Thailand with a Baby - The Final Cut
So here we are. Home again.
Our flight left at 9.20am on Sunday, and 11 hours later, we landed safely back in Copenhagen. The flight, unlike the journey over, was full, which meant no extra seat for us to pile Melvin’s stuff on to. This was a shame, but we managed. It was a much better flight this time, even if we were a bit cramped (Norwegian only allows babies to sit at window seats, which seems odd to me as it means you have to disturb the aisle seat every time you need to go for a walk or change a nappy). It being a day flight, we weren’t hoping for a full night’s sleep so when Melvin napped, we watched films, ate, and talked, and when he was awake we took it in turns to entertain him. He got a bit whiny towards the end, but I think that was down to boredom more than anything else. I had started too.
We learnt a lot this trip. Things that seemed OK to us here, turned out not to be so, and things we thought would be annoying weren't. Not to mention things we never even thought about, no matter how obvious they were once we realised them. It was a real curve, and a great experience. To summarise, I'm going to add to the billions of other blogs out there telling you how to prepare for a holiday in Thailand with your baby. This is different to the others as I'm quite sensible and normal, instead of weird and crazy.
Share your baby
First of all, be prepared for you baby to be taken out of your arms, and out of the stroller - even if buckled in. People will cross streets, take photos, kiss legs, arms, hands, feet, heads, pinch (gently!), fat thighs, cheeks, bums - anything. It is insane. The first time is weird, the 10th time is cute, and the 100th time just annoying. It sounds awful as you can't hate people thinking your baby is virtually edible (which, you know, he is), but when you're trying to walk through a crowded night market, it can get a bit too much - for parents and baby. Melvin coped really well, but I could imagine it getting too much for a shy baby, or smaller baby. We let people take him and show him to the rest of the staff, or their friends, but kept him in eyesight. A friend just told me of a couple who had their baby taken to the market without them knowing! It made me laugh now, but I'm pretty sure it'd be a different story if it had been Melvin off shopping. We were told by a couple of different women that raising a baby is very much a community effort in Thailand, so everyone pitches in whenever they can - like taking the baby off your hands when you're eating and so on. It's a great idea, makes sense, and is lovely, but it's also a little daunting to us. However, Melvin was perfectly happy and of course, totally unharmed. If anything, I think it taught him to like other people even more.
No car seat
After much deliberation, we didn't take a car seat. We didn't drive about that much, and when we did, there wasn't even a spare seat or seat belt to strap it to. 9 times out of 10, the driver let us sit in the front passenger seat with Melvin on our lap (in the AC!). We didn't rent scooters as we were too anxious and didn't want to run the risk, but it's really a personal choice. I'm sure some people would think we were nuts for not taking a seat, but for us it was the right decision. Not worth lugging it around for the one or two 5 minute trips we could have used it on.
Unless your baby has a diagnosed allergy, don't pack 400 nappies. Nappies are everywhere in Thailand. In every 7-11 and every FamilyMart. All kinds, all sizes, at a fraction of the usual price. The large Tesco Lotus' have a huge range. None are eco or organic, but our boy has worn nothing but the latter and he was just fine with Thai branded nappies. They're fine. Seriously, don't bother bringing them (we used MamyPoko).
Let sleeping babies lie
You might want to punch someone after a Thai person pokes your sleeping baby and wakes them up between 3pm and 6pm for the umpteenth time. This is because Thai babies are kept awake during this period so they go down easily in the evening. Best to keep sleeping babies out of Thai reach.
Bring nursing pads and nappy bags
Bring nursing pads. You can find them in larger Boots stores, but they're not everywhere. Unless you want your pads to weigh the same as your child, pack lots. Bring plenty of nappy bags. We ran out and ended up buying plastic bags. Not a big problem, but just a little nuisance. Bad planning on our behalf.
Be wary of bugs. We had cockroaches, millipedes and a snake. The roaches creeped me out a bit - I mean, those suckers will crawl anywhere and everywhere, but the millipedes and snake weren't too much of a worry. I hate the idea of roaches on Melvin, but we left the places they were after a few days. I know it's Thailand, and roaches are roaches, but if the place is kept clean enough, they shouldn't be there. Mosquitos were a nightmare. No matter what we did, Melvin was bitten. It would be wise to invest in the best baby mosquito lotion you can find. The bites didn't bother him, but you can't help but worry. We had a net for the stroller but didn't use it as it it turned the stroller into a badly ventilated oven.
Bring an adapter or two
Bring a plug adapter than turns one outlet into two. Or 10, preferably. We were constantly switching around lamps, phone charger, our computer charger, baby monitors - you name it. There were never enough outlets.
No travel cot
We didn't use our travel cot once. Melvin is all about the breastfeeding and taking him out of the cot at night woke him up too much. We co-slept every night so Melvin could just shuffle across for grub. This meant three to a bed. As beds were usually with the headboard against a wall, but standing in middle of the wall we slept sideways so that Melvin could sleep between wall and Thilde. My feet sometimes hung over the edge of the bed, but what can you do.
Bring a rain cover and a brolly
Pack your pram's rain cover. When it rains in Thailand, it rains. Pack a brolly. A big one, preferably thick and white to reflect the sun. We used ours to walk along the beach with Melvin under it, and you could use it on the beach too to shade your baby. It’s also handy for those monsoon rains!
Pack a play mat
Or yoga mat. Ours was really useful as most places are a bit grubby, wooden (splinter hell), or just uneven and hard to play on when a baby is still unable to crawl etc.
Pack light for low season
If you do go in the low season, don't pack any long sleeves or trousers. You really, really won't need them. We wrapped a muslin around Melvin's legs when we were concerned about mosquitos. Try to pack an extra large muslin or some kind of very light sheet (like a sarong), to drape over the stroller. We couldn't help but get Melvin in the sun sometimes, so used a big muslin to create a big shade. It was light enough to move freely in any breeze, but heavy enough to keep the direct sun off him. It also helped hide him from the Thai people all too eager to say hello.
Our stroller was brilliant. Although we only saw one Thai family use one - they all use wraps and carriers - it proved to be a easy way to get around, and Melvin could take some pretty good naps in his. It wasn't annoying to take with us in taxis, and everyone and anyone is very quick to help you up stairs etc.
Think hard about hotels
Really think about your choice of hotel. We thought we had things under control, but a number of times we had to move because it just wasn't practical. Stairs, hills, sand - it's all a challenge. Fine for a day or two, but after a week of pushing a stroller through what feels like wet cement, it all gets a bit too much. I know it's hard to judge by the hotel website, but try asking for a room close to the beach/restaurant/reception. We also had a problem leaving our room locked as the keys were often used to keep the AC on. If we wanted to lock the door, we had to turn the AC off. Makes sense for the environment, but it means you can't leave a sleeping baby in a cool room. Frustrating. A couple of places we managed to take the AC card/key off the chain, but not everywhere. The ideal room is close to everything - or with a pool or beach within monitor range. That way you get to swim or sunbathe in view of the room while the baby is sleeping - with the AC on.
A few of our rooms had outdoor living areas. Beautiful, but no good in the low season - just too hot. Think twice before you book somewhere like that. It's easy to be seduced but when you have to spend all your time in the bedroom... We really appreciated the few rooms that had an indoor small living room/area. Basically somewhere other than the bed/area immediately around the bed to play in, and for us to relax in once the baby's sleeping. The three of us snuggled up in bed at 8pm was very cosy, but you know, sometimes you wanted to have a drink and talk. Going out was out of the question due to AC and monitor range problems.
Films on the computer/tablet
Stock up on films. Wifi was rarely good enough to stream/download, so throwing some stuff on a USB or your computer in advance would be wise.
Bring your own meds
If you are only breastfeeding you might want to buy some rehydration salts or other medicine that is OK for you to take while breastfeeding - just in case. We had a lot of trouble finding something a pharmacist thought would be 100% OK.
I think that's it. Melvin drank/ate more than he does at home, just to keep hydrated, but other than that he coped absolutely fine with the heat and humidity. We kept him in loose clothes, and as cool as we could, but babies are tough little things. He fell into a routine after a day or two, and didn't have a single problem for the whole two months. Thankfully!
My biggest piece of advice would be: don't worry. It's not the depths of the Amazon; it's Thailand. People want to help, people are kind, doctors and hospitals - almost specifically for tourists - are all over the place.
In short - you'll be fine. Go, enjoy your holiday, and take things as they come. Just like any other day with a baby - you'll pick it up as you go along.