Reflections

In four short days we will be home from this extra-ordinary adventure. I’ve been reflecting on how I felt at the start of the trip, right through to now.

The stand out difference between expectation and reality is not really tangible. Yes we have seen some inspiring sights and done some amazing things (we have the photos to prove it), but less obvious is the emotional growth and the impact travelling long-term has had on us individually and as a family.

Turtle

Swimming with turtles in Malaysia – amazing

Kids at My Son

Visiting ancient Cham ruins – very cool

I completely underestimated how emotionally challenging it would be travelling with three others for such a long time (even when they are family). I underestimated how we would get on each others nerves (understandably) – but then we would have to discuss it until it was resolved – instead of escaping to work, school or other commitments.

Ruby train

Exhausted and annoyed – but still having to sit next to each other on a train for seven hours…

I completely underestimated how much our confidence would grow as we time and time again put ourselves in difficult situations and succeeded (or sometimes failed). How the kids would learn hello, thank you, please and goodbye in any language and use it proudly and loudly.

Malay dinner

Making friends

I completely underestimated how good it would feel to find somewhere to ‘live’ for a week and how quickly we would describe that place as home. How we would spread out and settle in within a few hours despite how basic or luxurious our accommodation was.

IMG_2981

Washing out and making ourselves at home in the village on the Perhentian Islands.

I completely underestimated our ability to last this long. I secretly gave us five or six months of long-term travel before we would rush home. Before we left I was subconsciously mentioning this to family and friends to cushion my ego should we return home early. I honestly can’t believe that we were able to travel for this long.

That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to going home – because I am – I really am. I’m looking forward to the basic things in life coming easy again. Knowing where we will stay, how we will get there and where to find food we can all eat. I’m looking forward to recognising products in the supermarket, a full size kitchen, an oven and a fridge. But I’m also looking forward to all this knowing that we can (and did and will again) survive without it. That lots of the things we think are a given are actually modern luxuries that make a busy life easier. I’m returning home knowing that a travel life is a fulfilling life.

Most of all I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends..and then we’ll start planning our next adventure.

At home in Japan

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this trip is stopping, slowing down and ‘living’ somewhere for an extended period. We did this for a month in Hoi An and when we arrived in Japan we were excited to live in Kobe for a month.

Kobe teahouse

After travelling in south east Asia for quite a long time, Japan has been a real treat. Wide footpaths, quiet streets, cars that stop when you cross the road, traffic lights that are obeyed and delicious, delicious food.

Kobe food

If we arrived in Thailand by accident, Japan can only be described as the opposite. I was about eight or nine years old when I sat in the small library at my country school and attended my first ever Japanese lesson. It was a night class attended informally by some kids from the school and their parents. I distinctly remember singing the Japanese alphabet and learning the trick of distinguishing the sound each character made. And as I’ve fumbled through reading Japanese characters over here now, I’ve been amazed I can still recall the tips I got during my first Japanese lessons.

It  was something I did with my mum and although those lessons were short lived (I think the one Japanese person in town returned home), it sparked a lasting interest in Japan.

And now we are finally here – and not just here but making ourselves at home in small neighbourhoods outside the tourist centres. Many of our neighbours look upon us with a polite interest but my broken Japanese and their broken English doesn’t communicate much more than mutual respect.

We stayed in a converted Japanese teahouse – a beautiful but very small home that we made our own in Oji-Koen. We slept on futons in the two rooms of the house that doubled as our lounge rooms and bedrooms separated only by a thin sliding door. “Oji” as we affectionately call it is a great neighbourhood. Home to lots of parks, the river, second hand shops and pop up shops – it was a great place to make ourselves at home.

Kobe - Oji river

Like many neighbourhoods in Japan, Oji is ridiculously safe. Kids as young as seven walk 15 to 20 minutes to school by themselves – almost unheard of in Australia. Bikes line the streets – unlocked and our little nursery down the road closes and locks its doors at night, but puts a small plastic barricade around the plants which remain untouched by prying hands.

Ruby has enjoyed the freedom of riding with her pocket money to the second hand shop and choosing new toys to add to the collection.

Kobe graffiti

Eating out in Kobe is not easy – especially as a vegetarian. Inflexible menus and little English made us reliant upon point menus and “Kore wa nan desuka?” What is that. Whenever we eat out I repeat this phrase over and over until we find dishes that meet our satisfaction. And although it is more difficult than receiving the English menus we have been handed many times on our travels, there is a real sense of satisfaction and reward when it comes off and we all receive meals we enjoy.

Kobe food

Life in Japan right now can only be described as similar – yet different to home. Some days we do much the same things that we would do at home – school, park, shopping and picnicking but we are immersed in a completely different and intact culture…and it’s really fun.

 

 

An Thong Marine National Park by Ruby

Text - Me and my family went on a full day boat

 

Click play to listen to me read my post out loud.

This is me jumping off the top of the boat.

Ruby and Rach kayaking

Me and mum kayaking together.

Mummy Monkey

This is what the mummy monkey looks like

The path

This is how we got to the great views, on the next photo.

Ruby at the top

These are the great views.

 

Relaxing in Hua Hin

My last post really set the tone for how we were feeling when we arrived in Hua Hin. We were tired, a little jaded, Lincoln was still on antibiotics and we were feeling a bit worn out.

After an eight hour bus trip from Chumphon we arrived at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa (again about an hour late). But then we walked into paradise. If you’re keen to treat yourself and your family (and I suggest you do) then a trip to Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa as a destination or as a way of breaking up the trip from the islands is definitely the way to do it.

The very first thing I noticed was the smell of mint which permeates the building and the generosity and opulence of the reception area. We were immediately made to feel welcome and at home (even though we arrived in the back of at tuk tuk). And then we saw our room.

Marrakesh Hua Hin bedroom

The ocean front suite (yes, that’s a spa in the corner of the room)

The bed is the centre piece and it’s huge then there was the spa in the corner. Which was a hit. The kids were straight in playing and laughing and as an added bonus – they came out cleaner than they had been in months.

Marrakesh Hua Hin bathroom

Amazing bathroom…

To get into the room we walked through the bathroom glistening with thousands of tiny blue tiles, double sinks, a huge rainwater shower, a walk in robe and, everyone’s’ favourite, a phone in the toilet (who actually uses that?).

Marrakesh Hua Hin - the view

That view…

As the name suggests, the ocean front suite faces the ocean but it also has the best view over the pool and is an amazing place to sit to watch the world go by. The kids quickly moved the chairs out-of-the-way, unpacked their toys and used the balcony as a playroom.

What to do?

If you can drag yourself out of the hotel (go on, just try) we suggest you visit the Hua Hin night market. As far as markets go it is quite small, but very manageable and for the first time in Thailand we actually saw some different products on offer. Yes there is hundreds of mass-produced souvenirs but we also saw some more unique and handmade products. We ate dinner at the night market including roti canai (my favourite), satay sticks, dim sum and steam buns.

It would be a wasted stay if you didn’t get in some pool time and even with an ear infection, Lincoln made the most of it, doggy paddling his way across the pool.

Marrakesh Hua Hin pool time

 

The pool is open 24 hours – so there really is no excuse for not squeezing in a night swim

Marrakesh Hua Hin night swim

Indulge at the spa

I am partial to a spa treatment. In fact, I really do love it. Perusing a spa menu to me is like a kid at Christmas. In fact, for one of my birthdays I received three three hour spa vouchers. So my friends and family either think I need all the treatments I can get, or everyone knows I love a spa.

But, Russ is a bit different. He actually doesn’t really like anyone touching him (especially his feet) and on our honeymoon when we had a couples massage he spent most of the time giggling. But even he couldn’t laugh his way through the Hammam Spa treatment at Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa.

Marrakesh Hua Hin spa

The spa treatment room

This was hours of pampering. After more than two weeks on the islands, I felt a bit grimy with caked on sunscreen and insect repellant, sand and mosquito bites. All that became a distant memory as I enjoyed a sauna, mud wrap and massage. I floated out of the treatment room feeling like a million bucks!

Eating in

If you’re staying at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa, you really should consider eating in – at least for one meal. There are two on site restaurants with extensive cocktail lists (Desert Storm or Arabian Nights anyone?). The food is a mix of traditional and fusion – but it works. It really does.

Marrakesh Hua Hin soft shelled crab

Soft shelled crab

We ate at both restaurants while we were at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa. The kids loved the High Tea and the chef prepared special kids meals that they devoured.

Marrakesh Hua Hin high tea

High tea was a hit with the kids!

The best was maybe saved till last though as we sat on huge bean bags on the grassy area near the beach and ate dinner. The rain threatened to dampen the evening but held off and we were treated to delicious food and beautiful beach views.

Marrakesh Hua Hin beach side dining

Beach side dining at Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa

A Moroccan themed hotel in Thailand seems like an odd mix for a foreign traveller which is perhaps why it is so much more popular with Thai tourists. Foreign travellers are constantly looking for ‘authentic’ experiences’ and the concept of a Moroccan themed hotel does not seem very authentic for Thailand. But what you will receive at the Hua Hin is top-notch service, ridiculously high levels of comfort, magnificent sunsets and beach views and a really, really good time.

Pros of staying at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa

  • The suites are ridiculously comfortable and luxurious. They all feature either a huge spa or a small plunge pool.
  • It smells divine, all the public areas are fragranced with mint essential oil.
  • There is a convenient shuttle to take you into the night market area.
  • Beach or pool? It’s your choice.
  • Buffet breakfast is generous and delicious – eggs are cooked to order.
  • 24 hour pool – a night swim is a must.
  • It’s different to any hotel I’ve ever stayed in and the theme really does work.
  • Fantastic on site restaurants and spa.
  • It’s an easy bus trip from Bangkok.

Cons of staying at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa

  • It is a little way out of the main town (all the resorts along this beach strip are though)

Our stay at the Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort and Spa was provided complimentary, but as always all opinions are my own. 

 

 

Typhoon, ear infections and a fish kill

Ok, so this title sounds a little bit dramatic. But if our first week and a half in Koh Phagnan was magical – then the second part of our trip can only be described as a little less than. We moved to Haad Salad beach for the last five days of our trip. The day we moved from Thong Nai Pan it was pouring with rain from a typhoon in Taiwan, but other than the fact that we couldn’t swim we were largely unaffected. But the beach wasn’t as nice and the staff weren’t as friendly. The shop sold stale bread and out of date milk which didn’t get us off on the right foot.

And then came Lincoln’s ear infection. He started to complain of a sore ear and fast became more and more distressed. The kids getting unwell while travelling is probably what scared me the most about taking this trip. What if they got sick and I didn’t know what was wrong, couldn’t find a doctor or couldn’t get the right medication. Fortunately most ear infections are easily treated (except for Russ’) and I am travelling with (perhaps) the largest first aid kit ever. At Koh Phagnan hospital his infection was quickly diagnosed and prescribed antibiotics.

When the rain cleared, everything looked a bit brighter. Rubbish that littered the beach, that washed down from the streets was quickly cleaned up and it soon looked like it had never been there. We swam again (Linc with his head out of the water), played on the beach and it felt like the fun had returned.

That was until the water turned green. I work in an industry thats main aim is to improve runoff from farms and land into waterways to prevent exactly this from happening. And although I’m not a scientist – you don’t need to be to know a green algae like substance covering the whole bay is not a good thing.

So we were out of the water again. I wouldn’t let the kids swim (although others swam happily) and I started to look at everything a bit negatively. This continued the next morning as we awoke to find the green gone (hooray) but hundreds – perhaps thousands of small dead fish washed up on the beach.

Again I kept the kids out of the water. Why did no one seem to care that there were thousands of dead fish washed up on the shore, that a day before that the ocean was green and a day before that there was rubbish all over the beach? And this is something that I have struggled with (at times) throughout our travels. I look at things through the only lens I have. My own. I am definitely more understanding, more patient and less judgemental than I was before we started out on this trip. But on this day as I looked at the glistening water, the sunshine and then at the dead fish that littered the shoreline it all came rushing back and I felt annoyed. I felt annoyed that the environment isn’t a priority anywhere in the world, I felt annoyed that no one seemed to care and I felt annoyed that as a traveller I contribute to the problem.

Throughout our travels we have seen environmental disasters – big and small. In Hoi An we saw whole resorts crumbling into the ocean (although some people we spoke to believed in Chinese conspiracy theories), we saw boat drivers bumping over coral reefs in Malaysia, tourists chasing turtles, we helped clean up an oil spill, we experienced pollution in Bangkok, traffic choking the streets in Hanoi and now a fish kill in Thailand.

By the time we left Koh Phagnan – I couldn’t wait to get off the island. Although I feared the trip back to Bangkok, this time we were breaking it up – there would be no overnight train for me!

 

 

Island living in Koh Phagnan

“It will save us a night’s accommodation” and that was the line that convinced me to make the 12 hour overnight train trip from Bangkok to the boat in Thailand’s south that would take us to Koh Phagnan. It was a bad idea.

We were off to a questionable start when our train left three hours late (meaning we had already missed our connecting bus, ferry and pre booked taxi to our accommodation). We’d been told that trains in Thailand were fantastic, so I’m not sure if our high expectations let us down, but our ride was less than impressive. We put the kids to sleep on the bottom bunk so that the fluorescent lights and passing passengers didn’t disturb them and I lay there waiting for the lights to be turned off so I could get to sleep. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I don’t know if it was just our train, but the lights were never turned off. I ended up top and tailing with Lincoln (because it was also freezing on the top bunk). I slept a little, Russ slept not at all. And at 7.00am when we were meant to be hopping off the train, we were still four hours away from our destination.

I mentioned in my last post that we ended up in Thailand by accident and pretty much chose Koh Phagnan on a whim. A little more research would’ve revealed that it is a mission to get to (on a budget – if you have the cash you can fly) and that there are other places a lot closer to Bangkok (and easier to say).

We eventually arrived at Surat Thani and were shepherded onto buses then a ferry. We arrived on Koh Phangnan tired, very cranky and keen to get the island holiday started. Koh Phagnan is best known for Thailand’s infamous full moon party.  But there are lots of quiet, relaxed and family friendly places to stay. As we came over the island from the ferry we caught our first glimpse of Thong Nai Pan Beach and I felt instantly better. The colour of the water and the way the jungle cascaded all the way onto the sand made me feel like I’d found a great place to call home (for a while).

Thong Nai Pan Beach

Thong Nai Pan Beach

And we had. We stayed at Longtail Beach resort down the very end of Thong Nai Pan Beach. The cabins are basic – but clean, the food at the restaurant is delicious and a reasonable price and the staff are ridiculously friendly. They are fantastic with children. After being in Bangkok and before that land locked Laos, it had been a while since the kids could just run free and that is exactly what they did.

Kid fun on the beach

Collecting treasures

They spent hours on the beach collecting shells and coconuts or playing with sand toys and swimming. Russ and I talked, played cards, read, swam and played and it was a great reminder of why we travel as a family.

Beach fun

Beach fun

Beach swing

Beach swing

This little mini break in the middle of our trip gave us the opportunity to really reconnect with each other. There was very little wifi and really nothing else to do but eat, drink and hang out at the beach. Travel teaches you to be comfortable in your own skin and with your own company. And so we did nothing for almost eight days. People often ask us what we ‘do’ when we are travelling or when we are in a certain place. But often we don’t ‘do’ very much at all.

Beach fun

Not doing much… at all

But, like usual, then the guilt started to creep it. We hadn’t been on a tour or seen a temple. Were we really travelling if we actually didn’t do much? So to make sure I ticked the box, we booked a tour to An Thong National Park (I won’t spoil the surprise – but there may be another guest post coming about this one!!)

An Thong was magical – it is a long way out and I thought Lincoln might spew getting there – but it was well worth it. Like our experience in Phong Nha, the kids were challenged and enjoyed the snorkelling, kayaking and hiking. And again they surprised me with how resilient and adaptable they are. The hike we did to see amazing views over An Thong is described as one of the most challenging in Thailand and Ruby handled it with ease. Lincoln made it up to the second lookout and would’ve made it further had we not been on a tight (tour) timeframe.

Getting ready to kayak

Getting ready to kayak

View from the first look out at An Thong National Park

View from the first look out at An Thong National Park

Hiking up to the look out

The hike up to the look out

Exhausted kids

You know it’s been a good day when your kids look like this!

For the next few days after the tour, we continued to relax and play on the beach and then the storm clouds rolled in as we caught the end of a typhoon that was battering Taiwan.

 

 

 

 

Accidentally Thailand

We had never planned on visiting Thailand on this trip. Yet somehow we ended up there…for a month.

Thailand, for me, has always represented the worst kind of holidays. The cheap, seedy or bogan holiday for Australians. The kind of place you visit for cheap sex, drugs or massed produced clothing and souvenirs.

Thailand had been discovered, ruined and passed by. No point in me visiting.

I haven’t always had this relationship with Thailand. More than 20 years ago, my Mum taught in Ratchaburi. She stayed with a family who had four girls. This was an amazing experience for mum and in her enthusiasm to give more to her students she encouraged them to write letters to an Australian pen pal – a great way to practice their English. The only problem with this was that there was only one Australian pen pal (me) and on Mum’s return there was 125 letters to answer – which I did, diligently and by hand.

Gradually over the years, the responses from my pen pals dried up. I had one left in my mid teens when it was way too uncool to have a pen pal – especially when she sent the Thai equivalent of Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards – full of sexual innuendo (her English was not great). I’m embarrassed (and a little bit ashamed) to say that I stopped responding. However I still remained curious about Thailand. Somewhere between my mid teens and early 30s this all changed. I can’t pinpoint what it was or why, but all I know is I was never interested in visiting Thailand.

I gave Thailand little respect. And for this I need and must apologise. I’m sorry. I got it wrong. It might be true – you can have a cheap, seedy or bogan holiday there. But you can also experience a lot more and for us, a month in Thailand turned out to be exactly what we needed.

It was one of those travel stuff ups. We planned to be in Laos for a month and then fly back out of Hanoi to Japan (via an eight hour layover in Bangkok). We then realised if we spent the whole time in Laos we would overstay our Visa. Or the alternative would be paying for a new Visa to get back into Vietnam, which is costly and annoying. So we decided to forfeit the first leg of our flight, spend ten days in Thailand and then pick up the next leg of our flight in Bangkok.

Then Russ got an ear infection that couldn’t be treated in Laos and our ten days in Thailand suddenly increased to a month.

So with no planning and negative expectations, we arrived in Bangkok.

I thought Bangkok would be seedy and dirty. It wasn’t. Yes we say ladyboys, yes we saw prostitutes, yes we saw Western men dating women more than half their age, but we also rode a very sophisticated public transport system, visited an amazing market, fabulous playgrounds, huge shopping centres and we could’ve done a lot more had our time (and enthusiasm for sightseeing) allowed.

Kids at the marketThe kids checking out beads and trinkets at the market (while eating pineapple on a stick.)

Kids playing in a helicopter

Playgrounds…such an important (and sometimes rare) part of travel.

Ruby also impressed me with her attitude to Lady Boys. I expected it to be a bit confronting to her and that we would have to answer a lot of questions about it. But she simply took it in her stride saying “Mum, I knew it was a man but I just called her a ‘her’ because I knew that was what she wanted.” BAM. More mature than some adults I know.

By this stage of our trip, we were (and still are) sick of trip planning. The thought of scouring the internet for things to do or places to go fills me with dread. I feel like I’ve wasted enough of my life reading Trip Advisor reviews. This is not a good attitude to have when you have done zero research on a country that you didn’t intend visiting. So on the recommendation of a friend of a friend we chose how we wanted to spend our time in Thailand. And it didn’t disappoint.

Travel makes you grateful for…

We’ve been travelling now for over five months and I have to admit that I’m surprised with how well it’s going. I completely underestimated our ability to last this long.

We’ve seen and done some amazing things. Swum with turtles, fed elephants, watched beautiful sunrises, visited the ruins of ancient cultures, met wonderful people, eaten and made delicious food and sat and watched many a sunset. But to be perfectly honest, I’m becoming a bit blasé about it all.I know in my heart that what we are seeing or doing is truly exciting. But every now and again, I just don’t feel it. I know I’m not the only one. In the evening after feeding elephants in Luang Prabang I asked Lincoln what his favourite part of the day was. His response ‘orange juice at lunchtime.’

Feeding elephants in Laos

Feeding elephants in Laos

And then it hit me. Travel makes you grateful for… what you don’t have. Five months in and I am feeling a bit homesick. For friends, family and comforts – like being in the one place, feeling a sense of belonging and being able to open a fridge full of food. Sometimes when I wake up during the night I actually have no idea where I am. I don’t know which side of the bed I’m sleeping on, I don’t know where the bathroom is and it takes a moment to remember which country we are in.

Turtle

Swimming with turtles in the Perhentian Islands

I’m craving the friendships, team sports, school pick up camaraderie, lunch room banter and the routines of everyday life.

Last night we sat for dinner at a beachside restaurant watching the sunset. The kids were playing on the beach collecting shells and coconuts. We talked about the trip, what we wanted from it, from life, for our family and for our future. The lanterns flickered on and I almost lost my breath. I finally saw the beauty I had been looking at but not seeing and I reminded myself not to take travel or opportunities for granted.

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Watching a baby turtle make its way to the ocean in Tioman Island

We have more than three months to go before we are home. We’re over half way through. Five years ago we went to Europe for four months I was terribly homesick and wanted to get home. Once I got home I realised nothing (really) had changed. I slotted straight back into work, life, sports and friendships. It was fun to catch up with everyone, but we all had such busy schedules and routines to keep – life kept moving along much the same as it always had.

An Bang Beach, Hoi An

Beach fun in Vietnam

Right now we have an opportunity to take time out of the busy life. We can be grateful for what we do have at home and what we are experiencing right now. Today we went to the beach and I watched the kids climbing over the rocks on the edge of the island. Russ turned and said to me – ‘what a childhood’. And he’s right. What an amazing childhood. This is a trip that will shape them both and us too.

 

Luang Prabang – best with friends or family?

Luang Prabang is a place that I have always wanted to visit. My three best friends from school took a trip there together two years ago on one of our regular girls weekends (this one was longer than a weekend though).

Unfortunately it was at a time that I just couldn’t go. Russ and I were getting married and had planned a honeymoon to Indonesia. My brother was getting married in Singapore and my dad and I were flying over and I couldn’t afford three overseas trips in three months. So I stayed behind and was jealous of their regular messages and photos. Once I saw their pictures I was more determined than ever that one day I would go to Luang Prabang.

I wasn’t disappointed. Luang Prabang is a magical city. Misty mountains hug the Mekong. The people are friendly the food is good and it’s easy to be a foreigner here due to the large number of expats. English is widely spoken and I was able to get the best sandwich I’ve eaten in five months.

Luang Prabang night market

Luang Prabang night market

We planned to stay in Luang Prabang for a month, however this didn’t happen because of Russ’ ear infection. Despite many expats calling Luang Prabang home, the hospital facilities are not great. Russ visited to get his ear checked but was told they couldn’t treat it properly and he was best off going to Bangkok.

It would be easy to spend a long time in Luang Prabang, but I don’t think I would recommend it for a relaxing, extended family holiday.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved Luang Prabang and I wish I had’ve visited it with my girlfriends two years ago. But there is nowhere really for the kids to roam free. To run and play and just be kids. Many of the guesthouses are set up for couples so things can be a bit tight for families (my tip, check out Hotel De La Paix).

That’s not to say we didn’t have a wonderful time. Because we did. And we could’ve happily spent a month there. But I am writing this now in the south of Thailand on a beach where I can let the kids run around collecting shells and coconuts, digging in the sand and I haven’t told them to ‘be careful’ for two hours. That just doesn’t happen in Luang Prabang.

Would I recommend visiting Luang Prabang with your family? Absoloutely. I climbed Mount Phousi with a four year old and watched the sunset and he loved it. I visited the Royal Palace Museum with him and he was amazing – curious about the Royal Family –  the King’s bedroom and all the golden ‘things’. As a family we visited an elephant sanctuary, the sun bear rescue centre, the Kuangsi Waterfalls and the Butterfly farm.

Luang Prabang for families

Feeding the elephants at the elephant sanctuary

Kuang si Falls

Kuang si Falls – the water was a little cold!

Would I go back again – yes! With young children? It depends on what I was looking for in the trip. If I wanted culture, food and experience, then yes. If I wanted to relax and let the kids run around freely, then no.

For more on what to do in Luang Prabang, check out our destination guide

Have you visited Luang Prabang with your family? How did your kids go?

Hotel de la Paix Luang Prabang for families

Arriving in Luang Prabang after the hustle of Hanoi was exciting – and to be truthful – a relief. It had been so hot in Vietnam – the first thing we noticed as we stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac was the foggy mountains and then the temperature – it was finally a comfortable 29 degrees.

In travel writing, Luang Prabang is often described as home to ‘saffron’ robed monks, the ‘silky’ waters of the Mekong and famous for its ‘heritage’ listed buildings. And as much as they are cliches – they are all true! For us, the pace was slower, the temperature comfortable and the food…delicious.

And if you are going to stay in a UNESCO listed city, famous for it’s old buildings and French colonial history, where better to stay than at the Governor’s old residence – a French colonial mansion.

Hotel De la Paix (soon to be Sofitel Luang Prabang)

That’s exactly what Hotel de la Paix is. The heritage listed, five star hotel is just out of the main city centre of Luang Prabang. When we walked in the door the beauty of the old style buildings, the classy surrounds and beautiful courtyard made me smile. Then I remembered…the children are with us.

Hotel de la Paix doorway

Looking out through the grand walls of the hotel.

It all looks so lovely, surely it’s not the right place for us? Would this be one of those places that is only appropriate for honeymooners, couples and retirees?

My hesitation was short lived. As soon as we got to our room I knew we were going to have a great stay. All of the suites at Hotel de la Paix have their own private garden – yes – we had a backyard in the middle of a nine month holiday – what an amazing inclusion.

The garden suite with an extra bed

The garden suite with an extra bed

Bathroom basin

The bathroom basin (which is between the separate toilet and indoor/outdoor shower and bath).

The hotel capacity is quite small – only 25 suites – but the rooms are extremely spacious. I’m also sure you get better service because of the limited number of guests that can stay. You want for nothing. Including the most amazing ‘turn down’ service I’ve ever experienced. Not content with turning on a few lights,  fluffing the pillow and leaving a treat – the room is given the full service!

Lincoln had bathed one evening before we went out to dinner and, as four year olds do, splashed throughout the bathroom. I reminded myself to dry the floor  before any of us went to use it on our return.

No need. Not only was the bathroom perfectly dry and tidy when we got back – the thoughtful staff had left fresh towels and even lined Lincoln’s toys up neatly, ready to be played with again.

Hotel De La Paix Pool and Courtyard

And then there was the pool. We’ve become quite the connoisseur of pools over this trip. There are certain pools that as parents you do and don’t like. Pools that are deep the whole way through with out any shallow areas – no good. Hotel de la Paix pool with ledges and steps – brilliant (and it’s being upgraded – more on that below).

Hotel de la Paix poolYep, we loved the pool

Hotel de la Paix courtyard rice paddy

Cute courtyard rice field

We did have a minor hiccup, when, in every child’s worst nightmare, Ruby managed to lock herself into one of the toilets in the public area. The staff were very attentive and there were three staff members helping to remove the lock in no time. Care and concern was also shown to Ruby in the morning.

While we were at the Hotel de la Paix they were renovating in preparation to open as the Sofitel Luang Prabang later this year. It’s hard to believe these beautiful suites can get much better.

Pros of staying at Hotel de la Paix

  • Beautiful, spacious suites with separate bathroom and toilet
  • A bath for the kids (and Mum!)
  • Private contained garden in every suite for the kids to play and explore.
  • Complimentary minibar
  • Complimentary water (the sure fire way to my heart when travelling in Asia. It’s also provided in large refillable glass bottles – much more environmentally friendly).
  • Delicious breakfast
  • Free bikes (with super nifty locks)
  • Kids massages
  • Friendly staff  – who are also great with kids

Cons of staying at Hotel de la Paix

It’s really hard to find a negative. If I scrounge around I’d say the bug spraying in the evening did give me a bit of a fright. The sprayer is really loud and I wasn’t quite sure what the noise was. It was all done very quickly though and the next night we missed it altogether when we went out.

Overall, our stay was wonderful and I would definitely stay at Hotel De La Paix (or as it will soon be known Sofitel Luang Prabang) again. The staff were very friendly and we couldn’t have been more comfortable in our room.

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Our stay at Hotel de la Paix was provided complimentary. As with all of the pages on this site, all opinions are my own. Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. If you book a stay using these links I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.