“He who does not jump into water will not learn to swim.” – Estonian Proverb
Our family stayed right in the middle of Tallinn’s Old Town. Needless to say, we were deeply fascinated. We can almost hear and feel the stories of Tallinn’s Old Town, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and, it seems like another super awesome tick in our UNESCO World Heritage Sites family bucketlist.
We would, however, highlight what makes our family travel memorable. After all, this blog, at the very least, is a testament that we can travel to places we’ve never imagined if we set our goals together as family.
When we travel, we are inclined to be biased to cities or countries who have the culture of reading. Reading is a symptom of desire to learn and innovate. That’s really important to develop anyone or any place.
So, guess what we think of Tallinn, Estonia. We stayed one full day at the Estonian Children Literature Centre, with lots of reading and creative activities for our kids, for free! Yes, not every kid can travel like our kids do (that’s why our kids are very grateful day in, day out… gratitude is our top family value, right next to faith.) But, every kid should have access to this kind of learning environment. How we wish every city, province, state or territory would provide this to every kid, free read, free to play, free to imagine! The world would be a way better place.
I guess, what we are saying, check out what this Literature Centre is about.
After having stimulating medieval lessons in Tallinn, we had quite an impression of Estonia. Much more when we visited Tartu, the second largest city of the country and known as the intellectual centre of the country!
We breezed through walking around Old Town, University of Tartu, Toomemagi Park among others. It’s not another town in Europe for us. We enjoyed staring at famous people’s statues and reading the history behind them.
Again for us, our family travel adventure highlight is the modern Science Centre AHHAA, full hands-on exhibits and the 4D cinema.
Epic Estonia has been viewed by the some travel blogs to be the worst tourism slogan because of how the small the country is. But hey, we’ve been to Estonia and it’s not the country’s size which decides how epic the country could be. He possibilities, the intellectual and creative opportunities, exactly epic!
Do not hesitate or you will be left in between doing something, having something and being nothing. – Ethiopian Proverb
Woohoo! Our 3rd continent and our first African country to explore with kids.
It maybe our love for discovering human history when our family travels that had drawn us in visiting Ethiopia. Our primary goal was to see Lucy, the 3.2 million years old fossil, probably the first evidence of humanity. The continent Africa is known as The Cradle of Humanity, then Ethiopia is its evidence repository.
As a worldschooling family who sets SMART goals to travel to 100 countries in all continents by 2022. This is our attempt to live life to the fullest with kids. Ethiopia is our first country in Africa (our third continent, 30th country visited, to date.When it comes to food and accommodation, we had the most unique experience in the country. Barely 4 hours away from Qatar, we were amazed with a totally different world. We definitely had a crash course in archeology and paleontology and how it works in the real world. Our three traveler kids had been to countless of Natural Museums in Europe and Asia yet we were impressed with somewhat “shabby” museum in Addis Ababa containing real human history treasures.
Lucy aside, here are 5 interesting facts about Ethiopia that everybody, yes, including kids, can appreciate:
1. Country History: Ethiopia is the only African country, which successfully fought against the scramble for Africa. It was never colonized, though Italians attempted to occupy it twice.
2. UNESCO Heritage Sites: There are nine, day trips from Addis Ababa possible! Most famous sites are Lalibela twelve-rock-hewn churches. We visited Christian Orthodox churches which gave an interesting perspective for a family with both Islam and Catholic members.
3. Religion: Ethiopia appears in the Bible 45 times both in Old and New Testament.
4. Origin of Coffee. Coffee is Ethiopian’s gift to the world. It was found in the Kaffa Region (South-Western Ethiopia.) Even before the visit, we are non-Starbucks coffee drinkers. Enjoying the real “coffee culture” experience in Addis Ababa with really strong and delicious coffee with local ceremonies
5. Abebe Bikila, a star Ethiopian marathon runner, won Africa’s first Olympic gold medal in 1960. Add in the country’s high elevation Addis Ababa is athletes’ heart’s working out paradise. Made us want to become runners and marathoners.
And oh, more pluses — the Ethiopian women are really gorgeous and almost everybody is kind to tourists. Ethiopia is one of the safest country in Africa to visit. With low costs airlines flying to Addis Ababa almost every day from Doha, Qatar where our family’s currently based, for sure, we would be back for some backpacking with kids.
“A frog living at the bottom of the well thinks that the sky is as small as a cooking pot lid.” – Vietnamese Proverb
Ho Chi Min City
After exploring The Kingdom of Cambodia, off our family rode a bus crossing border to the Vietnam’s capital Ho Chi Min City, popularly known as Saigon.
The gazillion motorcycle aside, there’s something about Vietnam that we can’t quite pinpoint. It’s in the air, the food and the accommodating smiles and nods of the locals. Our travellers’ hearts and feet felt at home in a strange yet very familiar land.
As part of our worldschooling and our love for city tours, we happily stayed in the crowded city for few days exploring the country’s war museum. Most of the tourists are Americans. We maybe politically wrong here, but we felt that they are not so proud of what happened during the Vietnam War. In the eyes of our traveling kids, war will always be wrong and exerting violence on anyone or any country is an unfair, if not futile, use of resources.
We have lots of thoughts on our museum visits, some of them include words like “barbaric,” “horrid,” “bullies,” and we’d rather not articulate our sentiments in this Vietnam blog. (We will, of course… in a separate blog.)
After we had enough of wars and museums, of course, Vietnam culinary journey galore. Oh we did eat a lot of Pho! Yuummm! Street food, restaurant, hotel, airport… burp!
Ha Long Bay
UNESCO World Heritage Natural Wonder, Ha Long Bay is a spectacular, almost surreal experience for our family. We stayed in a cruise for two days and one night in Ha Long Bay surrounded by natural wonder of almost 1,600 limestone islands and islets covering an area of over 1,500 square kilometers. Extraordinary experience waking up to beauty, watching both sunrise and sunset. Majestic scenery we only used to see in movies (Bond… James Bond! among others, of course.)
With heavy heart and heavy feet, we left Ha Long Bay to Hanoi, The Paris of SouthEast. It’s true! The city is very posh, classy, cosmopolitan like Paris. Yeah, yeah, we feel that we know Paris… We are not dreaming of Paris anymore. Only the places we’ve never been to, and the places we’ve been to. Basically, dreaming of the world, exploring in our dreams.
Now, back to Hanoi. We experienced living like local. Waking up 5AM, we felt we were really early but we were so wrong. Seemed that everybody was already up and exercising, mostly tai chi and ballroom dancing in the park! What an experience! Imagine, if this is the lifestyle that everybody gets embedded in the deepest of mind’s molds. Happy, healthy and disciplined people and an awesome world to thrive in.
Vietnam is in our hearts! Definitely a precious pearl of the orient with its unique charm and glory. We’ll be back, we know, we barely explored this country and we are craving for more!
“Don’t take the straight path or the winding path. Take the path your ancestors have taken.” – Khmer Proverb
The proverb made us think and ponder about the ambiance all throughout the country when we visited. What we felt as family is that the country has been living out the glory of their ancestors, mainly from Angkor Wat legacy. From flag symbol to beer labels, Angkor Wat is very prominent in all the places we’ve visited in the country.
Is that a good or bad thing? Well, we think it depends. Do they improve of what was and capitalize on growing at the rate what it was like during “ancestors” period, then yes. However, if there’s no significant growth and milestones since the past, and the present got stuck with the thinking of the ‘great old days” then, it’s definitely a NO for us. This is coming from our family, who are strong advocates of goal setting based on own family ideals – it takes courage.
Exploring this vibrant city Siem Reap means visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat and discussing at length the wonders of one of the largest temple of the world.
Our October visit to Angkor Wat may be the best weather to go. It was hot and definitely humid. With kids, hyper and cranky at the same time, serious discussion about different belief system in ancient culture mixed with the region’s histories of empire was very challenging! There were a lot of whining and a lot of playing,too! Add in a lot of tourists.
The mere wide area of the temple already fascinated us and our youngest reactions to temple, terrorised us. Her view of temple at five years old is not favorable, although quite amusing for the rest of the family members.
OVERNIGHT BUS WITH KIDS FROM SIEM REAP TO SIHANOUKVILLE
Although, we love tropical weather over desert weather, we really rather be at the beach or any body of water when in a tropical country like our dear country home.
From Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, we took an overnight bus thinking we’ll save a night in a hotel plus save time to be able to explore more of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Did we? Oh yes, we did! We do NOT recommend it to family with kids, though. It’s not safe,not to mention, not convenient nor hygienic. The bus has not toilet. There are pit stops every few hours of bus speeding recklessly in the night, passengers coming and going at every busy stop. It was pretty stressful for us parents, while the kids sleep beside each other with dirty blankets. We needed to use the blankets as the bus air conditioning was on full blast.
Yeah, the things we subject ourselves into when we travel with kids. This is definitely under the list of “why did we do that?” category of our travel “Remember when?!” conversations.
Cambodia Backpacker Style – Waiting for the Overnight Bus
The beach stay in Sihanoukville is almost worth the bus ride. The beach is fantastic, although the water is more on the lukewarm side than refreshing.
KOH RUNG ISLAND
Somehow, we don’t often hear Cambodia and beach in the same sentence together. Yet Koh Rung Island, the second biggest island in Cambodia is said to be one of the best in SouthEast Asia. So, off we went.
What do we think of the Koh Rung? It’s a good beach island, yes. The best? We’ve seen better in Philippines, of course. We were also expecting the same convenience we had during our Maldives trip so a little bit disappointed when we learned that there’s no electricity in the island during certain period of the day. We also got a tree house with no air conditioning with little to non facilities. Koh Rung is a little still developing island, based on our opinion.
Overall, the beach is fantastic and one of a kind. Beachlovers would definitely be awed if they do visit.
We explored this quite crowded city in two days. As a worldschooling family, we spent a great deal in the Angkor Wat museum and Royal Palace. As usual, the kids enjoyed running around and parents wishing that they are learning something.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is a fascinating country with resources that are diverse, culture that is rich in history and legacy. The people definitely are one of the nicest in the world. We wouldn’t mind going back to Cambodia with kids if they do request!
Have your family been to Cambodia? Explored temples or beaches? Do tell.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!