The Chinese use the same calendar we do (Gregorian calendar) for civil purposes, but their festivals are still determined by the Lunisolar calendar, which shifts with the sun’s longitude and the phases of the moon. This year, Chinese new year fell mid- February, so oddly enough, we got 2 weeks off for Christmas break (international schools observe this but not Chinese schools) and then just 5 weeks later, we had another 2 weeks off! So not long after we finished celebrating Christmas, Chinese New Year was in full swing. The School was decked out. (Go Parent Support Group!)
And students were decked out, too.
We also moved. Because why not transition again!
Really we moved because after 6 months of settling in, we realized we had been given a really “special” price because we are foreigners. You see, when we first arrived, we were shown 2 apartments. I had filled out a form that prioritized the following:
1) proximity to school (we didn’t want to spend hours of our days on buses). Best decision!
2) Three to four bedrooms (with two kids and amazing family willing to come visit we wanted plenty of space).
3) Close to green space (we were worried that moving our rural family to the big city might come as a shock if we didn’t have space close by to run wild). So True!
We were shown one apartment that was pretty far from school, the school buses didn’t run there, the metro wasn’t there and the local bus even ran infrequently because it was a newly developing area. The price was decent, but it just wouldn’t work. I didn’t want to pay for a taxi to get to work each day, or have to catch a local bus at an inconvenient time/place for the kids. It just wouldn’t work.
The second place was lovely. A huge, two-story, four bedroom, three bath, western style apartment, ten minutes from school with a park around the corner, it was perfect. It was our entire housing allowance, but we figured since we didn’t have to pay out of pocket for the place it would be great. The compound was gated and guarded (not that we aren’t safe here) and there were lots of kids from all around the world running around the neighborhood. It was perhaps bigger than we needed, but of the two options, it was the best choice and met all of our criteria.
Thank god for the place, too, because on our first day, riding the first school bus to school we met Brendan Porter…and we all know how much we love the Porters. So perhaps it was fated, and absolutely well worth it, just to be close to that beautiful family.
But…as time went by, and we got to know people and get our bearings, we realized there was a whole world of options out there…and that we could save boat loads of money. So, we began a search.
We were given the number of an agent from a friend and the agent began to send us places to view. We went to visit a three bedroom, two bathroom, Chinese style apartment that was even closer to school but still in the same neighborhood, still on the same bus route, and where a number of other colleagues lived. They quoted us a decent price that we got excited about.
Luckily, Aaron mentioned the price to a colleague of his, with a Chinese wife, because before too long she had called up HER agent and asked to see the exact same place. She (Wang Xi) was quoted a price significantly cheaper because it was a Chinese person looking for this apartment and not a westerner. We signed on the new apartment with Wang Xi (our Chinese helper) with us and scored a great deal on this tiny little place in a Chinese development. It has plenty of room for us, BETTER built in storage than our last, massive place, and like I said, we are now saving loads of money on this new place. The kids like it, because they share a room, and we like it because it is cheaper and more authentic. We did move to China after all, might as well live like it.
Excuse the mess. This is literally day two of moving in way back in February.
It is great, and one week after moving, GRANDPA PAUL AND TANTE CAME!!!!
They stayed with us for 3 days in Shanghai.
First we, of course, took them around the neighborhood, and down to the Bund! And this time, we went on a boat ride!
And then, off we all flew to Thailand!
Highlights of Phuket (pronounced poo-ket):
The house Dad and Suzanne rented on the south side of the island on Rawai beach where the kids could swim 5+ times a day and we could all relax and sleep comfortably.
Renting scooters and scooting around the island from beach to beach to swim! We pushed our limits on the scooters in heavy traffic and windy roads, but it was a very convenient way to move about the island. Magnus in front of Aaron and Nora behind Grandpa Paul, with helmets of course! Just needed to remember to drive on the left!
The beaches were varied. Some were long and wide and crowded, and some were sadly covered with trash (It is all the stuff you hear is the worst: Styrofoam, straws, diapers. So sad.), or filled with boats. We swam in many of them no matter what was floating around, because when the kids are hot and there is warm sea water to swim in, any beach will do.
Our favorite beach turned out to be just a few minutes scooter from our house. It was a bit tucked away, and had fewer people generally. We loved swimming in the waves with Grandpa Paul and Tante.
We also enjoyed sitting at lovely restaurants and cafes to eat good food and drink delicious drinks with wonderful company.
I really should have taken more photos of the food, it was delicious! Oh and the fresh juice!? Yumm.
One afternoon we visited a festival that was held on the grounds of some beautiful temples. Both Buddhist and Hindu temples were at the site, but we were told it was a Buddhist festival. The people watching, shopping, and eating were all fascinating.
One day we took a boat on an island hopping tour. I definitely wanted to get out on the water and so on the recommendation of a very helpful man who rented us scooters, we booked a day trip. We left early and came back late, it was a huge day, but the Andaman sea around Phuket did not disappoint.
The geography/topography of the many islands that pop up through out the sea is beautiful.
We visited the “James Bond” island, where a portion of The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed in Phang Nga Bay.
We stopped for lunch at a floating muslim village that builds its entire economy on feeding tour groups that are site seeing in the Andaman sea.
We took kayaks into coves between rocky outcroppings to explore, even ducking down to squeeze into caves along the rock edges.
And we visited caves with stalactites and stalagmites that shimmer like ice in the light of our flashlights.
The Thai people were warm and welcoming, and we enjoyed spending time with Grandpa Paul and Tante. We loved Thailand so much we have another trip planned for January, to the mountains of Chiang Mai this time. We are happy that Grandpa Paul and Tante are joining us again, along with Grandma Jannie, and hopefully Garrett and Jenny. We have been so very blessed to have these travel opportunities and to have family that is willing and able to travel half way around the world to adventure with us. Our experiences in Southeast Asia have opened our eyes, like international travel always does, to a beautiful way of life, gracious, warm people, delicious food, and only left us with a desire to plan our next trip.
Until next time, Thailand! Koopkhun! And Happy New Year!