Yes folks, the holidays were a super hit. The beach holiday was just the right sort of lazy, our time there evenly divided between beach, pool, siestas, drinks, and meals.
Oh and some spectacular sunsets that had us all awestruck, but particularly fascinated Moppet. So much so that she actually, of her own accord, struck up a conversation with a random woman sitting on a deck chair next to hers, watching the sunset.
Moppet: Do you see the sunset?
Random Woman: Indeed I do. It's beautiful isn't it?
Moppet: (seriously, with an emphatic little nod) Yes.
This was a holiday in which father and daughter bonded like never before. With me often stuck feeding Munch, and no nanny to call on, Moppet had to let her father help her with stuff, and he had no choice but to figure out how to do it.
Bath times, bed times, and general keep-her-out-of-trouble activities, he took it all on with wonderful enthusiasm. There were even a couple of days when I would wake up lateish in the morning and find her pottied, brushed, and breakfasted, wearing, upon her own request, a pair of strange pony tails that the husband had tied for her. They were strange but cute and he was so endearingly proud of his effort, asking me some 10 times during the day, 'How do you like her pony tails?' Well, I like. Very much.
As for Munch, he was his usual happy-go-lucky self. As long as he got his meals on time, he was quite content to doze in his stroller, or watch the world with interest. Having decided I wasn't about to spend my holiday in pokey little feeding rooms, I would just throw a dupatta over myself wherever we were and tank him up - by the pool, in a bar, in a deli, airport lounge, cafe, anywhere would do. Worked fine all round.
He also got lots of attention from assorted bikini-clad babes, prompting his father to remark enviously that that was already more female attention than he himself had got from babes in his entire lifetime.
For her part, Moppet was the protective big sister to the hilt, dissolving into angry tears at the airport where a girl jokingly declared that she wanted to take Munch home with her. Whether that was out of genuine affection for Munch, or on the general principle of he's mine, don't touch, I don't know. But that first incident did make her a lot warier when other strangers approached him later on in the holiday.
Post a little break back home, we all then went north to the hills for a very different kind of holiday. This was much more tiring since we wanted to do some sightseeing as well, but it was great in its own way. We made a trip to the zoo, which houses the only pair of Giant Pandas in Southeast Asia. We got there at a great time and saw them at their playful best. Moppet was so excited she couldn't keep her voice down, despite the glares of a burly security guard brandishing a huge sign that said 'Quiet Please'.
The rest of the zoo was great too. We got to feed baby elephants and giraffes, and Moppet almost rode on a little pony but decided at the last minute that she was too scared. The zoo is built in a naturally hilly jungle and is very beautiful, with orchids everywhere (Northern Thailand is where some of the best orchids in the world are grown) but it was tough on our knees with a baby stroller and toddler who was very quickly too tired to walk. When, in front of a magnificent white tiger, she threw a fit wanting to see a cow of all things, we knew it was time to head back to the hotel.
The husband and I indulged in some street shopping - Chiang Mai is a centre for great wooden handicrafts, and artists who bring their own designs, art and other handmade items to the famous Walking Street Sunday Bazaar. Moppet spent most of her time perched precariously on the footrest of Munch's stroller, making faces at him and generally keeping him and herself occupied.
We also managed a quick trip to the beautiful hill-tribe village, set in the mountains among lush green terraced paddy fields. The Padong are a Burmese tribe where the women wear rings around their necks to elongate them, starting from as young as 3-4 years of age. It is controversial, this village, and I must admit to feeling awkward and intrusive, walking through their village as they went about their lives. Then we met Manan, a friendly Padong lady, sitting by her house and strumming her guitar (!) who chatted with us, told us about their customs, and cuddled Munch. I'm won't go into the politics of it here, but most residents of the village are refugees from Burma, and this is their livelihood. The women weave and sell authentic shawls along with other touristy items, and Manan at least, appeared to be under no illusions about living in this fishbowl.
Anyway, it was fascinating and sad at the same time. I leave you with a picture of two little girls who will probably lead unimaginably different lives, right now just being two little girls.