Central Festival Mall in Chaweng

If you want to do a little shopping and are able to negotiate with your child to take turns shopping/playing/shopping/playing at a big MALL (I shop about 1 time every 3 years at most and usually avoid malls at all costs but this time went because I heard there was a play area. It ended up a success as I was able to find 70% of my next wardrobe at one store, and am elated about this. (I had been hanging on to some fairly shredded clothes for a while and my new wardrobe consists of 7 onsie outfits. Ah simplicity…)
Since I did all my shopping in one stop we mostly spent the day playing and even saw a movie on the big screen (a huge screen in a fancy theatre in fact and likely the largest of my son’s 3+ years on this earth which was very exciting for us both.) The movie, by the way, was “Finding Dori” and the underlying grown-folk theme happened to be a current favorite theme of mine – the power of the heart over the head. Fortunately many kids movies highlight this important theme, I’ve started to notice. Some of my personal favs: The Last Unicorn, Secret of Nimh, The Lego Movie.) This one was about a fish with short-term memory who always found her way by living in the now (the most honorable goal), and all of her friends and family who came around to valuing her special powers..
Anyway! Other than the movie (which by the way they told us was only playing in Thai at the hour we wanted to see it but we went anyway because I knew my son would not mind as his 1st exposure to cartoons happened to be the movie “Finding Nemo” (prequel to Finding Dori”), watched with no sound on a flight back to India when he was about 2 and didn’t know about headphones yet. Anyway turned out the movie WAS in English but had Thai subtitles. Just mentioning this in case you encounter this same “Only in Thai” situation at the ticket counter.

Kids Area

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Upstairs in the mall there are big (paid 100-150 bath) “rides” (see image or videos) and some Marioland Pirate thing we did not go into a but I’m guessing would be pretty cool for 6-9 yr olds. Here’s my son and another girl on Thomas.

IMG_8018Downstairs there’s an outdoor playground,

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a carousel,  IMG_8032

a few rider train things that Trekker liked to climb on and pretend to ride without my having to put a dime in the slot (why ruin a good thing?) and a real moving “kid’s train” that goes around the whole bottom floor of the mall every hour on the hour.

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My son rode on the train in a train-car with 2 other kids near his age and I secretly speed-walked behind the train and realized how much I have missed speed-walking since having a baby, and considered staying another hour to do it again. But didn’t.

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And personally, while I’m not so into malls and don’t plan to return anytime soon since my tri-yearly shopping quota has now been filled, I probably hadn’t so thoroughly enjoyed a mall trip since I was a 12 yr old smoking cigarettes outside the Mall Arcade in my hometown.

 

Big C Super Center play area

Big C is a chain department store. The one we went to is in Bhoput. It seems to be the USA equivalent to a large K-Mart and we went there because I needed to repair my iphone 6 screen (which they did successfully btw. I took it to the place below the escalator though I think they outsourced it to the other place upstairs.)

Big C has a sizable children’s play area.

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It includes an arcade with 30-40 ridable trains, cars, and stand-alone arcade games. Trekker was just young enough to be completely satisfied “riding” on all the brightly colored vehicles without my putting in a single dime (thai bath) to make them move.

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There’s also a small ice-hockey table, probably suitable for 6 -10 year olds in size.

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And there is a “soft room” in the back for little ones that costs 50 bhat:

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Parents must stay outside the soft room but you can get full view if you stand in the arcade or maybe take a seat at one of the racing games. An attendant stands guard to keeps things safe.

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The soft room boasts a fun climb up to a wraparound high walkway complete with a tunnel, bridge and some cushioned hanging obstacles so kids can get a different perspective on things and it leads to pretty sweet slide with a large cushion to land on. On the ground level there’s some soft ducks and cars to ride on and punching-bag looking hanging things. And a ball pit. My child went wild in the ball pit with the attendants daughter , climbing up the walls and falling backwards into the balls. My child started it.IMG_7926

About the ambiance: this might be worth mentioning to some as you may want to prepare yourself. Sound: Close your eyes and imagine yourself inside an arcade within a carnival at the Burningman festival with barely decipherable children’s music coming at you from every angle. Also, visually there are fluorescent overheads and flashing lights galore so its not the most inviting place to get some work done but if you need a distraction or rather treat for u know who this place may do the trick.

Note: the wifi signal was weak in that area of building but great phone reception so rely on your data plan if you need to use the web,

My son had so much fun it was almost impossible to get him to leave but attendant blessed us with this magic balloon caterpillar as a parting gift so that certainly helped.

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It was a fun-filled evening at the Big C Department Store.

Sheep Farm and Salad Salad bar, Mae Nam, Ko Samui

This place excites me so much I might just change careers! Wait, I don’t really have a career, maybe I should chose this one?  Frolic amongst sheep on a hydroponic farm and coffee shop with playground! IMG_8051

A very strange concept that totally works. I had once started down the path to be a shepherd with a short-lived Alpaca venture many years ago, and I’ve spent many years setting up food gardens, some hydroponically, so when my usual desire to find the perfect cozy wifi-cafe-with-playground gets thrown into a mix with the other two, the whole shebang really hits home. All they’d need now is a drum-set, a large art studio and an ocean view… and maybe a bi-weekly daytime dance party and I’d be 100% set for life…

Really I had no idea what we were coming to when we set out on a Sunday to find “Sheep Farm”, and so did not bring my computer as I had no idea that this may be the ultimate workspace-playground. It had been suggested we come here and I figured it was just some dirty petting zoo that might entertain Trekker for an hour.  I sit now typing this into my phone, sipping some sort of sweet green tea latte in this lovely cafe with a trellis for a roof (also a style I totally jive with – this one even has gourd shaped baskets hanging down much like the original plan for Fort Trekker Baby)

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while Trekker frolics about below and plays in the safely contained and shaded playground while live sheep munch grass from a perfectly clean, dookey-free lawn around him. Its lovely 🙂

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Somebody must be following these sheep like dog-owners in NYC parks because there doesn’t appear to be a single dookey on that lawn. In fact the whole scene appears much like telly-tubby-land than a typical petting zoo. IMG_8231

Banana trees, and a couple dozen open-sided hydroponic greenhouses with cherry tomatoes and mostly lettuce are also visible from this spot and kids build with blocks and Legos on the astroturf carpet to my right.

IMG_8044IMG_8103I Also noticed at least 8 little portable personal air cooling units about the cafe, possibly not a very sustainable solution being that it’s an open-air cafe and all but who am I to judge? (especially as it cools my neck) Actually I’m not sure how much more power than a fan they use, if any.
Some not terribly offensive Thai pop was playing in the background, but still low enough to still hear the occasional “bhaaaaah” for ambiance.
I recorded the wifi speed at on my Speedtest app at

Download Rate:
12.16 Mbps
Upload Rate:
11.25 Mbps

which is better than most cafes around here and the 3G reception on my phone is also great. I am always looking for the perfect coffeeshop/kids play combo and this one really nails it because the ambiance is great and there is endless entertainment for the child.

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And of course the best part about this place is that the cafe is on a hill above the play/sheep area which is totally protected with no shady exits so mom-at-work doesn’t need to look up every 2 seconds to check child’s safety (since there is no where child could go and no shady entrances for potential danger-strangers to appear from.) This allows mom-at-work to continue her train of thought for longer periods of time (rarity) therefore leading to higher productivity.  And when mom-at-work DOES decide to give her eyes a rest from the screen she must simply gaze out at the pastoral scene below of her child frolicking happily with sheep. What more could a mom-at-work ask for?!IMG_8210

Ko Samui, Thailand

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I have a problem in that I never want to leave the place I’m at but always must for some reason like a visa, or new passport, or family visit, an unbearable hot season, or most recently because a deep meditation strongly showed the words “Summer in Siam” just after I’d decided to decide whether we should stay in India for the hot season this year. Siam is the old name for Thailand so a couple of weeks post meditation we hopped on the 3 hour flight from Chennai just as India’s summer (which begins in May) began. Now with one week left on our 1 month + 1 month extension visa I figured I’d add a quarterly update to my blog.

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This place will be particularly difficult to leave because it is just so EASY here. For one thing I do enjoy wearing whatever I want again. I forgot how much I like to feel the breeze on my skin. In Auroville I don’t have to worry too too much about standard Indian dress codes like I would in Varanasi but it would still be possible to offend someone by showing too much shoulder or sporting too short of shorts. But not here! It would be perfectly acceptable here to ride around on your scooter in a bikini (not that I do, but I could!) and not get a second glance.  Ah freedom…
It is more expensive here than India but still much cheaper than the US. For <$400 USD (low season monthly rate) we have called this tiny home on the beach our home for most of the past 2 months:
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Our house is inside a colorful little bungalow village hotel we heard about from a friend in India called Silent Beach Treehouse. I’ve been wanting to try out a tiny home with Trekker and live in a tiny home community on the beach, so this was a good find. The inside has room for a bed, a fan, countertop, and a small bathroom. The porch is bigger than the inside of the house and that is where we mostly live. You can see why here:
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The restaurant at Silent Beach Treehouse offers 3 giant laundry baskets filled with beach toys and little toy trucks so Trekker made an easy transition to calling this place home upon arrival.
Trekker also made friends with a 5-year-old Ukrainian girl whose parents spent every day way out on the sea on paddle boards while she and Trekker scale the boulders lining the bungalow hotel property. I read in the hammock, swim, or work on the app. IMG_7530

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If you are single mom with a little one looking to be on-the-loose I do recommend the Thailand Islands and this place in particular. The beach is beautiful and the ocean is shallow with very little waves so perfect for little ones. And the Thai people in general are so gentle,  loving,  accepting, open, warm, and compassionate… they are really great with kids. (well, except that they tend to laugh at the little ones when they are crying.. I hypothesize this is somehow tied to Buddhist roots since in Buddhism one seeks to acknowledge the temporal nature of things, and the “this too shall pass” of emotions. And maybe this ideal, being at the root of Thai culture, has influenced the adults’ response to children’s cries? Like if you laugh at their sad feelings they will also learn to not take their feelings so seriously? Not sure… Thai people do, as I mentioned, have a wonderfully peaceful manner about them as a whole so their approach does seem to be working for them but there is something about this laugh-at-crying-children thing that doesn’t feel right to my Western self. I do get that children, esp 3 yr olds, have dramatic breakdowns for the most ridiculous (and often, annoying) reasons and so it is difficult to empathize at times but I’ve made the decision to attempt (as much as I am capable of) to validate my child’s emotions, no matter how inappropriate they seem to me. My personal feeling is that if I validate my child’s experience he will consider his emotions valid and deal with them squarely in life. Repressed emotions are a strong root cause of most of the ills of society- from substance abuse to psychopathic behavior. And considering the recent news of rape and mass shootings I have a strong intention to raise my child with a healthy mind, heart and soul. But also I think it is different for Westerners. If I was raising him in Thailand long term, and we spoke Thai and we fit into the culture more, AND I kept MY feelings to myself like a normal Thai then he would probably grow up healthy and peaceful like the rest of the Thais even with invalidated crying as a child. But I express my feelings pretty regularly so to deny this in my child would probably not be a good thing. But anyway, I digress…)

For the other SMOTLs out there- this hotel is also totally accepting of kids being kids and they have a great $9 masseuse overlooking the beach. This means mom gets 2 or 3 massages per week while son plays in the sand nearby and is looked after by many warm eyes.  Here is the view from the massage table:

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It’s the same in pretty much any massage place you arrive at in Thailand with a small child – no need for babysitters at all, especially the ones on the beach. Thai culture is in general is incredibly loving to little ones (more on crying- if the cry is actually merited, or if the child is actually a baby, they would no doubt step in to comfort them. And generally they give so much attention to small children that crying gets avoided altogether.) There are also some decent playgrounds I’ve written about here  around Ko Samui as well. And perhaps best of all, there is an adorable little ex-pat/thai mixed school in the adorable town of Mae Nam a 1/2 hour walk down the beach from where we stay. This is the street the school was on and the community Sala at the end of the street I sometimes practice yoga in when waiting to pick up Trekker (respectively):

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I will write up my take on schooling in general soon but from my limited school exposure during  Trekker’s short career as a school kid this Mae Nam school is tops. And they do take visitor kids by day/week/month/ and term. And we could walk there via the beach (when I wasn’t feeling lazy.)

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Here are some of the kids frolicking about in nature at one of the kid’s birthday parties:

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Admittedly this has been a very vacation oriented couple of months. I have been working on a new version of my app so it’s not all play but what I haven’t done is learn more than 2 words of Thai nor learn much about Thai culture other than people seem to really take it easy and that there are definitely more than 2 genders here which makes life more colorful. I saw one live Thai band and they covered Sweet Home Alabama. Was quite bizarre to hear a Thai accent singing in “I hope Mr Young will remember a southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” I assume the singer was unaware of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s intended reference to Neil Young’s song ‘Southern Man’ which calls out white supremacy in the USA’s south, or maybe he just didn’t care. But Anyway! It has been a great trip for us as a family. There is surely a strong correlation with a relaxed mama equating to a relaxed child, and this makes parenting exponentially easier.

IMG_8336 Plus they have Gatorade at 7-11 and there is a 7-11 every other block.. (after being based in India for so long, Gatorade is really special to me/us.) All in all its been a wonderfully relaxing 2 months and I would totally live here but I don’t know that we ever will. Who knows. Next stop is NYC where I intend to promote the app and dance a lot.