Somewhere in New Zealand
It’s been a significant amount of time since any of us have written. I’m not sure if we went on a mental break, are too busy racing from place to place or, most likely, have spent the past month and a half catching up with family and friends that we just kind of got out of our groove. We’ll go back eventually and give updates as we’ve seen some truly amazing things, but for now, this post will just serve as a brief catch up!
Chiang Mai continued to be amazing. After Loy Krathong there was cooking class, an eye opening visit as volunteers at the Elephant Nature Park, a lesson in traditional fruit carving, night markets, the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park, Thai Language instruction, fish pedicures, a hilarious family reflexology massage and of course, a temple or two (or three, or four, or five…..)
Next up…Bangkok! Once again our senses were assaulted with big city sounds, sights and of course, smells of all kinds! We were amazed at the Grand Palace and intrigued by the Jim Thompson House. We ate street food and indulged in some good ol’ American food just because we could. We of course squeezed in a few more temples and hit up some shopping malls in search of some delicious Thanksgiving goods. It wasn’t an easy task – our contribution to Thanksgiving turned out to be canned cranberry sauce, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and canned pumpkin. Unfortunately graham cracker crumbs were nowhere to be found!
So, laden down with supplies (our bags haven’t been so heavy since our departure – filled with 30 plus paper back books) we departed Bangkok for a short flight to Myanmar. More on this unique country later…our true reason for visiting – family! While not initially planned to coincide with Thanksgiving (one loses all track of time and American holidays when living like this), we just happened to arrive the day before Thanksgiving. A blessing for all of us as I’m guessing both my cousin’s family and ours would have skipped the celebration all together had we not met up when we did. So, with roast chicken standing in as a delicious turkey substitute, and pumpkin bread filling in nicely for pumpkin pie, we put together our best attempt at an Asian bought Thanksgiving meal. It was surprisingly satisfying and served as a truly memorable Thanksgiving!
Three unforgettable weeks later we touched down in Sydney where, once again we got to spend the holidays with family – or as close to family as friends can be. For me it was revisiting a childhood of Christmas Down Under and for the kids, time to see what happens half a world away at Christmas, play with family friends and get a chance to spend time learning how to surf during the time we typically reserve for the ski slopes.
Sydney was a strange one for us. We failed slightly in coming, seeing, conquering. We hit a temporary lag. I’m not sure if it was the holidays, the comforts of family friends, the fact that we had seen a lot in and around Sydney a few years ago, or perhaps a little traveler burnout. Regardless…no conquering of sites there. We did manage to see The 26th Story Treehouse (for all those “reluctant reader” types – this is a great Aussie series) at the Sydney Opera House. We threw in a trip to the Aquarium, being entertained in Circular Quay, a few trips on the ferry, a movie or two (soaking up the culture to get us through the next 6 months) – oh, and a coveted trip to iconic Luna Park.
Embarrassingly, while in Sydney for the New Year, we chose to watch from TV like many of those around the world (I know, I know)…but millions of people, late at night, tired kids, sore feet, sunburned from staking our claim since 10 am and then distraught, tired, complaining kids (ok, mom really) that someone elbowed us out of our saved and now sacred ground, wrestling the train, standing on severely crowded train with sleepy, grumpy, sunburned, complaining kids (and equally, by now, grumpy mommy)…blah, blah, blah. This time we gave it a pass. We’ve tried to take advantage of every “once in a lifetime” experiences that have come our way (or in some cases, went out of our way for the “once in a lifetimes”….but for this one we failed (head bowed here).
We rounded out our time with an amazing visit with relocated American friends at their beautiful beach home – and then decided to stay on our own a few days! It felt shockingly like home and we were sad when our time there as well as our time with all our Sydney extended family had, like all good things, come to an end.
We can currently be found campervaning (is that a word?!) around New Zealand for 5 weeks! Yep. Many of you know, I’ve tackled this beast before – left hand side driving and all – and we’re doing it again. Two years ago there was only a slight mishap – hitting a metal pole and tearing off an unimportant side light that I’m not sure ever worked in the first place. So, since we all survived we decided to give it another go. One day post rental pickup – I’ve torn off a small part of back right bumper – NOT my fault – it’s apparently a very low lying vehicle that doesn’t do well with a ditch in the campground (apparently this isn’t a problem anyone else has had before) but done none the less.
So right now, we’re going day by day, heading up one coast and down another. We aren’t sure where we are staying from one night to the next nor how long we will stay there. Once again we are striving to take it slow and experience as much as possible, meet as many locals as we can and get to know an area before we bolt to the next location. We’ll see how successful we are in the end. For now, New Zealand seems ideal, peaceful and just what we need.