Monday, June 10, 2013

Things to do in Koh Lanta, Thailand with kids

Koh Lanta is one of those islands that you come to visit for a week or two on vacation but end up loving it so much you stay for half a year (or longer).  We loved this quaint island for its beautiful beaches, friendly people and the easy of life here.  Of course, the beach is the number one draw, but there are so many things to do besides the beach in Koh Lanta.

The beach, it's all about the beach in Koh Lanta.  We have spent most our days at the pool and playing on the beach.  Water is warm, waves are small and the beach is shallow.  Perfect for kids to play!

Oasis Yoga (for adults AND kids, who knew!)
First and foremost, do yourself a favor and go the first day while you are in town.  You will be so glad you went you will keep going everyday while you are in Koh Lanta.  It's such a great way to start your day.  Unfortunately, I went on our second to last day.  Farra, the instructor, is an amazing.  She explains everything and helps you through each move sharing techniques.  She makes everyone feel welcome no matter what your level.  Oasis Yoga is right next to the beach so you can see and hear the waves crashing as you find your zen.  They offer kids yoga classes too.  Call ahead to confirm times, but kids love doing the fun yoga poses.

Lanta Animal Welfare
We happened upon Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) during one of our many afternoon drives.  This is such a great cause and in need of help.  Their objective is to relieve the suffering and pain of the animals on the island through sterilisation and care.  Volunteers are always needed.  Our kids spent their time playing and loving the cats. Well, mostly the kittens.  The cats loved the attention and love.  Our kids still want a cat and dog of their own so this was a good way to let our kids spend time with the animals.

Muy Thai Boxing
Our kids loved putting on the boxing glove and learning the skills and techniques of Thai boxing.  It is a great way to burn some energy!  Our kids wanted to continue going but we were not in Koh Lanta long enough.  Several places in Koh Lanta offer classes for kids for around 400 Baht for one session (less for package deals).

Explore the island by tuk tuk
We rented a tuk tuk the entire time we were in Koh Lanta and loved it.  We loved the freedom to go anywhere when ever we wanted.  Kids loved the open air and just driving and exploring.  Prices range from 200 - 500 Baht a day depending on your negotiating skills.

Elephant trekking
Although, we are not proponents of riding elephants many people might be.  Elephant rides can be arranged to take visitors to the top of the hill in Ko Lanta National Park.

Butterfly garden
There are several places that claim to be a butterfly garden however there is only one that doesn't have caged animals for show.  This one is located south of Saladan just past Lanta Animal Welfare.  It's small compared to other butterfly gardens we've been too but still entertaining.  Cost is around 150 Baht.

Old Town play ground
We took our tuk tuk exploring one day to Old Town and happened upon this great play area for the kids.  It's free and right on the beach.  There are food hawkers nearby for a cool smoothie or ice cream.  Great for early mornings or late afternoons when the sun isn't so hot.

There were loads of other things to do like fishing, cooking classes and drop off daycare however we ran out of time.  Next time we will stay much longer in Koh Lanta! Anyone else been to Koh Lanta or can recommend other family friendly towns?

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Koh Lanta, a perfect island for families!

So many islands in Thailand to choose from, where should you go?  All of them I say, but if you only have a few weeks them definitely head to Koh Lanta.  We started out in Phuket on Patong beach. Although, we enjoyed the beach, Patong was much too crowded and touristy for us. Then we went to Koh Phi Phi which is beautiful and almost as touristy as Phuket but far less seedy. Next we landed on Koh Lanta and loved the quiet charm.  We found a great resort on the beach with several pools where we stayed a few weeks and just chilled. Of course, we were there during the slow or green season so I cannot attest to how busy it gets during high season but with things so spread out I can't imagine this as a party town.

Where to stay

White Flower Apartments & Royal Lanta Hotel

We stayed at two places different places while in Koh Lanta.  We stayed our first few nights in a one bedroom apartment across the road and up the hill from the beach.  It was nice and plenty spacious for for our family.  With a great pool and nice neighbors we could have stayed here for weeks.  We paid about $32USD a night.  However, we are beach people and have little kids so we opted for a deluxe room at the Royal Lanta Resort and Spa.  Being right on the beach was a huge bonus.  They also offer a breakfast buffet with lots of western choices that the kids love.  We negotiated a rate of about $40USD a night.

Getting around

Koh Lanta is super easy to get around.  Tuk tuks and songtow taxis are everywhere.  Just head to the road and negotiate your price. If the first one is too high then just wait for the next one. It should never cost you more than 50 baht one way.  You can also rent a tuk tuk for about 150-500 baht a day.  We decided we wanted more freedom and less hassle to go whenever we wanted so we rented a tuk tuk while we were there.  Our kids especially loved cruising around the island.  We for rates for long term rental to be about 150+ Baht.  Negotiate everything and check out several vendors.


Mini marts and 7-11s are plentiful and sell everything you should need like food and diapers.  The main store in town is called Lanta Mart and has all your basic needs even yogurt, hair color and diapers.  But so do most of the mini marts.  The prices tend to be about the same at all the stores.  When we had an apartment food is so affordable that we rarely cooked at home.  Breakfast, snacks and a light lunch was always eaten at home, but we would usually go out for dinner.  A loaf of wheat bread costs about $1USD, peanut butter $3.05USD and jam $2USD.


There are no shortage of yummy and affordable places to eat.  With so many expats making Koh Lanta their home there  is no shortage of Thai or international food choices.  Meals at restaurants usually run 70 to 150 Baht.

Things to do

Diving, snorkeling, boat trips, playing on the beach, relaxing, playing in the pool, and just enjoying life.  We rented a tuk tuk and loved cruising around the island.  There are caves and private beaches all over the island.  Although we were on Koh Lanta in the slow season, there was still a lot of fun things to do.

Thailand is a beautiful country with so many islands to explore.  Hopefully, we will be back soon! What is your favorite island?

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

White Flower Apartments, Koh Lanta, Thailand

This infinity pool and the quietness make White Flower Apartments great.  We stayed in a one bedroom with a kitchenette, living room, bathroom and two queen beds in the bedroom for 2 nights in May.  A small apartment but it had plenty of room for us!

The beds were comfortable and the kitchen had all the utensils and things you need for cooking.  Air-con was only in the bedroom and not in the rest of the house, but with the nice breeze coming through the screen doors you really didn't need it. Wifi worked great.  The shower had plenty of hot water.  There are lots of dining options near by along with a mini mart and 7-11.

The apartments are on the jungle side of the road up the hill so the beach was a bit of a hike.  To get to the beach we had to walk down the hill, across the road and down another long path which was about a 10 minute walk.  At high tide the beach is very small, but low tide the beach was perfect for playing.

I would recommend these apartments for couples who want to stay long term, or families with older kids and don't mind being away from the beach.  I would not recommend this place for families with little kids.  When we checked in the owner, Sara, kept reminding us to keep our kids quiet since "she didn't want trouble from other guests".  All our neighbors staying here seemed very nice.

Over all we enjoyed staying here for a couple nights.  Anyone else have any place they recommend staying?

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Things to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with kids

Phnom Penh is usually the city one visits when heading to or from Siem Reap, but it surprisingly has lots to offer families.  The weather was horribly hot and humid when we were there, but really, is there any other type of weather?  We spent 2 days in Phnom Penh before heading to Siem Reap.  Here are just a couple of things we got to do.

Pool!  First things first!  Find a hotel with a pool.  We stayed at G Eleven.  Big rooms, comfy huge beds and best of all a pool.  Perfect for a swim after a hot morning of exploring.

The Palace is a good place to let the kids run free.  Although, I didn't feel this was the best palace we've ever been to it was still interesting to explore.  Our kids especially loved the silver pagoda.  It's a bit pricy to enter so unless you really love Palaces I would pass on this one.  If felt and looked so run down to me.

Play parks!  Next to the palace is one of the best parks in all of Cambodia!  The park has multiple play areas for kids of all ages.  The ground is made of the rubbery cushion so soften falls and there is a snack area near by with lots of bicycle vendors.  At dusk the park is filled with local kids and the perfect spot to enjoy an ice cream before bed.

River front night market is the perfect place to enjoy some great food and have a picnic.  Large mats are set out for people to sit on since there are not a lot of tables.  It seems the whole town comes out at night.  After dinner take a walk along the riverfront and you'll  get some of the best people watching of your life.

Take a boat ride down the river.   For around $5USD you can take an hour long ride along the river and see.

Lyla Center was a fun day for all of us.  They have a huge indoor play area and a pool with small water park for kids outside.  We spent a few hours playing inside then hit the pool area to cool off.  They also have a gym, yoga studio and a nice cafe with great wifi.  There was no published rates when we visited but we paid around $6 for all of us.

Sovanna and Sorya Shopping Centers both have play and game areas for kids.  We stopped to check them out but they were very unimpressive and tiny.  Our kids got bored quickly and it wasn't even worth the visit for air con.

Can anyone else suggest some fun kids things to do in Phnom Penh?

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Things to do in Vietnam with kids

Vietnam is one of those countries that we have a love hate relationship with.  It always takes us two days after arriving in a city before we start to truly enjoy and appreciate it.  Here is what we loved about each city we visited.

Of course, what we did not like about each city is universal:
  1. The pestering and sometimes overly aggressive touts, "You buy something?".  
  2. The dishonest cab drivers who drive around in circles to bring up the fare, "ok, ok, I know, ok, ok", um, ok, NO you don't!  
  3. Oh, and of course, the pickpockets and muggers!!  

So ignoring the touts, the "ok, ok" cabbies and muggers here are the highlights of Vietnam:

We started in Saigon and fell in love with the crazy, methodical motorbikes. We mastered cross the street without looking and got a thrill from it.  We loved the Palace, the museums and all the wonderful kids play parks. We also enjoyed our side trip to the Mekong Delta.  A must before you leave Saigon.

Next we bought our open bus tickets and hit the road to Dalat, the strawberry capital of Vietnam.  Seriously, my kids could not get enough and they were cheap too!  We loved exploring the market, the Crazy House, the Ludge, the cool weather and more.  Remember to negotiate and check out various strawberry vendors cuz they are cheap

After Dalat, we took the over night bus from hell, I mean, night bus to Nha Trang.  We loved the beach vibe and our two bedroom condo.  The have loads of kid friendly things to do.  Our kids loved VinPearl and the brew house pool and beach the most.  But we did so much more.

After a week in Nha Trang we took the open bus to Hoi An.  Such a beautiful, serene and cheap city to be in.  This was my favorite city to wander around.

From Hoi An we ventured to Hue.  We arrived with temperatures over 100 F.  Hot!  Had it been cooler we might have enjoyed it more. We did love the boat ride, the Citadel, and carnival rides, but found it not too toddler friendly.

For our final leg of the bus journey, we braved another over night bus ride figuring nothing could be as bad as the first, right?  Hanoi was our final stop and once again the cool weather felt amazing. There are tons of things to do in Hanoi such as secret parks and a fun circus. Despite mugging, I wish we had more time in Hanoi.

We were able to take a side trip to Halong Bay for an incredible cruise.  A bit pricy at $337 for our family of 5, but well worth the adventure.  The kids loved the boat cruise, kayaking, private beaches and squid fishing and more.  A must do at any age!

Someday when the kids are older I would love to return to Vietnam and stay longer.  What is your favorite city in Vietnam?
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Angkor Wat with kids

Thinking about visiting Angkor Wat with kids? We just completed our visit and it was a blast for all of us. Here are some tips for success:


Plan- The Angkor temple complex is amazing in beauty, size, and heat. Our must see sights were Tomb Raider and Angkor Wat. We wanted to see as many temples as possible but we knew our kids wouldn't have the stamina. So we saw the highlights in the morning. In the afternoons each of us took turns exploring on our own.

1, 3, or 7 day pass? The 3 day pass is good for a week and the 7 day pass can be used over a month. Kids under 12 are free. Your picture is printed on the pass and gets checked at every site. No sharing passes! Three days over a week gives some days of rest, which you will need. Whatever amount of time you have, plan for some resting time to cool down. It gets pretty hot pretty fast.

Hotel - Get a place with a pool. After a few hours in the heat, we couldn't wait to dive in and cool off.

Start early in the morning. We noticed that tourists really started showing up around 9am. Plus it's a lot cooler.

Time of year - we visited the first week of May which is the hottest time to visit (surprise). However, it is the best time to visit without crowds. In January, you can be shoulder to shoulder walking through the temple hallways. Our kids were freer to run around

Hire a tuk tuk. It's more fun for the kids and a much more scenic way to get around. Plus you will be supporting a local Cambodian.

Wear sunscreen, bring a handkerchief , umbrellas and water. 

Should you bring a stroller? Don't bother. The ancient Khmer engineers did not design stroller friendly temples. You'll end up leaving it outside the temples anyways and it will likely get stolen. 

There will be plenty of places to buy water and food.

Finally, think long and hard about giving money to children selling cheap junk or simply begging you to buy. If you do, you are teaching them to rely on handouts, paying them to stay out of school. Instead, talk to them. Where are they from? What subject do they like in school? How many siblings do they have? How old are they? Quiz them on the capitols of various countries.

What was your favorite temple?

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam with kids

Hanoi is the first city we arrived in Southeast Asia that we actually needed to wear our sweaters.  The cooler weather was another welcome relief after Dalat.  The sweltering heat in Southeast Asia can be exhausting at time.   The beautiful weather made for playing outside and walking in the parks much more fun!  Here are somethings our kids loved while we were in Hanoi.

The Museum of Etiology - is great for all ages.  It gives an excellent overview of all the minority groups in Vietnam. Beautiful costumes and well preserved artifacts. We wish we had more time to explore the inside however the kids were too excited to get outside.  Outside they have so many houses the kids loved crawling in and out of. They loved exploring each one. We loved seeing how the different groups live. Simply amazing and eye opening.  But the real bonus when you are done with the museum  is the incredible and the best park in all of Hanoi is right across the street!!

Cong Vien Nghia Do Park - Hands down the best park in Hanoi!  This park has a beautiful lake, walking trails, an incredible and clean play area and is secured by a tall fence.  The play area has fake grass, loads of different play equipment and even a zipline.  I think our kids monopolized the zipline.  Entrance is 2,000 dong for adults and 1,000 dong for kids.  Cheap eats can be bought just outside the gate.  Plan to spend the day here, it's just that much fun!

Walk around the Old Quarter - We loved exploring the narrow streets and all the wonderful sidewalk cafes.  Long ago, every street was dedicated to selling something different and the street is still named after whatever was being sold.  Very fun to explore.

Water Puppet show - If you haven't seen one this is a must.  Kids love the mastery of the puppeteers.  The music was lively and the kids were enthrawled the entire 45 minutes.  However, if you've seen one puppet show you've seen them all.  Get your tickets early for the best seats.

Hanoi Circus - This is one place you either love or hate.  The performers are talented and entertaining, but the animal acts are a bit disturbing.  Go and make up your own mind.  They have shows Tuesday-Sunday around 8pm and on Sunday morning a kids performance at 930a.  The circus is at Reunification park in a big permanent tent, NOT Lenin park .  There were plenty of open seats when we went.

Tip:  Buy tickets from the ticket office and not from the scalpers near by.  Scalpers will over charge you for ticket.  Adults pay, but kids are free. Attened the Sunday morning performance and only 1/8th of the seats were taken up so no need to buy tickets for the kids.

Reunification Park, which is right next to the circus, has loads much for the kids to do.  A cool, although dated, play area, swan boats, train ride around the park, bridges, carnival rides, a lake and lots of trails for kids to run on.  The park is huge and the lake takes about one hour to walk around.

Take a free city tour with Hanoi Kids - This is a great organization!  They suggest a lot of different tours however you can customize it any way you like.  We decided on a easy walking tour of the Old Quarter through the markets with an introduction to some delicious egg coffee.  A must try when in Hanoi.

Ho Tay Waterpark is on the north part of West Lake with amusement park rides too.  This place seems to be packed no matter what the weather is like.  When we were there it was way too cold for water play, but there were plenty of rides open for business.  The water park area is open in the hotter months.

West Lake is a huge lake just outside the Old Quarter.  The lake takes a few hours to walk around so bring a stroller and lots of snacks if you plan on walking.  They have swan rides, balls to run on the lake and plenty of grassy areas to play in.  About a $3-5USD cab ride from the Old Quarter.  Also found next to West Lake are tiNIWorld, Kinder Park and Ho Tay Waterpark.

Kinder Park is a huge indoor play area for kids.  It is attached to Ho Tay water and amusement park on the north side of West Lake.  They have multiple play areas with rock climbing, an indoor putting center, rooms where kids can pretend to be a fireman or a doctor and lots of other activities.  A bit pricey at 120,000 dong per child, but well worth the hours of entertainment.  A cab ride will cost about $4-5 one way from Old Quarter.
Tip:  Avoid any play area on the weekends as all cost!

tiNIWorld is another indoor play area for kids.  Hanoi has 3 locations and we went to the one at West Lake.  Although not as big as Kinder Park it is equally as fun. The best thing about tiNIWorld is you can drop your kids off and go downstairs and enjoy some coffee and free wifi while the kids play.  If you don't want to leave then TiniWorld also has free wifi and a grocery store next door.  Cost is 20,000-40,000 dong and open 930a-930p.
Tip:  Monday's are half price!

Hoan Kiem Lake - is a beautiful lake in the middle of town separating the Old Quater and the French Quarter.  It's great for people watching and playing ball.  The kids practically ran the entire way around the lake jumping and climbing trees and rocks.

Go for a cyclo ride around the old quarter.  Our kids just love the thrill of the ride!  Always negotiate ahead of time.

Carnival rides at Vườn hoa Lý Thái Tổ which is next to Hoan Kiem Lake on the southeast side of the lake.  Look for the tall statue and go to the back of the park on the north side.  The rides are mostly for toddlers so our kids had a great time.  Rides cost about $.30USD each and open around 430p.

Night market goes from Hang Dao Street to Dong Xuan Market and with all the various stalls creates a busy and crowded walking street with lots of different and delicious foods to eat.  You can find everything here, but it is only open on the weekends.  During the day, just shop the Old Quarter.

Hanoi has so many more things to do we couldn't list them all.  We really had a great time in Hanoi and all of Vietnam!  Anyone else have some suggestions for things to do in Hanoi?

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