Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2014: Ancient City Ayuthaya

It's that time of the year again, when temperatures in Bangkok drop to unbelievable lows. Even though it's not as cold this year, it's still reasonably cool, so I shall continue my ever popular winter getaway series to give all of you more ideas while planning your trips in Thailand.

Our situation this year is very different from the last, because not only do we have a toddler, we also have a 3-month old baby in tow, so we had to be extra careful while choosing our destination. We finally chose to go to Ayuthaya, a former capital of Thailand littered with ancient temple ruins caused by decades of warfare, firstly, because it's a close 1.5 hours drive away, and more importantly because we have never been there before even though we've lived here for more than 4 years. It will also be nice to soak ourselves amongst a piece of famous Siamese history without being torched by the otherwise-scorching sun (during other times of the year).

By the pool

Dragging a baby along, we knew that we would be spending a good portion of our time in the resort, so it was important for me to choose a nice one, and our accomodation turned out to be a really great one right by the Chao Phraya River. In fact, Noah kept wanting to stay in the room and protested whenever we left.

Li Li: "Now where's my son?"

"I'm figuring out how this water thingie works."

However, it was our first time holiday-ing in Ayuthaya in nearly 5 years! We had to visit a temple right? After a discussion with the receptionist, we were eventually directed to Wat Maha That, which turned out to be the place to visit for tourists who only had time for 1 destination.

You go to Ayuthaya to see this 

Weather was on our side. It was the first cool day in Ayuthaya when we embarked on our temple visit, and by that, I mean really cool. The entire city felt like an air-conditioned room if you didn't stand directly under the sun. It certainly made the trip much more bearable, even with a toddler and baby with us. We were not in the condition to read much into the story behind Wat Maha That, but both Li Li and I were very satisfied to have taken the trouble to visit, as this piece of history and ambience is really not something that many other places in Thailand can offer.

You go to Wat Maha That to take this picture

Noah wasn't too cooperative during the temple visit
One of my absolute most favourite family pictures

Before you go "wow" after seeing this pictures and make up your mind to visit Ayuthaya, let me emphasize again that at any other time of the year, these ruins will either be soaking wet with rain our immensely hot. Especially if you have little kids who might get cranky, please be prepared, or wait till mid December to early January to visit, as it's likely to be the only window where the weather in Ayuthaya will be bearable. 

Don't say the Stranger in Bangkok did not warn you!

Daddy, where are we going next? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Remembering Grandma on Christmas Day

On this slightly chilly Christmas morning in Bangkok, I can't help but think of my Grandma, who passed away somewhat suddenly more than a week ago. Christmas is a season of thanksgiving, and a day for us to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. I would like to use this opportunity to give my tribute to my Grandma, who also happens to be my kin who is the closest to her faith in the Lord, and how she has left a lasting impression not only by the way she lived, but also by the way she left.

With the blessing of my wife, I left her alone in Bangkok with the 2 kids to do my part as a grandson, to participate in my Grandma's funeral proceedings, and I am glad I did so, because through the process, looking at how much she was respected by her brothers and sisters in church, and through various speeches done in memory of her, I am now prouder than ever to say that I am her grandson.

During the weekend in Sibu, 2 things struck me the most, and these are valuable lessons that I am going to share with my readers here, in hope that it might give you a different perspective of life as well.

Firstly, it is the fact that my Grandma did not sit back in her elder years. While many might choose to take the backseat due to various reasons, she pushed on. During my Uncle's speech in memory of her, he helped my Grandma share some milestones that she herself wanted everyone to know (written in her will):

"回想上帝呼召摩西当年也是年达80 岁,赴埃及带领以色列人出埃及,经过40 年旷野生活,最后还是完成使命,让以色列人进入迦南流乳与蜜之地,完成了他名垂永世的功绩。

Just like Moses in the book of Exodus, my Grandma was called by the Lord to become the leader of her Church's senior fellowship at the ripe old age of 80. While many might see that age as the twilight of one's life, she grew stronger than ever. She drove around and led her fellowship to various activities locally and abroad, just like Moses, who successfully led his people out of Egypt. She billed this as an amazingly satisfying highlight in her life, to be able to expand the Lord's empire in her final years.

So can we also make ourselves useful and fight beautiful battles right till the day we die?

This picture taken in October is now a priceless treasure in my photo collection

Secondly, she left a lasting impact on all her descendants even if she left without a word. Throughout my 3 days there, I made it a point to ask many relatives whether she had a proper closure, or said what she said before her last breath, the answer was, yes and no, that she did not manage to speak before she left, but it's even more likely that she had nothing left to say.

She wrote her one and only wish in her will, and that is the hope that all her family from top to bottom will go to church together.

When I heard that, I was stunned, because it was so simple, yet so impactful. It told me one thing, that even when we die (if circumstances permit), we have a choice to go quietly, or go out with a bang. It's an opportunity to use this as a finale to leave a positive influence to the ones who continue to live.

Grandma certainly went with one big bang, because now, every single one of us will live everyday with her final wish engraved in our hearts.

Grandma, when I went back with Noah in October it was really to say hello. You were obviously on the up when we left, so I really did not expect it to turn out as a last goodbye.

You left in a hurry, but I hope in some way, I had made you proud to have me as a grandson, and that you were comforted when your eldest great grandson held your hand multiple times during our visit.

This Christmas, you are no longer with us.

But you are with the Lord now, the Lord for whom you fought and won various handsome battles for.

And you are with Grandpa again, after more than 40 years.

I am sure you have never had a merrier one.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning Thai with Namewee's "Thai Sad Song" and me!

As much as I continue to be impressed by Namewee's endless creativity and talents, I did not expect him to come up with a Thai Love Song Part 2 aka Thai Sad Song.

To be very honest, I found this song a little underwhelming and MV much less tasteful than the first one, but there were a couple of parts of the song which made me break out in laughter, and the new Thai words he used can bring your knowledge of the language up a notch.

So after my first Thai lesson with his previous viral song, here's my second lesson with his follow-up, focusing on some new but extremely useful Thai words (he did repeat some words from the first song, but I will not waste your time on them again).

  1. Dtrong Bpai:
    Do take note of how I spelt these words. Dt would mean you need to pronounce it in between D and T, Bp would mean you pronounce it in between B and P, understand? LOL

    Anyway, Dtrong Pai means move straight, or go forwards.

  2. Tii Nai:
    Depicts location, like "where" in English, and most commonly used with "Yuu" in front.

    For example:

    "Toilet Yuu Ti Nai?" means "Where is the toilet?"

  3. Liao Kwaa:
    Turn right.

  4. Liao Sai:
    Turn left. Combined with words 1 to 3, you are now invincible while talking to Thai cabbies!

  5. Jep Mak Mak/ Jep Jing Jing:
    "Jep" means hurt or painful.
    "Mak" means very and "Jing" means real.

    So the phrases mean "Very Very Painful" and "Really Really Painful" respectively.
    Note that "Mak Mak" and "Jing Jing" can be used frequently with a huge array of words to emphasise your point.

  6. Laew Jer Gan:
    I was about to give up on the song until the appearance of this phrase before the final chorus, which put me into hysterical laughter, especially after seeing how they translated these words in Chinese.

    Actually, Namewee might have made a (purposeful) mistake. If he was meaning to say "goodbye" or "see you again", he should not have used "Rao Jer Gan", as it literally translates to "We meet together".

    Instead, the correct and informal way of saying "See you again" is actually "Laew Jer Gan".

Ok, so now that all of us have leveled up in our command of simple conversational Thai, let's enjoy this pretty hilarious song, hope my lesson has at least helped you understand the entire song!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Stranger in Bangkok's Father's Day Greeting 2014

3 December 2014

It's past noon.

I waved goodbye to my colleagues and left for home in a hurry, even though some documents I had been asking for would be complete in a few minutes' time. It's Noah's first ever parent-teacher meeting. We should not be late.


We were back home and I was preparing myself to leave the house to run some errands at the banks nearby. Ellie needed to be fed, and Noah, without his nap (becoming a norm this past week), started his cranky behavior, so, the errands had to wait again. The best part of the next hour was spent at his disposal, navigating a phonics DVD he wanted to watch.

Messages, emails (and a couple of calls) were piling in,  from different countries no less, all knocking me for immediate replies. Reasonable. It was still within working hours and I would have expected no less from them.

Noah then threw a tantrum because he wanted Mummy to throw his chocolate wrapper for him and not me.

Why my dear boy? Why because of this? Why now?

Daddy needs to fully take care of 2 companies in a foreign country. Do you not know that it is already a small miracle that Daddy can be navigating your phonics DVD for you at home at this hour?

Ok, you are not even 3, I cannot expect you to understand all this. I really hope one day you will.

I think of my wife, feeding Ellie in the room. She has spent all her days and hours making sure the kids are well taken care of. And I am here in the living room, powerless in preventing hell from breaking loose.

And then there's my mum, visiting for 2 weeks only, but tirelessly going to the market and cooking everyday for us to make things easier. I can't even, as a son, give her a break and bring her out for a good day of shopping and relaxation.

Why is it, that the more I try to become a better husband, father, son, boss, colleague, employee and friend, the more I suck at everything?

Instead, I have become:

A careless husband.

An angry father,

An invisible son.

A part-time boss.

An undependable colleague.

A skiving employee.

And a friend who's always not available.

I am not finding the balance well. No, not at all.

Luckily, my family, employers, colleagues and friends still love me and support me while I find my way.

Anyway, it's the King's 87th Birthday today, may all Dads reading this have a wonderful day with your family.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What to look for in a Confinement Lady - from a Dad's perspective

It's been known to many we flew a confinement lady (otherwise referred to as the CL) in from Malaysia to take care of Li Li and Ellie for a couple of months. Many friends, from Singapore, Malaysia and even Hong Kong have tried her cooking, with varying amounts of praise. My wife has also posted pictures of her everyday meals on her page for reference, which have impressed many as well.

So how good was she?

Spread for Ellie's first month party, prepared single-handedly by the CL (Confinement Lady)

I might not be the best person to judge, as I am out of the house half the time on weekdays, but I can only say that she was not perfect. So let's start with the cons.
  • She talks too much, too loudly.
  • She doesn't help you much when you go shopping with her, aside of telling you what to buy, so it's better to leave the shopping completely to her.
  • Aside of her designated chores, she doesn't do much else in the house to help out unless she's asked to (it gets tiring to ask again and again).
  • She is an online game master (really picky employers can stop this by not giving WiFi password).
  • Her food is usually overseasoned, and she cooks a little too much all the time.
Ok, before you think that I am bad-mouthing my CL, please hold your horses, besides, many friends have already individually contacted me to ask me about her, so I might as well put this on my blog to answer all FAQs.

Now, to the main point. 

In spite of all the above, I feel that she is a GOOD CL.

  1. She keeps to her main role well, that is to nurture both mother and baby to good health during her stint. She cooked balanced meals, made special tonics for my wife and ensured that she did not have to wake to tend to the baby in the night.

    She also loves babies. There was not an instant that I felt she really lost patience with Ellie, which is commendable  as she was here for 2 months, and babies can be infuriating at times. As long as she did this part properly, all the cons mentioned above are really secondary.
  2. She cooks well. Even though she often over-seasons and cooks a little excess, I think I prefer food to be generally tasty and sufficient, rather than bland or not filling. Within our limitations of a tiny open kitchen with just 2 heating points on our electric stove, she did well.        
  3. She knows her place. And that is to just be the CL. Those who had experience with your parents playing this role, you should understand when I say that your mum will always be your mum, even if she can perform the roles of a CL well.

    Our one knew when to stop when things were not looking right, and when to disappear when she needed to, and that, I feel, is the X-factor that differentiates a good CL from the rest. I do not think it is acceptable if the CL should become the cause of any form of negative energy in the house. It certainly did not happen for us. However, this X-factor can only be known through the form of recommendations from friends, if you found your CL from an agent, this part will surely be a hit-and-miss.

So, there you have it. My very honest assessment of my CL, and a few pointers when you choose your own.

At the end of the day, both Li Li and Ellie were at their most vulnerable when she came, and emerged strong and well when she left. Nothing else matters.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Putting Food on the Table Linky: 8 Tips for Cooking Dads (and Mums)

Since Noah came, I have more or less taken over the job of putting food on the table. It's not always easy (don't get me started on the cleaning up part!), but the end result of watching my family tuck in happily is always a joy.

After nearly 3 years of churning out home-cooked goodness for my family, I realised even though it's still a struggle at times, I have developed a certain kind of momentum when it comes to making meals possible on working days, therefore, I am going to kick off this first ever linky on my blog giving some of my personal tips to cooking Dads (and Mums). Hopefully a couple of these tips will come in handy and make cooking much more of a breeze at home.

Some of the food I put on the table


This, to me, is the most important. You can have skills of a masterchef, but if you have pans that stick, spatulas that melt once they touch a hot surface or a blender that can never be cleaned properly, you will be frustrated in your endeavors to the point of giving up.

Therefore, when it comes to cooking, having great cooking equipment you are comfortable with is the key. Now this is extremely personal, but let me share what I have.
My 3 trusted kitchen assistants

I believe the 80-20 rule applies to most situations, and that includes cooking as well (80% of the food you cook will be done in 20% of the cookware you own). For me, my essentials are a good non-stick frying pan that holds a lot of heat (I use Scanpan, it's my best purchase ever), a soup pot and an oven. I now also have a claypot that I hope will work its way into my cooking repertoire. That's it!


The beauty of cooking at home is the fact that you know what you eat. Understanding this, the best way to ensure my family does not consume the things I don't want them to, is not to have them at home at all.

For example, I have never purchased MSG before, and I have stopped buying stock cubes. Sometimes my food might be a little bland, but not having these short-cuts force me to improve my cooking skills and use real ingredients to spike up the taste of the dishes next time.

One other thing I do not have in my kitchen is the microwave oven. I have no issues against the marvelous functions of it, sometimes I wish I had one too, but by not having it, I ensure I will not waste precious fridge space on frozen microwaveable meals. What's better than freshly-cooked food?


My cheat to churning out delicious food at home is simple - use the best ingredients you can find. It's difficult to define "best", but it's easy to define "fresh". Grab the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on.

For me, local seafood is still probably the best at the wet market, but when it comes to vegetables, meat and imported seafood, good supermarkets might have exclusive access to the higher-end suppliers.

Personally, I pay a lot of attention to the meat I have at home. Genuine "organic" meat might be hard to find, but I really do prefer meat from animals who spent their lives roaming around on their own feet eating things they are supposed to eat, which leads to the words "Kampung chicken" and "Free-range pork/beef". They cost more, but you can really taste the difference, and if you try hard enough, you will definitely find the most reliable suppliers in your area eventually. The folks in your home (that includes yourself) deserve it!


Now that you have your hands on the best ingredients, it's time to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

For meat and seafood, freeze them as soon as you get home, but please know that you should NEVER freeze them twice. If you cannot finish using them at one go after thawing, keep them chilled and use them up as soon as possible, freezing them again is the worst decision you will ever make.

Also, the best way to preserve the integrity of your meat/seafood is to adopt the "freeze fast thaw slow" rule, freeze them as soon as you can, but thaw them as slowly as possible. Meat or seafood that is forced to thaw in water or in the microwave will lose some of its original textures. It's recommended you put the frozen ingredients you need into the lower level of your refrigerator one day in advance to allow it to thaw at a low temperature slowly, preferably overnight. Have some patience, it will be well worth the wait.


As Daddies, most of us are working. We do not have time to visit the market everyday nor do things impromptu frequently. Planning in advance is vital, especially if we can only stock up on ingredients once a week. We do not have to plan everyday's menu in detail, but we need an idea of what we want to cook. Things that usually catch me off-guard are rice, flour, cooking oil, soy sauce and small aromatics like onions, garlic and ginger. It's frustrating to wake up early wanting to stirfry chicken to realise I have run out of shallots. Always try to check these things before 'marketing' and don't miss any essentials out.

On a daily basis, it's important to plan what to cook one day ahead. This makes sure we thaw the right frozen ingredients the night before (especially if you are following point 4). Waking up to rock-hard frozen meat is no fun.


I cannot emphasize this more. The nicest food is usually the simplest (some simple examples are soup and steamed fish). If you had managed to stock up on the good raw ingredients, you don't have to do much to ensure a table of healthy delicious food for your family.

The important thing is not to overcook your ingredients or over-season them. Let their natural flavours run the marathon for you. How to not overcook.... ah....... that comes with some heart, and practice, cook more and you will gain the experience required to shut the stove/oven at the right time.


If you are like me, waking up early frequently to cook meals for your family, you can help yourself by cooking dishes that will taste just as good (or better) cold or re-heated.

As a rule of thumb, this usually does not apply to fried food, as your family will likely eat them cold a few hours later which is really not optimizing your efforts.

Soups, stews and simple stirfries usually taste great reheated. If you plan to steam fish, I recommend you prepare the fish and ingredients on a plate for your family to steam them right before they plan to have their meal. It's a simple task. Reheating already-steamed fish will result in an overcooked fishy disaster.

If you are into pastas and salads, prepare the sauces and dressings and leave your family members to incorporate the sauces and dressings themselves. These dishes start to die once everything is mixed up, doing it way in advance is NOT recommended.


Lastly, if you are cooking for your family, you are already doing a good job. The twice-a-week takeaway and occasional instant noodles will not kill you them.

I do not cook everyday too. Sometimes I just throw everything down and call for a pizza or bring my family out for a simple meal. Don't batter yourself over putting dishes on the table everyday. Get enough rest and don't be too stressed.

While I was preparing this post, it suddenly occurred to me that it is not often that a Dad's contribution to family meals is mentioned, so I have decided to initiate this linky, to encourage my fellow bloggers to share more on this aspect. I am sure a lot of refreshing points of view will be gathered along the way, so do stay tuned throughout November as more and more parent bloggers link up.

Meanwhile, pick up your spatulas and get cooking!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tips for parents handling toddlers alone on (multiple) flights

Last week, I made a trip not many Daddies will make, not because they cannot handle it (because I believe many can), but because they either will rather not take the risk, or will not be allowed to by other members of the family.

I took Noah back to Sarawak by myself. It sounds simple, but it's more complicated than it looks. There are no direct flights from Bangkok to Sarawak, taking the easy way out in terms of flight timing choices means I had to transit at KL via a famous budget airlines, which meant my luggage could not be checked through the whole trip. Furthermore, I had to visit 2 cities in Sarawak. It finally translated to a mammoth task of bringing Noah on a 5 day trip which involved 5 flights, 3 cities and more than 24 hours of travel time (including transit).

Noah extremely bothered by the loud announcements at the airport

Having brought Noah back to Bangkok in one piece, I think it should be time to share with other parents my personal tips to handling toddlers alone on such daunting trips.

1. Be fully prepared in advance, don't play games with time

To be extra cautious, I made sure every leg was checked-in online. I went to the airport early and once I got my boarding passes, went through the immigration and located the boarding gate without delay. I would rather reach the boarding gate and relax there with my child than to risk missing the flight if anything went wrong during another activity far away from the boarding gate.

Use the same airlines to complete your journey if possible, as they will be more willing to help you if anything screws up during transit (can also check the luggage through if not a budget carrier). If like me, you have no choice but to use a budget carrier over multiple legs, make sure you allow ample time (at least 3 hours) between flights in case your first flight delays. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Flight 1: Bangkok to KLIA2

2. Choose the right seats

Even though my son is 2, my budget airlines incredibly seated us apart for 2 of the 5 flights. This forced me to pay extra to ensure we sat together. This is a very big reminder to everyone taking budget flights, if you did not check this properly, you might have a lot of unnecessary negotiation to do on the plane itself. Not good with a potentially cranky kid in tow.

My other advice is to not have the child seated by the aisle. Firstly, an aisle seat could give him/her the freedom of getting off the seat and start walking along the aisle (not what you want if it is not your choice). Secondly and more importantly, I would not want to run the risk of him/her getting hit by an unknowing passenger or even the push cart along the aisle. It will also reduce the chances of him/her getting hit by a falling luggage from the overhead compartment to zero (yay).

Flight 2: KL to Sibu

3. Prepare a good carry-on bag

Try to spend some effort preparing a bag which contains all the essentials for you and your child. If you forget anything, don't fret, most airports will have shops to sell what you need (unless you forgot your passport or wallet of course). A simple checklist will be as follow:

- Passports
- Boarding pass (if checked-in online)
- Wallet (money, credit cards and insurance cards)
- Snacks
- Water bottle
- Pen (to fill in arrival/departure cards)
- Mobile phone
- 1 book for your kid (just 1!)
- Extra battery or power bank (you do not want to lose communication at any instant during the trip)
- Little toys (I brought a little car and a turtle soft toy)
- Carrier (if your toddler likes to be in it)
- Extra clothes and diaper (bring 2 sets if possible)
- Tissue and wet wipes

Flight 3: Early morning flight from Sibu to Kuching

 4. Travel light

What? After that bloody huge list I gave above?

Yes! I had everything in my slingbag and my bag did not weigh over 4kg. Note 1 missing item in the list, the laptop. The smartphone is more than capable of addressing our emailing needs and if you are going to be the one and only caretaker for your toddler throughout the entire trip, you probably will not have time/energy to be at your laptop anyway.

You need to travel light because your toddler is heavy, and if you have check-in luggage your hands are going to be full in between flights.

Flight 4: Afternoon flight from Kuching to KL, sleepy-eyed Noah snoozed for the entire hour and a half

5. Keep the kid well-rested, full and hydrated

As I have shared in a previous post about bringing a toddler for a staycation, I have to emphasize again the importance of keeping your kid well-rested, full and hydrated. Diet training can resume tomorrow. If your kid wants only fries, cookies and cupcakes, my suggestion is not to let them go hungry.

I was fortunate enough that Noah sleeps pretty easily on planes as long as he's tired enough. It kept him in decent spirits throughout the long journeys and I recommend that you do your best to find a suitable environment for your kid to sleep as well.

6. Keep an eye on your toddler at ALL times

I can never forget my wife's warning. In one of our discussions leading up to this trip, she told me, "We cannot afford to lose him."

I shuddered as I read it, and it reminded me to be extra vigilant. I am usually a very trusting person, but we really do not know the dangers lurking around the corners of international airports. Losing contact with your child, even for a split second might result in irreversible regrets. So my final reminder is that, your phone can wait, your messages and emails can wait, Mark Zuckerberg will always be there. Treasure every moment with your child and use it as a precious opportunity to build an even stronger bond with him/her. Don't lose sight of your kid, it's not worth it.

Flight 5: KL back to Bangkok. His worst-behaved flight of all, but it overlapped with his bedtime so it's understandable.

During the descent of our final flight of the odyssey, Noah suffered a major breakdown. He started wailing for Mummy and refused to sit on his seat and put on his seatbelt. All of a sudden, the plane went through a period of the worst turbulence I had ever experienced in a plane (trust me, I've sat in a lot). Noah finally relented and sat motionlessly in his seat, holding my hands tightly. After 10 minutes of roller-coaster style excitement and shrieks of fright from fellow passengers, I could finally catch my breath.

Impressed with Noah's great behaviour, I thought to myself, "Maybe this has been the very best training for Noah of the importance of putting on a seatbelt in the plane." Then I looked at him again, close-up. He had long fallen asleep! So much for the training!

In any case, I hope my experience will help you in some way or another. Just be prepared, and everything will be ok. Happy flying!

PS. Noah, if you ever get to read this, Daddy wants to say thank you to you for being such a great boy during this very tiring adventure. We could get through this more because of your good behaviour than my competence as a Dad. I hope our bond has gotten stronger along the way, and here's to many more father-and-son escapades in the future!

Friday, October 17, 2014

2 teddy bears warming Daddy's heart

Last night, I asked Noah to help me open a present my colleagues bought for Ellie on her first month.

It turned out to be a walker that's way too advanced for Ellie now. That's ok, because Noah can play with it in the meantime and not feel left out even though the present was not meant for him.

The cute walker happened to have 2 large adorable teddy bears bouncing up and down as it moved.

Interested to know which lady Noah likes, I cheekily pointed at the blue teddy and said, "This is Noah." to which he quickly acknowledged.

My subsequent question was of course, "Who is this?" while pointing at the pink one, expecting names like Ruirui, Aida, Ellie,Unna or even Mummy to pop out.

"Daddy. Noah and Daddy," was his shocking reply!

I couldn't describe my feeling when I heard that, still can't now. I just know I have to write it down before I forget about it.

Who says Daddy shouldn't wear pink? I am a happy pink Daddy Eddie!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The daily selfie with Noah

Since I took over the job of sending Noah to school, I made it a point to take a daily selfie with my dearest son, who totally cooperated with me, well, most of the time anyway.

It's been a really tough couple of weeks with him recently, with him battling the many changes of going to school, having an unfamiliar confinement lady at home, and of course grappling with the appearance of a baby sister.

I do not expect him to understand completely what's happening, but some days get really really bad.

The daily selfie compilation

After a particularly difficult night, I decided to make a collage of our nice selfies together, to remind myself that for every difficult moment, there are countless beautiful ones.

May today be a better day.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Story of Ellie - A Tale of Gratitude

Now that little Ellie is back where she belongs, healthily drinking, burping, sleeping and pooping her days away, I finally have some time to write a post for her.


If there's anything my nearly-3 years of parenthood taught me, it's that raising children is NOT just about the parents, far from it. In Noah's case, we thought we could get by with just the 2 of us and the help of my mum after delivery, but that didn't turn out too well, so this time, we really activated almost everyone we knew, near and far, to ensure a more comfortable path especially for my wife. Even then, the unpredictable nature of a newborn's health presented us with challenges we could not previously anticipate.

My poor baby, looked at her pocked hands, both of them were the same.

Less than 15 hours after Ellie's birth, she was diagnosed with Transient Tachypnea. From what I understand, it's a problem caused by fluid in Ellie's lungs, which affected her ability to breathe normally by herself without aid, especially during latching. It's not uncommon in newborns, especially those delivered via C-section before 40 weeks, nor is the condition serious, but it pained us immensely to see her all tubed up for a week, through the nose (oxygen), mouth (milk), hands and feet (IV and blood withdrawal). She also had to spend a few hours in the light box to get rid of her mild bout of jaundice.

This condition posed unexpected challenges for us. Li Li had to spend full days in the hospital when she should have been staying in the comforts of home during her confinement after discharge. I had to forgo many days of work when I already took many days of leave after  Ellie's delivery, and Noah had to spend virtually a full week in the hospital with us.

Now that this chapter is closed, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made this more bearable than it really should be:

- My family in Sarawak, who miraculously managed to make a huge stash of brand new baby clothes (from Australia no less) and mee sua appear in my house, and also to keep some pretty serious news from my knowledge so that I could completely concentrate on what's happening here.

Thank you Dad, especially, sorry that I neglected you because I was busy becoming a Dad myself. I thank you for your strength and understanding. Rest more and smoke less, you will see us soon.

- My in-laws, who took turns to visit Bangkok right before Li Li's delivery to carry luggages full of goodies for us.

Especially my mother-in-law, who was here during crunchtime. Sorry that Noah did not give you an easy time, but we thank you nonetheless for being here when we needed you and ensured we had nothing to worry about at home. 

外婆 and Ellie!
- Our friends, especially Grace, who recommended a good confinement lady to us, Wendy, who took the trouble to do some last minute shopping in Singapore to allow Li Li to drink the most nutritious soups in the world at home, Junhui, who bought a stunning pair of sandals for Ellie even though he did not manage to see her in the end during his trip to Bangkok, and Frances, who recommended the hospital and OPD to us.

- My CG in Singapore. We have not been around for more than 4 years, but I know some of you prayed for us, and every single prayer counted.

- The team at the hospital (doctors and nurses included), who worked tirelessly to ensure both Li Li and Ellie recovered well. I can see your heart and love when you are working, so keep it up. I just hope you are paid as handsomely as the hospital you are working for!

Maybe the best nursery in Thailand!

- Noah, my first-born. Formerly the youngest in the family but now officially an elder brother. Thank you for behaving like an angel throughout the entire week in hospital. 

Noah slept with me on the sofa in Li Li's ward.
I did not expect you to understand the importance of your sister's arrival, but you did, and you did not make a single complaint, even if we had to spend time with her at your expense.

Yes, you are behaving out of character sometimes these days, but I am sure you will get used to the many changes at home soon and return to a settled routine like before.

Noah and Ellie
The love in your eyes when you hold Ellie is unmistakable. Daddy and Mummy are so thankful to have you with us.

- And finally, my wife, Li Li.

Sorry that I can never give you the ideal amount of assistance required, and thank you for being such a brave and strong Mummy, to battle through another difficult birth process to deliver our precious daughter. We are four now, and our family will be stronger because of it.

I would also like to thank everyone who is still reading this, for sharing my unforgettable parenting journey with me. 

Noah was named during the floods in Thailand in hope that he can be a blessing in his generation. Ellie means the light of the sun. 

With Noah and Ellie, rainy days and floods are no longer scary, and there's bound to be sunshine after the rain! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What would you like to be when you grow up?

Even though the picture of Sakura (from the famous online trio, Ninjagirls) as a grass cutter seems a little too sexy to be true, her latest article had me ponder a bit.

When I was little, I was constantly being 'brainwashed' by my mum to either become a doctor or a lawyer (now doesn't that sound familiar), so much that it seemed like these 2 are the only respectable jobs in the Universe, and the only 2 that will serve as a benchmark to my success as a person and my mum's personal achievement as a parent. And as Sakura mentioned, it's not uncommon to hear parents using cleaners and grass-cutters as a warning to their children if they do not do well in school.

I have posted my fair share of complaints (and praises too) about Thailand on this blog since I came, but I will have to say that after being immersed in the Thai culture for a best part of 5 years, a lot of my perspectives have changed.

I get greeted a warm "Sawadee Krup" by the guards at my condominium, banks, malls whenever they see me.

Ladies of all ages clear plates at food courts with a smile, and toilet cleaners also look just as happy as their counterparts working in nice offices. This bodes well to the end result of their work too, most public toilets in Thailand are extremely clean, even those at petrol kiosks and small eateries.

More than half of my own staff held odd jobs before they joined me, even some of my more senior staff.

I see locals making a good living in ways that would likely be discouraged by most parents in Singapore/Malaysia. Some spend years as waitresses at the same little restaurant, some repair air-conditioners so well that the ended up forming a team of technicians which can serve as many as 6 households at one go, some lose their jobs and find a new lease of life selling grilled pork along the streets. One thing that stands out, is that even if life is tough, they will try to enjoy their work when they are at it.

I have to admit though, in spite of all this, I will not be the proudest parent if Noah ends up spending his life cutting grass and pruning trees (even though I sell brush-cutters and chainsaw parts myself), but I believe that there is beauty in every job, and to excel, you have to try your best and have fun while you are at it.

At the end of the day, 行行出状元, we must give due respect to every profession that adds value to the society.

No job is more important than another, and as long as my children are happy and making a decent living out of whatever they are doing, who am I to complain?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sharing the experience of choosing an International School for my child in Bangkok

Throughout the entire research process for Noah's school, my wife was the one doing all the work. I only made visits to a selected few and took part in final discussions before making the decision together. This piece represents my personal view only, sharing my after-thoughts after the whole exercise.

Of the many obstacles we have to overcome being a foreign family in Thailand, our children's education proved to be one of the trickiest ones. Unlike in Singapore, where parents have their hearts in their mouths while waiting to see whether their children have been given a place in their preferred primary school, Thailand presents a set of completely different challenges.

Firstly, the public education system is simply not a choice. It's largely monolingual in a language we do not understand, so we have to look to international schools.

Secondly, once it comes to international education, we have to decide which curriculum to go for. Established ones will naturally be the American, British, and yes, you guessed it, Singapore curriculums. We ended up opting for the Singapore curriculum not because we feel it's the best one, but because Singapore international schools here focus on both English AND Mandarin, while most British and American schools only conduct classes in English, with limited emphasis on other languages or offer them as out-of-curriculum options.

Thirdly, Bangkok is not a place blessed with good traffic, especially during peak hours. As much as we would love to send our kids to the best school possible, it is more important not to end up spending half the day on the road. It is logical to choose the most suitable school out of the ones near our residence.

Lastly, international schools are expensive. No matter how much financial mileage I get from living in a "cheaper city", it will eventually be used up in my children's education. International schools hire foreign teachers (all foreigners have a high minimum salary which varies with country) and all language teachers are native speakers. On top of that, the student-teacher ratio is kept very low, so we could easily look to spend between 650-2500SGD per month in school fees for our child, depending on the school and the kid's age. We need to start spending this amount per month from age 2.5-18 before spending another bomb for University education. Take this, consider inflation and rise in school fees over 2 decades multiplied by the number of kids I have, my children's education fees can LITERALLY BANKRUPT me.

Having considered all the factors above, we visited every school that offered the Singapore curriculum around our apartment.

School A:

We were greeted by a huge moving water display, a sign of good 风水 (especially for the school after seeing their fees). It was followed by a rather impressive visit of the facility, with particular emphasis on their "Wall of Fame" showcasing the usual suspects' proud academic achievements in international competitions. It was really a 'back-to-Singapore' experience, which was what I was NOT looking for since we were already out of the island. I personally grew up in a similar atmosphere, with a relentless emphasis on academic performance. Ultimately, even though I benefited from my results to a certain extent, I am sure I would be better served in an atmosphere that focused more on actual learning than results.

School B:

The closest to our house, which would make the most sense for us if it proved to be fitting to our requirements as well. It is relatively new, so the campus is pretty small, not a big issue for me if other things fell into place. However, everything started to fall apart after sitting down with the principal.

A brief boast about the academic achievements of her children was followed by an extended interview on whether my company will be paying for my children's education expenses. When I told her it would be unlikely, she started discussing with me a whole range of reasons why I should be reimbursed and even sounded a bit impolite towards my bosses who have given me everything I have since I moved to Thailand. My head hurt a little when I left the office, as it was more of a HR meeting than a meeting with my son's potential school principal.

School C:

The furthest of the 3, but still within reasonable driving distance. A humble but rapidly-expanding school campus. I do not remember hearing of any wall of fame nor any HR lecture, but something about them keeping their fees reasonable by not spending any fees on marketing and re-investing their earnings into more facilities for their students. Music to my ears indeed. It also helped when we already had 2 friends who put their kids there and did not have bad things to say.

In the end, our choice was pretty clear. That said, Noah will not formally start class with them until next week, so it is a bit too early to pass judgement. Let's just hope for the best.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Authentic homely taste of Mainland China savoured in Thailand

Guess what dish is this? Clue: It's our dessert

Chinese food is widely available in Thailand. As most of the early Chinese immigrants are from Swatow, there is a huge Teochew flavour in Thai cooking. Braised duck and pork trotters are some of the chinese flavours commonly found along the streets of Bangkok.

When we visit the Chinese restaurants in good hotels, decent Chinese cuisine is not hard to find, but these are mostly, as expected, Cantonese flavours. Little did I expect that somewhere just a few kilometres outside Bangkok, in the neighbouring province of Samut Sakhon, will I enjoy authentic Hakka food in an eatery which does not even have a signboard. As I told my staff, this is real China Chinese (客家家乡菜) food, not the typical Thai-influenced Chinese food we get anywhere else. 

I have decided to list down the dishes I ate on my blog before I completely forget about them in the future:

Claypot bean curd soup.

Deep-fried fish in sweet and sour sauce, I believe the pineapple was the only local touch in the entire restaurant.

Stir-fried bean curd skin, black fungus and mushrooms.
How they made such humble ingredients taste like heaven with a spatula and a wok, I will never know.

Deep-fried tofu with a minced-garlic sauce.

Wok-Hei-filled fried kway teow

I believe that even in Singapore or Malaysia, we will struggle to find ourselves Hakka flavours as original as this. I would never be able to relocate the eatery by myself in the future, so I am counting my blessings to have tasted these delicacies in Thailand, and hope my new customer will bring me back there again soon.

It's yam paste, not too sweet and slightly savoury, served with a generous sprinkle of sesame and peanut. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When the Stranger cooks: The BEST Home-made Pork Burger

Yes, I made this myself, and I am proud of it, but now, you can do it too!

I frequently share pictures of the food I eat on my blog's FB page, as food is a essential part of my blog. Once in a while I share pictures of food I cook, and some garner better feedback than others. A few weeks ago, I made some burgers at home and got a few requests to share the recipe, so here I am. However, I do not cook with fixed recipes and many dishes are made by a sudden influx of inspiration, so pardon me if I have already forgotten every single step I took to achieve this 'masterpiece'.

When it comes to burgers, there are 3 essential elements, the bun (I can't bake for nuts, so I buy my burger buns from the supermarket), the patty and the sauce. I am going to share a few secrets to tell you how I actually made things easier for myself.

Firstly, what is the best sauce for your burger? I do not like the idea of ketchup, because putting ketchup essentially means the burger tastes like nothing but ketchup. What else? Mayonnaise? Barbeque sauce? I don't use these sauces frequently in my cooking, so buying bottles of them for an occasional burger will result in wastage. For me, no sauce beats some gooey melting cheese with cracked black pepper on top and the succulence of a thick wedge of juicy fresh tomato. Don't believe me? Try this burger recipe and tell me again. You can even use this formula for all your burgers.

Secondly, the patty. This is where it gets interesting. Most burgers use ground beef, as it has a deep meaty aroma and do not have to be cooked through to preserve the patty's moisture. I use pork, a much lighter-looking and tasting meat that absolutely has to be cooked through. So, to taste good and moist. It needs help.

My tiny secret to my pork patty is..... CARAMELIZED ONIONS. Putting raw onion on top of your patty is something regularly done, but it leaves a stench in your mouth that follows you through the day. Putting caramelized onions on top of the patty is a great idea too, but if you are looking for the sweetest moistest tasting pork burger, why not chop up the caramelized onions and mix them INTO the patty instead?




  • 3 burger buns
  • 450g of ground pork (needs around 10-15% of fat for best results), 150g will be perfect for a burger
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 rashers of  bacon, 1 for each burger
  • 1 fresh juicy tomato
  • 3 slices of cheddar or your favourite cheese, 1 for each burger
  • 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (optional)
  • paprika powder, black pepper, salt to taste

Patties sizzling away

Making the Patty:

  1. Thaw the meat completely, preferably overnight in the refrigerator, and put in a large bowl.
  2. Season with a generous amount of paprika powder, black pepper and a dash of salt to taste.
  3. Crisp up the bacon in your pan, set aside for burger assembly.
  4. Coarsely slice up your onion and caramelize in the bacon fat under medium heat, till slightly brown, soft and sweet.
  5. Chop the soft caramelized onion finely and mix into the ground pork.
  6. Finally, if you have any, add 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, it makes the patty feel less dense yet binds everything nicely together. The patty will work properly too without breadcrumbs though.
  7. Coat your hands with a tiny bit of cooking/olive oil and carefully split the mixture equally into 3, rolling into balls.
  8. Using the same oil that you used for the onion, turn to medium-high heat and place the meatballs on the frying pan, then use a spatula and flatten the meatballs into the shape of a patty, about 1-1.5cm thick, which will fit just nice into a standard size burger bun.
  9. Your meat should be of room temperature, or even slightly warm after mixing with the warm caramelized onion, so it shouldn't take too long to cook through, I think 3 to 4 minutes on each side should do the trick.

Assembling the Burger:

  1. Once the patty is ready, put it on top of the bottom side of the burger bun. Place a piece of bacon on the patty before laying the slice of cheddar on top. Do the same for all 3 burgers and crack some black pepper on the cheese. Place in oven at 200degC for around 5 minutes for the cheese to melt and fuse with the bacon and patty. The top side of the buns should be placed in the oven too for warming and crisping the crust.

  2. As the patty is already cooked, your burger will be ready for final assembly once the cheese has melted. The last step is to lay a THICK slab of fresh tomato on top of the patty, cover with the top side of the burger bun and enjoy!

You will thank me for this.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Calling Mr Jeremy Lee, the Anti-Pram

Hello Mr Anti-Pram aka Jeremy Lee

If calling you Mr Anti-Pram sounds drastic, calling the "over-use" of prams (or a more appropriate term, stroller) a "truly distressing social ill" is, yes, you are right, truly distressing.

This is not the first, and certainly not the last article/comment (a fellow dad posted this a few hours after me) addressed directly to you regarding your now-notorious article, but I will have to write it anyway, because to you, a personal, one-sided, subjective rant like this is completely acceptable.

I will not go into detail explaining why parents need the aid of prams when bringing their child/ren out (it has already been done well here), neither do I care whether you are a parent or not, but the part about taking lifts is just a painful thing to read. If you, presumably a grown man with healthy limbs and an outstanding command of English, can roll your eyes at prams in lifts and expect kids to train their muscles once they are ready to walk without falling flat on their faces, why can't you expect yourself to take the escalator or even the stairs instead? If you fall flat on your face frequently while walking, please accept my sincere apologies and go train some muscles.

I cannot blame you for writing what you think. However, I shudder at the thought of this article being read, edited and subsequently published on the website I read it from. If this has been a tasteless form of driving readership, I have to admit, it has achieved its aim.

In any case, I have some final words for you.

Take comfort, because Bangkok, the city I have lived in for the last 4 years, does not encourage parents to bring prams into malls.

But, don't ever come to Bangkok, unless you decide to spend all your days burning on the streets and weekend markets.

Because, many major malls in Bangkok already have their very own fleet of prams ready for rental to all their customers with a simple exchange of any form of identification, so technically, no family needs to bring their own. These are certainly not considered "C-class" prams, but are at least "Altises".

So beware.

If you decide to come, and can't help but set foot into any of the world-class malls scattered across the whole of this City of Angels, be afraid. Be very afraid.

An entire army of "Altises" will be charging at you.

And the worst thing is, one of them could be mine.

Yours sincerely,
Eddie aka Stranger in Bangkok

In a feeble surrender to the marketing initiative driven by this article, those who wish to read the article I was responding to, you can do so here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When the Stranger cooks: Fettucine with rich meat sauce.

Home-made gourmet burger, even the patties were made from scratch!

I realise it's been a long time since I shared an original recipe. I have certainly not stopped cooking, but was too lazy to take enough nice pictures to make some recipe posts.

Baked seafood with lemon and potatoes

However, due to a couple of requests on my Facebook share last night, even though I lack pictures, I think I should share how I cooked my Fettucine with rich meat sauce, a dish which is frequently seen in my house in different variations.

Almost all the ingredients
Ingredients, serves 2-3:

  1. Half a large onion, diced.
  2. 250g of raw gourmet sausage (I used Sloane's Botifarra), break the casing and squeeze out the sausage meat. You could use normal minced beef or pork as well, but using good raw sausages is a cheat that will help you form a beautiful base for the sauce.
  3. 1 can of plum tomato, use imported ones from Italy/Spain, remove seeds if you do not want the sauce to be too sour.
  4. 200g of cherry tomato, halved.
  5. Half a cup of white wine.
  6. 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, optional, but it makes the sauce taste richer and fruitier.
  7. Dried herbs include paprika powder, cracked black pepper, oregano, a little of each according to your personal taste.
  8. Salt to taste.

Complete sauce, absolutely divine.
Cooking procedure:
  • Saute onions in a medium-hot pan with some oil, the key is to sweat them slowly to release their sweetness and not burn them.
  • When the onions have softened and turned a little brown, switch to high heat and put the sausage mince in to sear. You want to have a nice brown char on the mince so that it gives the sauce a depth of flavour.
  • When browning the meat, add some cracked black pepper, paprika powder and oregano to your personal taste. I personally love a lot of paprika and black pepper in my sauces.
  • When the meat has achieved a nice sear, keep the pan hot and add in the balsamic vinegar so that it reduces nicely, then add the white wine to deglaze the pan and form the beautiful base of the sauce.
  • Pour in the can of tomatoes and the halved cherry tomatoes, mix well, add in another half a can of water using the empty tomato can. Turn to medium heat, cover and leave it to simmer. You can simply use canned tomatoes, but I always like to add some fresh tomatoes to give it a more refreshing element.
  • When the fresh tomatoes soften to become part of the sauce and the sauce reduces to a nice consistency (like the bolognaise sauce you eat in a good restaurant), you can give it a taste and add a final bit of pepper and salt to your liking.

Of course, the dish will not be complete without your favourite pasta. I love to use either linguine or fettucine for my dishes, but this sauce works well with any type of pasta you prefer. Around 80-120g of pasta should be a good amount for an adult.

When cooking pasta, please salt the water generously, otherwise your dish will taste horribly bland, and lastly, follow the cooking instructions on your pasta packaging carefully, DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR PASTA. Any great sauce will be in vain if you serve it with fat, soggy noodles.

So there you have it, my Fettucine with rich meat sauce, a simple dish that you can whip up within an hour and make the people in your house very happy indeed.

Try it and let me know what you think of it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Daddy's revelation among Potties, Urinals and Toilet Training

Noah is nearly two and a half years old and not toilet-trained. For everyone who knows me, you should understand that I have become more and more of a free-spirit after leaving Singapore for Thailand, or at least, I try to be.

Therefore, we have always let Noah be as free-spirited as he wants to be, not to the extent of freely throwing cookie crumbs all over the floor or tugging at wires, but we do not control his nap times and allow him to make reasonable choices as much as possible, and that includes things like toilet-training. We do not want to apply unnecessary pressure on him as we know that there will surely come a day when he will decide to drop the diaper and wear big-boy pants.

We started encouraging him to drop the diaper by reading him toilet-training-related books frequently, which he understands and enjoys, then putting a little urinal beside the toilet bowl in my toilet. In the last few months, I have started to invite him into my toilet while doing 'small business' so that he understands what's 'required' when the day comes.

Last night, the day nearly came.

After dinner, instead of a couple of hours of playing before his sleep routine, Noah said he wanted to pee in the 'potty'. Then came a few minutes of fully-clothed pretend-pee in my toilet. When he finally tried to take off his pants, I thought to myself, "This is it!" and ran into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

Then came nearly an hour of coaxing him to pee. He threatened to actually do it on a number of occasions, but ended up turning around to hug me giving me an embarrassed uneasy face every single time. I guess for someone like him, who has been wearing diapers 24/7 all his life, peeing into something other than a nappy is a big uncomfortable step, which he was just short of taking last night.

For me, squatting beside my son for nearly an hour with no end-result in my toilet with a bad back after a long day of work was not what I envisioned myself doing. I was mentally and physically drained after the entire affair, and of course, I could not hide my disappointment.

However, after waking up this morning and looking back at what happened last night, I could only smile and remember especially 1 thing that he said a few times throughout the hour we spent together cuddled up in the loo.

"Noah, are you 怕怕 (scared in Mandarin) to peepee in the potty?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "because got Daddy beside Noah, Noah no need to 怕怕 (scared)。"

Even though this is something I often tell him, but for him to remember it so well and answer me when I ask him the question, it just means that even if I am not the best father in the world, I must be doing something right.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

20 tips to pass off as a local in Thailand

After more than 4 years in Thailand, I am glad to announce to everyone that in most places, aside of tourist attractions which have dual charges for locals and foreigners, there is almost NO APPARENT advantage to behave like a local. Especially if you are taking taxi in Bangkok city, wearing a blonde wig and faking an American accent will improve your chances of getting a cab infinitely.

However, if you are still interested to find ways to effectively demonstrate your acceptance of the unique Thai culture to your Thai friends, here's a list of 20 ways you can do it:

  1. Add fish sauce, chilli powder, vinegar and 3 tablespoonfuls of sugar to every bowl of noodle soup before you taste it, and add even more after you do.
  2. Use toilet paper to wipe your cutlery, face, mouth and everything else, even though it is for your bum.
  3. Don't type "Hahaha" or "LOL" when you feel tickled, but use "555" instead, since 5 is pronounced as "Ha" in Thai.
    -contributed by Benjamin Tan-
  4. Use fork and knife for KFC, and don't forget to eat it with rice.
  5. Drown every slice of pizza with ketchup, and don't forget to eat it with rice too.
  6. For every cup of iced beverage, drink up the beverage and keep the ice with you, waiting for the ice to melt bit by bit to form the most delicious ultra-diluted drink and suck it all up.
  7. Fill a glass full of ice before topping it up with beer.
  8. Fill a glass full of ice, add a teeny bit of whisky before topping it up with an equal mix of still and soda water.
  9. Pose like a supermodel for every picture, whether the backdrop is beautiful scenery or just nothing.
  10. Go to a concert to support your favourite singer, but cheer for every performer just as hysterically as if they are all your favourite singers.
  11. Drive like a mafia, and be extra forgiving to other drivers who drive like you do.
  12. Use "Krup" or "Ka" behind every sentence even though you don't know what it means.
  13. Use "Sawatdii Krup/Ka" when you meet or bid farewell to anyone, though you wonder why it can be used to say goodbye as well.
  14. Go for weekend getaways in places like Amphawa, Khao Yai, Cha Am, Hua Hin and Suan Phueng, not Pattaya, Phuket or Samui.
  15. Pronounce S like S at the beginning of words but pronounce them like D when they are at the end of words. Eg."Lotus" = "Lowthud".
  16. Pronounce all Rs like L. Eg. Pronounce "River" = "Liver".
  17. Pronouce L like L at the beginning of words but pronounce them as N when they are at the end of words. Eg. "Central = Centran"
  18. Tell everyone Starbucks is your favourite coffee joint, even when you know there are tons of local establishments that make better coffee at a fraction of the price.
  19. You know that in Thailand, for many families, the twin that comes out later is the elder sibling, because his heart is big enough to let the other twin see the world first.
  20. Say hooray when protests block up all major roads, then proclaim to the world that the military coup is the best thing that could happen.

These tips are almost certainly going to impress your Thai friends, don't say I never told you!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tips for Daddies bringing their toddlers on a staycation (without Mummy)

My favourite picture of the entire trip @Silverlake Winery

I did a beautiful thing last weekend, that many Daddies might not have had the courage to do due to various factors, that is to bring Noah, who is barely 2 and a half years old, on a staycation to Pattaya without Mummy! It was a fruitful trip, full of laughter, father-son bonding and some much-needed rest and alone-time for Li Li. I learnt a lot from the trip, and thus have compiled a list of tips for other parents (especially Daddies) out there who might be planning to bring their toddlers out on an overnight trip without your other half.

1. Pack your bag properly. More is better than less.

Noah with his favourite new book before sleeping.
Unless you are blessed like me, staying in Thailand, a country littered with too many convenient stores, you better be prepared. The last thing you want is to be stranded on your favourite beach with your toddler without wipes/extra clothes/clean diapers after he/she just pooped, or be left with a toddler insanely crying on your luxurious bed in your 5-star resort when you have nothing on your hand to appease him/her.

It's always a good idea to bring a little too much, rather than too little, of clothes, diapers, wipes, medication, their favourite snacks, books, a couple of their favourite toys, even loading the car full of their favourite songs. Every single thing will come in handy some day, this I promise you.

2. Eat is better than no eat!

Noah with his first real popsicle. It got really really messy a few minutes after this picture was taken.

A hungry toddler is a cranky toddler.

Noah had 4 short crying fits during our 2 days together, and even though I felt 3 outbursts were out of my control, I believe all 4 were somewhat related to his hunger at that moment in time.

You are on a leisure trip, I do not think it is the time to ensure perfect healthy eating for your kids. No sweets? No fizzy drinks? No snacks? More vegetables? Throw that out of the window. Unless you fully prepare your own meals, there is no guarantee your child will like the taste of anything you order, so if he/she only wants to eat french fries for dinner, you will do well to let him/her have his/her fill of fried potato, if not, the consequences will be too hard to bear. Healthy diets can wait, your kid needs to be full in order to fully enjoy the rest of the experience.

3. Keep in touch with family

Reporting to mummy when we set off. This continued for the rest of the trip.

Daddies, let's face it. No matter how well we bond with our kids, chances are, given a choice, they will prefer to stick to mummy. Therefore, with the help of technology, I highly recommend you to ensure your child keeps in touch with mummy throughout the trip. This can be through phonecalls, voice messages, selfies, messages or anything else that makes the child feel that mummy is around too. If you are too occupied to do this throughout the day, a Skype conversation before sleep will be better than nothing.

4. Make full use of trip for your kid's exposure

Noah started running once he was unleashed among the flowers
Having a trip out means your kid has been broken from his normal routine. He is no longer in his comfort zone, and has the opportunity to see and experience new things. No matter whether it's a pleasant or unpleasant experience, he/she will suck it all in.

Even though there are many things you might be worried about:

What if he falls down?

What if he gets accidentally bitten by the sheep he is trying to feed?

How am I going to answer to my wife if he sheds some blood?

What am I going to do if he poops in the pool?

Noah feeling grapes that are still on the vine.

You need to remember that as much as the trip is for you, it is for your kid too! Give him/her time and freedom to run and explore by themselves. Accidents do happen, but with sufficient guidance, everything should turn out ok (most of the time at least).

Noah on the move

5. The most important point: Take things easy!

Relax and everything will be velli good!

Saving the best of the last, I want to remind you again to take things easy during the trip. It's normal for toddlers to cry or get cranky once in a while, or for something to go wrong, but going into scary-Daddy or kancheong-spider (panic) mode is not recommended. If kids cry, they will stop. It's more important to find out why and minimize the chances of it happening again than to scare them into silence and spoil the mood for the rest of the journey. If an accident happens, keep cool and find a solution.

Lastly, with a toddler in tow without your partner's help, it is likely that things might not go exactly to plan. You might be held up somewhere and miss a couple of scheduled sights, but it's more meaningful to make the most of what you can actually accomplish.

May there be many more adventures to come.

If you have the courage to make this step, please believe that you have created a priceless bonding opportunity with your child, not over a meal or a few hours at home, but an entire trip where you only have each other to depend on. Keep my pointers in mind, and I am sure you will be looking forward to the next one.

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