tuk tuks, bikes, death, and blessings. by tina gonsalves

Another intense day in Phnom Penh. We started off at the Markets, searching for some breakfast. Set in an old art deco building, it was huge, and pretty wonderful. We found the food section quickly, and it was packed to the brim filled full meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and people. It was hard to find a place to sit, especially with the pram. Had some great noodle soup, and the kids had chicken and rice. 

venturing through the markets, trying to find somewhere for breakfast.

venturing through the markets, trying to find somewhere for breakfast.

 

We made our way out to the killing fields -  some land, about 20km outside of phnom penh, that was one of the khmer rouge’s many sites of mass burials sites. Again, a hard one with Pablo - but he wanted to do the audio tour, and listened to all the atrocities that happened. The only word for it is horrific. This poor country, after being bombed more by the americans with more   bombs than they used in Europe in the second world war, then Pol Pot, and a land full of landmines - the recent history is a harsh one. As you leave, you walk inside a stupa filled full of thousands of skulls of the executed. Each monsoon, more bones, teeth and clothes reveal themselves in the mud. I can’t quite describe the bleakness of the place. Its sobering, deadening and all consuming. Matt asked our tuk tuk driver about it, but the conversation was cut short pretty quickly. I asked Pablo if he understood it, he said, yes and no - said parts of him were interested, and parts of him didn’t want to know about it. It felt like he was losing his innocence a little too quickly seeing this.  We had a few hugs, and a lot of conversations about it since. We talked about the importance of being aware of political situations, voting, etc We talked a little about different politics - democracies, communism, dictatorships, etc. He starts talking about his grandpa and that he wishes he was still alive, and that he wishes there was no violence in the world. Why do people want to be violent? he asks. He wishes we could stay young forever and never die. He doesn't understand why people want to hurt each other. He has been talking about this a lot over the last few days.

the stupa at the killing fields.

the stupa at the killing fields.

 

We found a duck place for lunch, as Pablo has been asking to eat duck for a while. We bought a whole duck, a few beers. Pablo and Hugo moved inside to play, and an old man came out beside Matt and I and started peeing on the side walk. He was so old, he had no idea what he was doing, but we both looked at each other and shuddered at the thought of getting older. He left him self standing there, until the very last drip of urine hit the pavement - about two minutes later. His kids came out, and just chucked some water over him, and dragged him back inside. We had finished lunch at that time. It was pretty sad.

 

Nick took us too another Temple, a beautiful monastery. Alive with monks gliding about in their saffron robes out and drinking tea. I love the 'lived in' temples. Lots of smiles for Hugo. Lots of calmness. One monk tried spread the calmness to hugo by wrapping some red string around his wrist. No chance for that, he was running wild - but Pablo loved it, and so did we. Pablo walks in, sits down in front of the buddhas and pretends to start meditating. I love the color of these temples, the golds, the reds, the illuminated pictures of Buddha. They have such an eclectic, crazy, yet calm quality. There was a buddha statue with sunglasses on - its like there is a sense of humour here - a sense of lightness, and not taking things too seriously. We further explored the grounds, and an old man opened another temple for us. We moved into this very tiny, claustrophobic space, filled with huge candles, buddha, and heaps of incense. He asks us to sit down, and he begins to chant, he grabs a pile of incense, dips it in water, and asks us to put our hands out. He hits the incense on our open hands about ten times, and asks us to rub the water over our faces. We leave a small donation of Riels, feeling great. 

 

We headed home for some rest time. Hugo has been brilliant - he sleeps in the pram, and then we just put the pram in the tuk tuk, so his sleep continues while we are rushing about the city. The colors and smells amuse him. Its a constant watch out of what he is picking up, and sometimes he likes to sit on the ground, sometimes spontaneously lie on the sidewalk, so we have been using a lot of disinfectant on his hands, as he is still eating mostly with his hands. The baby wipes comes in handy. I feel really proud of him, as you never know how the kids are going to adjust to the craziness of Asia, the unexpected, the noise, the smells, the strange food, and so far, so good. 

 

We head out again around 5pm, to walk to the boardwalk - the meeting of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. We walk through a couple of streets of girly bars and old white men. The boardwalk is alive, there are people doing dance classes, people on exercise machines, paying foot ball, enjoying the view. The mekong is the most amazing rose colour.Pablo called it the see of blood. and you can see pouring rain whiting out the river in the distance.  The afternoon rain comes in, and it empties in about one minute. We found a bar, and enjoyed a few Angkor beers. We went to the markets for dinner, and enjoyed some bbq’d chicken and some noodle soup. Our last night in Phnom Penh, and we are finally getting our bearings. Despite what I presumed, its a sort of calm city. The streets and that full with bikes and tuk tuks, and the pace feels more gentle than most asian cities. There are some lovely buildings left from the french colonialists. The people are seem to have a slower pace, and everyone eats out on the street. We have enjoyed the street food a lot. The people after an initial suspicion, warm fast.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia by tina gonsalves

 

Wow, in Phnom Penh. We arrived a couple of nights ago. We had booked a little loft style flat on airbnb. We arrived late, and after organizing visas on arrival - we were the last ones out, with our lonely driver, nick, waiting for us. We follow him out, expecting to get in the usual big car, and he takes us to his little tuk tuk. It was a sensory intro to Phnom Penh. 40 minutes later, zooming through the streets, the kids are asleep in the back. He drops us at a corner street. Very local. All the cycle drivers are having a sleep, rubbish pouring over the street. Pablo wakes up and says, ‘where are we?, and where are we sleeping?..’. We walk up a stairwell that is looking a little too local for me. Matt is staring at me, I can tell he is thinking - ‘where the hell are we?’  I am desperately hoping that the apartment doesn’t resemble the state of the stairwell. Four floors later, carrying hugo, my legs are aching, and we open a few locked gates to reach our apartment. Its tiny, but clean. You have to love airbnb how it throws you into the local life quickly. We put the kids to bed, and had a few Cambodian beers on the balcony - watching the street life below. Felt really wonderful to be here. Cedric, who owns the airbnb , lives next door.

 

We had a huge day yesterday. Ventured for breakfast. Wasn't long before everyone is picking up little hugo and giving him hugs. He starts to get a little concerned. Then Nick greets us - for a day of touring Phnom Penh in his tuk tuk. The Royal Palace - beautiful. The russian markets - smelly and intense - Pablo told us we had to get out of there - the Genocide Museum - horrific. I was unsure if the genocide museum, which explores the regime of Pol Pot, would be ok for Pablo - I explained a little bit about what he might see, and he said we was fine with it - gosh, it was housed in S21, an old high school which became a torture chamber for anyone suspected of being against pol pot. There were images of torture, skulls, instruments of torture. It was intense for me, so I kept monitoring pablo. We did the audio tour, and we left feeling much the same way when we have left concentration camps in Germany - horrified, a bit sick and feeling quite empty. Up to 3 million people died. The cambodians have had a horrific past to deal with. 

Hugo exploring the royal palace.

Hugo exploring the royal palace.

breakfast hugs for hugo. He is not so sure about all the attention

breakfast hugs for hugo. He is not so sure about all the attention

 

We went to the national museum - some amazing sculptures taken from Angkor Wat - and surprisingly - there was actually a australian/cambodian exhibition on - sadly, they hadn’t even bothered to turn all the video works on, so we missed out on a lot of it. We were heading to the foreign correspondents club, when we all decided we were too tired - time to go and rest. The weather is hot and steamy. I am sure, at the peak of the day it was around 38 degrees. By about 2pm, the thunder clouds started rolling in, and we were greeted with some rain, which could things off beautifully.

the National gallery, Phnom Penh

the National gallery, Phnom Penh

escaping the sun at the Royal Palace. its hot hot hot here.

escaping the sun at the Royal Palace. its hot hot hot here.

Lazy days in Seminyak by tina gonsalves

We have been in Seminyak for a week now, enjoying the beautiful villa Suku. Four bedrooms, pool, and in the heart of seminyak, but its so incredibly quiet. It was definitely a huge change of plan, heading here. The house swap came out of the blue - the owners will spend some time in our Berlin Apartment next year. The initial plan was to travel about Bali for the rest of our time here, but its been a nice change of plan. That is the wonderful thing about not booking anything too far in advance, we can always change our plans to suit.

Our days have been quiet - catching up on work, school work with Pablo, playing in the surf, swimming in the pool, watching dvd's, playing uno, catching up with a few friends. Each morning, the staff descend on the villa, gardeners, cleaners, cooking us breakfast. Imagine if that could happen at our houses in Australia? Imagine how well looked after the houses would be. Its strange to get used to being cooked for, and cleaned up after - but we are enjoying the luxury while it is here, as the next part of our trip is airbnb, and hotels. Its been a strange feeling to be so quiet. I have been catching up on a bit of work. We do long walks each day. Matt usually has the pram with hugo, and Pablo and I dawdle behind, holding hands and talking for ever. Its so lovely to have this time together. We ask each other questions - super hero questions, moral questions, ethical questions. We discuss a lot over these walks and its so wonderful. 

We are off to Cambodia tomorrow. Phnom Penh. We have a little airbnb apartment booked, and getting picked up at the airport. The next adventure begins.

 

Heading North, or south? by tina gonsalves

 

We left our beautiful house swap. I really recommend this house for a great chill out, very low key - check out http://www.paradisebytheseabali.com/ Robin and Dianne staid in our treehouse in Port Douglas a couple of years back. Everyday, at sunset I had a massage on the deck. Lazy days in the pool, a few drives about the country side with Wayan, walks to the beach. Dinner and breakfast cooked each day. Beautiful spacious rooms and furnishings. It was indulgent, and just what we needed after so much work.

Yesterday we got another request of a swap in Bali, a huge house in Seminyak - so all the sudden our plans of traveling Bali seem to have changed. Why not live in a bit of luxury for a while? Its not free till the 11th and we will have it till we leave to Cambodia on the 19th. The owners, Anita and Tom, only lived half an hour away from our current swap, so we did a quick dash to meet them and saw their wonderful new house just north of Tanah Lot.  

We asked Wayan to drop us off at Medewi. We hadn’t researched it at all, or booked anything - I just thought it looked like a nice place to go. The plan was Medewi for a few nights then upto Pemutaran,  Lovina, etc. We get dropped off, and as I see the accommodation, which sort of suits young surfers, i thought. mmmm. maybe not so great. We walked the street, everything booked out, except a single room, that matt checked out. He came back saying, ‘No way’...  Not a fluid start to the day - it all seems like a struggle. The kids are hungry, we are getting frustrated. Then I get an email saying that a lovely villa in Sanur can do a houseswap starting today. I thought brilliant! but my phone data just ran out as I was trying to organize it… And Medewi's internet service had been down for a few days, or they didn't want to share their internet - so I couldn’t organize the house swap. We both said, “lets get out of here!’, we start to organize a car, 500K for an hour drive north… which then went up to 600K, 700K and every time a car drove by the touts would organize a higher price and sniggle. Not fun. We headed to the highway, and tried to jump on a bus north, all packed out - but then Matt said - 'lets head south', so we ended up jumping on the local bus back to Balian. The bus was packed. Matt’s bag kept squashing a womans’ eggs, and Hugo thought it quite fun to start singing at the top of his lungs and try to throw his bottle out the window. Atleast he amused the locals. If you haven’t got a toddler, I would really recommend the local buses for getting around Bali. We got dropped off at the highway, and walked in and checked into a really lovely hotel call Istana balian, where we still are. Balian is pretty wonderful, so why rush off? We feel a bit lazy to move. 

Now Pablo is playing with the owner’s kids, and they have lent some toys to hugo, so happykids too. Our days a spent walking, swimming, and meeting people. Balian is tiny, so you just seem to run into the same people. 

getting into the swing of things. by tina gonsalves

Getting into the swing of things.

Its strange to be on the move again, and trying to work out the rhythms of family and travel. Our 22 month old Hugo still needs his 2 to 3 hour day sleeps, is still trying to work out how to sleep in a real bed and still loves his bottle, and is in the midst of trying to use a toilet. Our eight year old Pablo adapts to everything pretty quickly because he is so used to traveling, but he is also adjusting to not having all of his friends close by. We love exploring, but more than anything, I love the time out from routine to just spend time with each other gain. To play, talk and just hang out. It feels so peaceful after a day to day life of racing through time, trying to juggle kids and work. We are not sure where this journey is taking us, so far, we have plane tickets to Cambodia, then onto Thailand, then on to Myanmar. But we are just buying a ticket at a time, so we can adjust the pace to suit the kids.

We have been staying in a beautiful, and very large house, with satellite rooms, so all the kids are in with us, as the other bedroom is too far away for Pablo. Hugo has fell out of the bed a couple of times, but we have cushioned the landing. We have dragged a very heavy teak daybed to the end of the bed, and the kids are sort of contained in that. However, getting Hugo to stay in the bed has been challenging. Basically we need to stay with him, and each time he moves off the bed, we gently put him back on the bed, until he gets the idea, and goes to sleep. Its becoming easier, so it will be interesting to see how it all goes.

We are traveling with one 19 kg bag between the four of us. I am still hoping to pare it down in today. I think I have to say good bye to a couple of dresses that i quite like, but I don't think are practical enough. Its Hugo that needs the constant changes. He seems to put clothes on, and two minutes later they have food all over them. His nappies and milk take up a lot of the bag. Its hard to find fresh milk here, so he is back onto formula, which he refused to have anything to do with. I thought he might want to give up the bottle, but no, he now loves it again. Pablo has a little daypack, and so do we. We have a mcLaren pram for Hugo, and also a hiking pack for carrying Hugo on longer walks.  So, we don’t have much, and today I am getting rid of a few more clothes - but traveling with kids, its best not to have much, as you need to keep hands free for the kids. 

The beginning of a new adventure by tina gonsalves

We have been in Bali for a few days now. We have been in the North West of Bali, in Tabanan, in a glorious house, overlooking  the beaches and surf of Balian Beach. This is our first house swap, and its amazing. We are house swapping our Berlin apartment this year. We have three spacious bedrooms, four bathrooms, wet edge pool looking over the sea, and we have Wayan and Wayan looking after us. Cooking for us as well. After nearly eight months of working on the renovation of the Artists’ Beach Front, our new house on the beach - and not having a day off, its amazing to have this time to just chill, play in the pool with the kids, sleep on a sunlounge, leisurely walks, its been really needed. I have also been catching up on all the emails, and work that was hard to get the time to do. My body already feels a bit different. Slowly the sense of tension and busy-ness is starting to fade away. I have had a few massages booked in each afternoon, just to try to get the body back to feeling normal again, and trying to get used to feeling relaxed. Its been wonderfully indulgent. The feeling of calm isn’t feeling as alien as it was.

The renovation was a huge achievement, but we lived in it, and I think back to the midst of it, and I shudder - dealing with the kids, the mess, the tradesmen and the cost. Trying to do as much as we could ourselves, sourcing all the second hand building materials, etc.  Renovations are all consuming - You live them, its all you talk about, and then end up dreaming about them - eight months with walking about with paint all through my hair, paint all over my clothes. I began swearing like a trouper, and our alcohol consumption grew - just so we could chill out for a few hours at the end of the day.  For four months we had to shower outside, in sand. For one month our washing machine stopped working, and we couldn't get another one as we had no laundry hooked up. Months stepping over power cords and constant dust. The house was completely unlockable for about four months. We got through it, but it was hard living. And, as we sit here in Bali, I am still in shock that its over. I am also in a bit of shock that we managed to do it. When you take renovations on, the first few months are quite exciting, but then it moves into this scary space, where the ideas get bigger, the money left gets smaller, and theres no turning back, and somehow you just have to see it through to the end. However, its now amazing house - and we have created a really wonderful home for ourselves, which we only holiday rent when we travel.

our house swap in Balian, Bali.