Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
When I first learned that we would be living in Vientiane, Laos, for two years, I excitedly thought “Great! We’ll be able to zip off conveniently to the many wonderful destinations of SEAsia!” Well I was sorta right and it is sorta easy but not at all convenient or cheap. There are not many direct flights coming in and out of Vientiane requiring us to first fly to a major hub, primarily Bangkok. This not only adds costs for an extra flight but often times costs for an overnight stay in a hotel before connecting to our final destination. The added cost, the extra days of travel on top of the usual hassle of traveling with kids can be a big deterrent to going anywhere, but as our recent trips have shown, it hasn’t deterred us from satisfying our itchy feet. Big improvements in traveling with our children have certainly helped ease the pain.
It is SO much easier to travel with our 3-year olds now for many reasons. (For intrepid parents of younger kids, there IS a light at the end of the pack-a-caravan travel phase, YAY!)
The kids have gotten the hang of our international flight travel routine: play with the zippy lane dividers while mom and dad are checking in; go up and down the escalators as many times as possible before mom and dad drag us to the immigration check and lift us up to the ridiculously high counter to greet a grumpy-faced officer who takes our picture with the plastic camera eye with the red light before we dash off to the other side when mom and dad haven’t been allowed through yet; and then it’s on to security check where we try our bes to get our fingers caught in the x-ray machine conveyor belt which even our favorite-companion-polar-bear has to ride on in a basket with dad’s phone and belt even though we cry and scream about it; after getting through security we have permission to run as fast as we can to where our airplane is parked but there is always lots of lots of toys within our reach along the way that slows us down a bit; finally we see our plane but for some reason we don’t want to run around anymore and dig into mom’s backpack for a drink and a snack and after we finish them mom and dad ask us so many times if we have to go pee pee before we get on the plane that it drives us crazy and we can’t wait to get on the plane and to our seats so we can get our iPads and be left alone in peace.
Yes, that’s pretty much how it goes. And it works.
And no more car seats on planes, no more strollers anywhere, no more diaper bags, fewer emergency drinks and snacks to pack since the kids will eat anything we can get along the way, and we’ve never really traveled with a lot of toys anyway and even fewer now (admittedly, small electronic tablets do come in handy but at least they’re multifunctional).
Being much lighter when we travel has really allowed for more flexibility and ease, particularly when visiting crowded cities. In Hanoi, we were able to spontaneously jump onto rickshaws for a ride to lunch without dealing with a bulky stroller that would have had to ride alone in a third rickshaw. During our recent trip to Bangkok (more photos below) on our return from Bali, we hopped on river ferries and rode on the sky train maneuvering through the crowds unencumbered except for my backpack of wet-wipes, extra clothes, water, wallet, camera and a city map.
The best part of all for my husband and I is traveling with only three carry-on bags. Yup, no check-in luggage to be lost and no waiting time after landing when the kids are ready to bolt out of the airport. SO nice to travel light once again. Our travel system really works for us (Patagonia MLC® Bag for my husband and a small day-pack and Osprey Shuttle for me) – for summer travel we even manage to pack our kid’s bulky swim vests, which we hope will free up sufficient room for raincoats and fleeces for cooler destinations. The only drawback is no extra shoes. For souvenirs we strap them onto the Shuttle’s external compression straps or use an extra small tote we always pack with us.
Still, traveling with young children is rarely easy – as you can see from some pictures below they’re not always smiling – but I’ll take the ease that’s come with being much much lighter on the luggage scale and having less bulk to carry around.
We are sure to see a lot more of Bangkok having to transit through there over the next year for most of our upcoming trips. These few days on the way back from Bali was a good introduction for what we’ll be able to plan with the kids in the future. I definitely aim to eat well on each and every visit. (The recommendation made here for Soul Food by Dani was superb. We loved the pomelo salad and flank steak, and will definitely be going back there to try the rest of the menu.) Ooooh, I just remembered someone telling me about an overnight train from Vientiane to Bangkok, a good way to add variety to our transit routes out of Vientiane – must get planning…