March 05, 2019

Kuala Lumpur

Just a month after moving to Phuket, we'e off to Kuala Lumpur on a visa run. We're only spending 48h there, and although I was initially annoyed I had to plan another short trip and take Saoirse on it, it turns out to be a wonderful adventure. We leave in the evening and arrive late at night in our apartment overlooking the city. In the morning, we queue in front of the Embassy to get our visa processed, and luckily we're out quickly, which gives us the whole day to visit the city.

It's Callum and Saoirse's first time, but I've been here before. Four years ago, at the beginning of my year in Asia. It was my first big asian city, and I was nursing a terrible flu, dozing off from weird medication given by a chinese doctor. I remember this place in a haze, and yet everything is the same. It's so strange to come back to a place I've spent so little time in, yet being able to find my way through the streets. Memories sprouting out of the painted walls, the chinese lanterns, the powerful jungle roots cracking the pavement open, weeds dangling from every tree. To think that a few years ago I was wandering in this city alone, and now I am doing it with my family. I take them on a tour of the places I'd seen. We buy Saoirse little gifts at the market (an embroidered dress and a painted tambourine), and walk along the river. We visit the National Mosque, and Saoise runs around in her yellow dress, attracting looks and giggles, whilst I try not to trip on the purple hooded robe I have to wear. We spend hours in the Museum of Islamic Arts, Saoirse sleeping against my chest while Callum marvels at the calligraphed books. A storm hits and so we retreat home in a taxi, and watch the rain from our balcony.

At night, we head to the walking street to find food. Saoirse tries pho and steamed crab. The next morning, we have breakfast in a park – nasi goreng and a plastic bag full of sweet mik tea. The city is greener than I remember, easy to navigate, and so welcoming we almost feel sorry for leaving. But before the feeling can really set in we're picking up our passports, newly stamped with our visas, and heading back to the airport. As we drive home that evening I cradle Saoirse's head, asleep on my lap, and smile at my love. I am the luckiest to be exploring the world with these two.

First Days in Thailand - part II

February 11, 2019

First Days in Thailand

I didn't think I'd be heading back to Asia so soon, but here we are. We've spent a good portion of the summer apart. C was working full time, and Saoirse and I traveled in France for three weeks. So it feels somewhat strange to be back together, especially in such a busy time. C and I haven't had any time together alone in a long while, but here we are, running through London trying to get paperwork done, rummaging through boxes of stuff to find our summer clothes, and packing away our winter gear from Scotland. Two days, two duffelbags packed, and a newly walking baby falling down the stairs (she's fine, but I still shiver thinking about it), we are ready to go.

This is our second long haul flight with Saoirse. She was six weeks old when we came back from Ecuador, and neither of us could believe our luck – she slept the whole way, only waking up to nurse, and wasn't jet-lagged at all. This time is different. She's one, she can walk, and we've made a mistake thinking taking a flight at night meant she would fall asleep... right ? After we've raced through Moscow airport to catch our connecting flight, I try to settle her down against me. No such luck. The next ten hours are, for lack of another word, hell. She will only settle down when nursing, and jumps in and out of sleep crying every fifteen minutes. We are THESE parents, annoying everybody else with our screaming child. I feel guilty she's so unwell. Turns out, it wasn't just the flight – she's actually sick.

We arrive in Phuket dehydrated and seriously sleep deprived. Get in a taxi, find your accommodation, discover the accommodation doesn't check in until later, find a coffee shop to sit in whilst your overtired child screams at you non-stop. We look at each other with a smile that says : I got you. I'm exhausted. I got you still. We check in. As soon as we drop our bags she is throwing up.
I undress us both, carry her into the shower. I let warm water run over both of us, holding her close, telling her it will be okay. I'm on 30h without sleep.

The rest of the day is spent trying to beat jet lag. It's hard to do when your baby falls asleep on you every five minutes. Asia is just as I remember : swallowing. The heat, the colours, the bustling vehicles rushing through the streets. We take her to the swimming pool and suddenly it hits me – we've landed in our new country. Hello, Thaïland.

Moving countries was never going to be easy, but we know how to do it by now, or at least we think we do. In Ecuador the first house we visited was the one. We checked out from our hotel early, laughing at our luck. This time, it takes four days of traveling back and forth, spending a fortune on cabs because we're not ready to rent a bike yet, and nothing feels right. On the third evening I break down. In bed, Saoirse sleeps whilst I cry and C tries to comfort me. I feel so vulnerable, almost in danger. I feel the adrenaline of being in this new place all alone. A knot in my stomach making me feel like a small child, afraid of everything.

But then the knot resolves itself – it always does. We find a house. It's on a lovely quiet street, painted green, and it's huge and open and beautiful. That same day, we have gorgeous pad thai for lunch. I accidentally buy 2 kilos of mangosteen. Saoirse plays in the pool and laughs. I breastfeed her on a motorbike. This place is crazy and hard and full of life, nothing like what I thought, and everything we need.

Those first days in Thailand were hectic, and after all of this, we finally find time to go to the beach. She eats handfuls of sand, swims in the waves with me, and lets strangers cuddle her in the back of a local bus. She is already home here. We on the other hand, are still navigating the codes of this place, and after that, we'll be doing so heavily sunburnt. Worth it.