May 17, 2018

Young Readers Book List

Using this space to keep track of our fave books at each age. The twins love to read and read a lot so I'm always looking for new books for them. Our library card gets a lot of use!

Kinder/1st Grade:
Magic Treehouse series
Magic Puppy/Kitty series
Ramona series
Amelia Bedelia series
Shel Silverstein poetry
American Girl
Charlotte's Web (read aloud)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
All Roald Dahl author
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (read aloud)

2nd Grade:
Warriors/Survivors/Bravelands series (Erin Hunter author)
Lemonade Wars series
Mrs. Pigglewiggle series
Little House on the Prairie series
Bridge to Terebithia
Mr. Lemoncello's Library series
Candymakers series
Wonder
Wings of Fire
Book Scavenger series
Malcom Under the Stars
The Guardian Herd series
Humphrey the Hamster series





January 13, 2018

Koh Yao Yai (Thailand Part 3)

After a few days in Chiang Mai, we hopped on another plane south to Phuket, the landing base for most of the smaller islands in the Andaman Sea. Our flight got in to Phuket a little later in the afternoon than scheduled and I knew we needed to catch the last boat of the day to the island of Koh Yao Yai on the other side of Phuket. This is where all of my planning went sideways. We hustled through the airport to the taxi stand outside and got a taxi to Bangrong Pier (for the boat to Koh Yao Yai.) Unfortunately, our taxi driver had other plans and with his very limited English, didn't understand we were in a hurry. First, he stopped for gas. Then it became apparent that he was clearly driving us the long way. With GPS on our phones we could tell we were not heading the right way.

When we finally got to the pier, of course, we had missed the boat. Our taxi driver acted like this was a surprise, but we knew it and were not happy. Since the sun was setting, the pier was pretty deserted for the evening except for one old fisherman. He offered to take us to Koh Yao Yai on his long tail boat for 4,000 baht (around $125). For reference, the boat we had just missed was 200 baht per person. We reluctantly decided it would not be a good idea to head out into the sea in the dark with this crazy old fisherman. So we hopped back into the cab and had the taxi driver take us to a nearby hotel. This is where things started turning up. We happened upon this sweet little hotel called Moonlight Cottage that had a vacant room and a owner that spoke great English and offered to take us back to the pier in the morning to get to the island. They had their own restaurant and grew all of their own produce. It ended up all working out, but it was a long, frustrating day.

The next morning we went back to the pier and finally got on the boat to Koh Yao Yai! Koh Yao Yai is often called "the last unspoiled island of Thailand" and that was very true. It was very remote feeling with just a couple of mini marts and restaurants on the whole island. We stayed in a cute beach cottage at Thiwson Resort and it was a great relaxing place to unwind at the end of our trip.

Bangrong Pier


 

After spending the first day relaxing by the pool and eating more yummy Thai food, we took an island tour on our second day. We ended up having our own long tail boat and 2 captains for the day that took us around to seven different snorkeling spots and beaches. It was such a fun experience and definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The Dutch friends we made from our hotel happened to also be doing the same thing so our boats stuck together. We were thankful because their captain spoke English and ours really didn't. 








The next day we rented a moped and explored the rest of Koh Yao Yai. We rode thru several tiny little villages and not much else. The island is mostly Muslim so there were many mosques and most people were dressed very modestly. All of Thailand, but especially this island, was very modest with all of the Thai people wearing long pants and covered legs. At one point the road had been flooded and covered in mud so M carefully drove across mud for a ways and hoped we didn't wipe out. We ended the day with another yummy dinner at our resort overlooking the sea. This was place was truly a quiet paradise.





Sadly, the next day we began our very LONG trek home (about 32 hours). We flew to Bangkok, then Taiwan again, then Seattle and then drove home to Yakima. Whew. We were so excited to see our kids! Overall, we had an amazing trip and would love to go back someday, but there are so many other places we have yet to see. If we did it again, we would probably make time to see another island as well and we would definitely get more massages!

January 9, 2018

Chiang Mai (Thailand Part 2)

After our time in Bangkok, we flew to Chiang Mai, a large town in northern Thailand. The culture here was our favorite part of Thailand. The food is amazing (and cheap) and the scenery and people were as well. 

We stayed three nights at the U Chiang Mai in The Old City. We really enjoyed their breakfast and location. We spent one day walking ALL over The Old City thanks to our Lonely Planet Guide Book's walking tour. There are too many temples in the Old City to count. We toured several of them and really enjoyed seeing all the young monks and learning more about their culture. Interesting fact: In Buddhism, you can become a monk for a month or a lifetime. Afterwards you can go back to your family and resume your life or you can continue as a monk. 

Our room at the U Chiang Mai

View from our balcony






Lunch for $1.50 USD
On our second day in Chiang Mai, we had signed up for a day at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We were picked up at our hotel and rode in the back of a truck for two hours up into the mountains. This was an unforgettable, amazing experience. Talking to the guides and learning about their life as a member of the Karen Tribe was also so interesting. During our time there, we fed the elephants bananas and bamboo, made them vitamin balls, gave them mud baths and cleaned them off in the river. 







On our last day in Chiang Mai, we pampered ourselves at a spa - I think we spent $40 USD for two hours of massages and body scrubs! Then we went to a really cool restaurant called The Service 1921. The whole place and staff were completely themed out like the 1920's secret service. So cool and great food! 

December 30, 2017

Bangkok (Thailand Part 1)

Flying to Bangkok from Seattle is a LONG haul. We drove from Yakima to Seattle Thursday evening, boarded our plane at Seatac around midnight and arrived in Taipea, Taiwan after a thirteen hour flight for a layover. We were excited to start eating real Asian food and check out the Hello Kitty themed airport. Then we flew another four hours and arrived in Bangkok on Saturday around lunch time. After we made it thru customs, we tackled Bangkok mass transit. It was surprisingly easy to navigate taking the airport rail into the city and then switching on to the sky train to our hotel neighborhood.

We stayed at the Adelphi Forty-Nine in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok. This area of Bangkok seems to cater to expats with some Western restaurants and international schools. It was great staying at a hotel so close to the sky train station. It was about a 5 minute walk so we used mass transit for all of our time in Bangkok and mostly got by without needing taxis or tuk tuks. The traffic always looked so horrible that it seemed much faster to take the sky train rather than sit at a standstill in traffic.

Day 1: After such a long couple days of travel, we unwisely had booked a night food tour of Bangkok for that first evening. We traveled with a group in tuk tuks to various food stops and temples around the city. Our tour guide from Expique was very friendly and full of interesting information. We highly recommend the tour, but we were actually falling asleep towards the end because we were so tired from traveling. At one point M was falling asleep while we standing outside a temple and another time falling asleep in a tuk tuk while we were zooming thru the busy city streets with me pulling him back so he didn't fall into the street! Our stops included a sausage stand at a night market, the best Pad Thai in the city (Thip Samai, where we got to skip the huge line), a flower market with mango sticky rice and several temples.



Thip Samai Pad Thai




Fresh squeezed OJ at Thip Samai (the best ever!)




The next day we checked out the famous Chatuchak Market which did not disappoint. Were were there for several hours and still did not even come close to seeing it all!





After the market we spent the evening in China Town doing our own little self-guided street food tour from our Lonely Planet book. This was a great guide because most of the food stands didn't have any signs and no one spoke English so the walking tour said things like, "Walk down the end of the alley until you see the old man and woman making buckwheat noodles..." This was one of our favorite nights in Thailand. 
Oysters fried with egg and sticky batter 


Curry stand where everyone just found a chair on the sidewalk and dove in

This one was too spicy for me - described as intensely peppery soup


December 28, 2017

Thailand


We took an adults-only trip to Thailand in November to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It was everything we hoped for and more. While its still fresh in my mind, I'm going to blog all the details of our itinerary and hits/misses in the next few weeks.

We had limited time without the kids so we had to plan our itinerary carefully. The weather also came into play as the islands on the Eastern side of Thailand were still in the rainy/monsoon season. We opted not to do a tour and planned our own trip instead, but it was a lot of work. If I planned a trip this involved again (with 3 different destinations and all the travel logistics) I might look into a travel agency to do some of the leg work. Once we debated and researched all the options, this is what we came up with:

Day 1:SEA > BKK
Day 2:Bangkok
Day 3:Bangkok
Day 4: BKK > CNX
Day 5: Chiang Mai
Day 6:Chiang Mai
Day 7:CNX > HKT
Day 8:Ko Yao Yai
Day 9: Ko Yao Yai
Day 10:Ko Yao Yai
Day 11: HKT>BKK>SEA

For the most part, everything worked out and we enjoyed all of the destinations on our trip. However, if we did it again we would probably spend one less night in  both Bangkok and Ko Yao Yai and add a second island for those two nights.