We were beyond thrilled when Goo Goo and Bapa announced their plans to join us for a month of our travels in SE Asia. From beginning to end, they impressed us so much: their adventurous spirit, their patience for our sometimes idiosyncratic group dynamic, their love of things new and different.
How blessed we are that they became our 7 and 8 for so long and how much we will miss them as we finish up the remaining weeks of our trip. In a final show of adventure travel dedication, they even wrote a guest blog post, which appears below.
Our blessings only continued when Mackenzie decided to join us for our time in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Saigon.
She flew 20 hours each way and did not miss a beat in joining our somewhat ambitious itinerary for these beautiful and important places. We literally saw not one sign of jet lag from her as we tromped through ancient ruins, took tuk tuks through crowded cities, stopped at roadside stands to eat insects, and then absorbed the tragic history of Cambodia. The whole time Phoebe, who has missed her beloved Naynay so much, was literally clinging to her side…. Nevertheless, she remained upright, in fact downright cheery, throughout her time with us. She even managed to ask the smartest, most insightful questions on all of our tours
Amazingly, Mackenzie did not even bat an eyelash when we announced the plan for her final day: a 4 hour motor scooter tour through the heart of Saigon that ended just 3 hours before her flight back to DC.
We knew Mackenzie was amazing before the trip began. We are now in complete awe of her.
I will never forget talking to a dear friend, about halfway through the trip, about the homesickness I was feeling. (This was shortly after William’s accident at the Taj Mahal and in the midst of the Indian currency crisis…) My friend made the very good point that one of the often overlooked reasons for travel is to remind yourself how much you love and appreciate your life back home. Homesickness is a form of that. Being with Brendan’s parents and Mackenzie, all of whom are so integral to our lives in DC, was an even better and much more enjoyable reminder. We’re very grateful for their time, effort to join us, and of course their wonderful company.
And now to GooGoo & Bapa’s much more interesting read…
So nerve-wracking to be asked to be guest writers on the blog!
When we first heard about this trip, we were stunned at the fantasy of the plan, scope of travel, depth of planning and organization….how many people take a year off? With 4 kids to some very exotic destinations. Managing school absence, visas, medicine…yikes, where to begin?
Reality struck when we drove kids to Dulles with their one backpack each.
We connected for a few days in Rome in Oct. and now that we’ve been together a month, we continue to be amazed at the level of activity (where did these genes come from?) and the overwhelming patience and kindness of all involved. Crossing the street in Bangkok /Ho Chi Minh City / wherever, is a challenge (hold hands, Phoebe)…rock climbing, motorbiking, just about anything that challenges our concept of normalcy.
Hours of dusty rides or tours of temples or museums when everyone is hot, thirsty, tired….there’s an underlying acceptance of inconvenience that is exceptional. Even Brendan and Alex only had a few time-outs!
Guess that’s what makes this trip possible…a willingness to accept developing world foibles. Admittedly, Phoebe is 5 and still brushing up on this skill.
The massages also help quite a bit…
We’ve all been reading lots of books on the history of SE Asia and in particular, the tragic recent history of bombing campaigns and wars in and the inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia. But visiting the sites with the names familiar to those of our generation (e.g., Hue, Danang, the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh) and seeing the wars of our youth from the SE Asian perspective has been a sobering experience.
We have been avid followers of the blogs tracing the kids’ progress from Morocco, across Southern Europe to India, Sri Lanka and then the outdoor adventures of New Zealand and Australia. But after finally catching up with them in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, we have gotten to experience first hand the adventurous spirit and astounding maturity and intellectual curiosity of this gang.
From bathing with the elephants in Chiang Mai,
to relaxing at the pool at our Mekong riverfront villa,
tuk-tuking around town and swimming in waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos,
to marveling at the ancient temples of Angkor Wat,
to visiting the splendid Imperial Palace and sobering killing fields of Cambodia,to surviving the crazy traffic in Saigon and revisiting the sadness of the war at the war museum and CuChi Tunnels,
to hanging out at our beachfront jungle villa and motorbiking through rice paddies and small villages near Hoi An,
we have marveled at the sights, but been even more impressed by the ability of these kids and their parents to keep up the pace and absorb the details of the history and culture of each venue.
Memories of muddy feet, dusty hikes, constant sweating, smoothies, microscopic restaurant napkins flying all over the place, elephant pants, games of Bananagrams, butterflies, massages (even all at one time), giant geckos screeching like cat fights…and so much more. Thank you, A,B,W,H,C, and P, for sharing yourselves with us; we’ve had a magical journey!