Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The start of the Cherry Blossoms

 It's our favorite time of year in Shanghai. The cherry blossoms are beginning. The first sign of spring. The temperatures are a bit warmer. (But oh the wind... The wind!) And our after-nap walks start taking us to campus more and more...

 It's made even more fun with a perfectly chaseable toddler. :) Just having grass for the girls to play on is always a treat!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thailand Travels over CNY

Goodness, I am so behind. I am thinking my blogging time is coming to an end. There's just too much of life to live, and my ever diminishing computer time I usually prefer to devote to other things. ;) But I'm going to try and continue at least sporadically until our China life is at a close. I know that one day, I will be glad we have this documentation to look back on.

Over our Chinese New Year holidays (Jan 28-Feb 5), some friends invited us to go with them to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were so glad that we could! However, the day before we left, I came down with a terrible stomach flu. I was so thankful I'd packed *most* things ahead, because I spent the whole day on the couch or in bed, thankful that it was the first day of Ryan's break. But then that night, just as I finally started feeling better and fell asleep, Hadassah woke at 11 PM, throwing up. She threw up on and off until 2 or 3 AM, by which point Ryan was throwing up. We had to get up at 5 AM to go the airport. Needless to say, that is the very WORST day of flying we have ever experienced! But, we made it.

But this is how we felt. Thankfully everyone was done throwing up by the end of the first flight, but we couldn't stomach any food (other than a few bites here and there for me and whatever I could scrounge up for Ellie!).

We'd booked the cheapest tickets we could find, which we ended up figuring out why they were cheap. When I booked them they made no mention of random, 30 minute stopovers in tiny airports! But, we got to see more of China...

Flying domestically meant that almost all of our flights meant riding a bus out to an airport and climbing the stairs. Which isn't a big deal, except when it's a bit rainy and cold and you didn't bring any warm jackets because you thought that you'd just be in the airport or on a plane until you got to sunny Thailand! ;)

We were finally feeling a little better by the time our flight from Kunming was ready to go to Chiang Mai. We got the first real smiles of the day from the girls at the airport play place too. This was after we were stuck waiting forever for our strollers, being told they'd be in baggage claim - and thus carrying our tired girls in our weak, foodless state for quite a walk... I literally was just trying to focus on taking one step after another. Then we waited for a long time, only to finally find them off in a corner in "special baggage." Then we had to completely re-check in and go through security again since our domestic flight was turning into an international one! We were so glad when the day was done...
But there was sun and blue sky in Kunming (the spring city) as we prepared to board, and we were glad this was our final stretch!

Miss Ellie was feeling pretty good aside from some diarrhea, but that meant she didn't really sleep and mostly wiggled and squirmed trying to escape all the sitting! Stickers on faces helped for a while. ;)

And we made it to beautiful Thailand. By the time we set foot in the airport, we could all actually think about food, and we had what seemed to be the most amazing blueberry smoothie in the world...

We stayed at Horizon Village and Resort - an awesome place! Ellie loved running out the door on the balcony outside of our hotel room. The trick was to catch her before she made it to the stairs!

Coming from winter to basically summer, it was like a different, wonderful world!

Best of all there was a beautiful botanical garden just next door, accessible by shuttle bus or a 10 minute walk!

They took bush sculpting to a new level, from shapes to all kinds of animals! You could even see huge dinosaurs peeking out of the "Jurassic Park" area.

They had an awesome play ground, complete with a really cool swing we could ALL ride on together! Dassah was usually the "captain" of the ship :)

Ellie was my side companion, while Ryan stood up and pushed by holding on to the bar above.

It was fun and relaxing, and an awesome way to swing many people with just one person pushing. Made me want to ask my Dad if he could build us one for our backyard one day... ;)

Hadassah's favorite part was being allowed to take off her shoes and play in the nice sand!

Ellie's favorite was climbing... Up the stairs and down the slide ALL by herself!

Over the week, Hadassah spent hours hanging and climbing all of the fun bars!

They both mastered the swirly tunnel slide, even BOTH learning how to climb back up the inside of it too!

They even had a small zoo with camels, oxen, deer, and many types of birds, including these fascinating ostriches. It was the closest I ever got to these amazing creatures. But we did have to watch for them. Seconds after this picture I pulled Ellie away because the bird reached for her pigtail!

It was all a bit overwhelming for this tired girl in the process of dropping her morning nap. Even being taken out of the stroller didn't keep her from passing out on Daddy's shoulder! ;)

Our eyes were so refreshed feasting on beauty all week...

The way the light hit everything at different times of day was amazing.

Of course, living out of one hotel room for a week wasn't always that fun. It seems like things just get messy and out of order so easily! But having a playground Ryan could take the girls to while I reorganized was so nice. And being in one room seemed to make us all closer too.

We all enjoyed getting to drink in so much sunshine in the middle of winter!

And getting to play in the sand... The simple joys of childhood.

Capturing photos that will forever capture the essence of our little Ellie. :)

She seemed to grow up on that playground, from climbing everything to swinging on a big girl swing...

Surrounded by our Creator's amazing handiwork.

On display every morning...

Every sunset...

And by the light of every moon.

With limited space, we discovered half a suitcase makes a great play area when you're trying to get yourselves ready for bed and need the children to wind down for the night. ;)

 Every morning there were hot air balloons taking off as we walked to eat breakfast. It always made the girls exclaim. Even Ellie pointed and said "Ahh!"

There were beautiful flowers and beautiful girls. :)

And lots of time to explore the botanical garden! One of their sections was every kind of cactus you could imagine!

It was a great family vacation! We were actually attending a conference, so every morning the girls were in childcare while we attended some sessions. It was good for them though took some adjustment. But we also made sure we got out in nature as much as we could before and after. Easy to do since Ellie always woke early and we were all in one room... ;)

And how I loved being with this man. He's shown me the world. Me, who really never had a travel bug before. But after Thailand and Kunming (on the way home) I'm beginning to get more of an urge to see even more of the world.

We really enjoyed being with friends, and having friends who knew how to take the taxis in the area...

You just had to hold on to your children to make sure they didn't fall out the back!

We went to a fun restaurant one night that had a sand pit and climbing area for kids. Best idea ever! There are almost NO restaurants in China with any kind of play place for kids, so this was a treat!

Our Saturday plane left in the evening - the only time slots that I could find to take us back to China - so we enjoyed Saturday morning to explore a bit. With the recommendation of friends and the Lonely Planet, we settled on Sticky Falls.

We got there pretty early, so had the entire area to ourselves for an hour! Perfect weather for a little girl to play in a pool.

And climb! It's hard to describe. Hard even if you're there until you try it yourself. But these rocks aren't slippery. You can walk up or down the waterfall, feel the water rushing around you, and yet not have it knock you off of the rock. There was a less steep section that even Dassah climbed up and down solo.

Ellie wasn't too sure about it all until I showed her how to pick up rocks and drop them to go "ker-plop." She did it over and over, complete with sound effects.

We weren't sure we'd find any good food after getting ice cream and chips from the closest store, so were beyond relieved to walk a little further and find these amazingly tender, juicy, delicious roast chickens. Combined with bags of sticky rice, we had filling food for the ride home!

Our eyes were just so refreshed to see green!!

As we were without a hotel room yet waiting for the afternoon airport shuttle, we enjoyed the early afternoon sunshine for one last time around the resort.

These looked like wisteria, twining around the shaded walkways.

These looked similar to wisteria as well, but upon closer inspection were bunches of tiny orchids!

And then, finally, after waiting in long check in lines - only to discover we couldn't check in more than two hours early and had to wait in another long line! - it was time to fly away...

Riding our bus to the plane. Traveling with kids can be an armful. ;)

 We had a 15 hour layover in Kunming, China. We enjoyed a very comfortable hotel complete with a warm(!!) swimming pool and great buffet breakfast. After lunch we had half an hour to see a site so went to Green Lake. Amazingly enough, our taxi driver spoke great English (discovered after we bumbled about in Chinese only to have him answer finally with a perfect, full English sentence!) and said he'd keep our luggage in the taxi while we walked around for 15 minutes.

 I always enjoy Chinese walls, with the roofs and the windows...

The lake was beautiful, but the day even more so. It was February 5th, yet over 60 degrees and sunny. Ryan (who has visited Kunming in the summer) says the summers are mild too. I can see why they call this the Spring City...

 Especially when they have beautiful tulips blooming!

 Then it was back to the airport again, with tired girls. Ellie mercifully fell asleep in the taxi, transferred still asleep to the stroller, and slept through the whole very long line to check in!

Traveling with children is no joke. It's exhausting. But it was really nice to take a long trip yet NOT have to deal with jetlag at the end of it, and compared to the flight to America the trip really felt pretty short. ;) And one day I look forward to showing these pictures to my daughters again, showing them that while they were still wee little lasses, they saw the world.