Abu Dhabi – Days 270-273

We were on our way to Jordan for the next leg of our trip. When booking our flight from Thailand, we realized we could add a stopover in Abu Dhabi for a pittance. This would be one of the best decisions of the trip as I loved our 3-night stopover. The city is clean, the waterfront is landscaped, and they have beautiful sidewalks and walking paths. With Ramadan commencing, the city had a different vibe and the children had plenty of questions about fasting. It provided quite the contrast to our last week in Bangkok.

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Khao Lak – Back to the beach – Days 256-260

Empty shoreline on khao lak beach with palm trees

  After the last couple weeks in the north of Thailand and Laos, we made one last-ditch attempt to experience beach life before our time in the Middle East.  We were thinking Phuket, but it was high season and accommodation was expensive.  Instead, we booked ourselves into a nice hotel on a strip of sand about an hour north of Phuket.  We hadn’t heard of Khao Lak but the hotel we looked at was attractively priced and had very positive reviews.  After booking, we researched the area and then realized that the area has a sad history.  It appeared to be the area in Thailand most severely affected by the tsunami. 

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Vientiane to Thailand – Days 252-256

Family peace sign on second class train

Should we have skipped Vientiane?  Probably.  Maybe I feel that way because we were sad to be leaving Laos and excited to return to Thailand.  Our time in the Laos capital was so unremarkable we’ll focus on our epic journey from Vientiane down to Khao Lak in Thailand.  I imagine there were things to do in Vientiane, but we just phoned it in.  We barely left the hotel, didn’t care about eating local and spent too much time playing Pokemon.  Looking back, we just weren’t in the right head space from the get-go as our train from Luang Prabang wasn’t enjoyable, and it set the tone.

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Mekong River – Thailand to Laos by Boat – Days 242 – 244

Girls boarding boat on mekong river

Up next was our scheme to take the slow boat from Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang. Floating down the Mekong on a boat turned out to be a blast. The children entertained the like-minded travellers, while it was a chance for the parents to be social with other adults again. Upon reflection, we spent two awesome days recapturing some of our old backpacking glory.

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Chiang Rai – Temples & Caves – Days 237-241

Smiling children in front of white temple

Having finalized our decision to take a “slow boat” to Laos, we made our way closer to the border in Northern Thailand. Chiang Rai would be our home for the next four days, and we kept things simple. Our only agenda item was to visit some famous temples. We stayed at a decent hotel with breakfast, a pool and a large lobby that we made our own. We passed the time playing board games, reading and catching up on school. Isabella was not pleased with the amount of schoolwork she had to get through! Julie was not impressed with the number of postcards we ended up writing!

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Langkawi – Ringing in the New Year a second time – Days 207-211

Secluded beachfront with loungers

Five nights at a resort in Langkawi, an island off the Malaysian mainland, was a new level of “slowing things down”. Most days involved 4 hours at the pool, 4 hours of television, 3 hours of eating and then an hour at the bar. In between, we would sprinkle in some homeschooling. It rained every day but fortunately, it was limited to 15-minute downpours in the late afternoon. By the end of our 5 days, the family was fit, tanned and in excellent spirits. Our mini-break exceeded all expectations.

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Georgetown – Just keep eating – Days 200-206

Family with children standing in front of historic hotel in Georgetown

Another week, another new place. This time it would be Penang for the 7 days preceding Chinese New Year. Paigey knocked it out of the park by finding a restored hotel smack dab in the historic centre. The kids enjoyed the full week in the comfortable surroundings, and the weather continued to be in our favour, with temperatures above 30 degrees and no rain. Laundry, school, history and food were all on the docket.

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Kuala Lumpur – Towers, Doctors and Badminton – Days 191-196

Family of three on skywalk Petronas Towers

I grew up believing the CN Tower was the be-all and end-all in Toronto. We had an entire unit dedicated to the tower in primary school, culminating in a field trip. We learned it was the tallest building, with a radio antenna and restaurant at the top. In my 20s, I was humbled when it took me 40+ minutes to climb the 1,776 steps during a charity event. After visiting Kuala Lumpur, I’m not sure my children will grow up with the same reverence for our Toronto-based tower. KL has towers aplenty, and they actually seem to do something (like function as malls or offices). Wherever we went, there would always be some tower lurking in the background, reminding us we were in KL and a long way from home.

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Johor – We really mean Legoland – Days 189-190

Each of us picked a destination that the family could not object to.  Isabella’s pick was Legoland.  When we looked at the map, we noticed there was one across the border from Singapore in Johor, Malaysia.  There was a hotel, theme park and water park all under the Lego brand.  What better way to start the New Year than two days hunkered down with all things Lego.  We also realized that going to Denmark (to the original Legoland) would blow our budget in a couple of days. So off to Johor we went!

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