Tough Times in Bangkok

We’re not loving Bangkok. Lee and Reuben in particular. It’s funny because it’s a city I loved coming to before I had a family. I even fancied living here for a while. Things just aren’t going right all the time and I feel like, because it was my idea to come here and I planned the whole trip, Lee is blaming me when we have a hard time. We’re arguing a lot and are finding it difficult making small decisions.

Because I don’t want to seem like an overly negative person (I’m really not), I’m going to start out by sharing the things that HAVE gone right. And then I’m going to whine…

What Went Right

I got a great haircut and colour for only 1500B, only NZ$60. Something that regularly costs me NZ$240 at home. (Yes, I know that seems disgustingly expensive but that’s what it takes to keep me this blonde!)

We had a couple of good trips to MBK mall. Reuben is super happy with his Elmo t-shirt and Sesame Street box of tissues. We’ve had three good meals in the food court – it’s fun paying with coupons, picking and choosing from all the different vendors.

I got my laptop screen fixed. Finally. It’s been broken for over a year, since the February 2011 earthquake. I had a quote in NZ to fix it for almost NZ$1000 so decided just to “make do” by plugging it into a monitor. We found a few repair places at Panthip Plaza and went with the one who gave the best quote. 3000B and only 30 minutes later it was fixed. That’s about ten times less than in NZ!!

It’s been easy to get Reuben to sleep even though we’re all in the same room. We were a bit worried about how this was going to work. He’s so tired by the end of the day he’s asleep the minute his head hits the pillow. Generally, he’s not waking up as early as he was in Australia because the sun rises that little bit later.

Strolling Around Wat Po

Our travel stroller is working well. Best A$24 we ever spent! It’s so much easier to fold up. I can carry it in one hand. Reuben thinks it’s a toy and is completely amused pushing it around a restuarant while we wait for our food or through the courtyard of a temple.

What Went Wrong

Melting Down

Reuben’s behaviour has been atrocious. He has been having tantrum after tantrum every single day. At first we thought he was tired, hungry or had eaten some MSG or food colouring. We’ve been controlling all those factors though and he still seems to be turning into a red, screaming ball of fury at the drop of a hat. The tantrums all seem to be related to us making him do something or stop doing something. Maybe he’s just protesting against change. Whatever it is, it’s wearing us both down.

We’ve been spending a lot more money than we’d anticipated. Sure, we needed to buy a few things when we first arrived and spend money on vaccinations. I don’t even feel like we’re being widly extravagent but when we total up our spend at the end of each day we’re always shocked at how much baht we’ve burnt through.

How to Eat Take-Away Out of Plastic Bags On a Bed

We’re hardly doing anything, or so it seems. I had a huge list of activities to do and sights to see but we’ve barely managed to do little more than walk around MBK and Soi Rambuttri. There have been no visits to the zoo, aquarium, indoor playgrounds, parks, temples and markets. It’s just to damn hot to do anything more than sit in an air-conditioned mall or around the pool. Some nights Reuben has been so naughty that we’ve had to put him to bed and eat dinner in the dark, in our room.

Lee and I needed to get a few of our vaccinations up-to-date. I’d read on With Two Kids In Tow about getting vaccinations in Bangkok and booked into the Thai Travel Clinic at the Institute for Tropical Diseases. Despite having the address written down in the English and the name of the clinic written down in Thai, it took two taxis, a trip to a university and the wrong hospital before we finally made it to our appointment. The appointment took ages and we were left waiting for a long time to see the doctor – probably due to the fact we were so late.

Our second trip to the same hospital a few days later didn’t go much better. After our appointment, we spent 45 minutes walking around in 40 degree heat trying to find a taxi. Eventually we walked to Victory Monument and found a tuk-tuk. We didn’t enjoy the tuk-tuk ride at all – too much pollution and heat.

We had a confrontation with a taxi driver that almost turned into physical violence, directed towards Lee while he was holding Reuben in his arms. This was the straw that broke the camels back. After this we were done with Bangkok.

So what seems to be the problem?

I’m not excited at the prospect of returning to Bangkok later in our trip. Not at all. On previous trips as a single girl I loved it here – shopping, massages, movies, drinking and meeting interesting people from around the world. None of that really seems to fit with family travel. Sure we can shop or see a movie but it’s not much fun with a screaming toddler. There’s no sitting out on the street drinking cheap cocktails and chatting the night away anymore either. In fact, I don’t think we talked to any other tourists the whole time we were there. While there were one or two families with children staying at our guesthouse, we haven’t come across any friendly travelling families. I guess I’m a little disappointed. I’ve been so busy managing Lee’s expectations that I forgot to manage my own. I expected him not to like it and prepared for it. I didn’t do this for myself.

Maybe things will be better when we return for a few more days later in the trip. Here’s hoping Bangkok’s not such a bitch the second time around.

17 Comments

  1. Dude, it’s a whole new ball game with a kid, no? Ah the challenges we face. I think the tantrums are just his way of communicating his frustration/confusion to the new situation and circumstances. He’ll settle down. I’m sure your return to Bangkok will be better, and it will be somewhat familiar to him second time round. Kids are all about consistency and routine so he will come right, just takes time.
    Lou recently posted..nappiesMy Profile

    • Yup whole new ball game indeed Lou. It’s no “holiday” anymore. It’s hard when he’s not quite at the age we can explain to him what’s going on and he can’t communicate his frustrations to us. He must wonder when we pitch up at a new place how long we’re staying for and what the heck are we doing this time.
      Bethaney recently posted..What We Learnt On Our Flight From Brisbane to BangkokMy Profile

  2. I am SO SORRY to hear that you are having such a difficult time.

    Our first couple of weeks on our trip we just hung out in bali and did the beach thing. it was good, but it did take my husband until about 6 weeks into the trip to come to grips with the fact that traveling with young kids is an entirely different experience with many limitations and constraints. but there are so many positives too that he then fully appreciated. you will see places with a different perspective than when you were single.

    But keep perspective. It’s the beginning of your trip with your toddler and you’re started in a busy noisy city. It sounds like he’s just not coping well with that level of stimulation. Where are you headed next? If not already in your plans, perhaps just hunker down as Amy above said, at a beach such as Khao Lak or KPN (both very mellow and low key) and just do nothing but focus on a mellow routine for him. BKK and all its attractions will be there for next visit.

    as for the travel clinic–it is horribly difficult to find the first time, but after you find it, you realise it shouldn’t have been so difficult after all! what happened on the second visit?? do you need to go back for more?

    hope it gets easier for you soon.
    with2kidsintow recently posted..Is There A Perfect Age For Children To Travel? Part 1My Profile

    • Thanks for your words of support Jesse. I think you’re right…. too much, too soon. We just had a few days in Kanchanaburi which seems to have cleared our heads. Sometimes getting out of whatever the situation alone can be the best medicine. We both seem to have dropped our crappy negative attitudes and Reubs seems to be tolerating things slightly better – though not always.
      Bethaney recently posted..What We Learnt On Our Flight From Brisbane to BangkokMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a lot of things to be handling at the same time, I like how honest you are about everything.

    I didn’t like bangkok at all the first time i visited, but went back a few months later and really enjoyed it. Maybe next time everyone will know a bit better what to expect, and have more time over to enjoy it than trying to acclimatize to the weather?

  4. Hi Sofia,

    I’m glad someone appreciates my honesty! I didn’t want to come off to negative and whiny especially when I realise how privileged we are to get to live such an amazing life. I just felt like I needed to share the lows along with the highs. A little venting of my own mental frustration, perhaps, too.

    Thankfully it looks like the rains have arrived and the heat has broken a little. We’re looking at highs of around 33 degrees this week instead of 39 last week. Hurrah! Much more manageable!!

    Bethaney
    Bethaney recently posted..What We Learnt On Our Flight From Brisbane to BangkokMy Profile

  5. Hi Bethaney, we’ve been travelling 2 1/2 years with kids. It’s really tough. People think you’re on holiday. What you’re actually doing is being a 24-hour parent and often playmate and everything else thrown in. My son’s nearly six and change is still a struggle. Heat is also a factor. Kids really feel insecurity. Try, if you can, to make them feel as secure as possible. As said in one of the replies, your child is just trying to communicate how they feel, but I know it’s hard to deal with. Make sure you and your husband get time for yourselves. This is really important. You both need a break. Support each other to make it possible. I learned (very late) that trying to be there all the time for your child can in itself be over-stimulating for them. Your child needs ‘alone’ time as well. Try to nurture them to learn to play by themselves for short periods. Good luck for the rest of the trip. I’m no expert, but I know where you are coming from.

    • Hi Claude,

      Thanks for your words of support. It’s always good to get comments from those who have been there and done that!

      I think we’ve been doing a better job of establishing somewhat of a routine and making Reuben feel secure. I was finding myself feeling very frustrated with his endless whining and crying. It’s very hard when everything is up to you, all the time. Over-stimulation is bound to occur when we’re always out of a familiar environment. It’s hard to do even the simple things, like breakfast.

      On our last trip in the US we rented an apartment so had more of a home base. He was much better behaved then. I think we’ll slow things down and just stick around in one place for longer. It means we’ll lose places from our itinerary but there’s no point going if we’re all suffering.

      Bethaney

  6. Hi Bethaney

    I think I am just going to repeat everything that’s already been said above…

    I too appreciate your honesty about having a difficult start. I haven’t been on my blog, mostly because I do not want my parents or in laws worry unnecessarily. Traveling with a toddler can be a nightmare from time to time but we have learned to take things easy and manage our expectations. In the beginning, both my husband and I were a little peeved about not getting to do or see all that we would have liked to on account of “being stuck with a toddler”. We got over it. The point of the trip was to get to spend time together, not to check off every tourist trap along the route.

    The meals in the dark hotel rooms do suck though, I still hate those.

    The other thing we found super difficult was to be around each other 24/7. My husband used to work insane hours (70 hr weeks were common), so I was used to being in charge all the time. All of the sudden someone (my husband) was questioning my parenting, or even just doing things slightly differently then I would have done and it drove me crazy! After about 2 weeks on the road we established “sanity days”. We take turns looking after Hudson for the whole day so that the other parent can go off and do grown up stuff. It works really well, especially when you remember to keep it up.

    I have not read your more recent posts (I quickly scrolled down to see how you made out in Bangkok since we will be there in a few days) but I do hope things start looking up. Traveling with a toddler can be a lot of fun, you just need to find your groove ;)

    Mira

    • Hi Mira,

      Thanks for taking the time to offer some positive reassurance. It’s definitely not easy travelling with a toddler. Compared to travelling with Reuben as a baby I think he’s a lot more work now as a toddler. We seem to be in a better groove now. I agree, a little space from each other is essential. In Bangkok I was sneaking out and getting a Thai massage while Reuben had a nap or Lee took his to the pool. We’re a 24/7 family all the time, even at home but being in the confines of a hotel room instead of a house or apartment was getting to us. We eventually gave up trying to do tourist things in Bangkok and just concentrated our efforts on having fun and keeping cool. It worked well!!

      We’re currently at a friend’s house in Koh Samui. It’s really nice having space, a garden, seperate bedroom and living space plus of course having a local showing us where to go, where to eat, where to swim. It’s really overdeveloped here but we are having a great time. I’m really struggling to keep the blog up to date as Reuben always wants to be on the computer when I am. We’ve got a TV and DVD player here though so he is happily watching a Wiggles DVD while I’m catching up on the blog.

      When are you in Bangkok? I can definitely recommend New Siam II or Riverside if you’re looking for a place to stay. We went to the aquarium at Siam Paragon which was a great day out. They even had an indoor playground which was a huge hit! It’s expensive though.

      Bethaney

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    • Ah you guys will love Bangkok! Your kids are well and truly adjusted to Asia by now. Bangkok is a lot more fast-paced than KL or Singapore but it has so many more positives. The food is great. We loved the malls there, for movies and food, plus they’re about the only place you can use your stroller. Whereabouts is the apartment you’re renting?

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