Egypt: The case of Mummy Vs. Mommy

“Mummies, mummies everywhere… where are all the kids?” – Krythya (my two and half year old)

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Events leading up to Egypt

Egypt, a country known for its rich history and culture is a popular destination for all ages. Hence it was a good choice for a ten day family vacation that included grandparents and young kids. However, our journey to get there had as many twists as did the Romans probably. At the time of booking the flights and accommodation (for which we used the services provided by Thomas Cook), it was visa on arrival for all of us travelling. A few weeks before our travel date the laws were changed requiring us to process Visas before arrival. The process itself was not cumbersome but it was double the cost. All was in order for Krythya’s first summer vacation from school. A few hours before our flight, my husband got called in for work the next day. You can imagine the disappointment, but we had to explain it to the toddler who had made plans to ride a camel with him (which by the way she did not end up doing, because her Dada would miss out).

Fortunately the flight journey was smooth, she enjoyed sitting in her own seat and was quite amused by the color changing stars on the ceiling of the flight (a feature in Emirates).

First stop Cairo

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Pool time

We arrived in the morning and got through immigration quite smoothly. We had a pre-arranged minibus for the one hour ride to our hotel in Giza – Le Meridian Giza. By the time we got settled into the hotel, it was time for lunch. And off to a great start we tried and approved (by the toddler as well) the best Falafel ever at Felfela Restaurant which was located right next to the hotel. What was supposed to be a rest day quickly turned into pool time for mom and daughter. Can’t blame her, the heated pool with the backdrop of the pyramids of Giza was just perfect. That evening we headed for the light and sound show at the Pyramids. Apart from the cold breeze K didn’t enjoy it as much, as it was too scary according to her. Grandparents on the other hand were totally immersed in it. Back at the hotel we witnessed a local wedding with music, lights and very pretty dresses… that made up!

 

 

 

Pyramids & The Sphinx, Giza
Pyramids & The Sphinx, Giza

The next morning was Pyramids and Sphinx by day and much more to K’s comfort. She enjoyed the rugged terrain as well as the effort to pronounce “Suphinx” correctly. We did not choose to visit the burial chambers inside the pyramids as the path was said to be very narrow and claustrophobic. We then visited a perfume store, by perfume store I mean all things smell. Utilization of these naturally extracted oils goes anywhere from perfumes, massage oils to even home cleaning liquids. It was K’s first taste of hibiscus tea, which is most commonly offered as a welcome drink. She also had a whiff of pure eucalyptus oil, which probably cleared her sinuses… Lol.

 

 

Next up on the agenda was the famous Egyptian museum. Unfortunately we were able to cover only the ground floor as the elevators were not in working condition. Another let down was the children section that was said to have Legos and other activities was closed. The last stop for the day was Khan-el-khalili bazaar, tonnes of stuff to shop but we were too beat to actually buy anything other than a few souvenirs and an adorable Cleopatra style knitted head gear for K, which she wore for the remainder of the trip and very much enjoyed the attention she got from strangers calling her Cleo.

 

 

Next stop Alexandria

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Our Guide Mohammed

The day trip to Alexandria was in a prearranged minibus with a tour guide. Unless you are a history buff, the temples are only as good as the guide. And since daddy dearest, our history expert wasn’t there we were quite glad to have a guide.

The Catacombs! Located 100 stairs below ground, home to the discovery of over 700 mummies, only my brother, myself and K were able and willing to pay a visit. It was definitely a very spooky experience especially because we were the only ones down there at the time! Other highlights were, the spectacular ocean views, Pompey’s pillar and the Bibliotheque (library). On our way back we had the local version of a Pizza for dinner, double the calories I’m sure, but it made up for all the walking and carrying. K also met some llamas, ostriches and other farm animals on the property.

 

 

 

Aswan awaits

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Philae Temple

Arrived at Aswan by a short one hour flight – Nile Air and greeted by Egyptian summer. The hotel packed breakfast was the standard juice box and cheese sandwich, so the Indian snacks handed out by grandma came in very handy. After a drive by Aswan dam we hopped on a boat to Philae temple. As expected sang row row your boat all the way. Known for love and beauty, Goddess Isis’s temple was exactly that…Beautiful. There was an hour to spare before embarking the Nile cruise, where better to spend it than a spice market. Loaded up on dates, nuts and custom made spice rubs to take back home.

 

 

Cruising the Nile 

Spice market finds

Krythya’s first Cruise! I was glad she was as excited as I was. I’ve always loved cruises although this was my first river cruise – The Steigenberger Minerva. At first it was strange seeing land on both sides, but the contrasting landscapes were awe-inspiring. Sunrise over the sandy desert bank and sunset over the lush greens and palm trees. The plus side of a river cruise is there is no motion sickness. On the minus side the restaurant is very limited in terms of timing. On a regular cruise its usually food in abundance and availability round the clock. On this cruise however meal times are set, aside from which the restaurant remained closed. So we stocked up on snacks like dry fruits, nuts etc and bottled water while on shore. We chose rooms with a large window rather than a balcony as its safer with a toddler especially one who likes to climb any chance she gets!

 

 

She was one of three kids on board and the youngest. By the end of our 3 day cruise almost all of the crew knew her. Especially the pasta counter chef and the housekeeping staff who made the most creative towel animals we have ever seen. Places covered on the cruise were – Kom Ombo, where we visited a crocodile museum (which had mummified crocs as well), Edfu, where we took what looked like a 100 year old cab as opposed to the horse carriage as it was not advisable for the grandparents, and finally arrived in Luxor. One place covered on most other cruises that we missed out was Abu Simbel, as it was more important finding a cruise that suited the quality of rooms and food that I was looking for.

 

 

Last stop Luxor

We visited the Karnak temple, to describe this temple is beyond words. Something I’ve wanted to see since the movie Mummy returns. The grandeur and process of building such high structures was impressive. With a sand crazy kiddo we spent time doing some digging and building ourselves.

 

 

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Hatshepsut

While the family did some shopping at the papyrus factory, K was busy trying to make papyrus herself and spotting alphabets and their corresponding pictures in heliographic script. At which time I found a word that best described our passion – “Reisend” meaning travelling everywhere. The Luxor temple was close to the dock so we visited that toward the end of the day. The cruise remained docked at Luxor as the checkout was the following morning. However we missed going to any of the temples during late evening/night when they are lit-up.

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Alabaster works

The last day of our trip and probably the hottest. We visited Hatshepsut, one of the very few female pharaohs of Egypt. There was a fun train buggy ride as well.  Then we witnessed how carvings are made from alabaster stones. K got a chance at grinding one (of course for a tip). As it was getting too hot we skipped the Valley of kings and headed back to the hotel for the last night – Steigenberger. The pool by the river was irresistible and so we spent the rest of the evening doing just that.

 

 

Food Coma
Food Coma

Next morning was our flight back home via Cairo. We had a long lay over with not much to do in the airport we decided to go to the nearest mall. On a Friday afternoon at prayer time not many stores were open so we spent our time devouring a traditional meal at Abou El Sid.

Things to know before you go

Since we planned to cover more than one city, layers of clothing was key. As it was the beginning of April which was the onset of summer but still pretty cold in Cairo and very warm in other parts of Egypt.

Comfortable walking shoes (as well as flip flops/crocs for kids). K would complain after a while that her feet were sweaty and switch to crocs.

Diapers. Even though K was potty trained by then, the availability and hygiene of restrooms sometimes made a diaper to use and throw the only way to go.

As far as strollers go, don’t bother. No stroller can take the sand and stone terrain of the ruins.

The baby carrier is a life saver, since there is a lot of walking we put it to good use whenever she got tired or simply decided it was “carry me” time.

Sunscreen is a must to avoid sunburn as most of the day is outdoors. Even on cooler days the sun was quite strong and hotter days even more so. Neutrogena kids roll on stick was super easy to carry and use even by herself (As we were in the phase of “I can do it myself”).

Hydration (or re-hydration) was something we were prepared for but did not face the need. Carrying ORS sachets is recommended.

A fly bat/squatter… nope not kidding. We are used to houseflies in India but there were quite a few in all the places we visited, could have been a seasonal thing but we did a lot of shoo-ing.

Play time
Play time with Intellikit

First cry Intellikit activity packs were easy to carry and keep her busy during downtime during travel or in the hotel room.

Tipping is quite high and almost expected everywhere (Min 5 USD per person). Not sure if it is correlated but the guides were very friendly, sometimes too friendly. K was given more than her fair share of ice creams and sugar cane juice by many of them.

Most common word – “Mesh” meaning All Ok. Which best describes our exploration of Egypt! A big shout out to my brother who was our sole luggage mule, Maama (uncle) on call, and basically Man of the trip!

Homeward bound
Homeward bound

Other places to see if time permits – A Nubian village, where one can witness the life and culture of the local people as well as real crocodiles! The Red Sea, (a 2 hour drive from Cairo) where the places of interest would be Sham El-Sheik or Hurghada or simply snorkeling in the sea itself.. We chose the Nile Cruise as those are date specific, so hope to get a taste of the seas whenever we visit Jordan.

 

Follow Other Adventures by Krythya:

A trip to the Land of the Himalayas

MOROCCO: Tagines, Tantrums and everything in between

 

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A trip to the Land of the Himalayas

8 days, 7 flights and 1 toddler

Diwali break and my mom’s birthday were reasons enough to plan our next family trip. To the Map! The search for a place not too far, with travel time under 5 hours and no visa hassles, was on. Of the few options the most exciting one was Nepal. We were fortunate to have a very good friend from Nepal who helped us with the detailed planning of how to go, what to do and even where to eat!

How to get there

One of the most common misconceptions about Nepal is that the altitude will be too high because there are only mountains. On the contrary the altitude of Kathmandu is in fact lesser than that of Ooty and there is a lot to experience. As for the weather, November was warm days and colder nights, so pleasant to travel.

Multiple airlines fly to Kathmandu from Hyderabad with a stop in Delhi. We however broke the journey on the way to Kathmandu, Delhi being our second home we wanted Krythya to get a taste of it. Although pre-Diwali pollution levels were so high that we stayed indoors for the most part. We chose a comfortable time around noon to fly to Kathmandu. There was no need to change currency as INR is accepted almost everywhere. For Indian passport holders the arrival process was as simple as domestic travel. The US citizens in our group though had a pretty long wait for their visa on arrival. Once we got out of the airport it was pretty smooth, the local transport was prearranged by our friend which took us straight to the hotel. The choice of stay was a boutique hotel – Dalai La, located in Thamel. The rooms were very family friendly with

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1st Momo

two double beds. The breakfast included was made to order and had enough variety to eat and pack a snack for the road. Thamel being one of the most happening areas in Kathmandu, the streets were like broad daylight although we had reached there by around 6pm. Once checked in, we headed out by walk to try some local cuisine for dinner. Krythya’s first Momo experience needless to say was a hit.

The colours and shapes of the momos definitely made it kid approved.

What to do

Boudhanath One of the largest and prettiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. All around the stupa were prayer wheels at the perfect height for K to reach and turn by herself

 

 

Not sure if we earned any peace but she had a lot of fun turning almost every wheel there and we ended up spending more time than planned for.

Pashupathinath Everything you would expect to see in a temple and then some. The larger than life Nandi (Bull) and the monkeys kept K entertained. However, located on the bank of Bhagmati River the temple overlooks open cremations, something I was not ready for.

Bhaktapur An hour’s drive from Kathmandu is the ancient town of Bhaktapur. This town was partially destroyed by the devastating earthquake in 2015. The efforts to carefully recreate each monument to replicate the original architecture is underway. We were able to walk through the whole town in about two hours, while K napped in the bus along with those who couldn’t do the walk.

 

 

The best part – tasting Bara Wo – a traditional Newari dish, from a lady who has been cooking the same thing for the last 46 years!

Mt. Everest You can’t go all the way to Nepal and not see the tallest mountain in the world. But even without the toddler I don’t think we would be trekking up… Lol. The mountain flight by Buddha Air was our flight no.3 on this trip.

 

 

A guided tour of the Himalayan range and views of Mt. Everest from the cockpit is something worth waking up at 4 am for. The only downside is that it is a bit expensive, more so for non-Indians.

Pokhara Once back we hopped on to flight no.4 of the trip. Pokhara could also be done by road but would take six to seven hours. We had booked local transport there as well and headed to Hotel Dahlia. This was also a boutique hotel located next to the gorgeous Phewa lake. During K’s nap time we were lucky to get the last spots available at Sarangkot to try out paragliding.

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Its all down hill from here!

With spectacular views of the Himalayas and a very entertaining gliding instructor it was an experience not to miss.

Take a Hike Just kidding… we didn’t really hike up a mountain. But the walks to see the waterfalls, caves and gorges with K in the carrier sure felt like a good workout.

 

 

Since she was still under the weight limit for the carrier it was very useful especially since most of the places are not stroller friendly.

Celebrating Tihar In other words Nepalese Diwali. It was a one of kind celebration with zero crackers, lots of lights and rangolis.

 

 

Every street corner was filled with kids singing traditional songs that had K humming and dancing too.

Phewa Lake The last of our things to do before heading to flight no.5 back to Kathmandu was boating in Phewa Lake. Going early beats the rush as it’s quite a popular activity. Life vests were provided for adults and older kids, so we used K’s swim vest for her.

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Row Row Row your boat..

She fed some of her biscuits to very hungry fish, spotted beautiful birds and slimy snakes too!

Chandragiri Hills The free day. Our group split up into shopping vs activity. Good guess K was in the activity group. Getting an early start after breakfast helped beat the queue to the cable cars. A very scenic and peaceful ride later we reached the highest playground we’ve ever been to.

 

 

A good idea to carry sunblock as it was quite sunny even though it was cool weather. After picking up some lunch and taking in some more mountain views from the observation deck it was time to head back.

Shopping Of course no trip is complete without souvenirs. Around our hotel, was the perfect place to walk around at night to pick up some local artifacts. Early the next morning was flight no. 6 and 7 back to home base. 

Where to eat

Food is in abundance in Nepal. But with a toddler in tow making sure the quality is right was very important. So we tried to stay off the streets but still tasted authentic local cuisine.

 

 

Hotel Dwarika, on the way to Bhaktapur, offered both local cuisine and continental. Most importantly had lots of open space to move around while we waited for the food.

Kaiser Café, in the Garden of dreams, a beautiful way to spend an evening but pricey.

Himalayan Java Coffee, in multiple locations, for parents who need their coffee fix and yummy milkshakes for the littles.

Roadhouse café, for when you’re momoed out and just want some Pizza!

An Anniversary Trip to Maldives with Mystery, Romance, Action, Comedy, and Horror

 

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I loved these matching family slippers at Anantara Dhigu 🙂

I know what you are thinking… Why take your baby on your romantic getaway? Well, there is room for romance, action, comedy, and horror on every holiday when you bring your toddler along – and we would have nothing less on our Anniversary Trip to Maldives

This was our second trip to the Maldives – we were there in 2010 when we celebrated our first anniversary, and there we were celebrating our 9thin 2018. This trip, with Arya in tow, was obviously a very different experience. Saurabh chose the Anantara Dhigu Resort because it is extremely kid friendly, and located only a 35-min boat ride away from Male Airport.

The Mystery Begins…

cae3b0ba-841a-4c13-8d7e-77340b6c2057So… This was supposed to be a surprise anniversary trip for me – but I must have been a cat in my previous life, because curiosity literally kills me, and I can’t help myself from extracting every secret out of Saurabh through third degree interrogation techniques (as he claims they are). He had booked the trip with this “Luxury Surfing” company called Tropic Surf which arranges for packages with surfing, accommodation, and food (if you choose that option). This was an absolutely brilliant move by Mr. Marda because I think the experience and service through Tropic Surf is really unique! They have a special welcome crew, seamless check-in process, and special concierge service for bookings made through them.

Romance

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The Spa at Dhigu

Since this was an anniversary trip, there had to be an element of romance 🙂 This is where the resort’s excellent kids club came handy. We were able to get some alone time while Arya played with the 12 or so other kids who were checked into the kids club. This allowed us to go surfing and paddle boarding when we wanted to, and also had a chance to visit the sister resort Anantara Veli (which does not allow kids). With Arya safely deposited at the kids club we indulged in an extra drink (or two) at the picturesque bars at Veli. The baby-sitters were extremely flexible with timing and Tropic Surf team made sure that we had hassle free cancellations of babysitting service on the day our surf lesson got cancelled due to bad weather.

We had already done all the romantic stuff like sunset dinner on private island, and picnic at private lagoon on our previous Maldives holiday so we kept this one simple. But if you have not done that once – I highly recommend the sunset private dining experience!

Action

IMG_4866Although Maldives is supposed to be known for a relaxing holiday we are not ones to sit still. We had pre-booked 4 days of surf lessons (two of which got cancelled due to bad weather), but the ones we did get to do were amazing. Tropic Surf team has its own unique method for teaching which I think is quite effective! We managed to get a few really good waves. The only down side to surfing in Maldives as beginners is the reef break – we had a couple of small scrapes from waiting too long to dismount and getting dragged on the reef – nothing serious though.

The calm waters near the resort are also excellent for paddle boarding. So calm in fact that we took Arya with us. Paddle boards are free to rent if you book surf lessons through Tropic Surf. The resort gave us an infant life jacket for her and the Tropic Surf instructor showed her how to hold on to the ropes and sit. We could see turtles and small fish as we paddled through.

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The Swings in the Middle of the Sea

We also rented the glass bottom kayak on one of the days. Arya enjoyed sitting in the middle and looking at the reef and fish below while Saurabh and I paddled through the calm waters. We even spotted her a nurse shark below. We kayaked to the neighboring Picnic Island where they had these beautiful swings in the middle of the sea that made for amazing Instagram material.

Diving in Maldives is also phenomenal – we stayed at the Banyan Tree last time we were there which had a phenomenal house reef. If diving is topmost on the agenda I recommend choosing a resort where you can simply start from the house reef! We skipped diving this time around because it would require a half hour boat trip at least, an we already had too many other non-child-friendly activities planned.

Comedy

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Refreshments at the Pool

Life is generally full of comedy with Arya around. She just makes it extra special sometimes. When we were not doing anything we were sitting at the pool bar and sipping (pitchers of) Sangria, while Arya goofed around with the kids at the pool. Particularly hilarious was her interest in three blonde Russian brothers between the ages of 4 and 8. She tried to individually impress and befriend each of them – the whole effort was made especially comical by the fact that none of them spoke English – so she tried all her vocabulary in the three languages that

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Watching the Sunset from the Poolside Bar

she speaks (English, Hindi, and Telugu). Failing which, she also tried to befriend them by sharing everything she had (her pool floats, her beverages, the cashew nuts she had requested from the bar tender). Her final attempt – she tried to impress their mom (a 6-foot tall blonde who was only mildly amused by the chattiness of this 3-foot nothing creature).

Arya finally gave up on the kids and started befriending all the old people in the resort by telling them she was 65 years old. So… that worked! And we were suddenly getting life advice from retired CEOs and fund managers whom Arya had broken the ice with for us.

Horror

9f464b2b-80f4-4374-9aa4-d8b44b07454dSo… What can be scary about the Maldives? Sharing your bathroom with reptiles and crabs!!! Most of these new-age Maldives resorts have outdoor bathrooms. While they are very romantic and exotic and all… they can be a bit scary if you are a toddler. On the first day Arya spotted the chameleons in the bathroom and squeamishly ask me what they are. Now, typically I believe in telling the truth, but a chameleon sounds like a scary animal even in my head – so I told her they are squirrels (because squirrels are cute). She even pointed out that those were some weird looking squirrels and I had to improvise and say that’s what squirrels in Maldives look like. So, every time we went to the bathroom we would acknowledge the “squirrels,” birds and stray crabs (if any) with “Hi squirrel! Hi crab! Hi Birdie!” before going about our business.

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All in all – I would say, while it is not a typical family destination, Maldives can be fun for kids who love the beach. Of course – do your research and pick a resort that caters to kids (not all of them do!). Anantara Dhigu has small perks (like free lunch buffet for kids by the pool, and kids eat free at dinner and breakfast buffet policy) that makes it good value for money (well… relatively!).

5 Useful Tips for Mauritius and Seychelles With a Toddler

I now realize I am running about 3 trips behind on blogging. So I made this one short and to the point – particularly since Mauritius and Seychelles are both islands with a limited set possible itineraries and all of them have been listed on the interwebs.

We did a 10 day trip – 5 days in Mauritius, 4 in Seychelles (and one day of traveling). It was just Saurabh, Arya and I one the Mauritius leg, and a group of 16 family and friends (including 4 children) on the Seychelles leg. You can read my general tips about a beach trip in my blog What to Pack For A Beach Holiday With Baby. And air travel tips in by blog post 11 Things I Do To Make Air Travel With Baby Easier.

My tips for making it a hassle-free trip in both the countries for kids:

  1. Drive! In Both Mauritius and Seychelles, driving is safe, convenient, intuitive andIMG_3463 cheap, and parking is amply and freely available even near tourist destinations. Plus – we were smack in the middle of potty-training when we went to Mauritius and Seychelles, and I refused to let that slide. So we stopped at the side of the road for bathroom break at our leisure. Being able to drive also gave us a lot of flexibility to sightsee at our own time and pace. We rented a bright orange Mini Cooper Convertible in Mauritius to make extra fun to enjoy the sights.

 

  1. Get a Baby-Sitter: If you are adventure junkies like us and want to indulge in some IMG_3388diving, surfing (while in season), or other sports where kids are not allowed, or simply want to get some time for R&R, I highly recommend choosing a resort that has a well-reviewed nanny service. We chose Angsana Balaclava which provides a great nanny service which is also not too expensive. I know some parents are not comfortable leaving their children with strangers – but this is not someone you got off craigslist! It is someone the resort recommends and takes responsibility for. I always book for an extra hour before just so I can also personally evaluate the babysitter and offer them tips. Our babysitter at Angsana was actually a sweet Mauritian Indian Aunty who also spoke Hindi and was a pro at handling kids– so it worked out quite well.

 

  1. Go Boutique: I prefer small boutique hotels over large commercial resorts, mostly IMG_3454because in my experience, the service is more personal. Angsana is a small enough resort (not a huge one like the Hiltons / Club Meds). By the end of our 5 day stay, the staff knew our daughter well – what she likes to eat, play, etc. They knew our preferences and made sure they catered to our needs in the best way possible. There is, however, a tradeoff – I am told the bigger resorts have more activities options, and company for kids. It is hard to imagine my 20-month old would have been eligible for any group activities – maybe I will re-evaluate when she is older.

 

  1. Plan Ahead! Now I am all about spontaneity but I do believe one requires a bit ofIMG_3533 planning to make the most of a vacation (especially when you are in a large group). While it was just the three of us in Mauritius – we were a group of 16 family and friends in Seychelles. I do think we could have seen and done a lot more in Seychelles had we planned ahead a little bit for that leg of our trip. Even simple things like finding a restaurant that will seat 16 together can be difficult for a group that size. We had a couple of situations where we were looking for suitable places to eat with 3 hungry and cranky toddlers in tow.

 

  1. Choose Villas Where You Can! Since we were a large group in Seychelles we chose
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    The view from our villa in Seychelles

    villas instead of hotels. This gives kids the ability to be themselves (and be rowdy sometimes) without the adults having to apologize to fellow guests. We chose pool villas so the kids could swim to their hearts content. The villa we chose in Seychelles was a 6 BR villa located at the highest point on the island. You could literally see 80% of the island from the villa – simply breathtaking! The only downside of the villa was – because the two grandmoms had a kitchen available, they spent a significant amount of time there cooking for the four kids (I wish they could worry less and enjoy the trip more!).

 

What to see and do with toddlers in Mauritius:

  1. The Zoo (Officially called Casela Adventure Park): Although I am fundamentally against the idea of zoos (because I believe they are cruel) I have had to soften my stance since I had a kid. I still think its cruel to trap wild animals like lions in cages, and surroundings that feel nothing like their natural habitats. Which is why the zoo in Mauritius was perhaps one the of least offensive ones I have seen. About 80% of their animals are from the African continent and hence are not completely out of their element. Plus the zoo does not have small entrapped areas but large spaces to house the animals whom you can view through a vehicle that drives through the area or a view platforms. It somehow felt more humane. Also, Arya had a great time at the zoo walking side by side with giant turtles and ostriches.

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  1. The Curious Corner at Chamarel: This was a totally unexpected stop for us following a somewhat underwhelming viewing of the seven-colored earth at Chamarel (underwhelming only because I sort of expected it to be bigger after all that build-up of standing in a queue of cars to purchase a ticket and then driving 7km on a windy road). This is a museum/experience house that plays on optical illusions to create surreal imagery. This was a fun 1-hour indoor activity with a toddler – although I think Saurabh and I were more excited about the photos than her.

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  1. Get a lot of Beach Time! Needless to say Mauritius has amazing pristine beaches – plan to spend at least an hour a day at the beach – kids love the sun and the sand, and parents can enjoy local food and culture at some of the beaches. My favorites were Trou-aux-Biches, Mont Choisy and Grand Baei in the north of Mauritius – the waters are relatively calm and shallow, which means kids can swim and play without fear. Arya also loved the fresh juices and coconut water at all the beaches.

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There is a lot more to do if you have slightly older children (6 years and older), who can go hiking, ziplining, ocean-walking, kite surfing etc. But we took it easy and stuck to what our toddler could comfortably enjoy. Read my blog post on taking babies Swimming here How to Introduce Baby to Swimming.

 

As for Seychelles:  it is not particularly a place marketed to kids – but kids can have fun if they enjoy the sun and the beach. I could not find any activities specifically for kids but the four children in our group (ranging from 8 months old to 5 years old) had a great time frolicking around the pool in the two villas that we rented, and loved chilling at the beach. Mostly they were happy playing with each other.

 

Activities for Adults:

  1. Diving: both Mauritius and Seychelles have amazing dive sites and great options for diving. We went in off season (for diving) in Mauritius and still saw quite a lot of life. Had to dive through a bit of a surface current in North Mauritius but its all good when you get close to the bottom. The visibility is amazing even in supposedly off-season waters.
    Diving in Seychelles was simply breath-taking! We went diving first in the marine reserve where the density of marine life is some of the best I have seen in my life. Small and playful schools of fish make the experience absolutely unique and awe-inspiring. We also went diving to a wreck which was a fun exercise in practicing our diving skills.
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Saurabh and I during the hike
  1. Hiking: both Mauritius and Seychelles have amazing options for hiking. In Seychelles one of the most well recommended hiking trails began at our villa. We considered bringing our daughter on the hike in the sling but made the wise call to leave her with the grandparents at the last minute. It was a short but tough hike with steep and slippery steps.

 

  1. Food and Drink: If you enjoy eating and drinking – both these places will deliver. Mauritius has a combination of local food joints that bring French and Indian flavors together, and international restaurants that leverage the fresh seafood to cater to all palates. The best food we ate was at an evening local market in Seychelles where they had fresh catch barbequing in a parking lot, and drinks made from local rum to go with it.

 

Overall, I think Mauritius is more kid and family friendly with more structured places and activities for kids. Seychelles is actually perfect for either romantic getaways or short group trips where kids have company to entertain each other.

 

Sri Lanka Part 1: Baby Meets Beach

Hello! Thank you for following my family travel adventures with little Arya, my 9 months old . If you’ve been vicariously traveling with us through my blog, you know how excited I was for my Sri Lanka trip ! So here’s my trip report – this was baby Arya’s 3rd travel adventure. We were a party of 6 ( or 5.5 😉 -Arya, my travel partner in crime- my husband , my parents , my sister and the travel mommy ,me !

This is the story of some great family time at our beautiful Sri Lankan bungalow, unforgettable surf adventures, and how Arya met and then loved the beach. Oh before that- our route- We were going to Colombo and then from there to Unwatuna– which is on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

I had to break this trip report  up into two parts because there is so much to write about! Read on 🙂

PRE-TRIP PREPARATIONS WITH BABY

Murphy…err…Baby’s Law

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Monkey jumping in our bed

The first thing that comes to mind is what should one pack? I was so excited about the trip that I wrote a post about it before we left – what to pack for a beach holiday with Baby. So that sorted, let’s move on to the night before the trip.

Arya is just as much a thrill seeker as us – which is great – except when she decides to seek the thrill of being up (what seemed like) all night right before our 6am flight. For some bizarre reason our otherwise decent sleeper decided to wake up at 1am and was crying away with her eyes closed. I brought her to our bed thinking I could smother her to sleep with hugs and cuddles. But nothing worked (!!!) – when she finally calmed down, Arya just wanted to play with us.

So there we were, trying everything from the gentle rocking, to vigorously shaking her like a salt-shaker in an attempt to put her back to sleep, and then finally giving in and taking turns playing with her. Around 2:45am she finally got tired of it, and laid her head on my chest. It took me another 15 minutes to sing and rock her to sleep.

Just then my alarm rang – I pounced on the phone to shut it up – it was time to wake up and get ready. [Tip: you already know this if you are a parent – for those who are not: be prepared for inexplicable behavior at odd times. Murphy’s law would be more appropriately named if it were called Babies’ law]

Ninja Skills – On our way to  and at  the airport

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Woke up after landing in Chennai

I got dressed and finished some last minute packing and re-checking of packing while the nanny and my mother-in-law packed some ragi porridge and roti for Arya for the way. We managed to fit my brand new, 7’2’’ NSP SurfBetty (surfboard) into our  car, and made the last minute executive decision to ditch the stroller – a wise decision I think because we had our hands full with a baby, a diaper bag, a purse, a back pack, two suitcases and an oddly sized surfboard. When we got to the airport I moved with the agility and grace of a ninja warrior to move a sleeping Arya from car seat to the sling without waking her up. Mission accomplished! She slept right through our 6am flight and woke up at 7:20am in Chennai where we would connect to our flight to Colombo. [Tip: if you are going to be a parent invest some time and money at ninja school – the skills come handy at everything from slipping away as soon as baby falls asleep to removing objects (like TV remotes) out of baby’s hands]

Reunited!

Having fed Arya her the morning bottle of milk, I was now prepared for two major events – seeing my parents and sister after 6 months, and Arya’s morning poop. My little angel timed it perfectly to be after we were done checking in for our flight to Colombo, and before I was reunited with my parents and sister. Arya sort of recognized them from all our FaceTime dates, so she smiled broadly at them but was hesitant to go to them (she was also going through her stranger anxiety and separation anxiety phase t

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The Lounge at Chennai airport

hen). We had a couple of hours until boarding so we checked into the lounge, and occupied a private corner where Arya could play on the floor. She was now starting to warm up to her grandparents and masi. [Tip: If you travel more than twice a year I highly recommend investing in the Plaza Premium Lounge Card – unlike the Mastercard or Visa Signature which only works at Indian lounges, the Lounge Card works at most international airports. With the free food (and alcohol at international airports) you can get your annual payment’s worth in just 3-4 lounge visits. It also gives you a slightly more private and cleaner space for baby] 

We made it to Sri Lanka! 

but .uh-oh……..Little Hic-Ups In Our Plans

Arya napped through nearly the entire duration of the flight from Chennai to Colombo (about 1.5 hours). We arrived at about 12:30pm local time, and with immigration cleared seamlessly in less than 10 minutes, we picked up our luggage and headed straight to the car rental place. We had rented a self-driven Nissan SUV from EuropCar at the Colombo airport. However, because neither of us had the “booklet type” international drivers license required by Sri Lankan law – the modern card type ones just wont do – we were in a bit of a soup! The

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Comfortably seated in the tourist van

only way around this was to have someone drive us to the DMV in Colombo (40-mins away) where we could get a temporary permit. That sounded like a total time sink! Luckily, the nice man at the car rental place suggested an even better alternative – for an additional $32 per day we could upgrade to a chauffeur driven tourist van. I confirmed the details like 10 times because it sounded like a deal that was too good to be true – but it was real! We rode comfortably in the vehicle for the next 4 days – without worrying about losing our way or having to tie the surfboard to the top of the car! [Tip: while its fun to self drive and discover, its both more comfortable and good value for money to have a chauffeur driven vehicles in countries like Sri Lanka where you can get great deals.]

Finally the Villa…

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We arrived at our beautiful Shalini Villa in Unawatuna at around 5pm. Check out the pics above ! It was a self contained 3 bedroom villa that came with a private swimming pool, 3 bedrooms, a personal chef to cook all our meals , a wooden crib for the baby, and absolute peace of mind. Sounds expensive? It wasn’t! Considering we were 6 people , it was again an absolute value for money. We again chose this home rental above hotels- if you remember we did Airbnb for Greece. This wasn’t through that, but again, not a hotel. Felt truly like a dream home 🙂

We were greeted by the cheerful bungalow keeper Kamindika and his staff. While they moved our luggage from the car to the living room, Arya and I took a quick tour of the bungalow. Arya was visibly excited to see the pool and was leaping out of my arms. This is where teaching my baby how to swim early on came in handy ! Every trip with a pool is a joy with her now 🙂 Now..if she would only love the beach…..suspense..read on ..it comes later!

I went back in and claimed the room with the crib. We settled in our rooms within 10 mins, quickly got changed, and headed straight for the inviting blue pool. The chef Tilak prepared some tea for us, and we enjoyed a laid-back evening outside.

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OUR ITINERARY 

Doing nothing was on the cards ! 

Since this was fourth time to Sri Lanka for Saurabh and I, and my parents are also frequent travellers they were ok skipping some of local attractions like the snake farm, turtle farm, and the spice garden – all of which they had seen in some form through their travels in India and South East Asia. There are many things to do in Srilanka  and especially around Unwatuna  the only thing on our mind on Day 1 was dinner and sleep.The house staff cooked us some Sri Lankan dinner with sambols, curries and rice. By now, Saurabh and I (we had be up since 1am, remember?) were zombies. With Arya tucked away in her beautiful wooden crib, we enjoyed a full night’s sleep in the comfy bed (with minimal disturbance from Arya who just woke up to feed and went right back to sleep).

The “Real” Non-Zombie Day 1 

We woke up at 5:30am next morning when Arya woke up – only to find that my parents were up too. We had some tea and headed for a morning walk by the beach. Arya was oblivious to the sea, but fascinated with the stray dogs and the birds at the beach. She kept trying to leap off from my arms to play with them. [Tip: As I mentioned in my Greece post – roughly sticking to their sleep schedule makes it easier for baby to adjust to a new location]

Gone Surfing!

Well fed on some fruits, omelets and toast for breakfast, we headed out to Dewata Marina Beach for some sun and surf. I was so excited about taking my brand new SurfBetty for her first ride! Bobby, the surf shop owner waxed it nicely for me. We bought 3-day surf package for Saurabh, my sister, and I, which included 2 hours of private lessons and some drinks and snacks. My mom and dad occupied the canopy

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Bad stance (as the pros will tell me) but there I am surfing!

beach bed with Arya – who was now loving hanging out with them.

I hadn’t surfed in at least two years, and this was my first time on an Epoxy board – which is significantly faster and shorter than a foam board. So it took
me 4-5 duds before I could finally ride standing up. This was a lot tougher than I remembered! But a lot of fun too!

After about an hour I came back to take a break and spend some time with Arya. My dad had fed her some watermelon juice and a bit of coconut juice while I was away, and she was nibbling at the rice puffs (murmura) now. [Tip: Keep baby hydrated with lots of fluid when you take them to the beach – their little bodies lose a lot of moisture – while you may not give juice to the baby at home try to give fresh juice while at the beach for hydration]

Baby Meets Beach Finally ! 


I tried to put Arya down on the sand to play – but she just wasn’t comfortable, and was probably afraid of the noisy waves hitting the beach. So I took her in my arms, and she held me tight as I went shin deep into the water. For the first two minutes just let her watch. Then each time a wave came I would shout “weeee” with excitement to make this seem like a game. After a few waves I felt her grip of me loosen up – and she stuck out her arm, pointed to the waves and smiled and squealed. That was enough for one day, I thought, and took her back to the canopy bed. I had some coffee and headed back to catch some more waves before leaving.

Then, we did a little shimmy number to shake the sand off the baby;) Check out the video here [Tip: If your baby doesn’t immediately love the beach give them time, and make a concerted effort to make it look appealing to them rather then forcing them on it. I guarantee that if you are patient enough they will love it on their own]

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We headed to Happy Banana restaurant at Unawatuna Beach (recommended by our lovely driver). The food was nothing to write home about, but the ambience was incredible – the idyllic view of the blue ocean and the mild wind made our cold beverages that much more perfect. They had no baby seats so Arya sat at the table (that we had cleared of all utensils and plates for her) and took turns playing peak-a-boo with the napkin with each of us until the food arrived. My dad took Arya for a stroll while the rest of us ate. He came back right as I was getting done with lunch, beer in one hand, and Arya in his other arm. He had struck up a conversation with a German lady who as tending the bar next door and had his favorite beer. That’s the thing about family travel- you learn so much about your own family 😉 My dad knew a bit of German- but i never knew he knew enough to hold a full on conversation ! Also, you meet so many different people, who you connect with. Meeting people from all over the world and all walks of life is definitely one of the top reasons I’m in love with travelling.

It was my turn to take Arya while dad ate his lunch, and the others enjoyed their desserts. [Tip: Some beach restaurant locations, while perfect for adults are not ideal for babies – if you are in a large group, take turns tending to the baby. If you are alone, or just the two of you – see if fast food is an option in such locations.]

As I write this, Little Arya is clamoring for some mommy time – so more in the next post!

Thank you for reading this far and long- as you can see a lot can happen with a baby in just 2 days of travel 😉 In the next post – here’s  a preview… Arya was running a fever – I will share some tips about handling a sick baby on vacation, and how I got Arya to finally love the beach! 

Also, in the next post , I will try sharing about our individual feelings, experiences traveling together as a family . This has been more of a trip report- I cannot emphasize how behind the day to day  there were innumerable contributions by my lovely husband, my parents and sister. More on that later!

Would love to hear about your Sri Lanka stories too… so post away in the comments section. Also let me know if you have questions about Sri Lanka because I have literally travelled the whole country from Jafna to Matara, from Colombo, Kandy, Dambulla, to Trincomalee – I did a 10 day road-trip across Sri Lanka. So I can try to answer all your Sri Lanka questions!