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

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

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

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

Gloria Highlights, Week 20

Our final week in Thailand was filled with excitement. We made sure to finish up our stay in MHS with the requisite photo shoot at Jongkham Lake and we spent more time volunteering with our Burmese sisters – we even taught them a last-minute crash course in basic accounting. On Thursday evening, we shared some emotional goodbyes. Then we boarded the 30-minute puddle jumper to Chiang Mai on Friday morning – Gloria was a bit fussy on the flight but fortunately it was over in the blink of an eye (if only Gloria knew, she’d be thankful not to be on the MHS->CM bus). Gloria seemed to have mostly recovered from her cold by the time we left Mae Hong Son.

Back in Chiang Mai, we took Gloria to see the sights. We checked out several wats, the famous Chiang Mai Walking Street, the produce market, and a few favorite eating spots. The city was all lit up for the king’s birthday, which made for some fun evening walks and people watching. We took G to visit one of our Burmese friends who is now working in Chiang Mai. Because we couldn’t convince any songthaew drivers to take us to the part of town where she lives, we hailed a tuk-tuk, and Gloria enjoyed the view out the side from her perch in the baby carrier. We rode a songthaew back to the city center, checking off another new transportation experience for Baby G.

We departed Chiang Mai on a red-eye, and had a day-long layover in Seoul. We’ll provide more details about our sojourn into the city in another post. As for Gloria, she was (understandably) super sleepy, and she spent the better part of the day asleep in the baby carrier. We hadn’t planned for the harsh cold of Seoul in December, so to keep Gloria warm we dressed her in two layers of clothing plus her sleep sack before we nestled her into the carrier. It was unorthodox but it worked great. We took the train back to the airport in the afternoon, caught a quick nap in the airport, and then boarded the long-haul flight back to Seattle.

My angel
At the office, shortly before bidding adieu to our Burmese family

Bath time!
Bath time fun in our MHS guest house (we were grateful that they loaned us a basin)

Jongkham Lake
Photo shoot at Jongkham Lake

Riding a tuk-tuk in Chiang Mai
Checking out the view from a tuk-tuk, on the way to visit a friend in Chiang Mai

Posing with a naga at Wat Chedi Luang

Reclining Buddha What wat?
Touring the wats with mommy and daddy

Breakfast Breakfast
Breakfast at our guest house, on our final day in Chiang Mai

Napping at dinner
Catching a few ZZZs during dinner at Aum Vegetarian before heading to the airport

Sleepy in Seoul
Sleepy in Seoul

Gloria Highlights, Week 19

Our second week in Thailand was a blast. On Wednesday we made our way from Phuket to Mae Hong Son, our home for four months of our sabbatical. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our Burmese friends, and we have spent many hours reconnecting (and cooking) with them.

The whole family has recovered from jet lag, though we have encountered a new nighttime challenge: sleep rolling. The past few nights we have awoken to the sound of a frustrated Globug experiencing an upside-down turtle moment (in reverse). We’re excited that she’s acquiring new skills here in Thailand, but I also hope she gets comfortable sleeping on her tummy soon (or becomes an ambi-roller).

While we have noticed a few small changes in Mae Hong Son since our departure (most notably the closures of our favorite Som Tam and espresso stands), the main difference on this trip is that we are on foot rather than biking everywhere. While it’s not as brutally hot here as it was during our last visit, the days are still around 90 degrees and it’s almost an hour walk to the office where Lauren used to volunteer. Our Globug’s full head of hair has been thinning over the past few weeks, just in time to help keep her a bit cooler during our visit.

We have a few more days to savor here in Mae Hong Son, and then we head to Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon.

Soaking up some rays during her last day on the beach

Relaxing at Lauren's office Chilling under the mango trees
Lounging at the office where Lauren volunteered for AJWS

Playing in our bed
Gloria made herself at home when we returned to our former guest house

Playing at the FernEnjoying the view from Son and Mum
Taking in the scenery at Fern Restaurant, and Son and Mum

Sunday market
Loving the food stalls at the night market

Storytime with mommy Storytime with daddy
Enjoying The Foot Book, a taste of 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

Our festive dessert

Ice Cold Refreshment

At one point, we heard some sage advice about bottle-feeding: there’s no need to warm your baby’s milk if she’s willing to drink it cold. So we’ve never warmed a bottle, and Gloria has never complained. She does seem to prefer her milk closer to room temperature rather than straight out of the fridge, so I try to take it out a bit early (or avoid putting it in the fridge at all if I’m pumping milk that Kenny will feed her within an hour or so).

Today, during our final beach day here in Phuket, Gloria tried a whole new bottle-feeding experience. We had some pumped milk in the little freezer section of the mini fridge in our hotel room. We had been keeping it there because the fridge would power off when we weren’t in the room – it’s one of those guest house rooms with a master power switch activated by the room key. We decided to bring a bottle with us to the beach, but didn’t get a chance to defrost it. We figured it would melt in the hot sun soon enough anyway. Hanging out on the beach, even in the shade of our umbrella, poor Gloria was hot and sweaty and clearly very uncomfortable. So we decided to feed her a bit of the ice cold milk to see if it would help cool her down. She loved it, and guzzled the whole bottle in just a couple of minutes! I ended up making a trip back to our guest house (~20 minutes round trip) to get another frozen bottle so she could enjoy another refreshing meal a bit later.

I wish we had known this trick for some of the hot days we had this summer!

Ice cold
Sometimes milk is a dish best served cold

Gloria Highlights, Week 18

What a week! Of course, this week’s major highlight was the start of Gloria’s first international trip. We started our week in Seattle, spent a long time in transit, stayed one night in Chiang Mai, and are currently sunning ourselves on Nai Yang Beach, Phuket.

Baby G has been a rock star traveler so far, although she was certainly thrown for a loop by the time change. She’s been waking up several times a night, clearly convinced that it’s daytime and wanting to play/eat/cuddle/etc. Fortunately it hasn’t been too difficult to soothe her back to sleep on each waking, but the fractured sleep has definitely prolonged my jet lag recovery. It seems to be getting progressively better, so hopefully she’ll be fully adjusted within a couple more days.

In other news, she has turned into a drool monster and she constantly wants to munch on her hands. Our pediatrician warned us that these signs would be coming soon – and that they wouldn’t necessarily imply teething. Still, I can’t help but wonder – is she teething?

OMG, I can’t believe we’re going to Thailand!

Good morning Chiang Mai
Good morning Chiang Mai

Three Kings
Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai

Catching a nap in the carrier at Chiang Mai airport, en route to Phuket

Baby G finds her thumb
Baby G has been gnawing on her hands for weeks, but on our flight to Phuket she found the elusive holy grail of hand munching – the thumb!


Naptime on the beach
Naptime on the beach was a nice theory; but who can sleep when there are so many new things to see?

First dip in the oceanFirst dip in the ocean
Taking her first dip in the ocean

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

On mommy’s lap for takeoff

Trying out the bassinet
Checking out her sleeping quarters

I was jealous that there was no bassinet in my size

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