A temporary home!

I wasn’t going to blog about our temporary apartment but loads of people have been asking me about it!

Plus, we have found a place to live so are moving out this week.

We’ve been staying in a weekly rental apartment opposite Cory’s new school. It’s small, sweet & does the job….except for the fact it’s in the fourth floor with no lift…not enjoying that at all!

Apartment hunting hasn’t been that difficult! It’s very different to what we’re used to in Japan, we’ve literally been walking into apartment blocks we like & asking to see rooms. It worked a few times & we fell in love with the first apartment we saw but it was at the top end of our budget so reluctantly left.

Cory managed to see some apartments with some other new teachers after school without much joy & I met him once Buddy had woken up from his nap to see a final one…our new apartment!

I will save the details for a future post but we are very excited!

But, until Friday we are still in our little ‘studio apartment’ which I tidied especially for you guys 😬

The outside of our little apartment block

The birds in the aviary outside.

It is imperative that we say hello to them when we go out & goodbye when we come home…

Little living/dining/kitchen area.

Mini kitchen

Bedroom with HUGE bed, plenty big enough for the 3 of us.

‘Cupboard wall’ dividing the room. Plus toddler escaping onto the balcony….

Gorgeous view from the balcony

This little guy lives on our air con unit. I’m assuming to scare off rats, mice, lizards, other snakes?!

So that’s been our little home while we apartment searched & we really can’t complain!

Although I am looking forward to our new place complete with elevator and pool!!

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By the way, we live in Bangkok now…

I won’t go into details about how it all happened except it took a LOT of hard work on Cory’s part, but I’ll give you a brief overview of the last year..

Last August we left Japan 😢

August – January involved buying an old man car, driving it through 5 Canadian provinces, 8 American states (including driving through the middle of Manhattan & getting lost in the Bronx…).

We then left Canada for the UK and set up camp there for a while visiting London, Manchester, Devon, Bath & lots of other truest ‘British’ places.

We then decided we missed Asia too much so popped to China for a mini adventure.

Where we definitely fell in love with China. The food, the people, the lifestyle. China we miss you!

Then, back to the UK just in time for ice-cream season.

Then….cory was offered a job in Bangkok….

How could we say no?!

We’ve been here almost a week now & are loving it, mostly.

I’m definitely homesick for Japan, it feels very weird being in Asia but not being ‘home’.

The thing most people have been asking us is “is it hot?” And yes, it’s quite hot but not unbearable! We’re in rainy season right now so actually having epic thunderstorms most days to break the heat.

And the second questions we’ve been asked is “what’s your apartment like?”.

Well, we don’t have one yet. We’re apartment hunting at the moment so

currently staying in a weekly rental.

I’ll take some pictures later and pop that in another blog.

Blow Me Down

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Taking Canadian Grandad’s truck for a spin

Canadian Grandpa drove down to meet us in Corner Brook. Like a true Canadian he thought nothing of driving from Alberta to Newfoundland (NFLD) for this. This is a FOUR DAY drive (or a 5 day drive if you are not rushing to meet your Grandson for the first time).

Cory and I have had this conversation many times. For a Canadian like him a 8 hour drive to another city for a concert is normal. For a Brit like myself I can’t help but think that I could fly to Turkey from England for the same amount of time…

Corner Brook is just a short (even for me) drive from Gross Morne National Park. Truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I’ll throw some wikipedia links in here for anyone who wants the historical breakdown of the area but I can tell you it has some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. Driving through the area you flit between vast lakes, endless rolling hills of evergreen trees, tiny port villages with little more than a village store and a bar, landscape which would not look out of place on Mars and white sand beaches nestled in-between.
I could quite happily explore the area for the entire summer and not tire of it.

Our first dip into Gross Morne was just a drive through and our first proper adventure in NFLD was to a provincial park with an epic name ‘Blow Me Down’, yes, really.
We drove through ‘Blow Me Down’ and headed to Lark Harbor to skim some rocks and for Buddy to put his feet in some real Canadian salt water.

Once Buddy had finished playing on the beach and had succeeded in drenching Canadian Grandpa in seawater we began the hike up to the top of a cliff for the view. We were supposed to count the steps for blog purposes but Cory and I forgot and Buddy cannot count yet, plus he fell asleep half way up the cliff.

We were rewarded for our climb by some stunning panoramic views of the area and some tiny port towns in the distance. Buddy, slept through it all (I am starting to sense a theme already with Buddy sleeping through epic views).

We have recently been asked about Buddy’s traveling arrangements as many people have noticed that Buddy rarely travels via strollerベビーカー/pushchair/pram or whatever you want to call it. Cory & I are proud ‘baby wearers’ we have a selection of slings and carriers which I will (at your request) write about and review in the coming weeks.

TBT – That time we found out what pineapple means.

That time we found out what pineapple means

So, Buddy is only 11 months old which means we definitely cannot include him in every single Throw Back Thursday! So, this is a throwback to when Cory and I were dating and had only just started trying to get pregnant and flew south to Okinawa one Spring Break.

Okinawa is home to tropical beaches, delicious food, an aquarium with whale sharks and, most importantly, Pineapple Land.

Pineapple Land is indeed as amazing as it sounds.

Firstly, have you seen baby pineapples? They are just really super cute.

Secondly, you go around pineapple land in a tiny, pineapple shaped car.

I mean, what could be better.

Well, I will tell you what is better. The audio guide. I was forewarned about this amazing audio guide by a good friend of mine and was incredibly excited for Cory to learn the origin of the word pineapple from a robotic voice with a strange strained accent.

So, do you know where the name pineapple comes from? It comes from the words ‘pine’ and ‘apple’. Amazing, right?

Yes, Pineapple land felt that not everyone would make this connection so added this fact into their audio guide. Genius!

After alighting your pineapple car you are then treated to an epic gift shop with all you can eat (although Cory still insists it was not ‘eat as much as you can’ as I interpreted it), free tasters of delights such as pineapple wine (thank goodness I was not pregnant by then!), pineapple cake, pineapple chocolate, pineapple bread and many more pineapple delights.

In summary, pineapple place is possible the best place in Okinawa, if not Japan.

Unless you don’t like pineapple, then maybe visit Fruit Land which is just down the road (really).

A change of plan & How to Fly with a Baby

 

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Once we left Vancouver our plans had changed slightly (I am starting to think this might be a common theme of this trip) and we flew to Deer Lake, Newfoundland via Halifax, Nova Scotia. Yes, yet another flight with a baby.

Side note – Halifax Airport, sort your baby nursing room out. I do not want to feed my baby opposite a toilet and underneath a hazardous waste box.

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The ‘luxury’ feeding room in Halifax airport

Unfotuntaley Cory & I are pretty strict with car seats (yes, I know taxi’s are exempt from using them but babies are not exempt from dying should they crash…) and not a single taxi firm in Vancouver supplies infant car seats (PLEASE let me know if I am incorrect and you know of a taxi firm which does indeed have infant car seats available. Or, any aspiring entroupeners, this could be an idea for a nice little business). So, anyway, Buddy and I went to the airport via train and Cory and our luggage went via Taxi. The WestJet check in staff were brilliant and helped us shuffle our luggage/life about and waved us in even though we were a ‘little’ overweight.

The flight was uneventful and Buddy did his usual flight routine.

1. Wave to everyone as he boards the plane.

2.  Choose one person and wave to them constantly.

3. Announce to everyone on the plane that he is there. He will do this through more waving, shouting, screaming and singing.

– At this point the people around him will start sigh, hang their heads and ask the air stewards if they can sit somewhere else. But, fear not…

4. During take off Buddy breastfeeds.

5. Buddy sleeps for the ENTIRE FLIGHT, EVERY FLIGHT.

I kid you not, Buddy is 10 months and has been on 10 flights, the majority being long international flights and he has slept through them all. Sure, he wakes up and has a snack occasionally but then generally he falls straight back to sleep.

I am afraid we cannot advise on how to make this happen, but, he sleeps!

 

 

TBT – That time we saw a really big Buddha

Throw Back Thursday-

That time we saw a really big Buddha

This particular huge Buddha has a special place in our hearts as it is where we had our first (non alcohol fuelled, karaoke driven) date. So, we often visit the Ushiku Daibutsu, or Buddha, to reminisce about when we were young and care free. So, we decided to take Buddy to the place where his parents fell in love…

The best thing about this particular Buddha is it is fricking huge, like really really tall. In fact it is the tallest Buddha in the world at 120m tall.
It is so tall that you take an elevator ride up to Buddhas shoulders and from inside you get a view of the surrounding area. Apparently on a clear day you can see Tokyo Sky Tree and Mt. Fuji. I personally think this is not totally true.

After riding the elevator and admiring the view, you are faced with the smallest, busiest gift shop with Japan’s most aggressive sales women. They will try to convince you to buy your 6month old decorative chopsticks, magnets and incredibly fragile ornaments. They will not take no for an answer and you will have to run for the elevator when it arrives to escape them.

The gardens surrounding the Ushiku Daibutsu are also a treat filled with beautiful seasonal flowers and a pond teaming with koi carp who may or may not try to pull you into the murky depth of the pond if you do not feed them enough.

But, the best kept secret hidden behind the Buddha is the secret RABBIT and CHIPMUNK garden! Yes, you read that right CHIPMUNK GARDEN. In the Chipmunk garden you can wear an oven mitt and feed sunflower seeds to them. They climb your legs, rest of your shoulders and generally terrorise you. We highly recommend stopping here for as long as possible.

After finishing the chipmunk experience Ami outlet mall is just a 5 minute drive away for all your fashion needs. However this time we were surprised to meet up with a real life Newfoundland Dog. Cory, being from Newfoundland himself was extremely excited and on talking with the dogs owners they were even more excited. I was just please that Buddy didn’t get eaten…

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Buddy, at 2 weeks, slept through it….

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At 6months Buddy managed to stay awake and enjoy the sites! 

Our first airbnb adventure

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The view from our airbnb

Hotels and transportation, the bane of any travellers life.
They cost money and take a little too much organisation. When I backpacked around South East Asia and South America I was happy to rock up to a bus station, see where the next bus leaving went, haggle the bus driver for a discount if I sat on a plastic stall taped to the floor of the bus instead of a seat, and then sleep on the beach when I got there….However, as a responsible adult with a baby in tow it is imperative that we are organised. So, transportation and accommodation booked in advance it is!

However, you don’t have to stay at the hilton or a holiday inn all of the time, you can still have a bit of adventure and we found that adventure through airbnb.
Airbnb basically means paying to stay in someones spare room, or empty house. In expensive cities like Vancouver this is especially useful for both guest and hosts as other accommodation is not cheap.

We took our chances and booked an airbnb in New Westminster. Well it turns out we hit the jackpot! Linda, our host, was lovely, the bedroom was big and airy with a comfy bed and there was a cat, squeaky who Buddy attempted to befriend but, alas, Squeaky was not interested in him at all.

Now, I know there are horror stories about airbnb’s and perhaps we were just lucky, but, I would definitely book through them again and fingers crossed get another fantastic host.
Watch this space as I am sure, knowing us, that there will be some airbnb stories to tell in the future.

 

Tokyo – Vancouver flight

So, we chose the cheapest tickets which were obviously not the fastest or most direct.
We booked with Xiamen air and for the 3 of us to fly Tokyo – Vancouver it was $1300, you can’t really beat that price so we didn’t mind the transfer in Xiamen (just across the bay from Taiwan where we were the week before).

Xiamen air – 4/5 stars

Cost – 5 stars! It was a margin
Punctuality – 4 stars. Any delays were minor.
Check in – 2 stars. The line to check in at Narita airport were incredibly long.
Food – 4 stars. But then again we are not particularly fussy.
Comfort – 4 stars. Pretty comfortable seats and the staff worked hard to seat us so we had an extra seat for Buddy. Very useful for tired aching arms!
Friendliness – 5 stars! Although I think it was buddy’s smile that won them over.
Route – 2 stars. We flew Tokyo – Xiamen (4hours) then flew Xiamen – Vancouver (12 hours) which involves flying over Tokyo….

Special mentions

Xiamen airport is a nightmare. Firstly you need an arrivals card even if you are just transferring flights. Fine, except are only given out to people staying in China. Which meant lining up twice for immigration.
Next, you have to collect your own bags from baggage claim and take them to the international check in desk. Fine, except for them being located on totally different floors to each other and the maps having changing symbols and staircases that move and change Harry Potter style.
To leave the arrivals area you must scan your own bags. Which means taking bags off the trolly, putting them on the conveyer belt and running to the other side to collect them, repeat this for all bags including hand luggage.
Important – Do not forget the baby…

Next, take the meandering elevators to the international departures lounge. To enter the international departures lounge you need to scan you bags, by yourself. Which means, taking bags off the trolly, putting them on the convert belt and running….well, you get the gist. This is all made more fun by,
A. people queue jumping and adding their luggage to yours
B. suitcases getting jammed and piling up inside of the X-ray machine while the operator looks on in mild amusement….

Once checked in you need to go through security to get to the departures area. When entering security you must put all of your hand luggage on a conveyer belt to be X-rayed….insert eye roll here.

So, just a short walk through the airport to your gate before you can get on your plane, right? Yes, but with TWO MORE security check points!!! Twice more you have to remove shoes, take laptops out of bags and have your baby drink from their sippy cup to prove you are not smuggling poison. TWICE.
Xiamen…chill out.

 

 

 

Made in Taiwan

This was supposed to be an epic Taiwan post with an awesome vacation movie & edited photos & awesome links…however. We’ve just moved countries & it just ain’t happening right now. So, I figured I’d do a mini Taiwan blog instead.

Cory and I did what most sane, responsible people do. Less than a month before we were due to not only move house but leave the country, we decided to take a mini vacation to Taipei….

Taiwan was amazing, so amazing that we stayed 3 extra nights (ok, the typhoon might have had something to do with that…) & so amazing that we have already started researching international school jobs in Taipei City! (Watch this space…).

Quick Taipei review:

– People are super friendly & they love babies!

– Giving babies gifts in Taiwan is the thing to do. Buddy was gifted black tea, crisps, bananas, rice porridge, fried chicken in a cup and some weird baby candies which Cory & I enjoyed immensely.

– Typhoons hit Taiwan, including super Typhoons. We know this through experience.

– Everything closes during Typhoons. Including the museum you traveled 45 minutes by bus to get to.

– Websites will not inform you of aforementioned closures.

– Bus drivers can be grumpy & drive off as you climb on with a sleeping baby attached to your back (not cool Mr. Bus driver, not cool.)

– Night markets in Taipei are the place to be (do NOT miss out on the bubble tea!).

– Fooooooood eat all of the fooooood!

– Massages. Just yes to all of the massages.

Taipei highlights:

Jifuen

Some of you might know the movie ‘Spirited Away.’ The actual real life tea house is here & is beautiful!

– Food (We really liked the food >< )

– National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

We went here 3 times just because it was just so beautiful.

– Massages (I came away feeling very relaxed)

 Longshan Temple & night market

A beautiful temple in the heart of a night market with a fantastic atmosphereM.

– Maokong Gondola & mountain

A 4.3km series of Gondola’s with 4 stations taking you from the zoo to the Maokong Mountain Temple with stunning views. Be aware, if taking the Gondola in hot weather take lots of water or consider postponing until it cools down! There is little to no ventilation in the Gondola leading to a sweaty and uncomfortable ride!

Taipei with a baby TIPS

– Do it!

– You don’t need a stroller. We found everything within walking distance of metro stations & when we did have our (tiny) stroller, it just got in the way.

– Kids pay by height on the metro. Get taller kids to slouch.
– You can buy single tickets (or token’s) for the metro or an EASYCARD which you can top up and use much like an oyster card. But, if you are doing lots of travelling it it worth buying the 24h or 5day pass. These can be bought at most stations at the information desks by the ticket gates.

– Drug stores do NOT sell diapers! Supermarkets yes, drug stores no. Extra hint, do not discover this after the supermarkets have closed.

– Supermarkets also sell an abundance of formula. Buddy is a boob conisure so I don’t know much about them, but formula is easily available.
– Breastfeeding in Taipei is a pleasure! There are feeding rooms absolutely everywhere especially in train stations. They are clean and very comfortable to use. Be aware that they might be locked and you may have to locate a key. In Taipei main station you head to the information desk and will have to leave a deposit. As Cory had gone back to the hotel to collect the luggage when Buddy needed feeding and taken my wallet with him (oops) the staff allowed me to leave the stroller as a deposit!
Some feeding rooms do not have a key but instead have a buzzer system. I found that pressing the button and saying clearly ‘Baby, hungry, drink milk’ got through the language barrier and the door open for me!

 

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Taipei is a very breastfeeding friendly city.

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Travels & Babies

– Or, why do we need so many bags?

Buddy is 10 months old now and has been on many road trips, his first at 10 days old.
We are by no means experts, but we haven’t had any massive problems yet so feel fairly qualified to give a few hints and tips!

  1. Be organised!
    You need stuff when travelling with a baby, there is no way around that. The days of leaving the house with just your wallet and phone are over. But as long as you are organised you don’t need a 60l backpack for a trip to the local park!
    We use a backpack with 2 small bags inside, one with a full change of clothes in and one with diapers, changing mat and wipes. As long as we don’t forget that, we’re OK!
  2. Be spontaneous!
    But, be sensible!
    Having a small human with you  doesn’t mean you have to give up your spontaneity. Sure, my days of rocking up to a Thai Island without a hotel booked & sleeping on the beach for a week are over, but booking a last minute hotel & jumping on a boat somewhere. Totally doable.
  3. Go with the flow.
    OK, the hotel might have cockroaches. You might be stuck in traffic on the highway for hours & you arrive to find pineapple land closed. But don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Make a game out of counting aforementioned cockroaches, sing ‘Let it go’ at the top of your voices throughout the traffic jam or get off an exit early & find a random bee farm to visit. As for closed pineapple land. That sucks & you should try again the next day.
  4. Spend all the money…
    Or not! We really haven’t found that travelling with a baby is any more expensive than as a couple. BUT, traveling with older kids will get a little more expensive with entrance fees etc. However, we have a few more years before we need to worry about this!
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Relax. it’s only a baby!