Monday Montage: No Words Necessary

Today I am letting the photos do all the talking in my Monday Montage. Happy Labor Day to everyone back in the States!

I thought the way this Banyan tree was wrapping around the other tree was beautiful.

I thought the way this Banyan tree was wrapping around the other tree was beautiful.

A gloomy day and low tide in Cape Panwah.

A gloomy day and low tide in Cape Panwah.

Z walking on the bench along the beach in Cape Panwah.

Z walking on the bench along the beach in Cape Panwa.

Z and her new friend Fatima. I love that traveling has given Z the opportunity to get to know kids from every walk of life.

Z and her new friend, Fatima. I love that traveling has given Z the opportunity to get to know kids from different cultures and religions.

More of Z walking in Cape Panwah. I love her carefree attitude and bravery.

More of Z walking in Cape Panwa. I love her carefree attitude and bravery.

The clock tower in Phuket Town is stuck on 9:25.

The clock tower in Phuket Town is stuck on 9:25.

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The Piggyback Rider – Review

The Piggyback Rider
by Chad R. Mitchell

Baby on baby, on babe.

Baby on baby, on babe.

One of the more challenging parts of traveling with a toddler is the ability to control their movements. They are constantly in motion, and usually looking to move in a direction that is opposite to that of their parents. I cannot count the number of times I have gripped Z’s hand in a struggle to either pull her along, slow her down, or yank her out of danger’s way. I love that she is motivated, and independent enough to want to explore on her own, but I also don’t want her slipping down the side of a cliff, or dashing headfirst into oncoming traffic.

Let me, let me!

Let me, let me!

If she doesn’t ride in our beat to crap well-worn stroller, then she wants to walk, or to be held… and frankly she is getting far too big to be carried for extended periods of time. I may think I have the endurance of an ox, but in truth my arms feel like they are screaming after lugging her along over the battered streets and many stairs of SE Asia and beyond. Frankly, I miss the days when she fit in a backpack, contained and content, a shared experience we both loved since she could barely hold her head up by herself. Unfortunately most backpacks are simply too bulky of an item to add to our baggage count, and we were also worried that they would make us and Z too hot in the higher temperatures of the places we travel.

So, it was a great surprise to hear of a novel new product that would allow us to keep her on our backs, but would also allow her to be an active participant in the journey. It also claimed to be extremely light weight (under 3 pounds!) and small enough to fit in our carry on baggage. I found the product online via their website, and contacted them to see if they would ship one to Thailand. Fortunately they did, and we have been using it for the last 9 months.

Sure you can climb. Jen said no...

Sure you can climb. Jen said no…

The Piggyback Rider is a backpack, but not like one that I have seen before. The significant difference is that the child is standing while riding, and hangs on to a set of rungs to keep themselves tight. It is intended to simulate a normal piggyback ride, but with added assistance and security. The toddler is securely clipped in via a lightweight backpack that they wear themselves and the bar that they stand on is a metal bar that rides right above the lower back of the parent. It is a very unique system, and for the most part it has been amazing.

Exploring caves together!

Exploring caves together!

The Positives:
Over the last few months we have been using it in night markets, crowded cities, and treks around semi-flooded islands. It is very portable and is easily slipped inside our small baggage. The Piggyback Rider has performed as expected, and it is amazing the amounts of heads that turn when we go by with Z on our back. People with toddlers chat excitedly and I am always glad to tell them what it is and where to find it. It comes in a variety of models, and the one we have has a water bladder that our daughter loves to drink from. It is made of high quality material, and is easily washed and stored in-between uses. Finally, it is mostly comfortable to use for extended periods of time, and I really was surprised at how easy it is have her get in and off when needed. A simple step down on my part, she clips in, stands on the bar, and off we go. If the bar is off kilter I can easily adjust it with one hand via the adjustment strap.

Wading through flooded islands. She didn't want to ride... again.

Wading through flooded islands. She didn’t want to ride… again.

The Negatives:
When we first got it, Z was not even three years old. They recommended age is from 2 1/2 years, and I personally think it might be better at 3. It requires a bit of dexterity on the child’s part to stand on the bar and our daughter was a little frightened at first that she would fall off. Of course, after a while she was comfortable and would start to lessen her death grip loving embrace on my neck, rather than the handles that are on the straps. Also, the toddler portion of the backpack doesn’t latch, which means that there is a slight possibility they could slide out of their own backpack, though it would be very difficult to do so.
Secondly the bar itself can ride awkwardly on the back of the parent. I found that if the bar rode too high, or too low, it would chafe and be uncomfortable for long periods of time. This was solved by adjusting the height, but it can be tedious at times. By the time I usually find a spot where both Z and I are comfortable she is done riding, and her legs are tired of standing and occasionally slipping on the bar.

Overall:

I really wanted to love The Piggyback Rider, I really did. I was so excited to try it and to use it every chance I got, and unfortunately we haven’t used it as much as I had hoped. For the most part it is a great design, and as Z gets older I hope to use it more. At the moment she gets tired of riding it quickly, and then it becomes one more thing (though it is light!) for us to carry. I think that if there was a way for toddlers to sit when they needed, and if the harness system was a bit more secure, I would think it might be close to a perfect alternative to the more traditional backpack. As it stands I am glad to have it, but look forward to how it might be improved in the future.

 Disclaimer: We did receive a discount on this product to review it, but we searched for it and found it on our own. All the opinions are our own. For more information about our legal stuff check out our Disclosure page.

Monday Montage: When It All Works Out

No, this is not another post about how I am working out. This post is about how everything seems to be working out for us to be able to travel for a longer time here in Thailand.

In my 201st post, I had written about how Thailand was changing the immigration laws on visa runners.  When we decided to settle in Phuket for a little while, there was no problem with us leaving every three months, getting a new tourist visa and re-entering the country. This was a totally acceptable way to travel for long periods of time in Thailand. Recently the rules were changed and visa runs (especially direct in-and-out border crossings) were disallowed. There was much scrambling and panic as the many expats that had lived here for years with just visa runs every so often felt the doors to Thailand closing on them. What the rule changes meant to us, was that we would have to pick up stakes a bit sooner than expected and move somewhere else for a while, or start traveling to different destinations more quickly again (a new place every month or so). Our problems could have been a lot worse, I know.

This was not the plan that Chad and I had when we rented our lovely home in Phuket, but plans often change in life, and even more when you are traveling long-term. Chad and I started praying and planning as much as we could for what may happen.

Then, in the news today, the new Prime Minister  of Thailand apparently said that the new immigrations laws that would have affected our stay here, were going to be repealed. So, it seems that we are going to be fine here for a bit longer. It was truly an answer to prayer, one that I was not expecting to be a yes, but was. So be prepared, we are going to be writing more posts about traveling with our toddler in Thailand and its neighboring countries (Malaysia next month!) for a little while longer.

I want to share some pictures with you today from our week that may give you a glimpse as to why we want to stay here just a little longer. Happy Monday everyone!

 

Laem Ka beach, Phuket

Laem Ka beach, Phuket, Thailand

View of Laem Ka Beach

View of Laem Ka Beach

View from O2 Beach Club, Chalong, Phuket, Thailand

View from O2 Beach Club, Chalong, Phuket, Thailand. My mommy group had our last play date here.

Chad and Z on Laem Ka beach

Chad and Z on Laem Ka beach

There is always a photo op right around the corner in Phuket Town, like this one that Chad and Z nicely posed in for me.

There is always a photo op right around the corner in Phuket Town, like this one that Chad and Z nicely posed in for me.

Walking through Phuket Town towards the night market.

Walking through Phuket Town towards the night market.

What do you love about the area that you live in? The sunny beaches, the way all four seasons are so different, the snowy hills, the architecture? Leave a comment and tell me!

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Railay Beach, Krabi

One of the most popular destinations in Krabi  is Railay Beach. Railay beach is only accessible by boat, but is not an island, limestone cliffs surround it and cut it off from the other part of the mainland.

We were staying on near Ao Nang beach and it was really easy just to catch a long tail boat from the tour boat office located at the Wangsai Restaurant on the Napparat Thara beach.  The long tail boats cost 200 baht per person (Zoë was free) for the trip there and back (during low season). Unbeknownst to us we had the choice to be dropped off at different parts of the beach, (West Railay Beach, Phra Nang Beach, or Tonsai Bay) so we hopped off the long tail into the high tide surf at West Railay beach about 20 minutes after leaving the dock at Wangsai. West Railay Beach is lined with a few restaurants and resorts, a tattoo shop, and a mini mart. There was probably more as well, but we did not spend much time there.

Noppharat Thara Beach Map showing where to go for Long tail boat tickets.

Noppharat Thara Beach Map showing where to go for Long tail boat tickets.

A close of of where to get long tail boat tickets to Railay beach.

A close up view of where to get long tail boat tickets to Railay beach.

We wanted to see the limestone cliffs and the beautiful beaches, but our goal for the day was to traipse past the east beach to see the Phra Nang Cave. This cave is thought to house the Phra Nang, Princess Goddess, and is a place where sailors still come to leave offerings for safe journeys. These offerings are usually flowers, incense, and such. Oh and others come to leave fertility offerings which are phallic sculptures. For those of you who may be confused, that means that there are all different sized wooden penises throughout the cave, piled up on each other all over the place. Yep, we had to see it, so we headed that way.

We started walking from the west to east beach. The two beaches are connected by a walkway that was mostly without shade and a little confusing as the resorts DO NOT want you on their property unless of course you are their “guest.” The security guards let you know if you put a toe over the line, too.  It was a little annoying. Regardless, the walk only took about 10 minutes.

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There sure was a lot of resorts for such a small area.

When we arrived on the other side of the peninsula, we realized that the due to the high tide, the walkway to the cave we wanted to see on Phra Nang beach was covered by about a foot of ocean. We didn’t mind getting a little wet and decided to walk through it. It was a bit tough at some points, but was fun and we felt adventurous. On the way to the cave, we realized that we could have been dropped off from our long tail boat much closer to the cave if we had just waited and gotten off at Phra Nang beach.

Wading through the water to get to the cave.

Wading through the water to get to the cave.

Finally the path sloped upwards and our now prune like feet got a chance to dry off as we walked down a lovely laid out stone path around a limestone cliff. It was a nice leisurely walk and after passing some clean bathrooms (10 baht charge) we came to Phra Nang beach and cave.

A shady and well-paved path.

A shady and well-paved path.

Walking around the limestone cliffs.

Walking around the limestone cliffs.

The first thing that I noticed was that the beach was rather small, well it seemed more that way as a tour group was taking up most of the beach and yelling encouragement to their friends and families as each of them climbed the limestone cliff there.  At the far end of the beach though were the Phra Nang caves. Yep, that’s right, there are two caves, well, one is really more of an alcove, but both had area’s for praying (chanting?) and giving offerings to the princess goddess. Obviously I am not a person that believes in this type of thing, but the beauty of the cave and the humor of all the male parts (we were very respectful, but still!) were worth the easy and beautiful walk there.

Climbing the limestone... no that is definitely not me.

Climbing the limestone… no that is definitely not me.

The beach was rather small with all those people on it.

The beach was rather small with all those people on it.

That's me in front of the smaller Phra Nang Cave.

That’s me in front of the smaller Phra Nang Cave.

Z  and Chad played in the surf for a while (even finding some of the wooden statues on the ocean floor! Oops.) and then we started the walk back. We decided to try a different way back and quickly found out that only resort guests were allowed that way, so doubled back and went back the way we came in.

Playing in the water/

Chad and Z playing in the water.

The walk around Railay Beach was easy and the cliffs were gorgeous. I would really recommend checking out Railay beach if you are in Krabi, but I have a few tips for you if you do:

 Tips to Make Railay Beach the Best!

1. Make sure to check the tide schedule.  It would have been a lot easier and much more accessible for us if it had been low tide. Unless you like to tread water while you walk, check the tide schedule.

2. Bring your own snacks, take-away lunch, and drinks.  As with anywhere else in the world, if you are forced to buy from only one or two places because you are on a secluded resort beach, you will pay the exorbitant prices.

3. Don’t bother bringing a stroller. Regardless of what the water levels are, this area of Krabi is not made for strollers. We actually were trying out a product that we bought to review called The Piggy Back Rider. You can read that review next week, but it was great for this excursion.

 

What do you think about caves filled with awkward statues?  Have you ever been to Railay beach? Would you wade through sea water to get to your next destination? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Wednesday Write-Up: Working Out

As my 35th birthday fast approaches, I have been feeling like I want to be a healthier, stronger, and happier Jenny.
I wrote a post a while back about Promises that I was making to myself. One of them was that I wanted to get into a fitness routine.  I finally feel like I have done it, or are doing it… however I am supposed to say it, I am finally doing it! I have been working out regularly for about three months now. This is almost a miracle, I haven’t been this excited about exercising since I was in my very early 20′s. I am so excited!
Before this new found determination (turning 35 is kicking my butt in gear) I had taken long hikes and yoga classes here and there, but while I was visiting California this year I got hardcore. Ok, well hardcore for me. I started jogging 20 minutes a day. For being a person that was definitely NOT a jogger, it was a huge step (no pun intended).

Look at me, all fashionable when I work out. Okay, maybe not...

Look at me, all fashionable when I work out. Okay, maybe not…

Now that we are back in Thailand, it can get a bit hot to jog during the day when I am able to get out of the house child free. Lucky for me, we have a neighborhood exercise park that has a stationary bike in the shade! So now I ride the bike for 20 minutes a day 5 days a week, and then do some of the muscle toning machines concentrating on my thighs and triceps. Will I ever get rid of the swinging arms? Hopefully. I can see it in my future. The best part is I get to work out in a gym for FREE! Granted it sometimes feels like I am biking in a sauna, but the extra sweat makes me feel like I worked out extra hard. And I get to work on my tan, I just can’t lose in this situation. Well, except maybe inches and pounds.

My bicycle in the shade.

My bicycle in the shade.

My free gym.

My free gym.

So as my birthday approaches, I am not only looking forward to ice-cream cake and presents, I am looking to being a better Jenny for the next 35 plus years.

What do you do to exercise? Do you love to move and feel the rush of fitness? Leave a comment and tell me! We can encourage and support each other.

Monday Montage: One

I have just one photo for you today. Yep, just one!
We are currently traveling around southern Thailand and enjoying our time as a family.
My regular posts resume on Wednesday, where I am participating in a Blog Hop! Make sure to follow/subscribe to And Three To Go so you won’t miss it! It will be so much fun!

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This is a picture taken from Railay Beach off the coast of Krabi, Thailand. (I will be writing a post about our time in Krabi on Friday.)

Happy Monday and see you on Wednesday!