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Vagabond Kids: October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Traveling to UNESCO sites with Kids

Corner in Ankor

Did you know there are currently over 900 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world? I also found out that there are over 200 in Asia Pacific. So, wouldn't it be cool to set a goal to see all of them? At least those in your area?

I am always pleased to see when a World Heritage site gets recognized for UNESCO heritage status. It doesn't mean all of the destruction will stop or that the site will be preserved in perpetuity. What it does mean though is that people at least are thinking about preserving the sites that have significant heritage connections to that area. I pulled a list off of the UNESCO site and updated here on the blog in order to keep track of those sites that the kids have visited. While we are not always on the road, one the key reasons we take the kids traveling is that we want them to learn about the World. The UNESCO sites are a great way introduce history in a real life setting for them. Next stop will be the temples and city of Angkor in Cambodia this holiday season.

Dad and Jeff in Angkor

Vagabond Dad and "Grandpa" Wayne visit the Angkor site in 2007

So, as I continue to update the list and add sites we have seen, here are some of the sites we have seen. Where do you want to go?

Great Wall of China

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mt. Merapi, Yogyakarta Indonesia

In March we had the opportunity to travel to Yogykarta on the island of Java Indonesia and spent each morning waking up to the view of the amazing, beautiful and volatile Mt. Merapi from our dining room window. Yesterday we heard she had exploded again, proving that the group of seismologists and volcanists who were studying the mountain in March while we were there were correct in assessing it as a hot spot for near term volcanic activity

In case you hadn't heard the volcano erupted yesterday, killing over 25 people. Memories and comparisons to the Mt. St. Helen's eruption that I witnessed as a child are obvious.

I am keeping the lovely people of Java in my mind as they deal with the deaths of loved one's from her most recent eruption and those Indonesians dealing with the Tsunami in Mentawai.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hanging Out: The Beach in Penang

So, two days at the beach, a blissful escape from the noise of the city the stress of too much travel (okay I admit there can be too much travel if it is all for work) and some serious downtime by the pool. It has been crazy few months around the Vagabond family household and Mom needed some serious beach time with her little munchkins. We hadn’t been back as a family to Penang since 2005 and while I have been there for work, I had not made it out to the beach.

Penang is sort of a weird little island; one part down by the airport is rapidly developing into a major economic power child for Malaysia, lots of industry, and lots of manufacturing. The Northern part of the island is where the UNESCO World Heritage recognized city of Georgetown is located. Dilapidated buildings meet old world elegance and some of the most amazing food at street vendor prices. And then there are the beaches. Frankly we were not too impressed in 2005. You drove by the beaches and they looked pretty, but the flotsam and jetsam and generally pollution made many of the beaches less inviting close up.

Five years can do a lot for a location. On the positive side the beaches, at least those by our hotel and that we saw were much cleaner. The water was cleaner and the overall feel of the beaches seems to be that the local Penangites are taking care of the natural resources that they are entrusted with. But, of course there is bad news too. Over the last 5 years hundreds of new construction projects have cropped up-all with “Ocean Views”. Buildings crowding the beaches, buildings place precariously on the edge of cliffs, real estate speculators from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have been snapping up property in order to make a quick buck (this is also the case in downtown Georgetown where the locals are rapidly being priced out of the market). But, I was talking about the beaches and in particular our hotel.

Beach View

Batu Ferringghi is where a number of the beach hotels of Penang are located. In particular, the Shangri-la, Holiday Inn and Park Royal are all within a short stretch of beach, the Hard Rock is just down the road and in front of the Holiday Inn is an active night market with all the trinkety schlock any kid could want, let’s just say the bubble blowers were popular…and plenty of less expensive food could be found just a short walk from the hotel, in particular the Long Beach Seafood Hawker Centre. We think the Satays we had there rival some of the best we have had in 6 years traveling around Singapore and Malaysia. We stayed at the Park Royal and really enjoyed our stay and I will post a “review” of the hotel in a later post.

The beaches of Batu Ferringghi are filled with all sorts of “beach” activities; jet skis, parasailing and horseback riding can all be yours for a small price. Frankly I am not as much of an “adventure” junkie as I used to be but the parasailing looked much safer here than on the beaches of Thailand, if you are so inclined. Remember that the beaches here are often less monitored than other places in the world and sneaker waves, strong undertows and jellyfish are all very real dangers in deeper water. We tend to let the kids build sandcastles and play in the shallow water but with them being younger we leave the real swimming to the hotel pool.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kids in Penang: Two Days in Downtown Georgetown


So, we really spent 4 days in Penang, but the two days were spent just lounging at the beach, so the itinerary I am suggesting could be adjusted for more or less time pool side as you see fit! And sometimes you just got to have some pool time!

Our first two days were spent in downtown Georgetown. While it is only a 20 minute ride from the beach to the town, without traffic, if you want to explore the UNESCO listed streets staying downtown is your better bet. We stayed at the Northam as it was next door to my office. While not really kid friendly it was not bad. The advantage was the rooms were huge and we were able to get two adjoining suites.
Penang Noodles
The first day, while I worked, was really all about the food. We ate lunch at one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of local food stalls. Lead by our stomachs and the local guides we found ourselves eating noodles, all handmade and finishing our lunch with a bit of famous "Penang Road Famous Cendol".


Kiera was not too fond of the Chendol shaved ice topped with Gula Malaca(palm sugar) with pandan leaf jelly bits in coconut milk so she ended up with an "ice ball" instead.

Ice Balls!

After lunch the kids went back to the hotel and walked up and down Gurney Drive and Northam Drive to view the huge condos being built and see some of the remaining mansions that used to line the streets.

Dinner, was back into the UNESCO district to the Red Garden Food Centre, next door to the famous Blue Mansion (The Cheong Fatt Tze Home)which has been turned into a hotel. The Red Garden food centre is great, with cheap food and it is off the street and enclosed for the kids to run around while eating Satay, Chicken Rice and Sausages. The Cheong Fatt Tze home is open only to guests of the hotel or for private tours at 11am or 3pm, so book those tours in advance and then you can wander through the streets for a while before an early dinner at the Red Garden.

Fort Cornwallis

The second day we took off early for the Esplanade. The key, from the kids point of view is Fort Cornwallis with its original cannons and plenty of places to explore. As you walk out the kids were able to play on a playground and then after a short walk (about 5 minutes) we found ourselves at the Penang Peranakan Mansion Museum. Another home that underwent extensive renovations (about US$1 Million, plus another Million plus or minus to fill with period antiques.)

Penang Perakanan Mansion

The house is open to the public for a small fee and also holds free guided tours with the price of admission. The home is a fascinating look into the life of a wealth Peranakan family. Peranakans are the cultural mix of Chinese and Malay and you can learn more here.

Round of the day with lunch, again at another local food stall and it was time to head back to the pool.

Downtown Georgetown is a fascinating spot for kids and adults alike. While it does tend to lend itself better to kids a bit older there are enough things to see to keep younger kids entertained as well. Frankly, two days in Georgetown doesn't begin to scratch the surface, but again traveling with kids means that adjustments need to be made and beaches and pools are great diversions. While the Vagabond Parents could have spent another day or two exploring Georgetown, it was time to move to the beach. More on the beach coming tomorrow!

For More info:

Northam Hotel- 55, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Penang Road Famous Chendol (Cendol) Lebuh Keng Kwee off Penang Road

Red Garden 20 Leith Street

Cheong Fatt Mansion 14 Leith Street Guided tours at 11am and 3pm daily.

Penang Peranakan Mansion: 29, Church Street, 10200 Penang, Malaysia. Hours Monday to Sunday including Public Holidays from 9:30 am to 5 pm

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Dreaming: Photo's From Penang

Beach View
While I sit here dreaming a life even more traveled than the one I have now. One that involves good things and family, and while enjoying the thought of dreams that were started by new friends, I am very grateful to have had 3 days in Penang with my kids and my husband. A bit of time to recharge at the beach, drink a few glasses of wine at a beach hut, get a much needed massage and hang at the pool and slip and slide down some wicked pool slides. While I dig back into work today, and unfortunatly out of my dreams here are some more shots from Penang to keep you all entertained!

The Big Picture
The slide at Park Royal Hotel

The Slide
Kiera's tearing it up!

The Splash

And my view from the coffee shop


For more Monday Dreams, visit Mother of All Trips Monday's are for Dreaming

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Kids in Penang: Kopitiam Lunch

It's Photo Friday over at Delicious Baby, and today's shots are all about Penang Malaysia and eating a simple lunch with the kids. Penang is famous for its food and it is hard to find a more food obsessed group of people in Asia. Sure Singapore has its foodies, Malacca has its niche, Hong Kong citizens love the Dim Sum. But Penang, it is just part of life and each and every street corner has food waiting to be discovered and eaten. No matter what the kids want, if this shop doesn't have it, just cross the street.

Waiting for the food is the hardest part!

Strawberry Juice Blended!

A huge shout out to the amazing photography and mouth watering writing over at Eating Asia that turned me onto the love of Penang Food. Also some props to our new friends at Our Travel Lifestyle for dinner with them and their two fun kids!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Off the beaten track: Prawn Fishing in Singapore



Name a kid that doesn’t like fishing, I bet you can’t. Even my girly girl loves the idea of going and fishing for fun. Singaporeans are no different, let's face it, fishing is fun. A true local spin is to fish for fresh water prawns. While the days of “kampong fishing” where children would run down to the local river and fish for prawns no longer exists, clever Singaporeans have filled the gap by creating prawn fishing ponds.


If you are looking for an unusual way to spend a morning in Singapore with your family and seeing a side of Singapore that the tourists often miss (there are no prawn fishing ponds on Orchard Road or at Sentosa Island…I’m just saying) you should head out, rent a rod and enjoy a few hours of fishin’.


We have gone to a few different prawn fishing facilities and I will list them below but the drill is basically the same at all of them. You can rent a rod, which come with the bait- chicken liver and you are given an hour (or more depending on how long you pay for) and a basket in which to keep your prawns. Remember, these are real prawns heads, tails and pincers attached so a parent may need to help take the prawn off the line.At the end of your hour you are able to take the prawns with you or you can BBQ them right on site with BBQ pits provided. Most of the ponds have local style eateries located next to them and you may even be able to take your prawns and have them cooked for your lunch or dinner. Doesn’t get any fresher than that. My kids love to know that they caught lunch.


A few final thoughts-

Most of the ponds are open 24 hours but early mornings tend to be more family friendly and fewer crowds.

These are “farmed” prawns and the ponds are frequently restocked through out the day.
Experts say the best method is to find a deeper pond and move the bait frequently to catch more.

Some ponds often through in a whopper or two in order to increase your chances.


Here is a list of prawn fishing ponds in Singapore and the first two are ones that we personally have gone to and would go back again. I have not been to the others, but have friends who have. As mentioned they are all very similar.

East Coast Prawn Fishing 1020 East Coast Parkway 65 6227 3330
Hai Bin U Enterprise Prawn Fishing, 603 Sin Ming Ave 65 6554 1986
Jurong Hill Prawn Fishing & Beer Garden , Old Crocodile Farm, 241 Jln Ahmad Ibrahim #01-16 65-6265 2598
Farmart, 67 Sungei Tengah Rd, Choa Chu Kang 65 6767 0070

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Before the Vagabond Kids: Vagabond Kristy

French Border
The border between Kehl, Germany and Strasbourg France 1985

Where's Heidi? Germany

Somewhere near Berchtesgaden Germany 1985

Long before there were two amazing Vagabondkids, before there was a husband who would become the Vagabonddad even there was a girl who dreamed of traveling the world. I first went off to Germany and Austria the summer of 1985 for my first real international trip. My next major adventure was 7 years later with a trip through Asia and across Russia ending in Berlin before a flight back to Oregon.

In the Kremlin

The Kremlin, Moscow Russia, 1992

I spent the weekend going through old negatives and uploading a few to Flickr. There are about 150 rolls of film , in varied degrees of decay, that need to be scanned. Negatives that should be cleaned before they are scanned as you can see from these scans there are pock marks scrapes and scratches.

Victory Monument

Berlin Victory Monument 1992

Then there was the trip with my new husband to a beach in Mexico on the first of what would become a life together of trips. His willingness to let me jump off for a solo trip to Japan, and later a trip to Beijing and 6 months of language study before coming home. The final trip, ultimatly ending in our move overseas.

Golden Shrine Kyoto Japan 1996

Kyoto Japan, 1996

As you may know, I am a scrapbooker too and looking through these old images reminds me why I want to share these pictures and stories with the Vagabondkids. I hope they are inspired to travel around the world and see the wonderful things life has to offer, home and abroad. Anyway enjoy the shots, because I am and there are more on my flickr account if you are interested. So, what are you waiting for? Dig out those old pictures and let me see them!

Beijing China 1997

Beijing Alley 1997

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Kids in Penang: Photos from the Past

I am trying to scan in some old negatives from our trip to Penang in with the kids who were just really babies back in 2005. The scanning is slow going but the results are a real treat. Here are a few of some of my favorites.

Sunset on Batu Ferrenghi

Downtown Georgetown

Batu Ferringhi

Penang Peranakan Museum

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Sarawak Malaysia with Kids: Visiting the Orangutans

Orangutan @Semengoh Reserve

We had left the hotel at 7 am in order to be at the Semengoh Reserve by 8:30 to see the morning feedings and we were ready to head back to Kuching and Damai Beach to get some lunch. The walk into the forest to see the Orangutans had been good, but the kids were tired and starting to get hungry. We were on a group tour, so we had to wait for one more couple who had not yet returned to the van, when we heard some sounds in the distance. A bit of brush rustling and shifting and we saw her. She came out alone at first and gave us the once over. She looked back into the woods and out came her young child.

Coming out of the Woods Orangutan Semengoh

Seeing a wild Orangutan up this close was a rare treat, but we were also a bit unnerved. The guide recognized this Orangutan and said she had a habit of being a bit protective of her young children and that we should remain calm and non-threatening. Okay I thought, I am able to do that. Jeff, on the other hand started to call our kids, who were very interested in seeing her up close back to a safe distance.

Orangutan Semengoh

She kind of hung out for a while, not doing much or going anywhere, just looking at us. After about 15 minutes she piled her babe up onto her back and she walked down the hill. It was about this time the last members of our group started to walk back up to the van, ironically, they had walked further into the woods in an attempt to catch the apes up close and we had stayed back because of the kids.

The Semengoh Orangutan Reserve is about a 45 minute drive from Kuching on the island of Borneo and is open most days with a long lunch on Fridays. It is a great opportunity to see some of Asia's native aninmals in the wild and in a protected environment. It is a fun and safe day trip from your hotel and a great way to show the kids some of the attempts to save this majestic creature.

Getting there: You can travel by taxi or hire a “guide” through your local hotel. We did the latter and included a stop at a Crocodile Farm (a post for another day for sure!) From what we have heard, Semengoh is much smaller than the Sepilok Reserve and the chances of seeing Orangutans tends to be less in Semengoh, but we lucked out that day.

Would we go back, you bet, now it is just a matter of planning the next trip!

This post is part of Photo Friday over at Delicious Baby. For more great photos check them out here.

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