Homeschool in Vietnam

What do people in Vietnam eat?  Pho!

What do people in Vietnam eat? Pho!

Here’s the Q&A I set the girls (aged 8, year 4) on our last day in Veitnam.

How do you think they did?

Evie Hadley

1. What’s the original name of HCMC?


2. Name 3 buildings in HCMC.

Pro M [meaning the Bitexco Financial Tower]

Majestic Hotel

Yellow church

Elegant Inn

Pho 24

Hotel Sunland

MB Land

Hotel Hoa Hong

[I should point out that the last 3 could be seen from the window]

3. What do people in Vietnam eat?

Pho, cao lau & spring rolls. Spring rolls are (in Vietnam) veg, herbs and prawns wrapped up in rice paper.

4. What’s the night train like in Vietnam?

The night train is smooth and gentle although it tends to stop a lot. There are many 6 beded compartments with very little floor space with a small table at one end and the door of the compartment at the other, the room was cosy and warm with a reading light at the head of each bed and a step at the foot to help climb onto the one on top. The mattresses, though clean, were hard yet I dozed off in the described atmosphere.

5. What happened in the Vietnam war? Tell me everything you can remember!

The Vietnam war was started by Vietnam being colonized for 1,070 years and then finally being free. When this freedom came no one could remember if Vietnam had been communist or capitalist so the country was split in two: South capitalist, North communist. A few years later South Vietnam started a great war against the North who fought back mightily. The Americans joined the South because they were capitalist and wanted more countries to turn capitalist so that they could trade with them and make money out of them.

China and Russia joined the North because they were also communist. At the end of the 15 year (about) war, a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gates of Independence Palace and the war was won.

The capital of the South’s name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City by a man called Ho Chi Minh (leader of the North Vietnamese army).

6. Describe crossing the road in HCMC.

When we cross the road in Vietnam I feel scared because there are so many motorbikes. Vietnamese traffic lights: red = go, yellow = go, green = go.

7. Give me 1 example of bias from a museum in Vietnam.

When the Saigon Museum called South Vietnam’s army the puppet troops, because they were being controlled by the American army. This is bias because that isn’t their real name and the ‘pretend name’ mocks them.

8. What’s the worst thing about Vietnam?

The worst thing about Vietnam is the heat which positively frazzles you to a frisp.

9. What’s your favorite thing about Vietnam?

My favorite thing about Vietnam is the kitchen we had in Hoi An where we made a yummy spag bol.

10. Recommend a restaurant you’ve been to in Vietnam in the style of a trip advisor review.

The Hungry Pig

At this restaurant we all got make your own sandwiches which was amazing, it was honestly the best sandwich ever. It was a pleasant surprise. 4.5 stars!


Scarlett Hadley

1. What’s the original name of HCMC?


2. Name 3 buildings in HCMC.

Pro M [meaning the Bitexco Financial Tower]

Independence Palace

Ava 2 Hotel

3. What do people in Vietnam eat?

Pho bo, pho ga, spring rolls. Spring rolls are vegi and fruit wrapped in rice paper.

4. What’s the night train like in Vietnam?

The night train is rickety vehicle with hard, lumpy beds cramped into a tiny carriage cramped into a tiny corridor resulting in triple bunks! Also, it has creaking joints and oil-needing limbs. I would take the plane!

5. What happened in the Vietnam war? Tell me everything you can remember!

The Vietnam war was started by a disagreement of the communist North of Vietnam and the capitalist South. This disagreement caused the South to send out troops of soldiers and tanks up up up to the North. Of course the North fought back. America, being capitalist, joined the South and yet they could not win! This was because the soldiers of the North just kept disappearing into the jungle. The Americans therefore were forced to drop spray to kill the trees but caused many babys to be born with body problems. The war was won by the North as they broke the gates of the Independence Palace. This was done with a tank. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City by Ho Chi Minh, the head of the North Vietnam’s army.

6. Describe crossing the road in HCMC.

Crossing the road in HCMC is like being in the middle of masses of motorbikes and a chaos of cars! I don’t like crossing the road.

7. Give me 1 example of bias from a museum in Vietnam.

The War Remnants Museum said that when the North won the war, the freedom of the South had come. This is biased because the wealthy people didn’t feel welcome or happy any more.

8. What’s the worst thing about Vietnam?

The worst thing about Vietnam is the road crossing because of the way the drivers of the motorbikes don’t seem to want to live very much! They make me feel in danger.

9. What’s your favorite thing about Vietnam?

The best thing about Vietnam is that there are millions of playgrounds. I like them because they are fun.

10. Recommend a restaurant you’ve been to in Vietnam in the style of a trip advisor review.

The Hungry Pig

The Hungry Pig is a lonely place but it does the best plain bagel, maple bacon, lettuce, bell peppers,olives, rocket, Philadelphia and cranberry sandwich I;ve ever had. 4.5 stars.


Jemima Hadley

1. What’s the original name of HCMC?


2. Name 3 buildings in HCMC.

Pro M [meaning the Bitexco Financial Tower]

Clock tower [this is in Hong Kong, but we did go to HK for 2 days from Vietnam]



Hotel Sun


AVA 3 Hotel

AVA 2 Hotel

Elegant Inn

[Most of these could be seen from the window…ah well]

3. What do people in Vietnam eat?

Pho – beef noodle soup with herbs and beef.

4. What’s the night train like in Vietnam?

The night train is nice. Though with hard beds, the lights are comfortable and are not too bright but not too dim. The food isn’t that great but OK. All in all the night train is recommended by me.

5. What happened in the Vietnam war? Tell me everything you can remember!

The Vietnam war started when the country got freedom. They divided Vietnam in half, the North was communist and the South was capitalist. One of them wanted the whole of Vietnam to be their way of ruling so they had a war. America helped South but China and Russia were helping North. The Americans didn’t know how to fight in the jungle so they just dropped bombs instead. North all knew how to fight in the jungle and when the Americans came they just slid out of sight. The Americans dropped more bombs on Laos than all of the rest of the whole Vietnam war altogether. After a lot of fighting the Americans said that they weren’t going to help anymore and without them the South Vietnam couldn’t win and so the North Vietnam’s tank came through the gate of the Independence Palace in victory and the South lost and the famous picture was taken, and so the war was ended. The North had victory.

6. Describe crossing the road in HCMC.

Very hard. Motorbikes streaming everywhere, and the traffic lights don’t help. When you do see a car it’s hardly ever a taxi. Traffic lights: red means go, amber means go, green means go.

7. Give me 1 example of bias from a museum in Vietnam.

A picture of a tank at Independence Palace with everyone waving flags and holding flowers. It was bias because not everyone was happy in real life.

8. What’s the worst thing about Vietnam?

The worst thing about Vietnam is the rain. It always rains at the right time to go to a playground. This makes it so that it is very hard to go to a playground.

9. What’s your favorite thing about Vietnam?

I really like Hoi An at Botanic Gardens because it was just so nice with our little kitchen and the tiny dog and the swimming pool. It was simply amazing.

10. Recommend a restaurant you’ve been to in Vietnam in the style of a trip advisor review.

I recommend the Hungry Pig because, though it’s a little expensive, it’s create your own sandwich was incredible. It’s the best bacon buttie I have ever had. I give it a 5 star review on trip advisor. I am from England.

Snake on a Stick

Silk Worm Salad

We’ve been pretty adventurous in our eating as we travelled round Asia. Deep-fried crickets haven’t defeated us. Nor have beetles, grubs, silk worms, bamboo worms or caterpillars. We’ve eaten frogs (curried and fried), fish heads, pig’s brain, chicken feet and pig’s ears.

I was determined not to chicken (sorry) out on this trip, because last time I travelled through South East Asia, my big regret was not being able to bring myself to try eating insects at the night market. Several times I set myself to do it, would walk purposefully up to the insect stall but, as I regarded the baskets of crisped-up insect bodies, something inside me would recoil and I’d find myself backing away.

My greatest surprise this time round was that, upon persuading my girls to try crickets in Koh Samui, they were soon begging to try all the other kinds. With exclamations of “yum, gooey inside!” and expert advice of “don’t forget to pull the sharp back legs off”, bags of critters were soon disappearing down their gullets. I thought they were adventurous eaters when their favourite food as babies was olives but this was something else.

Yesterday, as we explored downtown Siem Riep, we discovered a new challenge: a stall selling barbecued snake on a stick.

Once again, I feel my stomach revolting, the urge to back away mounting. But now I have to appear brave in front of my kids. I started off this whole “you’ve got to try everything once” resolution. So when we go out into town tonight, we’ll have to do it. Tonight, our evening’s ‘appetizer’ is going to be snake on a stick.

Wish me luck.

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Children

We spent a total of 16 nights in Ho Chi Minh City, passing through 3 times (due to our slightly illogical & unplanned trip to Hong Kong). However, each time we ended up wanting to stay longer, as there are simply masses of things to do there, many of which children will really enjoy. Travelling with children is easy in HCMC. Here’s what we got up to with our 8 year old triplets.

“Kiz Citi”

The website is in Veitnamese, but shows the address, location & phone number.

Our No 1 favorite activity has to be Kiz City. Located just a short taxi ride from District 1 (about 40k dong, just over the bridge into D4). Entry is just over 400k dong for a family of 5, and you can stay all day. Don’t be afraid to go at the weekend; it wasn’t too crowded at all, and it’s open until 8.30pm, with very few people still there at that time we almost had the place to ourselves.

The concept is a city where kids do all the jobs. Children are either paid in ‘Kizo’ notes for doing jobs e.g. firefighters, nurses, doctors, post delivery, bankers, police, army etc (there are dozens to choose from); or they pay in Kizo to do activities like art, ice cream making or learning to drive. There’s uniforms for all the jobs and the children adored getting dressed up and learning about what people do at work. What a fabulous idea!

English is widely spoken, but the majority of the instructions are in Vietnamese. It caused some minor problems with a couple of activities, but overall there was enough English spoken for our kids to join in. They even learned a smattering of Vietnamese by the end of the day.

Parents stay outside the rooms, but can watch through the glass windows. There’s an air con café, lots of meals and snacks etc available to buy (very cheap). Bring a book, as it’s the easiest day out you’ll ever go on. Be prepared to spend about 8 hours relaxing on a bench watching your kids have an amazing time!

If that’s not enough fun, there are a couple of really good playgrounds in the area too, one in each direction from the front gate.

Avoid the restaurant directly opposite (with the fish tanks). We had an evening meal there, and it became slowly apparent as the evening went on that we had accidentally brought our children to, at best, a ‘pick up’ joint. Oops.

23/9 Park

As this is close to the central backpacker district in D1, we visited the playground here most days. It’s pretty well designed, with ‘cushioned’ flooring like you get in Europe and all the usual playground acitivities. There’s some exercise equipment for grown ups nearby e.g. exercise bikes, pull up bars if you feel the urge! Also, there are public toilets in the park, and a newly opened McDonalds just over the road, plus a fairly authentic fish and chip restaurant nearby. Feels almost like home!


Hanging out in 23/9 Park

War Remnants Museum

Learn about the Vietnam war, or rather the American war as it’s called here. And if you’re homeschooling, you can do a great deal of work on spotting bias in writing here too, which is on the year 4 curriculum.   There’s some exciting war planes & bomb shells outside, and lots of brilliant old photographs inside. Entry is only 60k dong for a family of 5.

The museum gets fairly graphic on floor 2 with shocking displays of what Agent Orange did to the country, but there’s a helpful play area there too, so that you can drop the kids off and explore these horrors. I personally don’t feel comfortable leaving the children with strangers, so we took it in turns to watch them while the other went off to have a look around. The displays are definitely not suitable for children.

Independence Palace

Most people have one image of the Vietnam war that they can recall: the tank crashing through the gates of what is now called Independence Palace, signaling the end of the war and victory for the communist North Vietnamese regime. It helps if you can show this image to your children before visiting, and explain the history. It then becomes amazing to be ‘in’ history! We loved it here.

The building has been left exactly as it was on that historic day in 1975 (except the gates have been repaired, and the tank is now a replica just inside). It’s fun to see the old telephones, the war room where plans were made, and read about the Viet Cong insider who worked in secret in South Vietnam and stole an American plane to bomb the building. Good war stories for children, without too much horror.


History Museum

Worth a visit of an hour or two, especially if you are also going to visit the temples of My Son, Angkor, Borobudur or Bagan in your trip. The museum helped our children to understand the place in history of some of these ancient sites; and how the map of SE Asia changed from 1000 AD to the modern day.

Entry was 45k dong for all 5 of us.

HCMC Museum

We visited this museum towards the end of our stay in HCMC, which was great because by then we felt we’d got to know the city a bit, and could make more sense of the old maps etc. It was fun to find out that our favorite park 23/9 used to be the old railway station, which explains it’s long, thin shape.

There’s some fantastic photos in here, and the building itself is a wonderful colonial style mansion, complete with original flooring and staircase. It’s magnificent.

Entry was 45k dong for all 5 of us.


Snap Café in D2

Although it’s a long ride in a taxi (around 150 dong from central D1), this is an excellent place to go if you want to meet up with adults and be able to chat! We met an old friend here, and were able to have a really good catch up while the kids played & played. The food’s OK, nothing special, but the playground is excellent, comprising mainly wooden climbing frames, sand pits and a playhouse. It’s also an interesting insight into the main ex-pat area of HCMC, with a Lego shop, a butchers with refrigerated meat (first one I’ve seen in Asia), and a very cute kids clothes shop (at European prices). Feels like a very safe, if somewhat un-natural, slice of Europe.

Swimming at the Workers Club

For an authentic HCMC Saturday afternoon experience, try the central ‘leisure centre’. We just used the swimming pool, but there’s tennis and badminton courts here too. The changing rooms are, frankly, horrible, but the pool is clean and it’s good to be amongst the locals rather than just in a hotel swimming with other tourists. There’s plenty of seating around the pool, and a cheap eats café with cold drinks etc. At 80k dong for 5 people, it’s almost free.

There’s lot of options to swim in hotel pools in HCMC, if you fancy somewhere a bit more classy. But I would recommend the authentic experience just for the people watching fun!

Take a look at this website for more public pools, some of them look better than our choice!


The Hungry Pig

Although not strictly speaking an ‘activity’, a visit to the Hungry Pig is a sure way to cheer up any homesick young (or old) travellers. Having come from Indonesia, we were ready for some bacon, and this place really exceeded our expectations. Located on the edge of the backpacker area (144 Cong Quynh), the main attraction here is the ‘make your own’ menu, where you get a pen and a pig with tick boxes for what you want to include in your sandwich. We set a price limit of 100 dong per person, and everyone could get exactly what they wanted in their sandwiches (choices of bread, different cures of bacon, veggies, pickles, sauces, cheeses…yum!). So good we went twice, and wanted to go again. Lovely, lovely food. Oh, and you got a free beer with each sandwich (which they swapped for a soft drink for the kids), making it good value for such high quality food.

10 Pin Bowling

At the top of the Diamond Plaza mall, there’s a 10 pin bowling alley where we spent a rainy afternoon. It cost 375k dong for 1 game for 5 people, including shoe hire and disposable socks. At the speed we play, this was excellent value for money, as it probably took the best part of 2 hours to take all our turns!

There’s also a token-based amusement arcade which looked a lot of fun, but we were out of time so we didn’t try it out.

Pho 24

A chain of Pho shops across the city that (nearly always) has colouring pictures and pens available. We found this place by chance when we dived in during a downpour, but then sought out various branches to repeat the experience. They always have a special Pho for 29k dong, and spring rolls are just 16k for 2. Water is free if you ask for a glass of water (refuse the bottle). If you stick to this you will get a delicious, filling meal at a bargain price, with the comfort of air con and happy colouring kids! What more can you ask for?

Professor McGonagall Tower

OK, that’s not really its name. It’s called the Bitexco Financial Tower, but looks just like Professor McGonagall’s hat, according to our children. The tallest building in HCMC by some margin, you can choose between going to the restaurant for a drink or meal, or going to the viewing platform. We went for a drink, on the basis that a couple of beers each was the same price as the entry to the viewing platform, and according trip advisor, the view’s the same, making the beers free! However, be warned, the drinks are VERY expensive so you need to be prepared to nurse them if you want to stay there a while and watch the sunset and the city light up, like we did. The kids loved being high up, and watching the traffic snake around the streets. All in all, a worthwhile activity.

Scoozi Pizza

Sunday night is buy one get one free at Scoozi, a great fun way to spend the evening with kids. The list of ‘free’ pizzas is pretty limited, but the quality of the pizza is very good and the atmosphere is friendly. Book ahead if there’s a few of you, we were lucky to get a table.

Suoi Tien Theme Park

You know you’re in Asia when you’re at a Buddhist themed waterpark! This is definitely a full day out; partly because it will cost you around 320k dong in a taxi just to get there. However, it’s a lot of fun!

The place is split into the theme park, and the water park. I would give the theme park a miss, and make a day of the water park. We paid once to get into the main gate (280k dong for 4), and then again to get into the water park (320k dong for 4).

The theme park is giant – I mean really huge, over a massive area. However, the rides don’t look particularly well maintained. Safety standards here are not well enforced, so I would be cautious. We tried out just 2 rides, which had to be paid for individually.

First we did try the Harry Potter Castle (150k dong for 4)…but it was a disaster. Scared the life out of my 8 year old kids…definitely not for younger ones! It’s like a ghost train that you walk though, in almost pitch dark, with things that reach out and hit your legs and head. It’s disorientating and claustrophobic, with extremely loud noises and no exits in sight. Not great with panicking children!

Secondly, we tried the ‘high speed’ rollercoaster (240k dong for 4), which the pictures show with a loop the loop. Evie has been wanting to go on an upside down rollercoaster for ages now, and she’s finally tall enough, so I thought we’d give it a go. It was terrifying, for all the wrong reasons. As we sat down, I pulled down the safety U-shaped restraining bars. They didn’t lock into place. I pointed this out the men working the ride, who said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry!” as the ride set off. OMG. I was panicking so much! There was also a car style lap-only seat belt that did work, but I was seriously worried that it wouldn’t hold us in – this is a loop the loop for goodness sake! How am I going to ring my parents and tell them we’ve had another serious accident on this trip? I was hyperventilating by the time the ride reached the highest point, then down we went…very slowly and gently. It turns out that the pictures are nothing like the actual ride, and it’s little more than a gentle ‘big dipper’ style rollercoaster, barely getting above 15mph I would estimate. A relief for me, a huge disappointment for the girls, and the end of our experimenting with the theme park.

The water park, however, is a different story. It is excellent! The main attraction is the slide that you have to ride down on your choice of various inflatables, or head first on a mat if you dare! You then emerge from a serpent’s mouth amid peals of laughter. This entertained the children for approx. 6 hours and they would have stayed longer if I’d let them. Elsewhere, there’s stepping stones, smaller slides, buckets that empty water onto your head etc… the usual stuff, but really well done. The changing rooms are a bit grotty (actually, they’re awful) and we seem to have managed to hit some kind of national holiday, so the place was packed. But if you can time it for a weekday (check for holidays) I bet it would be have been even more fun.

One other point to note – you have to pay for a locker, and then if you want to get something out, you have to pay again to put your stuff back in, so try to be organized and not keep going back like I had to. Only 15k dong a time, but it adds up!


As well as 23/9 park, we also found really good playgrounds at Tao Dan Park and outside Kiz City. Look out for the park wardens! They come along with a whistle and tell you off for various things (sometime we weren’t sure what)! They make sure teenagers don’t hog the swings etc which is really nice, and probably ensure that the parks don’t get vandalised like the do in the UK, where we take so many good things we have for granted.

Get a ‘Proper’ Hair Cut

As one of the most style conscious cities in SE Asia, HCMC is full of great value salons.  The skills of the hairdressers here rival Europe and the USA, at a fraction of the cost.  So, for the first time in their lives, our girls were treated to a grown up haircut!  Cost was 200 dong each.


Eat a Burger Bigger Than Your Own Head

As everyone knows, Miss Piggy advises never to eat anything bigger than your own head.  But there are exceptions to every rule, and the Black Cat Big Cheese burger has to be one of them.  Weighing in at half a kilo and costing 439 dong, it definitely classifies as an activity rather than a meal.  You could make a day of it.

Overall, we were surprised how many things there are to do for families in this big city.  Another big plus is the abundance of air con metre taxis, which are a cheap way of getting around and avoiding having to cross the roads too often!  HCMC would definitely make it into my list of most ‘liveable in’ places in Asia, although I do think the motorbikes would drive me crazy.

Busy Doing Nothing in Hoi An

It’s been good to slow down.

Instead of hurtling across the continent on various forms of public transport, trying to cram in as much as possible before our visa expires, we’ve chosen to spend the last 10 days moving no further than a couple of square miles, settling into our new Vietnamese lifestyle.

Our days consist of morning yoga, a leisurely breakfast, a trip to the market & the deli to buy the day’s provisions, back to our bungalow for home school, and then either a stroll around the town, a trip out or simply spending the rest of the day in the pool.

In many ways, I feel we are seeing more of the country, not less, by doing so. Travelling with children is a different experience.  We’ve got past the stage where all the old ladies at the market shout “Sing-ba! Sing ba!” (triplets) over the entire area and create a mini-crowd-surge of excitement around us. They know us now, and are very welcoming, and very funny. We talk to them in English, they reply in Vietnamese, and we seem to get along just fine. For the first time in the trip, the girls have been able to enjoy the pleasure of exploring a really good fresh food market, and finding out what all the ‘funny stuff’ is, without being hassled. It’s lovely.

We’ve also found ourselves a great place to stay. We have a ground floor flat in Botanic Garden Homestay, with 2 bedrooms, a living room and a little kitchen. There’s space for the kids to play, and a little swimming pool to cool down in. We got a good deal for our longer stay, and are compensating for our wild overspend in Hong Kong! It’s lovely to be able to cook together and we’ve even attempted some old favourites – spag bol and bangers & mash have banished our home food cravings.

So what’s next? We’ve just extended our stay for another week, so more of the same. There’s some ancient Cham ruins, and a couple of promising beaches that will make good excursions. But mostly we’ll be staying right here. And loving it.

Sleep Pile

The Croods sleeping in a pile in their cave – how it sometimes seems when we're in a small room

The Croods sleeping in a pile in their cave – how it sometimes seems when we’re in a small room

Tonight I feel a bit lonely.

For the first time in many months of travelling with children, my kids aren’t sharing my room. In a bid to combat the travel weariness we’re all feeling, we have decided that it might do us good to stay still for more than 3 days at a time, so on arriving here in Hoi An, we have booked into a “bungalow”* for a whole week.

It seems huge. Me and Janet have our own bedroom. Our girls have their own bedroom. And what’s more, there’s not just a separate living room but a separate kitchenette, too! All very exciting.

Except I miss the snuffles and shuffles of my little girls moving around in their sleep. I won’t know if they wake up in the night. And when I wake up first tomorrow – as I usually do – I won’t be witness to them coming to.

Personal space is something I always felt I needed, but its necessity has faded somewhat in nine months of being squashed together with Janet and my kids in a variety of small hotel rooms. And all the tiny, single-room houses we’ve seen, sometimes with whole families sleeping in one bed or just on floor mats, I guess have normalized the experience.

So, while it’s nice to have some space, to be able to stretch out and not tip-toe around after bedtime… the thought of going home to a whole big house seems perturbing. What will we do with all that space? Will we drift apart?

It’ll seem lonely without occasionally hearing Evie fall out of bed, Jemima start sucking her thumb or Scarlett wriggling around as she struggles to drop off to sleep.

It’s undoubtedly trying to all squeeze in together – just the thought of all the evening spent reading my kindle in the dark while shushing overtired children in the next bed or sorting out the umpteenth argument over who’s elbow touched who’s bottom makes me feel awash with frustration. But it does have its compensations. I really appreciate our current closeness. And I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

PS. The title is a reference to The Croods, where the whole family sleep in a big pile in their cave. Not something I have much trouble relating to, having spent much of the last eight years covered in triplets.

* The term Bungalow is used very loosely by our hotel – we are on the ground floor of a three floor building.

A Jungle Journey — A Swampy Surprise and an Anty Attack!

by Jemima Hadley

It was on the second day of our boat trip to see orang-utans in Borneo when it happened. We were on a muddy river in the south of Borneo which, after one day on a boat, became a glossy, black river even though it was clean.

We were going on a walk to see orangutans. The walk took us along rotting, wobbling planks that often went underwater. We had to keep on the planks because they kept you off the mud. If you stood on the bed of leaves resting on mud you would sink past your knees if you were a child. The planks that were above the water sometimes bent under. We found out that you sink in the mud when there was a round, fallen tree instead of a plank. Evie decided to walk in the swamp so she got in and started to walk towards the next plank. She was almost there when she took one step and SQUISH! She was up to her bum in – mud!

When we pulled her out again her feet were covered in gunk so we washed her shoes. We carried on.

Soon the swamp ended and the pain began! Bum – bum – bum! There was jungle on either side as we walked along every now and again the guide pointing out fire ants. We stopped to look at a stick insect when our guide said, “Owch!” and moved away! We moved after him, then we realised we had been standing in a fire ant patch. I realised I was still in it and sprinted quite far away. Evie started crying, Daddy picked her up and swatted the fire ants off her feet and hurried up to me. He didn’t get bitten. Tettie and Mummy went back the way we came to get out of the patch. Daddy went back and carried Tettie back through the patch. Mummy ran.

When we were safe Evie realised she had 5 bites. I cried in sympathy and cuddled Daddy and we went on.


Fire ants – nasty little things!

After loads more sprinting through fire ant patches and leaping over lines that crossed the path we reached the long wooden walkway and started to walk along it.

When we reached the boat we had a rest then realised it was orangutan feeding time and hurried off. There were no fire ants on the way. There were loads of orangutans when we got there. About 16. The guide book said you were lucky to see 4 or 5. We saw an enormous orangutan who we thought was Tom (the biggest, strongest orangutan in the forest – the king).


We thought this was Tom

As we went back, we saw the real Tom lying on the ground. He was even bigger than the other one! We looked at him for a bit, then we went to look at the visitor centre.

There were loads of fire ants crawling around the steps and we had to sprint through them and run up the steps then quickly take off our shoes. We looked and Mummy, Daddy, Tettie and Evie all had fire ants on their shoes. I was the only one who didn’t.

We had a look inside the visitor centre. There was a family tree inide and lots of other interesting things. I learned that the longest living orangutan lived to 58, but I’ve forgotten his name. It began with G.

On the way back there were possibly more fire ants outside the steps. We put on our shoes; the fire ants had crawled off them. Our guide had said that the best way was to walk slowly through them as there were gaps all along the patch. Daddy tried and at the very end a fire ant got him. He didn’t complain except saying, “Owch, one got me!” Mummy went and carried Evie across the path, running. Then our guide carried me and did the slow method meaning that I got the longest ride. Daddy went back and ran with Tettie, who yelled, “I’m on a dinosaur!”

On the way back to the boat, we saw Tom in a tree. Our guide tried to feed him bananas by putting them at the base of the tree, but he wasn’t hungry.

But this was Tom!

But this was Tom!

We went back to the wooden walkway and started to walk along it. Daddy dangled me over the swamp which the walkway was built over. Then we started talking about how Mummy would get really cross if I lost my shoe in the swamp. Then slop! Tettie’s shoe was in the swamp! Our guide stepped off the walkway, into a tree and just about managed to pull it back and give it to her, then climb back onto the walkway himself.

A couple of minutes later we were back on our boat and we could carry on with our beautiful boat adventure. After a painful and sloppy explore, we were glad to be back on the boat at last.

Orangutans kissing, while the smaller babay hangs off the side

Orangutans kissing, while the smaller baby hangs off the side

Food, Glorious Vietnamese Food


After a month of eating “Indo”, arriving in Vietnam has been such a relief. A relief I can describe in just two words: vegetables and not-deep-fried.

Indonesian food had some pleasant surprises. Tempe – fermented soya beans – is delicious, a much tastier, meatier alternative to tofu; I don’t know why it’s not more well known.

But generally it was an much more extreme version of other SE Asian cuisines we’ve tried. The fried food was very, very fried, anything with shrimp paste used so much that your cheeks imploded, the chilli paste served with most meals (sambal) reduced your tongue to ashes, meat was prepared using Malaysian-style attack-it-madly-with-a-cleaver filleting techniques… but what got really tiring was how difficult it was to buy any food containing vegetables or that wasn’t battered and deep fried. It was like being in a tropical Scotland, and after a while mealtimes began to become something of a chore as we pounded the streets looking for something that wouldn’t make us sink like a brick if we went swimming afterwards. When we saw deep fried ice cream on our last day, not one of us was surprised.

And the fact that food hygiene doesn’t seemed to have reached much of Indonesia didn’t help. Oily meat and fish prepared who knows how many days earlier sitting in the baking sun in tin trays amid small troops of flies made even my hardened stomach wary.

But here in Vietnam we’ve had not only veges but salad! And there are noodles that haven’t been immersed in oil! And fresh, light, balanced flavours! And the cafés and street stalls look clean. It’s heaven.

Plus, Vietnamese coffee is amazing. I had no idea before we got here, but coffee is massive in Vietnam, and apparently it’s the world’s second biggest producer. Coffees I’ve bought on street corners here have been some of the best I’ve ever drunk: rich, chocolatey, dark.

We loved lots of things about Indonesia, but the hassle and food got rather wearing; travelling with children there is tough for everyone. We’re only three days into Vietnam and but we love how chilled out and delicious we’ve found it to be so far.

The Beautiful Mooooooooooooooon

by Evie Hadley

The boat trip was set on a large river in the middle of nowhere on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. It was on the second and last night that I did it…

I was tired and fell asleep almost as soon as I had closed my eyes (and rolled over about 10 times). I can’t remember my dream. When I awoke it was still dark and I guessed it was about 1 or 2 O’Clock in the morning.

Suddenly I remembered, me ad my sisters had planned to go down to the front of the boat and look at the moon (forget the fizzy drinks). So I got up, put my fleece on, and I walked to the front of the boat, sat down one of the benches and, I looked at the moon.

It was slightly blurred by clouds with smaller whispy clouds dotted around in the midnight-blue sky. The moon was diagonal to the forward-right bank of the river where tall trees grew up infront of the sky creating a wide and beautiful scene. Oh, and the noise, crickets chirping, birds chirping, orangutans chirping – “Wait a minute, orangutans don’t chirp!”

“Not usually!”

After about a minute I got back didn’t fall asleep. I lay there for a long time until zzzzzz snort.

Suddenly pop. I was awake and at last it was time to get up and dressed.


Special Times

by Scarlett Hadley

On the second day of our excellent boat trip I had two wonderful experiences, the first with Daddy and the second with Mummy.

The boat trip was set in Borneo, the third largest island in the world, on a long winding river, named Sungai Sekonyer, flowing all the way down to the wide, rippling sea. This first event was early in the morning whilst our boat was speeding along and the engine was rumbling quieter than the bees buzzing under the sun-shelter just behind us. Me and Daddy were sitting on the only cushioned seat on the 45 foot boat when I got up and sat on one of the two white benches one foot forwards and two foot to the side on left and right of us. Daddy followed me. He sat down behind me.

He put his arms around me and laced his sausages. I unlaced his sausages and Daddy SQUEEZED me! I quickly unlaced his sausages for him again and he relaxed. This game went on for some 15 minutes. Just then we arrived at the first orangutan feeding station and the game dwindled into nothingness. (His sausages were actually his fingers).

The second experience will take less time to read.

Mummy had been playing the ukulele for around 5 minutes when I came up to her and she said we should finish with her playing and us both singing. I agreed. We began.

I felt happiness flooding through me as we cuddled together. I could hardly hear the rumbling of the boat’s engine. We sang Brown Eyed Girl.

When we finished it was time for lunch and we settled round the table for the second meal of the day. We had 3 per 24 hours. I love our special times.