Reflections on International Travel with a 4-Month Old

  1. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be! Our Globug slept well on planes, adjusted to the time difference, enjoyed her new surroundings, made oodles of new friends, and learned quite a few new things.
  2. I’m happy with our decision to exclusively babywear on this trip. A stroller would’ve been way too cumbersome, but our Gemini was easy to take with us wherever we went, was amazing for getting through airports quickly, and allowed for some great cuddling/bonding time during outings.
  3. The past two weeks have reminded me that I hate disposable diapers. We’ve had so many more leaks and blowouts (TMI?) than I ever have with my Flips at home.
  4. Sharing a room with the baby again probably hasn’t been great for anyone’s sleep, and it will be good to have the Globug back in her crib when we get home.
  5. A/C-equipped rooms are crucial when visiting hot places!
  6. I love my manual breastpump, but didn’t use it nearly as often as I thought I would because it’s difficult to clean bottles when you don’t have potable water out of the tap. Next time around, I might opt for bottles with disposable liners, or use a screw-on nipple with my collection bottles.
  7. While the white noise unit from the Sleep Sheep was useful and compact to take along on this trip, sharing a room (see 4) and naps in random places taught us that we really need a white noise machine that can run continuously. Forty-five minutes of white noise just isn’t enough, especially given that it shuts off right around the end of a sleep cycle, when the baby is more likely to startle awake anyway.
  8. I’m glad we decided to stick to familiar places and not try to hit too many cities. Getting around with a baby offers enough new logistical challenges without needing to navigate a new locale or get up and head to a new city every few days.
  9. On the way to Thailand, one of our bags didn’t make the tight connection in Seoul. Fortunately we had all of Gloria’s stuff in the bag that did make it. Just another reminder to pack all of your essentials (or a mini-version of all essentials) in your carry-on. And when you have a baby, there are suddenly a lot more items that qualify as essentials.
  10. Although Gloria officially gave up swaddling back in October, we were glad we decided to pack a swaddle blanket at the last minute. Baby jet lag and being on the go quite a bit meant that Gloria’s nap schedule was much more erratic than usual, and the swaddle was indispensable for soothing her during a few over-tired episodes.

Solid as a Rock

A few days before we came to Thailand, I took Gloria to the pediatrician for her four-month checkup. The doctor told me that it would be a good idea to start Gloria on solid food soon. Apparently the new research shows that starting closer to four months than the traditional six helps fend off food allergies, although I did remind him about Gloria’s early arrival and he agreed that we could wait until she hits her adjusted age of four months. This meant there was no rush to start solid food during our Thailand trip, but we could start looking for signs of readiness.

One of the major signs we’re supposed to watch for is Gloria showing an increased interest in our food. And since we’re not embarrassed to admit that a large part of what keeps bringing us back to Thailand is our penchant for tropical fruit and spicy curries, we thought it might be interesting to see whether any of these delicious treats could tempt our little one. Not to mention that mashed banana is recommended as a great first food.

Yellow watermelonBanana
She didn’t appear particularly interested in the yellow watermelon or banana pieces that we showed her at breakfast

PineapplePapaya
Pineapple and papaya chunks were perhaps a bit more interesting, but does she recognize that they are food?

Tom yum goongPad thai
Clearly not tempted by piping hot tom yum goong in Phuket or fresh pad thai sen yai in Mae Hong Son

DSC_4623
Perhaps we should wait a little longer before introducing pad prik giang?

DSC_4681
I’m not sure she’s ready for pad see ew either, sadly

Dragon fruitMango
Looking quizzically at chunks of dragon fruit and mango

My guess is that the Globug will have her first taste of solid food sometime in 2012.

Here to Make Friends

Unlike many a tortured prima donna entering a reality TV showdown, Gloria apparently did come to Thailand to make friends. She couldn’t help it, really – the Thais seem to love love love babies, and it’s probably pretty rare that a farang baby as young as ours ventures from the US all the way to Thailand. Everywhere we’ve been, hotel and restaurant staff have been eager to hold and play with the baby, usually while chanting “cha eh, cha eh,” which we’ve been told is a meaningless baby talk phrase, similar to “goo goo gah gah.” It’s become a common occurrence for the waitstaff at a restaurant to drop off our food and then offer to hold the baby for the duration of our meal – free babysitting, not a bad deal!

Black Canyon Coffee
At Black Canyon Coffee in Chiang Mai

Poon Restaurant
Mr. Poon’s wife insisted on holding Gloria, singing to her, and soothing her to sleep when she was fussy and jet lagged

German couplePoon Restaurant
Baby holders at our guest house (breakfast) and on the beach (lunch)

TreauTreau's daughter
Treau and her daughter, at our guest house in Mae Hong Son, both sang Gloria a chorus of “cha eh”s on our arrival

Guest house neighborAnother neighbor
Once the word got out at our guest house that there was a farang baby about, all of the neighbors wanted to meet her

Fern RestaurantSon and Mum Restaurant
New friends at Fern Restaurant and Son and Mum

Rom JindaGreen curry
Our server at Rom Jinda, and the bowl of green curry that she traded for our first born

Aum VegetarianWe's Restaurant
New friends at Aum Vegetarian and We’s Restaurant, both in Chiang Mai

Our friend M at Pat's
Gloria bidding adieu to her friend M at our guest house, shortly before heading to the airport to start the long journey home

Turkey-less in Thailand

Tonight we had Thanksgiving dinner with our Burmese friends in Mae Hong Son. It was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving (they hadn’t even heard of the holiday until we mentioned it last week), and they were honored to be involved. The menu was quite different from our Thanksgiving in India, as there are no turkeys to be had in these parts. Our main course was “snake” in banana leaves, which took the better part of the day to prepare. We also had a side of papaya pancakes and the full set of accoutrements (including lots of chilies, of course). For dessert we had a ridiculous cake we picked up from a new bakery in town. The sweet shop owners asked if we wanted any writing on the cake (they usually do birthday cakes), so we acquiesced to a “Happy Thanksgiving” flourish.

After our food was all prepared, our Burmese friends asked us if we were going to give a speech before dinner or if we had any traditions on this holiday. So we went upstairs, sat around in a circle, and talked about thanks. Lauren gave a brief history of Thanksgiving and then many of us around the circle talked about what we were thankful for. One of our Burmese friends was thankful that we introduced them to Thanksgiving and shared our holiday with them. We’re thankful that we were able to share Thanksgiving with our small but growing family, and our adopted family here in Mae Hong Son.

Our Burmese Thanksgiving spread
Special Mae Hong Son Thanksgiving dinner

Dessert
Our festive dessert

Tongue of the Dragon

On our return to Thailand, it was paramount to commence our tropical fruit indulgence. Courtesy of the Chiang Mai morning market, our bellies are the happy recipients of a coconut and a mango (in fruit shake form), three rose apples, a green mango (with chili/sugar of course), and a pink dragon fruit. The last one made a particularly lasting impression on us.

Preparing a fruit shakeEnjoying the fruit shake
This enormous fruit shake contained a full coconut (meat + water) and an entire mango

LL eating dragon fruit
This time we had dragon fruit with pink flesh rather than our standard white innards…

Pink tongues
…and we have the stains to prove it

Glow Worms on a Plane

After Gloria’s successful test flight to SFO, we figured she must be ready to cross the Pacific (yes, we are crazy). Today’s destination: Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a very short layover in Seoul, Korea. We were a little nervous about the flights, but after they were over we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Baby G was fascinated by the airports, and she slept for a good portion of the longhaul flight to Seoul. When she was awake, she was happy and smiley. As with the SFO flight, she was unfazed by takeoffs/landings, even if she wasn’t nursing. When the other babies around her were crying, she showed them how to be a good traveler by remaining calm and happy (or asleep). The only thing we found a bit tricky was managing diaper changes with a squirmy baby in the tiny airplane lavatories, but we were thankful that they were equipped with changing tables.

Korean Air turned out to be an excellent choice for traveling with a baby. Per airline policy, seat assignments are not made until 30 days before the flight, in order to prevent passengers with mileage plan status from gobbling up the bulkhead seats before families with babies can get a crack at them (only the bulkheads support the bassinet attachment). The flight attendants set up our bassinet immediately after the ascent, they were excited to play with the baby, and they checked in with us frequently to see whether we needed anything. There were a couple of odd things as well: for some reason, our reservation reflected that we had ordered an “infant meal” (i.e. a bottle of formula), and at each meal time we had to remind the flight staff that our baby only consumed breast milk; when we boarded, our flight attendant gave us a huge duty free shopping bag, empty except for a box of tissues, and told us that it was for the baby.

After a long travel day, we arrived at our favorite Chiang Mai guest house, settled in, and got to sleep around 1am. All things considered, Gloria slept reasonably well in her new Peapod, although I did need to soothe her back to sleep a few times and remind her that it was nighttime. We’ll see how the adjustment goes over the coming days – I’ll write up my thoughts about baby jet lag once I get some insight into it.

In the terminal
In the terminal, ready to board

Takeoff
On mommy’s lap for takeoff

Trying out the bassinet
Checking out her sleeping quarters

Sleeping
I was jealous that there was no bassinet in my size

In Chiang Mai
Quiet playtime in Chiang Mai before heading to bed

Our Babe in Thailand

Today we are leaving to help Gloria fulfill her fortune:

Fortune

We fly to Thailand this afternoon, via Seoul. After a night in Chiang Mai we head south to spend a few days on our favorite beach in Southeast Asia, Nai Yang. We are then spending the bulk of our time in Mae Hong Son reconnecting with friends, enjoying the slow pace of life, and gorging on delicious Thai stir friestropical fruits (including mango and sticky rice), and spicy Burmese hill tribe food.

Gloria going to Chiang Mai
Guess where I’m going?

Test Flight

This weekend we took Gloria on her first plane ride, to visit family in San Francisco. We prayed that the 1.5 hour journey would go smoothly, since it was also acting as a test run for a longer flight in November (yes, we are crazy and have already booked tickets to Thailand so that Gloria can meet her Burmese cousins).

While her parents still have some things to learn about travelling with an infant (in particular around flight timings), fortunately for us the Glo-bug is a born jet-setter. In order to catch our 7:30AM flight we got Gloria out of bed a few hours early, but she stayed comatose through an outfit change, transfer to her car seat, drive to the airport, and shuttle ride to the terminal. As advised by our friends, Lauren was all prepared to nurse Gloria during takeoff. However, the Glo-bug inherited her Grandpa Moose’s “pass out on planes” gene and did not require any assistance for the pressure changes.

On our return flight we realized how much Gloria loves airports. She had been a little fussy this afternoon, but the minute we stepped foot in SFO she was happy as a clam. She loved all of the lights and movement, and couldn’t get enough of the airplane views from our gate. Even though our departure was at 8:30PM, about 1.5 hours after Gloria’s witching hour, she was happy until we boarded the plane, at which point she promptly passed out (heredity kicking in again).

On the airport shuttle SEA to SFO with Daddy
Sound asleep for most of the journey, Gloria perked up at cruising altitude

Gateside pickup at SFO
Waiting for our gate-checked luggage; the captain had to stir things up for the car seats to arrive

Waiting for our flight home
Daddy, you’re embarrassing me in front of my new SFO friends

Deli and Bread Connection

Rating:

In both of our guidebooks, Deli & Bread Connection is touted as having “the best sandwiches in Kauai.” So when we passed through Lihue as part of our helicopter-delay excursion, we had to stop by for lunch. We ordered two of their specials: a Lobsta’ Roll, and a Chicado (chicken salad with avocado). However, they were out of avocado, so no Chicado for us. Based on prominent signage, we made a game-time decision to choose a Vegi Burger with its “delicious patty.”

The Vegi Burger was good – the patty was nothing special, but the accoutrements were fresh and generous, and the bun was a nice freshly-baked sourdough. The Lobsta’ Roll was absolutely, ridiculously amazing. The lobster salad was very heavy on the lobster – local, mildly sweet, and in big lumps. It was complemented very well by the Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and red onions. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I savored every bite.

This morning we stopped by Deli & Bread Connection on our way to the airport to pick up provisions for the long flight home (something I highly recommend). This time they had avocado, so we repeated our original order from Wednesday. The Chicado was good (reminded me of a sandwich from Specialty’s), but it paled in comparison to the Lobsta’ Roll. As a consequence of our flight shuffling, Lauren and I were placed in window seats on consecutive rows, with couples seated adjacent to us. As you would expect, neither couple wanted to swap seats with us. However, as I was taking my first bite of the Lobsta’ Roll, my neighbor offered to trade his seat for the sandwich. What would you do in this situation?

Counter service
Order up!

Lobsta' Roll
Lobsta’ Roll – lobster salad, grilled with mushrooms, red onions, and melted Swiss cheese

Vegi Burger
The Vegi Burger – with mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato-basil pesto, and “the works”

Kenny and his sandwichLauren and her sandwich

Deli & Bread Connection
3-2600 Kaumualii Highway # 1648 (next to Macy’s)
Lihue, HI 96766
808-245-7115

Paradise Lost

Turns out it’s not just hype that Kauai is the wettest place on earth. During our week here, we’ve consistently had heavy rains overnight. However, they usually end around 6AM. Not today. It’s 10:30AM, we’re supposed to be at the airport, and instead we’re in the Hanalei plaza. The bridge that lies between us and aircraft has been closed since 1AM, when the water level spiked to nine feet.

Statistically the Hanalei bridge reopens when the waters recede to about four and a half feet. We monitored the water level this morning from our B&B. Since conditions were looking better (water had receded to almost five feet) we attempted our airport run at 8:30AM. Unfortunately, the weather has not decided to cooperate, with the rains kicking back into high gear. The cop at the bridge told us “it will be at least a few hours…or possibly all day. I’m stuck here as well.” For now we’re rebooked on an afternoon flight, which buys us three more hours, but I’m dubious that we’ll be able to leave the north shore at all today.

image
Latest bridge status – notice the uptick from about 45 minutes ago just when things started to look promising


Live video footage from the scene of the storm