(I’m trying to get partially caught up on 2014 before 2015 arrives.)
(This is part of a series of things that I should have recorded in 2013 – things which were highlights of the year, but which didn’t get recorded when they were fresh in my mind. Now you mostly just get pictures.)
Well… not exactly ‘summer’ vacation. It’s hard for folks who live at camp to get away during the summer. So we took an early September vacation to Washington DC and convinced my parents to join us.
Washington is such a great place to visit with children, because they think they’re on vacation when it’s really an educational experience. (And every vacation must have an educational component. This is an inheritance from my parents, as my sister can attest.) And it’s also a great place to visit on a camp salary, since all the government attractions (including the Smithsonian Museums) have free admission. We spent parts of three days in the area.
In the evening, we relaxed at the hotel…
On day 2, we visited museums around the Mall. But riding public transportation may have been just as much fun for the girls.
And I visited Starbucks…
And then we said farewell to my parents and returned home.
(Editor’s note: Apologies to those of you who received this one out of order on Wednesday.)
Three months ago, my family and my wife’s parents travelled from Chicago to Cambodia to visit The Guests Complacent (my brother-in-law’s family). We spent two weeks at the end of November exploring Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Mesang, and Kampong Som.
In the time that we’ve been home since then, I’ve had a blast blogging about the trip and remembering all the fun things that we did. Alas, I have no more stories to share, but I wanted to gather everything together, so that I can keep remembering. Here it is…
Pre-trip: counting down the days
- The Rainbow House of Learning goes global!
- Countdown to Cambodia… 20 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 19 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 18 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 13 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 6 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 4 days
- Countdown to Cambodia… 16 hours
- Countdown to Cambodia… we’re off!
- Part 7 – The road to Siem Reap
- Part 8 – Central Boutique Angkor Hotel
- Part 9 – Angkor
- Part 10 – On the Tonlé Sap
- Part 11 – Silk
- Part 12 – Beng Mealea
Phnom Penh (again)
- Part 13a – Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas: my pre-Cambodia thoughts
- Part 13b – Thanksgiving in Cambodia
Phnom Penh (last time)
- Part 18a – Returning to Phnom Penh
- Part 18b – Jackfruit chips, clothing factories, and Advent
- Part 19 – The final day in Phnom Penh
I took roughly 1200 pictures in Cambodia. If you throw in those that Ordinary Spouse and my mother-in-law took, we may have come home with 3000. Here are most of my favorites.
I’ve mostly finished telling the story of my family’s visit to Cambodia last November, but there are a few more things I wanted to write (this post) and a few more pictures that I wanted to show (the next two posts).
A word of thanks…
My brother and sister-in-law and nephew hosted our ordinary family of five and the parents/grandparents for two whole weeks. I know it was tiring, but we really appreciated it. As two months of blog posts should show, it was wonderful. Thanks!
Also, thanks to my parents-in-law for helping us to get there. 🙂
What would I have done differently?
In general, I might have been a little less paranoid about what I ate and drank. Then again, my digestive system had two “interesting” weeks anyway. Nevertheless, those interesting weeks are nearly forgotten now (just like the sunburn/iced coffee incident from eleven years ago).
However, I have thought of three specific things that I would change:
- A group photo with my brother-in-law’s host family – One of my fondest memories is the meal that we ate in Mesang. Eleven years ago we took a photo with everyone, but this time we didn’t get one before we left. But family ties are important, and I’m sorry that we forgot to take that picture. This one ranks first on the list.
- Exploring all of Ta Prohm – While my family was exploring this wonderful and mysterious temple, I was looking for a geocache in one corner of the place. I wasn’t able to find the cache, and I missed seeing some of the best parts of the temple. Now it turns out that the geocache wasn’t even there anymore. (In some ways, that’s a good thing. I hate it when I can’t find something that actually is there.) This would be a bigger regret, but I saw the temple during our last visit before it was made famous by “Tomb Raider”.
- A visit to Tuol Sleng – Perhaps you may find this odd. Why would I want to visit this notorious prison? To be sure, I had no desire to take my girls there. But as for myself, I wish, in some small way, to remember the lives the were lost, both in the prison and also throughout the country.
What has changed in eleven years?
Ordinary Spouse, her parents, and I visited Cambodia in January of 2001. Many things were as we remembered them. For example, Phnom Penh has a distinctive smell all its own. I think it’s a mixture of prahok, cooking fires, incense, traffic, and other random hints of city life.
But there were a few things that have changed…
- The main roads were better – We could drive to Siem Reap this time. Last time, it was plane or boat.
- Cell phone coverage seemed to be everywhere – Even on Lake Tonlé Sap.
- Internet access is impressive (at least in some places) – The Guests Complacent have faster speeds than we do.
- “Lexus” is a status symbol – It seemed like everyone who could afford a car wanted to drive a Lexus.
- Siem Reap felt more “tourist-y” – Interestingly, Phnom Penh didn’t feel very different to me.
- The country as a whole felt a bit more stable – The last time we were there, the country was only a few years removed from some significant government upheaval.
Up next: A few more random bits
Well – after more than two months of blogging, it’s time to clear the shoes from in front of the door and bring the story of my family’s trip to Cambodia to a close…
I’m sure that there was much more room at the front door after we left.
It ‘s hard waiting around all day for a late-night flight. We had managed to do a few things to keep busy during the day (a trip to USA Donut and to the Russian Market), but by supper time there wasn’t much left to do but twiddle our thumbs (and take one last evening shower to cool off after the heat and humidity of the day). After a round of farewells, we hopped in the van at around 9 p.m. Wednesday for one final trip. Last stop: Phnom Penh International Airport.
It’s hard taking a red-eye flight with children who generally go to bed around 8:30 p.m. Indeed, Youngest Daughter fell asleep, so we loaded her on the luggage cart and wheeled her around the airport.
Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.
Well… we wheeled her around until the officials at customs and immigration split up Ordinary Spouse and me. And they made Ordinary Spouse take the girls. That may have been the hardest part of the trip for her – trying to get three children and some carry-on luggage through the airport by herself. Eventually, I caught up with her and was able to help again.
The wait at the gate seemed to go on forever, but I guess that is how the wait for international flights always feels. Eventually we boarded (only a little late!), and shortly after midnight we were on our way to Seoul.
I think that we all managed to get some sleep during that flight, but Youngest Daughter may have been the only one who actually felt rested when we arrived in Korea on Thursday morning. We rested in a quiet part of the airport (the second level is wonderful!) until our next flight. My single goal was to visit a Starbucks, just so that I could say that I’d been to one overseas…
They would accept U.S. dollars, but change was in won. That was just fine with me – I wanted some Korean money – so I used cash rather than credit. Oldest Daughter and I both ordered a peppermint mocha…
And we also purchased some souvenirs…
Elsewhere in the airport, my mother-in-law and older daughters visited the Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center. (It doesn’t matter where we go – we’re still in school.) Middle and Oldest Daughters made dolls that they got to bring home…
And some of us just slept.
Anything will do for a bed if you’re sleepy enough.
Finally, it was time for the final flight. Let’s be on our way.
It seemed to me that on both return flights, we had more turbulence than we did on the way over. The disconcerting feeling of being bounced around seven miles up in the air was made easier by the fact that we seemed to have a really strong tailwind speeding our trip. At one point, the information screen said that we were moving along at over 700 miles per hour. I’ve never seen a speed that high. I also noticed that we didn’t quite follow the great circle route between Soeul and Chicago. My guess is that they wanted to get into the jet stream.
Late Thursday evening, we crossed the international date line – back to Wednesday. But by the time we landed in Chicago, it was Thursday again, so our trip went Wednesday-Thursday-Wednesday-Thursday. The final run through customs and immigration seemed to go much better, especially when Youngest Daughter acted grumpy for the customs agent. Perhaps she felt sorry for us. In any case, we zipped through…
And on the other side of customs, we were delighted by another stretch limo to take us back home. It was the same driver that had taken us to the airport two weeks earlier!
And so ends a vacation to remember for the rest of our lives. Jack and Lexi were glad to welcome us home.
Well – that’s not quite the end. But almost. I’ll take on a few more posts to tie up some loose ends. Then it will be time to get back to blogging the routine stuff.