Prague was the second trip when I took my niece and daughter, Vasu and Chhavi abroad. Together they are known as double trouble. The first time we went to Hong Kong, it was in 2014. I was the only adult on both the trips! In 2015 the kids didn’t go abroad, I was too busy quitting my job. In 2016 Seshadri took Chhavi to USA and Vasu went to USA on a school trip. In 2017 it was my turn again. That is how double trouble and I ended up in Prague. Other than facing some trouble in getting the visa, we had a lovely trip!
Traveling with kids is a lot of fun and at the same time so different from my usual blogging trips! And so much changes in 3 years with kids and yet so many things remain the same!
I Still Need to Keep their Stomachs Full
The cardinal rule of traveling with children is to keep their stomachs full! When they were smaller, it was enough to keep them happy. I still need to observe this golden rule but it is no longer enough! The girls are getting more demanding.
They Want to Order Everything and Eat Nothing
I hate to waste food, and I hate it even more when I paid for it in a foreign currency. On the first dinner we ended up ordering more food than we could eat. But after that we never wasted food. I would order one of something they wanted with a promise to order more if they finished the first helping.
They would give me a wounded look and then the three of us would struggle to finish it off! It happened without fail! They never asked for a second helping of anything! French fries I would order one each and they would finish it without any problem!
They Sulk Too!
The girls are growing up and they are getting into sulking mode, particularly the elder one! I end up saying no a lot of times! Like they were asking me, why don’t we fly business? And however much I explained, they would sulk! I told them they need to grow up and travel business on their own, I simply can’t afford it!
On our last day a elderly Australian couple was sitting next to us on the breakfast table. We started chatting and they said at one point, “I hope the girls realize how lucky they are!” I sincerely hope for the same!
My Girls Walk like Champions
Both the girls walk like champions! We would get outdoors right after breakfast and come back to the hotel only after dinner. We averaged 15K steps every day and yet they always had the energy for more. If there were stairs they would literally run away with me huffing and puffing behind them! It is so much easier to travel with kids when they can walk and enjoy it too!
They Love Parks
I think running around in the parks was their favorite activity. We went to two parks, Kampa which is an island right in the middle of the city and Lenta Park. At Lenta, Chhavi had a gala time throwing ball to a dog cute dog. Vasu would collect pine cones. Lenta Park has a fabulous viewpoint of the bridges of the city!
At Kampa we were literally by the edge of Vltava River. I am glad it was cold so the girls were content dipping just their hand and toes. They would demand to go to a park each evening.
My nephew posted the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on their park picture where Calvin looks at a blazing sunset and says “I’ll bet I am missing some great TV shows!” The girls behaved a bit like that too, my nephew was dead right.
They Love Bath Tubs Even More!
We stayed at the Astoria Hotel and our bathroom had a bath tub. I think that was the highlight for both the girls. Vasu has stayed in rooms with bathtub earlier but she said she never got time to use them. I never had to ask them to take a bath, they would voluntarily get into the tub, my task was to get them out. For once, I kept my lecture about wasting water to myself. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself that we don’t have bathtubs at home so this is truly once in a blue moon behavior.
They Want to Shop Now!
The first thing that they paid any attention to in Prague was souvenirs! After a while I told them it would be their last trip with me if they do not take interest in anything else! I told them all the shopping would be done on the last day and they could buy one thing for them and one to carry back home for others! Of course they shopped much more, but this brought in some much needed sanity to our trip! After all it costs money to travel and I feel the pinch more after I left my job!
Chhavi Thinks her Mom has the Worst Sense of Direction
Chhavi is really afraid that we would get lost in a new place! Given my sense of direction her fear is not too unfounded. So, one of the first tasks after landing was to find data for my mobile so that I could use Google Maps. And we did fine. Only on one occasion we took a tram in the opposite direction because the kids insisted that was the correct way to go. After two station I realized the mistake. And we took the tram in opposite direction and safely got down near our hotel after 4 stations!
When we went to see the Astronomical clock, we took the long tram route, only to realize it was at a walking distance from our hotel. But given my sense of directions, these are truly minor incidents!
They Make me do Things I Won’t do Otherwise
We took an expensive car ride around the city because of the kids! We got our caricature made because they insisted.
I loved the caricature incident but I will surely pass on the car ride the next time. I would rather take the trams and walk, we enjoy much more that way. But the credit for the caricature entirely goes to the kids!
They Want to go on Another Trip
After a lot of sulking, some scolding and a lot of lectures I was not sure if they will want to go on another trip with me. But after a few hours of entering home they told me they are ready to go on another trip whenever I am ready! Looks like we did have some fun after all!
Traveling with my daughter is so much fun. I should keep my fingers crossed as we still have to travel back tomorrow. So far the sun part has been greater than the tantrums but we have one more day to go. Chhavi and I have now traveled together quite a few times and it gets easier with every new trip in more ways than I imagined it was possible! So this is where we stand with the latest trip.
This is of course an old rule. If the kid is hungry, she would get cranky. She would get cranky if she is very tired as well, but that happens much less than the hungry bit. She is not an easy child to feed. She simply digs in her heels and tells me she will not eat, whereas I know equally well that the success of the day depends on her stomach being full. I am able to prevail over her every time when it comes to food by any means I can, it can be barter, blackmail or pleading but I simply do not let her go hungry. And this is true of every trip we have done together so far!
Being alone with a child for a few days can get a bit daunting because I alone need to keep her entertained. If it is summer and she can play in mud and water which makes my task very easy. But at Fagu she had snow! It was a novelty, we indulged in snow fights but then we would get cold. Thankfully she likes to draw, so we carry color pencils. I do not carry any pastel colors or even sketch pens because they can easily be transferred to the towel or the bed sheet at the hotel! I also carry a bit of school stuff not because I feel she should study on a holiday but it helps in passing time! When all else failed, she had TV here at Fagu and I can’t remember when I watched so many cartoons in my life!
When she was even smaller I was very scared to go to sleep if she was awake, she would be up to some mischief in no time. This time I dozed off in Shatabdi and she simply sat by the window and entertained herself. Today morning she let me sleep for 45 minutes and sat by the window of the room. She woke me up saying, “look outside there is snow”! It is a big blessing to be able to sleep for a while even if she is awake.
On this trip we played a lot of silly games. Our favorite is bringing the index finger near the mouth of the other person where they have to pretend to bite. Initially she would make such an angelic face while pretending to bite my hands off! I told her look at my face and how I was really willing to bite her fingers off. So, now she tries to look fierce, which makes her look doubly cute.
This time I discovered a new tantrum. On the first morning at Fagu, she wanted to go back to the room before the breakfast arrived. As much I would try to reason that we need to eat breakfast, she would say she was very cold. She had gone out in snow first thing in the morning for a few minutes but I could not figure out what was wrong. We had a long argument, in the meanwhile the parathas arrived and I made her eat her bit. She perked up later and we had a merry time. Then today again she wanted to go back to the room after playing in the snow for a while. I was quite irritated as we were forced in anyway because of the snowfall in the first half. Reluctantly I agreed to go back to the room. And then I discovered that she had put her shoes in all puddles and they were wet, which then irritates her to no end. She won’t say her shoes were wet, instead she would insist that we go and sit in front of the heater. It took me a while so solve this mystery but once I understood it was easier for both of us!
Sometimes (not much) she really wanted to watch TV and not to venture out! And that would be when either the light was good outside or the weather had just cleared. She stumped me once but then I too did my bargaining and got out every time I wanted to.
The journey from Delhi to Fagu turned out to be a very long one. It is actually reaching to Shimla by bus which kills us; it takes 5 hours whether I do it from Kalka or Chandigarh. On this trip, to take the 7.40 am Shatabdi we started from home for the Metro at 5.25 am. The Shatabdi reached Chandigarh by 11.25 am as the train was late by 20 minutes. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Sector 43 Inter State Bus Terminus by a prepaid auto. From there we took a Volvo to Shimla and this bit was 5 hours. Then I took a taxi to Fagu but by that time the kid was really tired. So, I don’t blame her at all if she kept parroting “kaab aayege” every few minutes. After all it took us more than 12 hours to reach Fagu from Delhi.
Today morning in the dining hall she kept chanting ‘mushkil wakt commando sakth’ which roughly can be translated as ‘in difficult times a commando rises to the occasion’. Now I wonder where she heard it, I am sure it must be lines from a cartoon but then how apt! So, if she threw any tantrum after this, I would tell her, “this commando is quite lazy, this commando is so soft!” And that would usually do the trick!
We took quite a few walks together, and for a 7 year old she walks quite well. Yesterday I think I tired her. Today the mild snow put us in initially and then I was careful not to tire her out. She walks ahead of me almost all the time telling me to be careful. Indeed her balance is much better than mine and downhill I am no match for her!
Today by some quirk of fate I gave her my precious, my camera, the DSLR! She already has been using my cell phone to click pictures but before this I didn’t dare to trust her with my precious. After giving her the camera I had two precious’ to worry about. I put the strap around her neck so that even if she dropped the camera, it would not fall.
She truly surprised me by clicking my photos without letting me know. She truly had a gala time, maybe I can actually do a post on the pictures that Chhavi clicked. Of course, I did the setting for her but it was amazing how much she enjoyed handling the camera. And now that my daughter can click pictures I don’t need to take selfies on these trips!
When our guide for the day told us that the pickup back to the hotel was at 9.30 pm, I had my sincere doubts if the kids would last that long. He was leaving us at the Hong Kong Disneyland. It was 10.00 am in the morning. The 9.30 pm pickup otherwise made sense as there are fireworks at 9.00 pm. But I made a note of the taxi stand anyway. I knew I would need it, negotiating the metro with two cranky kids and my sense of direction didn’t feel appealing even at the start of the day.
When my daughter got her passport this year, I was probably more excited than her! I wanted to take her and my niece out, who already had a passport. What better place than Disneyland for the kids, or so I thought.
It was a hot and humid Sunday when we visited the Hong Kong Disneyland. I know that was nobody’s fault that the day was hot. It was also a Sunday. It was a long weekend back in India. It was school holiday time in Hong Kong too. So, it was everyone’s idea of fun, to head out to the Disneyland on that Sunday! From the coach parking to the entrance was a short walk. Anyway, both the kids are good at walking, walking was least of my worries.
We saw the Disney characters at the entrance, there was a long queue in case you wanted to get photographed with Mickey. My kids said they would give it a miss. The queue looked daunting.
We stumbled into the area called Tomorrowland. The first ride we saw had a 50 minute wait. I chicken out, we walked into a ride called Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster. It had a shorter wait, it was indoors too, which meant air conditioning. The attendants at the ride advised me to sit with Chhavi as each car has two seats. My niece Vasu is big enough to sit alone. We go along the track with guns in our hands trying to blast Zurg and everything else in-between. The kids laughed and I was happy.
We come out to the same ride I overlooked earlier, the Orbitron. The kids want to go, they say they don’t mind the wait. I quickly decided that I would let them handle the rides and wait period. If they were happy to wait, I was happy to wait. At the entrance, the staff politely informed us that the wait was 50 minutes. I thanked them and we got into the queue. The queue was orderly, surprisingly the kids were well behaved, all the kids I mean. There was hardly anyone telling mom and dad that they wanted to do it right now!
We went up in the same car this time as it could seat 4, when our turn came. My niece fiddled with a nob and our car went up, then she made it come down! It was fun while it lasted, for about 5 minutes. It was a 50 minute wait for a 5 minute ride!
By now we had been out in the sun for more than an hour. The kids were thirsty, they were hungry too. There was a restaurant nearby. Only there was hardly any place to sit. We anyway placed our orders of ice creams and cold drinks and managed to find a seat. The kids polished off the ice cream and told me that they would walk with the drink. I agree.
We stumbled on to the Fantasyland next. We stood in a queue for the Cinderella Carousel. The wait time was about 20 minutes, which meant the ride was not too popular. My daughter said she has done such merry go rounds before. Well, this one looks a lot more posh but she had a point, the basic idea was the same. The kids left the cold drink aside saying they could not finish it. Food was 3 times more expensive in Disneyland compared to the rest of the Hong Kong. I paid in dollars (OK Hong Kong Dollars but still) to buy it and here were two brats leaving it aside! I don’t like cold drinks at all so I could not finish it off for them! You can only bring in water from outside to the park. No outside food is allowed.
After this, my niece spotted a ride called- Dumbo the Flying Elephant. It had a wait of 60 minute and it was a much smaller version of the Orbitron. I tried to dissuade her but she was firm. So Dumbo the flying elephant it was after a wait for 60 minutes. I forgave her in the end because I saw really grown up ladies in their saris (from India too as we chatted later) enjoying the ride after standing in the queue, my niece is after all 9 years old! We then went in to see a show called ‘Mickey’s Philhar Magic’. It had a very short wait time, it was in 3D, it was in an air conditioned hall. It was a lot of fun, particularly the AC.
By now not only the kids, even I was hungry. We went into the restaurant called the Royal Pavilion. We ordered pasta and drinks. By now I was ordering a little less. I decided I could always buy more stuff but I didn’t wish to see my dollars going waste! I had a minor altercation with Chhavi and the lady at the counter offered both the kids stickers to distract them! That was mighty nice of her. And that is the only Disney merchandise they got! We sat outside in the shade as there was no vacant seat in the air conditioned hall. It was quite nice actually in the shade. Later with some food inside our stomachs we decided to give the Toy Story Land a try.
My niece was attracted by the RC Racer Roller Coaster. My daughter was below the height restriction. I asked the staff if I could let my niece go alone and they said that was perfectly fine. So off went Vasu, while Chhavi and I waited at the exit for her to comeback. It was a long wait in the hot sun again, there were a few umbrellas that offered some shade. Chhavi asked me to go inside a shop after waiting for a long time. She said she wanted to be in the AC for a while. She told me she would not ask me to buy something from the shop. I was fidgety inside the shop, what if Vasu came out? So we got out of the shop and within two minutes Vasu came saying she was looking for us! She had fun on that ride, it actually looked like a lot of fun to me too. But then I could under no circumstances leave Chhavi and Vasu alone and go! They would bring half the Disneyland down in that time.
While we were walking around Chhavi went and attended the toy soldier boot camp! She looked totally clueless and cute! The actors helped her along and ensured that she had a good time.
We then headed for the Toy Solider Para-shoot Drop. It again had a wait time of an hour! By now it was 4.00 pm in the evening and the kids told me that after this ride they wanted to go to the hotel! In this ride you sit in the ‘para shoots’ and drop from a height, go up again and get dropped again a few times. It was mildly exciting for me. But for Chhavi it was dreadfully exciting. Her face would contort when the fall came. After getting out of the ride she started- “now if only we had brought papa along, he would have screamed louder than me!” Till she went for this ride, she hardly ever remembered her papa but now suddenly she kept chanting it for the next hour! He is wise though, he refused to venture with two kids to a foreign land!
I asked them if they wanted to sit in air conditioning and eat something and give other rides a try later? Both firmly refused, I guess it was all a bit too much for them. We headed out to the taxi stand and soon we were on our way to the Royal View Hotel. The hotel was quite close by, 20 minutes ride at the most.
The kids later told me that they would give only 5 out of 10 stars to Disneyland as they had to wait for every ride in the hot sun. If you are planning to go to Disneyland Hong Kong do take a look at the temperature. Also if you can, do not go on a public holiday as every other ride will have about 1 hour wait time. Be aware of height restrictions. The food will cost more!
Overall I think the kids did have fun. It was anyway quite educative for them, the ads of Disneyland and the actual experience did not match up! As we say in our family, it was indeed a character building exercise!
After a light Indian snacks and chai we started out evening tour at the Tower Clock, close to Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong. There was a small park which looked like a kid’s play area but it was under maintenance. Of course, Chhavi wanted to go there. I had to convince them that even though it was possible to jump over the fence it was not done, they could see there was no one in that area. Then I dragged them to the Victoria Harbor.
For about five minutes they were speechless and just looked at the view. Then they started. They wanted to jump into the water from the pier. The elder one Vasu also declared, that after all she knew how to swim! With such ideas being floated around me, photography took a very severe beating. It was sunset time but I couldn’t even locate where the sunset was, at least not properly. I could see the general direction of the sunset and others going at it with their tripods. I hurriedly clicked two-three pictures but none of them are going to make it to the blog! Kids and sunsets don’t mix well, not in my case for sure! The brats also refuse most of the times to get clicked. So while they were engrossed in looking at the view, I decided to click a few pictures.
Then my niece pointed out this ship to me, “Look masi a pirate ship!” It was well spotted, I have to say. It served as the foreground for my subsequent photographs! But with kids jumping around and so much water everywhere to fall into, my attention was more on them than on photography. All of us were quite happy to walk around and then later take a ferry to the tram station for visiting ‘The Peak’. It was a beautiful evening, our first in Hong Kong. I hope there are going to be many more trips in the future with my double troubles!