So, not counting last summer in London, Josh & I going to Bangkok for his football tournament or Dan & I in Shanghai for a few days, the time for our first proper family Asian holiday had arrived.
After a whirlwind week leading up to our departure consisting of a third visit from Dan’s parents, Seder night, end of term etc etc, I was finally able to grab a few hours to focus on the family, throw everything into our suitcases and we were off!
Before we moved to Hong Kong, we enjoyed many holidays with both sets of parents, especially since having kids. It’s been a major part of the bonding between the kids and their grandparents but the move to Hong Kong had the potential to put holidays with the grandparents on hold for a few years. So, when circumstances arose that meant my parents had time to take a holiday at the exact time we were in Phuket, we told them they were more than welcome to join us. They didn’t think about it for that long, a few days later it was all booked!!
We decided to keep the addition of my parents to the holiday as a surprise from the kids – something I won’t be doing again, too stressful!! As a result of that decision, we also asked Dan’s parents if they wanted us to keep their visit a surprise for the kids as well, which they did. There then followed months of us worrying that anytime anyone in the family spoke to any of the kids, someone would let one of the cats out of the bag. But somehow both secrets remained in tact and the surprises for the kids were lovely.
For Joshua, whose obsession with anything to do with oceans and sea creatures grows daily, his ultimate dream for the last year or so has been to go snorkelling with my dad, his science guru. Before we booked Phuket they would talk about where in the world they could go snorkelling together and once we’d booked it, Joshua would frequently lament about how much he wished Pop could come to Phuket so that they could go snorkelling together. He knew we had a day trip snorkelling around Phi Phi Island booked and he desperately wished my dad could be there to show him the ropes. Oh, what a lovely feeling it was to know that I was a fairy godmother about to make his dreams come true!
In the build up to the holiday, Josh had a special snorkelling lesson with his swimming teacher who showed him the skills and techniques he’d need, although the salt water, lack of shallow end or sides to hold on to, plus the waves made the reality very different when the time came!
But back to the start of the holiday – Joshua was jumping around with excitement throughout the flight, we’d never seen him so excited for a holiday. We also had friends from Hong Kong who were going to be in the same hotel as us so he was excited about meeting up with them and Dan and I kept exchanging knowing looks on the plane about the twist about to be revealed of my parents waiting for us at the hotel. We didn’t have long to wait with just 45 minutes between landing and pulling up at the hotel. I’d been in constant text contact with my dad who’d told me they would be waiting for us on a sofa in the lobby. So once we’d stepped out of the car, been adorned with a welcome garland round our necks, I started the video rolling on my iPhone, turned to Josh and asked him if he fancied a little surprise. I told him to go and see who was sitting on the sofa just a few metres away. Josh nearly combusted and Eden was dancing around talking about big surprises as the second grandparent surprise in a week unfolded.
Halfway through the holiday, the snorkelling day finally arrived. Josh became more and more anxious, his bravado not being all it seemed so I was keen to get going and to finally get him in the sea! This wasn’t helped by our transfer from the hotel leaving without us as we weren’t on their list, apparently because we had booked the trip ‘too early’!! But we eventually got to the Marina and began our day on the mega Phuket tourist trail that a trip to Phi Phi Island seems to be. We were assigned our boat and climbed aboard. At first I thought that we were maybe on some kind of reality TV show. There were about 20 of us on our boat, yet every cross-section of life seemed to be represented – men, women, young, old, gay, straight, able, less able, transsexual – we had it all!
Joshua did fantastically. His nerves got the better of him at times, his life jacket annoyed him so we discarded that since he was almost always holding on to one of us anyway but he soon got the hang of it and the underwater world that he had been so desperate to see finally opened up to him! And if our bloody guide would only have stopped talking about tsunamis and how many people had died at every spot we moored at I think Joshua would have relaxed even quicker!
My dad being my dad had armed himself with bananas, sausages and various other selections from the JW Marriott breakfast buffet to attract the fish to us and it worked. He also filled water bottles with chicken, potatoes & rice from the lunch buffet to squeeze out to the afternoon fish – who else would even think of that??!! But it attracted the fish in their thousands and made the experience even better for Joshua. We were so proud of him and by the end of the day he was buzzing, all anxiety gone, he declared it the most amazing day ever.
As well as the snorkelling spots, we also visited Monkey Island where monkeys jumped onto the boat and Maya Island, home of THE BEACH from the Leonardo DiCaprio film, swoon. Turquoise water, talcum powder sand, it really was the Pure Shores that All Saints sang about.
It was also my mum’s birthday whilst we were in Phuket. It was so lovely to be able to share it with her and have a happy sunny day together compared to last year’s birthday lunch in London which fell just a few days before we left for Hong Kong so was tinged with emotion and ended in final farewells with my sister, nephew & grandma.
This year, her birthday fell on Easter Sunday and she was once again able to keep up the tradition of hiding Easter eggs. Unfortunately, since having kids I’ve had to surrender the joy of the Easter egg hunt myself, I still don’t understand why!! As usual, the kids loved searching for and finding the chocolate and demanding for them to be hidden all over again. And in the evening, we connected via FaceTime to the rest of the family in the UK including my grandma, so for a few precious minutes my mum had all the family with her again on her birthday.
One of the final holiday highlights was interacting with Lucky, the baby elephant who parades around the hotel at various times greeting anyone who wants to say hi. The kids loved Lucky, Eden was her usual fearless self, Josh was his usual cautious self but they both enjoyed elephant rides to remember.
All good things must come to an end and the inevitable farewells came round all too quickly. We headed back to Hong Kong and my parents headed to Chaing Mai for a few days of sightseeing, 42 degree heat and high pollution. Turns out the goodbyes are still no easier but only 3 more months until reunions again. In the meantime, where shall we holiday next?!