Next Up…

Next Up…

Figuring out where we were going after Mussoorie was a bit of a surprise. As Adam applied for opportunities, we had very open minds: we wanted to explore the world. It came down to two places: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Zanzibar, Tanzania. Adam was initially going to be accepting a position at a school in Mongolia (which we were extremely excited about) before something personal came up, and we could no longer accept that position.
Luckily – something came next, and we were able to accept it. We are thrilled and excited that we will be going to Beijing, China with Harrow International School Beijing, this coming August. We have the Fidlers not far away, the Husthwaites also in the area, and are within an easy plane flight of friends in Japan and South Korea. Adam will be teaching English, and while we are a bit sad he will not be engaging with mathematics more, hopefully that can come in time. I, meanwhile, am excited about returning to Mandarin and studying – and speaking! – it for real this time, and not just in an academic setting.
We have already been in touch with a buddy in Beijing at Harrow, and Ashlea introduced me to a friend of hers who is a staff spouse there as well, so we are feeling a lot more prepared and with a better understanding of what to expect and what we will have, or need to bring with us. Harrow is able to provide us a lot of things, and there is an IKEA trip already in the works, planned by the school, and so we have already started peeking at IKEA hacks for making our apartment a bit more ‘our style’.

We are also already preparing for the poor air quality. I’ve been monitoring it and it’s not actually as horrible as the media makes it out to be – much better than Delhi, for certain, on average! –  but we are not often in Delhi. It will certainly necessitate buying air filters for the apartment, and we are okay with that (frankly, I miss having a nice HEPA filter anyway!). I am particularly excited that our little people will have friends nearby, and A will be eligible to enter school in August. Apparently, staff and staff families are also allowed to use school facilities (like the pool!) after school hours… And Beijing is an eminently cycle-able city. Friends are already looking out for bikes for us to buy as staff at various places depart.

Here’s a video from the run-up to the 2008 Olympics; it features a number of famous Chinese people, and was filmed at a number of landmarks.

 

 

Momos of Mussoorie: Part One

This series is dedicated to Meg and Matt Brodie, and Matt’s perpetual love of momos. 

On this trip, we stopped at Clocktower and Little Llama. We are hoping to visit a number of other places with momos – but decided, on a walk through the bazaar one day, that these two would be excellent starts.

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A little blurry, but clockwise: veg, chicken, szechuan tossed.

 

From Clocktower Cafe, we ordered three different types of momos, all steamed: vegetarian, chicken, and a new “Schezwan Tossed Chicken” momo. We weren’t entirely sure what this was, but decided to give it a try. There is a vegetarian version also on the menu.

 

The Szechuan tossed arrived first, with the other two following shortly after. The plating, as you can see, is fairly straightforward: the Szechuan have a sauce already poured on them, whereas the veg and chicken are plain and come with the usual dipping sauce (a chili-based concoction). Each plate has 6 momos.

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The Szechuan momos were tasty – the fact that they were coated in the sauce necessitated fork usage. The filling was ample, but not particularly juicy or flavourful – most of the flavour came from the sauce.

chicken-momo

Which is disappointing – since the Szechuan momos are, as you can see, the exact same as the regular chicken momos. They are not bad by any means – but comparing the Szechuan and the regular momos, there is a definite difference. The ‘plain’ momos allow for a better feel for the filling, and the chopped-up things within it (mostly chicken and onion).

veg-momo

The veg momos were a bit of a surprise. Texture-wise they were a bit rough, but that has to do with the contents: cilantro, carrot, cabbage, a bit of paneer, some onion. None of those blends to a particularly smooth texture, and none of them release a lot of liquid for a juicy momo. They were flavourful, but they were also somewhat dry.

All in all, we would give the Clocktower momos an average of 2.5/5 stars (or thumbs, or momos). Veg momos are  ₹110, chicken momos at  ₹130, and the ‘Schezwan tossed chicken momos’ are  ₹160, per plate. While the sauced ones were an interesting digression from the norm, the main filling is nothing to write home about in any case.

 

Next up was Little Llama, a fairly new restaurant in the Mussoorie scheme of things. We had gone there previously a number of times and had pizza and momos – but when we went this time, we saw – to our shock – most of their momos had migrated off the menu! There was only chicken to be had… so that is what we ordered.

 

 

We much prefer both the presentation of the Little Llama momos (served in the steamer, and if you order multiple sets, they are all nicely tucked in their tiers), the flavour of their chili sauce, and – in general – the flavour. It is a richer flavour, somewhat juicier, and with more flavour. They include not only minced chicken, onion and cilantro, but a few other things we could not quite put a finger on (veggies of some sort – we think carrot and cabbage, minced very finely), making for a substantially more flavourful momo.

Each plate of 6 costs  ₹120. When they were available (and perhaps they still are, by request?), vegetarian momos used to cost  ₹90. These we woud put at a 4 out of 5.

This topic came up frequently in January and February – what is it like traveling with kids? Why would you travel with them? You can’t travel AND have kids! What makes a good vacation with kids?

So… here’s a compilation of some thoughts from Adam and I on it.

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Asha at the Changi Airport.

1. Pick your routing intelligently. We’ve had good luck with direct flights or with long (6+ hour) layovers – enough to get out and see the city, have relaxed meals (in the airport or out), and to give Asha playtime. Direct flights offer the convenience of only going through security once – which could be make-or-break with some families and their children. We prefer either those long layovers, or direct flights. We’ve especially enjoyed our one in London – enough free things to do (though you definitely need at least 6 hours, preferably 8, to handle getting out through immigration and into London proper on the train, and going back to the airport and clearing security). The long-layover route also lets you get a sampling of another place to perhaps visit down the road.

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Historical site: that’s nice. But there’s DIRT here! I CAN DRAW IN IT!

2. Figure out what activities are in the destination location before you go. Whether it’s aquariums, parks, or making sure that your historical sites have child-friendly spaces (as above, the Angkor Wat complex – all this dirt, great for drawing in!), it’s not fair to the kids to plan a trip that isn’t suited to their ages/activity levels – or you need parents who are willing to not go see certain things in order to wrangle the offspring so the other parent can see the sites in question.

 

3. We have found budget things tend to be more child-friendly than high end things. This is in part due to the fact that budget things seem to be more “eh, whatever” than high-end, whether it’s restaurant or hotel or event. If you’re a self-conscious parent, the relaxed attitude of many budget establishments lends itself to a more relaxed experience for you and the kids as well.

4. Food can, surprisingly, be easiest. Unless your kid has an allergy, as long as the parent doesn’t express aversion – and/or lets the kid decide on their own! – most are remarkably gastronomically diverse. When it’s street food (what we prefer – because it’s tasty and cheap and child-friendly!), there’s usually enough noise and bustle and casual attitude about the entire affair that no one cares if you have a squalling infant or an enthusiastic toddler. There was one vendor in Penang who was thrilled when he heard that Asha polished off an entire fried oyster omelet on her own (the crafting of which is the middle picture, below).

Adam – and Asha, and Rohan, and I! – like getting to watch our food being made. You always should, when it’s street food, to make sure it’s fresh… but there’s the additional visual fascination of seeing how some of these intensely tasty and unusual dishes get made.

5. Give the kids some ownership. Even our toddler, at two, was surprisingly vehemently enthusiastic about her backpack and water bottle and rarely wanted to be parted from them. The backpack (MEC Fledgling) and water bottle (a Camelbak – good for toddlers who like to bite their straws!) were undeniably hers, and that made it easier for us to give her responsibility in carrying some of her own stuff – and to make sure she kept drinking water from her bottle. She was very enthusiastic 90% of the time about carrying her own bag with her own things in it, too.

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One more gratuitous shot of char kuey tiao in progress.

Review – the PACK

On the most recent trip around the world, we travelled with two new products. One is [The Pack], a product designed to carry clothing/some smaller items inside your luggage (particularly a 40L backpack) and to be able to easily be hung up on a rail in a cupboard or closet.

The PACK

We ordered one of these, and it never made it to India. When I contacted the company, they sent me a replacement – and to the USA, at my request, so I could be sure we safely received it! Adam and I are both extremely pleased with their customer service.

When we opened the PACK, we promptly filled it with the kids’ clothes – socks and underwear, one ‘shelf’ for the infant’s clothes, and the remainder (2 shelves – one whole and one of the divided ones) for the toddler. The clothes fit in fairly neatly, but definitely required folding/rolling. If you’re a “shove it in til it fits” type… you can still use it (there are flaps to close over the drawers/shelves) but take a read through some of the blog posts out there on more efficient packing styles. 🙂

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We ran into a few snags with it, however – and while we love the product, it’s not going to come on every trip with us. The picture here has it packed pretty copiously – 2 skirts, 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts (including a pullover sweater), 2 bathing suits, a pareo, a pair of pajamas, and undergarments. I probably could have pushed it and put some more in, but decided against it.

 

 

 

Questions to consider:

  • Who Is Using It? My husband is not tiny (and neither, frankly, am I) – but he wouldn’t be able to fit two pairs of pants on one ‘shelf’ of the unit. If you’re not traveling ultralight/minimalist, you may find that it can only handle some of your clothing, rather than all of it. If you’re also traveling with various ‘sets’ (e.g. beach, climbing, etc) the shelves offer a good way to organize – but definitely require rolling/folding. For sorting the kids’ clothes, or even if I were to use it, it would be great. Larger people (who have larger clothes) may not find it as useful.
  • Convenience: it’s absolutely convenient to have all your (or in our case, kid’s) clothes in an easy to pull out container. Not all places we stayed had convenient rails, though – and while staying with family, the Pack got hung on the back of doors. For short (5’4″) me, this made reaching into the top two pockets extremely awkward since the straps don’t adjust in length. I could still do it but it was blind hunting around – we ended up putting socks and underwear in them so I could just grab any pair for the kids.
  • Fasteners: My husband’s quibble is that the hooks don’t have a good way to be packed away within the PACK, and tended to get caught on things; as well, the adjustable clips to close the ‘drawers’/’shelves’ sometimes still gaped. He thinks zippers would be more suitable.
  • Packing the PACK: This is definitely a product to go in a backpack and be pulled right up by the hooks and hung up on a clothes rail or door. It was awkward within a suitcase – things tended to get caught in the hooks or to catch on/in the straps for the ‘shelf’ closures. There is a loop on the back to let you hang it off a hook on a door or wall, but we found those opportunities few and far between.

In sum: we’ll keep this for when we travel with a backpack and not “real” luggage, and it will either be used by myself or the kids; Adam’s stuff just won’t reasonably fit into it. If you’re a solo traveler who likes keeping things organized, and especially if you’re using a small bag, definitely consider the PACK.

I recently received an e-mail survey with what looks like a new iteration of the PACK for 2016 (the survey asked about colour preferences for new PACKs), so I’m hoping to see/hear about the changes.

 

Souvenirs

We had a good run on souvenirs this trip. A few cheap things (pareos, consumables) but three things we’re really happy and excited about!

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Bracelet: http://jivit-thmey.com/
The bracelet was purchased at the Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap. With a closed lotus flower on one end and a lotus seed pod on the other, it’s everything I love (lotuses!) and not just a single design. The bracelet was made by a young woman as part of the Jivit Thmey program, using recycled bombshells and bullets. I presume most of these are from the conflicts in Cambodia – or if not actually from, that’s the marketing scheme. It is an interesting craft idea. Adam picked up a pair of minimally-worked cufflinks from the airport from a similar company.

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Shawl: http://www.weaversproject.com/
Adam gave me the hairy eyeball when I picked out that shawl, also from the Angkor Night Market. “But… it’s so… monochromatic!” Yes – but pretty, and the varigation in the dye of the threads for the cotton is pretty, as is the simple colour scheme. (I feel like I have to defend my choices sometimes!) The organization is similar to Himalayan Weavers up in our neighborhood; work done by women to help bring in an income to their families which would otherwise be struggling, and using locally sourced cotton and natural dyes. It’s not a traditional Cambodian krama, but I don’t wear scarves that much – so this is more the shawl version.

 

It means having to collect some brass polish (or, at least, getting our hands on some good substitutes!) for the cufflinks and bracelet – but we’re excited to add those to our wardrobes nonetheless.

Though we haven’t seen it all, by far, yet.

We bounced DED-DEL-EWR-BWI-MCI-BWI-DCA-YYZ-HKG-BKK… then DMV-KRB-CNX-REP-BKK-DEL-DED. A real, true circumnavigation.

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Intrepid Adventurers. One having her morning conversation with long-tailed guppies, one grimacing at the daystar.

It was a lot of travel – especially as we hadn’t planned on doing more than the Thailand leg, until American Thanksgiving and we ended up flying back to the States and Canada. Both of the tiny humans are troopers, however – they had Christmas in Kansas with their maternal great-grandmother, saw wild ponies on Assateague with their maternal grandmother, had a fancy family dinner with the paternal great-grandparents, then tromped around Thailand and Cambodia with the paternal grandparents and aunt.

We saw temples and shrines a-plenty, and Asha developed a propensity for shyness near the end, after the thousandth Chinese photographer snapping pictures of her (only a few asked – in English or Chinese! – leave to take her photo).

We saw many of the temples of the Angkor complex, from Bayon to Bantey Srei and Preah Khan, including Ta Prohm – the “Tomb Raider” temple. Claire, Anne and I took a cooking class in Chiang Mai and learned how to make half a dozen dishes each – from spring rolls to mango sticky rice, larb kai to tom yum and tom kah. The Asian Scenic cooking school in Chiang Mai is worth every baht (thanks, Anne!), and our instructor, A, made it all worthwhile. We even learned how to make blue sticky rice (the photo above is from a restaurant in Koh Phi Phi, however – The Mango Garden). We visited a floating market outside of Bangkok, and a number of temples in Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well.

The hardest part of it all was time zones and having kid-friendly days: hard sometimes, with everything scheduled as it was, but infants are usually pretty easy, and the toddler went with the flow better than we anticipated. It’s been a relief to get back to our regular schedule, though, since little kids thrive on routine, and our routine was “get up and explore!”

The worst unfortunate side effect of it all, however: now Asha is camera-shy. All the people snapping all the pictures means that if you hold up a camera or a phone, or ask if you can take a picture, she covers her face (and has hidden behind Adam or I when possible). I need to learn how to say, firmly, in Japanese and Korean “No pictures.” and “Don’t take pictures of my kids.”

Woodstock Bucket List

We have been at Woodstock for five, nearly six years – and it’s time to bid Mussoorie farewell, and look for new options in different places around the world. Adam has filed his intent to not renew with Woodstock, and now we are in the process of exploring where we might want to go. With that in mind: we must now create our Woodstock bucket list.

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Mother’s Day 2015. Will miss this in 2016 for sure. 😦 

We have some ideas for what’s on our list, but are also looking for ideas from friends and readers to find out what you think we should see, do, eat or buy before we leave in June. We have some ideas – but what else should we add?

Our current list:

Eat at: Kalsang’s (momos), Doma’s (momos, sizzlers), Chardukaan (pakora)

Do: a hike up to the top of Flag Hill

Buy: Adam one last bespoke suit

What else should we add?

 

Adam and I are very proud that we managed to travel for 3 weeks with Asha in two carry-on bags plus one checked bag. The checked bag was dominantly because of Adam’s snorkeling gear (mine fit in my carryon), but he has full-size fins where I have short ones. We did use the checked bag for more, in the end – it was often where we put diapers and wipes for Asha, for example, as well as souvenirs – but if we did not have the snorkeling gear, downsized some things in the med/toiletries kit, and picked up other things (like diapers) at the destination… we very well might have managed to go “carryon only”! We also might have had to pick a different carryon bag for Adam, as the Timbuk2 is not as conducive to packing for a trip as it is for day-to-day work.

Since I’m always curious how people pack, I thought I’d share our packing list with everyone.

Hand Luggage / Carry On – Darcey

MEC Aria 40L daypack, "old generation".

MEC Aria 40L daypack, “old generation”. – MEC has updated it.

  • Kindle
  • cell phone
  • knitting project
  • journal + pen
  • Asha-related paraphernalia:
    • toys (varied – two small stuffed animals, plastic nesting eggs)
    • Asha (two Explora containers with cranberries & blueberries)
    • small wet bag for any dirty clothes
    • 8 diapers
    • Partially used package of wipes
  • Clothes – Darcey
    • 1 pair convertible pants
    • 1 merino t-shirt (Icebreaker)
    • 3 dresses – 1 black (ExOfficio), 1 white/blue paisley (Ralph Lauren), 1 multicoloured something from Target.
    • undergarments
    • 2 swimsuits
    • 1 pair flip-flops (Havaiana)
  • Clothes – Asha
    • 3pr patiala salwar (The Shop + one pair we bought in Penang)
    • 4 tops
    • 3 bathing suits (incl. 2 swim diapers)
    • 2 dresses
  • 1 XL PackTowl
  • Umbrella
  • MEC rain jacket
  • AfterBite
  • White shawl
  • Extra bag for under-seat during flights (to put the change kit, toys, snacks, Kindle and shawl in, so the main bag could go overhead)

Yes… this ALL fit in my carryon. That MEC bag has some fearsome stretch… and what’s more terrifying, I think, is that there was actually still space for things to squish around. It was not an immovable object. I was wearing a pair of the convertible pants and a merino T for the flight; Asha had a top and a pair of salwar from FabIndia, plus her shoes. We ended up buying her a 2nd pair of shoes in Singapore near the end of the trip (yellow/teal Crocs flipflops she picked out herself).

Hand Luggage / Carry On – Adam

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag, size Large.

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag, size Large.

  • Laptop computer + charger
  • Kindle + charger
  • Cell phone + charger
  • Sketchpad
  • Pens/pencils for drawing
  • ERGO Ventus baby carrier
  • Diaper change kit (BRICA)
  • Some of his clothing (I think just 1 change in case we had lost luggage).

Checked Bag

(first this was a HEYS bag, and then when that broke in transit, we replaced it with a Lojel bag with latches, rather than a zipper).

Almost our bag, but no zipper on ours - we went with 29" with clasps/latches.

Almost our bag, but no zipper on ours – we went with 29″ with clasps/latches.

  • extra package of baby wipes (didn’t end up needing this – we hadn’t realised we had packed an extra!)
  • full 56-pack of diapers (we had extra, and didn’t know what we’d find when we arrived – plus a VERY long first airport layover!)
  • Adam’s snorkeling gear (mask, fins, snorkel)
  • Darcey’s snorkeling gear (note: this went in carry-on on the flight back)
  • SCRUBBA bag
  • Medicine/toiletries kit
    • Included 2 containers of sunscreen, 1 container of aloe vera gel
  • Souvenirs
  • Various clothing as the trip progressed, starting off with a fair chunk of Adam’s clothes.

Next trip – which is already in planning stages! – we have some modifications to make; some additions, some subtractions, some reorganization (namely, the MEC bag being switched out for something else). Hopefully, I’ll be able to get all our ducks in order for that and a bit of a comparative list in November or early December to see exactly what changes we’re making.

Summer Vacation, Part II

Indonesia and Singapore

From Georgetown on Penang we headed to Indonesia – and very specifically, to an island called Palau Weh, Weh, or Sabang (depending on who you talk to). The island boasts Indonesia’s Kilometre Zero, the starting point for the road system (… despite being an isolated island with no bridges…), and was an invasion point by the Japanese in 1942. We went to Palau Weh at the recommendation of friends in two very different demographics (single young woman + family with three kids, oldest being 10 years old) who raved about a particular place: Freddie’s Santai Sumurtiga (https://www.santai-sabang.com). We flew from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, had about 12 hours in KL and stayed at a hotel near the airport, and then flew KL – Banda Aceh, took a ferry from BA to the island, and then a taxi ride from the harbor to Freddie’s (crossing the island to do so). Freddie told us later that there is an airport on the island, but it only has flights to and from Medan (a city halfway down Sumatra).

Freddie’s has amazing food, cooked by the eponymous Freddie (for breakfast and the buffet dinner) and his staff (in part for breakfast, and the lunch at the small restaurant). Buffet dinner consists of soup, a starter, a minimum of 4 dishes for the main meal (1 meat, 1-2 salads, 1-2 veg dishes, 1-2 sides), and dessert. This comes at a cost of 65,000 rupiah per adult – at time of writing, that equates to CAD$6.50. We could rarely actually finish everything, and the meals ranged from vegetable soup (that Adam ate – and Asha cried when her bowl was empty!) to Acehnese cuisine to marlin steaks, fresh coconut tart, snow peas with garlic (which Adam also ate), grilled prawns, and more. Adam eating vegetables every night should tell you the caliber of the cooking!

Freddie’s is also genuinely beachside, so every day we went in to snorkel and play on the beach. The waves were rough a few days, so we ended up taking a couple island tours (one was a failure, one an absolute brilliant success) and being lazy on those days. We saw waterfalls, different types of monkeys, volcanos, and some neat architecture, but nothing capped the water… We also took a full-day snorkeling tour on our 5th (paperwork) anniversary with 4 other people at the resort; it was absolutely amazing, and we caught sight of sea turtles, moray eels, octopi (three! Out in the day! At once! In the same place!), a sea krait, and otherwise absolute masses of fish.

The one flaw in our plan in Indonesia was that while it is a Muslim country – it is also much more strictly practicing than Malaysia seems to be. Virtually all shops and restaurants were closed for Ramadhan, meaning that you could do very limited shopping and absolutely no eating off the resort from about 5am-5pm. The staff at the resort was amazing, since they were cooking and preparing food for us, but couldn’t touch any of it themselves: hats off to them! Our week at Freddie’s ended too soon, and we think fondly back on the beach and the water and the food, and Asha asking for “more oceans”, as well as saying “hi ocean!” and “bye ocean!”. … Yet she would not talk to the people. Sigh.

In Singapore, we booked a cheap hotel room – which for a city in which about 1 in 3 people are millionaires, can be hard to find. We counted hostels out, since we didn’t want to run the risk of Asha in a dormitory setup (though she slept all night long both nights, so…). This was the first time, I confess, that I had ever booked a hotel which also boasted hourly rates. That’s what you get for staying in the ostensible red light district (Geylang) – but Adam and I didn’t notice anything risqué while we were there, and it was close to two MRT stops, tasty food, and a 24 hour supermarket.

We saved the most expensive place for last, and while we were able to see about a sixth of the things we wanted to see, I think it was just right for ending our trip. I would much prefer 3-4 more days in Singapore in the future – time to go to the bird park, aquarium, Sentosa Island, more of the museums, and more of the street food.  We got to see some highlights: the Peranakan Museum, the Merlion, the Ritz Carlton’s art exhibit (with an Ernest Zacharias piece – hilarious to us, since we’d seen his street art in Penang), and to eat at the Michelin-star chain Din Tai Fung.

Singapore has held a special place in my heart since about third grade, when I had an argument with a teacher – she said Singapore was a peninsula, I’d read it was an island, argued the point… and since then, have wanted to get there, just to be on the island that I’d had arguments in grade school about.

Walking from Raffles Place towards the marina.

Walking from Raffles Place towards the marina.

World-travelling Mooby the Cow, and the Merlion.

World-travelling Mooby the Cow, and the Merlion.

A Zachas piece in the Ritz!

A Zachas piece in the Ritz!

Adam on the Helix Bridge, with the Marina hotel/mall and the art museum.

Adam on the Helix Bridge, with the Marina hotel/mall and the art museum.

Gorgeous facades on Sim St. in Geylang, Singapore.

Gorgeous facades on Sim St. in Geylang, Singapore.

Nyonya (Peranakan Chinese) beadwork.

Nyonya (Peranakan Chinese) beadwork. This entire thing is beads.

Summer Vacation, Part I

We returned from three weeks in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to find Mussoorie in the midst of monsoon – one that has been, we’re told, fairly light and mostly raining in the nights rather than during the days. This is a grateful reprieve from the daytime rains we were expecting – but monsoon’s been here for less than a month, and isn’t due to recede until September-October, so we’re enjoying the sunshine (and clouds, without rain) while possible.

Out of 21 days, three of them we spent entirely in airports or in transit: one day was Dehradun-Singapore, then a second day with an immense layover in Singapore (we were unable to check in early and get into the transit part of the airport); the third was our return from Singapore to Delhi, a debacle which may get its own post (and open letter to Air India). Out of all the airports we visited (Dehradun, Dehli, Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Banda Aceh), I think our favourites were Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Penang was surprisingly child-friendly and well-organized for a small international airport, and had USB plug-ins next to many of the seats, meaning we could keep our devices charged. KL advertises itself as “the mall with an airport inside”, and it’s absolutely true: a Uniqlo, Pandora, various other shops we had never heard of before, and a variety of restaurants… Adam and I, of course, always beelined for the ones with beef on the menu.

Malaysia was where we spent the most time by calendar count: about six days in Penang and three in Kuala Lumpur. We would absolutely go through Malaysia again in more detail; we could easily spend another week on Penang and explore over the bridge to Butterworth, go up into the Cameron Highlands, down to the Perentian Islands, maybe to Langkawi Island, and then more time in KL (at least another 3 days) and down to Melaka.

The people in Malaysia were amazing. It was one of, if not the, most child-friendly country I have ever visited; everywhere we went, from little restaurants in malls to coffee shops to airport restaurants, offered us a high chair for Asha. Most of the time, she spent only a little time in the “baby chair”, instead going off with waitstaff to play and be shown off/toured wherever we were. At many of the shops we visited, the same thing happened; Adam spent about $3 on cufflinks at a store in the Kuala Lumpur airport, and Asha had about a dozen photos taken of her with various employees. One night at dinner in KL, she spent the entire meal with the staff of 51 Restaurant – they got her snacks from the kitchen, turned the TV to the “Baby TV” channel, and played with her. Even at a street food stall (Fat Brothers Lok-Lok on Jalan Alor), she spent most of the meal playing with/being played with by the staff, and watching the food get made.

Asha is enthusiastic about dim sum.

Asha is enthusiastic about dim sum.

And oh, the food. Adam is no longer a meatitarian, especially after Malaysia. Between the char kuey tiao (Chinese sausage, prawns, cockles – and bean sprouts!), fried oyster omelets, soup, and even a drink of dragonfruit juice, he has broadened his palate significantly. It got even wider in Indonesia, but Freddie’s deserves a post of its own. We gloried in dim sum while we were there as well – I had not realized the real extent of the Chinese influence on Malaysia. Turns out the hotel we booked in Georgetown (on Penang) was around the corner from the best dim sum in the city… and that was breakfast every morning after we figured it out.

NOM.

Lok-lok (sort of like satay), Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur. Price was determined by the coloured ends of the skewer, cooked for you, then served with 3 different sauces.

Hokkien mee (Hokkien noodles) and char kuey tiao (high-heat noodles cooked with cockles, prawns and Chinese sausage)

Hokkien mee (Hokkien noodles) and char kuey tiao (high-heat noodles cooked with cockles, prawns and Chinese sausage).

Asha contemplating dragonfruit juice.

Asha contemplating dragonfruit juice at the night market near our hotel. Note: the NIGHT MARKET HAD HIGH CHAIRS.

The Chinese influence in Malaysia is astoundingly vast; the community is vibrant along the Malacca/Melaka Strait, from Penang down through Singapore. There are many temples from the various Chinese families (clans) that came over, and it’s not uncommon to see streetside shrines everywhere. All of this, remembering, that Malaysia is a Muslim country – where foreigners can be deported for offending Allah! Yet restaurants were open all day during Ramadhan (in stark contrast to Indonesia), and along the straits I would argue we saw more Chinese influence than British, and even possibly Muslim. Without having journeyed inland, I can’t speak to the native Malay influences we just didn’t pick up on.

The Khoo clan temple.

The Khoo clan temple, an amazing piece of architecture located in the UNESCO World Heritage core area in George Town, Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (aka The Blue Mansion) in Georgetown, Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (aka The Blue Mansion) in Georgetown, Penang.

A terrible photo of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

A terrible photo of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, with the KL Tower visible in the background, kind of.

We didn’t hunt down a perfect shot of the National Mosque, since there are so many otherwise available on the internet, and we were walking past it at a major prayer time and didn’t want to intrude.

A mosque in Georgetown, didn't get the name.

A mosque in Georgetown, didn’t get the name.

St George's church in Penang.

St George’s church in Penang.

Ong Clan Temple, right across from Komtar and right behind our hotel, in Penang.

Ong Clan Temple, right across from Komtar and right behind our hotel, in Penang.

We easily could – and want to! – go back and spend much more time in  Malaysia in the future. Between being kid-friendly, having amazing food, great people, gorgeous architecture, amazing sites… we could no doubt spend a month+ there, easily. This trip gave us enough of a taste to want more!