The End

Our final destination before returning home was Thailand. Our friend Jing and her father-in-law Vitoon were kind enough to invite us to spend a week at Vitoon’s beach house, which was a three hour drive south of Bangkok. It was quiet, tranquil and not too hot. There were lots of tidal pools and sand bars for playing in on the beach.

We spent hours hunting crabs on the beach, which we ate in crab soup (sorry little crabs)!

We did a lot of swimming with Jings’ children, Max and Jax, and their grandfather, Vitoon.

One day we saw an amazing rainbow!

One afternoon we took a hike to a big cave in the side of one of the mountains.

The limestone cave was huge and had an opening at the top.  And, of course, there was a temple with a Buddha.

After six relaxing nights at the beach we made our way to Bangkok, and on the way we stopped at a floating market, where people wanted to sell us every possible trinket.

Kate buying mango and sticky rice – YUM!

Bangkok is a very modern, big city. We took a couple of tuk tuk rides to get around (we barely squeezed in – if Matthew were any bigger, we would not have fit into one tuk tuk).

The main mode of transport for us was the Sky Train, an elevated, modern train system that afforded beautiful views of the city and was much more fun than a dark subway.

The train was a lot of fun inside, too…. sort of like the monkey bars.

There was special seating on the train for a special part of the population:

When Matthew was a baby he could not properly pronounce Anna’s name so he called her “Nana,” which was also the name of our train stop.

We took a boat ride to see a massive reclining Buddha.

While in Southeast Asia, we read all seven Harry Potter books aloud.  It will forever be linked in our minds with our experience and time there. We finished the last book in the Minneapolis airport when we arrived back home. Kate noticed this graffiti near our hotel in Bangkok. She thought the head and wings looked a lot like a snitch:

Being from a country without any royalty, we were fascinated to be in a place that had it’s own monarchy. There were pictures of the king and queen virtually everywhere, and the king is revered by his people.

The last day we were in Thailand we went to Chatuchak, a humongous market that sold every thing— I am convinced it is one of the largest on the planet.  I heard there are 6,000 vendors there. The children were so happy to see animals for sale, including puppies, hamsters and birds.

And of course we had our fill of Pad Thai and many other local dishes.

Our favorite meal was the last — Pad See Ew – something we got on the street. So fresh and good!

After a 2:45 a.m. hotel pickup, we were finally on our way back home… it seemed impossible to believe.

Upon arrival on U.S. soil, the children went straight for burgers and pizza.

Upon arrival in Cleveland (yes, Cleveland – yipppeeeee!) we had a very warm welcome from Bee and David:

What would you do after being away for six months? Kate’s 8th birthday was the day after we arrived, so we had to celebrate that with friends and family at Dewey’s and she got her ears pierced!

Kate getting her ears pierced (who ever said it was painful — look at that smile!)

And if you find yourself jet lagged and awake at 4:00 a.m., what else to do but make a dress for your American Girl doll?

We really missed blueberries, so we promptly ate 3 lbs from the farmer’s market.

And what better American summer pastime is there than a lemonade stand with friends?!

Ahh….. to be home is lovely.  We truly enjoyed our time in Hanoi, but I don’t think we ever appreciated Cleveland more. On the way home, our family created the following list together (in no particular order):

What We Loved About Hanoi

  • Bun Bo Nam Bo, fresh summer rolls, banana flower salad
  • Fresh food and herbs from the local market
  • Shopping and bargaining in the Old Quarter
  • New friends from all over the world
  • The love and affection Vietnamese show for children (especially ours!)
  • Finding interesting and surprising things on every walk through the city
  • Watching what people carry on motorbikes
  • The beautiful trees in the city
  • The aquarium fish in Lang Yen Phu (our neighborhood) and walking through the alleyways
  • Having a tailor make cheap, nice clothes – even house calls!
  • Mangos, mangosteens and dragon fruit
  • People watching (all the things done in public like hair washing, hair cutting, picking gray hairs and nail clipping in the street)
  • Having the time to read the entire Harry Potter series aloud as a family
  • Hot tea, daily
  • Rice, daily
  • Seeing all the insanely high heels worn by women on motorbikes
  • Walking around Westlake
  • Neighborhood festivals and exploring temples
  • Burning paper money
  • The fun and confusion when speaking English and no one understands
  • Monks in their beautifully colored robes
  • Our pet birds, Pretty, Cheerio and Cookie
  • Fresh Hanoi chicken
  • Sticky rice cooked and sold in bamboo sticks on the side of the road
  • Fresh grilled or steamed corn, bought on the street
  • Sugar cane, also bought on the street
  • Matt’s pet fish, Killer
  • Saturday soccer at UNIS
  • Concordia International School
  • Weekend trips around Vietnam
  • $10 massages
  • $2 pedicures
  • Avocado custard apple shakes by the Cathedral
  • A tiny Jewish community that welcomed us with open arms
  • Playing with baby frogs at the Hanoi Club
  • Paparazzi taking photos of the kids
  • Weasel coffee
  • Not having to wear a seatbelt in the car (says the kids)
  • Our cello and violin teachers

What We Missed and Love about Cleveland

  • Dog leash laws
  • Grass
  • Sidewalks you can walk on
  • The public library
  • Clean tap water
  • Trash pick up service once a week
  • Clean, organic fruit and veggies
  • The Shaker Lakes
  • The public library
  • Bruggers, Deweys, blueberries and raspberries
  • Our dog Coco
  • The printed daily New York Times
  • Family and friends (of course!)
  • Asking for something and being understood
  • Public trash cans
  • Birds singing, squirrels, chipmunks, deer
  • Marsh mellows
  • The public library (wait, did I already say that 3 times? But gosh we missed that!)
  • Agnon School
  • Water fountains (that you can drink from)
  • Running outside with friends
  • Our house, dolls, toys and the kids’ blankets
  • Our vegetable garden
  • Spring weather
  • Ice skating
  • Riding our bikes
  • Playing baseball and softball
  • Indians games
  • Hiking at Squaw Rock
  • Visiting Chautauqua
  • Friday night services at Park Synagogue
  • Music lessons at CIM and our teachers at home
  • Going to movies
  • Parade the Circle
  • 4th of July parade in our neighborhood
  • Playing in the Martin’s back yard

That’s it for this blog – I don’t think there is much interest in a Clevelanders in Cleveland blog, so I am signing out. Thanks to everyone who read our blog and posted comments and helped us feel connected while we were away.  Thanks to all our friends in Vietnam – we hope to see you again soon one day! Our home is open to all of you if you ever come to the Midwest.