This post is packed with photos – apologies! This is the only journal I’m managing to keep of our travels so I want to make sure key memories get in here.
We spent nearly three weeks in Hoi An, Vietnam. We rested after busier travels in southern Vietnam and had a great time with Izumi’s mum, Sumiko, who visited us over Christmas. Natsuki spent a week at a winter programme at the local international school. He loved making friends but also stated clearly that he isn’t keen on going to school anytime soon. We also enjoyed spending some time with another family travelling long term with four kids.
(A few people have asked us about the kids and school, and maybe one day I’ll jot down some thoughts but basically we’re unschoolers/life learners, so we follow the kids’ lead on how they want to learn and we support them in deciding what they want to learn. It can sound a bit extreme but unschooling is a fairly established and a rapidly growing international movement. Izumi and I do our best to be thoughtful and critical as we go. There are lots of resources about this form of education. Some good ones are Dr. Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn, the beautiful film Being and Becoming/Etre et Devenir, the website https://livingjoyfully.ca/, and this summarizing Christian Science Monitor article.)
We arrived in Hoi An on Kazumi’s second birthday. There were seriously heavy rains and flooding, so our train from Ho Chi Minh City stopped just short of the final station. The intercom message said vaguely that the train would move when the weather cleared as the rails ahead were flooded. Thankfully we could get off and find a taxi. Who knows when the train actually moved again since the rain continued for several days. The small photo below shows a field entirely underwater — when someone waded through the water was up to his chest. Fortunately we had a huge four-storey house (in other photo) for the first two weeks, so plenty of room to play inside.
In spite of the rain and other adventures getting to our house, we managed to get Kazumi a small cake and sparklers for his birthday. Two years old!
Hoi An is a cute UNESCO-listed town up a river with a long beach very close by. The heavy rain and wind brought in a lot of rubbish. We joined one cleaning effort. By the time we left most of the stretch of beach near the resorts was cleared again. Once cleared it was a beautiful wild beach with great waves, which the kids had great fun in with new friends.
We also visited Jack’s Cat Cafe where we found out about the awful practice of capturing and taking cats to Hanoi to be eaten. Sometimes they are stolen out of private gardens and homes and then kept in truly awful conditions. Jack’s Cat Cafe was lovely though – a beautiful cat haven.
We really enjoyed a cooking class, including a market visit and boat ride, that we did with Sumiko. We made fresh and fried spring rolls, Vietnamese pancakes, and noodle soup.
While Izumi, Sumiko, Manu, Kazumi and I were cooking, Nuki was with his winter school group at the 3D ‘museum’ in Da Nang.
Nuki also put on a little Christmas show with his school group.
On the famous Hoi An full moon night, we went out on a little boat to put our floating candles on the water. It was gorgeous and there was lots of action in town but we were kind of baffled to look up and see that the moon wasn’t full at all. Izumi asked the boat guide who chuckled and said something vague about every night being full moon night? We figured that maybe they’d moved the official monthly ‘festival’ (which is a big tourist draw) so that it didn’t coincide with Christmas eve (another big tourist draw). Who knows. It was fun.
And another day we made our own lanterns with The Lantern Lady. Manu worked very hard on his one, doing all the gluing and cutting himself.
Izumi and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and, because Sumiko was there, we actually got to go out for dinner. We forgot to get a photo at the time but we managed to get a blurry selfie on the way home! (And I also drank this charcoal cappuccino, which I felt was worthy of record.)
We had a fabulously luxurious Christmas day at the Victoria hotel brunch. Seriously amazing, and so much fancier than we’ve been travelling. All types of seafood, local and French food, gorgeous desserts, and unlimited sparkling wine and other drinks. We ate so much. Santa visited with gifts for the kids. We lounged by the pool looking out onto the ocean while the kids played and swam with some new friends they’d made (and we ate a few more scallops). Izumi enjoyed the jacuzzi and sauna. La belle vie.
We had a few more excellent meals and the kids had some great shirts and shorts made by one of the many Hoi An tailors. They’ve lived in their new clothes ever since. It’s so much easier to spot them in a crowd now they’re wearing bananas, fish and pineapples.
We are now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We nearly didn’t get on the plane because I’d failed to observe some visitors immigration rule. Frustrating because the check-in person had clearly decided randomly to enforce a rule, but we made it to the plane, if slightly panicked.
Happy New Year everyone!! Wishing you a wonderful and fresh 2019.