Child friendly Bangkok

The honest truth? It would have been far easier writing a post about how unchild friendly Bangkok is. But hey, what would life be without a challenge, right?

Our kids are pretty much like every other kid out there. They are six and nine years old, and seem to be interested in seeing something different (but not for too long), trying strange foods (as long as they don’t have to finish it), shopping (strictly items for themselves of course, and preferably football related, and why do they never get tired of trying on sunglasses goddamit…), animals (any shape or size), riding weird vehicles (a tuk tuk ride always put huge smiles on their faces) and last but not least, they like their ice cream. The bigger the better.

Thrown in at the deep end in Bangkok’s maze of over crowded pavements, crazy traffic and concrete avenues, I felt that our four day stopover would prove a huge challenge. There are only so many Buddhas and temples you can see before the kids start complaining. This caused for alternative thinking, and this is how we not only survived, but somehow managed to get Mattis and Siena to love Bangkok!

1. Covering Buddhas with gold leaf

Bangkok is full of beautiful Buddhist temples, but Wat Pho sort of takes the biscuit. Its 43,5 meter long reclined, golden Buddha is as popular with the Thai themselves as with us tourists. The kids loved this place. Not just because the Buddha is a fascinating sight in its own right, but also because the whole site is embalmed in a mystic and serene atmosphere. Best of all? You can buy golden leaf in a little stall, and place them on many of the smaller Buddha statues scattered around the temple area.

Location: Maharat Rd

 

 

2. Fish tank pedicure

  

Khao San Rd. is an exciting place for adults and children alike. Find out more about this weird and wonderful stretch of road in our previous post here. The fish tanks caught our kids’ attention immediately, and it took our son approximately one nano second to kick his shoes off once we gave him the go ahead. First time around we paid 4 euros for fifteen minutes. Second time around, two weeks later, we haggled it down to 2 euros.

Location: Khao San Rd.

3. Feeding the turtles

Wat Prayoon is a surprise of a place, not far from the Memorial Bridge. In fact it’s another temple with lots of little shrines scattered around. However, the biggest draw here is no doubt the huge turtles and fish who live in the small lake. Kids love this experience. First of all because they can get really close to the animals and interact by feeding them. Secondly because it’s a really laid back place with few fences and no traffic what so ever.

There’s a fruit vendor on site, dishing out bits of ham, sliced banana and those sticks to feed the turtles. Very cheap – 50 centimos for a full plate.

Location: 24 Th Prachathipok, cnr Thetsaban Soi 1

 

 

 

4. Frequent tuk tuk rides

We tuk-tukked everywhere. Be it just across the bridge     or further afield. Simply because it gave us, and especially the kids, a buzz. We had our own set of tuk-tuk rules too:

1 – Always put on sunglasses in order to protect our eyes from wind, fumes and dust.

2 – The kids were never allowed to get on the tuk-tuk first, nor to get off it last. I get a bit over protective when we’re travelling, and admit it – I was worried some crazy tuk-tuk driver would take off with the kids. Location: Everywhere!

5. Boat ride

I am still not sure if our daughter fell asleep because of, or in spite of, the rocky backwaters of Bangkok… Nevertheless, we had a private tour of the canals of the city in a traditional long tail boat, and were really amazed to discover how beautiful Bangkok is from this perspective.The boat was a rickety old wooden vessel that had seen better days for sure… and I wasn’t totally comfortable with the ill fitted life vests, but then again, the canals weren’t very wide, so I assumed we would be able to save ourselves should the boat give in to the currents…

Location: We boarded at the one of Bangkok’s many bridges. Sorry, can’t remember which one…

6. ‘Doing’ Khao San Rd

Khao San Rd is a haven for remote control addicted kids! Here you’ll find every shape, size and variety on planet Earth. They were also thrilled to pick up torches, flipflops, t-shirts, football shirts, SUNGLASSES, etc, etc.

Our son soon realised how to work his haggle magic, and became an expert at turning his back on the desired item, and saying ‘No, I’m not too bothered’. This would always result in the vendor calling us back with an offer to lower the price.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Ice cream heaven

In our family, ice cream is never a bad idea! We tracked down world famous ice cream chain Swensen’s in top notch shopping centre ‘Siam Parakon’.

Definitely not a backpacker place, this shopping centre is stricktly for the ones who are not Baht conscious – we are talking brands like Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Gucci, Lamborghini, Porche as well as the five star Kempinski Hotel Siam. Having said that, the ice cream was still affordable, delicious and safe for little stomachs.

Location: Siam station with the Skytrain

8. Seven Eleven

Prior to arriving in Thailand, we had no idea there would be a Seven Eleven on practically every street corner. Believe us, it’s an air conditioned piece of child friendly heaven when the intensity of Bangkok starts getting to you. Seek refuge, let the kids pick up an ice cream, browse the weird and wonderful section of crisps and just chill out. As strange as it may sound, we fell in love with Seven Eleven.

Location: Every street corner

9. Get your regular place

There’s nothing quite like returning to the same cafe a few days in a row. The staff recognizes you, the menu is familiar, and you know where the best table is. We found our regular place a few blocks down from the hotel. Nothing fancy, just a hole in the wall Thai restaurant, frequented by the locals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Seek refuge in the hotel

We totally recommend this down-to-earth-with-an-arty-atmosphere hotel in downtown Bangkok: Phranakorn Nornlen! It’s extremely child friendly, and consequently frequented by many families with kids. Their breakfasts come with hot chocolate for little vagabonds, and their interior design features vintage sweet shop and toy shop facades. In a pond in the garden, they have tadpoles and frogs which entertained our kids for hours! Another huge bonus are the delicious smoothies which ensure your little ones stock up on their healty fruits. BIG THUMBS UP from us!

We have written about this hotel before here.

Finally, after surviving/falling in love with Bangkok, we took a well deserved island break in Ko Chang. Find out all about our secret Ko Chang beach here.

Night train from Bangkok

Bangkok to Laos – overnight train ride or one hour flight?

What is it about tedious train rides? I suppose I can only speak for myself when I say that they form seriously fond travel memories. This time we decided to take the kids on board to see if they share our sense of ‘old school’ adventure.

Before the seats turn into beds

We made sure we turned up well before departure time at 20h. This gave us time to stock up on some interesting necessities like hibiscus flavoured drinks,  seaweed crisps and tangerine coated nuts (not a favourite!). We’d already had supper, but hey, snacks and kids go together like gin and tonic. Mummy and daddy had opposing approaches to on board drinking. I feared the train toilets so much that I only had a few sips of my daughter’s soda. My husband opted for the more masculine approach where he hoped that enough Chang (thai beer) would ensure a good night’s sleep. More on that later.

FACTS: Travelling by train in Thailand is not a particularly cheap way to get around. We spent just over £100 for the four of us (kids in their own bunks) one way. Compared to other Asian countries like India, this is definitely not cheap. We opted for standard class, which means that you get a designated seat which turns into quite a comfortable, two meter long bed once the staff do their ‘bedding’ rounds at 22h. They supply you with a clean sheet and blanket, as well as a pillow with a paper like casing. So far so good.

This is what it looks like when people have drawn their curtains in order to get a good night's sleep.

Motherhood in all its shapes and forms

We killed a few hours playing cards, munching our snacks and eventually calling it a night. The atmosphere on board was really good. Lots of friendly Thai students were heading home for Christmas, and a handful of Western travellers kept drinking Chang and exchanging their stories from the road. At one point I was worried it would turn into a party train, but once the bedding staff had come through, everybody settled nicely into their own bunk and things went quiet.

The kids were really excited about sleeping on a train, and especially about being allowed to close the curtain themselves. In a way, it’s like when you played house as a little kid, using a blanket as a door, and feeling all snug inside your own little den.

It took them exactly five minutes to fall asleep. I believe the rocking motion helped, whereas I lied awake regretting that we had booked a separate bunk for them. I would have preferred to have them in our beds, so we could keep an eye on them. When we’re on the road, I must admit that I can get a bit panicky about them disappearing, and I was obsessing about the noise of the train which would have made it impossible to hear them if they called for me. Eventually, I climbed up to my daughter’s bunk, where we both fell asleep. It’s a funny old thing being a mother…

So. How did my husband’s plan pan out? After four Changs he gradually started to realise that his plan would have to include several trips to the dreaded train toilet… where he spent a considerable amount of time during the night. Enough said.

Ladyboy

Next morning we had ordered a rather over prized (and horrible to the point of being inedible) breakfast in order to wake us up in the best of moods. However, none of us could have predicted just how funny breakfast on board a Thai train can be!

It started the previous night, when the train hostess came by with refreshments. ‘She’s a he!‘ whispered my husband once she had passed. I objected. No way! She was slim, well dressed, groomed and there was nothing masculine about her apart from, perhaps, a rather strong jaw line. I regret now not having taken a photograph of her. Because the morning after, it was too late… When our hostess appeared with breakfast at 7 am sharp, there was no longer any doubt about her gender. The stubble on her chin said it all. This of course, put us in the best of moods. It was on board entertainment of best sorts.

And the kids – did they have a good night’s sleep? Well, the bedding staff came around not once, not twice, but three times before the kids eventually woke up and got out of bed (bunk). They didn’t notice that we were stopped for about one and a half hours in the middle of the night, and probably in the middle of no where. They didn’t notice their dad getting up to go to the loo three times, and they certainly didn’t notice anything when the ladyboy (or kathoey as they say in Thailand) shouted ‘TEA! COFFEE!’ as (s)he walked down the train. Her voice was not quite as smooth as I remembered it from the previous night. But then again, neither was mine:)

When they eventually did wake up, we were twenty minutes away from Nong Khai in northern Thailand. Next stop: crossing the Friendship bridge over to Laos!

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Over in Laos, we spent two days in the capital Vientiane, before we headed to Luang Prabang. Read our TOP 5 things to do in Luang Prabang here.