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On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

Singapore, Singapore
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On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

I have great fears that by the end of this thread I'll be wanting to change the title to "Have toddler, deeply regret travelling", but we shall see....

Firstly, a huge thank you to all the regulars who contribute to this awesome forum - I've been lurking around here for the last six months reading all your advice and JBR's, occasionally asking my own inane questions - thanks for all your patience and wisdom :-)

Secondly, an introduction - we are a family of four, two kids aged 7 and one-turning-two on this trip. We are Aussie expats who have been living in Singapore for the last two years, Chiang Mai in Thailand before that. I like to think in my more delusional moments that we are seasoned travellers, however this is our first trip to Vietnam, so that assumption may be sorely tested....

This trip has been planned and refined around keeping the kids happy - our itinerary is fairly touristy, designed to minimise time spent in cars, for both safety and sanity - ours and anyone else who has the misfortune of travelling with us ;-) We'll be starting in Hanoi and working our way down to Hoi An, Nha Trang and finishing in Ho Chi Minh. I really wanted to include Phu Quoc as well but ended up pulling it because of the weather at this time of year. We are all huge water babies, so trying to spend a fair bit of time relaxing beach side as well as enjoying the food and culture after a long school year (Mr B is a teacher). I work in design, so very excited to see the architecture of Vietnam, especially the colonial style buildings. I'm a mad planner, so have clocked up countless hours researching the perfect hotels for us, based on design, location and price - fingers crossed they live up to expectations! Which of course, need to be limited by my $100 a night budget.... I know the goal for most when going on holidays is to avoid spending lots of time in the hotel room, but the little guy still needs a lunch time nap, so it's important to me that we stay somewhere pretty - yes, I really am that shallow ;-) But honestly, staying in a great hotel is half the fun! I used to love exploring the hotel when we went on holidays as kids, the awesomeness of the hotel being measured strictly by the size of pool.

Who am I kidding, that's still how I pick my hotels! #biggerisbetter

So, we're setting off from Singapore with flights and hotels booked, but not much else. We like to just wander the streets - I'm interested in seeing the sights, but I think it's safe to say that museums and galleries will not be high on the priority list for the kids....Probably best for everyone else if we avoid them as well - as mentioned the little guy is turning two and is clearly ahead of the game - terrible twos have started early. I am in equal parts looking forward to this trip and dreading it....

Anyway, that's a rather lengthy introduction, sorry! The plan is to update this thread as we go along. There's no way I'll remember it all by the time we get back, and when we do get back, we're moving into a new home the next week. So, no chance that I'll post anything at all! Quite badly timed on my part, going straight from (hopefully!) being nice and relaxed post holiday, to incredibly stressed and madly packing....but, I do hope that it will be helpful to anyone else planning to travel with young kids.

Or possibly discourage you from ever leaving the house. We'll see.

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62 replies to this topic
Singapore, Singapore
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1. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

So, on to Hanoi....

We left Singapore at 3pm on a Vietjet flight - after all the warnings of unreliability and flight delays, turns out this was the most efficient and on time departure we've had for a very long time. So two thumbs up for Vietjet! I had paid a whole extra five dollars each to sit in the priority seats, so we were in row three with extra leg room - a great surprise for Mr B who clocks in at a tiny 6'3". Best flight he's had in ages ;-) It also meant we'd be first off the plane and into the VOA line - which did indeed happen. However while we were casually sitting around waiting for our names to be called and congratulating ourselves on how clever we were, three other planes disembarked and the majority of the passengers went straight to the immigration line....So, half an hour of queuing later, we finally made it to the other side. Went down to the arrivals hall to collect our baggage, thinking that since immigration took so long, our bags would most definitely be on the carousel waiting for us - 10 minutes later we were still looking for them and wondering where to go to ask for help. We start to walk to another baggage carousel to look for them, only to find that some kind soul had pulled them off for us and they were sitting right next to the carousel. We had walked right past them.

Did I mention we were experienced travellers? ;-)

Anyway, our airport transfer was all organised and waiting for us, so we were finally off to the hotel. Actually I should mention that Hanoi airport was nothing like I'd expected - I was envisioning throngs of shouting taxi drivers trying to hustle us, but it was super calm, quiet and orderly. Even the traffic into the city wasn't that bad - not sure if Vietnam just gets a bad rap, or if it's because we've seen much worse, but it was very easy to handle.

So we pulled up to our hotel, which was the Hanoi Guest House Royal in the old quarter. Oh this place was so cute! It's new, but decorated in an ornate French luxe style, which wouldn't normally be my thing, but when I saw the photos on the website, it charmed me :-) And the photos didn't disappoint, the rooms looked exactly as I expected them to, and the service was so friendly and accommodating! I totally recommend it :-) Once we were sorted out in our room we headed off to find dinner - the hotel is just around the corner from Ma May st, so we set off in that direction, and ended up at the Lantern Lounge. Again, so cute! Nice food, although some problems with service - there was just one poor guy waiting on the whole of the upstairs, which was packed. We didn't get one of our meals and two of our drinks, but didn't really matter - the food that did arrive was more than enough for all of us.

The next morning we had organised to do a street food tour through Ms Cham at Halong Sapa tours, and were picked up from the hotel at 10am. We figured this would be a great way to familiarise ourselves with the city, and try some of the food that we may have passed up otherwise - and also get the kids to try something new. Considering that J, the seven year old, considers anything other than plain pasta and rice exotic, it was a challenge ;-) We started off with Banh Cuon, which I liked, Pho Bo, which didn't do much for me, then some more rice pancakes with pork and mushrooms (can't remember what they were called, but I liked them). Next was Banh Bo Nam Bo (probably my fave), then some sort of BBQ which I also can't remember the name of - it was ok. Then it was on to the drinks - Ca Phe Sua Da, egg coffee, and a mango avocado smoothie.

At this point I should probably mention that I don't drink coffee, beer or eat tofu....

I'll show myself to the door.

Singapore, Singapore
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2. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

But Mr B will happily eat and drink pretty much anything, so you guys can be friends with him instead ;-) And for anyone else in the minority with me, I will say that I tried everything, and I actually quite liked the coffees!

Not enough to, you know, actually go out and buy another one, but still!

But the smoothie was amazing! It was definitely worthwhile doing the tour, I'm glad that we did. Oh, and it also gave me my first glimpse of a few Thit Cho restaurants - TripAdvisor had assured me they weren't commonly found in the tourist areas, but there they were! Piled up and on full display - it was kind of like a car crash, I didn't want to look, but couldn't help myself. J noticed them too and wanted to know what animal it was - Mr B told him the truth, and he didn't seem all that disturbed by it, so that was good. Wasn't entirely sure how he'd handle that.

By the way, I posted a random question on here awhile ago, asking how hot was hot in Vietnam compared to other parts of Asia. So far I've found it pretty comparable to being in Singapore and Thailand, but I think it's the closeness of the buildings, combined with the extra traffic that maybe makes it feel a bit more oppressive - not much in the way of a breeze. Definitely bearable though!

Anyway, once we'd finished the tour we rolled our fat selves back to the hotel for a rest and a nap for the little guy - who of course, flatly refused. A few hours of futile nap time later, we went out for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake - it was Friday evening, so theoretically closed to traffic - or it would have been, if we'd paid attention to the one hour time difference ;-) But the walk was lovely and peaceful, and just the thing to finally get D off to sleep in the pram. Dinner that night was a delicious banh my/doner kebab hybrid eaten in the bathroom of our hotel room so as not to wake up the little guy. Classy ;-)

The next morning we were up and ready for our Halong Bay cruise. Was so excited for this one! We had chosen to go with Orchid Cruises, because it seemed to tick all the boxes for combating the negative comments on touring Halong Bay. Firstly, it departs from Hai Phong, so the transfer time from Hanoi is only two hours instead of four. Kid friendly! Secondly, the one night cruise goes to Lan Ha Bay, so nowhere near the same amount of other boat traffic and rubbish in the water. #Winning

And the boat!! Oh my gosh, so gorgeous! Think it was the first time Mr B and I properly relaxed for the holiday. (We did grow to love Hanoi over the course of the holiday, but safe to say keeping your children out of the path of oncoming traffic didn't make for a particularly relaxing start to the holiday. Who knew? ;-)) But, our room was huge, with a ginormous queen bed, plus a single for J and a cot for D. There was the most gorgeous view from pretty much anywhere you looked, and the endless amount of food was so yum. (In addition to my non-beer-coffee-tofu preferences, I'm also not a huge fan of seafood. And they catered for that easily :-))

We relaxed in our room and up on deck while the boat sailed for a couple of hours past the most breathtaking scenery - it really was stunning. Then we headed out on the tender boat to do some kayaking and swimming at a little beach. I ended up staying in the boat with D rather than kayaking - it was a double only, and there is no way the little guy would have sat down in it for a half hour without trying to launch himself out the side....instead we joined everyone at the beach for a swim once they had finished paddling, which was lovely :-) It was only a tiny beach and we had it all to ourselves (by which I mean us and the 20 or so other people from our boat ;-)) The water was warm, and the boys were desperate for a swim by this stage - water babies, remember :-)

Then back to the boat in time for the most important item on the agenda - happy hour! Ok, so I don't like beer, but I wouldn't say no to a piña colada. Or a frozen daiquiri...

Then it was on to the five course dinner, which was amazing, and then finally rolled myself and D in to bed while Mr B and J stayed up to try squid fishing.

Pretty sure I'll break the scales by the end of this trip.

Next morning we slept through Tai Chi, dragged ourselves out of bed in time for the bamboo boat ride to some caves - we were all ready to go until it started bucketing down with rain - we did a quick about face and headed upstairs to the buffet breakfast instead....

A couple of hours later we were dropped at the port and on our way back to Hanoi for another two of nights. By the way, I commented in someone else's post about how we'd decided to keep our hotel room in Hanoi for the full five nights, even though we spent one of them on the boat. It was a great decision in the end, it meant that we could just go up to our room as soon as we arrived and all our luggage was exactly as we'd left it, and the boys could hang out for a bit - it was like coming home :-) And since it was raining the morning that we left for the cruise, it was nice to have it as a back up plan in case things went haywire for any reason....

After a bit of a rest, we headed out to explore Hanoi and find a late lunch - it was Sunday afternoon by now, and all the roads around the lake were closed off. We had such a fun time wandering around, and if other parents with young kids are considering a trip to Hanoi, then I would highly recommend timing it for a weekend - it's much easier than trying to negotiate all the traffic! And it has such a great family atmosphere, almost like a carnival vibe. There are small markets set up everywhere - J bought a bubble maker and spent ages making these huge bubbles in the middle of the street that D and some of the local kids were running around trying to pop. We also bought one of those weighted hacky sack things (anyone know what they're called?) that all the locals were bouncing off their knees and feet in these big mass games. The whole area had such an old school vibe, no one on their phone or tablet, everyone was just strolling around, there were older kids playing something I didn't understand with pebbles and chalk, others building huge jenga like towers. I really, really liked it!

They also had motorised ride on toy cars which J and D really really liked ;-)

Back to the hotel for another rest, then out again to explore the night markets - these are huge! We wandered around for ages checking out all the stalls, I bought myself a new YSL totally not fake at all wallet for $6 - bargain! Again, I really, really liked it - reminded me a lot of the night markets in Chiang Mai :-) Back to the hotel for lights out, and after a fairly ordinary nights sleep (D has caught a bit of a cold), we are heading out today to try and find 'toy street', plus a show at the water puppet theatre for our last full day in Hanoi. Tomorrow we're off to Hoi An, can't wait!

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

"At this point I should probably mention that I don't drink coffee, beer or eat tofu....

I'll show myself to the door."

I was so nodding my head until you got to the bit about tofu :(

Seriously though please do come and update as you travel. Hope your kids are having a good time. Funny how all holidays post kids revolve around nap times and whether the kids will enjoy the activities you planned?

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4. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

Great report so far, Kari_B! Having travelled with a 2 yo (a very long time ago) I understand very well your need for a comfortable room for the daytime sleep. If that doesn't happen, everyone suffers! Look out for the beautiful floor tiles everywhere you go. We found these to be really lovely in Vietnam, and my JBR may have mentioned tiles a few times. In Hoi An, our hotel (Lantana) had some gorgeous blue tiles; In HCM the old post office floor in black and white is gorgeous. Your designer sensibilities will surely be impresssed.

Are you going to Ninh Binh? That could be a good place to travel with young ones.

Enjoy the rest of your trip, even if you don't drink coffee or beer!

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5. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

"Dinner that night was a delicious banh my/doner kebab hybrid eaten in the bathroom of our hotel room so as not to wake up the little guy. "

This brings back a lot of (not so) fond memories of travelling with toddlers and how everything had to be planned with military precision around nap times or else WWIII would begin for the entire family - but of course kids being kids they don't nap when they should nap and then fall asleep at inconvenient times/places. I remember having to walk...and walk.... and walk... around with bub in a pram so that they actually stay asleep and have a half decent nap.

Would love to know what your 7 year old thinks of VN so far :)

@spopey - tiles again? :D

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

"At this point I should probably mention that I don't drink coffee, beer or eat tofu...."

Oh well, being one third 'normal', two thirds 'weird', is better than being totally 'weird'. :-)

Really enjoying your reports, Kari.

And hats off to you for doing it with young kids.

Stronger person than I. ;-)

Cheers,

Scott

Blue Mountains...
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7. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

Loving your report so far, very similar to what I have booked in a few weeks time, can't wait to read more.

Lol about the coffee, beer and tofu I love coffee and beer and even eat tofu 😀

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8. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

Loving your trip report. Can wait to hear about Hoi an! We arrive in Vietnam this Thursday for our 6th trip for 1 month. We also have 2 children ages 5 and 7.

Singapore, Singapore
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9. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

@tofu, I think traveling with kids is a whole different kettle of fish to the nice relaxing holidays we used to have! You'd think they'd be so tired by all the sightseeing that they would helpfully nap exactly when you want them to, but strangely, they have other ideas.....so far J is loving Vietnam though, it's apparently his 'second favourite holiday'. Still got a couple of weeks to get it moved into first place ;-)

@spopey, I'll keep an eye out for the tiles! The ones in the bathroom of this hotel oddly have photos of cupcakes on them, which is making me hungry :-) The ones on the balcony have a photo of fake grass and pebbles - so possibly not what you're talking about ;-)

@scott, if you take into account that I also don't like seafood, I'm probably more like one quarter normal, three quarters weird ;-)

@Ally, you'll have such a great time on your holiday! No shortage of coffee, beer or tofu ;-)

Singapore, Singapore
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10. Re: On the road report - Have toddler, will travel....

@shell, we might see you there!

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