Sheraton Grand Danang Resort – A Jewel of a Property in Central Vietnam

We had the opportunity to travel with the family to Vietnam over the Thanksgiving break  and after a few days in Hanoi, we spent some time at the beach in Danang in the central coastal area. While planning our trip, we trying to decide whether to stay at the Intercontinental or Hyatt as they both had some amazing reviews. While researching the various options, we stumbled upon the Sheraton Grand Danang Resort which has only been around for less than a year.

We were somewhat apprehensive about booking this property with limited online reviews, but ultimately chose to take the risk because of our platinum status with Marriott.

We are so glad we did as we ended up having the most amazing stay at this lovely property.

Here’s what you can expect:

All of the rooms in hotel are massive and from the layout it doesn’t seem possible to get a bad room. As the result of our platinum status, we were upgraded to a suite with a full living room. The living room was so big that we were able to fit 2 full extra beds in it.

The living room also had a full size refrigerator, a big kitchen sink, a full stovetop and drawers that had everything one could need in a kitchen.

The bedroom was absolutely huge with one of the most comfortable beds. The bathroom was fully equipped for kids as it had both a shower and a bathtub.

Each room in the suite had it’s own terrace that was simply massive. 

Elsewhere on the property, the hotel boasts the longest infinity pool in Vietnam. The beach seemed like it could have all the standard resort amenities, but unfortunately we were there for some stormy weather.

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Now for the kid’s part:

The kids club and the staff there were absolutely amazing! There were 3 large kids rooms full of things to keep the kids happy for hours. The staff was incredibly attentive and interactive with the kids.

Additionally, there is a full outdoor play area for kids to play with parents.

All around the property was very kid friendly. The staff at the beach side restaurant called Le Page had all sorts of ideas on drinks they could make just for kids, and there is even a weekly movie night with popcorn just for kids.

If you are looking for a place to relax at the beach in Southeast Asia, then the Sheraton Grand Danang should be your first choice.

 

 

 

Things To Do With Kids In Sydney

Well, there is no denying that things to do with kids in Sydney are endless.

Whether you have a toddler or a young teen, Sydney will come to you as one of the best tourist destinations. This city is stroller friendly, easy to walk by, and has weather as a major bonus for everyone.

Not only this, you can also take a metro or a bus to explore this glorious city with your little ones.

However, if you are wondering on what to do with your little munchkin in Sydney, here is our pick of best Sydney attractions for them.

Feed The Giraffes At Taronga Zoo

Situated at the right of Sydney Harbor, Taronga Zoo is one of the best places to visit in Sydney with kids. It has one of the most stunning locations and has over 250 species of animals from around the world.

The best way to reach Taronga Zoo is to take a ferry from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay, and then hop on a cable car to the zoo.

Take The Ferry To Manly

Who does not loves ferry rides?

Take a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly and witness Sydney Harbor with stunning views of Botanic Gardens, Opera House, City Skyline, and Harbor Bridge.

Once you reach the Manly, you can hit playgrounds over there or go to the promenade on beach for an ice cream with your little ones

Luna Park

With ‘just for fun’ as their tagline, Luna Park is a 1930’s era amusement park that comes with plenty of thrilling rides and a whole lot of fun. It also has a Coney Island section that offers you activities and games for all ages.

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If you want spectacular ways views of Sydney Harbor, simply jump on the Ferris wheel.

The best part about Luna Park is that it is free to enter (if you are not planning to take the rides). You can later on buy tickets, depending on the number of rides you want to enjoy.

Go For A Picnic in The Royal Botanic Gardens

Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is known as one of the best gardens across the world. This garden is gorgeous all round the year and is best to have a fun picnic with your kids.

You can also consider a take away from Circular Quay and let your kids run in the gardens.

Visit To A Darling Harbor Is A Must

If you are looking for a place where your kids can have fun and you can squeeze some time for an amazing meal, head to Darling Harbor.

It has the best cities playgrounds and allows you to visit Monkey Baa Theatre, which is considered as a leading theatre for young audiences. However, make sure that you don’t forget to check the iconic spiral fountain.

Wildlife Sydney Zoo

If your kids are wildlife fanatics, take them to Wildlife Sydney Zoo. This zoo is small, easy to navigate, and will give you a chance to get close to the koalas, kangaroos, echidna or maybe a giant croc.

So, if you are planning to visit Sydney with kids, it is advisable to hire a car to get around. Moreover, it is a year around destination and will not fail to amaze you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do with kids in London

 Got a restless toddler, curious 6-year old or a bored teenager to amuse?

Well, when in London, irrespective of the age of your little one, you simply have plenty of things to there. Whether you are searching for free attractions, places to hang out with kids or kid-friendly attractions, London has got you all covered.

Equipped with the best of museums, galleries, playgrounds and theatre shows for kids, there is a wealth of option for the little ones. But if you are pondering on what to do with kids in London, read here for the choices-

 

Take Them To The Warner Bros Studio Tour London

 If you think that your kid is a potter head, take him to the Warner Bros Studios where most of the Potter movies were made. The kids can explore various Harry Potter sets, go to the forbidden forests, and practice the magic in Dark Arts.

Not only this, the kids can ride on a broomstick or just simply hop on to the Hogwarts Express.

To reach there, you have to take the train from London Euston to Watford Junction, and then take the shuttle bus to your destination.

Visit The London Transport Museum

 This museum is known as one of the most kid-friendly destinations in London. It is equipped with an exclusive collection of buses, cars, trains, and lets the kids have hands-on the various maps, illuminating boards, subway signs, models, and lots more.

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Moreover, it also has a play area for kids under the age of five and a museum shop for you as well.

See The Changing Of Guards At Buckingham Palace

Well, your kids will love how to see how the guards change outside the Buckingham Palace.

Either you can go for a picnic with the kids, watch it outside from the palace or the green park. But for the best views, head to “The Mall” as from there, you will the guards marching out for a longer time.

Spend A Day At Kew Gardens

 If you are looking to relax, while in London, go to the beautiful and magnificent Kew Gardens. Known as the home to Treetop High Walkaway, it will let you kids can run out in the outdoors and will offer you terrific views of creepers and climbers.

Moreover, the kids under 17 are admitted for free and hence this garden becomes an affordable way to spend time outdoors.

Visit The Legoland Windsor

Legoland is all about small and colored bricks.

This place is divided into several different worlds, which includes Land of the Vikings, Miniland, Ninjago, and lots more. In these worlds, your kid can see the miniatures of famous buildings from London, and watch 4D shows as well as live shows.

To reach Legoland Windsor, you can take a train from London Paddington to Windsor and then head to Eton Riverside.

Apart from this, there are treetop adventures, fun puppet shows, and singing elevators that will keep your kids entertained to the best.

 

Langkawi with kids

I remember when we first moved to Asia and asked for suggestions for an easy beautiful getaway and people casually said ‘Langkawi’. To be honest-I had to look it up on a map. If you you haven’t yet googled it, Langkawi is in Malaysia, a beautiful archipelago in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of northwestern Malaysia.

 

We booked ticketes for New Years break. For the cheap price of $100 a ticket, we thought it was a perfect weekend holiday.

 

A few weeks before our scheduled trip, we began to look for hotels. The Andaman Hotel was the most highly recomneded for families, and all our friends suggested we book it. What we didn’t realize was that the Andaman was a resort far more exclusive than we were used to and we were shocked by the nightly room price given the holiday weekend. Because we couldn’t find another better option at this point, we used a mix of SPG hotel points and cash to make it work. We also decided to book the exclusive resort for two nights and head to a much lower cost hotel in the city for our last night.

 

Landing at Langkawi airport is an easy experience. Once you land, simply go to the taxi counter, tell them the hotel you are going to, and viola-you’re on your way.

 

The Andmana was amazing. It was probably the first time we ‘resorted’ and learned to turn off, stay put, and be comfortable not getting dressed for two days. The hotel is located in a rainforest on a beach-what more can one ask for-except the local coral reef pool you can snorkel in. The hotels has the usual resort amenities, including kids club, pools, and restaurants, but the geographic location and topography is what makes it stand out.

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The hotel offers nature walks, and we encourage you to go on them. You will spot incredible wildlife which your tour guide can tell you all about. Our kids were amazing at the kids of animals around us, and excited to learn all about the animal noises they had been hearing.

 

The beach was a picturesque place of white sand and clear water which our kids were happy to frolic in for two complete days. They barely even visited the kids club. We took out a kayak and saw the colorful Jellyfish out in the water. The beach waters are calm and the staff was very welcoming and kind with our kids. We all attended the fish feedings and our kids took turns snorkeling in the coral pool-an experience they still talk about.

 

After 2 and half days, we sadly said goodbye to our utopia and headed back for the city, thinking we would ‘get out’. In hindsight, we wish we had stayed another night at the resort as the city had little to offer. We got some food, hung out at the water and called it a night to get ready for our early flight out.

 

The city of langkawi:

 

We didn’t find much to do in the city. Half a day was enough. There was a sort of downtown area and water that we hung around. Because we were there new years, the lanterns were sent up into the sky which was a beautiful site. To offset the Andaman costs, we stayed at:

I wouldn’t recommend it unless, like us, you are simply there to sleep and leave. It is literally minutes to the airport.

 

While we had a few places to visit on our itineary, such as Telaga Tujuh waterfall and Durian Perangin Waterfall, we didn’t make it there and didn’t mind. Langkawi was a great place to relax!

 

Kochin, India

This one felt far from our comfort zone, but it didn’t need to be. While India can be an overwhelming experience, we laugh that Kochin is ‘India light.’ Yes, you will see plenty of cows and coats and garbage, but with much less traffic and pollution.

 

We came to Kochin for my birthday-alone-for just a couple days. This was our first trip without kids, so I was excited and nervous all at the time same time.

 

We decided to stay at Le Merdian which was a good choice. It was a really nice clean hotel with friendly staff and an excellent breakfast. The grounds overlooked the river which was beautiful with palm trees as far as you can see. Location was so-so, but it didn’t seem like there was any specific play to stay so it was fine.

 

While our plan was to avoid all local food and water (we didn’t want to get sick given our short time frame and the risk of getting stuck without kids) we compromised on hotel food, but no other food. We took a long leisurely breakfast with an amazing staff who made helpful suggestions and encouraged us to try as much of the local fare as we could handle. It was super interesting and fun!

 

With full tummies, we headed out to town to a museum we had read rave reviews about. The Kerala Folklore Museum is located on a side street in an old house. It is jammed (literally) with artifacts dating hundreds and thousands of years old. The guides are extremely helpful and I loved visiting the place. It’s a few levels up and you can spend as long or short as you want here.  We spent about 1.5 hours enjoying the artifacts and then headed out to our next location.

 

We went to visit JewTown, a street which contains of the oldest Jewish synagogues outside Israel. It was fascinating to learn about this community of Jews that had lived for thousands of years and see how much was intact. Today, there are only two Jews left and you can visit their shops on Jewstreet.

 

Aroudn the neighborhood there are a few shops that worth a visit to. Close by we also visited a museum nearby (I can’t remember the name) though it wasn’t that great.

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When it comes to Kochin, we would strongly recommend you take the time to talk around the neighborhoods and find what suits your tastes. There are ancient churches, small shops and lots of museums. We just enjoyed walking around, casually soaking up the city.

Examples of some things we saw:

(fishing nets)

 

(inside, employees were working with tried spices)

 

We even had a tuk tuk driver ask us to walk into some shops so he can get petrol coupons and he drove us around to some really interesting shops and areas. We bought local spices (they were so amazing I wish I had bought more!!!), bought locally made candlesticks-stunning- and explored some old colonial buildings that really took me back in time.

 

We even got to visit a laundry washing place to that was set up for charity. We participated in using the coal hand iron (so much better than electric!) and of course, left a few dollars for the cause.

 

That evening, we went to a famous kathakali show. There are many offered in the city and we hadn’t done our research properly. If you go, I suggest you research ahead of time the best ones to attend and purchase tickets in advance. Either way, the dances of fascinating cultural experiences that you surely won’t want to miss.

 

Day two:

 

On the second day, we only had a few hours with our flight home. We visited the fishing nets-an area overlooking the water with the traditional fishing nets that are used by the local fishermen. This rea, while not particularly beautiful, is colorful and cultural and I would encourage you to visit this area with time to walk around and take in your surroundings.

 

We then decided to hope on a ferry and go exploring. While we definitely got a few looks (I guess Wester tourists don’t take the local ferry?) we loved the experience and sites along the way. It was a great way to get a feel for Kochin beyond the tourists streets and sites.

 

While we didn’t have time for a backwater boat, I would have loved to go on one. If you make it there-take the boat and leave a note to let me know how it was!

Bali with Kids

Like so many people on this earth, Bali was at the forefront of my mind when I thought about the term ‘exotic getaway’. Living in Asia, it became a staple of weekend getwaways. With lots of flights, low-cost accomodation, and one of the most serene and beautiful places to visit, Bali still tops my most favorite places in the world.

 

That being said, many warned us before our first visit that I would be disappointed. “The tourist have ruined it” they cried and were quick to warn us about heavy traffic and a local culture far removed from the tourist eye. And while there may lots of truth to the evolution of the small state of Bali, there is no doubt that there are many places that have retained their incredible warmth of hospitality and endlessessly quiet rice fields.

 

Over our trips here, we have stayed in local and more commercial places. Here’s my perspective:

Local places will, indeed, get you much closer to that ‘real Bali’ you are probably looking for. The hotel staff are kind, warm, will play (and even babysit!) your kids. They are often along quiet side roads with rice field views as far as the eye can see. But, in our experience, it also meant a lower standard of cleanliness and amenities. Of course, there are the luxury local places which are amazing but far beyond our budget. After intense research, I’ll share with you the places we chose and the pros and cons of each.

 

Accomodations:

Bumi Ubud was our first introduction to the Indonesian Island, and it could not have gone better. This is a small locally run villa hotel perched at the edge of local rice fields. As many tripadvisor reviews mentioned, the place was quiet empty which meant a level of peace and serenity I have never quite experienced. While the hotel isn’t quite new, they have a seemingly newish beautiful and well-kept infinity pool overlooking the fields-a spot I still reminisce about often. The family who runs the hotel is especially kind, even if they don’t speak much English, and babysat our kids-for free-multiple times!! They have a car that shuttles you back and forth between the city-the downside to being a drive away from downtown.

 

Yes, our backyard for the week!

 

The rooms, while romantic and Indonesian in every way were quite buggy. Once they sprayed it got better, though we learned that the more commercial Villas have much cleaner, and therefore more usable, outdoor spaces around the villas.

 

Overall, our entire family loved this hotel, the authenticity and connection with the culture, the local side streets and stalls, and long lounges by the pool watching the rice farmers and interacting and  playing with the local kids.

 

On a following trip we opted for a very commercial hotel called Loku Ubud as our needs were a bit different for this trip. One of the reasons we chose this hotel was because it had a mix of hotel rooms and villas (for a lower cost stay) and because it had a large grounds. We maximized our dollars by staying in a hotel room the night we arrived and then moving to a villa the next couple nights. This Villa experience, while definitely less ‘authentic Bali’ was beautiful, clean and we experienced top rated service. What we missed was the close proximity to the rice fields and locals which required a 5-10 minute walk outside the hotel. Again, because we spent more time in hotel, we were ok but if you’re looking for that Bali experience, I would focus on finding a villa or guesthouse located right by the rice fields.

 

The final hotel we stayed at was the Sheraton in Kuta. We had only done Bali beach on past trips for a few hours and decided on this particular trip to take a couple days and enjoy the surf. We chose this hotel because it was new and very well priced for the comforts. Here’s the thing: I didn’t particularly care for Kuta. The beach was sunset, waves were great and sunset was amazing, but I suppose this is the city people refer to when they say ‘Bali is ruined’. The city is a grimy tourist beach town. We got the kids surf lessons, which was incredibly fun, and I would say it makes sense to spend a day here. But a day was enough. The Sheraton was also a 10-15 minute walk from the beach through alleyways which was ok but impacted the ‘chill at the beach’ that happens when you’re with three kids and your bathroom and shower are that far away. Overall the hotel was good for the price but next time I would opt to be on a beach. Lesson learned. By the way- we thought about the Westin in Nusa Dua which I heard amazing reviews about and if we want a resort there, we would probably chose that.

 

Important things to know before visiting Bali:

Beaches:

They range in quality and accessibility. Some of better for surfing, some are better for playing, and look specifically for calmer beaches if you’re with kids. The locals often hawk services like sufing lessons, which we finally gave into. My 5 year old enjoyed it so much and actually rode quite a few waves-we wish we had time for more.

 

We found the beach areas (kuta, etc..), excluding exclusive hotel beaches, to be the sort of wild, a bit grimy experience. But, if you’re looking to party, drink, surf, they can be really fun!

 

Tourists:

They are all over-almost. While the main sights attractions can be very crowded, there are lots of places that are more private. To find these places, you can ask your local driver or do what we did-simply drive around and stop at the places you love. You’re certain to find magical places along quiet roads…..

 

Downtown Ubud:

We have gone ‘in season’ and ‘out of season’ and these were two difference experiences. During high season, downtown was, in one word, horrid. We avoided downtown at all costs, During the low seasons, we quite enjoyed downtown Ubud. It does, without question, cater to tourists, with endless yoga shops and such but it was fun. There were some really beautiful sites to see, such as the old palace and other temples, and we enjoyed some amazing ice cream and vegan food.

 

Weather: The weather is amazing in Bali almost all year around. The best time to go is during ‘low season’ or non-vacation times of year. We once went at the beginning of April which was our best trip while our trip in June was a little too touristy crowded.

 

Transportation: It’s best to hire a driver by the day. You can negotiate a pretty good rate for the low season and it usually costs more if it includes a trip that cuts across the island. From the airport to Ubud, we used ubudtaxi that we arranged through email. They were courteous and on time each visit.

 

What we did:

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Puppet museum:

One of the most interesting, off the beaten path things we did was visit a puppet museum. I had seen it on a website and it took a lot of persistence for the driver to find it (seems most local didn’t know about it) but when we did, we were very happy we made the effort. And surprised to find ourselves the only ones there. The museum is on a beautiful grounds with a few houses of cultural puppets from all over the regioun- fascinating for us and thrilling for the kids. A must see! Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets

 

Coffee:

We are huge coffee drinkers so of course we had to have our fair share of Luwak coffee-or ‘cat poop’ coffee as the kids love to say. For this tasting we opted for a child-friendly local so we can actually enjoy our coffee (entertained kids-happy parents.) We chose to go the touristy Bali Pulina Agro tasting spot. They give you (free!!) samples and charge a small fee for the Luwak coffee-worth it if just to say you drank the ‘poop coffee’. We loved this place so much we visited multiple times. The kids still talk about feeding the cats and you drink your samples overlooking incredibly beautiful rice fields. There are musical instruments for the kids to enjoy and a look at how the beans are fed, pooped, roasted and served. This place is definitely a favorite! And don’t forget to visit the shop to buy some to take home with you!  

 

The Monkey park:

For those visiting from the West, visit the Monkey park-but be warned. These are not cute cuddly monkeys. These are vicious human attacking monkeys who seem thoroughly pissed off that they are featured as a tourist attraction. My then 18 month old was sitting in the stroller as we walked by the forest-not even inside- as a monkey jumped on time of him and grabbed the closed bag of chips in his hand. That sufficiently frightened all of from monkeys for a long time. Many I know have stories of bites and scratches from these creatures. So while there’s something exciting and cool to this street/forest, approach with caution-especially if children are present. Rabies shots have been had by quite a few and the last thing you want is to get stuck in a Bali emergency room. I know it’s a cynical perspective, but I think monkeys may just want to live in peace…

 

Lake Berantan:

We visiting this area during tourist season so we weren’t prepared for the traffic. It wasn’t too bad for us, but definitely check before you head out there. We all enjoyed the drive up to the lake as we took in the beautify around us and made a couple stops to local stalls. The rolling hills and views are an activity on their own. Once we got to the lake, we enjoyed a picnic we had brought, walked around the temple areas and took the picture perfect family shots. There’s also a playground on the site which the kids were thrilled to find. Because of the higher elevation rain is more common and as we were wrapping up our visit, rain started to fall. I suggest you check weather before you go as the whole area is outside and it can get very very dark and gloomy when the rain rolls in.

 

Downtown Ubud: We really enjoyed-in spite of the tourist vibe- though not so much during the high season. When it wasn’t so crowded, we had a great time walking around and eating loads of ice cream. There are a couple of palaces and temples downtown which we had fun exploring. At night they offer shows at the  palace-you can pick up a ticket at the corner though you will get harassed enough times to know just where to find the ticket sellers when you are ready. We also enjoyed the local cafes and massages. Like many countries, you simply need to walk up and down the street to find the shops that mean your needs. Don’t be shy to ask to see the massage room if you’re paying on the street to ensure that it’s safe and clean.

When we visited during the high season, we skipped the downtown all together as the traffic and hoards were too overwhelming.

 

Tegalalang rice fields: It took us a couple visits to decide to visit these rice fields. I would say that it’s not a ‘must do’ but if you have time, it’s nice to talk around if it’s not too crowded. We have seen a couple similar fields in our trips off the beaten path, but it’s still beautiful if you have time.

 

Temples: We visited TONS of temples. To keep the kids entertained we kept bribing with ice cream, would dress them in saris, and allow them to ‘run around’ after much sitting in the car. We also tried to mix it up and not visit so many temples all in at once. There were so many temples that our driver to us to I can hardly remember all the names. I’ll write about the ones we did visit but any you explore will be great.

 

Goa gajah/Tampaksiring (elephant cave):

We enjoyed visiting this temple. It’s quintessential Bali with a great history and the kids loved all the  designs.

 

Tanah Lot: it’s worth it. It’s very touristy but the place is genuinely glorious and romantic to visit. It’s also an opportunity to stroll along the cliffs at the beach and pick up some local fare along the walk. The local roast up an interesting creation of spiced root vegetables that are definitely worth a try.

(Fun tourist activities…)

 

BatCave temple: This temple also had monkeys (so watch out) and a very interesting temple inside a cave up many may steps. The kids -while tired out-enjoyed seeing inside the cave.

 

Tirta Empul/Holywater temple: We really enjoyed this temple as it gave us a glimps into Hindu custom and life.

 

Taman Ayun Temple: This was one of our favorites. There were huge grounds, it was quite empty both times we visited, and we got incredible family photos. There is lots of exploring to do with the kids such as little lake side gazebos to picknick in.

 

Some other temples we enjoyed include:  

Saraswati Temple, Puri Saren Agung, Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Besakih.

 

Mountain Village of Kitamani:

We enjoyed this visit and seeing the volcano and its aftermath. We didn’t take a hike up the volcano but if you’re without children, we might encourage more exploration of this area. We enjoyed lunch and a short walk.

 

Bali… There is so much to love and to be irked by in this amazing place. The local are some of the finest and kindest people and we always enjoyed the time we engaged with them. We love Bali and look forward to our next visit! (probably up north in a local guest house!)

 

Siem Reap with kids

Some people say Siem Reap isn’t for kids. But what better playground can a kid find?

 

Our thoughts about visiting Ankor Wat began a few years before we lived in Asia. I had seen incredible pictures at sunrise of these fantastic temples which, at the time, seemed like a world away.

 

Fast forward to the day we arrived with our kids and baggage in Changi (Singapore)  airport and landed in our hotel. A moment of panic. And then I made that fatefull travel list-Ankor Wat at the top.

 

Ankor Wat wasn’t  our first Asian travel destination, but it could have been. People were discouraging, but they shouldn’t have been. Turns out, Siem Reap is an easy to navigate low-cost city that is small enough to see in 2-3 days and tourist friendly enough for healthy (and comfortable) family eating.

 

Our trip to Ankor Wat was incredible. I hope you can enjoy our itinerary to enjoy it as much as we did!

 

Day one: Arrive in Siem Reap. As you can see, my husband and I go back and forth between touristy resorts and more ‘local’ accommodation. For Siem Reap we opted for ‘local. I’m glad we did. While the cleanliness and service were certainly not five start, I loved the location, the noises, the local flavor-and couldn’t beat the $30 a night funky room! We were also on a very local street which meant we got more opportunities to interact with locals-which we love! The boys got haircuts at a local salon and we shopped for toys at nearby stores. We avoided anything that wears on the body, because, truth be told, most of the shop looked presued! Though they insisted it was new.

 

This was one of our most memorable trips

 

HOTEL:

 

When we landed at the airport our kids were thrilled to learn that Tuk Tuks are the way of travel here. Everything is pretty close to each other, so hopping in a tuk tuk was easy and very kid friendly. We even used it as a bribe from time to time as needed.

 

We grabbed a tuk tuk at the airport-actually two as one carried one adult and luggage and the other the rest of us.

 

We arrived in the late afternoon and settled into our hotel. We immediately booked a tuk tuk for a sunrise tour of Ankor Wat. Most hotels will show you the set prices (which most drivers follow) and the tour lasts about 4-5 hours. We chose to buy a three day pass as we planned to visit 2-3 times rather than stay an entire day. We feel it was a good choice. If you are the type to visit for just a few short hours, no need for a three day pass. But since it was the main reason we had come to visit, we felt like the three day pass allowed us to come and go for shorter amount of time which worked out well (though in the end, we spent WAY more time there than we imagined.

 

Sunrise Tour:

For this tour, we opted to leave the toddlers at the hotel with a babysitter-we had brought our nanny with us this one time. Since I thought the kids would not enjoy the temples at all, we figured it was worth it. In the end, our nanny was helpful for the sunrise tour, though we could have brought our kids.

 

We did, of course, appreciate having our beloved nanny as that meant kids were well rested in spite of our adventure needs. Had they been a bit older and could handle less sleep, it would have been find to bring them.

 

Obviously, the focus of Siem Reap is Ankor Wat and it did not dissapoint! It’s hard to imagine what miles of temples looks like and I didn’t imagine how much fun and beautiful it could be. I was very insistent that we arrive for the sunrise tour, both because of the beauty and because we know how hot the afternoon sun can be. I’m so glad we did it! It’s true that it can crowded, but here are a couple of tips:

  1. Our guide helped us find a couple of temples that were close to the main Ankor Wat temple and quiet. It was so dark and quiet it was spooky and beautiful-a once in a lifetime experience.
  2. As the rays began to peak through the sky, we did not focus on pictures. Instead, we explored the temple. It was silent, empty and cool-the perfect way to enjoy.
  3. Most of those fabulous pictures are taken with high end cameras. While we have some nice pictures, we were watching others with professional high end cameras and they got the ‘money’ shot.
  4. Many days do not have beautiful sunrise-as was the case on the day we visited. Again, it was worth it because exploring temples in the cool dark silence was amazing!!

 

Once we finished touring the main temple, our tuk tuk driver took us to some other smaller temples, which were each incredible and inspiring to roam. We couldn’t stop taking pictures and marveling at the ruins and the growth that has sprung up around them.

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We were back home at 11 and took a good long rest.

 

War Museum:

 

That afternoon we went to the War Museum Cambodia which was a sobering and powerful experience. The museum was put together by soon locals who collected artifacts from the decades civil war that occured in Cambodia. The tour guides are all survivors-so be ready for that experience. They spoke English quite clearly and shared with us incredible stories about life, death, and war that felt like a moving tribute to those who were lost in the fighting. It also gave a content to the state of the country and the thousands of maimed and orphaned people you see in the streets.

 

For the kids, they there were lots of bullets, guns and airplanes to keep them occupied and engaged during the tour.

 

That evening, we went to peace cafe for dinner. A delicious vegetarian place in a beautiful setting.

 

Day 2:

On this day, we reserved a car to take us to the floating boathouses and fishing villages called Floating village of Kampong Khleang in Tonle Sap Lake. We had read online about it being ‘touristy’ and fake, though on our trip we didn’t see one other tourist and there was nothing ‘fake’ about our visit. Perhaps because we had the kids with us, the villagers were very welcoming to us, showing us how they dried the fish and got it ready to see in the market. The boat ride to the floating villages allowed us to see rural Cambodia life up close which we all loved. And our kids are always happy when speeding through local rivers! (total tour: about 6 hours.)

 

We returned from the tour to take a swim in the pool and head out to the downtown area of Siem Reap. While this area certainly caters to tourist, there were delicious foods to try (snake on a stick anyone?) and the kids had a blast. We got dinner, bought a few souvenirs, even got a in a quick massage.

 

For dinner we ate at: Banlle Vegetarian Restaurant which was a gorgeous place with delicious food!

 

Day 3:

On day three we spend some time in the morning walking around our local streets. We bought breakfast, allowed our kids to choose a toy at the local shop (with hilariously fake branded items) and even took them for a haircut at a local shop-the highlight of their morning.

 

Because the kids felt left out of ‘the temples’ as they called them, we make a plan to head back to Ankor Wat about about 2:30 when the sun was a little less intense and bring them along. We planned to go for an hour or two but ended up staying until the guards pushed us out for closing! We couldn’t believe how many amazing temples there were to see, and as we drove more, we stopped at many beautiful spots-including a lake for sunset. The kids were singing and climbing around having a blast. While the temples are similar, each on has it’s own uniqueness and the kids loved it!

 

For that evening, we had purchased tickets to the Phare circus-an acclaimed show that is sold out most nights. We had been warned about not waiting until the last minute, so we purchased our tickets ahead of time, and indeed, it was sold out on the night we attended.

 

We enjoyed the circus, though it wasn’t the quite the hype we hype we had heard. I would encourage you to see it if it fits your schedule, and particularly because there is not much to do after dark in the city. It was a more sophisticated experience, so we left the little ones at home but brought our 4 year old (it’s appropriate for any child that can sit quietly for the duration of the show.)

Day 4:

 

Our last day we spend on local outings-what we would call ‘touristy’ things. We visited a silk farm-a true tourist trap which the kids really enjoyed, and spent more time downtown filling up on ice cream, pedicures and massages.

 

We loved Siem Reap. The vibe, the people, the ease, the authenticity was

Getaround Review – Not Really Worth the Effort

I have a 2017 Hyundai Elantra that I do not drive very often, so after seeing an ad for the Getaround car sharing platform I decided it might be a good option to earn back some money on my unused car. In short, it turns around I was wrong to expect to earn much since after having my car on the platform for a month, there isn’t really much demand in my area to drive someone else’s car. This sort of makes sense since I live in suburb where either you likely already have a car.

Regardless, since I had a chance to try out the platform (and am still on it – check out my car if you want to rent a Hyundai Elantra) I figured it might be helpful for others to review the platform and experience.

Onboarding

I created an account to list my car on Getaround, but then I discovered that my car couldn’t go live until it was “activated”. It actually took a surprisingly long time for anyone to call me, so long I forgot I had signed up. Once someone did call, he qualified me and passed me onto a sales rep. The sales rep walked me through all the logistics around insurance, the app, fees (there’s a $20 fee for the device), tolls and parking. He then scheduled me to have a device installed in my car that tracks the car and can remotely lock/unlock it for renters.

The device installation was pretty simple. Someone came to pick up my car, cleaned it, installed the device and then took pictures. There’s a 24 -holding period before the car goes live and then it’s on the platform.

Technology

There is an app for the car owner which basically allows the owner to lock and unlock the car. That’s about it. All actions like setting a price, updating pictures and descriptions, setting a calendar all needs to be done from the website.

The app seems to be a bit glitchy that even when it supposedly has the car locked, the car is not really locked.

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Rental experience

During my month on Getaround, I only had one renter. I was informed of the rental by email, text and an app notification. The rental went as I had hoped and was completely seamless. I did not have to meet the renter, and my car was returned in the same condition it was rented in. However, this rental only generated $16 for me – not really worth all the effort.

Summary

The concept of renting an unused car to strangers to make extra money seems like an interesting idea, but in practice there may not be product market fit. Oddly, there seem to be more cars than renters or Getaround is just doing something wrong. Also, the technology and experience of Getaround do seem a bit hacky and beta-like so it may be sometime before it all comes together.

Top things to do with kids in Chicago

If you are planning a trip to Chicago with your family, you may be interested in know more about some of the experiences that you could have as a family. Choosing family-friendly attractions can help to make sure that everyone can have a fun experience during your trip. Here are some of the top things that you should do with your kids in Chicago:

The Navy pier: as one of the most important civic landmarks across Chicago this is an excellent place to go as a family. The large Ferris wheel is one of the premier attractions in this area and you can head up 150 feet to see some spectacular views of the skyline and Lake Michigan. The Crystal Gardens are also located here and it’s a perfect place to see a variety of botanical plants and cool lakefront vistas.

Peggy Notebaert nature museum:

As one of the main museums that focuses on the natural history of the area, there are a number of unique displays here that include a huge water lab for aquatic life, wilderness walks, a butterfly haven and more. The butterfly house here has over 300 different species and the museum itself is home to 100 different educational programs that run throughout the year.

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Chicago children’s theater: Chicago has a number of world-class shows that premier almost every year and some of the best shows for kids come out of their premier children’s theater company. This is a year-round children’s theater that features a series of professional and Premier plays that are made for kids. This community theater now draws over 280,000 visitors each year with internationally award-winning plays!

Shedd aquarium: as one of the largest Aquarians in the United States, the Chicago aquarium holds over 1500 species of marine and land creatures. Award-winning exhibits can be found here and kids will love marveling at some of the incredible animals that call this place home.

Keep some of these amazing experiences in Chicago in mind if you are planning on traveling with your family here!

Top things to do with kids in Los Angeles

If you are staying in Los Angeles as a family or planning a trip to this area, you might want to know about some of the best things that you can do with your kids. Here are some of the best experiences that you can have with your children if you are planning an upcoming trip to Los angeles:

Disneyland: Disneyland is a clear favorite for this area. This historic theme park opened first in the year 1955 in Anaheim California. There are 8 different themed lands within the park and enough to experience to last several days exploring its attractions. Disneyland is a true family favorite and a place that kids will love.

Santa Monica pier: this popular landmark that features attractions, restaurants and rides can be a very exciting place to take kids. It has beautiful views of the ocean and plenty of popular landmarks to get some photo opportunities in. The Santa Monica pier offers free admission as well so you can experience it on a budget friendly day out!

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Griffith Observatory: this Observatory that’s been open since the year 1937 has public telescope evenings that’s perfect for family use. Kids can explore the high-tech planetarium as well as take a look through a high-tech telescope to see a variety of celestial bodies up close. Ahis could be the perfect location for any child that is a real astronomy buff!

Santa Monica state beach: This landmark beach is one of the best places that you can enjoy some fun in the sun by the water. If you are looking for a great place that’s just outside of Los Angeles to enjoy a nice day in the sand, this is one of the best beaches for families in the area.

Keep these top options in mind if you are looking for some fun activities to do with kids around Los Angeles.