Sunday, March 24, 2013

Traveling with a celebrity

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be Justin Beber or Nelson Mandela – where you can’t go anywhere without big crowds of adoring fans forming. I feel like this trip has given me a small insight how these celebrities experience fame. Sometimes I think that Brendon and I are just Oren’s entourage. Everywhere we go, people flock to our blue eyed, white skinned, bald little baby. And lucky for them, he appears to be a people person so he offers them big smiles and happily accepts being held by just about every stranger out there.

There are incredible benefits to this. Thais and Laotians love babies and the family structure is very important. This means that we are often elevated to a different level of traveler and perhaps given opportunities that the 20-somethings don’t get. For example: we have yet to have a meal out together where the wait staff don’t take our baby away to explore the kitchen or a random fountain so that we can eat uninterrupted. It also means the locals want to talk with us. They cross busy roads just to ask us about our baby. To facilitate interactions between us and the locals, I’ve learnt some Lao and Thai – enough to convey the most crucial information – “he’s a boy”, “6months old”, “his name is Oren”, “he’s [insert] tired, hungry, thirsty, hot”, “do you have children?” “he smiles a lot” and most importantly “peek-a-boo”.

Yes, that is a monk taking a picture of Oren.


We’re now in Laos and have been traveling for a little more than a month. I feel like we have really hit our groove. We’ve figured out how to get Oren to sleep just about everywhere which now make long days pretty feasible. Not only are we more relaxed than we’ve been in years, we have time to feel inspired and to reflect on what’s next for our family. It really is pretty luxurious.

  Napping on a picnic table by the Mekong and being put to sleep by a waterfall.

It really is somewhat ironic that we chose Laos - a country where malaria and dengue fever is endemic. It also happens to be the most heavily bombed place in the world. We forfeited the excellent health care system and first world amenities of Thailand (that convinced us to travel overseas with a baby in the first place) for the slow paced, luscious, ceremonial country of Laos.

A few days ago our celebrity baby celebrated his 6 months on the planet. We rented a scooter and took the back roads to an elephant orphanage. There, Oren got to meet a beautiful mamma elephant who used to work in the lumber industry. Stopped in a small village on the way back for some noodle soup and were swarmed by just about everyone that lived there (refer to above picture). Life is pretty good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Traveling with Oren

It’s 40 degrees outside and I am in an air-conditioned hotel room waiting out Oren’s third nap of the day. It seems like a strangely normal routine now. We plan our activities around his two hours wakeful sessions. Like Cinderella though, if we miss the window and try to postpone his nap a little longer, what was once a happy friendly baby becomes a screaming, inconsolable mess. We think of him as a ticking bomb that if we do not diffuse in the allocated time - will blow up in our faces.

Anyway, all is calm right now. Daddy is out taking pictures in the beautiful evening light. We're in a town called Nong Khai and our guesthouse is perched on a hill overlooking the Mekong river. In about a week we will make the trip across the border into Laos but for now we are immersing ourselves in the slow paced lifestyle of this quaint river town. It’s amazing how much traveling has changed since either of us did our global tours ten years ago. The most obvious change of course is the fact that we have a baby and this has made our choice of accommodations and travel itineraries a little more civilized although perhaps pedestrian. We always choose rooms with ‘air con’ and hot water. We do not take bus trips any longer that 4 hours and we consider things like ‘health care’ when we choose our final destinations.

But the world has changed too. I used to carry around my Lonely Planet like a bible – the thought of seeking out accommodation without it was disconcerting! Now every single $17 hotel or guesthouse we've stayed in, I’ve found and booked online. I read through the countless reviews from tourists all over the world and we make the call based on their recommendations. It almost seems strange to remember my life before Back in the day (the early 2000s to be precise) I would have had to call to confirm or risk a room being available upon arrival. My impulse to call is still there but public payphones no longer exist. Like North America, phone booths are a symbol of the past and Thais all seem equipped with there very own cell phones. To top it off, the once prevalent internet cafes have gone the way of the dodo bird, as every guesthouse and hostel is connected and Wi-Fi is free and plentiful. Considering that it's only been 10 years since either of us has traveled overseas, it's hard to imagine how different it will be for Oren once he begins his own trek around this incredible world.