July 2014

Koh Samui is one of the exotic locations situated ridiculously close to Penang.  Since our last visit to the region, Firefly started a direct flight from our island to that island.  It’s hard to believe such a paradise can be just a 1.5 hour flight, but it is, and we took full advantage of an easy getaway with our visitors.


Based on the share house success of our Sri Lanka trip, we booked into a private 4-bedroom villa (in MI we’d call this a cottage) on Bang Po beach.  There were 6 similar houses that surrounded a private pool and the deserted beach was just a few steps away.  We looked at each other and decided it would definitely do as our pad for the next 5 nights!  There was a management service who settled us in and also stocked the fridge for us.  We spent a few hours swimming and settling in, then walked down the beach for a Thai seafood dinner.  Delicious!  The next day was spent likewise, hanging out, swimming, exploring the nearby restaurants and spending time together.  The kids were having a blast together, entertaining each other and letting us parents relax a bit.


By the third day, we were ready for some adventure.  We chartered a local fishing boat out to the 5-islands areas for the morning to do some snorkeling.  The boat was a bit of a shock.  I had expected the long wooden frame of the boat from previous SE Asia boat trips, but was not expecting the motor situation – a V8 car engine at one end of a 20ft pole with a propeller on the other end.


I understand it made it easier to navigate the reefs, but it was funny looking!  We made it to the snorkeling spot, which was a bit cloudy from the recent stormy weather (we had apparently hit the first sunny days in a week!).  The boat captain tossed out an anchor and threw bread for the fish.  We didn’t need super clear water – the fish came to us!  All the kids snorkeled, and Hazel amazed us with her fascination under water.  She held my lifejacket strap, donned goggles and floated around with me, staring at fish along the way.  After an hour or so, we motored over to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  We walked in the clear, shallow water and bathed on the powdered sand.  Lunch was at another nearby island, serving up the best Tom Yum of the trip.  A few sprinkles hit our faces as we got in the boat to go back, and the driver pointed to a black cloud as we high tailed it home.  The sea was rough, and we got soaked by splashes, but made it to the van in one piece.



The next day was stormy, so we took some time looking around the towns, and eating our first non-Thai meal at a pizza restaurant owned by Italians from Milan.  Delicious!  Emma and I were interested in another trip out on a boat, so we booked a tour to the nearby National Marine Sanctuary for the next day.  The wind slowed and we had a gorgeous finish to the day.


The National Park was a totally different type of trip.  We were picked up and vanned to a ferry dock to meet the other 40 people on our boat, with several others headed the same way!  We snorkeled, kayaked, hiked and laid on the beach for the day, and had a great time on the well-run trip.  The whole experience provided a lot of opportunity for sister-in-law bonding time, we were both so glad for a chance to get to know each other better.

20140714-photo (8)

The dads & kids were also out the whole day, exploring Koh Samui and ending up at a water park that was popular with everyone.  The kids (and dads) bounced, slid and bumper boated the day away.


One more morning before we headed off, and the weather was finally perfect.  The sea was smooth and calm, and we spent the time taking sea kayaks out, enjoying the clear water and playing on the sand.  All good things must come to an end, and we headed back to the airport for transfers onward.  For us, that meant back to our own tropical island – but that one had laundry!



When do children go from looking like babies to looking like kids?  Some time between four and four-and-a-half, so it seems.  Here’s what my big baby boy is up to now:

  • Intensity!  Miles is serious. Sensitive, opinionated, empathetic, passionate, rule-following and competitive.  All this adds up to a very intense personality.  It is very, very YANG.
  • Solar Panels.  Apparently, there are solar panels in Miles’ body that charge even when his eyes are open, so he says.  He’s never tired, and lays in bed at night wide eyed.  So he says.  He does have a massive energy bank.  Note to parent-self: point out when the sun is gone and solar panels no longer charge.
  • Rita.  My sisters and I share a dark secret – an alternate personality that comes out when we are tired and/or hungry.  Miles has inherited this one, and you don’t want to meet him hangry.  Perhaps we’ll call it Rufus?
  • Hoarder!  Somehow my purger trait stayed dormant.  Miles is a collector.  He prizes his shirts and shorts with pockets, and stuffs them full of rocks, leaves, shells, toys, anything little that can be piled.  At dinner, he loads his plate with the choicest morsels as fast as his for can fly, then saves all his favorites for later.  Collector meets delayed gratifier; a hoarder is born.
  • Macgyver.  I once wrote that Miles believed anything can be fixed with tape.  Well, now that he can actually operate simple tools, anything actually can be fixed with tape.  Or glued, disassembled, reassembled, redesigned, modified, souped up, downsized, and essentially engineered.  We know where this is going – varsity letter for building robots in high school.
  • Big Brother.  Miles is a pretty typical big brother.  He steamrolls, cajoles, manipulates, engages, comforts, protects and partners with his baby sister.  Any five minutes may include some or all of the above activities and interactions.  Roller coaster relationship!
  • Lover. Above all, Miles continues to be a lover.  He is sweet and excited for life.

We just got done with 2 weeks of some awesome visitors.  After working on them for nearly 4 years, Tim’s oldest brother and his family came out to Penang.  In a way, I’m so glad they delayed!  The kids had such a blast playing together.  They were great travelers and pretty much loved doing what we love to do – explore, swim and EAT!  We were blessed with perfect weather for their visit.  Rain and wind brought cooler temps and pushed out the haze, Penang was showing it’s finest.  Double bonus: there’s nothing like showing off your life to make me fall in love with it all over again.  Here’s what we got up to (that I captured on my phone):

Georgetown by bike.

Georgetown by bike.


Sister-in-law bonding over High Tea at Suffolk House (Emma let her English roots shine!)


Sunsets on Gurney Drive


Family Selfie!


Cousins! **Smack!**


19 plates off the sushi train. A new record for us.


Thailand…on a boat! (I’ll do a separate Koh Samui post here soon..)


Beach Swingin’


More sister-in-law bonding time. This time at a National Park in Thailand! We obviously consulted each other before dressing for the event.


Final night out in Penang. Food, food and drinks. And a requisite trishaw picture.

These two love their puzzling…



Grandma Linda came to visit for 5 weeks.  By the last weekend, she had pretty much exhausted the track between our place and Song River – we needed to get this Grandma off the Island!  We opted for a quick Sunday morning trip over to the Penang Bird Park.  It hadn’t rained in weeks, and we picked the only 88 minute dry spell to visit these feathered folks.  Miles came armed with his Birds of Malaysia book (he’s a little birder), and we walked around enjoying the birds in their cages.  We stayed about 2 minutes too long in the gift shop buying peacock feathers, the heavens opened and our trip was done!



Afterwards, we headed into Georgetown for a final coffee and lunch session.  It was still raining, and made for a perfect time at Coffee Junk drinking dirty chai.


Nyonya lunch finished off a great morning.  I think Hazel should have got in on that espresso a bit…she missed lunch!


Tim has a favorite bar in town. I would say a new favorite bar, as its only been open a couple months, but the truth is we didn’t really like any bars in Penang before this one. Mish Mash is a really good bar.


Being good customers (or at least tagged as ones who would actually buy something), Tim scored us an invitation to a recent tasting of Japanese whiskey. I learned a lot about a booze I didn’t think I liked, and took away a few tips.

  1. Look not only at the color of the drink, but check the viscosity of the booze by swirling it and watching the “legs” down the side of the glass.
  2. Experience the aroma in an enjoyable way.  Instead of sticking your nose in and snorting in (sure to result in a burned nasal passage), waft the glass back and forth in front of your face and breathe in through your mouth.  Try this!
  3. It takes 3 sips to enjoy the flavor.  The first is the handshake, the next the friendship, finally the love affair.  Give yourself time in between for your palate to prime.
  4. Water is good.  There are some enzymes that are only soluble in water and would not be noticed in neat whiskey.  Yum!
  5. A new session drink for me: 1 part whiskey to 4 parts water over ice.  When I searched for the name of this I couldn’t find it, but it seems to be a “no gas” highball.  Refreshing and perfect really.

So, were we good people to invite to a tasting?  They probably think so, we ended up taking home a bottle of Japanese whiskey!


Tim’s been serenading his baby girl, and she’s learned all the lyrics:

Miles does all right too…kind of: