Great Canadian Tour 2015: Ottawa museums galore

One of the best things about Ottawa is all the museums. There are so many that, growing up there, it’s commonplace, almost boring, to go to a museum. But lucky for us, fresh off 3 years of no museum visiting in Indonesia, the kids still think it’s pretty cool! It’s not so cool for the pocketbook, but hey, we’re on vacation, right?

The first museum we decided to visit was the Air and Space Museum. The kids were keen, but I’ll admit that I also pushed for it because it was the one I have visited the least often myself, so it was still a fresh experience. And, of course, who doesn’t want to look at awesome old planes and rockets? And maybe there was a chance that Chris Hadfield would be there, right? (He wasn’t.)

We saw everything from old-timey flying (and hilariously non-flying) contraptions to slick air force jets, a huge bomber, rescue helicopters, courier planes, cushy 50s passenger planes. And the space section was lots of fun, with some hands-on activities and neat artifacts from Canadian space missions.

But, really, I think we had the most fun taking photos of the kids in the photo board cutouts. These things are classic:

We also visited the Canadian Museum of Civilization History. We are well aware that our museum timing is limited to only a couple of hours, so we have to triage. B and I can never get enough of the First Nations hall and the Inuit art in the basement (which is always shamefully undervisited), and we made a point of visiting the special exhibits rather than the permanent ones, keeping in mind our triage decisions. The exhibit on Greece was very cool, and I was able to crack into the depths of my undergraduate brain and read a lot of the ancient Greek writing. B was uber keen on the “Confederation” exhibit, which was a bit tedious for the rest of us non-politicos until we found a table where you could wear a top hat and pretend to be one of the fathers of confederation! And we also saw a Terry Fox exhibit, which was timed for the 35th anniversary of his run. It was great to share this important Canadiana with the kids, even if B did spend most of the time just photographing close-ups of all the hockey jerseys in the room.

And of course there’s a great Children’s museum that we needed to visit. We also decided to watch an IMAX movie about Lemurs. Lemurs are cool, but for some reason this film was a bit too over the top, and felt like it had been made 10 years ago, despite being recent and narrated by Morgan Freeman. It was missing some kind of legitimate messaging, like “lemurs are good, deforestation is bad” is pretty trite, even when you’re targeting a young audience… But we had a good time over all. We even ran into the kids’ cousins who were at the museum with a summer camp trip, so that was a nice surprise.

The final museum on the list was the Billings Estate Museum, which is a manor right in the heart of the city, the home of the original settlers of the area. In fact, I didn’t visit for the museum itself, but for afternoon tea. My mom and I escaped for the day and spent a lovely few hours enjoying tea and snacks overlooking a beautiful outdoor garden. Probably my favourite kind of museum trip!

 

London part 1: the arrival

Back in March, my sister and I went on a Thelma-and-Louise style trip to Paris and London (minus the manslaughter and double suicide, of course…). But it was a super fun last-minute vacation, and extra special because it was probably the first time we had ever traveled together, just the two of us. Why Paris and London? Well, it seemed to be a fair halfway point between Canada and Indonesia. Plus, who wouldn’t want to go there??

It’s taken me a while to post this because we crammed so much into our week abroad that I was exhausted just trying to sort through all the photos. But now I’m ready! So let’s do London.

We met in the Paris airport on a chilly Saturday morning. As it turns out, public spaces in Paris are not heated. Coming fresh off the plane from Jakarta, I had to put on two pairs of pants just to keep warm while I waited. Soon my sister arrived and there was much rejoicing. Our plan was to head straight to the Gare du Nord and catch our train to London. We hopped on the metro, passing what I think must be the ugliest part of Paris: crumbly buildings, industrial yards, graffitied train stations and gypsy tents made out of discarded fridges and old clothes. As it turns out, most of Paris looks like that, but more on that later.

When we arrived at the Gare, we had a few hours to kill before our train to London, so we took a little wander around the area. Although there wasn’t a lot to see – other than about 1000 cafes, all with the exact same red awnings and wicker chairs out front – we stumbled on a lovely little indoor market (also not heated) selling fresh produce, flowers, seafood, cheese, meats – so we picked up a little treat of salami and delicious stinky cheese for the train ride. Our train companions were thrilled about that.

The trip was only a few hours, and the track went under the English Channel. I was hoping it would be epic – how often do you get to travel for miles underneath the water? But we didn’t see any coastline or actual water, because the tunnel starts so far away from the edge, and then inside the tunnel is quite dark – of course, because it’s a tunnel. This makes total sense in hindsight. I’m not sure what I was expecting; maybe one of those glass aquarium tunnels where fish swim right over top of you? I guess that was a bit unrealistic. So the ride wasn’t very exciting, but it was neat to see the Paris suburbs turn into quaint English pastures as we chugged along.

We rented a little apartment in London just south of Regent’s Park, perfectly situated to walk to most of the tourist areas, and right on the underground line for areas that were a bit too far on foot. That night we were up for an adventure, so we headed straight out to explore the town!

The first place we ended up was an adorable and totally packed English pub that was about the size of a small living room. We shoved our way to the bar, ordered some pints and started chatting to a couple nearby. Turns out they were visiting from the U.S. and were equally up for an adventure. So the four of us had a few more drinks and wandered off to find “real English” dinner – that didn’t turn out to be too hard, and we soon found ourselves in the (probably haunted) top floor of a pub eating a variety of liver pies and heartily overcooked vegetables. And it was all as bland and tasteless as we expected. Mission accomplished!

We stumbled out of the pub and wandered around Piccadilly Circus – which, disappointingly, is not at all the animal kind of circus. Wikipedia informed me that our British friends use “circus” to mean a junction of streets in a circle. Silly. We checked out some shops, I bought a coat because it turns out London is cold, and eventually parted ways with our American friends to get a bit of sleep back at the apartment.

Next up: Irish partying & garlic love

Wintertime in Calgary

In the middle of our winter holidays in Canada, B and I took a week out for ourselves to visit family and friends in the Calgary area. It was our first real non-kid vacation ever!

Our plan was to rent a car at the airport, spend a few days in the city to see the aunts, uncles and cousins that we hadn’t seen in several years, pick up our friends at the airport and head into Banff for a few days of frigid fun over New Year’s Eve.

We arrived at the airport on a snowy, blustery morning. I was nervous about renting a car because we only have Indonesian drivers’ licenses, and, well, those aren’t exactly recognized internationally. I had done a lot of digging on the rental company’s website and brought along some printed pages from their rules & regulations. Clutching them, I handed over my driver’s license to the clerk… “Oohh, no, Indonesia?” Me: (oh crap) “Yeah… we live there, we’re just here visiting family…” And then he proceeds to talk about the recent airplane crash in Indonesia, all the while ringing up our car order like nothing is amiss! I am sorry to say that I was relieved to talk about an airplane crash rather than my questionable driving status. He even managed to talk us into an upgrade from a mid-size SUV to a full-size truck, because, well, Alberta.

That morning we caught up with my cousin and her husband for brunch at a hipster beer-house-slash-breakfast place. Mimosas were on sale. I approved. The next few days were a blur of family visits. We managed to fit in both sides of my family and B’s family too, as well as some wandering around downtown and a drive out to the country.

My mom’s side has some land just outside Calgary along the Elbow river, and I used to spend summers there as a kid. I always like to go back and see how much smaller things look as an adult. This time, they were covered in snow and wintry beauty. We stopped in to see my aunt and then took a little drive around the neighborhood.

Later that day, we had to stop in at Peter’s drive-in for some burgers and milkshakes, which turned out to be kind of a bad choice on a -25C day, but they were still delicious.

The next day, we met our friends at the airport to begin our trip into Banff!

 

New Zealand Part 1 – Around Auckland

After our week and a half in Sydney, you would think that was the end of our vacation. But wait, there’s more! We still had another ten days in friendly New Zealand!

We hopped on a flight into Auckland, and landed midday. What can I say about northern New Zealand? It really reminded me of Canada. The land is something like a mix of Nova Scotia and the Okanagan valley – rolling hills, pastures, coast. It really is a beautiful place.

Our time in Auckland proper was short. We checked into an apartment hotel for the night, mostly just looking forward to doing laundry for the night. We had one day in the city to enjoy the sights before heading out on the road for a driving tour of the north island. In the morning, we got up to wander around a bit. We walked downtown, but we were threatened by rain and whiny children, so we didn’t stick around too long. There were some nice harbour views, but, really, not much else to do.

After some afternoon napping – and more laundry – we grabbed some burgers for dinner (I had venison!) and went for a drive. We ended up down the coast, where we found an awesome playground for the kids right along the beach. J spent a while looking for mermaid seashells – you know, the ones you wear over your mermaid boobies. She could only find one, and she was very disappointed when I told her she couldn’t wear it… meanwhile, LittleB headed into the playground. He doesn’t really like playing with other kids, so normally he avoids playgrounds until they clear out. He circled the place, looking for an opening, until he spied a group of huge maori kids playing on this spinning tire toy. I guess those were his people! He jumped on there and spent the next half hour trying to win at some sort of “spin the tire as fast as possible and see who falls off first” game. It looked like he was having a riot.

Jumping out of chronological order, we also spent our final day in NZ visiting our friends in Auckland. It was great to see how the locals live it up, and they were kind enough to show us around the parks and playgrounds in the area. We had a lovely view of the city from the top of Mount Wellington. It was a great way to end a great trip!

But don’t worry, there’s still more. After yet some more laundry, the next day we hit the road for our visit to Rotorua, the thermal wonderland of NZ. Coming up next!

Pre-holidays holiday fun

Before I can get into trip details, I have to share a few pesky little things that happened in December called “overseas visitors” and “Christmas” and “LittleB’s birthday”.

First of all, mid-December was especially exciting because my parents came to visit! They arrived on the last day of school, but wisely chose to stay in and sleep off their 30-hour flight rather than go to the end-of-term assembly. What’s that? You would have gone, out of grandparental obligation? Well, the next time you are sleep deprived on the wrong side of the world, I will force you to watch two hours of awkward elementary school kids performing off-key songs and dancing to Gangnam Style. Or as J planned to do: bounce a basketball and sing “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?” by Sharon, Lois and Bram at the same time (she can’t do either very well).

One of many ballerinas...
One of many ballerinas…
One of many gangnam dancers
One of many gangnam dancers

Unfortunately, my parents were here for the week before our travels when I was fresh off bed rest from my horrible back injury – so I wasn’t able to take off much time, having used up all my work goodwill the previous week. B got the lucky job of showing them around town. This consisted of going to the one mall, swimming at my work and touring the botanical gardens. Surprise, they managed to accomplish all three that week!

We always like going to the botanical gardens here. They’re so strangely unkempt. As if someone just put a fence around a normal forest and started charging admission. There are some nice areas, like the orchid house and the great lawn (it is literally just a big lawn), but the rest is rather overgrown and, frankly, a little boring. To be fair, I’ve heard that there are a number of unusual species kept there, which would probably be more exciting if I knew anything about unusual species of tropical trees. I don’t. Instead, we are usually the exciting thing for the locals – and as usual, everyone wants a picture with us instead of the trees. When B took my parents, they were swarmed by local students who, for some bizarre reason, were trying to get my father to sing for them. My father is not a singer, and I’m certain he doesn’t look like any Indonesian singers, so I have no idea why this was even a thing. Who randomly asks strangers to sing for them? Indonesian school kids, that’s who. (He declined.)

Swimming with grandma and grandpa
Swimming with grandma and grandpa
Testing
Testing out our new underwater camera
Like I said... a bit unkempt
Like I said… a bit unkempt
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn
Swarmed by kiddos
Swarmed by kiddos

We also took my parents for a swanky Christmas brunch at a hotel in Jarkarta. Those are always a good excuse to eat too much. At least they had some really impressive Christmas decorations!

Huge Christmas decorations in a Jakarta hotel
Huge Christmas decorations in a Jakarta hotel

Because we were leaving for our travels on Dec 22, we would be on the road for both Christmas and LittleB’s birthday. I decided it would be best if we had those celebrations beforehand – I’d like to say it was because having Christmas at home is more special, but really I just didn’t want to bother bringing presents with me either there or back home again. So… I wrote a special letter to Santa asking him to have Christmas early, on Dec 21. As it turned out, he was happy to comply! Christmas morning was fun, with some nice presents for the kids and some Baileys for the adults. We did LittleB’s birthday early too, and he got a nice little haul for turning 7!

7 time
7 time
Grandpa couldn't eat the icing, so we cut out a piece beforehand
Grandpa couldn’t eat the icing, so we cut out a piece beforehand
Percy Jackson books!
Percy Jackson books!
"You bought me a box of yeast??"
“You bought me a box of yeast??”
"Oh yay, it's an iPod!"
“Oh yay, it’s an iPod, not yeast after all!”
Calm before the storm
Calm before the storm
Stockings!
Stockings!
Presents!
Presents!
The great opening begins
The great opening begins
Opening up
Opening up
Do you want this?
Do you want this?
Grandparent presents
Grandparent presents
Christmas cuddles
Christmas cuddles
Yay, more books!
Yay, more books!
This is my "now I have to clean up all this crap" face
This is my “now I have to clean up all this crap” face

On Sunday, we piled into a van I rented from work (our car was too small for all of us) and headed to the airport. Now, we have missed a flight before so we’re a bit airport-wary, and many other folks had been saying the airport traffic was really bad around then, so we left about 7 hours early for the flight. Of course, that was the one day when no one else was on the road, so it only took us an hour to get there. There’s not much to do in the Jakarta airport. We stood around for a while… we watched tour groups of Indonesian pilgrims pile through the airport… the kids cried a bit… finally check-in opened… then we spent another few hours waiting on the other side… Anyway, we eventually made it to Sydney!

Waiting....
Waiting….

Our first night in Sydney was rather uneventful. We picked up a van from the airport, and after B nearly had his fingers cut off by slamming them in the car door, we headed into the city. We had the morning to kill before we could check into our hotel on the outskirts of town. We booked something farther out because we were heading West into the Blue Mountains the next day, so staying downtown would have been silly. Anyway, it turned out we stayed in the sort of low-income, industrial area of the suburbs. Food options were a bit limited, but we managed to find our way to the Chinatown area and enjoyed some awesome bbq pork buns, as well as a really tasty Italian dinner nearby. We needed to conserve our energy for the real fun when we headed out the next day! But that’s the next post. Stay tuned!

Travelling again

IMG_1834
Middle of the night in the Doha airport. Again.

At least this time I am on the way to beautiful Rome for the next week! Going over the Indian Ocean wasn’t too bad tonight, though there were some bumps that prevented any sleep. I peeked down at the lights when we flew over Sri Lanka and thought it might be nice to crash there anyway.

So I’ve been meaning to share our upcoming travel plans so those of you who are affected can set aside time in your calendars for us.

We’ll be in New York on July 17-18-19, Toronto on July 20-21, Ottawa July 22-31, and Cheticamp August 1-7.
THEN, I know this is rather far away, but we’ll be in Sydney December 27-January 2 and in Auckland January 2-4 and again January 10-12.

So I hope to see you all soon!

Week in Yogyakarta – part 1

On Friday, we packed up and headed to Yogyakarta (or Jogja). It’s a city in the centre of Java, both literally and figuratively – it is known as the cultural “heart” of the island. We’re spending the week here for language training, and we decided to arrive a few days early to do some sightseeing with our friend Maria.

It was only a one-hour flight, and we arrived safely in Jogja despite some doubts. In addition to the usual traffic going to the Jakarta airport, which we managed to get through relatively unscathed, the flight itself was pretty bumpy. I’m not a great flier to begin with, and turbulence makes me feel like my guts are going to drop out, and this was one of those landings. We made it safely, even though we came in a bit “hot”… At least it was justified when I looked across the tarmac and saw what we just flew through!

That's the direction we came from... explains the turbulence...
That’s the direction we came from… explains the turbulence…

The hotel we stayed at Friday and Saturday was a fancy colonial-era place called the Phoenix hotel. It was beautiful.

On Friday night, Maria and I went out to the local ViaVia cafe (which most of you other travellers may have seen elsewhere – it’s a global thing). I had a simple, tasty dinner of kraton tea (cardamom, cloves, lemongrass, dragon fruit, ginger… some other stuff, yum!), lamb shawarma and mango mousse, serenaded by a local jazz band. The cafe also organizes tours, so we signed up for a car and driver to take us to Borobudur temple Saturday morning. That trip deserves its own post, so stay tuned!

On Saturday afternoon, we made a trip out to a local silversmith shop. A work colleague recommended him as her good friend, and he was very amenable to our visit. He showed us around the workshop and demonstrated some of the techniques. We had a great time picking out some jewellery to buy after that! After the silver shop, we wanted to visit the Monggo chocolate factory, but it has just closed. The shop was still open, though, so we had the oh so unhappy chore of buying chocolate to console ourselves with.

For dinner we visited a beautiful little restaurant called Kesuma for a traditional javanese dinner. We arrived very early (since the chocolate tour didn’t work out) – they weren’t even open yet! But the owner was so friendly and welcoming, and let us come in for an early sitting. The food was absolutely fantastic.

On Sunday, we changed hotels to one closer to our language school. This hotel is not quite as classy, but still very comfortable with lovely local decor. Then we headed to a restaurant called Melias for lunch, which is a vegetarian place that teaches local street kids how to cook and manage. Nevermind that, it was delicious, simple food. And there was a play area for the kids, which wins points in our book any day.

Now we’re planning to head to dinner at a pizza place down the street and go to bed early. It’s a school night, after all!

Bali weekend

We left for Bali (for real) on Friday, on a flight with Batavia Air that was supposed to take off around noon. Unfortunately, it was delayed for about 30 minutes. And it was pretty low budget and rough – I actually think there was about a 20% chance we were going to die. Fortunately, we met a very friendly fellow Canadian who now lives in Bali and was heading home for the weekend. He set us up with a car and driver in the city and recommended a few great places to visit. Vacation 180!

We landed and checked into our hotel, which was a villa in the area called Seminyak, just north of the airport. It was very quiet and friendly, and we got a lovely room. We spent the rest of Friday swimming. On Saturday, our driver took us to the shopping area of Seminyak – I hadn’t seen so many white people in months! It was very touristy. We bought a few trinkets and sun gear and headed off to the beach for the day.

Everyone said to stay away from Kuta Beach, which is famous for both being phenomenally busy, as well as home to some of the world’s most ridiculously stereotypical beach bums. So of course we stayed far, far away. We instead asked our driver to take us “to a nice beach”, and he took us to one south of the airport in Jimbaran. It was really nice, mostly because there were very few people there – we felt as though we almost had the whole beach to ourselves. The kids loved jumping over the waves that crashed into the shore. But the beach experience was somewhat diminished by the time we were ready to leave, as some garbage washed up on shore as we were packing up. It might have been more surprising if it weren’t for every single person who has ever been to Bali who told us that garbage on the beaches was pretty normal.

On Sunday, we decided to spend the day in Ubud, which is the cultural capital of Bali. It’s also where the book/movie Eat Pray Love takes place, so apparently it had has a big jump in tourism in the past few years. Not really our thing. But it was lovely. On the way, our driver took us to a Batik factory, where, although it was mostly a tourist trap, you could see the real way of hand-painting and dyeing Batik fabric. We also stopped at a silver factory, where a roomful of workers hand-molded and polished silver jewellery using ore from Kalimantan.

Once we arrived in Ubud itself, we visited Monkey Forest, which, unsurprisingly, was full of monkeys. J liked them at first, but then one tried to jump on her and she cried the rest of the way, “Bad scratchy monkeys!” Besides the monkeys, there were some beautiful old temples and statues in a river gully within the forest. It was a pretty little jewel of a place.

For lunch, we visited the famous Ibu Oka’s to try the “babi guling” – roasted suckling pig. It was featured on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. It was delicious! And the waitresses loved J and kept doing her hair and trying to feed her – this is common here. I think we’re the tourist attraction most of the time.

After lunch we toured the old royal palace and had our fill of fancy carvings and beautiful statues. Our favourite thing about these temples is that the people (or animals) in those carvings were dressed in saris. And I don’t mean that they were carved to look like they were wearing saris, I mean that the locals actually went around and physically wrapped saris around the statues. It was cute.

After an afternoon of wandering around the shops and bazaars, we headed home and passed away the night watching movies and ordering room service. We spent Monday morning by the pool again before flying home. Vacation achievement!

 

Flight fun

Yesterday was the start of our mini vacation in Bali. So this morning, I was looking forward to waking up in our spacious rented bungalow and enjoying a beautiful day beside the pool and/or beach. Instead, I lay awake all night in a tiny bed in a disappointing hotel next to the Jakarta airport. Yes, folks, we missed our flight out yesterday and had to hole up here overnight.

Let me give you the full story.

Thursday morning, we wake up at 5 am. Our departure was scheduled for 1:30pm, so we spent the morning getting ready. Was 5 am too early for this? Yes, but that’s the time J wakes up every morning and I want you to feel our pain.

I took the morning off work, so I spent some time answering emails and such while the kids harassed everyone in sight. Now, traffic in Jakarta is bad, we already know this, so we planned to leave with plenty of time. In fact, last time we travelled, we got to the airport too soon because we left so early. We decided to leave just after 10 am.

It’s 11ish and we’re about halfway there, but traffic is starting to concern me. There are more cars than usual and we’re being held up in long lineups at toll booths. The kids are getting restless and B has woken up from his nap in the car. I figure we still have lots of time, though, don’t panic. Then we start hitting actual traffic jams – maybe there are some accidents, maybe it’s unexplainable, I don’t know. I start sending panicked texts to my coworkers for advice. But the traffic clears, and we think we might make it! Arrive at the airport at 1 pm – we’re cutting it close! Race to the counter for check-in: and THEY WON’T LET US CHECK IN. Apparently you have to arrive 45 minutes before the flight leaves to check in. Sure, I get it, I hate people who are late, and I understand having to make a cut-off time. But seriously, with just under half a hour before the flight leaves?? Surely we can run for it. Nope. We are officially turned away.

Thus begins a 2-hour saga of panicked calls to our travel agent. Every single flight on every single airline is booked for the day (it’s a long weekend). And our original flight/hotel bookings are non-refundable, so we can’t even bail on the trip. We eventually settle on a flight leaving Friday afternoon on a different airline and book a room at a nearby hotel for the night. Unfortunately, this means that 1) we pay for a whole new flight, 2) pay a no-show fee for the original flight that is basically the equivalent of the original tickets, 3) pay for a night in the airport hotel, and 4) pay for the night in our hotel in Bali, even though we are not staying there. This trip just got very expensive. You know how in Home Alone, the family just travels all over and stays in random hotels as their plans fall through because of the kid? I always thought it seemed crazy and imagined just how much money they were spending to do it (I was a weird kid). Now I know how they feel. They were rich, though, so maybe they didn’t care so much.

And, it turns out, we managed to pick a hotel that we suspect is the gay Asian businessman hookup point. That in itself is not an issue, but the fact that it feels like we walked into the eighties is. It’s all neon and block lettering. There’s a a karaoke bar, a “music lounge”, a fusion restaurant and a festive spa treatment area. They did let us ride in a golf cart to our room, though, so that’s a plus. The view from our room? Not as good.

At first I thought this was here because the hotel is relatively new and maybe they’re still doing construction…. no, I think it’s just here all the time.

Anyway, Bali trip take 2 happens later today.Wish us luck!

Singapore – part 1

indoor fountain

We’re back from our mini-vacation to Singapore!

It was a busy few days, but we managed to pack a whole summer’s worth of activity into four days, since we didn’t get the chance to take any summer holidays this year. (Other than, you know, the whole moving to an exotic country thing.)

This is going to be a multi-parter, since I don’t have the stamina to upload all the pictures in one go. So, here are days 1 and 2 of our adventure:

We arrived on Wednesday night and checked into the hotel. It was a lovely suite-style room, and the hotel was nice enough to upgrade us for the whole time we stayed. So we got to enjoy the executive lounge and all the free snack foods and drinks that came with it! See the following obligatory hotel room photos:

The bedroom part of the suite. A nice king bed – although it certainly seemed smaller with three of us sleeping in it! (J took the middle.)
Hotel bathroom. For once, we did not feel obligated to steal all the tiny shampoos. I think we’ve finally become adults. *sniff*
The “suite” part of the suite. You can also see the typical caya family evening: no pants, headed straight to the tv (we’ve been here all of 5 minutes at this point). We’re classy folk.
The hotel even gave us tiny bathrobes and slippers! The kids were so excited.
B, however, was far less excited about the slippers *he* got.
And… the executive lounge. I was in here enjoying “high tea” – basically a strange assortment of tiny sandwiches and colourful gelatinous desserts. But the tea was good.

On Thursday, we needed to take care of the administrative things that actually brought us to Singapore. So, we headed to the Indonesian Embassy for our visas, then spent the day wandering around Orchard Road and shopping. We didn’t do a lot of shopping, because Orchard Road is the expensive, gucci-prada kind of area. But we did manage to buy a breakmaker (yes, mom, a Zojirushi!), and we saw plenty of nifty stores and fancy restaurants. The malls there were hard to navigate, because they go up instead of out. We would be way up on the 6th floor or way below on the B2 level and still have more stores to see. It was crazy!

indoor fountain
Many of the malls have interconnecting tunnels, and this fountain was in a particularly cavernous area of one of them.
The Singapore Grand Prix is next weekend, so there were a lot of race cars on display. This one was at the TagHeuer store.

We capped off our first day with a really great meal at a mexican place. Yes, I know, we went all the way to asia to eat mexican, but it was the only place LittleB could eat. In fact, I think it was the first time he has eaten a whole meal since we left Canada!

Full bellies = happy kids.

Stay tuned for a bunch of pictures from the Night Safari and the Gardens by the Bay!

Arrival in Jakarta!

Well, folks, we’ve arrived. It was a very, very long trip.

The short version is YOW > YVR > TPE > JKT. The long version is Friday, August 17, 1855h > Sunday, August 19, 1600h. Don’t ask what happened to Saturday, because I think we lost it somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Thankfully, we flew executive class. I could kiss whoever invented VIP lounges and in-flight meals, not to mention the comfy bed-chairs and duvets. Too bad we’ll never be able to afford that again! Seriously though, the kids were troopers through the whole thing. Despite some tears and cabin fever, they’ve been handling it all like pros.

We’ve settled into a hotel in Jakarta for now. It is Idul Fitri this week – what a wonderful time to see the best of the city! The streets are quiet from traffic, filled instead with happy families and nightly fireworks. We’re all still a bit jet-lagged, so meals and bedtimes are flexible. I start work on Wednesday, so hopefully I’m not still totally out of it by then!

In summary, here are some lessons we learned the hard way:

  • Don’t give yourself a shiner right before boarding an overseas flight.
  • If your kid drops a $4 orange juice immediately after purchase in a fancy hotel, you still have to pay for its replacement.
  • Don’t walk anywhere in Jakarta. Instead, rent a mercedes and a driver for less than $30 a day.
  • The toilets don’t work the way you think they do.
  • Try not to spill food all over the expensive turkish rug at your new boss’ house.
  • The Disney Channel is literally everywhere (thank goodness).