Before Anjali started her new job full time, we decided to getaway for a few days to sunny Arizona, away from rainy and cold Sausalito. We knew this is likely our last flight together as a family until the summer when we go celebrate Dada-Dadi’s 50th Anniversary in Europe with the entire family. The kids were very excited to be on a plane again. We had the most amazing luck during our journey across 4 continents that all our flights were on time, no lost baggage etc. It came to an end when our flight was a couple of hours late and slightly messed up our plans since we were driving straight to Sedona that day. The kids did well on the short plane ride and had a nice nap. We rented a Jeep and drove 2 hours to Sedona that evening arriving to our hotel at night, a little past their bed time (Arizona is 1 hour ahead). Ayaan has gotten to the age where every few minutes he’ll ask “how much time left to reach?” It makes us wonder how we ever did our 10000+ miles of driving! (Luckily he only started on this trip). We stayed at the Sedona Pine Ridge resort that turned out to be super kid friendly and had a nice small cottage for us.
Kids didn’t sleep great though and Ayaan woke us up in the wee hours (he’s awake at sunrise). We ate some yummy Mexican breakfast and started our day hiking in Sedona. Weather was wonderful in the mid 60s and sunny, and we all enjoyed hiking the red rock Cathedral trail. I took the carrier, but I was very proud that both Ariana and Ayaan wanted and were able to hike themselves with little help. Ariana on the way back told me “I am having a lot of fun doing this with you daddy”. They are so attuned to the outdoors and travel at this point. We did another short trail to the bell, before grabbing some Tamales for lunch. The kids were quite tired so we headed back to the resort for a dip in the heated pool and hot tub. That got Ariana exhausted and she had a nice nap. I had to do some project work, so Anjali took Ayaan to the park and to play mini golf in the resort. They also went and bought some groceries so we could BBQ outside the room (inspired by our neighboring cottage who helped us set up) and have a chill night. Our last morning in Sedona, it was overcast and started pouring before lunch so we drove around, went to the Chapel of the holy cross and had some chai and listened to live music at the arts and crafts market.
Done with the rain, we drove to warm Scottsdale while the kids had a nice long nap for the entire time. We checked into the Westin Kierland resort and spent the afternoon in the lazy river and pool. Ayaan made a friend who had a water gun and Ariana befriended a couple of older girls that kept her smiling. The resort was kid friendly once again as we sat outdoors to grab dinner while listening to bagpipes first and then a live singer. A huge surprise was awaiting Ayaan, as they had S’mores – his absolute favorite! Anjali and I spent some together on the balcony of our 11th floor hotel room overlooking the Sedona area and the golf course, while enjoying the live music downstairs and discussing career decisions for me. I’ve been a bit stressed this trip as I decide amongst a few options. Our final full day in Scottsdale started with story time for kids at the resort. We then took them to Macdonalds ranch nearby. It was a super unique experience for us visiting a traditional western ranch with a petting zoo, pony rides and western games. The kids loved every bit of it. We ate Vietnamese for lunch and Ayaan was so happy to get Vietnamese crepes – his favorite from the entire journey over the last few months. After a nap, we spent more time doing the same as yesterday – pool time and live music.
It was a great short getaway and family time before we truly end our full time travel and start full time work.
After a couple of hectic weeks in South East Asia, we spent the next and our last week in the region on the relaxing island of Phuket. We arrived by a 2 hour Air Asia flight and were picked up by the hotel and transferred to the Naka Island, Luxury Collection by a speed boat, a tiny island off the coast of Phuket. Ayaan loved the experience including ringing the gong on reaching the island and sitting in his favorite buggy. The check in experience was great as they took us straight to our room which was very helpful since Ariana was sleeping. We were upgraded to a beautiful villa overlooking the bay and islands with a private pool, a private hut and an outdoor soaking tub. Over the next 3 days we spent many hours lounging in our villa and ordered room service several times. The main pool was fantastic as well with a large area for kids to run around. The beach had soft white sand and the water was shallow, and the kids and I spent several hours digging muddy puddles to splash in. Our agenda over the 3 days was essentially non-existent as we spent the mornings in the pool and beach after a great breakfast, chilled in our private pool and hut while the kids napped, and took the kids for ice cream and to the game room in the evening. Ayaan attended a cooking class in which he enjoyed making chocolate sticks with sprinkles. He was very amused when he found a frog in the soaking tub one of the days! We got a babysitter one night and had dinner at the upscale My Grill restaurant onsite. The only downside really were the mosquitoes and bugs, and Ariana often asked “will you scratch my owie?”. It was a great relaxing 3 days for all of us as we all got a major tan.
After a wonderful 3 night stay at Naka Island, we took a boat and taxi to our final hotel of the trip – the Le Meriden located close to the busy and touristy Patong. We were ready for some action after a relaxing stay at Naka Island. The Le Meredien is a large hotel with 500+ rooms and some of the best and largest pools we’ve seen. It has one of the most magnificent beaches with calm, warm water, white sandy beaches surrounded by lush green tropical forests. The kids enjoyed the kids club with both an indoor and outdoor area. The staff was nice to provide a baby potty, stepping stool and a bottle warmer. Anjali loved the fact that they had live music everywhere and the balcony in our room was located right above where the live shows were every night which was great entertainment as the kids slept. On our second night we got a babysitter at night and explored the infamous Patong district, especially Bangla road and it’s branching Sois. We spent the evening listening to some of favorites from the 90s played by a rock band and capped off the night with some hookah.
Next morning we took the all day cruise to Ko Phi Phi islands on the Blu Anda catamaran, since we figured it would be safer with the kids. In our almost 6 month journey this was our first all day tour/trip, so Anjali and I were both nervous. The kids did amazingly well and the tour was very well organized – we highly recommend it. We spent the day cruising the stunning blue-green waters on the catamaran stopping for snorkeling at the Monkey beach first. The sand was incredibly white and soft and the water was crystal clear with colorful coral and diverse fish. It was my first time snorkeling after LASIK and it made the recovery worth it! We then stopped at Phi Phi Don for a Thai lunch overlooking another stunning shallow beach overlooking the limestone cliffs. After lunch we cruised to Phi Phi Le for another snorkeling adventure at Tonsai bay which was cut short a bit with some rain. We ended our adventure with a sail around Phi Phi Le including a visit to Maya Bay (made famous by the “The Beach”). Maya bay beach was closed for environmental recovery but the sight itself was stunning. The kids napped on our sail back to the pier and in the minibus ride back to the hotel. We were exhausted after the day trip but decided to go for a nice family Thai dinner downstairs Including some yummy Tom Kha.
We spent our last day chilling on the beach and in the pool, hanging in the kids club, and Anjali and I had a chance to get a beach massage each! The kids have definitely gotten more of a handful during this SE Asia leg partly because of their age and partly because they’ve lost some discipline. But did we have a blast? – “Ummm Yess” as Ariana says. Off to Bombay for a final 3 weeks before we head back west to America and say goodbye to Asia. Thailand we’ll miss you, especially the Pad See Ew!
We drove early this morning to Salzburg, a return visit for me after 20 years, on our way to Munich. The city seems to have developed considerably since I last visited, but maintained its charm. Our first stop was the Mira bell palace and gardens where I reminisced about the songs from Sound of Music. Next, we headed to see the Salzburg Cathedral but it was closed for Sunday service. We strolled around the beautiful baroque quarter, and stopped in a beer garden for a tall mug of beer while the kids played in the fountains and sand pit nearby. After a satiating Indian meal, we continued our journey to Munich while the kids napped.
Gaurav and Ayaan were thrilled to be checking in to the Westin Grand, a hotel with air conditioning after several nights of apartment living. Gaurav’s insights and love for hotels while traveling (and lack of appreciation for apartments) should give us lodging real estaters some comfort in the midst of the sharp rise in shared lodging establishments. After some rest, we headed to the famous Hofbrauhaus for some mugs of beer with sausages, roast chicken and pretzels. The kids enjoyed the live music and the meal. We then strolled around the various squares and made our way to Marien platz where the sounds of beautiful live music at every corner had us stopping several times to appreciate the beats. Later that evening, Gaurav and I enjoyed the remainder of our Tignanello after putting the kids to bed.
The next morning, it appeared that Gaurav was more excited than either of the kids as we planned to visit Legoland! A first for me, it was pretty incredible to see miniature cities replicated entirely in LEGO – Venice was particularly impressive due to our recent visit. The kids enjoyed riding in the LEGO train, boat, car, helicopter, and following the boats and trains in the miniature models.
Today is our last day with a car; we return it at Munich airport tomorrow and fly to Brussels. The past seven weeks have been incredible! Ariana has blossomed into a lively toddler that loves to sing – she awakens singing and often sings during the car rides. Her favorites are “baa baa black sheep”, “how far I’ll go” from Moana and “Five Little Monkeys” complete with the act of jumping on the bed! She’s also extremely talkative and expressive and her comments often leave Gaurav and I looking at each other in wonder going “did you hear what she just said”. Keep that going, Ariana. Ayaan continues to be very caring particularly about his little sister which is also very gratifying to see. Nearly 7,500 kilometers later, Au Revoir to our white Puegot, you served as well.
I spent 24 hours with Ayaan and Ariana alone in Marbella while Anjali flew to Frankfurt for the night with her parents. It was my first night with them alone outside our Sausalito home (luckily I do have plenty of experience single parenting with Anjali’s work travel!) and I was nervous. We decided to check into the Westin from the Airbnb since I felt it’ll be easier in a hotel to manage both of them. We were lucky enough to get a good rate and an upgrade to a huge suite, and also change our reservations in Granada and Madrid by a day without much hassle. My luck is never great when Anjali is traveling as Ariana woke up from her nap with a light fever.
I decided to take it chill and we spent most of the time in our room outside of going for a walk around the resort, pool and golf course with the goal of getting hot milk. The Westin is a beautiful property with great service and a fantastic hilltop view of the mountains, sea and the Marbella area.
So how did I entertain the kids? Ayaan and I first made coffee while Ariana napped. Ayaan of course took all of the sugar packets and cream and added to his cup of coffee (he did not drink it, but did manage to drop it on the couch!). Ayaan and I then ate an apple and a peach that the nice lady delivered to our room complimentary. Once Ariana woke up feeling better things got a little crazier. She ate her favorite popcorn while I cut Ayaan’s nails. And as a treat both of them got cookies that they gobbled down like monsters.
We had a nice dinner in the room with their favorite chicken nuggets, fries and fruit leftovers. And then things really got fun. Ayaan asked “Daddy can I please play with Ariana for some time?”. And he turned to Ariana and said “Ariana let’s play 5 little monkeys” and they both started singing and jumping on the bed! Once the kids were in bed, daddy finally got some free time to watch the England-Colombia game.
The kids slept really well and woke up late! We had a nice breakfast at the buffet where the kids had cereal, oatmeal, watermelon, orange juice and churros with chocolate strawberry sauce (as Ariana says “Mama not happy”). We then hit the kiddie pool and sang, danced and played with the ball in it. Now after our bath we’re off to pick up mama at Malaga airport and head to Granada!