Tag Archives: Excursion

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Where we left off

I am declaring my blogging “maternity leave” officially over.  I’m ready to get back to it. By way of getting caught up, here’s a reasonably brief timeline of my life since the last post:

May. Micah and I finish up the traveling we had intended to do. Well, almost all of what we intended to do, anyway! We took a long weekend in Penang, which was great. It’s such a different city than KL, we were very pleasantly surprised with the contrast. We also took a day trip to Melaka. It was about an hour to an hour and a half by bus, so it was totally doable for a quick trip. I think there are always a few “I wish we had time for that” regrets when leaving any city, but I think we managed to milk everything we could out of those last trips. We ate some excellent food in both cities, hiked in an incredible national park and played with some monkeys on a beach in Penang, and learned more about Malaysia’s history and colonization in Melaka.

 

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Penang

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Melaka

End of May. Micah’s family comes to visit us in KL. We met them in Singapore and had one last adventure for the road. We loved visiting Singapore, what a contrast to KL and Malaysia even though they are so culturally similar! We brought The Family to some of the places that we had really loved in KL (Jalan Alor, Batu Caves, Merdeka Square, Petaling Street…). And we did some other new things with them (Royal Selangor Pewter Factory, Top of Petronas Towers). It was a really great way to revisit the places we loved one last time.

 

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Singapore

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KL Farewell

Beginning of June. I flew back to Texas to reestablish life in suburban Dallas before TK arrives. This was harder than I thought it might be. Thank goodness for family! My original plan was to find a house to rent starting in the beginning of July. I stayed with Micah’s cousin, the same one we lived with before leaving for KL.  She encouraged me to stay there as long as I needed to, which took a lot of pressure off. This turned out to be an even bigger blessing as, once I found a house, we couldn’t even move in until mid-July. On the other side of the family, my cousin let me borrow their car for as long as I needed to while I bought a “new” one. The plan was to get that wrapped up in the first week or two that I was back. As I shopped for cars, though, we re-prioritized our budget based on what was available and it took much longer to buy a car than I expected. It was the end of June before I ended up buying something.

All of June was taken up with house hunting, car shopping, and getting established with my doctors here. I had my first doctor’s appointment about 2 days after landing. I loved my doctor in KL, and I love my doctor here, and I wouldn’t change any of the health care decisions that we made. BUT. Prenatal care in KL was very different, and in some ways better, than prenatal care in Texas. More on this in a future post.

All of this “getting reestablished” stuff was happening while I was in my third trimester. The day I landed in Texas, I was 31 weeks and 6 days pregnant. Most people are heavily into nesting at this point. (And most commercial airlines “strongly prefer” you to finish traveling before 32 weeks!)  People kept asking me, “Are you ready for the baby? Do you have everything you need?” No! I don’t even have a place to live yet! (Well, we did, because we could have stayed with The Cousin for as long as we wanted, but you know what I mean…) Some aspects of this were really stressful, but most were not. Living in KL for 9 months really made it clear to me that a lot of what we “need” in daily life in the US are not truly needs. We had a cradle, and diapers are easy enough to come by, that’s all we truly Needed for TK’s arrival. Once we had confirmed a place to live, had utilities set up, and movers arranged, I felt much better.  The question of “need” vs NEED has become a guiding principle in our current life: Is this a Capital N Need? If not, can we do without it? It’s been a great lesson from a budget standpoint as well as a de-cluttering standpoint, even if it’s not always easy to follow.

Mid-July. Micah lands on a Sunday night. We move into our new place the next morning. We moved in two phases, and hired professional movers for both. It was the best decision we ever made. Day 1, we unloaded our storage POD. Day 2, we moved out of the storage shed. These were also the hottest days of the summer to that point. I felt a little guilty for not actually helping with lifting and carrying, but not that guilty.

We spent the next two weeks trying to get the house unpacked and organized. (Spoiler Alert: we still have two rooms that are mostly full of unopened boxes.) Micah went back to work at his new assignment within the same company. We were also officially on “any day now” alert starting about week 38 of my pregnancy.

Beginning of August. TK’s official due date! And then a week later he made his long awaited arrival. He’s healthy and perfect in every way. We couldn’t be happier.

 

 

The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of trying to figure out how to care for a baby. It still feels like we are flying by the seat of our pants and learning as we go. For two (overly-) educated people, this has been very disconcerting. We are used to being able to read and learn about something and more or less figure it out. But there is so much information about raising children, and so much of it is conflicting, it’s really overwhelming!  The dirty secret we have learned is that everyone is really flying by the seats of their pants, and we should do what works best for us. Figuring out what works for us changes weekly and sometimes daily, but we are over the moon thrilled and in love with TK.

At this point, 5 months in, I’m finally able to carve out a little bit of time for my own stuff. One thing that I have really missed is having a creative outlet. I really like writing and blogging, so I’m trying to cultivate that habit as best I can. I have a few more posts in my head that are relevant to this site, and then we will see what happens. I’m debating the merits of starting a new blog and just keeping this one as a travelogue type thing- we do intend to travel again at some point in the future! I think my future posts will be loosely related to “Things I Think About”…some parenting, some current events, some education. If you have thoughts/ideas/preferences about keeping posts on this site vs. starting a new one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Coming soon, in no particular order, and likely updating on Tuesday evening (Dallas suburb time, which is Central Time Zone in US, or GMT -06:00):

Wedding in KL

Grocery store culture shock, backwards

Pre-natal care in KL vs US

Over a Century of Details

The Khoo Kongsi (clan house) in Penang, Malaysia

The Khoo Kongsi (clan house) in Penang, Malaysia

For the Intricate photo challenge:  A corner piece from Khoo Kongsi temple in Penang, Malaysia, built in 1906.  Clan houses are very important in the Chinese community in Penang.  They served as a sort of community center for new immigrants from the clan.  The Khoo Kongsi complex contained housing, an opera stage, meeting and business rooms, and of course this temple.  (It also currently contains a museum detailing the history, but I don’t think the museum displays were part of the original function of the clan house.)  There are many clan houses, but this is one of the finest…according to our favorite guide book.

The Khoo Kongsi Temple

The Khoo Kongsi Temple

Arriving in Cambodia

The second post in a brief series about our amazing Cambodia trip.  Post 1, Sunrise at Angkor Wat, fits chronologically at the end of this post.

The flight from KL to Siem Reap is about 2 hours, with a 1-hour time difference. It was a really easy trip and with flexible dates you can find good deals on air travel. We spent a 4-day weekend, but could have easily spent a week.  Angkor Wat was Micah’s choice of a “must do” trip and it didn’t disappoint! I think it’s a place we will go back to at some point.  We did pack in a lot, but there was also a lot that we didn’t get to do.  For example, we “only” did the main temples, there are several others in outlying areas that are historically older, but due to time and distance we didn’t make it.  Another thing we would have liked to have done in Cambodia is visit Phnom Penh; we both felt guilty about going to Cambodia to see the temples without acknowledging the country’s more recent and troubled history.

When we landed in Siem Reap, we deplaned on the tarmac and had to walk to the immigration and customs building. There were some official looking people to make sure we were headed in the right direction, but otherwise we were on our own. We needed visas to enter Cambodia, and we chose to apply online and get e-visas, rather than fill out the paperwork and pay for them at the airport. It just seemed easier to have them in hand, and I think it made our processing time a little faster since we’d already been approved to enter the country. We had other customs declarations and things that we’d filled out on the plane as well. One of them went to the immigration official as we passed through but we still had the others as we collected our bags and exited customs. On the way out the door, quite literally about 20 feet away from the door to the outside, there was a box where we very officially dropped the rest of our paperwork. No one was even checking to make sure we complied. But of course we did. Goal #1 of our entire expat year: avoid causing international incidents. No point in testing the limits at this point, so close to the end.

Tuk tuk selfie!

Tuk tuk selfie!

Our hotel had sent a driver to pick us up and we found him really easily and trotted off to his tuk tuk. Our first time in a tuk tuk! The Cambodian version of this form of transportation is a motorcycle with a cart in tow. The cart has a roof, but open sides, and seating for 4 adults on cushioned benches that face each other. It was reasonably comfortable, but we learned several things about being tuk tuk passengers on the quick ride back to the hotel: Wearing eye protection was crucial and it was helpful to have a bandana or something over your nose and mouth as the streets were very dusty. Micah and I also felt more comfortable if one or the other of us put an arm across the back of the bench to make a little more shoulder room, too.

It was late afternoon, and very hot. We thought the temperature would be similar to KL since the two cities aren’t that far apart geographically. But the heat in Siem Reap felt more brutal. It was the kind of heat where the particular quality of the air and the light just look hot. It even smelled hot. KL is more humid, and while the humidity here is oppressive, the moisture in the air makes the temperature feel different. Not more bearable, just different. I guess it depends what you’re used to!

Our villa

Our villa

When we arrived at the hotel, we were offered a “welcome drink” of chilled apple juice as well as cool wash cloths. After the plane and the dusty tuk tuk ride, both of these things were a nice touch. We were then shown to our room, which turned out to be a really nice, freestanding villa, and quite large! We planned out our weekend based on Lonely Planet’s typically excellent recommendations, and went to the front desk to ask about hiring a driver for the next day to do the tour we had just mapped out. Through some combination of language barrier and the fact that the hotel offered set tour packages, it turned out to be quite difficult to just a hire a driver for the day. The prices for the tour packages were very reasonable, and it was clear that it would just be easier to book their pre-packaged tours. So we booked “the small tour” for the next day and tacked on sunrise at Angkor Wat, for both of us this was $23 USD.  At a total cost of $48 USD for both of us, we booked “the grand tour” for the day after, plus sunset, and we also tacked on an extra temple in an outlying area. In retrospect we should have saved the extra temple for Monday morning when we didn’t have anything else planned. The extra temples, plus the grand tour, plus sunset made for a really long day.

Lily pad pond at the reception desk

Lily pad pond at the reception desk

With our tours booked, we went in to town and walked around a little. We walked through the night market, because walking through night markets is always good entertainment in Southeast Asia, and shopped a little bit. We knew we wanted to buy kramas, the traditional Cambodian scarf, and it looked like all of the stalls had approximately the same selection. So we picked a stall more or less at random and picked out two that we liked. We’re a little better about negotiating than we were in Thailand, but I didn’t bargain very hard for the kramas. I have a soft spot for female shop keepers, I always assume they are entrepreneurs and therefore I don’t mind paying an extra $1 or $2.  We did successfully bargain for the other souvenirs we picked up though!  (Sidebar:  Cambodia uses U.S. currency.  It was simultaneously weird and comforting to have American money in our wallets again.  Especially when the prices ran on par with Southeast Asian prices, instead of U.S. prices.)

After shopping and a little bit of people watching, it was time to call it a night. It wasn’t very late, maybe 9:30pm or so, but our driver was picking us up at 4:30 the next morning. Early to bed for us! Micah had no problem going to sleep right away, however I had one of my periodic bouts of insomnia and ended up being awake until after 1am. There was loud music playing somewhere near by, and then some dogs started the midnight edition of the twilight bark, plus being in an unfamiliar bed and room…I was just awake. One strange thing that kept me awake was how utterly and completely dark it was in the room. No ambient light at all. Normally this would be a good thing, but ambient light filters into our hotel all night in KL. There’s a gap between the curtains and the wall, so at best it’s dark grey in our room. I guess I’ve gotten used to it and had a hard time sleeping in a dark room! Another instance of “it depends what you are used to” as the ambient light used to keep me awake in KL and now apparently completely dark rooms keep me awake, too.

Next up, chronologically speaking, is Sunrise at Angkor Wat, which is already published.  Followed by Angkor Wat: The Small Tour