My apology for not updating talktog for nearly two months and I know some of you have already asked me a few times about any updates of my twins since January. Well, here I am with my first ‘DOUBLE BILL’ episode. There’s a good reason for such a big gap this time though. I usually write my baby blog a month behind to allow me to get a selection of baby photos for the month that I am writing. However, I was away for the first three weeks in March and it meant that I didn’t have time to do any of this let alone writing a blog. But this episode is surely very exciting because I will include our family travel for the first time!
So please bear with me as this blog is going to be a little longer than usual but in turn you will be treated with some of our travel photos too (my ‘proper’ travel photos will be featured in a separate travel blog so stay tuned!!).
Just to carry on from my last blog, both Ashton and Annabelle were growing fast. How so? Well, Ashton’s legs were much stronger now. Though he may not be walking just yet but he’s definitely ‘bouncing’ around. Yes, he propelled himself forward by bouncing and hopping using his hips and knees! I always thought that’s a very hurtful thing to do but it seemed not to bother him at all. Annabelle had becoming a little lady with lots of expressions and attitudes. While she didn’t hop as much as her brother to get somewhere, she had developed how to use her expressions to get things done (yup, like pulling a sorry or sad face and pointing at things that she wanted or liked and got us to get them for her!). But the cutest thing was that they both really loved to play with my wife and I.
Ashton, as a social master, really loved playing with other kids too! Even when they were older than him. He just enjoyed the company. In opposite, Annabelle could just sit in a corner and played with herself and whatever she could find to entertain and occupy her mind. That’s very evident after attending a couple of birthday parties and just by strolling around shopping centers.
February was a rather quiet month for us but we were looking forward to our forthcoming trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia. Sue had spent weeks planning the trip and that included packing and preparing the twins. Yes, I wasn’t joking and planning for the kids were definitely one of the most difficult tasks we had. In the end, we ended up one large suitcase just filled with their ‘supplies’ and that excluded the travel cot and two buggies! I had never packed so light for my long travel though. Fortunately, since we were traveling with Malaysian Airline, each of us was given a 30-kg luggage allowance! So we had lots of capacities. By the end of our packing, we ended up with three large suitcases, two hand luggages, one backpack, one small camera bag, a baby bag, two handbags, a travel cot and two buggies!! Just like moving house!
While traveling, looking after the twin wasn’t a difficult task but getting from A to B was definitely more challenging. It required planning, energy and patience. My first shock was our outbound flight from London. Ashton and Annabelle now needed lots of stimulations and attentions so containing them in a confine space (i.e. the footwell in front of our seats) was hardly interesting to them. So after an hour or so, they would lose interest and wanted to go somewhere else. While trying to entertain them continuously (it didn’t help when we took a morning flight so they had a whole day of ‘consciousness’), it was very tiring both physically and mentally. As a result, none of us could relax during the entire duration of the flight. Throughout the entire 12-hour flight from London to Kuala Lumpur, we only had just enough time to get a glass of water and to go to a toilet break. Well now you get the idea. Babies and long haul flight simply didn’t mix well, at least for us.
While we praise Malaysian Airline’s first class service and the lovely new A380 double-decker plane, we just didn’t think the infant cots were that nice. But that’s the only thing we weren’t 100% but everyone did look after us very well indeed.
Overall, we thought our flights were smooth, even after changing at Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong. Yes all of us were knackered but we thought we had achieved something like climbing up the Himalayas.
I do believe that twins are definitely 500% more difficult than single baby when it comes to traveling. I do not think that we could cope without the help of Sue’s mother. The first few nights in Hong Kong was definitely got me to the edge. I lost my temper virtually every night. While all of us were exhausted, the babies still needed our ‘entertainment’ and attention, even at 12am. Yes, jet lag was a very horrible thing to deal with, for babies. Because my twins were still very dependable on us so we ‘had’ to look after them, even when we were completely drained. Since we left London, none of us had a proper sleep for longer than 3 hours at any one time and you could imagine just how stressful that was to human body and mind (well, Sue had been doing that since they were born… so I salut my wife!!!!).
We still ventured out every day because it WAS our holiday. But for those who are interested to know, Hong Kong isn’t baby friendly. No, definitely not! Unless you are in a modern shopping mall, there weren’t any space or nursery area for you to feed and change babies. With tight streets and lack of slopes for buggies in most areas, including MTR train stations, using public transport seemed like an impossible task. So, we taxied everywhere.
Before we flew, I had that mental image of ‘our’ holiday. But the fact was that this holiday was ‘our babies’, even though they might not remember anything. We scheduled everything around them. Unlike our previous trips to Hong Kong, our late nights didn’t exist anymore and we were home by 5pm virtually everyday for their feed before we had dinner. By 8pm we sent them to bed then we could have a shower before we spent the next two hours preparing for the next day. At around 11pm, we could finally sit down and ‘relax’ before the TV, and that was the only time we had to ourselves, before any of the twins woke up again.
Despite all these hassles, we did have some fun as a family. Because of my work and house renovation over the past year, I barely spent long enough time to see Annabelle and Ashton. So this trip was very good for me, as a dad. I’d got to develop the bond among us. By the end of our Hong Kong stay, both Ashton and Annabelle really ‘wanted’ me. It is always good to feel needed.
During our week in Hong Kong, we had lots of good and fun time. We went up to the peak for a stroll, to various different shopping malls, the sea side and our favourite place, the Ocean Park. More importantly, it was the twins first meeting with grandpa and his sister aunty Kitty. Despite the cool and drizzly weather, we thoroughly enjoyed our Hong Kong journey.
In terms of weather, we were in for a shock after the chill in Hong Kong. When we landed at Kuala Lumpur, we felt the heat as soon as we stepped out of the airport. Our dear friend Lilian greeted and transported us back to her house for the remaining stay in Malaysia. From 13 to 33 degree in a matter of hours wasn’t fun. The addition of suffocating smoke from forest fire both from Indonesia and around Kuala Lumpur and the energy-sapping heat, we decided to rest for our first night.
Kuala Lumpur was a very ‘busy’ city, much like Hong Kong yet slightly more spacious. It seemed that Ashton and Annabelle didn’t like the heat so much so we tried to stay in the shade or better still in places with air-conditioning. During our stay in KL, we visited a few very nice and modern shopping mall. We didn’t go there for shopping but more to spend time with the babies and as a family. They were clean, spacious and very VERY baby-friendly. More so than Hong Kong which was to our surprise. Food was definitely cheap in KL, when compared to Hong Kong and UK. If you are adventurous, there were many different choice for food but beware, Malaysians have very ‘strong’ taste buds.
Of course, as tourists, we had to visit a few ‘must-go’ places such as the Petronas Towers and Batu Caves. Petronas Towers are the symbol of Malaysia’s success as a country so the people are very proud of them. It certainly was a magnificent building. Having been an engineer for my first 7 years of career, I came to appreciate how things stand, especially these type of skyscrapers. Having had a couple of sunny days, the sky was a ‘white’ when we visited the tower because of the fire smoke again. We had a little drama just before we entered the lift too when Annabelle decided to have a number two. Because the tickets were booked and changing the time wasn’t an option, we had to ‘do it’ on the spot. Sue changed her behind a sofa (As the tourist entrance to the tower was in basement, there was no lift for buggies nor any changing facilities, so parents be warned!). What we didn’t expect was that the entire group of people who booked for the time slot was waiting in the lift! We were a little embarrassed when we had them waited for ten minutes but we didn’t want to drag the smell into the lift which would have caused more complaints.
We had some views from the top of the tower but we couldn’t see too far but we just enjoyed the experience indeed. That evening, Lilian took us to one of her favourite crab restaurants to eat… crabs. Yes they only do crabs and fried chicken wings! But man oh man, didn’t I just tasted the best crab in Malaysia?? Sue and I loved it!! We also enjoyed that little ‘alone’ time as husband and wife because mother-in-law and Lilian’s mom were looking after the babies. Thanks moms!!!
The next couple of days we visited the Bird Park, the biggest free flying enclosed bird zone in Asia and the famous Batu Caves. Ashton and Annabelle were fascinated with feathered creatures indeed. With Batu Caves, I must admit that this place was magical. After a few smokey days, we had a perfect clear day. I had a brief look on the net about the caves before visiting. Most photos I came across were similar with the giant golden god statue in front of the caves. So that was what I had in mind. But after a few hundred steps, I saw some of the most spectacular details that not many people had captured before (more photos will be included in my Travel Blog later). The cave itself was very cool on its own but when I looked closer, I discovered many more interesting details. While most tourists was photographing the monkeys (yes, there were lots there and be warned, they were very vicious!) and the temple, I took a slightly different angle and include details of the temples with the cave as the back drop instead. The result was very ‘National Geographic’.
Neither my wife, her mom and the twins went up to the cave. It’s virtually impossible with the buggies as there was no lifts or slopes we could push them. Going up meant carrying them by hand and while a few hundred steps seemed ok for me, it’s a whole different story for carrying babies. The steps were fairly steep and quite dangerous to come down. So it’s not recommended for parents with very young children’s or babies.
Also monkeys, yes I did mention monkeys, were very vicious there and they would take whatever eatable from you if not careful. So something definitely not for kids.
After the caves, we decided to go to One Utama shopping mall to get freshen up. I must stress that hailing a taxi as a tourist in Malaysia means that you WILL HAVE TO PAY A PREMIUM!!! Yes, despite all types of warnings from our Malaysian friends, it’s impossible to get taxi drivers to use their official meter (for a proper fair) at any tourist points. So our experience told us that wherever you wanted to go in Kuala Lumpur, you would be charged around 40-45 Malaysian Ringgit (around £8 as of March 2014). We got lucky once with a metered driver and we were only charged a quarter of that fair for a similar distance from the caves to Utama. That’s the difference. So as an advice from me, try to squeeze the quoted price instead of trying to ask them to use the meter, you will get told off! We weren’t being soft or something but it’s pointless to waste time and especially so when we were with two babies under blazing hot sun!
Our last day before flying to our beach resort in Langkawi, we spent the day at Central Market near downtown KL. It’s a market filled with antiques and some interesting merchandise for tourists. I found it more of a time passing destination than an eye feast but we loved it there because it’s air conditioned and somewhere that’s not a shopping mall.
While we thought KL was hot at around 35, we didn’t expect that Langkawi was even hotter! After arrival, we took a ‘fixed’ price taxi to our resort. Ashton and Annabelle were frustrated because of the prolonged exposure to heat and humidity, so they moaned constantly. When we finally entered our room after a good 30 minutes wait and with the air conditioning on, we all felt much better and happier. The twins suddenly came alive!
We headed out for lunch straight after settling in the hotel. The ‘high street’ wasn’t too far from our resort and despite a 10 minutes walking distance, it felt much farther because of the heat. Unlike the smoggy KL, the sky in Langkawi was crystal clear with no sight of clouds. Even though the temperature might be similar to KL, the direct sunlight made us feel hotter than ever. I was soaking wet by the time we sat down at the fan-cooled local restaurant. Annabelle was like me, very prone to sweating and she, too, was wet from head to toes. Ashton was sweating too but only visible on his forehead. This restaurant seemed to be quite popular for tourists with lots of them filling the tables. The food was good and price was very reasonable too. But we couldn’t stay for long and quickly went back to our hotel room to ‘cool down’.
Well, what’s better than jumping into a pool to cool down? That’s exactly what we did. We put Ashton and Annabelle in their swim costumes and blew up the floats. When we put them in the water, they got very excited. With the floats, both of them could ‘roam’ free around the little pool. Annabelle was kicking non stop for a good ten minutes before she got tired and Ashton just loved floating around and watching other people in the pool. Cooling down in the pool was great but we couldn’t stay wet for too long.
After an exhausting day, we decided to have dinner at the resort. It was later than our usual dinner and yes, you may be guessing what’s gonna happen when it’s passed bed time for the young ones. Both Ashton and Annabelle became very grouchy. It was a very nice buffet dinner and despite all the lovely food out there, we had to rush. Ashton and Annabelle started to moan and eventually started shouting before we. But overall, it was a nice dinner but I felt for the twins as they were very tired and felt asleep as soon as we were back in our rooms.
The next day, we took a stroll along the beach and had Ashton and Annabelle played with the sand a bit. After the pool, we thought it’s time for the twins to ‘taste’ the sea. Boy, didn’t they love it! But we were so worried about them eating the sand from their hands so we decided to take them out of the water after ten minutes. The sun was as strong as ever and by noon, we needed a break so we headed back to the hotel room for a shower and short rest before going out again.
Langkawi is a small island but there are some places that every tourists should have a look: the Sky Bridge on the mountain (access via cable car, though it’s closed for maintenance as of March 2014), Eagle point and the forest walk. The Sky Bridge, at least from distant, looked amazing. It was a shame that we couldn’t go on it and I suspected that it would be an experience to ‘walk-on-air’. The cable car would get you to the highest viewing point in Langkawi. On a clear day, you could see the entire island but the sky had a bit of the haze so our view wasn’t as clear as we wanted. We also thought that the temperature would be lower and cooler at the summit. But it was still very warm if not melting hot. Once on the viewing platform, you will have a very clear view of the Sky Bridge. Eagle point was a place for a couple of snaps but it’s a rather expensive photo from where we were because it cost us two hours return journey just to see the giant eagle. There’s a shopping mall and duty free zone there but we didn’t need to buy anything so we weren’t too keen on visiting them.
Then the last night before we flew back to KL, I saw a beautiful sunset while my wife, mom and the kids were eating dinner back in the hotel. I strolled along the beach alone and 15 minutes later, I found the ‘sweet’ spot for viewing the sunset. It was spectacular!!! There were a few people there sharing the same moment and that’s something I would not forget and of course, I took a few photos!
We ended our visit at Langkawi with a big smile and some tanned skins. Just when we were very happy and ready to leave, our plane was delayed by nearly three hours due to bad weather??? None of us adults had problem waiting but it’s a different story for Ashton and Annabelle. It was their bedtime and they were moaning for not being able to sleep. But they couldn’t hold on and fell asleep eventually before the plane arrived. Despite an hour flight journey, we were exhausted by the time we landed at KL. Moreover, when we arrived at our friend’s house, it was already 12am! Oh man…
So the next two and a half day in KL were solely to relax and shop before flying back to London. We visited shopping malls again and bought a bit of this and that. We also visited a night market in the outskirt of KL and boy, this is something that I would recommend to anyone who wants to experience Malaysia! That’s the best experience ever and you get to taste and ‘see’ local food and people! But as they are mainly for locals, you need a ‘local’ friend to take to there. Night markets usually happen once a week and they are in specific areas and places. Getting there usually require a car unless you know your way around good as they are difficult to find. But if you happen to see one, it will make your trip 200% more interesting! I guarantee!
The last day I was greeted with a photography friend whom I met over ten years ago. Now he’s an established commercial photography in KL and I am ever so proud of him. He treated me to some local breakfast and took me to Chinatown and surrounding areas for some interesting street photos. He also took me to try some authentic Malaysian Laksa too! Our meeting was only the morning but we parted with some good memories.
When I got back to my friend’s house, we were getting ready to leave. We took a taxi back to the airport but the taxi driver was late. It was fortunate that we left enough time for any eventuality but when we arrived at the airport, we were hit by another surprise. The entire check-in and custom process took already two and a half hour!!!! We had three hours spare and when we got to the gate, the airline was already doing a last call! I couldn’t believe it. Just so you know, you need lots of time to get out of Malaysia!!
The returning flight was as tiring as ever. Ashton caught some kind of cold and didn’t feed very well and he threw up a couple of times and felt grouchy almost through the entire flight. We had a mere two hour sleep and we were totally drained by the time we landed in London. But fortunately, there was no drama, just tiring. Our three-week family trip was over officially and despite all the pain and tiredness, we were left with some very happy family memories and photos. How we are back to reality, work and more day to day baby stuff.
Please stay tuned for my Travel Blog in the coming days!
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