The first time I flew abroad on my own was in 2007. I have been to 11 countries and territories for the last 11 years. There are still places I want to visit but I take it one school break at a time. I have been teaching in Thailand for years now. I met my husband in my second school. We have a baby daughter who just turned one earlier this month. I used to travel alone, with my brother and parents, or with friends. Now that I am married, I travel with my husband and child. Having my daughter on a trip is quite a challenge but it is also fun. I book hotels with her in mind. I read reviews. They help me decide whether I book a particular hotel or not. A place should be clean, safe and has enough space for her to walk around. A place with a kid-friendly swimming pool is a plus.
During October 2018 semestral break, we decided to visit Koh Chang. We invited another couple with an almost 2-year-old daughter to join us. After searching for hotels and reading reviews, I booked two standard rooms with lagoon view through Agoda. Booking was for two nights first because we wanted to make sure the hotel was really good. We thought we could just easily book for another two nights. Unfortunately, we totally forgot it was a Thai national holiday on our third day and the hotel was fully booked. My husband and I had no choice but to move to its sister hotel, which I will feature in my next post. It was not that far and the room was bigger.
The room despite being the cheapest in Klong Prao Resort had an amazing view of the lagoon and bridge that would take you to the restaurant and beach. I loved it. The space inside was not so big but it was enough for a family of three. I requested for a king size bed when I booked and they granted it. The bed was comfortable. We were able to sleep well. The room had good air conditioning, a small fridge, safety deposit box, electric kettle, hair dryer, bathroom essentials, two pairs of bedroom slippers, two umbrellas and a bag with two beach towels. The electric kettle was so important because I needed to sterilize my baby’s milk bottles. A rack was also provided outside the room to hang our wet clothes. The room as a whole was great except that we needed to push the doorknob harder to close the door and it made a loud sound every time.
Breakfast was included with the room we booked so we had free breakfast in the resort’s beach restaurant for two days. You can read about it on thefoodieside.com. There were beach huts with comfortable reclining chairs on the beach where guests can relax when the sun was too hot and then watch the sunset later in the day. The same type of chairs with beach umbrellas were also found near the swimming pool. We spent most of our time swimming in the pool to avoid the several jellyfish in the sea. Our baby loved every moment of it.
The highlight of our Thai island getaway in 2017 was the exchange of wedding vows. We booked our tickets to Hatyai months earlier, but the wedding preparation was only less than 3 weeks. We wanted things to be stress-free. The ceremony was a time to enjoy, relax, and have fun. We did.
While searching online for a great beach wedding spot, we found a gem on sunset beach. Pitiusas Beach Resort was perfect. We were thankful for the lovely weather on our special day. It rained the previous day but not that Saturday. Our DIY beach wedding in Koh Lipe was very simple and intimate.
We met while working together in Thailand.
Do you also want to get married in Thailand? Here are the things you need to do:
- Go to your embassy and request for an Affidavit of Freedom to Marry or Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage. Filipinos need to obtain first a Certificate of No Record of Marriage (CENOMAR) and Birth Certificate from the National Statistics Office in the Philippines and to be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs before applying for the Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage at the embassy. Application for CLCCM costs 925 baht. The embassy releases the CLCCM after ten days. Visit the official website of the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok for more information.
- The affidavit from your embassy needs to be translated to Thai. You can do it at the Department of Consular Affairs in 123 Chaeng Wattana Road, Laksi District, Bangkok. Translation usually takes an hour and costs 400 baht. After you get the translated affidavit, bring it to the third floor and give it to the assigned person along with the affidavit in English or your native language and a signed copy of the first page of your passport. Give a signed copy of the visa page as well to be sure. Wait for your turn to pay for the whole process. If you do not want to go back and pick up the legalized translated document after 2-3 working days, inform them to send it to you via EMS.
- After receiving all legalized translated documents from the Department of Consular Affairs, bring them to a local Thai government office to register your marriage together with two signed copies of the first page and visa page of your passport. The marriage certificate is in Thai. You need again to get an authenticated translation from Thai to English before reporting the marriage to relevant authorities.
In our case, the officer told us it was his first time to release a Thai marriage certificate to two foreign applicants. He needed to make sure first and told us to wait. He called us again to sign some papers. After less than an hour, the officer gave us both our marriage certificate. We asked if we had to pay. He smiled and told us the service was free. He then wished us a happy marriage. We thanked him before leaving the building and went back to work that day.
We rode a van from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The journey was about six hours. We stayed at the house of a Filipino missionary family in Phnom Penh for two nights.
The first stop was a killing field during the Khmer Rouge regime. It was not far from the city.
I cried when we walked around the field and saw where the people were killed and buried.
We also visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was a former high school but was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 during the Khmer Rouge regime. We watched a sad documentary before leaving the place.
We then capped off the day with a river cruise on the Mekong River.
If you want to know the rest of our visit in Phnom Penh, visit this page.
Overland travel from Thailand to Cambodia took more than five hours. We took the earliest train that departed from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station. The train arrived past 7 o’clock in the morning at Lat Krabang train station, which was the nearest station from where we stayed. We just paid 40 baht for the fare to Aranyaprathet, which was a few kilometers from the Cambodian border town of Poipet. The train that traveled to the border had wooden seats. I thought it would be uncomfortable but I was proven wrong. The green scenery was a sight to behold and the cool breeze blowing in through the open window made it a wonderful journey.
There was a long queue in the immigration, but after an hour we found ourselves walking down the street toward the Cambodian frontier. It was too hot and we were carrying heavy backpacks. After our passports were stamped, we walked toward the bus station where we waited for our ride to Siem Reap. Good thing my Thai sim card still worked in Poipet and I was able to contact the owner of the lodge who arranged our ride from Poipet to Siem Reap.
There was a slight problem. We were not able to contact the driver of the taxi so we decided to go to another bus station where there was a money changer. The ride was free for tourists and it only took less than 10 minutes. After getting our riel, we saw someone holding a paper with my name on it. His name was Mr. Hak, the driver.
We found out later that it was better to use US dollars in Cambodia than riel. If you want to know what we did on our way to Siem Reap, check out this blog entry.
I should say that the highlight of this getaway was spending the night in Halong Bay. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi were also exciting, but it was my first time to sleep on a boat, and not a moving one this time. I slept on moving ferries during overnight trips in the Philippines.
We rode a van from Hanoi to Ha Long. I couldn’t remember the exact location but we passed a bridge. It was not near. I took several pictures along the way but most of them were lost. There were already many tourists waiting at the wharf. After several minutes, our boat was ready. The cruise was composed of different nationalities.
The bay was calm. That was our first day in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Several isles started to grew bigger from where we were. We then stopped at Bo Hon island to explore caves. Stalagmites and stalactites greeted us once inside. They were lit with multicolored lights. We also explored the other chamber, which was bigger.
Some people stopped at Cat Ba island to spend the night there. Most of us remained on the boat. It was not scary because there were other boats near where we spent the night.
The next day, we saw more limestone isles and karst formations. We also passed by some floating fishing villages. We stopped in one village to kayak. It was quite a foggy day.
Part of the cruise was meeting different people from other parts of the world. It was a great experience. The moment we saw familiar isles on our way back, it was time to bid farewell.
I wrote an entry on my foodie blog before about eating in Hanoi. I would love to eat authentic Vietnamese food again. After our stint in the Museum of Ethnology, we went to the Temple of Literature. I took several pictures inside but most of them were lost. This temple of Confucius was the first national university of Vietnam.
I hope one day to visit the several courtyards of the temple again, take pictures and make sure to store them in a safer place.
It was late in the afternoon when we walked to a park where we found several folks exercising. The place had a relaxing atmosphere with trees and fountains. The picture below that I took before crossing the busy street near the park was also posted on my tumblr blog.
We rode a taxi to the city center where I took a snapshot of a pagoda. We were not able to watch the puppet show, but we capped off the night by eating in a Vietnamese restaurant overlooking a busy Hanoi street. I would definitely visit this city again someday.