15 minutes! Barely after the pilot has spoken to the passengers about taking off, he’s there at it again, briefing the passengers about the landing and the destination country conditions! The huge disadvantage though, we waited the same time at the airport as we would on any normal flight to another country.

But hey again, there is nothing we love more than kicking off the weekend, right after office hours staying at the airport lounge with the family members complete! Because our favorite thing to do is go together where we’ve never been before!

Manama Souq

COUNTRY 13 – NORWAY: 2,407-KM-Away from the North Pole!

 It’s our 13th Country to explore as family and we are so amazed with Norway. We haven’t done much in Norway but one full day of winter at Narvik, enjoying the closest point our family was the closest (so far) from the North Pole with lots of snow. It seems that not having a complete family photo is a great reason to go back. And we really intend to go back. We have our hearts set on this quest! 

a taste of Narvik keeps us wanting more of Norway

a taste of Narvik keeps us wanting more of Norway

The fun of exploring never ends. Once we step on new territory, there will always be some new feat to conquer, new bucketlist to tick off.

We intend to explore of Norway and now aim closer to North Pole! Oh my, let the dreaming continues! Dreaming knows no bounds, only the limits that we set for ourselves.
 

the closest we have for a family picture, our youngest is indoor enjoying the warmth and view
our youngest in Narvik enjoying indoor view of Narvik and below freezing temperature

“A tied dog does not jump farther than his cord. ” – Norwegeian Proverb

“Bunden hund bykser ikkje lenger enn bandet rekk”

COUNTRY 5 – Germany, Castles of the Fairy Tale King, UNESCO Churches, German Sausages and Solo Travel

“Rund is die Welt, drum Brüder laßt uns reisen.” (The world is round, so let’s travel, brothers!)

Germany will always be that another world to explore for our family which we will consider very special to our hearts. This country is our first travel for almost free, no plane tickets, no guides, a lots of German sausages with pretzels and cheese as a meal. 

That experience of waking up in a different country as a complete stranger is awesome! Well, not really a complete stranger, since we are family traveling. It’s even better. The kids looking up to us to see how we behave when everything else is new and strange, how we adapt to new challenges and environment spontaneously. The thought that those scenes will fill up their memory banks of us is scary, challenging and great fun.
 

Several months after our family adventure to the country, this country is also the first solo travel of our eldest kid explorer. She went to two cities of Germany with the Doha Youth Choir having their performance in Berlin and Hamburg. She had a great time exploring the cities despite being shy and awkward with the people with her. How different would she have reacted if she hasn’t been in the country before, we won’t really know. It wasn’t easier for the parents to be apart with her. We suppose, exploring together or not, it will always difficult for the mother hen to part with the chicks, so to speak. 

 
How our first Turknoy enjoyed her Germany travel is her story to tell, if or when she wants it to be told. We, as family, had a blast in the Bavaria region. Our visit to the country is definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision for all of us. Two months after our first Europe trip, we were first so hung up with the beauty of Europe. It’s really hard to get over Europe once you’ve been there. So, our family didn’t even attempt to let the memory of Europe fade before we get on the next plane.

We spent our miles getting tickets to Munich and our first goal is to explore Bavaria! Following our Disneyland Paris trip, we wanted to check out the inspiration of the castle, the Schloss Neuschwanstein. The real castle is way more fabulous, of course! The architecture, the landscape around it. Truly, a magnificent infrastructure from the 19th century!

This started our non-fascination towards Disneyland and other commercialized Disney adventures. We all realized as a family that the world is too beautiful and too diverse to focus our travel goals toward making the greatest businessman in the world, richer!

We visited the Fairy Tale Castle of Neuschwanstein and supposedly enjoyed the breathtaking view from the Marienbridge to the castle, but the foggy weather didn’t allow us to enjoy the view.

This is our reality of the view of Neuschwanstein Castle from the Marienbrücke Bridge, a family photo to treasure still

This is our expectation of the view of Neuschwanstein Castle from the Marienbrücke Bridge ❤️❤️

Here then we realized that being in an awesome and surreal place is always better than in pictures. I know it’s ironic but spending the day in and around the his castle in a foggy weather is indeed more amazing than in photos. Either than or we should bring a better camera than our smart phones. (We have yet to learn this bit of lesson as we still go explore countries armed only with our iPhones!)

One fun fact we learned during this trip is that King Ludwig II has the same birthday as our only Turknoy son. Known as the Real Fairy Tale King, we got interested in getting to know King Ludwig II as it may give us a glimpse of the future personality of our boy.

Not to be outdone, the Linderholf Castle is our favorite castle really. More so than the Neuschwanstein Castle. Here we really appreciated the weirdness and uniqueness of King Luwig II. It’s amazing how much we can tell about someone based on how he lived his last months or moments of his life. There’s that honesty and bluntlesss that they can’t really hide.

With our points of view about life and how to live about it, Kind Ludwig II will always have a place in our family discussions.

Our top favorite family photos in Germany @Linderholf Castle of King Ludwig Ii
And hoops, the Bavarian cheese farm with lots of sausage platters with fresh baked bread. Plus that 360-view of the mountain is one for our books as well. Yeah, lots of memories to cherish as family!

We explored the Church of Wieskirch built in the 17th century, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage and we enjoyed staring at the biggest and most beautiful bamboo organ inside the church. The same enjoyment we experienced when we went inside the St. Peter’s Church in Marienplatz and climb the gazillion steps (exaggeration, of course, but it was a long and challenging climb with three kids in tow!) to enjoy the view of Munich.
Last and definitely the least (in setting the good example for the kids), the beer! Oh my the beer! It was not Octoberfest but the overflowing fresh beer early morning is a memory the parents will cherish.
                                                               

Someday, we wish to go back to Germany. There are lots of reasons to go back. Months or years of exploring the country may not be enough. The art, the culture, the food, the history, the local’s friendly yet formal attitude, the future possibilities. Hopefully, one of the kids will consider this as a country to live in. For now, we move on exploring.

Marienplatz at München
 

Family Satisfaction

“Knowing your own family and having a purpose makes the unit live and love their lives on your own family’s terms. You know you have your own family lifestyle when the family members “need to do” is defined by its own members not by anyone else telling them. “ – Turknoys

In her previous life, Turknoy Mum was a quality assurance guru in her field (subtly emphasizing here that she knows the theories of sound management in business and in life!). She used to facilitate training about “Customer Satisfaction.” Her training purpose would be to define ways how to achieve customer satisfaction in business settings. For management to be able to do that, the organization needs to articulate what the customers really need. Satisfaction comes from having the customer requirements fulfilled. Hence, the obvious challenge lies on how to define what the customers really need, directly or indirectly, stated or implied.

However, the real challenge and less obvious to most organizations before achieving customer satisfaction, prior to being fluent with defining what the customers really need is identifying who their real customers are, their target niche, who they want to satisfy in the first place.

Well, it should be obvious. Organizations can’t please everybody and they don’t have do. Their purpose is really to make money, not customer satisfaction (newsflash!). Organizations are concerned about customer satisfaction because they want to have more profit. Satisfied customers tend to be repeat customers. Plain truth, commercial businesses are not focused about how customers are treated or served, they want customers to come again for more business or want their customers to tell good things about their business to attract more customers.

Organizations have mission, purpose-driven. It should be the same for individuals. It definitely should be the same for families.

Mission and purpose which drives a unique individual should be unique.

Mission and purpose which drives a unique family unit should be, duh, unique! Every family has different requirements for their satisfaction.

Yeah, let’s talk about Family Satisfaction, traditionally known as Happily Ever After. It’s so happily ever after, it’s considered an end-game for all single eligible, smart, independent people.

Our strong and high opinion about Family Satisfaction – It’s not an end-game. It’s that “Other Level – not mandatory next level, not higher level, a different level!

It’s a choice we have to make, if we want it. Everybody can be qualified to have a family but not everyone should build a family! Not everybody wants it, we need the world to acknowledge this! Sometimes a person is destined to not have family or kids, but a lot of times, a person may not want to have family or kids! 

How do we know who wants to have a family? There, there you go!! KNOW THYSELF! Like, deep-from-the-gut, straight-from-the-heart know yourself hard! If family life is not something for an individual, no amount of activities, goals or mission with the future family can satisfy or be enough to obtain happiness in life.

Finding yoursef is not similar to finding a lifetime partner!

And if we do want to have a family, how do we know how we can satisfy every member of family, how we do get family satisfaction? There, there you go!! KNOW THY FAMILY! Like, deep-from-the-gut, straight-from-the-heart know every member of the family hard! 

Knowing our own self, and our own family is not an easy task. It means acknowledging our deepest desires in life, we were often instructed by almost every “superior” human beings and ancient institutions to hide and contain.

Finding ourselves is not a one-off process. As our family home educate, unschool, explore with kids and live our lives without worrying about non conformities, every day is a learning opportunity to get to know our passion and desires.

We are allowing our curiosity guide our way to find ourselves. So far, it has taken us to places we only imagined before.

Maybe it involves continued traveling, or maybe it involves something else. 

Our family. Our terms. 

We CANNNNNN GET …. OUR satisfaction. Oh, oh oh!

A family that sets goals together, stays satisfied together!