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.) 

COUNTRY 18 – Malaysia: Truly Asia!

“Being Malaysian is about embracing cultural diversity and harmony between different people and religions. Malaysia will always be my home.” – Jimmy Choo, Shoe Designer

86 floors-high and we are on the tallest twin tower in the world! we spy solar panels down below…
 
Looks like Philippines, feels like Turkey, Malaysia feels like home to the Turknoys! 
 

oh the so many places to visit in a Truly Asia country. we ‘ll be back, God willing

Turknoy Dad has been to Malaysia more than 1o years ago and he fell in love with the country right there and then. The people, the beaches, the coconut trees, the localities, the green environment and yes, even the humidity! It was understandable that he was very excited to show us around the country for the first time.
 

During our travel to Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur, he was the happiest one! Our itinerary was very simple as our time was very limited much to the Dad’s disappointment yet we tried to have a taste of everything the two cities has to offer, but not the beach! The beaches of Malaysia for sure will require another adventure for the family.

Legoland Malaysia – first in Asia and first international park in Malaysia ; authentic Malaysian hospitality at its best!
 
We went to Legoland coming from Singapore which took less than an hour! That was a really pleasant surprise. The family stayed at Legoland Hotel for two nights as a treat to the kids and so the parents can rest! We ended up enjoying more than we expected. Legoland offers Malaysian hospitality at its finest!
 

Even the 5-hour-bus ride from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur is a delight! Seeing all the greens and the organized highways. Every now and then, we discuss how countries with similar resources be so different in economy and international passport recognition.
 

Our two night-stay in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur was spent exploring the Petronas Twin Tower, KLCC, observing people, walking around the city and eating Nasi Lemak! Oh yes, we just can’t get enough of Malaysian food! The coconut and pandan flavoured rice, the sambat (red chili paste) , fresh cooked chicken and fresh vegetables. We gained more than 10 kilos together as family after this trip!
 

Nasi Lemak is ❤️❤️❤️
Nasi Lemak is ❤️❤️❤️

Personally, we didn’t know this can be done, yet Malaysia made us see that this is possible – using the country’s resources, promoting the unique Malaysian culture to the world and becoming so successful at it and yet, encouraging diversity and at the same time harmony and respect among all people with different backgrounds, ethnicity and religions. We have been to some metropolitan cities, yet Malaysia gave us that authentic feeling of accepting diversity with respect to all people. You can’t get that genuine feeling with any effective tourism marketing. It is deeply embedded in the Malaysian culture!

China Town in Malaysia

To use own unique talents and traits, to accept one’s identity, to be accepted for one’s real identity while accepting other ideas of life, culture and religion and having no judgment at all, if we can all be this, maybe world peace is possible. 

Indeed, a country Truly Asia! We’ll be back for more of Malaysia!
 

Central Market

 

COUNTRY 17 – Singapore: The Lion City

I started off believing all men were equal. I now know that’s the most unlikely thing ever to have been, because millions of years have passed over evolution, people have scattered across the face of this earth, been isolated from each other, developed independently, had different intermixtures between races, peoples, climates, soils… I didn’t start off with that knowledge. But by observation, reading, watching, arguing, asking, that is the conclusion I’ve come to.


– Lee Kwan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997
 

There are lots of realization for the family during this particular family travel to our 17th country! We attribute this realizations as part of getting used to the routine of being together in a foreign land for the first time. After all, human nature tends to survive frequent changes and adapt to adapt well, if that makes sense to anyone at all. It sure makes sense to all of us, even the kids get used to seeing something new for the first time and not make such a big deal out it. Early in life, we believe, it is a real blessing to have these kids get accustomed to quick and frequent changes. Their tolerance to changes gets higher as we go visit one country at a time.

Indeed, life is all about changes and at the same, we also realized that we need to stay true to our personal brand values. Early on, we decided that our family will not patronize places where it violates animal rights like zoos. With this, the family decided not to visit the Animal Safari, day and night, in which most of the tourists who visited Singapore highly recommended to us. It is not right to treat animals without care for their freedom for touristic purposes. As our kids justified, there will be Africa and the Amazon to appreciate animal habitants in the future.

This awesome moment! Kids wanted to visit Singapore Botanical Garden over Universal Studios Singapore!

The kids also decided against visiting Universal Studios! The fun rides with the high humidity was not just worth it for the kids especially with varying heights for fun ride requirements for the three of them! Disneyland only reminds us of queuing for brief moment of rides and we didn’t want to waste any more time queuing in city new for us. Instead, we explored the awesome and huge Singapore Botanical Gardens, explored and met a longtime friend at the Gardens by the Bay and got lost way too many times at Singapore’s very impressive transportation system! 

The Metro, The Bus and All Around Singapura…with Umbrella!

 

Separately, Turknoy Mum and Turknoy Dad have been to Singapore during their single days as explorer-wannabe. Seeing the same country at different times of our lives does make a lot of difference. There were no night life for us, this time around, instead, we have great family moments which includes dragging the kids while they sleep in the MRT going from one line to the next line to reach our hotel.

We have booked our hotel at Sentosa Island which takes another mono trail or cable ride from the harbor. It was fun seeing the metropolis city from top with kids! We have weird family discussions only we could relate to and it is very previous! 

We had intimate moments with Merlion, both by the Marina and in Sentosa Island, where we talked about great leadership in Singapore and why discipline, not necessarily democratic, can work for a country. A country can have similar resources and geographical location on Earth, yet with different style of leaderships, every country can be very unique at its achievement in terms of infrastructure, economics, culture and diversity!

Being an Islamic country, the kids find it amusing that it tolerates all the other religion as manifested by its temples for Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and its churches as well. Yes, we are not created with the same belief. Isn’t that the essence of faith? To trust into something, to believe that it is real, despite being surrounded by other belief system. It is very similar with commitment in most aspects, to be surrounded by lots of choices, yet making the same choice over and over, to be with family, to be with the chosen partner, for better or for worse.

What we think faith is not is what others think faith is. Faith is not choosing a belief system just because we are recruited into it, for socialization, for acceptance.

All these discussions are witnessed by the Merlion. And we completely agree with the great Singapore leader, we are not created equal. We realize that every time we travel to new country, seeing unique facial features of the local, exploring different landscapes in the country. Yet, inequality makes life interesting and makes it perfect just the way it is, worth setting goals and objectives to live for, a quest worth our while. 

And we bet, the Merlion will agree with us! Maybe even Lee Kwan Yew. 

Qatar 3: Al Zubarah – Beach, Port and UNESCO Heritage!

 
All who are running on their father’s footsteps, are anyway running. – Qatari Proverb, which means the son will always do what the father does.
 

always fun at the beach early morning! the color of the sea is the color of the public transpo in Qatar!

Did you know that Al Zubarah is the remaining complete plan of an Arabian pearl-merchant town. Al Zubarah is a very unique archeological evidence to the human interaction with both sea and the harsh desert environment of the region.
 

Al Zubarah Fort

Kuwait traders founded the Al Zubarah village, imagine the geography now! When Al Zubarah was nominated to be a UNESCO heritage sites, our family was cynical about the entire UNESCO qualifications as we have been in the country for quite a few number of years. Yet, we started traveling, we have come to realize that Qatar is indeed a country full of treasures. It’s the harsh weather that is fascinating about the country and how the citizens and residents, then and now, respond to it. It’s a peninsula country surrounded by the Persian Gulf with mainly desert terrain and yet, there are lots of treasures in any form with a defined Islamic and Qatari culture embedded in daily lives.
 

old house in old desert village
somewhere in the middle of the desert – a carving yet to be interpreted by archeologists in Qatar.

We have been to other UNESCO heritage sites with less. We are proud Qatar residents that this site is included in the ever famous UNESCO Heritage list and we take every opportunity to visit the area whenever we could!

Discoveries in desert are always golden!
 
family discoveries in the desert are worth more than gold!

The pristine bluish-green beach is a site worth driving 2 hours already! Add in the architecture of the port and the history hidden it the archeological site and if we are lucky, there are camels and sunset!
 

It’s a guaranteed full, stimulating and fun day of exploring in Al Zubarah!

sunset and history in desert, we just love this kind of day

 

COUNTRY 12 – Sweden: From Freezing Snow Cold, Northern Lights to Almost Midnight Summer Sun!

The present moment is significant, not as the bridge between past and future, but by reason of its contents, which can fill our emptiness and become ours, if we are capable of receiving them. –Dag Hammarsköld

After three years, we came back to Europe to explore the beautiful countries and this year (2016), we went to explore and enjoy the Scandinavian Region.

Our first stop was Sweden, which easily became our favorite country… so far. We’ve seen the country in two seasons, February winter and July summer! Both seasons are spectacular, our family travel memories just piled up with awesome moments of awe, bliss and oh-my-goodness!

With our weirdo family members aged 39, 37, 9, 6, 3 it was a dream come true to witness the wonders of nature up north. Truth be told, it was a bit scary for us, desert dweller family, to bring the kids in a negative-degree-Celsius climate but we went ahead chasing dreams. We wanted to see the Northern Lights and the parents were determined to enjoy this spectacular nature show with kids. With our hot cocoas and while kids were snowboarding in the dark, there up the wonderful round sky (it’s that far north!) we first witness the twinkling green dancing lights, until it gets brighter and brighter, like it was dancing only for us, to welcome us in Sweden! We can only hear the steady beating of our hearts and the inhaling and exhaling of the kids full of wonderment and amazement for full five minutes. After that, they were too cold not to complain. It was magical yes, mixed with the human shortcomings of not being able to bear extreme cold weather even in the state of bliss!

It was truly a magical experience, watching the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky for three consecutive nights. We explored the town Abisko and Kiruna scared yet with wide eyes opened how the life happens in freezing temperature. Our family had read so much books about the winter in the North before embarking on the trip together yet nothing could every prepare us for the wonderful nature at work.

Dreams Do Come True, Northern Lights and Turknoys for Three Awesome Nights Up North
Dreams Do Come True, Northern Lights and Turknoys for Three Awesome Nights Up North

Maybe that’s life. We can prepare the best we can, but with grateful hearts and wide eyes open for all possibilities, nature and our destiny with God’s magical will, life is still full of magical surprises.

Yet sometimes, we get taken aback and get scared and prevent ourselves from experiencing the magical suprises. We are at peace with that experience still. We experienced the fear of walking in a frozen lake for fear of plunging to our death in the cold. Yet a lot of people were walking, skating even to their heart’s delight. We chickened out, yes, but we were able to stare at the wonderful frozen lake with family, while humming.. “Letting Go!’ Ha! We take what we can do.

Turknoys on Frozen Tornetrask Lake while walking and taking pictires on its surface! scary!

Turknoys on Frozen Tornetrask Lake while walking and taking pictires on its surface! scary!

 

Reindeers will always have Santa Claus and Santa Claus will always have his reindeers. We all know the story. Yet having our own family reindeer stories to cherish is just too precious, we have a field of reindeers in frozen lake and snow mountain view early in the morning in Abisko while the mother was shouting, reindeeers, until every breath of excitement ran outs. The kids will forever remember reindeers with their mom, full of life, chasing dreams and that is a more awesome reindeer story to remember. But maybe not as awesome as the reindeer pizza supreme we had for dinner while on the train heading out of the north of Sweden.

There’s also the moose, the snow wolves and snow mobiling under the Northern Lights while scaring the kids about trolls which lurk in the frozen lake and forest, all without photographs yet those memories always cross our minds every time we talk about Sweden.

This 3-year old can conquer below freezing point cold dark days, under the Northern Lights 😊

From Abisko, then Kiruna town proper, we went to the Ice Hotel. This hotel was another level of awesome, spectacular adventure with kids. It is quite humbling to be able to see manmade innovations with kids and note the hope and admiration in their eyes. God-willing, they will be able to innovate from the levels of greatness they have witnessed already in their lives. Education through travel is the best education there is.

Ice Hotel

Stockholm, the capital city, will always be very special to our hearts. We stayed in a boat hotel and was a truly great experience for the kids. Walking in the Old Town and enjoying family activities in Junibacken and getting to know Pippi Longstockings who we love dearly already. We have all the books Astrid Lindgren, our family’s favorite kids’ books author!

Turknoys and Pippi Longstocking’s Horse in Junibacken

We also enjoyed a lot of ABBA Music at ABBA Museum! Full day of fun and music! 

Every family travel has a favorite story and our favorite story in Stockholm is after our visit to The National Museum of Science and Technology. The kids had fabulous time enjoying the exhibits in the museum that we got lost track of time and stayed at the museum until we were advised that the museum was closed for the day. It was winter and days are short and it was already too dark for us to walk. We went to the bus stop and waited for the bus in below freezing temperature. In the dark. Cold. With three hungry kids. We didn’t purchased the day pass for transportation access in all Stockholm because we were really enjoy walking around.

The bus stopped and we asked if we can pay cash or through credit card. Bus driver simply said, No, sorry! And drove away. Ouch, we were stunned and silent for whole five minutes. We are stucked and stranded in the bus stop with no means to get home!

Another bus stopped. We begged the bus driver. Without breathing, waited for the driver to respond. This driver has a cheery attitude. He said, Hop in, Don’t worry about it! And just like that, we were saved from a night of frost bite and death! Yes, we do exaggerate about this story a bit.

Our real take away is that in every city, there will always be that guy who won’t care and that guy who would. In everywhere we go, we want to be that guy who cares as much as we want to meet those guys who would care.
 

We can’t get enough of Sweden that we had to book another trip to Gothenburg and Stockholm again. Stockholm is called Venice of the North but yes, not really fond of Venice so we will pick Stockholm over Venice anytime.

We have explored the Volvo Museum, Haga and Botanical Garden in Gothenburg and we can’t get enough of the beauty of the city.

Gotheburg and Stockholm in Summer where days are really looooonnngggg!

We were able to visit the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and we are impressed how a huge failure can be a big tourist attraction. We believe this reflect the peace-loving nature of the Swedes, they get over mistakes easily with no desires to blame or punish and just celebrate the lessons and the benefits of the mistakes. Because yes, we always get loads of benefits from the mistakes in our lives. In tourism, in education and in our everyday life.
 

We’ve experienced the Ice Hotel, stayed in the boat hotels, enjoyed cabin in winter and summer, got fluent with Sweden’s public transportation, train, metro, ferry rides, we can say proudly, that we really love Sweden! We really really do and we can’t wait to get back.

COUNTRY 10 – Sri Lanka, Our Perfect Cup of Tea

“Nobody goes undefeated. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.“– Kumar Sangakkara

Sri Lanka, “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” Our family hailing from another “pearl” country, The Pearl of the Orient – Philippines, concur with all our guts!

When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, we were immediately reminded of the Philippines weather, if not for the monkeys and the right-side driver seat! The tropical weather and the sea-breeze humidity reminded us of home. The plant species diversity is almost exactly the same. Maybe even for the animal species, except for the elephant and as we have mentioned, already, those cute, adorable, cheeky local monkeys!

Mommies and babies – cheeky monkeys

Elephants! Not our first elephant ride.. but our last – because we learned to treat animals with compassion – things we learn when we travel with our eyes wide open!

Pearls symbolize innocence, love, perfection and purity. And these two pearl countries are just that, both in a positive and not-so-positive way!

Innocence, love, perfection and purity which can be interpreted by kindness and sadly, naiveté. The sign of submission to conquerors by all locals are recognizable from a fellow “conquered” mentality. The Dutch/British influence is everywhere as much as the Spanish/American influence is everywhere in the Philippines. Yet, the cry for country’s own identity can be heard and seen in all aspects of their day-to-day life like the very obvious mode of transportation, Tuktuk and Jeepney.

Royalty Car during the colonial times!

Studying herbal medicine , which we are pretty sure also available in Philippines

It is very funny how two countries can be so different yet everything can remind us of home – Places of worships, infrastructure (or the lack of it), palaces, food, pure and pristine beach, hospitality and sports!

Old Palace by the Kandy Lake

Exploring and Loving Buddhist Temple

Sri Lanka is our Pearl in the Indian Ocean, the people with their perseverance for a better life as individuals and as a nation, will always be champion-in-the making for us! Slowly yet surely. Preferably, while enjoying their organic, pure tea straight from their best-class-in-the-world tea plantations!

To date, we have already visited four cities in Sri Lanka – Kagelle, Colombo, Kandy and Sigirya. The first three cities  with kids and we had a great time with the elephants, temples, beaches and food! We visited Sigiriya as a mum-dad quality time together and it was fabulous!

Sigiriya Rock or Lions Rock viewed from Pidurangala Rock

We intend to come back to Sri Lanka! There are just way too many things to explore which may lead us to better appreciate our home countries. It is very close to Middle East countries, and we now understand why this country is the favorite holiday destination of the local and expatriates residence of Qatar and even UAE.
Sri Lanka and perfect tea time, makes perfect sense to us! 

Brown, Powdery Beach and Indian Ocean, no less!

COUNTRY 8: Switzerland – All of It!

“It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland. “ – Michelle Bachman

Our same sentiments really.

Well, if you like Toblerone, you will really not find a Toblerone flavor that is not worth your while. It’s the same thing as Switzerland!

Turknoys love Toblerone

For our family, this is the most beautiful country, all the people included. When we first step at Zurich Central Station, we really looked for a film camera rolling. Everybody seemed to be so well dressed perfectly in their beautiful facial expressions. The women really looked like they just stepped out of Vogue and the men, GQ! Seriously.

Happiness !!!

And we voiced out loud our observation to each other and we came out of the conclusion that being ugly maybe illegal in Switzerland. That, or maybe when people are happy, everything looks perfect. And we were very blissful in Switzerland.

That Natural Bombastic Feeling, Yes!

We really didn’t get to see touristic sites or joined any activities for children. We mainly stroll in the neighborhood, ride the train back and forth, went to the supermarket and drooled over the expensive chocolates and goodies! And yes, looked at all the passing people…. looked at them hard.. stared at them. It was like we were treated to a red carpet fashion show. When the country’s culture look so beautiful, it is beautiful from the outside.

 
This country is a different level of posh, the highest level possible. No one ever shout, or frown.
 

The memory of our first time in Switzerland is like a memory of a perfect kiss. Blissful. Sweet. Peaceful.

At Zurich!

Need we say more?