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Vagabond Kids: June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Travel Quote: Pico Iyer

Breakfast at the Westin Hotel residence in Kuala Lumpur while planning a day at Cosmo's World Amusement Park in Berjaya Times Square.

So, as I sit at the Plant today meeting with co-workers slogging over files and drafting contracts, the Vagabond Kids and Vagabond Dad are off exploring the city of Kuala Lumpur. First stop was Beryl's Chocolates and much different from other reports, there is not a factory tour, simply a shop selling chocolates. So, quick review is probably give it a miss. The kids are next heading off to Cosmo's World at Berjaya Times Square, a review will follow soon.

But it is Wednesday and time for a quote. I am still finishing the Paul Theroux book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar but at this point in the book he is meeting with Pico Iyer in Japan.

So, today's quote comes from Pico Iyer, one of my favorite travel writers.

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle. In that regard, even a Kentucky
Fried Chicken outlet (in Beijing) or a scratchy revival showing of "Wild
Orchids" (on the Champs-Elysees) can be both novelty and revelation: In China,
after all, people will pay a whole week's wages to eat with Colonel Sanders, and
in Paris, Mickey Rourke is regarded as the greatest actor since Jerry

From the Article on "Why we travel" by Pico Iyer.

True-so-true. So, a parting shot for you today of the Petronas Towers. Back with more soon!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Kuala Lumpur with Kids: Kraf Kompleks

Checking out the Painting

Hidden down a side street on a lane now filled with the din and confusion of construction a gem lies waiting for discovery. Wind your way down the street avoiding the trucks and potholes following the signs that mark the way to the Kraf Kompleks (Craft Complex. Most tourists never make it here because it is a bit out of the way, which is a shame really because for an afternoon away from the crowds with activities that are fun for kids and adults alike, the Craft Complex is a real treat.

While the center features most traditional Malay crafts, including pottery, shadow puppets, beading and weaving, the highlight and the one I have always found to be open (the other stalls seem to be hit and miss) is the Batik painting. Batik painting at the Craft Complex is the real deal, you pick the image you want to paint, you chose either silk or cotton fabric and then the staff prepares the wax and image for you.

Batik Painting

Some Batik paintings come with pre-waxed images that you then color in the space in between. At the Craft Complex, you can do it either way, but it is much more fun to actually pick your image, trace it and then have it waxed. Once you have your trace done, the artisans at the center will apply the wax for you using a canting and once the wax is cool (about 5 minutes) you then paint on the fabric and watch the colors melt and blend into each other.

The wax acts as a resist and as soon as it is melted off the outline will remain. The ladies at the Kraft Complex will the prepare the final product for you, mat your painting for you and as little as 2 hours from start to finish at a cost of less than $15 US you have your own Batik masterpiece.

Batik Painting, Kuala Lumpur

The Vagabond Kids love the Craft Complex and painting Batik and it is always a highlight of our trips to Kuala Lumpur. Usually on weekdays we go mid morning and find we are some of the only people in the area (it does tend to fill up with School Kids on certain days in the afternoon).

I know, based on friends that live in KL, the Craft Complex can also arrange for you to have a private party if you live in KL and they have told me birthday parties featuring Batik Painting are always a hit! If traveling with kids in Malaysia, this is one stop you should add to your itinerary.

The Kraft Complex can be found here (Make sure you click on the English option)

63 Jalan Conlay (Behind Chulan Square and next door to the Prince Hotel)

View My Saved Places in a larger map

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oregon With Kids: Timberline Lodge

I love Timberline lodge, it brings back such great memories from my childhood. Mostly memories about what it must have been like to go skiing (we didn't start skiing until I was in highschool) and how cool it was that Mt. Hood had a big St. Bernard. Well, Heidi the dog has been replaced by a Bruno, and while we didn't get to see him, the lodge is still a great place to take the kids for a bit of fun as well as a history lesson. Timberline was inducted as a National Historic Monument in 1978. Timberline is a ski resort (one of the only in the US with year around skiing) a museum, a hotel and a work of art. It is also just fun to go see snow if your kids live in the tropics like mine!

Timberline lodge was a great ambitious public works project that was launched during the depression. I love the fact that the whole lodge was crafted by hand, with artisans creating a structure that would stand over time and act as a symbol of what can be done. Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the lodge in 1938 and stated the following

"This Timberline Lodge marks a venture that was made possible by W.P.A., emergency relief work, in order that we may test the workability of recreational facilities installed by the Government itself and operated under its complete control.

Here, to Mount Hood, will come thousands and thousands of visitors in the coming years. Looking east toward eastern Oregon with its great livestock raising areas, these visitors are going to visualize the relationship between the cattle ranches and the summer ranges in the forests. Looking westward and northward toward Portland and the Columbia River, with their great lumber and other wood using industries, they will understand the part which National Forest timber will play in the support of this important element of northwestern prosperity.

Those who will follow us to Timberline Lodge on their holidays and vacations will represent the enjoyment of new opportunities for play in every season of the year. I mention specially every season of the year because we, as a nation, I think, are coming to realize that the summer is not the only time for play. I look forward to the day when many, many people from this region of the Nation are going to come here for skiing and tobogganing and various other forms of winter sports."

One of my dreams is to be able to teach my children about the places they travel. Mt Hood's Timberline lodge is no exception. What a great opportunity to teach the older kids about the history of the depression, the WPA and what craftsman style design can be (check out some of the old pictures here).

The food in the Blue Ox bar was great, simple and inexpensive, but while kids are allowed into the bar to eat, OLCC (Oregon Liqour laws) require kids to sit at tables rather than the very cool bar. The mosaic work in the Blue Ox was amazing btw.

After Lunch we took the kids up to the chairlifts and were able to take the lift about half way up. Skiers and snowborders were heading further up the mountain, but hikers and people like us were able to head up about half way up the mountain, get off and walk around. If you were able, and not exhausted like our kids were, you can walk back down the hill to the Lodge in about 20-30 minutes.

After our snowplay we loaded back up and went to Hood River for some fresh fruit and a stop at Multnomah Falls. Come back for more!

For more information about the history of Timberline you can check out the Friends of Timberline website

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Mountains and Valleys: Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Hood River

As I prepare for our trip home this summer, I found part of a post from a travel blog I tried to start back in 2008, filling out some details makes me hope we can do it again this year!

I love going back to those places I visited as a child. I have such memories of driving down the Columbia River Gorge and seeing Mt. Adams. Mt. Adams was such a different view from our favorite Oregon mountain, Mt. Hood. Adams, well she is pretty, round and young. Hood always seemed a bit craggier, a bit wizened perhaps, but less, well, matronly.
When I was a young adult, probably right after college, I loved to drive the Hood River loop, starting up and over Mt. Hood, down through the orchards of Hood River and home back again through the majestic Columbia River Gorge. Vagabond Dad grow up in the Gorge, my grandparents were from "Eastern Oregon" so the Hwy 84 drive was not foreign to either of us... but it was quite a trip for the kids

This is a great day trip for kids, a full day yes, but one filled with fast luge rides, snow ball fights, historic buildings and fresh picked fruit, ending the day at Multnomah Falls.

We started from Vancouver Washington, and took the full day and drove to "Multipor" Skibowl and took a fun filled luge ride down the hill. Little did I know it is not known as Multipor anymore, they are simply known as Ski Bowl, but I am showing my age here....In order to ride the Alpine Slide solo the children must meet minimum height restrictions. I think the level was about 45 inches, but I could not find an actual measurement. My son was tall enough, but we still chose to double up. To get to the top, you ride a chair lift to the mid level where you get off and zoom back to the bottom. (You can also ride to the top (a common mountain bike area) and bike the trails around the top of the mountain. The Alpine slide opens between 10 and 11 each morning.

After a fun morning on the luge, we stopped at Historic Timberline Lodge for lunch and snow. The kids, being proper Singaporeans now, really have only seen snow in a faux snow atmosphere. So getting up on the mountain seeing the real thing was a bit of a shock. We ate lunch at one of the pubs at the lodge-Corn Soup- Oregon Pinot Noir-Historic surroundings=Bliss for the Vagabond Mom and Dad.

Mt. Adams
We then packed up in the car and drove the full loop, down Highway 26, passing through Hood River Valley and Hood River proper. We stopped at a farmers market and picked up a bunch of fresh cherries and some dried fruit. The view of the mountains was so spectacular, it made me think I never want to leave. Of course Hood River Valley is amazing in summer, it is just the other 9 months of the year that stink.
A drive down the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Multnomah Falls. Again, another memory from the Vagabond Parent's childhoods, but one the kids had yet to experience. There is not much to say about the Falls that hasn't already been said, by those much more prose filled than I, but an jaw dropping sight to see. Finishing with the 45 minute drive back to Vancouver Washington for an overnight stay with Grandma rounded out the day. It was long the last few miles filled with cries of "are we there yet" but it was beautiful and everything that Summer in Oregon should be.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Travel Quotes:Paul Theroux

Starting this week, I am going to start posting my favorite travel quotes and a link to the book I got them from. This week is from my current book, Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

This book is by far the most readable Theroux that I have read so far, while he is still judgemental and cranky while traveling, his honest opinons are going down in big giant chunks, so fast that I am going to need a new book before I to go back on the road next week.

"Travel means living among strangers, their characteristic stinks and sour
perfumes, eating their food, listening to their dramas, enduring their opinions, often with no language in common, being always on the move towards an uncertain destination, creating an itinerary that is continually shifting, sleeping alone, inventing the trip, cobbling together a set of habits in order to stay sane and rational, finding ways to fill the day and be enlightened, avoiding danger, keeping out of trouble, and, immersed in the autobiographical, for my journal, writing everything down in order to remember, reflecting on where I am and what I am doing."

And yet, we love it and I can't wait to start out again.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Travel Plans: Reading and Links

Part of being a frequent traveler is knowing that sometimes plans will change. We found this out last week as we had to reschedule a six week trip to the US due to the Vagabondboy being sick and in hospital. After multiple phone calls, many hours online and multiple switches (and switch backs) we were able to salvage a portion of the trip. No, this is not a normal reschedule, much of the trip this summer was on miles and points so we were at the mercy of the airlines. BUT... what I did start thinking about was how to fill a portion of that time. We are not able to leave Singapore until July 7th, so we have gone ahead and done another quick trip to Kuala Lumpur to visit some of our favorite hot spots. The kids are disappointed, it means only one day at Disney this trip, but we get to go home to the States (although Jeff and I call it home, the kids think of Singapore as home) and Disney and Legoland are still on the agenda.

So, while we are not currently on the road this week, we are planning our next trip. We love to dig out old guidebooks and read through old magazines for places we want to get to next. The other "downtime" activity that I have been trying to catch up on is my blogs. I love reading about some of the other traveling parents out there, the places they go, the things they do. For me it is better than a guide book. While I do love reading guidebooks and they are a good jumping off point, I love the real life-real advice you get from blogs and twitter.
Guidebooks tend to be so general, are not really family oriented and tend to be out of date before you even buy them. But I find that blogs are imperfect, spelling errors, blurry pictures, frustrations and rants. You know, real people and real places, real recomendations. I love being on Twitter (you can follow me here)
So, without further adieu... I have a blog list for you. Not fancy, no super graphics. Just my favorite go to websites for for dreaming about the next trip to take. The list is far from complete and is still growing so if you want to be listed, just let me know! Oh and I am also building a fan page on Facebook (which you can "like") here... I will be doing a give away over there soon, so join the page now!

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Disneyland Pictures (circa 2008)

Just a few pictures from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Borneo with Kids: Miri's Lambir Hills Park aka tours with the headhunters!

Last October (2009) the Vagabond Kids and family set out on a new adventure, to a spot we had not yet done, a place we had not yet traveled. We went on a family vacation to Miri Malaysia on the island of Borneo.

Borneo (so far we have only traveled to Malaysian Borneo) is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for a quick get away. It is an hour plus by plane from Singapore and still has some native forest left (as compared to much of Indonesia and all of peninsular Malaysia), pristine beaches (for now) and native cultures unlike those on the peninsula.

Jeff, aka Vagabond Dad, is always looking for a new place to see, someplace before it hits the big time. This time, the new spot that cropped up was a couple hundred bucks on an Air Asia flight, two hours in air and a Marriott hotel later and boom, we were in Miri.

Miri is just south of the very oil rich Sultanate of Brunei and is also home to the first oil well in Malaysia. Miri is also a bit of a "hot spot" for Bruneian and expats working in Brunei (Brunei is an Islamic country and no Alcohol is sold there). While we were in Brunei a good size group of British Army-men and their families were camped at the Marriott for a weekend of pool, beer and camaraderie.

Lambir Hills Park

Miri is still a sleepy town, much of it is either oil or timber industry and has not yet become a popular tourist destination in Asia. Much of the tourism that is there, is of the adventure type and Miri serves as home base prior to departing out on a jungle trek and a welcome shower and soft bed upon your return.

We weren't really interested in a big hike, and frankly I am not sure the kids are quite ready for it, but we did want to take the kids out and show them some real forest. Jeff and I grew up in small towns in Oregon, where forests are thick-day hikes are common- and an appreciation of the wild is part of being a kid. Needless to say, Singapore, you don't get that.

We found that there was a nearby day hike, less than an hour drive from the Hotel in the Lambir Hills National Park. The park has multiple waterfalls, suspension bridges and a swimming pond at the end of one of the trails. There are multiple trails in the park, the easiest is about a 25 minute gentle walk towards the swimming hole. There are two ways to get to the park, you can either hire a taxi for the day which would run you about US$35-40 or you can hire a guide and driver. We went ahead and hired the guide and it was a great way of doing the park. The guide, plus car and driver, was only about $60. US, so for the additional $20 we figured it was worth it.

Jeff showing off little minnows

Our Guide was a local Dayak, and the Dayaks are the indigenous people of Borneo and contain around 200 subgroups. The most infamous of the Dayak tribes were the headhunters, which our guide told us his family was part of that subgroup. We were assured however, that they had not taken any heads for at least 20 years, so we were in safe hands! All jests aside, one of the advantages of having hired the guide we walked through the park and were given some of the local flavor of the park and he showed us how the local peoples used different plants as medicines, how children would make helicopters with certain seeds and how the Dayak people were much more in touch with nature. In many ways much of that culture is gone (and not just the headhunting). The current Dayaks are leaving the forest and going to work on the oil rigs or in the timber plantations so it was interesting to get some of the traditional information while it still exists.

Man this was cold water!

At the end of the trail we sat down to a picnic lunch that we had packed and enjoyed a bit of a dip in the swimming hole. We were by ourselves for an hour or so before another family we had met at the hotel also went for a dip. It was a neat opportunity to get out of the city, to enjoy some trail time and to show the kids what being outdoors really means. After another drive back down the hill a little grubbier and tired we made it back to the hotel and the kids burst back into action in order to hit the pool in time for the Inflatables... but that is a post for another day.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Kids in Singapore: A Day at the Zoo

I love living in Singapore, it really is one of the greatest cities in the world. One of its best features is not unsung, but it deserves all of the credits it gets. Yes, the Singapore Zoo is high on my Top 10 things to do in Singapore list. Even better if you have kids.

Four Cousins at the Zoo

Open every day, from 9-6 the Singapore Zoo has to be one of the best zoo's in the whole world; free and open animal exhibits,creative use of space, ability to feed certain animals, interactive guides through out and oh yeah a totally kickin' water park on the back side. (If you still have strength you should check out the night safari!)

The water park

Our strategy for the zoo is to get there early. Particularly on weekends… here’s a little secret about many Singaporean's; they sleep in on weekends. So, if you get to the Zoo around 9am you should find yourselves with the animals not crowds of people. Besides, by 2pm in the afternoon, it gets pretty darn hot even with the well designed zoo. So we try to get a big part of the zoo done early in the morning and hit the water park at the back side of the zoo in the afternoon to cool off.

White Tiger Exhibit

One of the great things about the zoo, other than the Polar Bear Exhibit (a long story), is most of the animals are native to SE Asia. The zoo has exhibits featuring the White Tiger which are totally amazing to see these creatures this close. The exhibit is also interactive with information about the Asian Tiger, its diminishing habitat and information on the white tiger (did you know that all white tigers are cousins to each other as they all have the same ancestor?). The zoo also has the Malaysian Tapir, a huge Orangutan exhibit, SE Asian Otters, Asian Elephants, Komodo Dragons, Proboscis Monkeys, Hornbills… in addition to the standard Lions, Zebras, Rhinos and the like.

Feeding the tortoise

The kids love feeding time, in some places it is a talk by a keeper and in others for a small fee you can feed the animals. Some of the more popular animal talks/feedings are the pygmy hippos, the giraffes and rhinos, but we love the giant tortoise. Less crowded for Singapore $5 (about US$3.50) you get a bowl of fresh fruit and you get to walk around and interact with the tortoises while you feed them. My sister and her family visited us last summer and this was a highlight of the zoo for them.

The whole zoo is a great place to hang out, you can have breakfast with the Orangutan, see a few shows, play in the water and head over to the night safari for dinner and a whole new zoo experience. I am torn between this or Sentosa being my number 1 for things to do in Singapore with the kids. What do you think?

Here are a few more fun pics from the zoo... click on them to see a larger size

From Vagabond Kids

From Vagabond Kids

From Vagabond Kids

From Vagabond Kids

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Out Sick

After a crazy trip to Portland Oregon to renew a drivers license, then off to Dallas Texas for a 2 week work trip, I found myself here for a un-planned detour in my often busy travel schedule.

Gleneagles Hospital Singapore

Right before I left I had an ultrasound done, found I had some gallstones and thought about what this meant and if I could postpone surgery until after the summer. I made it through 2 weeks in DFW, only to wake up the day I left for a 32 hour door to door trip with my symptoms back in full force. I figure I was passing the gallstones in the Dallas Airport, I was feverish shaky and in lots of pain and by god, I was going home.

So when I returned to Singapore, I had planned on writing and posting about a number of our trips around the region, planning on building up our tip sections and getting additional data for future travels. But instead after confirming with the surgeon and knowing I didn't want to spend my summer in a hospital back in the States, I spent the last week and a half planning for and undergoing a Gallbladder surgery. So I am now laying in bed, recovering and slowly getting back to the net, twitter and planning our next big huge family trip around the Pacific Northwest and the greater Los Angeles Area. So posts a coming and thanks for stopping by!