Trip Pulse: Bangkok – Spicy complexity on our round the world trip.

Thailand is a colourful, tastefully proud and complex society. And, we love it!

Our adventure round the world brought us to Thailand, a colourful and vibrant monarchy that still embraces democracy while being fiercely patriotic to their King. It is a land that offers the perfect blend of tradition and modernism. The Thai people are closely linked to Buddhist teachings and are non-confrontational and very hospitable in nature.

Bangkok – Thai capital home to over 10 million people and the longest official name according to Guinness Book of World Records

Busy Bangkok welcomed us with open arms. A truly vibrant city, the new Bangkok isn’t very different from downtown Toronto. However, although the new Bangkok has its share of western modernism with shopping malls and concrete skyscrapers, we enjoyed the old Bangkok which has retained its traditional core reflecting the spiritualism of this bustling city.  We just loved the street markets.

Famous Bangkok street food - if you have the guts

You’ll find everything from Thai fast food to ‘genuine’ brand items from around the world, all at an amazingly discounted price. Trust me, 100 Baht can go a long way when you’re shopping on the road.

Birthday celebration fit for a king

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and I share the same birthday on December 5th so our timing was perfect! For a little pampering, I opted for a wonderfully royal one hour Thai massage – amazing!

Amazing meal on Khao San Road in Bangkok

The perfect evening ended with a delicious dinner on Khao San Road in the company of my favourite two people –  Natasza and Niko. Thankfully, we didn’t get a cab back to the hotel so we ended up walking along the street, gazing up at the thousands of balloon lanterns that lit up the night sky.

Some of our most memorable Bangkok adventures

When you travel with kids, every experience seems memorable! However, here are some noteworthy ones that I will look back on with a smile.

Khao San Road

We saw a palm reader on Khao San Road in old Bangkok and were quite happy to find that Natasza had some good fortune coming her way. How exciting!

Boat ride on the River

As the Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok, the boat ride is just amazing. For a few Baht, you’ll get an awesome view of the city from a completely different angle. Skip those expensive private tours and take a public transport boat like we did. Live like a local!

Tuk Tuk Ride

When in Bangkok, you just have to ride the Tuk Tuk. It’s cheap and so much fun especially when you travel with children. You might even get a free ride as market vendors often offer to pay your fare if you buy something from their store.

Fun and famous Tuk Tuk rides

Temple Hopping

We enjoyed temple hopping and visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw Arun by the riverside. Did you know that there are over 400 temples in Bangkok?

One aspect that really stood out was the fact that Thais absolutely love their King and the royal birthday celebrations were truly unforgettable.

Amazing Thai street food

How can we forget Thai food! Both on the street and in up-scale restaurants, the cuisine is delicious but be careful where you decide to eat. Niko loved the chicken satee! Although we skipped the Floating market, we enjoyed a visit to the Royal National Art Museum.

Bangkok with kids can be lots of fun!

When you travel with kids it’s important to keep them occupied and happy! Although a lot of the local attractions were closed due to the floods, Niko still enjoyed the boat trip and the splunge in the hotel pool. Too bad Bangkok lacks kids playgrounds except for a large one in Lumphini Park. If you’re heading to Bangkok, you’ll want to check out the Siam Ocean World and the Butterfly Garden.

Our family travel tips for Bangkok:

A couple of tips to keep in mind especially when you travel with kids would be

  • to avoid tap water
  • be careful while crossing the busy roads
  • carry mosquito repellent
  • remember to dress appropriately when visiting the royal grounds
  • it would be wise not to discuss politics or make any negative statements related to the King unless of course you want to spend some quality time in jail!

Many shrines with the Thai King in Bangkok during his birthday celebrations


  • One area of frustration was that Bangkok was not very stroller-friendly, so flex those muscles.

Bangkok was everything we expected and a little more. From a culture steeped in both tradition and modernism, we enjoyed every aspect of this South East Asian city.

What have your experiences been like in Bangkok with your family? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Bangkok (Thailand) visit:

Trip Pulse: KoTao – Paradise and a must have on your round the world itinerary!

Ko Tao is a gem definitely worth visiting on your round the world trip or family getaway!

It is named Turtle Island in Thai even when most turtles have escaped elsewhere to make way to thousands of scuba diver wannabes.

The development of the island started just ten years ago and it manages to keep a ‘virgin feel’ to its larger cousins, Ko Samui and Phuket with just over 100,000 visitors a year. Getting there is not as much of a challenge as it is sickening, literary, to the stomach:)

We had to endure a high-speed, bumpy catamaran ride for over 2 hours from Ko Samui. Truthfully, we have never experienced such sea sickness in our life and judging by our neighbouring passengers, neither did they! Let’s just say, we should have listened to our friend, Justyna and bought ourselves some motion-sickness pills (for kids preferably, as they are non-drowsy). Needless to say, Niko was fine and slept like a baby throughout the entire trip while we suffered.

But once you get off the catamaran you realize it is worth the sacrifice!Beautiful beaches of Koh Tao

Ko Tao is a very beautiful, small and so far one of our favourite island beach destinations. It has amazing beaches, breathtaking views, phenomenal diving/snorkelling and fantastic food. It is still laid back with relatively few tourists but with all the necessary needs and wants fulfilled. We wish we could have stayed longer!


Koh Tao with kids

Nang Yuan Islands just of the main coast are just amazing for kids. Niko loved the 15 minute  long-tail boat ride, the shallow crystal clear waters and all the colourful tropical fish that just swam up without having to dive.

Niko loved the boat ride on longtail boat in Koh Tao

Off season is a great time to go if the weather cooperates…

Mostly cool kids, some young families and long-term travellers visit during off-season.

When looking for accommodations during the low season (Sep-Nov), we recommend to book a place just for a day or two in advance. When on site, spend half a day checking out most proper places along the beach and ask for a discount at the perfect place.

This is how we found ours, at Sairee Beach, which even though is further away from the serene Freedom Beach, offered kid friendly Ko Tao Freedom Beach Views from the top
accommodations all within walking distance. We opted out for a hotel with a kiddie pool, easy access to the beach, shops, restaurants and medical services, just in case. It was also the best value for our budget.

Mae Haad beach may be a good alternative as everything you may need as a family is also within a walkable distance.

Getting around on Koh Tao ain’t easy, if you are a family that is …

The Island is predominantly designed for mopeds and ATV’s, so a safe solution for families is not always available. We like walking, so we chose that as our form of transportation.

Diving or snorkelling in Ko Tao is just amazing

I completed my Open Water Diver Certification here. It was just 4 of us and the instructor. I dove on some of the most amazing sights and recommend Tropical Fish Ko Tao while snorkelling with kidsdiving here to anyone whether you’re a beginner or advanced. The conditions boast great visibility, vibrant tropical fish and a colourful coral.

You can’t go wrong while on this island as a family…So, what do you think of Koh Tao? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Ko Tao (Thailand) visit:

Trip Pulse: Ko Samui – Tourist Trap or good value for families? Improve you round the world trip success…

Ko Samui can be a great destination for families on their round the world trip, but not all choices are good ones.

Ko Samui is one of the most touristy places in Thailand only bowing down to Bangkok. This once backpackers’ heaven on the Gulf of Thailand is now the most developed island with over a million and a half visitors per year. Beside white sand beaches, coral reefs and rain forest, it also offers good local Thai cuisine and some truly unique buddhist temples. But is it authentic? Is it worth to add to your round the world itinerary?

More developed towns like Chewang beach are tourist traps with prices double of what you can get elsewhere including neighbouring much friendlier and quieter Lawai beach.

We came during the monsoon season (usually from September to November) so the high winds brought in cloud cover and wavy seas making it tough to enjoy the islands’ famous beaches.

We were however able to explore the more spiritual side of the island by visiting most of the temples and taking day trips to some of the hidden and less travelled corners of the island.

Here are some of the Ko Samui’s attractions that make Ko Samui a place still worth visiting.

Ko Samui Temples

Wat Plai Laem and Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)

This holy place with three grand Buddhas is set in a man-made lake. You not only can buy your fortune from an automated fortune-teller machine but also leave a permanent mark by signing your name on tiles which will become part of the temple (we did it too).

Mummified Monk in Wat Khunaram

This monk allegedly predicted his own death and requested that if his body would not decompose after his death, for it to be put on display as a symbol of his faith and path to nirvana. He got his wish, 30 years after his death the monk’s body shows little sign of decay except for his eyes covered by Ray Ban sunglasses.

Laem Sor Pagoda

Located on the southern tip of the island, this holy place is truly unique. Rarely seen on tourist maps, this gem is a must-see. 

Laem Sor Pagoda, Ko Samui - Round the world with kids

Beautifully situated by the coast this temple is beautiful. We also drove up the hill next to the pagoda, that is home to a large Buddha statue, that apparently holds Buddha’s actual bone under its foundations. In 1903, a monk buried a fragment of the Buddha’s bone that he brought back from his pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. The statute was constantly hit by lightening and hence susceptible to fires. To cut the risk of damage, Buddha’s bone was relocated elsewhere. Not sure, how much truth is in this story (printed in badly translated English on a sign next to the statute), but it definitely helped to make this place feel extra special.

Natural and made-made wonders

Hin Ta – Hin Yai – natural coastal grandma and grandpa rock formations with a tale behind it, that surprisingly closely resemble human male and female genitals:)

The grandfather rock, Ko Samui, Thailand - Round the world with kids

Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village

A charming village that retains the original Thai-Chinese atmosphere even if already packed with many new hotels and guesthouses.

Just drive around

Many tourists rent mopeds or jeeps and we decided to get us a 4WD beast ourselves, the famous Suzuki Jimni. The drives through palm tree plantations and up to the rainforest hills are worth it! From there we enjoyed the views of  Hin Lat Falls, places like the Secret Buddha Garden and a breathtaking panorama of the island.

Ko Samui for kids and families

There are a few attractions deemed kids friendly that we decided to explore including Namuang Safari Park known for its elephant trekking and shows as well as Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo. We can not recommend either! We were appalled by the elephant show’s MC who appeared intoxicated, sniffing what appeared to be drugs in front of the audience. We decided to leave the place mid show. Both the safari park and the zoo appeared to us of  poor upkeep conditions and questionable animal treatment.

Thail Elephants Ko Samui - Round the world with kids


We did however read good reviews about the Angthong Marine National Park, a marine park that is a major draw for families. We felt Niko was still too little for this attraction, but it maybe suitable for older kids.

There are over 250 resorts on the island, so make sure to pick those that are kids friendly, with playgrounds, kids pools and even babysitting services.

Perhaps, it’s good that it wasn’t beach weather during our stay as it forced us to explore the very unique and perhaps the more authentic part of the island. Some parts of the island like Chewang lost its original Thai nature and succumbed to pressures of the demanding tourist, but there is still a part of the island worth exploring!

So, what’s your take on Thailand’s Ko Samui island? Please share your view in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Ko Samui (Thailand) visit:

Trip Pulse: Phi Phi is for the young of heart. Our round the world trip continues.

Ko Phi Phi is a must for your round the world itinerary

Average visitor’s age is late twenties, it has amazing beaches, cheap yet delicious cuisine and excellent, inexpensive scuba diving. Oh yeah, and no mopeds or cars:)

Tsunami and Leo

This small, 28 sq km paradise island on the Andaman Sea, even though it is advertised as one of Phuket’s main attractions, is in fact 50 km away from it. The 2004 tsunami and some say, the production and aftermath of the famous movie “The Beach” devastated the island. The character’s experiences and Leo De Caprio’s wide appeal contributed in making this paradise one of the most sought after travel destinations where travellers search for the quintessential zen-like freedom.

Ko Phi Phi beach sunset during a looming storm - Round the world with kids

Unlike Phuket, which is full of leash-less dogs, Phi Phi Don is the opposite with hundreds of cats in its valleys. Its Muslim background and Ladyboys’s prevalence and acceptance also add to the unique nature and distinct vibe of this island.

Phi Phi for families:

Even though it was scorching hot, the crystal clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, jungle fauna and flora and amazing views make this island one of our favourite destinations! The car and moped free alleys filled with dive shops, street food vendors and tourists still managed to deliver a laid back atmosphere that was very enjoyable.

Hotels are more expensive yet sub-standard to Phuket. For a good reason; it is paradise after all.

Our toddler Niko playing with the fish at Maya Beach-Round the world with kids

Needless to say, our son Niko loved the warm waters, his endless search for the most beautiful seashells as well as his first experiences swimming with the colourful tropical fish. He did also perfect a new saying while strolling with us in the alleys full of vendors: No thank you!:)

Maya Beach Island is a must see

We decided to visit the infamously beautiful Phi Phi Kah (Maya Beach) Island where “The Beach” was filmed. It is located just a short boat ride away from the main island. The trip itself is an adventure as we rented a long-tail boat with a personal driver ($40 or 1200 Baht). We  explored the island’s amazing topography, Monkey Beach (with monkeys running freely), a mini cave village and a stopover at a few amazing snorkelling spots.

The Maya beach itself is letdown with hundreds of visitors and boats covering up its beauty. We opted out for a tiny beach without any other visitors to enjoy the magnificent views.

Close encounters with fellow Torontonians

Big shout out to Mike, a zookeeper and dive master from Toronto whom we met on a bus ride to Surat Thani. He told us some unreal stories about his Phi Phi adventures living with a family deep in the jungle. At times he had to defend the fort from monkeys attempting to steal food from the house. He also gave us invaluable and practical tips on how to behave around animals including monkeys, potentially aggressive dogs or other freely roaming animals on the streets of Thailand.

For instance … to tell  if a dog is potentially dangerous, look for his tail between his legs when approaching. This suggests a non-confident dog that could potentially attack when frightened. His suggestion is to walk around the dog, while looking in his direction to avoid direct eye-contact, as it may be interpreted as provocation.

We would love to hear your thoughts? Anything on Phi Phi, other favourite beach destination or Leo De Caprio? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Phi Phi (Thailand) visit: