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

 

Qatar 2: Sculpture in the Desert Nature Reserve


“I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct.” – Richard Serra
 

One hot sunny afternoon . We were the very first to see the art installion!
Three years on, another hot, sunny, beautiful summer day in Broque Nature Reserve enjoying Richard Serra’s Art Installations

Another favorite weekend place for our family is the Brouq Nature Reserve especially when the the Richard Serra art installations of four steel plates, over fourteen metres in height each with their perfect alignments has been completed in the reserve. Modern steel art in our favorite country by a well-respected artist in his field. That sounds spectacular to call Qatar home for us.

The art by Richard Serra is titled East-West/ West- East. We love the desert nature reserve and wide desert space with its unique limestone formation all over the art installations. The landscape is simply breathtaking. Especially we look far out and see the span of Persian Gulf and walk along its beach line.

Borooq Nature Reserve is really a unique destination in Qatar!

Add in a good desert weather, amidst the season, hot and humid or cold and windy, it’s a full day out for the family. There’s no wrong weather, only wrong clothes, as we always say, so we always come prepared whenever we come to Brouq Nature Reserve.

Limestone formations are such a joy to climb, different textures than sand , soil or dunes!

limestones formation, always a joy to conquer!
top of the world of limestones formation

This place never fails to make us appreciate the beauty of desert landscape and its wonder. There is always beauty in our surrounding, even without the green! The grass is always not better when it’s greener. At some awesome times, the grass is better when it’s wild, free and growing in the desert.

Isn’t it a wonder how some living things thrive in the barren desert? Awesome wonder of nature! And wonder of life.. 🙂

 

This husband/ wife photo is taken by our eldest Turknoy inspired an ode to a 10-year-old -desert-love

 Ten years together. 
 East West/ West East 

North South/ South North.. 

 Together yet not interdependent. 

 You are you. I am I. You I/ I You. 

 Because being together is a choice. 

Not dependency. ❤️❤️❤️ 

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 6: Austria’s Perfect Landscape Country With That 80-Year-Old Woman Biking Uphill Quite Passionately

“The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” – Alfred Adler, Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist
 

As a travelling family, we never NOT get lost. Getting lost is part of our traveling strategy that IF, in rare circumstance, we didn’t get lost, there will be a lot of Oohhhhss and Wooowwws. We even started to enjoy getting lost!

When we travel, there is no rule but “hold hands when we cross the street.” We basically wing it all from there. A little bit of caution and disclaimer though, our free-range kids and relaxed parenting method while traveling is not for everyone! We have bruises and cuts to prove minor dangers in family travel.

Our main focus when we travel is curiosity. We believe that when we are driven by our desire to learn and explore, the risks mitigate themselves allowing us to enjoy the benefits of travel to the fullest.

Austria is a country where we never really went to any actual tourists-to-see list by purpose! We followed a rough itinerary of what we should see in Vienna and Innsbruck but we ended up just roaming around, observing people, eating, observing people and actually talking to them.

The beauty of Vienna is imbued with a perfect mixture of intellectual and emotional spirit. The architecture, the art, the people, it’s artistic, puzzling and electrifying all at the same time.

The Oldest Working Ferris Wheel in the World
Our family photos in Vienna -lost, wet, under construction!

While Innsbruck! It’s true love between Innsbruck and the Turknoys really! Oh my, how our hearts crave to go back to Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen , the panorama and the funicular ride! As much as those things are memorable, we will always equate Innsbruck (and the country Austria in general) with that very agile and healthy grandmother who was biking uphill and passed us by in a flash (no exaggeration!) while we were panting, sweating and almost climbing the hill with our very healthy kids!

#turknoys #turknoytravels100 #country6 Innsbruck, Austria enjoying 2012 meter height spring weather! “Traveling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller… “

Our love for healthy lifestyle was sparked right there and then. We wanted to become that woman, when we are that old. We equated it to the activities and habits of the people in the country. Who wouldn’t be inspired to walk, bike, be active in such as a beautiful scenery, we wonder.

This we lesson is instilled in all of us – from Innsbruck, Austria:

Life is short indeed. However, we don’t have to make it shorter. Live to the fullest for longer beautiful years by being healthy and happy.

If there is a country perfect for wandering and getting lost, it is definitely Austria! Throw your precautions away, pack the bags and learn life’s lessons in a beautiful landscape. Who knows, you’ll find an inspiration to the old lady (or old man) who had lived their life to the fullest and by the looks of how healthy they are, is barely done living!

 
What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning – and some of them many times over – what do you find? That you can swim? Well – life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live! – More from Alfred Adler
 

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
 

Cheap Family Globetrotting is Possible, If It’s A Priority

“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” – Paolo Coelho

Travel is cheap depends on the comfort you want! 😍
If you think travel is expensive, then most probably, you never really had an adventure just yet. Our family can say that with conviction because we have been there.

The family who follows routine and “saves for the kid’s future.” The family who doesn’t define what is important for the family members, but tries very hard to “fit in,” such as attending birthday parties and then throwing birthday parties or play groups with lots of freebies!

In no way, we are claiming that these parties are bad or waste of time. It’s just that, at birthday parties, you always see that one awkward group of people who look like they are trying to have fun, but can’t because it’s not in their DNA to be around people. When we attend parties, that’s how our introvert family looks like.

Parties make some extrovert people happy and contented. Throwing lots of parties is awesome if it is your priority in life and if that makes your family happy.

That’s our main point really. Do what makes you feel alive. Know your priorities. Make sure it’s what matters to you and your family. Not the routine priorities of our lives.

The moment our family said our priorities out loud (or through this blog!), we started to experience realization of our travel goals in no way we thought possible, most of them for free. It’s because our eyes are laser-focused on what’s out there to make our priorities our realities.

To name a few examples:

· Our Qatar Airways family ticket to Munich is free-of-charge using Qmiles.
· We got Qatar Airways return trip for free, again using Qmiles for our trip to The Netherlands.
· We got free upgrade from economy to business class from Istanbul to Doha.
· We always stay in the business lounge at any airport, even we always travel economy. For free.
· We always have room upgrade at any hotel/ hostel we stay in because we always book for two adults only (and yes, we are actually five!) Again, free of charge, because we have a “business class” status in the online travel booking community.

Yes, we do spend money for traveling. The value for the money we spent is sky-rocking-high and that’s what makes it cheap.

Way back 2009, we spent the same amount of money for our first daughter’s 4th birthday party at Chili’s and our second Europe trip. Add in the birthday gifts we gave to the birthday parties we attended for that same year and that would be the same as our trip to Nepal.

When we didn’t travel last year over Eid holidays, we ended up spending more than when we travelled to Denmark and Sweden for the second time over the 11-day holiday. Living costs is relative. We just need to decide which (and where) perspective to look at!

It takes courage to define our priorities in life. It also takes courage to say “No” to things that doesn’t make us as happy. It does cost us financially and before we knew it, it will give us lots of should-have beens.

Travel is not expensive. Not having goals is.

“We are all part of the free world! Free to dream, free to travel, free to live!” – Turknoys ‘ Mum

COUNTRY 4 – Vatican City State “The Holy See,” Papal Conclave  and way more!

“Dear Young People, Do not bury your talents, the gifts God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” – Pope Francis

The smallest state in the world both in area and population has lots of tourists visiting due to very diverse yet related purposes.

Christian pilgrimage.

Pope Francis. Papal Mass.

The history, beauty and art of its famous architecture – St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel. The art of Michelangelo.

The home to world’s only ATM that gives instruction in Latin.

Veni. Vidi. Amavi. 

We came. We saw. We loved.

on top of St. Peter’s Basilica, 350 steps up!
Our Turknoy family has been to Vatican City State. Twice.
We’ve seen all this and witnessed the Papal Conclave.

Turknoy Mum has been raised a Roman Catholic, by default, and going to the Vatican City is a pilgrimage for her. It was a holy and awakening experience yet there were more questions than answers. More unraveling than confirmation.

Our family, Catholic or not, are God-believers. Yet, we were awakened with the need for deeper understanding of God in its entire sense, outside the walled area of Vatican City. One does not need world class and elegant architecture, ancient or modern, to find a connection with God. It may be an unpopular view but that’s one strong opinion (note: opinion, subjective, based on our own personal perspective) our family really believes in.

That belief gave us wide open eyes to explore the Vatican City. In addition, we had an amazing instant 5-minute fame. Well, at least for Turknoy Mum. As for the kids, it was their chance to see how awesome their mum is! (Again, our family’s opinion.)

We were on our way to the Vatican City, add the rain for more melodramatic effect, when a journalist/ reporter/ TV personality from AL Jazeera Channel approached our family and was “hijacked” for interview. Turknoy Mum was fabulous in answering the questions live. Kids and Turknoy Dad were very impressed.

Hijacked Turknoy Mum Interview at the Vatican City!
Two main questions which she can recall:

Question: Who do you think will be the next Pope?

Her Answer: I have high confidence on Cardinal Tagle from the Philippines. It’s high time to have the Roman Catholic choose another Asian Pope, a minority race, to represent the real issues in that part of the world. Philippines is a Roman Catholic country….Insert more intelligent words why.. (can’t recall them now really, probably it was half-meant due to the pressure of TV camera rolling live…) until the reporter asked another question.

Question: That’s a fresh view on this papal conclave. What you think is the most challenging issue that the new pope will face?

Answer: Lack of faith.. Lack of faith in God. Faith in religion, not so much. It’s the diversity of the religions and practices that divides humanity. The new pope should focus on strengthening the faith in God.
 

Turknoy Mum blushed and blushed while the world waited for the election of the new pope. After several days and three thick black smoke , at exactly7:06pm ,13th March 2013, white smoke appeared and Pope Francis was elected.

Habemus Papam! We have a new Pope! 

Veni. Vidi. Amavi. 

That’s one of the greatest gift of traveling. We’ll never know what adventure is next, what we will be part of. This country adventure led us to something historical to a religion close to our hearts. Memory that will last for a long time in our hearts, mind and itchy feet! 

Pope Francis said it, do not be afraid to dream of great things and go for it. Opportunities happen when we attempt to use our given talents, even if we are unaware what talents we have. 

Yes, even as trivial yet historical as being part of the Papal conclave on international television. 

Veni. Vidi. Amavi. 

The after fame glow! Veni. Vidi. Amavi.